Red Dwarf Review, Series III, Episode 3: "Polymorph"

Airdate: 28 November 1989

Synopsis (Spoilers): A shapeshifting alien lands on Red Dwarf, with the ability to change into anything to, to quote Kryten, “suit its terrain and deceive its enemies.” This polymorph, however, sucks out negative emotions. Why? Also quoting Kryten, “IT’S INSANE!”

It’s another normal day on the ship. Lister is making food with medical utensils, and Kryten accidentally insults Rimmer’s “prim, proper, almost austere” mother. The day is altered when the Polymorph, initially disguised as a sausage, attacks Lister, turns into various objects, culminating into a 12-foot monster, and manages to suck out Lister’s fear.

With Lister all too willing to take on the Polymorph, the others decide to attack the monster and flee the ship. The Cat, fleeing from heat-seeking missiles (which are trapped in another room), has his vanity sucked out by the Polymorph disguised as an ego-stroking female. Kryten’s guilt is sucked out by the Polymorph disguised as Rimmer. Rimmer’s anger is sucked out when the alien is disguised as his mother, who proceeded to sleep with Lister and brag about it to Rimmer.

The malformed Red Dwarf crew hold a meeting to try and go against the Polymorph.

  • Rimmer suggests attacking the Polymorph with a major leaflet campaign and various fundraisers.
  • Lister suggests taking on the Polymorph, with consequences that include his death.
  • The Cat, reduced to a bum and without a lick of fashion, does not care, calling all the ideas good, while he says that he is a big fat nobody.
  • Kryten wants the idea to include everybody else dying.

The crew take down the Polymorph in the cargo bays (thanks to the heat-seeking missiles fired earlier), and the crew are returned to normal.

Review: How this episode got past the censors is beyond me. This episode had the infamous “shrinking boxers” scene which caused the studio audience to laugh so much, Chris Barrie had to wait 10 minutes to deliver his line. Take THAT, Sammy Davis Jr. kissing Archie Bunker. Another scene that made this episode raunchier then normal was the scene where an anger-free Rimmer suggests various names for their organization, and one acronym is a bit… weird. (Rimmer even says the acronym. I’ll just say that the word would never get past censors today.) To a lesser extent, there is Rimmer’s “mother” who brags about her quick tryst with Lister. She briefly mentions “alphabetti spaghetti”.

That does not mean that the episode is bad at all. Rather, this episode is one of the best in the show for a reason. It is just hysterical. The Polymorph as a villain is well developed, especially for a one-shot villain. The character is also the first alien-esque character in the show. To avert the cliche of aliens, Grant Naylor used the term GELF, with Holly even calling it “man made”.

The episode also shows why Red Dwarf mostly (but not always) can get away with cop outs and stupid decisions that other shows can’t get away with. In Red Dwarf, we expect nothing from this crew. The bar is so low, that we expect them to flee, and take the easiest way out possible. The decisions they make fit in brilliantly with their characters. We know Rimmer’s character, and his first instinct is to abandon the situation, a complete contradiction to his desire to lead.

I do wish that they had taken on Rimmer’s ego, but that can be mostly excused, as they took on the Cat’s vanity. Other then that, this episode is brilliant.

Favorite Scene: Do I have to choose? The meeting scene is probably the best of the long, long list.

Score: 9.5


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