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The 20 Greatest "Red Dwarf" Episodes Of All Time

Not going to lie, most of them are about Rimmer.

Red Dwarf is an iconic British sci-fi sitcom that began in 1988 and continues to this day.

Lister wraps his arm around the Cat with a joyful expression while Rimmer looks on in disgust
BBC

Of course, being British, that only equates to 12 seasons (and a feature-length special). That means there's a lot of rewatching to be done between installments, but thankfully most of the series holds up to repeat viewings, even after more than three decades. 

As someone who has watched the show more times than I can count, I feel I can choose with some authority which are the absolute best episodes (but also, it was pretty agonizing to choose). So here it is, the definitive (and totally subjective) ranking of the top 20 Red Dwarf episodes of all time...

20. "Camille" (Season 4, Episode 1)

Kryten stands opposite Camille, a "female" android that looks like him
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Red Dwarf's pop-culture parodies can be hit or miss, but this take on Casablanca is both hilarious and surprisingly emotional. The crew comes across a pleasure GELF that appears to each individual as the object of their desire — for Kryten, a female droid, for Rimmer, a female hologram, for Lister, a woman, and for the Cat, a copy of himself. 

Kryten genuinely falls in love with Camille, and his journey with her sees him finally able to implement the program-breaking training Lister has been coaching him in — specifically, the ability to lie. It's not often Kryten is given space to grow, so it's wonderful to see that here. 

19. "Balance of Power" (Season 1, Episode 3)

Rimmer holds his right arm back with his left arm as it attempts to poke him in the eyes — the right arm is much hairier than the left
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

As this list will make obvious, Red Dwarf is at its best when it's focused on Rimmer and Lister and the shifting dynamics between the two of them. Rimmer's character journey in particular is incredibly nuanced and compelling. In this Season 1 episode, Rimmer is on a power trip thanks to his new role as most senior officer on board, while Lister is frustrated at the prospect of being stuck with him forever and wants his old love Kochanski to become his hologram companion. 

Its strength is in the odd-couple classic sitcom focus, allowing the characters to flourish and the humor to emerge purely from their interactions — as well as the physical comedy of Rimmer taking on the bodies (or sometimes just body parts) of other crew members. 


18. "Out of Time" (Season 6, Episode 6)

Kryten toasts with alternate reality/older Kryten, The Cat and Rimmer; a brain in a jar sits on the table in front of them
BBC

Directed by: Andy de Emmony

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Red Dwarf has played with time travel a number of times over the years, with varying degrees of success. This episode is interesting in the way it delves deep into character and situation. The boys are dismayed and fed up with their repetitive, listless existence and with each other's company, so when they discover a time travel device it seems to hold the answers to their prayers. That is until they see the consequences, as their future selves travel to their present and are not at all who or what the crew want to be. 

The funniest part of this episode is the unreality pockets as well as all of Kryten and Lister's interactions, but what makes this story so memorable is the bigger story, the action, the chance that Rimmer gets to save the day, and, of course, the iconic line "Better dead than smeg." 

17. "Terrorform" (Season 5, Episode 3)

Kryten's robotic hand with an eye stuck to the middle finger crawls along the floor
BBC

Directed by: Juliet May

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This episode quite literally explores Rimmer's psyche; he and Kryten crash-land on a psi-moon, which is a planetoid that transforms into the manifestation of an individual's consciousness. And Rimmer's mind is a dark, dark place, ruled by all his negative qualities. He is a prisoner of his own personality, a powerful setup that encapsulates his whole arc.

There's a lot of humor here, but it's also a moving and thoughtful examination of Rimmer's character and his secret desires (mostly to be recognized, understood, and loved). Plus it involves him being stripped and oiled, which is, uh, a formative experience. 

16. "Dimension Jump" (Season 4, Episode 5)

Ace Rimmer looks smug
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Another Rimmer-centric episode, this time probing the possibility of what might have been if he had different circumstances growing up. We meet Ace Rimmer — what a guy — who is the Rimmer from an alternate reality who was held back a year at school and subsequently worked harder and achieved all his dreams. It highlights "our" Rimmer's own smallness and the way he always blames external circumstances rather than taking responsibility for himself. 

Character exploration aside, Chris Barrie is an absolute delight to watch as Ace Rimmer, bringing out a totally different side than we usually see to him. The contrast between the two Rimmers is a thing of beauty to behold. 

15. "Stasis Leak" (Season 2, Episode 4)

Lister stands with Kochanski who wears a bathrobe, as another Lister with a beard and wearing a bathrobe stands by the door to the room, which the Cat stands in
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Hey, it's not a Rimmer episode! At least, not entirely. "Stasis Leak" sees the boys, as the name suggests, find a stasis leak that enables them to travel back in time to three weeks before the incident that killed the entire Red Dwarf crew (except Lister). They each use the opportunity for their own purposes — Lister tries to save Kochanski, Rimmer tries to save himself, and the Cat is just happy to be around real live women for once. Interestingly, none of them actually try to prevent the accident from happening at all. 

This is one of the first time travel episodes, and it sets up some plot points that never quite eventuate, but it's a lot of fun to see a complicated sci-fi concept tackled in this way. Not to be repetitive, but the highlight of the episode is definitely past Rimmer going slightly insane when confronted with his future self — and future Lister(s) — and putting the whole thing down to some mushrooms Lister slipped him. If only he had listened...

14. "Holoship" (Season 5, Episode 1)

Rimmer lies shirtless in bed next to a female hologram
BBC

Directed by: Juliet May

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Ahem, OK, there's a definite pattern emerging here. Sorry, but I can't help it if Rimmer's character is the most interesting, and the episodes focused on him tend to be the best overall. In this one, we see Rimmer at his most "human." He gets the opportunity to join a holoship, where everything is a hologram including the crew, meaning he has a physical presence. 

Rimmer falls in love — a love he ultimately prioritizes over his own desires, since the place he wins on the holoship is hers. In order to save her, he declines taking the place, in perhaps the noblest move from his character over the course of the entire show. It's a real moment of growth.

13. "Polymorph" (Season 3, Episode 3)

Kryten is attacked by the polymorph
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This is an episode that leans more heavily into the sci-fi aspect of the series, as a genetic mutant that can mimic any form and feeds off negative emotions boards the ship. It steals Lister's fear, Kryten's guilt, the Cat's vanity, and Rimmer's anger. Considering the episode is all about emotions, it doesn't get particularly deep, but it is a very fun, and very funny, ensemble piece. Watching the cast members get to act in such out-of-character ways is very entertaining.

12. "Me²" (Season 1, Episode 6)

Two Rimmers look at each other in sleeping quarters, wearing their underwear
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Oh look, another Rimmer episode (I promise they aren't all so Rimmer-centric). In this Season 1 finale, we see the first of what would become a recurring theme throughout the series — Rimmer having to deal with another version of himself and subsequently confronting his own inner demons. In this instance, it's another hologram copy of his personality, and while he relishes his own company at first, he quickly learns just how insufferable he is to live with. 

It's incredibly funny, but also emotional, especially when Rimmer, thinking he's going to be erased, reveals the worst moment of his life: the infamous "gazpacho soup" incident. 

11. "Kryten" (Season 2, Episode 1)

Kryten wears a suit and looks shocked
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This episode introduces Kryten, here played by David Ross. While his performance is quite different to the Kryten we see later, played by Robert Llewellyn, the foundations for his entire character arc are laid here. Kryten has become a little unhinged after being alone on his ship for centuries, leading to some very funny moments. Later, Lister "adopts" Kryten and begins to teach him to break his programming and live for himself, not to serve others, with the use of old movies. 

What makes this compelling is not just Kryten and his journey, but what the character brings out in Lister. His dynamic with Kryten, especially in the earlier seasons, often shows him off in his best light, highlighting the true values that are buried underneath the layers of ambivalence and curry-stained clothes. 

10. "Better Than Life" (Season 2, Episode 2)

The Cat and Lister sit on a motorbike on a beach, grinning and sticking their middle fingers up
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This episode widens the world of the Dwarfers through a virtual reality game called "Better Than Life" that allows them to live out their deepest desires. This allows for a lot of funny and surreal jokes (like the Cat's wish for a reverse mermaid). But as it so often is, the true power of the episode lies in the emotional depth — specifically, and unsurprisingly, in Rimmer. 

He receives the very delayed news that his father has died, and while he of course knows all his family is dead, reading it in a letter from his mother causes him to grieve anew while also reflecting on his father's abusive treatment of him. It provides valuable insight into why Rimmer is the way he is, while also adding layers to the dynamic between him and the other characters, particularly Lister, as they try to help him deal with his grief. 

All of this plays out against the backdrop of the game, which Rimmer's messed-up psyche inevitably ruins, establishing a pattern that would crop up again in the likes of "Terrorform" amongst other episodes. 

9. "Stoke Me a Clipper" (Season 7, Episode 2)

Lister and Ace Rimmer look at each other
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Paul Alexander & Doug Naylor

Ace Rimmer is back, this time with a whole new mythology surrounding him! He reveals that he isn't actually the "real" Ace — the original Ace died long ago, and he's one of the many Rimmers from alternate universes to take on the mantle. Now he's dying, so he's come to pass over the role of Ace to "our" Rimmer. While Chris Barrie later returned to the series, at this point he was planning to leave for good, and so this episode was a farewell to his character — and a fitting one it is.

Rimmer becoming Ace makes sense as a payoff to all of the character exploration and growth we see from him in previous seasons. It also provides some genuinely moving moments, particularly in his interactions with Lister. It's a great example of the way their relationship truly is the heart of the show. 

8. "Quarantine" (Season 5, Episode 4)

Rimmer wears a gingham dress and bonnet with fake pigtails and has a penguin puppet on his hand
BBC

Directed by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This is one of the most deeply weird, slightly disturbing, and utterly hilarious episodes in Red Dwarf's run. Rimmer becomes infected with a holo-virus that gives him psionic powers while also driving him insane. He imprisons Lister, the Cat, and Kryten in the ship's quarantine and proceeds to torture them in a variety of unhinged but very funny ways. The tensions between the trio in quarantine are all-too-real after the past couple of years, while this version of Rimmer — with his trusty puppet Mr. Flibble — is truly iconic. 

7. "The End" (Season 1, Episode 1)

Lister looks alarmed while sitting in the drive room as Holly looks on from the screen
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

The episode that began it all. There's a lot of heavy lifting done here, and it's done remarkably well — it establishes Lister and Rimmer as characters (and enemies) and sets up their world, which will soon be destroyed. It manages to contain the deaths of hundreds of people, including one of the main characters, and strand our heroes 3 million years into deep space, without being remotely dark or depressing. In fact, it's a lively ride — especially the scene where Lister finds out that everyone is dead ("Everybody's dead, Dave!").

6. "Future Echoes" (Season 1, Episode 2)

Rimmer wears a beehive wig while Lister laughs behind him
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Following on from the pilot, this second episode is the first in which the actual premise of the show — odd couple in space, with bonus Cat — plays out to full effect. We get a lot of great friction between Rimmer and Lister when Lister decides to go into stasis, while the Cat is being his glorious Cat self ("I'm gonna eat you, little fishy!"). The sci-fi element of the episode comes through the titular future echoes — temporal anomalies the show flashes of future events, leading to some very funny moments, especially for Lister.

5. "Backwards" (Season 3, Episode 1)

The Cat looks horrified; his hair stands up on end
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This is the first episode in Season 3, which offered somewhat of a reset on what came before. Kryten is now a full cast member (played by Robert Llewellyn), and there's a new (and female) Holly (Hattie Hayridge). The gang also goes back to Earth for the first time — sort of. They go through a time hole and end up on Earth far into the future, where time is running backward.

The humor here relies heavily on the visuals, with footage played in reverse to create some truly gross-out scenes, making it one of the most memorable episodes of the entire series. 

4. "Thanks for the Memory" (Season 2, Episode 3)

The Cat, wearing a robe and hairnet, smiles and looks down while sitting next to Lister, who is also looking down
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This is a wonderful Lister-and-Rimmer-centric episode. Rimmer gets extremely drunk on his death day and admits he's only ever had sex once, and has never been in love. Taking pity on him, Lister transfers his memory of a beautiful relationship to Rimmer, which goes well at first, and then so horribly wrong. Lister then wipes all their memories of everything that happened after the death day party. It all plays out as a mystery, with the boys trying to piece together what happened in the missing days they lost in the memory wipe. It has a lot of humor and heart, which is Red Dwarf at its best.

3. "Parallel Universe" (Season 2, Episode 6)

Rimmer and Lister stand opposite female versions of themselves
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

This episode earns this spot for the inclusion of "Tongue Tied" alone, but the rest of it is pretty damn great too. The crew travels to a parallel universe and encounters the female versions of themselves (or, in the Cat's case, a Dog). The funniest moments of the show actually come from the men reckoning with their own treatment of women as they find themselves treated in a similar way by their female selves. And, of course, the tie-in with "Future Echoes," as we finally find out exactly how Lister winds up with twin sons. 

2. "Marooned" (Season 3, Episode 2)

Lister and Rimmer sit in a spaceship in front of a trash can; they're looking at each other; Lister holds a book with more books at his feet
BBC

Directed by: Ed Bye

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

"Marooned" cuts right back to basics to allow one of Red Dwarf's greatest strengths to shine: Lister and Rimmer's relationship, of course. The bottle episode is almost entirely Lister and Rimmer sitting in a room and talking to each other, as they get stranded on an icy planet. As they tell stories and struggle to survive (the latter being mainly Lister's problem), they learn more about each other, and we in turn learn more about them and get to watch them bond in surprising ways. Lister betraying Rimmer at the end only makes the episode all the more poignant (and also hilarious). 

1. "Back to Reality" (Season 5, Episode 6)

The Cat as Dwayne Dibley looks horrified
BBC

Directed by: Juliet May, Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

"Back to Reality" is the best episode for combining a zany premise with nuance and depth, larger-scale set pieces, and space for the whole ensemble to show off their comedic talents. The Red Dwarf crew are affected by a toxin from a despair squid, which causes them to collectively hallucinate. They believe that their time on Red Dwarf has been part of a virtual reality game, and they wake up to find they're not who they thought they were. All four lead characters grapple with their newfound identities — about as depressing as they can be for each of them — in interesting ways, but it's the Cat as Dwayne Dibley who really steals the show. 

The episode gets quite dark in places, but it's compelling, balancing both character and action, and, of course, the classic Red Dwarf humor.

What are some of your favorite Red Dwarf episodes? Let us know in the comments below!