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Better Than Life (Red Dwarf episode)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Better Than Life"
Red Dwarf episode
Better Than Life.png
The crew enter the "Better Than Life" total immersion video game
Episode no.Series 2
Episode 2
Directed byEd Bye
Written byRob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date13 September 1988
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Thanks for the Memory"
List of Red Dwarf episodes

"Better Than Life" is the second episode from Red Dwarf series two,[1] and the eighth in the series run.[2] It was first broadcast on BBC2 on 13 September 1988. Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and directed by Ed Bye, this episode introduces the total immersion video game "Better Than Life", which features in both the first and second Red Dwarf novels.


A post pod for Red Dwarf finally reaches the ship three million years late and is brought on board by Holly. As the group check through it, Arnold Rimmer finds a letter addressed to him detailing that his father is dead. Despite knowing that he and rest of humanity are long dead, seeing the news in writing from his mother upsets him. Although Rimmer admits he loathed him due to his strict requirements for his kids to get into the space corps to make up for his own failure to join, he also points out that he looked up to him. Seeing him depressed, Dave Lister and the Cat invite him to join them within "Better Than Life" – a total immersion virtual reality game that came within the post. Within the game, the group finds that makes their deepest desires come true – Cat has Marilyn Monroe and an alternate version of mermaid (top half fish, bottom half woman) as girlfriends; Lister has wealth, eating caviar-covered vindaloo and playing golf; while Rimmer, with a physical form, leads an admiral's life with drinks, parties, and a wonderful wife.[3]

However, things start to go wrong when Rimmer sees his father in the game and is insulted by him, soon bringing out his feelings of inadequacy, and causing his neurotic mind to subconsciously reject the nice things happening to him, causing him to live a wrecked life with an unsympathetic Outland Revenue Collector threatening to harm him over a large debt he has. Rimmer's mind soon affects everyone else's fun, leaving them suffering anguish as well, before the game comes to an end. Once back on Red Dwarf, Rimmer is called out for his "messed up brain" and presumes his life will never be good. Almost suddenly, he finds a letter informing him he passed astro-navigation examination, but his joy is short-lived when he and the others find his tax collector suddenly turning up, revealing that they are still in the game.[3]


After looking back at the first series the writers, Grant and Naylor, realised that they needed to expand on Rimmer's background and explore his character. To achieve this the Rimmer family was written into the episode. There were his three high-flying brothers, his distant mother and psychotic father.[4] His father appeared in the "Better Than Life" scenario, played by John Abineri.

A dull cold day in Rhyl used for the sunny landscape of the 'Better Than Life' scenario
A dull cold day in Rhyl used for the sunny landscape of the 'Better Than Life' scenario

For the first time since the series began, filming of several scenes took place on location. To film the "Better Than Life" scenarios the crew went to locations including a seaside landscape in Rhyl[5] and Sacha's Hotel in Manchester.[6] The same hotel would later hold science fiction conventions for Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Doctor Who.[7] The seaside beach location caused a headache as it was dull and cold looking. One scene proved so problematic – when they were meant to be sunbathing on the "paradise-like" beach, Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules could not stop shivering – that the scenes were re-written and re-shot as on a golf course.[8] Even the golf course scenes looked dull and cold looking,[8] but director Ed Bye convinced the crew that it was okay and that the sunshine could be put in during the edit.[5] However, it couldn't be made to look sunny and it wasn't until the episode was remastered that the sunshine was finally seen.[9]

Other "Better Than Life" appearances were made by Ron Pember, who played the Taxman, Debbie Ash as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Hawkins as Yvonne McGruder.[10] Tony Hawks, who had appeared in the Red Dwarf I episode "Future Echoes".[11] returned to the series to play the 'Better Than Life' game guide.[10] Gordon Salkilld appeared as computer Gordon, the chess email gaming chum of Holly.[10]


Originally broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 13 September 1988[12] in the 9:00 pm evening slot,[12] the episode gained average viewing ratings.[13] The episode may not have topped many fans' favourites lists,[14] but the story turned out to be very influential. Grant and Naylor used the plot for their first and second novels – Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers ended on a cliffhanger when the crew entered the game and the majority of the second novel, Better Than Life, followed on from there.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide — Red Dwarf — Series 2". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  2. ^ " — Better Than Life summary". Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  3. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 54.
  4. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Writing". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Red Dwarf series II Production". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  6. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Sets". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  7. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 9.
  8. ^ a b It's Cold Outside documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD disc 1: BBC. 2007.CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Remastering". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  10. ^ a b c "Better Than Life cast and crew". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  11. ^ "Future Echoes cast and crew". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  12. ^ a b "BBC Programme Catalogue — RED DWARF — BETTER THAN LIFE". BBC. Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  13. ^ "Red Dwarf Series II Aftermath". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  14. ^ Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  15. ^ Red Dwarf II On Video, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 3, May 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  16. ^ a b Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Section 6: Spin-offs: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1.CS1 maint: location (link)


Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1.

External links

This page was last edited on 30 April 2021, at 17:29
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