Not to be confused with the Red Dwarf novel Better Than Life.
Now that the ship is heading back to Earth, Red Dwarf catches up with a three million year old mail pod. Amongst the masses of personal mail, junk mail and entertainment items, Rimmer receives the belated news that his father has passed away. Although he already knew his father was dead, along with the rest of the human race, receiving the letter of confirmation leaves Rimmer devastated, even though he hated his father for his Drill Sargent-esque treatment of his sons. Rimmer goes off to do some quiet contemplation in the Observation Dome, and Lister later joins him in an effort to console him, but an untimely interruption and poor choice of wording from the Cat doesn't help.
To alleviate his depression regarding the news (not to mention the fact that he has a $£ 8,500 tax bill from "Outland Revenue"), the crew try out something else that was in the mail - a new Total Immersion Video Game where all the players' desires and fantasies can come true; but even Rimmer's mind has its own way of stabbing him in the back.
Initially, the trio enjoy an idyllic vacation away from Red Dwarf: Lister and the Cat enjoy the lap of luxury, playing golf and enjoying fine cuisine and expensive wines (at a GELF restaurant where the Cat eats fish directly from a fish tank, Lister caviar vindaloo) - even Holly gets in a little R 'n' R time in the Holly Robot - while Rimmer's fantasy takes a carnal turn with a liaison with Yvonne McGruder (made possible by the fact that Rimmer is no longer a hologram and has a physical presence while in the game). Later, Rimmer finds himself regaled as an admiral, although an encounter with his father (arranged for by the Cat) ends up with his father instead of telling him he's proud of him, tells his son that he is a smeghead, leaving Rimmer shaken.
Ultimately, Rimmer's own neurosis begins to destroy his own and everyone else's fantasies. His new affair with McGruder suddenly turns into a miserable marriage filled with many bratty kids. Lister, the Cat and Holly's enjoyment of the game are soon soiled by Rimmer's deranged mind. Deep down Rimmer truly feels that he is worthless and does not deserve happiness and since the game gives you whatever you want, even what your subconscious mind most desires, the game intends to give him the pain he wants, catching his compatriots along the way. Lister's fantasy of a peaceful day out golfing, the Cat's fantasy of his elaborate love life with Marilyn Monroe and a mermaid (the Salvador Dali, felis sapiens version - fish on top and woman on the bottom), and Holly's casual tagging along are all wrecked.
Rimmer is threatened by an Outland Revenue Tax Man (after that bill, which has had an extra £10,000 tacked onto it), and ultimately he, Lister, the Cat and even Holly find themselves with their faces smeared with jam, buried up to the neck awaiting an attack by killer ants (something that Rimmer's brothers used to do to him). This is enough to snap everyone out of the game.
As Rimmer whines about his lot in life and how he never gets any breaks, Lister finds one last piece of unopened mail in the sleeping quarters. To everyone shock it reveals that Rimmer had been falsely reported to have failed the astro-navigation exam when in fact he passed with honours and thus is now an Navigation Officer. As Rimmer puffs up proudly, the Tax Collector emerges from their locker, and Lister realizes they're still in the game. Much to Rimmer's continued misfortune, the Collector proceeds to take physical reparations for the unpaid tax, and swings a hammer down onto one of Rimmer's thumbs with a splatting noise...
- The episode "Better Than Life" is notable and unusual for having no deleted scenes on the Series II DVD.
- However, cut scenes from the episode can be seen in the Series II documentary "It's Cold Outside", which is contained in The Bodysnatcher Collection. These include Lister and the Cat on "the beach in Paradise", actually shot on a freezing beach in Rhyl in Wales - and show why the scene was cut, since the actors are notably cold and shivering, despite the palm trees. The very strong winds were also rather noticeable. This was re-shot on a golf course in better weather for the broadcast episode (where Miranda, Cat's reverse-mermaid girlfriend, turns up).
On the deck chairs amongst the palm trees, Lister sings Lunar City Seven, whilst Cat sings the Fish Song. Cat's girlfriend Marilyn Monroe turns up, and Cat begs her to let him keep his trousers on for ten minutes. The Better Than Life Guide turns up with a banana bomb for Lister. Holly turns up in the Holly Robot, saying that it must be paradise since it's 11am and there isn't a single German beach towel anywhere. Lister tells Holly that he plays "roof attack" for the Zero Gravity Football team the London Jets (a position filled by his idol Jim Bexley Speed), and also "on a weekend" plays lead guitar as the fifth member of the "Fab Five".
- The scene with Gordon was subject to a re-shoot with a different actor for Red Dwarf Remastered, before being dropped. However, this alternate Gordon shoot is also included in The Bodysnatcher Collection as a "deleted scene."
- This is the first episode to delve into the twisted world of the Rimmer family (and the first episode that showed an expansion of his character).
- It is revealed in this episode that Rimmer's full name is Arnold Judas Rimmer.
- In Rimmer's letter, his mother refers to him as "Rimmer" and not "Arnold".
- Surprisingly, given the subplot of Series I, Lister's part of the fantasy does not appear to include Kristine Kochanski.
- The episode fills in some of events on Earth around the time of the Red Dwarf accident. We learn, for example, that a lost page of the Bible indicating it's a work of fiction was recently discovered, that the Friday the 13th movie series was well past its 1,000 installment, and there have been many remakes of Casablanca. Technologically speaking, aside from the advent of Better Than Life we learn that paper letters are still in use, and that video recordings resemble triangle-shaped VHS tapes (although the recording sent to Holly by the Gordon computer appears to be on a compact disc or DVD).
- This is the first episode of Red Dwarf to involve location shooting and get the cast away from the confines of spaceship interiors. As such, it is the first episode to feature major elements recorded without a live audience present (these scenes were later played in studio to record audience response).
- It's the first of several episodes in which the crew encounters replicas of famous historic figures.
- It is later revealed that the man Rimmer thought was his father is not in fact his biological dad; in "The Beginning" Rimmer's social father admits this fact to his son in a video recording he prepared him to play only if he had become a success, feeling the truth would stifle his true abilities.
- The subject of mail pods is revisited in the Series III episode "The Last Day" (reusing the original model shot) and again much later in the Series X episode "Dear Dave", with Rimmer repeated almost the exact same mail related taunts as in this episode.
- The Cat goes on to learn more about golf - including not to throw the club - as evidenced by his prowess at a tabletop version of the game in Timeslides.
- Hologram Newsreader of Groovy Channel 27: Good evening. Here is the news on Friday, the 27th of Geldof. Archaeologists near Mount Sinai have discovered what is believed to be a missing page from the Bible. The page is currently being carbon dated in Bonn. If genuine it belongs at the beginning of the Bible and is believed to read "To my darling Candy. All characters portrayed within this book are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." The page has been universally condemned by church leaders.
- Lister: [To Rimmer who has cooked a meal with the help of the skutters] Rimmer, real dumplings, proper dumplings when they are properly cooked to perfection, proper dumplings should not bounce!
Rimmer: True, but after the way I thought they were going to turn out they were quite (does a little kiss) superb! (French accent)
Lister: So how's the Cat?
Rimmer: Oh, he's just sleeping off the stomach pump...He'll be alright, the lamb was a bit of a flop though.
Lister: The Lamb!? Everyone thought the lamb was the cheese! And that Lemon Meringue Pie, man, what was in that?
Rimmer: I thought you liked that! You bought some back.
Lister: Yeah....I wanted to try some out on my Athlete's Foot!
- [A post pod has caught up with Red Dwarf and Lister is sorting through the mail]
Rimmer: You'll send away for every bit of tat, just so you'll have some mail to open.
Lister: Me... Me... Me...
Rimmer: Please rush me my portable walrus polishing kit! Four super brushes for cleaning even the trickiest of sea-bound mammals! Yes, I am over 18, although my IQ isn't.
Lister: Smeg! Outland Revenue!
Rimmer: [sarcastically] Oh, oh, oh, oh! Outland Revenue!
Lister: 8500 DollarPounds owed!
Rimmer: 8500? That's a lot of tax, isn't it, Listy? How on Titan are you going to pay for that?
Lister: I'm not. It's yours.
Rimmer: What? This is wrong! This is dead wrong!
Lister: Relax, it doesn't matter now. Not gonna catch you now, are they?
Rimmer: What? Just because we're three million years into Deep Space and the human species is extinct? That means nothing to these people. They'll find us.
- Lister: (Returning to mail sorting.) Another one for you. Rear Admiral Lieutenant General Rimmer.
Rimmer: That's from my mother.
Lister: Rear Admiral?
Rimmer: Every time I take an exam I tell her I passed. It's getting embarrassing now. I should be Commander in Chief of the whole universe.
- [Lister has found a sad Rimmer in the Observation Dome reminiscing of his father and Lister discusses his own adoptive father]
Lister: I remember when my dad died you know. I was only six. I got loads of presents off everyone like it was Christmas. I remember wishing a couple more people would die so I could complete my Lego set. My grandma tried to explain, you know. She said he'd gone away and he wasn't coming back. So, I wanted to know where, like, you know. She said he was very happy and he'd gone to the same place as my goldfish. So I thought they'd flushed him down the bog. I thought he was just round the U bend, you know. I used to stuff food down, you know, and magazines and that for him to read. They took me to a child psychologist in the end because they found me with my head down the bowl reading him the football results.
- Cat: Yeoooowwww!!! My stomach has been pumped and now I'm hungry. Hey, there you are! Hey man, I'm so hungry, I just have to eat.
Lister: Shhhhh. Rimmer's dad's died.
Cat: Well, I'd prefer chicken.
- Lister: You never said much about him. You must have been pretty close.
Lister: Sorry, very close.
Rimmer: Close? I hated him! I detested his fat, stupid guts, the pop-eyed, balding git!
Lister: Why are you so completely blown away about him dying then?
Rimmer: Oh, it doesn't mean to say I didn't respect him, didn't look up to him. It was only natural, he was my father.
Lister: There's nothing natural about your family, Rimmer.
- Better Than Life Guide: There you are, sir, a small aquarium, now are you sure you wouldn't like your fish cooked?
*Cat: No sir, I like my food to MOVE (USING A SMALL FISHING POLE IN A GOLDFISH TANK) I'm gonna eat you little fishie! I'm gonna eat you little fishie!
- [Rimmer fantasises that his father would say he is proud of him, just once]
Rimmer's dad: I just wanted to say...
Rimmer's dad: I just wanted to say...
Rimmer's dad: You're a total smeghead!
Rimmer: What?! This isn't my fantasy!
Cat: No. It's mine!
- Tax Man: [holding a hammer to Rimmer's hands] Now where's those little thumbies?
- This episode marks the first appearance of the Observation Dome. Rimmer goes there, upset at hearing the news of his father's death, and Lister follows him for a talk. The Observation Dome was both a model (exterior) and a set (interior), created for this episode as a location for serious emotional talk.
- Throughout the filming of this episode, the crew had a recurring problem, as Debbie Ash (who played Marilyn Monroe) proved utterly incapable of delivering her line, "Boop-oop-be-doop".
- During filming, Craig Charles kept stalling the motorcycle he and Cat ride away from Rimmer on, so Craig is not the person riding the bike as it moves away from the camera.
- The crew encounter a Marylin Monroe lookalike again in the Series IV episode "Meltdown", only played by actress Pauline Bailey. Tony Hawks, who played the Better Than Life guide, is also in that episode as Caligula.
- A series of smeg ups from this episode shows Craig Charles clumsily, and unsuccessfully, trying to hit a golf ball. According to Robert Llewellyn on one of the Smeg Ups VHS releases (in character and make-up as Kryten), Charles tried to bluff that he knew how to play golf before the scene was shot, when in reality he didn't.
- Tony Hawks as Better Than Life Guide
- John Abineri as Arnold Rimmer's Father
- Judy Hawkins as Yvonne McGruder
- Ron Pember as Tax Man
- Nigel Carrivick as Captain
- Jeremy Austin as Rathbone
- Debbie Ash as Marilyn Monroe
- Tina Jenkins as Hologram Newsreader
- Gordon Salkilld as Gordon