"Beyond a Joke" is a Kryten-centric episode, as the DivaDroid International Series 4000 Mechanoid literally blows his top due a previously unknown, pent-up negativity chip. The rest of the crew of Starbug, exasperated when Kryten also explodes all his Spare Heads, pretend to be Kinitawowi to trade with a Simulant and obtain more heads for the Series 4000. They are double-crossed, leaving Kryten stranded aboard the Simulant Trader's superior craft. There Kryten meets his brother Able, who is a "Zoney addict" and a slave to the Simulant, and Kryten also learns the deep, dark secret about his creator Professor Mamet and the true origins of his model of mechanoid.
Starbug passes a derelict spaceship, SS Centauri, which Kryten scavenges for supplies. He finds some live lobsters in stasis and brings them aboard to cook a fine supper. This is convenient, since it is the anniversary of his rescue from the wreck of the Nova 5 and he is eager to celebrate. When he first tells Lister about the meal he worries that it's Space Weevil. However Kochanski intends to educate Lister and Cat on the finer points of etiquette by introducing them to a virtual reality environment called "Pride and Prejudice Land" in "Jane Austen World", an Artificial Reality program also found on the Centauri. Kryten's plans for a lobster supper, which he had been preparing for two days, are postponed so the others can do to the AR Suite, much to Kryten's anger.
Entering the program Lister, the Cat and Kochanski meet up with the Bennett sisters as well as their mother and start to enjoy their company (Kochanski enjoying the mentally stimulating conversation, while the Cat just enjoys being around five hot sisters). Kryten decides to force the issue of supper and enters the program too, proceeding to take care of the sisters using stealth tactics. As the remaining Bennetts proceed to a gazebo, Kryten has decided to wipe out the family once and for all using a T-72 Tank from a World War II simulation. Using its weapons, he destroys the gazebo in a massive explosion before announcing supper is ready.
Back on Starbug the crew begin nervously eating the lobster supper under the watchful eye of a nearly livid Kryten. They try their best not to push the almost deranged mechanoid over the edge, but then Lister requests brown ketchup to go with the lobster. This is too much for Kryten and he goes berserk, literally blowing his top — his head explodes. Lister and Kochanski try to attach spare heads to Kryten, but they instantly explode as soon as Kryten is switched on. After exhausting all of the spare heads they have, Lister suggests that they board the SS Centauri again and look for some spare mechanoid heads there. However, they discover a rogue simulant captain who has since commandeered Centauri and who is also assisted by a Kinitawowi tribesman. This gives Kochanski the idea to disguise themselves as GELFs and they successfully negotiate with the Simulant to buy his stock of mechanoid heads. When the crew go back aboard Starbug, they find that the Simulant's own GELF has ransacked the ship and stolen Kryten's body. The Simulant and the GELF then escape with Kryten aboard Centauri. Starbug cannot catch up as Centauri is much faster, traveling at warp speed.
On board Centauri, the defect which caused Kryten to blow up his head is fixed. There Kryten meets another mechanoid named Able who is a servant to the Simulant and who, it turns out, is from the same batch as Kryten (a 4000 series) and carries the same serial number. This means that Kryten and Able are, in effect, brothers. However, Able is a "zoney" — he is addicted to a narcotic known as "Outrozone" that is specially designed for mechanoids. Abuse of this had corrupted Able's circuit boards.
The Starbug crew deceive the simulant into thinking that they've planted a bomb on Centauri and the simulant teleports aboard Starbug along with the GELF, Kryten and Able. Lister tries to bargain with the Simulant, who tells Kryten how to access a secret file in his memory. Kryten does so and suddenly becomes extremely depressed. Able remembers that this is how the simulant broke his spirit and turned him into an outrozone addict and suddenly decides to switch sides. In the confusion that results, the GELF is killed and the Simulant is knocked out and sent back to Centauri.
As Starbug flees, a morose Kryten reveals to Lister what the secret file told him; the entire 4000 series of mechanoids was a spiteful joke by their creator, Professor Mamet. They were designed to be a parody of John Warburton, a fiance who jilted her, and as such were made pompous, ridiculous looking, and overbearing. Further, all their negative emotions were stored on a "nega-drive" and when it becomes full they literally blow up, referencing Warburton's own tendency to explode with anger. Lister comforts him by assuring his friend that he has evolved beyond his original personality.
Starbug hides in an asteroid belt, hoping to escape from the simulant via silent running. However, Able carelessly gives away their position and Centauri begins attacking Starbug. When it becomes obvious that Starbug has no chance of surviving this battle, Able takes an escape pod and attacks Centauri with the pent up emotions stored in Kryten's nega-drive, causing the Simulant to first suffer a fit of depression, then go berserk and start firing his bazookoid at the ship's controls, eventually causing Centauri to explode. The escape pod is blasted away and crashes on a nearby moon, smashing Able beyond any hope of repair. Kryten retrieves Able's body, acknowledging him finally as his brother.
In the end the Starbug crew visits the Kryten's new "Curryworld" AR program, set in a contemporary Indian restaurant, accompanied the Bennett sisters from Jane Austen World. Although the sisters enjoy their curries, unfortunately the curry is too hot for Lister due to a "bug in the program", with literal fire belching from his mouth.
- Kryten: (with army tank) "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I said supper is ready!"
- Kochanski: When was the Centauri built. Maybe they had a mechanoid service unit.
Lister: Think. Any clues when it was built.
Kochanski: Which century..?
Cat: It had those big crystalline turbine drives. I'd say 21st or 22nd century... maybe even 23rd or 24th... outside, 25th, 26, or 27th, but don't hold me to it.
Kochanski: Are we really asking his advice? Let's at least ask someone who's going to give us a slightly more intelligent opinion. (She walks up to a wall) HELLO WALL! WHAT DO YOU THINK!?
Available on the Series VII DVD:
- As Kochanski suggests to put the lobster Kryten has just cooked back into the oven for a few hours as they all go into "Pride and Prejudice Land", the Cat instead suggests to Kryten that he puts the lobster into stasis since Cat may never again emerge from Pride and Prejudice Land once he meets the Bennett sisters.
- Inside Pride and Prejudice Land, Lister suggests that the giggly Bennett sisters have been "hitting the wacky baccy", and Kochanski says that's just how girls were back in them days.
- A differently angled and slightly extended take on the aftermath of Kryten entering the simulation and blowing up the gazebo with the tank.
- In the aftermath of Kryten's heads exploding and Lister and Kris trying to fix them, Cat enters the room. Lister asks him where he has been, and Cat says he been looking in the mirror for nine hours.
- As Kochanski suggests finding a new head for Kryten, Lister mocks her saying 'why not phone up "Heads-U-Like" and get them to deliver. Get one for Anne Boleyn while you're at it'.
- The Cat discusses his phobia of vampires, since they have no reflection in mirrors and this is his worst nightmare.
- As Lister, the Cat and Kochanski hide from the Simulant Trader under an old quilt, Kochanski tells them both to get their hands off her. After the Simulant has gone by, Cat says that he must the cologne of "Corpse for Men".
- The conversation between the Simulant Trader and the Dwarfers in disguise as Kinitawowi is significantly extended. He believes them to be 'midget GELFs', and seemingly falls for it, offering them a batch of soup "fresh this year". He accuses them of the being the thieves that stole from him last time the Simulant was in AR, but luckily, finds it funny (ironically his real Kinitawowi partner was ransacking Starbug at the time). Lister asks the Simulant why he hates humans so much, but then fails to defend humanity for anything worthwhile it has ever done.
- More of Kochanski and Able telling Kryten not to access his hidden files, as the Simulant gives him the code.
- Kryten tells Lister that he has found some books under Lister's bed, and Lister admits an "education thing I'm going through, I'll grow out of it", begging Kryten not to tell anyone since it will destroy his image.
- Able's escape from Starbug with the escape pod, and sacrificing his life to save the others, is shown in full whereas it was barely seen in the televised episode. This includes Able going through the Starbug ducts, entering the Escape Pod and activating the nega-drive before he dies.
- The ending to the episode in "Curryworld" originally had extra dialogue, including the Bennett sisters describing exactly what curries they are getting, and Lister singing.
- This episode was co-written by Robert Llewellyn, who plays Kryten. It marks the first and only time an episode has been co-written by a star of the show.
- The Kinitawowi seen in this episode marks the fourth and final appearance of Kinitawowi in the show. However a species with similarities, the BEGGs, would appear in the Series X episode "Entangled".
- The Simulant Trader seen in this episode marks the fifth and final appearance of Simulants in the original eight series. However Simulants do reappear with Sim Crawford in in the Series X opener, "Trojan", and as the Simulant Generals in the Series X finale "The Beginning".
- Kryten mentions Green Wine, this is most likely Urine Recyc Wine made from Lister's urine as Rimmer in "Bodyswap" mentions that his urine is that colour.
- Doug Naylor originally allowed Robert Llewellyn to write this episode with the intent to feature very little of Kryten, due to Robert's increasing dislike for the application of the Kryten makeup. In Robert's first treatment, Kryten was a tatty-looking butler in Jane Austen World, and had a much smaller role in the episode. However after numerous revisions of the script by Doug Naylor, Kryten instead became the main focus of the episode. Plus Llewellyn also had to play the part of another droid, Kryten's brother, Able. This meant he had to wear the Kryten makeup twice as much, as Able appeared in the same costume colored green instead of black. A scene that was due to feature Llewellyn also in mechanoid makeup a third time as Spare Head 3 was scrapped, however.
- Robert Llewellyn's original script before treatment by Doug Naylor was significantly different. This would have included an appearance by Spare Head 3 as Kryten's new permanent head, before the search for a replacement speech chip led the crew to a GELF scrapyard. They get the chip - and pick up the body of another Mechanoid - in return for helping the female GELF dealer remove an aching tooth. Able was also much different in this early script, with a "know-all" drive that made him far more capable than Kryten, at least until his apparent help with the navicomp put them in harm's way. In amongst Kochanski trying to teach Cat to read, the episode was much more about Kryten's jealousy over this new, superior droid.
- Production had to be halted whilst the cast and crew searched for one of Danny John-Jules' Cat's teeth. Whilst filming the "Pride and Prejudice World" scenes in the lakeside gazebo, Danny John-Jules lost one of his "cat teeth" as he ate grapes. They were only found as the cry went up for filming.
- The model for SS Centauri was a fresh design by Mike Tucker, who elected to follow some of the design style of Starbug by incorporating rounded shapes at the front of the vessel. An entire section of Centauri hull was built to much a larger scale that would have shown Starbug docked with it, giving clear scale between the two ships and showing that Centauri was much larger than Starbug. Although filmed, it was cut from the televised episode for timing reasons, but is still available for viewing on the Series VII DVD.
- The model for the escape pod which crashes at the end of the episode with Able in it, is the same model of Escape Pod that takes Rimmer back to Red Dwarf in the Series V episode "Terrorform".
- The Kinitawowi suits worn by Cat and Kochanski are the same Kinitawowi suits made for the GELFS in the Series VI episode "Emohawk".
- 'Curryworld', the ending to the episode, was a late edition to prevent Kryten's "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" line being the closing punchline, which writer Doug Naylor and director Ed Bye both weren't happy with.
- Visual effects designer Peter Wragg rigged the explosion of the gazebo by the T-72 Tank, which was much larger than expected, causing neighbours to ring the police.
- Don Henderson as Simulant Trader
- Robert Llewellyn as Able
- Vicky Ogden as Mrs. Bennett
- Alina Proctor as Jane Bennett
- Catherine Harvey as Kitty Bennett
- Sophia Thierens as Lydia Bennett
- Rebecca Katz as Mary Bennett
- Julia Lloyd as Elizabeth Bennett
- The Rogue Simulant captain was played by veteran British actor Don Henderson, known for his role in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in which he portrayed High General Tagge. This episode proved to be Henderson's last work in the world of acting, and he died soon after the episode was broadcast. Henderson was in the latter stages of terminal throat cancer during filming, and his husky voice was not a special effect as many viewers believed but due to his condition.
- The Simulant flipped a coin when making decisions, a similar (and key trait) of Harvey "Two Face" Dent in the Batman Mythos, or Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.
- The relationship between Kryten and his decrepit "brother" Able mirrors that of the robot V.I.N.CENT and Old B.O.B. in the 1979 Disney film The Black Hole.
- Several aspects of this episode are mirrored in the Series X opener "Trojan", including resentment overloads, brother's meeting and a heroic sacrifice at the end.
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