"Better Than Life" is indistinguishable to reality for the user, and can let the user live out their greatest fantasies. However, Rimmer's neurosis threatens to turn this potential paradise into a nightmare for the boys from the Dwarf.
Meanwhile, aboard the ship, Lister is seen in agony with his stomach in the sleeping quarters. Lying on his bunk and moaning, he drinks an entire bottle of indigestion medicine. Rimmer enters wearing a white chef's hat and uniform, claiming that he believes the meal he recently cooked to have been a success, despite the fact that the Cat is currently in the Medi-Bay sleeping off a stomach pump. Rimmer blames the skutters, saying that since he is a hologram he cannot touch anything and the skutters did not follow his instructions, instead leaving the food to burn. Lister tells Rimmer not to be too harsh on them, since they do not have advanced software. The skutters have since gone off to play "Cowboys and Indians" through the corridors, against Rimmer's orders.
Holly interrupts and says that he has some news. After a bizarre guessing game (due to Holly's computer senility), he eventually tells the others that a post pod has docked with Red Dwarf. Holly explains that the mail pod had been tracking Red Dwarf since they left Earth three million years earlier, and since the ship has now turned around, the pod has finally caught up with them. The skutters bring up the masses of mail to the Drive Room, and Lister and Rimmer (Rimmer now back in his usual attire) go to sift through the mail; before the skutters take their letter from the John Wayne fan club.
Even Holly has some mail - a video from another AI computer named Gordon, with whom Holly had been playing postal chess. Although Holly claims that Gordon is a superior intellect, Gordon seems more degraded with computer senility even more than Holly, and has actually only just the first move in their game of postal chess in three million years.
A batch of new triangular cassette movies include Friday the 13th Part 1649, and a remake of Casablanca - Lister is horrified since he believes the Casablanca remake starring Peter Beardsley and Myra Dinglebat to be "definitive". Lister is made happier when he finds two seasons of Zero Gravity Football he has not yet seen, and Rimmer is also happy to discover a whole years worth of Earth news from just after Red Dwarf left the Solar System, and is eager to catch up. As an excited Lister is about to leave, saying that he will see Rimmer in the spring, Rimmer calls him back - Rimmer has noticed a Total Immersion Video Game, or T.I.V. Lister is even more excited by this, explaining to Rimmer that they were extremely rare and expensive, and work by means of electrodes implanted directly into the brain so the user cannot tell the difference between the game and reality.
They decide to return to the T.I.V. later and continue to sift through the masses of mail, taking more of it up to the sleeping quarters. Later on in the evening, Lister is still looking for Rimmer's mail (since as a hologram Rimmer cannot touch anything), and Rimmer mocks Lister for opting for mountains of junk mail, asking Lister if he has received his "personal walrus polishing kit". Rimmer begins to laugh harder when Lister opens a letter from the Outland Revenue requesting 8,500 DollarPounds in unpaid tax, but Lister hands it over to Rimmer and tells it that it is his. Panicking, Lister tells Rimmer to relax, since they are three million years into Deep Space and the human race is extinct, so it unlikely they are going to catch him now. Rimmer says that means nothing to these people, and he is sure that they will still find him.
Lister then finds another letter for Rimmer, referring to him as "Rear Admiral Lieutenant General Rimmer". Lister is confused, and Rimmer explains that it is from Rimmer's mother: every time he fails an exam, he tells his mother that he has passed, and by now he should be commander-in-chief of the entire universe. Rimmer asks Lister to read the very formal letter with very bad handwriting, and is further confused by the phrase "your dad is dad", but then realised that it meant Rimmer's father has died, "peacefully in his jeep". Despite knowing that he must have been dead for aeons, along with everybody else they knew, Rimmer takes this news very badly. Although he hated his father, he also respected and looked up to him.
Rimmer decides to spend a night of quiet contemplation, alone up in an Observation Dome, looking out on the stars. Lister decides to join him and attempts to console him, discussing when his own father died. Rimmer tells Lister some stories about his unusual childhood, and eccentric and borderline psychopathic father. Rimmer says that, just once, he would have liked his father to tell him that he was proud of him. Eventually the Cat barges in to the Observation Dome, having finally fully recovered from the stomach pump, and loudly declares that he is hungry. When Lister asks him to be quiet and says that Rimmer's father has died, Cat says that he would prefer chicken.
The next day, Rimmer is sat in his bunk, depressed and watching the old Earth news which came with the post pod. As the Hologram Newsreader from Groovy Channel 27 reads the news, Lister walks in and interrupts the news to ask Rimmer if he is interested in having a go on the T.I.V.. Holly reckons that he can key Rimmer in to the game too, despite being a hologram, but Rimmer is not interested. As Rimmer continues to watch the news recordings, the newsreader talks about how a T.I.V. named "Better Than Life" was sweeping the Solar System during the time that Red Dwarf left Earth. Rimmer becomes interested when the newsreader says that it can make the user's fantasies come true. Rimmer then runs down to the Drive Room to join the Lister and Cat as they are donning their B.T.L. helmets and are about to enter the game.
Lister, the Cat and Rimmer enter the game, and begin by walking down a set of brightly-lit, futuristic-looking corridors. After entering a set of large, ornately-carved wooden doors, they take a short walk though a forested area, and then through another set of wooden doors into a seafront area adorned with palm trees. Rimmer picks up some of the sand from the beach, remarking how realistic it all looks and feels. Marilyn Monroe then walks by the trio, throwing seductive glances towards the Cat, with Rimmer telling the others that it is the famous actress "Mary Magdalene". Rimmer then notices Napoleon Bonaparte dipping his toes in the sea, and runs over to him to awkwardly get his autograph, telling Napoleon that he has read all his war diaries and that he is his all time favourite fascist dictator. Napoleon does not seem very amused with Rimmer, but gives him his autograph anyway.
As Rimmer rejoins the others, a man suddenly appears among the trio - the Better Than Life Guide - giving them a brief shock. The Guide says that they must be hungry, and that there is a restaurant a few miles down the beach. When Lister asks how they are supposed to get there, the Guide says any way they want - it is after all "better than life" - and then disappears. Lister concentrates for a moment, and a powerful Harley-Davidson motorbike appears in front of him. Lister and Cat jump on the bike, sunglasses also appearing, and they throw fingers up at Rimmer and ride off, showering Rimmer in sand.
Rimmer then tries to conjure his own transport, at first managing only a dilapidated and rusty three-wheeled Reliant Regal Supervan. He then tries a second time, managing to conjure up a flashy Jaguar E-Type. Rimmer gets in and military band music begins, and then his old flame (and to date only sexual encounter) Yvonne McGruder appears in the passenger seat and begins acting seductively. Rimmer says that they are only one thing away from perfection - and some furry dice appear in the windscreen.
Sometime soon after, Lister and Cat are enjoying some fine dine dining at a classy restaurant which is filled with bizarre characters and GELFS. Lister and Cat manage to disgust each other with their fantasied ways of eating. Lister is eating caviar mixed with vindaloo, and throwing chips in the air and catching them with his mouth. He is also drinking Dom Pérignon '54 out of a pint glass, and spilling most of it down his London Jets t-shirt. At the same time, Cat licks the suit lapels of the Guide as he brings him a miniature fishing rod, explaining that he always does that any time somebody who brings him food. The Guide then puts down a fish tank full of live fish, and Cat begins singing the Fish Song in happiness.
Rimmer then enters the restaurant and the Guide tells him that Lister and Cat are at table K on the second terrace. Rimmer joins the others, explaining the he is late because he has a physical presence in the game, and he has been having a sexual encounter with Yvonne McGruder. Lister asks Rimmer if he has checked into a room yet, but Rimmer didn't know that they had rooms. Lister tells Rimmer that his own room has a vibrating, leopard skin waterbed in the shape of a guitar. He even has an electric toilet which comes when he calls it, removes his trousers and does everything for him. Cat also says that his room is so big it crosses an international time zone - when it's three o' clock where his shirts are, it's seven in the morning for his socks.
A military captain then appears at the table, doing a Rimmer-style salute and asking if "Admiral" Rimmer will join Field Marshall Clifton and other military officers in another room for port and cigars. Rimmer says there must be some mistake, since he is not an admiral, but suddenly a JMC admiral's uniform appears on Rimmer, and he then happily goes off to the other room. At the table, a group of military officers laugh in a sycophantic and pretend way as Rimmer gets all his jokes wrong. A young cadet appears wanting Rimmer to sign his autobiography - "My Incredible Career" by Admiral A.J. Rimmer - and comments that he will be the envy of the academy. Suddenly, Rimmer's late father then suddenly appears in the room, walks up to the table, and apologises for barging in on the party, but he has something to say. Rimmer expects his father to say that he is proud of him, but he calls his son a smeghead instead. A shocked Rimmer says this is not his fantasy; Cat appears and says that it is his, and steals Rimmer's cigar.
Sometime later, Rimmer has disappeared somewhere else in the game, and Lister and Cat are enjoying some quiet outdoors time on a idyllic golf course. Cat doesn't know how to play, however, and throws his gold club after spinning round three times and hopping on one leg. When Lister begins to feel thirsty, the Guide appears with a banana bomb drink, as Cat passes by Marilyn Monroe in a bed and turns down her advances, causing her to throw her pillows at him. Holly comes into the game and enters the golf course in the form of the Holly Robot, and asks how Lister and Cat are getting on. Cat introduces Holly to his new girlfriend Miranda - a mermaid who appears from a nearby lake. However, she has human legs and a fishy upper body and head. When Holly tells Cat that human folklore usually depict mermaids with fish bottom halves and human upper halves, Cat says that it is the stupid way around.
Ultimately, Rimmer's own neurosis begins to destroy his own and everyone else fantasies. 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 and ruining their fantasies also.
As Lister and Cat walk down a country lane, a heavily loaded Morris Minor Traveller estate car drives up to them. Rimmer is at the wheel, and gets out when the car breaks down, followed by a heavily pregnant Yvonne McGruder and several screaming, bratty kids. Rimmer and McGruder are apparently very miserably married, with an unhappy and stressful mortgage, and they are arguing loudly over nappy sacks. Spying the others, Rimmer walks over and begs Lister for help. Lister suggests trying to imagine something better. Suddenly Rimmer's hair becomes very unkempt, his clothes alter to that of a tramp, he has missing teeth, and is swigging from a brown bottle.
As Rimmer slides down the stone wall and struggles to mentally improve the situation, an Outland Revenue Tax Man appears, demanding immediate payment of 18,000 DollarPounds. However, Rimmer tries to conjure some money, but cannot. Lister says that he will pay, but Rimmer has fantasised away all of Lister's money too. As Rimmer imagines a tarantula with giant teeth crawling up his leg and entering his underpants, the game puts one there. Lister shouts at Rimmer to imagine a change in scenery, and to concentrate - and they all appear back on the beach. Even the Holly Robot is there. Only this time, they are all buried up to the neck in sand, with their faces covered in jam and are about to eaten by killer ants (something that Rimmer's brothers used to threaten to do to him). Holly moans about how you can't take Rimmer anywhere, and Cat moans about Rimmer's diseased brain, and Lister complains how Rimmer has ruined his dreams.
As they all begin to panic and scream at the imminent ant attack, this is seemingly enough to snap everyone out of the game. Back on Red Dwarf, they take off their helmets and chide Rimmer. As Rimmer whines about his lot in life and how he never gets any breaks, Lister finds one last piece of unopened mail and begins reading it as they walk to the bunkroom. To everyone's 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, First Class, and includes Rimmer's new pips and insignia. As Rimmer puffs up proudly, the Tax Collector from earlier emerges from their bunkroom 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 screen then freezes, slightly distorts, and large red text reading "GAME OVER" appears over it.
- The episode "Better Than Life" is notable and unusual for having no deleted scenes on the Series II DVD.
"It's Cold Outside"Edit
- Deleted 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 - "Gordon 8000" - is also included in The Bodysnatcher Collection as a deleted scene.
- The second Red Dwarf novel, Better Than Life, largely follows the same plot as this episode, although it plays out in an alternate dimension and so does not follow the plot of the episode perfectly, and the digital fantasty element is greatly expanded on.
- In the novel is explained that the B.T.L. game killed most who played it, since most did not want to leave their own personally-constructed paradise, and so became "Game Heads" and simply withered away and died in the real world. It is therefore rather fortunate for the Dwarfers that Rimmer's damaged psyche actually ruined it for them; this probably saved their lives.
- It is revealed in this episode that Rimmer's full name is Arnold Judas Rimmer.
- 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).
- In Rimmer's letter, his mother refers to him as "Rimmer" and not "Arnold".
- In the Series III episode "Polymorph", Rimmer watches a video recording of himself as a boy being tormented by his older brothers John, Frank and Howard. They have buried him up to the neck in a sand pit, and holding a jar labelled "ants" above his head. This probably explains why this same thing happens to Rimmer and the rest of the Dwarfers towards the end of their sojourn into Better Than Life.
- Much later, it is revealed that the man Rimmer thought was his father is not in fact his biological dad; in the Series X episode "The Beginning", Rimmer's social father admits this fact to his son in a holo-lamp video recording he prepared him to play only if he had become a success, feeling the truth would stifle his true abilities.
- Surprisingly, given the subplot of Series I, Lister's part of the fantasy does not appear to include Kristine Kochanski.
- In the previous series episode Future Echoes, Holly said it would take 4,000 years just to turn Red Dwarf around and face the direction of Earth, and advised Lister and Cat to go into stasis for the long trip. In this episode, Holly mentions that they are finally turned around (that is how the post pod caught up to them) and so it is possible that Lister and Cat have already spent some millennia in stasis since the previous series.
- The episode fills in some of events on Earth around the time of the Red Dwarf accident. We learn from the Hologram Newsreader, among other things, 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).
- It's the first of several episodes in which the crew encounters replicas of famous historic figures.
- 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.
- Rimmer fantasises about becoming an officer multiple times in this episode. This eventually becomes a reality - much to the misfortune of the others - in the Series XI episode "Officer Rimmer".
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Holly: Loneliness weighs heavily on us all. Personally, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that we are over 60 billion miles away from the nearest Berni Inn.
- 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!
- Holly: What's happening, dudes?
Lister: Hi, Hol.
Holly: Guess what?
Holly: Go on. Have a guess.
Rimmer: What is it vaguely about?
Holly: No clues. Just have a guess.
[Lister and Rimmer look puzzled]
Holly: I knew you wouldn't get it. The post pod's arrived.
Rimmer: What? The mail?
Holly: It's been tracking us since we left Earth. Now we've turned round, it's caught up.
Lister: Do you mean it's taken three million years?
Holly: Yeah. Just about average for second class post.
- [quoting the definitive Casablanca ]
Holly: "Of all the space bars in all the worlds, you had to re-materialise in mine."
- 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: 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: [reading Rimmer's letter from his Mum] 'Dear Rimmer... '
Lister: Is this from your Mum?
Rimmer: That's Mumsie.
- [Lister has found a sad Rimmer in the Observation Dome reminiscing of his father]
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.
- Rimmer: Father always wanted to join the Space Corps, be an officer, but they wouldn't take him because he was an inch below regulation height. 1 inch. I had 3 brothers. When we were young he bought a traction machine so that he could stretch us. By the time my brother Frank was 11, he was 6ft 5. Every morning, he'd measure us. If we hadn't grown, back on the rack.
- Rimmer: He had this fixation that we all had to get into the Space Corps. At meal times, he'd ask us questions on astro-navigation. If we got them wrong, no food.
Lister: God, Rimmer. How did you cope with that?
Rimmer: I didn't. I nearly died of malnutrition.
- [Lister discusses his own adoptive father and feelings of bereavement]
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.
- Cat About your father. If it's any help, he's in the ground now. Sure, it's bad news for him. But on the other hand, it's party time for all those little worms.
- 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!
- Holly: What's happening, dudes?
The Cat: We're having a really nice time. I'm dating Marilyn Monroe, and also I have another girlfriend who's a mermaid. She's half woman, half fish.
[turns round to look]
The Cat: It's Miranda, my girlfriend!
[as she comes out of the water we see that the top half of her is a fish, the bottom half is a woman]
Holly: Somehow I'd imagined she'd be a woman on top and a fish on the bottom.
The Cat: No, that's the *stupid* way round!
- Marilyn Monroe: Hi Sugar! How's about a little bit of "oobie doobie doo"?
The Cat: How's about a little bit of "oobie doobie DON'T"!
- [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!
- Rimmer My brain has rebelled. It just won't accept nice things happening to me. It just keeps fantasising horribleness.
- Tax Man: [holding a hammer to Rimmer's hands] Now where's those little thumbies?
- 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