Looking back at Red Dwarf's history of pranks, japes and false realities.
1 April, 2016
On this rare occasion of reddwarf.co.uk's update day falling on April 1st, we did think about teasing you with a false story. But then we realised that since we update at 11.30am, by the time most of you had seen it April Fool's would be dead and gone, and going by the law of the rhyme, that would mean that we would be the fools for carrying on.
But we wanted to make the date somehow, so we thought we'd take a look at various past instances of things not being as they seem in Red Dwarf - whether through Lister pranking Rimmer, Holly pranking the crew, or the whole of reality turning out to be an artificial construct, it's been a pretty common theme throughout the show's history. So here are some of our favourite episodes that feature textbook instances of rug-pulling...
"How did I do, Mr Lister, sir!"
Although not immediately apparent at the time, the ending of Balance of Power is in fact a massive lie on Lister's part: he hasn't passed his chef's exam, and so he's not about to become Rimmer's superior. The explanation of this, however, is only found in Holly's narration at the beginning of the next episode, Waiting for God.
Earlier in the episode, meanwhile, we're also treated to the sight of Rimmer attempting to convince Lister that he's a hologram of Kochanski. Somewhat unsuccessfully, it has to be said.
"I could hardly wait six months with a red-hot jape like that under my belt..."
Early in Me2, Holly displays the first (but certainly not the last) example of his taste for a practical joke, when he informs Lister that due to an accidental light-switch-leaving-on incident three million years ago, he's got a rather large electricity bill to pay...
This episode also features possibly the most benign prank Lister has ever pulled on Rimmer - although it was still for slightly selfish aims - as the climactic scenes see the hologram pouring out his heart over the Gazpacho Soup Day incident as he thinks he's about to be switched off... only for Lister to reveal at the end that it was, in fact, the doppelganger hologram that had already been wiped. Souper.
"We're still in the game!"
Just when you think the crew have safely escaped the addictive confines of the titular game in Better than Life, up pops Ron Pember's taxman complete with thumb hammer to reveal that the game is still afoot after all. It was a reveal that was played with even more worrying levels of depth in the novel of the same name.
"That's right, suckers..."
The daddy of all Red Dwarf pranks, of course, takes place in the closing moments of Queeg. Do we really need to explain this one to you? As Holly himself puts it: "We are talking April, May, June, July and August Fool..."
"Welcome Back to Reality..."
The middle series of Red Dwarf didn't see the crew playing jokes on one-another quite as often as the early series had. But what we did see was plenty of unusual scenarios in which reality itself was confusing and untrustworthy - and nowhere was this more evident than in the classic Back to Reality. In a way, this episode was itself a massive practical joke played by Rob and Doug on the viewing audience - not to mention on the actors, who were teased by the script into thinking they might be about to be replaced...
"Boy, is it cramped!"
The entire, claustrophobia-inducing, vent-based plot of Duct Soup only occurs because of a sabotage plot by Kryten - although it's a fact that he leaves it until late until the episode to reveal, and it's one that comes back to bite him when it transpires that the whole saga could have been avoided if only he'd mentioned that the bunkroom door had been working all along. To coin a phrase, "Whoops..."
"You've been Krytered!"
A far more malevolent set of Kryten pranks occur in Krytie TV, thanks to his having been reprogrammed by the other prisoners in "The Tank". This ultimately leads to him setting up Rimmer and Lister in a Jeremy Beadle-esque scenario; as they first look to sabotage, and then desperately try to correct, the quarters that they later learn belong to Ackerman...
"Best season ever, season 9..."
Like the episode it almost shares a name with, Back to Earth is yet another gigantic prank perpetrated by the viewer: presenting us with a world where Red Dwarf is just a TV show, Coronation Street actor Craig Charles needs to get back to the Priory, two whole series have passed without our getting to see them... and everything looks a little bit Blade Runner. Of course, it all just turned out to be another hallucination in the end - or did it?