It is the twenty-fifth episode overall.
The boys from the Dwarf encounter a legendary holoship, a spaceship made entirely of light and crewed by highly trained, and extremely arrogant, holograms. Arnold Rimmer prepares to leave the Dwarfers to join the holoship where he can have everything he ever wanted - an effective physical presence, have constant sex, become an officer, and finally find love. However, it will come at a price...
It's another normal day around Red Dwarf, with Dave Lister getting emotional over a romantic film and Rimmer deriding the plot where a man gives up his dreams for a woman he's never going to see again anyway.
The discussion is halted when Starbug finds a ship that reads no mass or density, a holoship called the Enlightenment, and after scanning the 'bug it abducts Rimmer. Cat wants to get out of there before thy bring him back. Soon after, a reconnaissance officer, Binks, transmits aboard and begins to talk into a walkie-talkie about how inferior the 'bug is. He mocks the Dwarfers incessantly, causing a bit of back-and-forth between Binks and Lister, until Lister gets angry, eats a cigarette and threatens to get out a holowhip, causing a hasty retreat by Binks.
Meanwhile, aboard the holopship Rimmer learns that the ship is crewed by the best officers in the Space Corps and is like a dream-come-true for Rimmer. As an entirely hologrammatic vessel, everything aboard can be touched and tasted by Rimmer. The crew are arrogant geniuses. The women are beautiful and eager to have recreational sex, with everyone aboard having 'evolved' past things like love. He befriends one of female crew, named Nirvanah Crane, who takes him to the bridge. When Rimmer asks to join the crew, the captain Hercule Platini informs him that there is only one way aboard: "Dead man's boots"; he'll have defeat one of the current crew in a challenge of wits, who would then be deactivated so he could take their place.
Leaving the meeting, Nirvanah asks Rimmer if he wants to have sex and he is happy to oblige. Later, the two have some pillow talk and try to brush off the experience as just casual (as everyone aboard the ship is expected to do) but there are clearly some feelings between the two. Rimmer is then transmitted back to Red Dwarf, and Nirvanah is then told by the ship's computer Stocky that it has been chosen her to be Rimmer's challenger.
Since everyone aboard the Enlightenment is a genius, Rimmer takes drastic measures to cheat his way aboard. He asks Kryten to give him a Mind Patch, a risky and illegal procedure that could either make Rimmer a genius or a dribbling wreck. Luckily for Rimmer, it makes him a genius, with the two greatest minds on file aboard Red Dwarf - Buchan and McQueen - and a now smug and confident Rimmer returns to the Enlightenment to face the challenge. His chances of victory look so strong that the other Dwarfers begin looking for a replacement hologram, including Sam Murray and Harrison (and in a deleted scene, a hologram copy of Lister himself). In the midst of it, Rimmer's Mind Patch wears off and he runs back to Red Dwarf to have another one done, but Kryten says that it would be impossible. Rimmer returns to the Enlightenment to withdraw from the challenge.
In the elevator, Rimmer confesses to Nirvanah about the Mind Patch and tells her that everything he wants is aboard the ship and a posting here would have been his chance to be someone important instead of just the hologram of a vending-machine repairman aboard a mining ship. Nirvanah promises him he'll achieve his dream before leaving. Rimmer later finds out that his opponent withdrew from the challenge and he leaves Red Dwarf behind that evening, telling his shipmates he regards them as "people I met".
Rimmer is shown to his quarters... or rather, what used to be Nirvanah's quarters and he is then told she was his opponent. Rimmer realises that Nirvanah withdrew because she fell in love with him, and he is also in love with her so (despite his earlier declaration that he would never choose a woman over his career) promptly resigns his commission so she can be restored. Captain Platini agrees to transfer Rimmer back to Red Dwarf, but tells Rimmer that the resignation doesn't solve anything as he and Nirvanah will still be apart. Rimmer gives him an eloquent response:
"Oh and sir, you're wrong. We won't be apart, we just ... won't be together."
Rimmer's face changes into one of disgust, unable to quite believe he said such a corny line.
Red Dwarf holograms
- Jane Horrocks as Cdr. Nirvanah Crane
- Matthew Marsh as Captain Hercule Platini
- Don Warrington as Cdr. Binks
- Simon Paisley Day as Cdr. Randy Navarro - Number Two
- Jane Montgomery as Cdr. Natalina Pushkin - Number One
- Jeanette Brown as Hologram crewmember (uncredited)
- Jason Griffiths as Hologram crewmember (uncredited)
- Kate Robbins as Woman in Film / Lift (voice) (uncredited)
- Steve Steen as Actor's voice (uncredited)
Available on the Series V DVD, "Holoship" was the longest RD script to date, and over ten minutes of the episode was cut in editing:
- An extension of the joke in which the Cat thinks the opening cartoon at the beginning of the movie was the movie.
- Two trims from the holo-elevator scene. Nirvanah Crane explains more about the Enlightenment, it's crew and mission.
- Four sections were cut from the scene which introduces the Holoship's crew. Captain Hercule Platini further describes how he sees his crew as superhuman, whilst Rimmer tries to impress, saying that his command of Red Dwarf was forged in "the blue fire of combat". Platini agrees to Rimmer's challenge to take the exams to join the crew, and Rimmer leaves, repeatedly stomping his feet, and then re-entering through a wrong door.
- The scene where Rimmer and Nirvanah have sex was originally much longer, which them having lots more pillow talk. Rimmer struggles to tell her that he she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, whilst Nirvanah reminds him that love is forbidden aboard the Holoship, where emotion is looked on as inferior, and that to her it was just exercise. This is what Rimmer was referring to in the aired episode where he apologises for what he's just said. When Rimmer leaves her, she shakes his hand, and they share a lingering moment. Then as Navarro tells her that she has been chosen as Rimmer's opponent, she looks upset.
- Rimmer further discusses his plans to join the Holocrew with the boys from the Dwarf, to much mocking.
- A longer look at the Mind Patch process, and an intelligent, mind-patched Rimmer.
- A number of jokes from Holly were cut down as the writers believed they slowed the pace of the episode.
- The boys from the Dwarf discuss Rimmer's potential hologram replacements. Apparently the only former crewmember who was interested in joining them was Lister's own hologram, but the Cat disagrees (possibly a reference to what happens in a lost episode, where Lister did have his own hologram clone but it didn't work out too well).
- Rimmer further explaining to Nirvanah how desperately he wanted to join the Holoship, and exactly what he would have done to become an officer - which includes dancing and a chimpanzee.
- The holograms of the Enlightenment are apparently upgraded holograms, seemingly composed of faster-than-light particles - tachyons - like their ship. Their upgraded status is signified by the different "H" forehead symbol; this one surrounded by a circle. The hologram of the Alternate Rimmer in the episode Back to Reality was also apparently such an upgraded hologram, having the same symbol as the of the crew of the Holoship.
- When a member of the Enlightenment's crew, Binks, boards Red Dwarf to survey it, he recognizes the Cat as a Felis sapiens. This suggests, if continuity is followed (a big if in this series), that the holoship may have previously encountered the second Cat Ark mentioned in the first season or perhaps a colony (as mentioned in the cut story of Season VII "Identity Within").
- Briefly revived in this episode as a deleted scene, it came as a surprise that Deck Sergeant Sam Murray was male. In the original pilot script - and Series I's deleted funeral scene - deceased crew member 'Sam Murray' is said to be dating 'Rick Thesen', suggesting a homosexual pairing. A similar argument can be made about Katerina Bartokovsky based on dialogue in "Pete, Part Two", only suggesting a lesbian marriage (and a bisexual affair) rather than a gay relationship.
- This episode features Rimmer falling in love for the first time, and even sacrificed his life-long dream of being an officer so that Nirvanah could live - very uncharacteristic of Rimmer. The episode was put out around Valentines Day, like the earlier, love-themed episode "Camille".
- The uniforms worn by the Enlightenment crew strongly resemble those worn by Starfleet officers from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan to Star Trek Generations. Later Star Trek uniforms are parodied in the Series X opener "Trojan".
- This episode was one of the longest scripts, and shoots, of the show, with a lot going on. Usually only a minute or so would be cut in editing to get the episodes down to the allotted half hour. However, "Holoship" had over ten minutes of cuts.
- The model for the Holoship was created by FX man Paul McGuinness, and crafted in clear perspex. Originally the Holoship was going to "fold up" at two points to convert it from its straight line to a Z shape, but the clip of it changing was left on the cutting room floor. The ship is seen in both forms on in the episode. The actual transition can be seen in the special features of the Series V DVD.
- Jane Horrocks based her performance of Cdr. Nirvanah Crane on Joanna Lumley.
- Kryten: They've taken Mr. Rimmer!.
Cat: Quick, let's get out of here before they bring him back!
- Rimmer talking about his sex on the holoship: I hardly said anything apart from "Geronimo!"
- The Cat: What? Am I the only sane person here? Why don't we drop the defensive shields?
Kryten: A superb suggestion, sir, with just two minor flaws. One: we don't have any defensive shields. And two: we don't have any defensive shields. Now, I realise that technically that's only one flaw but I thought it was such a big one, it was worth mentioning twice.
Cat: Good point, well made.
- Rimmer: It wasn't in the least bit upliftinging, it was totally unbelievable. Why would he give everything up for a woman he's never going to see again?
- Rimmer: Look, I'm not much good at big speeches, and I know I haven't always been an easy guy to get on with. And I know that, given the choice, I probably wouldn't have chosen you as friends. But, I just want to say... that over the years... I have come to regard you... as... people... I met.
- One notable goof, or plot inconsistency in this episode is that there were two holograms in the sleeping quarters when Rimmer comes running in as the others are interviewing Sam. It was stated in previous episodes, and in the later episode "Quarantine", that Red Dwarf can only sustain one hologram at a time.
Rimmer's hologram was likely still being sustained by the Holoship, since he was in the middle of their exams. Remember the Enlightenment was far more advanced than Red Dwarf, and is seen sustaining other holograms outside it, such as Binks.
- If Rimmer was leaving and Lister and the crew now had access to the whole crews' Holodisks, then why doesn't Lister insist on doing the one thing he's always wanted, bringing back Kochanski?
There a number of possible explanations, the most likely being that with Rimmer constantly hiding it in constant fear of being replaced and deleted as ship hologram by Kochankski ("RD: Balance of Power" and other episodes) and hiding it in places such as outside the ship ( "RD: Confidence and Paranoia"), Kocahnski's disk was likely still hidden, and possibly even may have become lost by this point. Confidence may have destroyed it or shot it away from the ship when he exploded in the latter episode trying to retrieve Kochanski's disk from outside the ship, an attempt which was obviously unsuccessful.
Yet another possibility, if Kochanski's disk was NOT lost, was that they may have already interviewed her and she simply didn't want to come back!