Red Dwarf: S02E02: Better than Life

Holly introduces the episode: “Loneliness weighs heavily on us all. Personally the only thought that keeps me going, is that we are 60 billion miles away from the nearest Berni Inn.”

A skutter playing IndianThe show opens with Lister, in his quarters arguing with Rimmer. Nothing changesRimmer had just cooked (with the Skutters) a meal comprised of Dumplings that bounced,  Lamb that tasted like cheese, and a Lemon Meringue Pie which was simply awful!  This resulted in Lister having to take stomach-upset medicine (it must have been bad!) and Rimmer complaining that it was the Skutters fault (they are all John Wayne crazy! – they have film magazines and pictures of him in their lockers).

Holly suddenly appears and tells them that a ‘post pod’ has arrived. They arrive in the cargo hold after passing the Skutters in the corridor playing cowboys and indians. (by the way, one of the letters in the post pod is addressed to the skutters. It’s from the John Wayne Fan club!).

Lister tells Rimmer the bad newsUpon examination of the post, Lister and Rimmer find that there are many goodies to sample. Most important is a ‘total immersion video game’, one in which electrodes are placed in the frontal lobes of the players brain and they can actually immerse themselves completely in the action. You are able to play as though you are there!

Holly also noticed a message from his electronic budym, Norman (with an IQ of 8000).  Holly asks for the message to be played.  Up pops Norman who introduces himself (with a rather unintelligent cockney accent), and continues the chess game that Holly and he are playing with the move ‘pawn to King four’. This of course, is the opening gambit of most major chess plays. H olly on the other hand comments, “eee’s a sly one, pawn to King four eh?”

It seems that most of the mail in the pod is addressed to ListerRimmer points out that this is because it’s mostly junk mail.  However, one letter is received for Rimmer and Lister reads it out. It’s news of his father’s death!

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Later that night, we see Rimmer atop the observation deck on Red Dwarf, presumably contemplating his father’s death.  Lister joins him. We hear the wind howling by, which is a little strange because of course, there is no wind in space – or at least no sound of wind!

Lister tries to console a sad looking Rimmer.  “I remember when my dad died you know …I was only six … my grandmother told me that he was very happy and he’d gone to the place where all the dead goldfish were.  So I thought they’d flushed him down the bog (toilet)….. I used to flush food and magazines down the toilet for him to read. They took me to a child psychologist in the end, because they found me with my head down the toilet, reading him the football results.”

Lister concludes because of Rimmer’s solemnity, that he must have been close to his father. “Close,” says Rimmer, “I hated him – I detested his fat stupid guts, the popeyed balding git!” Rimmer talks about his father mental abuse and how he never once said, “Well done!”

Suddenly Cat enters the observation deck, “Ooooooowwwww” he says, “I’m hungry!”
Rimmer’s Dad died!” answers Lister, quickly trying to quiet Cat’s loudness.
“I’d prefer Chicken,” says Cat.

Rimmer is inconsolable. Cat tries to tell him that it may be bad for his father (being dead and all) “But it’s party time for all the little worms!” Rimmer ignores his and watches an old news report about the total immersion video games. He learns that they are very popular on Earth because the players are able to enact their every fantasy as though they were there!

Rimmer seems to snap out of his depression, and joins Lister and Cat to play a game called ‘Better than Life’. They put on the headsets and are all transported to a ….. a …. .beach!  They spot Marilyn Monroe and Napoleon before Cat and Lister materialise a two wheel Harley Davidson and ride off. They both turn and stick a finger up at Rimmer as they leave.

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Rimmer materialises an E-Type Jaguar.  He then materialises his old girlfriend (or at least the girl he used to fancy, McGruder). “I’ll bet you’re wearing a peephole bra under that (her blouse) aren’t you?”.   “yes I am.” She replies.  They drive off.

Further down the beech,  Lister and Cat are sat at a table in a restaurant indulging in their fantasy about eating and drinking exotic foods and minerals! (what!!  These guys are patient!)   Rimmer joins them and delightedly tells them about how he’d just bonked McGruder, when he’s invited to join the Admirals table!  He just loves this game!  He even manages to sign a book, ‘My Incredible Career’ by Arnold Rimmer.

It is clear that all his dreams are coming true, and most of us are quite pleased for him when, suddenly, Rimmer’s father appears. He calls him a total ‘Smeghead!’ Cat pops up to tell Rimmer that this isn’t Rimmer’s fantasy, its Cat’sRimmer the tramp

Lister and Cat go off to play golf!!! (why! would you want to play golf if you could do ANYTHING!!) They spot Rimmer in a Morris Minor estate with a pregnant McGruder and seven children! He looks AWFUL! (that’s what marriage does to you)  his brain has rebelled, he now fantasises things which backfire.

An Outland Revenue man appears and informs Rimmer that he owes £18,000.  Rimmer screams for help.  Unfortunately Lister and Cat can’t afford to pay because Rimmer’s mind has just fantasised all their money away.  Things deteriorate rapidly from then on. Suddenly, Holly, Lister and Cat are buried up to their necks in sand and their faces have beenEven Holly! smeared with jam. They are about to be eaten by killer ants!

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“… You can’t take him anywhere can you?!” says Holly.
“You’ve ruined this Rimmer!” exclaims Lister

I'll start with a little finger.They manage to have the wherewithal to remember that this is only a game and they each take off their Game Helmets.  Lister tells Rimmer that he has a warped mind and notices another letter addressed to Rimmer.  He reads it out loud and finds to his dismay, that the letter informs Rimmer that he has been promoted.  Suddenly the man from the Outland Revenue appears demanding the Rimmer’s tax arrears.  Lister shouts, “it’s the Game. We’re still playing the game!” The Outland Revenue geezer grabs Rimmer’s hand and takes his 5 pound lump hammer and breaks Rimmer’s fingers!!

Oh my goodness!!    Then we see ‘GAME OVER’ and the show ends!

This was break-neck stuff.  It was hard to keep up, especially near the end, but oh! The science was amazing – truly, computer games were just beginning to get more advanced and 3d gaming had only just started.  Despite the limitations of the BBC graphics department this was cutting edge Science Fiction and the comedy was immaculate :- Now we are starting to see the Red Dwarf establish it’s credibility as the masterpiece we all came to know and love – that would, within  the next few episodes, catapult the production to the most popular television show on British television. Unbelievably wacky but scientifically plausible scripts and hard hitting humour! Marvellous!

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This episode review is © 1999 – 2019 Tony Fawl.
Not for reproduction without  the authors express permission

The Red Dwarf names, characters and everything else associated with
the series are the property of The British Broadcasting Corporation,
Rob Grant & Doug Naylor.  All rights reserved.

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