Not Another Top (X) List: Top 8-ish Worst Episodes of Red Dwarf (So Far)

Note to self: invest in Photoshop!

Hello, and welcome to another edition of….


Oh, and it’s December! Time for our…


Over the past two years, I took a look at Red Dwarf. I’ve seen the highs, I’ve seen the lows. I’ve seen the best, I’ve seen the worst. I’ve seen Duane Dibbley and the Polymorph. I saw Krytie TV and the Dinosaur. I’ve watched the characters evolve, devolve, and everything in between.

Now, until Series XI premieres (or until I get around to re-reviewing episodes), it’s the end of the road for our look at Red Dwarf.

When Red Dwarf was good, it was awesome. Its characters, its plots, it’s humor were unparalleled in British Comedy, in science-fiction, in TV. The construction of a solid majority of the episodes is awesome, and quite a few episodes are perfection.

Yet, to say it’s not perfect would be an understatement. The bad episodes of Red Dwarf ranged from duff episodes to some of the worst TV I’ve ever watched. Now, debate can range on if and when Red Dwarf went down the tubes, if and when it recovered, and if and when the show’s legacy was tarnished by the weaker seasons.

Still, I feel fit to put in my top examples on when Red Dwarf failed to meet the high standards set by the cream of the crop… of if it just failed, period.

Now, a disclosure: this is not in the order that I graded them, nor could the episode that I may have noted was the worst episode ever at the time of review make it to #1 on this list. This is purely on reflection. My opinions may have changed since I originally reviewed these episodes, albeit only slightly.

Oh, and stories=episodes.

Ladies and gentlemen, X=8. After the jump…


8: “Rimmerworld”


Full disclosure: this is the only episode of the original 36 to make it onto the list. Bask in your minuscule claim to fame, “Rimmerworld”. There may have been episodes that got lower scores that are not making the list, but “Rimmerworld” has a special place. It’s the only episode of the Grant/Naylor 36 to get below a 5 score- read, failing. The comedy may have been decent, but the simplification of Rimmer to the point of implying that his callous behaviour was entirely ingrained inside him, rather than reinforced and fuelled by years of bullying and parental/familial/societal abuse, sets the tone for the next two series – one where characters were simplified or derailed for the sake of plot.

7: “Tikka to Ride”

Ah, now that they’ve taken a beating to Rimmer’s characterization, why not Lister’s? It’s not like the writers actually cared about how the viewers felt! Or should I say writer, as this was the first one without Rob Grant. Yes, the terrible tone for Series VII was set when, in this episode, Lister was reduced to a self-centered, food obsessed git- so horrendously written that I didn’t care if he got beaten by his crewmates. It was all just to kill JFK via a time paradox that contradicts itself within the same episode. Oh, and it erases the logic of the “time drive” established in “Out of Time”. Look, I know it was three years, but come on! Futurama was off for the same amount of time, and it still kept some level of continuity! Admittedly, exploring JFK not as this civil rights icon but as this chauvinist pervert could’ve made for a great episode. Too bad the script is pathetic.

6: “Ouroboros”

Never has such a character been miswritten as Chloe Annett’s portrayal of Kristine Z Kochanski. Effectively proving true every cliche of “a woman in a ship full of men”, the writers failed to use her to the fullest potential. This would’ve been bad enough, but the rest of the characters were wrecked to accommodate the plot, and the plot twist is pointless, holding no bearing on future episodes (except for “Fathers and Suns”, although that episode, at least, was funny). Plus, Lister’s reaction to the paradox is at least a bit disturbing.

5: “Only the Good”

Wanna kill a show off by giving your fans one final “smeg off” while insulting their intelligence? Try having an episode with a barely tangible plot, obnoxious characters, actors that seem to have finally recognized how bad the show has fallen, wasted potential, dodgy sexual politics, and an ending that is so stupid, “The Beginning” makes jokes about its stupidity and pointlessness. Of note is Kryten celebrating Kochanski’s “time of the month”- in my opinion, the single worst gag in Red Dwarf history. Oh, and this was the last episode ever for 10 years. This episode was the one that BBC Two called time with. I’ll take Rimmer shooting the time drive in lieu of kneeing Death in the pelvis, thank you very much.

4. “Duct Soup”

Ah, “Duct Soup”. We really needed to desecrate more characters for the sake of pseudo-comedy, so why not take a sledgehammer to Kryten, the kindest soul on the ship? Or, in this case, a jealous ass who puts the crew in danger just to prevent Kochanski from hooking up with Lister. That, plus not a whole lot of funny character comedy and a boring plot, does not a good episode make. At least Kochanski got to hit Kryten with a wrench as revenge, but it was too little, far too late.

3: “Back in the Red”

Admittedly, Part 1 of this three parter isn’t too bad. Granted, I wouldn’t rank it as part of the all-time greats by a long shot, but it had decent pacing and passable characterization. Then Part 2 happened. Once the Dibbley Family shows up, you can tell that nobody was going to give a smeg about quality this season. Let’s see… the rat gag, Dibbley Family, the magnetism virus, claymation, Power Sauce (WORST PUN EVER), Cat’s dance with the Blue Midget… welcome back to the Red Dwarf, everybody. This series also had the highest ratings of any Red Dwarf series. Let that sink in for a second.

2. “Beyond A Joke”

This made it into the final episode. This was their best foot forward.

A common joke about this episode is that it should’ve been titled “Barely a Joke”. That’s more of an apt title. Kryten’s jackassery in Series VII is cranked up to new levels of insanity in this trainwreck of an episode. Every joke is either stupid or explained to us. The plot is terminally boring and stupid. And for what? A lesson about not using drugs. This wouldn’t have ranked so far up the list if this episode wasn’t written by Robert Llewellyn himself. (I blame Doug Naylor for every fault with this episode- how no one called for his dismissal after this disaster is beyond me.) Oh, and as pictured above, it contains the worst special effect in the history of Red Dwarf. Series VII? Everybody involved was only in it for the paycheque.

1. “Pete”

Well, this happened. “Pete”, AKA the two-parter where the crew fight a dinosaur that evolved from a bird, all the while Lister and Rimmer wind up in Hollister’s office over and over and over AGAIN! Part 2 is near universally considered the worst ever Red Dwarf episode, with the two polls taken by Ganymede and Titan placing this at the bottom of the list. The plot is stupid, the gags go on way too long (we get it, Hollister will see them in 10 minutes), Kryten’s plot is as basic comedy as possible, the logic makes no sense, the characterisation is off at best, the basketball scene is stupid… it’s a train wreck of an episode. I make no hyperbole when I blame this two parter for knocking out the franchise for 10 years. Or, do I give it credit for knocking out the franchise for 10 years? Eh, whatever. It takes the “gold” “medal”, so to speak.

Now, that’s your basic top 8 list there.

But, WAIT, the few people that read this blog cried out! Why did you call it 8-ish? Isn’t there another episode you despised? You know, Series VIII, deals with reality TV, all that jazz?

Unfortunately for us, yes.

0. “Krytie TV”

Putting in a screencap from this episode would have required me to watch the episode again. I barely made it through the first time.

I’m stealing a page out of the Goosebumps review blog Blogger Beware and putting this under the top 8. Actually listing this in the 8 spots I’ve allocated would validate it as a Red Dwarf episode, something that this failure of television does not deserve. This does not deserve to be in the same show as “Holoship” and “Better Than Life”. This episode is so bad, so undeniably wretched, that I think watching it gave me an ulcer. Characterization is trash, the plot is stupid, the episode is sexist on both ends, and the ending is probably the worst seven minutes in Red Dwarf history. Even the B-Movie parody isn’t so “funny” as much as it is hypocritical, given the quality of every episode listed here. I wish never to hear the phrase “You Got Kryterred” again. It’s one of the worst episodes of television I have ever seen. To paraphrase George Lucas, if I had enough time, money, and a sledgehammer, I would purchase all of the master tapes of this episode and pulverize them.

Dishonorable mentions: “Nanarchy”, “Dear Dave”, “Emohawk: Polymorph II”.

I’ll be weeping for the next week or so.


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