The Coral Canvass Results featured image

Ladies and gentlemen, on the occasion of Red Dwarf‘s thirty-fifth anniversary, we invite you to join us, if you dare, in a journey through the Top 74 episodes of all time, as voted for by YOU. Once every five years, the various factions of the fan community come together to rate each and every episode, and we then collate the results and analyse them in far too much detail. 2013 was the Silver Survey, 2018 was the Pearl Poll, and now for 2023, Ganymede & Titan are proud to present The Coral Canvass.

We changed the methodology this year; we’d always previously asked participants to rank every episode in order of preference, but this was a big ask of people’s time, and didn’t take into account that not everyone taking part would be equally familiar with all the episodes. So we simplified things and asked you instead to rate each episode out of 10, with the option of leaving blank any episodes that you didn’t feel like scoring. The result was by far the biggest response we’ve ever received, with a total of 692 participants submitting at least one vote, more than double the sample size five years ago. A huge thank you to everyone who took part and helped spread the word.

It’s also resulted in a much more diverse range of fan opinions; only 187 of the people who took part identified as G&T regulars, with 197 saying that they weren’t (and a much larger pool of 308 people taking the fifth). We attracted fans from all over the world, from as far afield as Portugal, New Zealand, Argentina, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the Isle of Man. That said, a whopping 83.5% of those who answered the question came from the UK, with the US, Australia, Canada and Ireland the next most common answers, in that order. The youngest person to reveal their age was 14, the eldest was 74, and the average age was just under 37 and a half. Funnily enough, that’s round about five years older than the average age last time. None of us are getting any younger.

We also asked people when they became a fan, with the largest proportion (34.35%) having found the series during the show’s heyday between 1988 and 1993. Just under a fifth of correspondents (19.08%) came on board during the gap between VI and VII, while 52 people (13.23%) claim to have been there from day one, 35 years ago today. Although we did notice that one of the people who says they were watching in 1988 also said they were 32, so take that with a pinch of salt. Rounding things out were those that discovered the show during the wilderness years between the Dave and BBC eras (12.98%), and an equal number (10.18%) who each joined in during Series VII-VIII, or since the show returned in 2009.

But enough of all this chitter chatter. There’ll be more fascinating statistics as we go, but what really matters is your votes. We’ve added together the total scores gathered for each episode, divided by the number of people who voted for it (which of course varies from episode to episode), and sorted the results in ascending order to produce a Top 74. As we count down, we’ll try to analyse why the numbers landed the way they did, for better or worse, and we’ll be providing some commentary catered to your more casual observer who’s keen to know just what’s so special about this Red Dwarf thing they’ve heard so much about.

What surprises await? What received opinions will be shattered? Which preferences will be vindicated and which will be challenged? Set your faces to stunned as we reveal that the least popular Red Dwarf episode of all time is…

74. Timewave

Down 4. Avg score: 4.323 (467 votes) Worst Series XII episode

Random Smegadrive still from TimewaveDo not adjust your set. For the first time ever in a Ganymede & Titan poll, Pete (Part Two) is no longer the worst episode ever. Whoever said the Dave era couldn’t make an impact? Timewave has very quickly established itself as the new butt-monkey of the Red Dwarf oeuvre, and it’s not hard to see where it went wrong. While the script itself is merely mediocre for the most part, a series of unfathomably bizarre choices in design, costume and performance combine to convert a very mildly satirical message about the merits of constructive criticism into an overtly offensive one, that accidentally makes the case that deviating from traditional gender stereotypes deserves to be punished. It’s careless rather than callous, but the same can’t be said for Cat’s misogynistic outburst, which somehow isn’t even the worst line of the episode thanks to the “spit on her wrist” sort-of-pun later on. There’s one theory that Doug deliberately made a terrible episode about criticism as some sort of ironic meta-commentary on the state of popular culture in the online age. Let’s hope that’s the case, because otherwise all that Timewave represents is Doug finally doing something worse than his previous low-point some eighteen years earlier.

73. Pete (Part Two)

Non-mover. Avg score: 4.611 (522 votes) Worst Series VIII episode

Random Smegadrive still from Pete: Part IIOne of the many things that’s funnier than Pete (Part Two) is that despite no longer being the worst episode, its position in the chart hasn’t actually budged a smegging inch. Thanks to the presence of a solitary new entry later on, it’s still only the 73rd best episode. It’s like a football team winning the last game of the season but still getting relegated on goal difference. Pete (Part Two) is a fever dream of an episode, only less well-structured. A series of disconnected images that mostly revolve around a big dinosaur having a poo, but also take in poorly choreographed slapstick, the phrase “see ya in ten minutes” being repeated on a loop for what feels like around ten minutes, a cartoon egg-on-legs made flesh, Captain Hollister being driven catatonically insane and Kryten’s artificial penis rampaging around the ship. That last part was cut out of a previous episode and forcibly inserted into this one just to pad out the running time, which is indicative of the problems faced by the series as a whole, whereby five stories had to stretch across eight episodes. Never is the material spread so thinly as it is in Pete (Part Two), which, at the end of the day, is mostly just a big dinosaur having a poo.

72. Pete (Part One)

Non-mover. Avg score: 4.758 (521 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Pete: Part IOnce again, Part One of this tale is inextricably weighed down by its dorky younger sibling, unable to shake off the stench. For my money, there are worse episodes of Series VIII than Pete (Part One), which at least has some laugh-out-loud moments dotted around its meandering story. I say “story”, it’s more a collection of live action Beano strips in which a pair of cheeky schoolboys attempt to get one over their mean old teacher Mr Ackerman and the goofy headmaster Fatty Hollister. The lads are getting thrashed by the teachers in a basketball match, but they spike their drinks with Viagra! Then they try and use a special potion to peel potatoes, but they end up losing all their clothes instead! And worst of all, one of the boys goes on a rant about how the headteacher is a fat bastard, only to discover he was standing behind him the whole time!!! While the style and subject matter of Red Dwarf varied wildly over the years, the jokes are almost always derived from smart sci-fi concepts and/or robust characterisation. Whatever the formula for Red Dwarf is, it sure as shit isn’t this.

71. Krytie TV

Down 4. Avg score: 5.066 (529 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Krytie TVA drop of four places for Krytie TV, which was consistently considered one of the better episodes of the much-maligned Series VIII in previous polls, but now finds itself much closer to the bottom of the pile. It’s the most notable culprit of the one concept in Red Dwarf history that has aged worse than absolutely anything else. The idea of Kryten being classified as a woman because he doesn’t have a penis gets worse the more you think about it, and while it will have raised a few eyebrows in 1999, it’s now completely out of step with the way the majority of people view gender identity. While that aspect of the episode is perhaps the victim of changing societal attitudes (or “insane wokery” as some would describe it), something that has always been dodgy as fuck is Kryten filming naked women without their knowledge or consent, and the show playing it for laughs. The overall tone is grim and seedy, and it represents the ultimate low point in the show’s treatment of women.

70. Back in the Red (Part Three)

Up 1. Avg score: 5.335 (522 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Back in the Red: Part IIIAs we’ll see a LOT in the very lowest reaches of the table, Red Dwarf has never fared particularly well with multi-part stories. It’s mostly because none of them were ever really planned to be the length they ended up; in Back In The Red‘s case, an entire studio day at the very end of the Series VIII shoot was dedicated to odds and sods of material to bulk out an hour long special into three half-hours. The majority of the very obvious filler ended up in Part Three, but was somehow not quite as bad as the big set-piece that was always supposed to be there – the dreaded Blue Midget dance. Nevertheless, this episode is our first climber of the day, moving from third-worst episode ever to only the fifth-worst episode ever. Hurrah!

69. Back To Earth (Part Two)

Down 3. Avg score: 5.429 (510 votes) Worst Back To Earth episode

Random Smegadrive still from Back to Earth: Part IIThe lesson here is if you’re going to do a three-parter, don’t start the title with the word “Back”. Poor old Back To Earth, the catalyst of the Dave era and the entire reason this is a Top 74 instead of a Top 52, continues to slip down the pecking order. As per the Pearl Poll, Part Two is considered the weakest of the three; the fourth-wall-destroying meta elements of the special continue to be the most divisive, and this is the episode where they come to the fore. That said, it does contain some of the strongest moments of the story, such as Mike Mellington’s deconstruction of the show’s tropes, Not Mark Benton’s memorable turn as Noddy, and the genuinely touching bus scene with two young kids who are now well into their twenties. But it also contains Rimmer (seemingly) deliberately murdering a fellow hologram, so swings and roundabouts.

68. Back To Earth (Part Three)

Down 6. Avg score: 5.445 (510 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Back to Earth: Part IIIAnd Part Three of that same story is our biggest faller so far, now only marginally ahead of Part Two – and to think it was considered the best part in both 2013’s Silver Survey and 2018’s Pearl Poll, despite the methodology of those polls putting it at a disadvantage due to a sizeable proportion of voters grouping the three episodes together in order. The appeal or otherwise of this particular chunk relates to the two big crossovers with two very different properties; the Coronation Street section providing most of the comedy and the iconography of Blade Runner providing most of the drama. The surprise appearance of Chloe Annett, combined with Craig’s finest “proper acting” performance as Lister to date can still pack a punch, but even Back To Earth‘s staunchest defenders (myself included) must concede that it doesn’t feel like an episode of Red Dwarf, more a drama *about* Red Dwarf.

67. Back in the Red (Part Two)

Up 2. Avg score: 5.492 (522 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Back in the Red: Part IIWe interrupt this discussion of Series IX (deal with it) to go back to the previous Back. Like its concluding part, the middle bit of this trilogy is another climber, benefiting from the continuing decline in popularity of Back To Earth and the big dip in Krytie TV‘s stock. But like the latter, it’s also got its problematic elements, namely the sexual magnetism virus and its application as what is essentially a very effective date-rape drug. When you consider that the only other things this episode offers are extremely long salutes, the Data Doctor and the Dibbley Family, it’s important to remember that we’re still very much in the lower echelons of Red Dwarf‘s achievements.

66. Back To Earth (Part One)

Down 3. Avg score: 5.536 (511 votes) Best Back To Earth episode

Random Smegadrive still from Back to Earth: Part IFive back-to-back Backs! Five! Despite being unable to buck the trend of Back To Earth‘s consistent drop in popularity every five years, Part One itself has actually improved its relative position within the trilogy with every poll – worst of the three in 2013, in the middle in 2018 and now the highest-placed part of BTE in 2023. It’s easily the most Dwarfy and thus the most accessible section of the story. The four guys on board the ship, coming across a weird GELFy threat and meeting a new guest character – this is the bare bones of any episode in the Dave era, and a fair chunk of the BBC era too. Shame it’s not actually very funny, but you can’t have everything.

65. Only The Good…

Up 3. Avg score: 5.573 (522 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Only the Good...Ten entries in, and six of the ten worst episodes ever come from Series VIII. This is actually one fewer than the previous Bottom 10, and it’s been spared the ignominy of the relentless block of orange we’ve grown accustomed to seeing at the very foot of the table, but it’s still by no means a popular series. To think that Only The Good… looked set to be the final ever episode for the best part of a decade, ending as it does on a cliffhanger so bad, the resolution was just a caption saying “nine years later”. As with a lot of this series, you can chalk many of the episode’s faults up to bigger plans falling through and necessitating last-minute rewrites. But similarly, as with a lot of this series, the supposed laughs mostly come through childish pranks, contrived shenanigans, people behaving out of character for the sake of the gag, and pointing out that Mac McDonald is overweight.

64. Beyond a Joke

Up 1. Avg score: 5.595 (538 votes) Worst Series VII episode

Random Smegadrive still from Beyond a JokeAh, there you are, Series VII, I was wondering when you’d turn up. A marginal climb of one place since last time is enough to ensure there are no longer any VII episodes in the Bottom 10, but not enough for Beyond A Joke to shake off its position as the worst of the run. Kryten blowing up the Bennett sisters with a big tank, quickly followed by his head exploding, provides a memorable and attention-grabbing first act, but then the episode rapidly descends into tedium. Slow-paced and neither particularly funny or dramatic, it’s one of the few bits of Red Dwarf that, regardless of quality, commits the cardinal sin of being boring.

63. Can of Worms

Down 6. Avg score: 5.642 (466 votes) Worst Series XI episode

Random Smegadrive still from Can of WormsThe positioning of recent but not absolutely brand new episodes are always amongst the most interesting. Recency bias means that historically, new entries always gets a boost in polls like this, so you do expect a drop off the second time around. A tumble of six places for the lowest-ranked episode of Series XI is the joint biggest fall so far, putting it below almost all of Series VII. The problem with Can of Worms is that it promised us something we’d wanted to see for ages – the Cat getting centre stage for once and finally meeting a fellow felis sapiens – and it ended up being a red herring to disguise something that nobody was really clamouring for – a third Polymorph episode, and one that’s significantly less accomplished than the previous two.

62. Duct Soup

Down 2. Avg score: 5.696 (549 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Duct SoupSometimes when Red Dwarf is forced to go back to basics with a bottle episode, we see some of the most interesting and thoughtful character pieces in the show’s history. At other times, you get Duct Soup, which puts each of its characters under the microscope and ends up making them worse. Cat gets off relatively lightly, with only an obsession with watching a woman’s pants getting washed to blot his copybook, and it’s not necessarily the fault of Kochanski herself that she exists merely as a vessel for tired clichés such as women not understanding the offside rule. But Kryten is at his absolute nadir, his insane jealousy leading him to directly and deliberately endanger the crew, and it’s all served with a soupçon of gay panic from Lister.

61. Nanarchy

Non-mover. Avg score: 5.795 (533 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from NanarchyNanarchy doesn’t move in the overall placings, but finds itself now only the third worst episode of its series, so that’s something. The first of what is now three big returns for Norman Lovett is probably the highlight of an episode that attempts to do interesting things with Red Dwarf‘s lore, but ends up raising more questions than it answers. The only episode that’s credited to a whopping three writers, it underwent monumental changes between drafts, leaving it barely recognisable from the original version. The result is a disjointed tale that begins with Lister coming to terms with his newfound disability, which then gets abandoned in favour of an attempt to very quickly wrap up the loose arc of the last two series and set up something completely new. A few choice Holly quotes aside, it’s also largely devoid of humour.

60. Back in the Red (Part One)

Up 4. Avg score: 5.880 (525 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Back in the Red: Part ISay what you like about Series VIII, but a minimum of half of its episodes have gone up the table since last time. Is this the long-awaited resurgence of Red Dwarf‘s most-maligned series? Well no, we’ve already seen seven eighths of it on the list and we’re not even into the 50s. The first part of what was originally designed to be an hour long special was relatively well received on broadcast, with the returns of Rimmer, the studio audience and a multi-camera setup most welcome after Series VII had messed with the magic formula. With further fan-pleasing back-references and cameos from Series 1 characters, plus scenes that set out to further explore and analyse our favourite characters, it has a lot going for it, but ultimately it goes for spectacle over substance and sets the tone for Series VIII’s gradual erosion of all the elements that made us love Red Dwarf in the first place.

59. Dear Dave

Non-mover. Avg score: 5.931 (481 votes) Worst Series X episode

Random Smegadrive still from Dear DaveSeries X is the last of the Dave series to make an appearance, and in the exact same position as last time. The very definition of a troubled production, Dear Dave was hastily added to the slate when two planned episodes were dropped due to chronic budget failure, and only a shell of a script was written in time for the audience recording. Whole extra scenes and storylines had to be added later, recorded on green-screen after the rest of the series had already wrapped, with limited success in hiding the fact. While some scenes have plenty of laughs, and the concept of dedicating an episode to the more mundane aspects of life on board ship is a solid one, this is Red Dwarf as a sketch show, with multiple meandering plot threads that rarely come together in anywhere near a satisfying way. A middle-aged Lister mounting a vending machine is a strangely depressing sight, and his disappointing use of a misogynistic slur as the punchline to the episode was ill-judged to say the least.

58. Epideme

Non-mover. Avg score: 6.035 (538 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from EpidemeAnd that’s another non-mover – a very rare event in previous polls, but much more frequent now that there’s only one new entry to incorporate, despite the difference in methodology. The crux of one’s reaction to Epideme is how you find the central performance of Gary Martin as the eponymous virus; it’s hard to think of another example of a single guest star dominating the tone of an episode quite so much. Whether you find Epideme himself amusing or annoying, it’s certainly at odds with the rather serious and somewhat dark plot which places Lister in greater direct peril than ever before, our main protagonist driven to within seconds of committing suicide at one stage. The juxtaposition of that with the villain being a quirky, larger than life parody of an American local disc jockey makes for an episode that’s not necessarily terrible, but certainly a very strange watch.

57. Entangled

Down 1. Avg score: 6.137 (481 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from EntangledIf Entangled had finished at around the 20 minute mark, it would be much higher in this list. The central quantum entanglement idea is a quintessentially Dwarfy concept, and is performed so well by Danny and Robert. There’s solid characte-based laughs throughout, and the use of the power of coincidence as plot-driving energy is a very interesting one, albeit with some confusing execution. Maybe if Doug’s original plan for a Sgt Bilko inspired monkey-based finale hadn’t been scuppered by pesky rules about not over-working ape impersonators to death, it would have been fine. Maybe if the replacement wasn’t a woman turning up, being ogled at, being inhumanly stupid for a bit and then being summarily thrown out of an airlock, it could still have been rescued.

56. Siliconia

Down 4. Avg score: 6.160 (463 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from SiliconiaA noteworthy slip down the table for The One Where Everyone’s Kryten, as it should have been titled. As with the last entry, it’s another example of a Dave era episode having a really solid central concept and a promising start, but falling apart towards the end. The highlight is Robo-Rimmer’s realisation that he’s happier with a menial role, unencumbered by the weight of expectation and unfulfilled ambition, which nails something fundamental about Rimmer’s character in a way that solo Doug Dwarf has sometimes struggled with. At this stage of the episode, we’re on the cusp of something really special, but that train of thought is abandoned in favour of a Gladiator parody with mops, and we’re left with an episode far more shallow and forgettable than we initially hoped for.

55. Ouroboros

Non-mover. Avg score: 6.287 (550 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from OuroborosAnd so it comes to pass that once again, the four Series VII episodes with Chris Barrie in them are more popular than all four of the ones without him; while the positions within those groupings vary, it’s been the case with every poll we’ve done. However the brief cameo from a pre-accident Rimmer here does little to rescue Ouroboros overall, which very much struggles with the unwanted new status quo that Chris’s departure forces it to create. The introduction of Kochanski is disastrous for the character dynamics; she herself is neither particularly good or bad, but her presence changes everyone else for the worse. Not least Kryten, with the interminable “you’re lying” scene in this episode a notorious low point for the character. On the plus side, the “obscene phone call” is one of the biggest laughs from this era of the show, and while the concept of Lister being his own father doesn’t quite make sense if you think about it for more than a few seconds, it’s an interesting idea which provides a seed that the show would later come back to reap.

54. Blue

Non-mover. Avg score: 6.373 (542 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from BlueThere comes a point in any episode ranking that marks the transition between tracking which bad episodes are the worst, and which good episodes are merely the least good. Your mileage will of course vary, but for me it’s probably somewhere around here. Blue has all the problems that the post-Rimmer portion of Series VII has, but it deals with them by putting them front and centre, and exploring the fallout of Lister losing his constant companion. It plays with narrative in a way that Red Dwarf usually shies away from, with each of Chris’s appearances coming outside of a linear timeline. Two flashback scenes are followed by the dream sequence that launched a thousand Tumblrs, and of course The Rimmer Experience, which shows us the effect of an unreliable narrator before giving us the show’s second most iconic song and dance routine.

53. Krysis

Down 3. Avg score: 6.435 (471 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from KrysisWhat a very strange episode. “Divisive” doesn’t begin to cover it – this is either one of the best of the Dave era or one of the worst, depending on who you ask. I’m in the former camp, believing Dominic Coleman as Butler to be one of the finest guest performances we’ve ever had, his well-meaning smugness driving Kryten to the pit of despair in the funniest way possible, alongside the brilliant Starbug scenes with his GELF mates. But the episode’s detractors will point to the philosophical problems of depicting “The Universe” as a sentient being, and its portrayal as a deity via the medium of a Morgan Freeman impression, plus the dubious mathematics behind the central concept of Kryten being at the midway point of his life, at odds with all previously established continuity. Either way, this episode gifted Red Dwarf fandom the word “cloche”, so you’ve got to give it a break for that if nothing else.

We now reach a minor checkpoint, as there are only 52 episodes remaining – the same number of episodes as the original BBC era of the show. Of the 22 Dave era episodes, 13 of them have made it past that milestone – a clear majority, which means that we can officially judge the Dave era to have been worth doing. Hurrah!

52. Waiting For God

Down 4. Avg score: 6.507 (604 votes) Worst Series 1 episode

Random Smegadrive still from Waiting for GodOh ho ho, what’s this? Here we are entering the bubble-of-52, and immediately we hit our first episode from the bubble-of-36! What are you doing down here? For the third poll in a row, Waiting For God has once more been deemed the worst of the show’s golden age, but after a drop of four places there are now more post-1993 episodes ahead of it than ever before. Does it deserve its unwanted mantle as the worst of the best? There’s a lot to love in Waiting For God, particularly in Rimmer’s single-minded obsession with the Quagaars, and the juxtaposition of this blind faith against that of organised religion. The satire is heavy-handed, but there’s a real charm to the material with the Cat religion, particularly Noel Coleman’s guest performance. The people have spoken – repeatedly – but it’s tough to argue that this is a worse episode than some of the ones higher up on the list. Such as…

51. Samsara

Non-mover. Avg score: 6.512 (471 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from SamsaraAnother non-mover, but other recent entries have dropped below to ensure Samsara is no longer in the bottom third of Series X-XII episodes. It’s an episode that does a lot of things right, but in a way that can also rub people up the wrong way. It does that rare thing of playing with narrative structure, with the backstory of the eponymous ship revealed to the audience with flashbacks. Huge swathes of action that don’t involve our crew at all – and so their success or failure depends on your reaction to these other characters. A neat sci-fi concept wrapped up in an unravelling mystery – but one that’s derivative of an earlier episode and not executed nearly as well. Some tight and smart plotting – and then one of Series XI’s trademark abrupt endings. A long gag-filled dialogue scene with Lister and the Cat, one of the rarer combinations of characters for a big conversation – where most of the gags are so generic they feel like they could be delivered by absolutely any two characters ever. Though luckily Lister has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the inventors of writing implements.

50. Cassandra

Up 3. Avg score: 6.630 (527 votes) Best Series VIII episode

Random Smegadrive still from CassandraIt’s a mystery that’s plagued Red Dwarf fans since 1999 – is Cassandra actually any good, or does it just seem good because it’s surrounded by Series VIII episodes? Its poll performance has fluctuated over the years as people have struggled with this dilemma, but it’s on the rise again now, scraping into the Top 50 once more. It’s certainly the Series VIII episode that could fit most comfortably within any other series of the show, with the prison setting ostensibly scrapped for a brief return to the old searching-through-derelicts formula, like when the Time Lords used to let Jon Pertwee’s Doctor go on the odd trip as a little treat. It has some interesting debates about pre-determinism and a memorable guest performance from Geraldine McEwan, along with the rare spectacle of Kochanski being given some funny lines. It also has Max Branning smacking his head off a diving bell. Something for everyone.

49. Mechocracy

Down 6. Avg score: 6.667 (469 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from MechocracyOoof, a surprisingly large second-survey-syndrome comedown for Mechocracy – the second half of Series XII is widely considered the best “byte” of the Dave era by far, so it’s unexpected for one of its episodes to drop below one from the first half. An episode poking fun at the circus around elections, written and recorded before Brexit and Trump but released afterwards, into a much-changed political climate. It’s hardly The Thick Of It levels of satire, but the spoof campaign ads and subsequent candidates’ debate are a lot of fun, drawing comedy both from the tropes and techniques employed by real politicians, and the personalities and histories of Rimmer and Kryten – the first tentative foray into the modern show leaning increasingly heavily on its own past, which would escalate with each subsequent episode to date. Plus of course, this feeds in to the episode’s other selling point – the return of David Ross as Talkie Toaster after an absence of 26 years.

48. Cured

Up 1. Avg score: 6.721 (469 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from CuredThe first of the former new entries to buck the trend and improve its position since the last poll, the Series XII opener contains some extremely memorable set pieces, many of which centre around a spectacular guest performance from Ryan Gage, the latest actor to play Red Dwarf‘s most prolific recurring character. Our beloved protagonist jamming with the leader of the Third Reich is certainly one of the more surreal images the show has to offer, though we can’t help but imagine how much better that scene would be had the plan to use Toto’s Africa not been scuppered by clearance issues. We also get the great selfie gag, the various comedic torture scenarios and the lovely business with the lighter, before the denouement in which the story becomes extremely complicated and more than a little confusing on first watch.

47. Twentica

Down 1. Avg score: 6.766 (475 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from TwenticaTo mix two Dwarfy metaphors, all the ingredients of Twentica are right, but it somehow ends up less than the sum of its parts. Kevin Eldon is perhaps the most accomplished comedy actor ever to grace the show, and fellow guests Lucie Pohl and the returning Rebecca Blackstone also put in brilliant performances. The sets are stunning (the odd shot of a ceiling on a supposedly outdoor street aside), and the crash sequence is the best use of miniatures since the BBC VFX glory days. Somehow it doesn’t quite tie together in a satisfactory way, and leaves too many questions open about the consequences of this timeline-altering jaunt into history. Give us half an hour of Harmony de Gauthier making science jokes in the style of a 1920s flapper girl though, and watch it fly up the charts.

46. M-Corp

Down 8. Avg score: 6.84355 (473 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from M-CorpWow. In a poll where we’ve already seen Pete (Part Two) escape from the bottom spot, this is the biggest shock so far. M-Corp was considered the fourth best Dave-era episode in the Pearl Poll, very narrowly missing out the coveted Top 36 bubble. Now it’s only the ninth best modern episode, and a drop of eight places overall is the biggest fall in the entire poll – this is far beyond the standard levelling-out you expect for an episode’s second poll. But why is this? After all, Lister’s struggles with invisible props and furniture are among the funniest scenes in 21st Century Dwarf, and his isolation builds a compellingly unsettling atmosphere only previously seen in Red Dwarf in novel form. But in hindsight, that’s a fairly small portion of the episode, and while the stuff in the M-Corp facility itself is perfectly decent, it never hits those heights again. The deliberately convenient resolution to the plot is pleasing to some but grating for others, and the same can be said for the final scene, with Lister reverting back to his pre-accident personality and recreating the opening of The End.

45. Fathers & Suns

Up 2. Avg score: 6.84362 (486 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Fathers & SunsThere are very fine margins at play in this poll – look closely at the scores throughout this section of the table, and you’ll see they’re extremely close at times. None more so than the gap between M-Corp and Fathers & Suns, two episodes that could only be separated by adding an extra couple of decimal places. A handful of further votes could have changed everything, but as things stand Fathers & Suns is celebrating a wee climb up the list. It’s not surprising that its position is so volatile, as it’s one of the hardest episodes ever to get a handle on, due to the three plot elements competing for screen time. You’ve got all the business with Lister being his own dad, culminating in the Double-Lister scene that’s written and acted with so much style. You’ve got Pree, a superb performance by Rebecca Blackstone giving us a morally grey sort-of-villain who constantly keeps you guessing. But you’ve also got the Chinese Whispers thread, featuring one of the worst performances in Red Dwarf history from Kerry Shale, a white man putting on a comedy Asian accent and in the process completely destroying any semblance of a point that the material was trying to make. Remove this element from the episode and the other two bits would have more space to breathe, and Fathers & Suns would be troubling the Top 40.

44. Officer Rimmer

Non-mover. Avg score: 6.858 (473 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Officer RimmerAs we’ve said for the majority of Dave episodes, one of Officer Rimmer‘s main distinguishing features is a brilliant guest character – Captain Herring is a hilarious concept, brought to life superbly by both the visual effects team and the sadly departed Stephen Critchlow. His appearance is a prelude to a storyline that undoubtedly covers similar ground to past episodes – a lift so blatant that it’s even referenced in the dialogue – but does so with a unique style, notable for the sheer number of Rimmers on screen at once, providing a plethora of classic Chris Barrie faces. It’s a shame though that just as the plot builds to a crescendo with a sudden tilt towards monster-fighting action, it notoriously exemplifies a recurring theme of Series XI, in that it just

43. Balance of Power

Down 2. Avg score: 6.910 (600 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Balance of PowerUnsurprisingly, the second “bubble” episode to appear on the list is also from Series 1, an episode often lumped in with Waiting For God as standing out due to its slower pace and minimal sci-fi elements. Perfectly on brand for the style of sitcom that Rob and Doug initially set out to make, but out of place compared to pretty much everything that followed. And much like Waiting For GodBalance of Power is by no means a bad episode, and features such iconic scenes as the white card/black card conversation, the melancholy flashback to pre-accident Dwarf, and the Cat’s trout a la créme binge. In the denouement, Clare Grogan’s performance as Rimmer-in-Kochanksi’s-body doesn’t always hit the mark, and overall it suffers from a cast and production team that are still finding their feet and learning how to turn a promising premise into a comedy heavyweight.

42. Give & Take

Down 3. Avg score: 6.966 (466 votes) Best Series XI episode

Random Smegadrive still from Give & TakeBy and large, it’s becoming apparent that this area of the chart is the natural home for the Dave era – not quite up there with the heights of Series 1-VI, but mostly significantly better than the lesser-loved Series VII and VIII. That certainly seems right for Give & Take, which attempts some extremely ambitious time-travelly, parodoxy storytelling, but probably requires repeated viewings and a notepad to fully make sense of, along with a generous interpretation of some of the more ambiguous plot points. Nevertheless, the comedy element can rarely be faulted, and it gave us not one but two iconic new robots – the possibly-evil-possibly-insane Asclepius, and the adorably retro and charismatic Snacky. By rights, Snacky should have stayed on to be a new regular character throughout the rest of the run, but he’s probably rusting away somewhere in the depths of Red Dwarf. Bastards.

41. Trojan

Up 1. Avg score: 6.992 (494 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from TrojanTrojan was perhaps the most significant victim of second-survey-syndrome last time round, having made the Top 30 in the Silver Survey when it was brand new. It’s levelled out now and even made a slight climb, and it stands up as a great statement of intent as the opening episode of a whole new dawn for the show. It ticks all the Dave era boxes – a fantastic guest appearance in the form of Mark Dexter’s Howard, playing with established character backstories in a way that delights some and annoys others, and cramming in slightly too many elements for it to comfortably accommodate, with the call centre running gag ultimately taking screen time away from more interesting plot points. But it’s at its best when discussing mooses and giving the crew new identities to impress Howard – jokes that are derived purely from the unique eccentricities of our beloved characters, and the well-defined dynamic between them.

40. Confidence & Paranoia

Down 3. Avg score: 7.064 (614 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Confidence & ParanoiaOnce again, a Series 1 episode slips down the table, with Confidence & Paranoia just barely clinging on to its place in the Top 40. It does however mark the first time that the average score clears seven out of ten, indicating that each and every episode from this point on is of a standard that would put most sitcoms to shame. Despite decades having elapsed between their productions, there are similarities with Trojan, in that it takes a surprisingly long time for the big headline guest stars to turn up, and for the plot to really get going. But get going it does, with Craig Ferguson and Lee Cornes both stealing every scene they’re in. The space walk sequence is a showcase for so many elements that made this show stand out, from visual effects to set design to Howard Goodall’s beautiful Blue Danube variation on the theme tune. But we’ve now seen half of the first series appear in the chart before anything from the rest of the classic bubble, with plenty of episodes from VII and the Dave era still to go.

39. Stoke Me A Clipper

Up 6. Avg score: 7.107 (561 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Stoke me a ClipperBy far the biggest climber so far, the second best episode of Series VII seems to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity, and is now a clear fifteen places ahead of Blue, the third best from the series. There are undoubtedly faults that have to be overlooked – the emotional impact of thousands of ex-Aces being undermined by the godawful CGI, for one – but it’s a decent return for a popular alter ego that builds upon his original appearance, and it handles the unenviable task of writing out one of the best characters in sitcom history well. It’s probably best remembered for the pre-titles sequence, an all-action comedy blockbuster that was probably the most ambitiously staged few minutes the show ever produced.

38. Tikka To Ride

Down 4. Avg score: 7.207 (555 votes) Best Series VII episode

Random Smegadrive still from Tikka to RideWhile it’s been a good showing for VII overall, with two of its eight episodes climbing the charts and four at least holding steady as non-movers, it’s a big drop for Tikka To Ride, falling out of the Top 36 bubble for the first time and challenging the notion that it holds its own against the first six series. Despite the difference in shooting style, it has the unique advantage within Series VII of retaining the classic combination of characters and not having to change the show’s formula to accommodate the shifting dynamics. The bulk of the episode does everything right, the guilt-free Kryten adding a comedic edge to an intricate and exciting story of the Dwarfers accidentally changing history, and doing their level best to put it right. Such a shame that this is bookended with a piss-weak resolution to Out of Time‘s cliffhanger, which uses paradox logic that the JFK plot completely contradicts, and the pitiful punchline of Lister being brutally beaten by his crewmates.

37. The Beginning

Down 4. Avg score: 7.214 (481 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from The BeginningOh, that’s a shame for The Beginning – juuust missing out on keeping its place within the bubble. Last time there were four post-1993 episodes in that bracket, now there’s only three. The Beginning has always been one of the most popular episodes of the Dave era, climbing as high as #26 in The Silver Survey and remaining the best episode of Series X in the Pearl Poll despite a second-survey-syndrome drop, but even that title has now been lost. Perhaps its reappraisal is a result of comparisons to what followed; at the time The Beginning was the best example of the revived show tackling deep character lore, showcasing impressive special effects and providing extra comedic vignettes to keep things interesting and pacey. But all those things have been more frequent features of Series XI onwards, resulting in The Beginning losing some of the edge it had within the era. Nevertheless, the flashback to Rimmer’s schooldays, the appearance of Hogey the Roguey and the cutaways to the Dominators are all superb – it’s just perhaps a bit too apparent that these elements were jammed together in a rush, with Doug forced to cannibalise his Movie script for parts for another last-minute replacement episode.

So here we are at our next major milestone, and still no sign of that solitary new entry. We have however burned through the whole of Series VII, VIII and XI, and all but one episode each from X and XII. Time for one of our delicious pie charts to show the state of the fabled bubble as of 2023…

Pie chart showing the split of Top 36 episodes by series. Series 1 - 3; Series 2 - 6; Series III - 6; Series IV - 6; Series V - 6; Series VI - 6; Series X - 1; Series XII - 1; The Promised Land - 1

36. Lemons

Down 1. Avg score: 7.279 (494 votes) Best Series X episode

Random Smegadrive still from LemonsHere’s that final bastion of Series X – dropping down a place compared to last time, but not sinking as low as The Beginning, meaning Lemons is now officially the best episode of the series. It’s perhaps the only one of the six to take a single storyline and run with it, dedicating its entire runtime to exploring the setting and themes that it introduces. James Baxter’s turn as Geordie Jesus can split opinion, but it has an undeniable energy that carries the pace along nicely. The compact storytelling is matched by some tight comedic flourishes, with lots of laughs wrung from the crew’s initial meeting with the supposed messiah, Rimmer’s pride in manhandling the Holy Lamb’s todger, and every scene that involves the fantastic Indira Joshi as Erin. The reveal that the Jesus we’ve not been following is not the actual king of kings (spoilers) might rob some of those earlier scenes of some of their impact, but it’s nevertheless a solid, gag-packed episode of Red Dwarf that wouldn’t be out of place in the middle section of the BBC era.

35. Parallel Universe

Up 1. Avg score: 7.322 (596 votes) Worst Series 2 episode

Random Smegadrive still from Parallel UniverseSeries 2 makes its first appearance on the list with an episode that’s always flirting with the edge of the bubble, but just about has enough going for it to consistently keep its head above the water. It’s been the subject of a fair amount of criticism over the years, not least from the writers themselves, but while the gender politics may seem a little trite and clichéd after three and a half decades, it remains an effective social satire of the way things stood in the late 80s. The guest cast are all fantastic, and the episode marks a very special debut appearance for Hattie Hayridge. Both Holly and Hilly are on fine form throughout, and their unfolding on-and-off-screen romance is perhaps the highlight of the episode. Well, that and Tongue Tied, and no matter your opinion on the song itself and/or what the hell it’s doing in a sci-fi sitcom in the first place, it’s an undeniably iconic part of Red Dwarf history, even going as far as #17 in the UK singles charts in 1993 and appearing on Top of the Pops.

34. Meltdown

Down 5. Avg score: 7.364 (579 votes) Worst Series IV episode

Random Smegadrive still from MeltdownWe welcome Series IV along to the party with an episode that’s always been viewed as one of the weakest of the original run, even finishing bottom of the pile in the first mass poll conducted by Fan Club magazine Better Than Life in 1994. It’s a format breaker that’s definitely one of the more unusual spectacles that Grant and Naylor penned together, although it more than stands its ground compared to the vast majority of episodes written after Rob left. There’s much to commend it – Tony Hawks makes the finest of his many appearances, Rimmer gets lots of great moments, such as the Risk story and the inspection parade, the action sequences are great, and Lister’s anti-war sentiments are a rare and notable foray into serious messaging. However, Rimmer’s descent into insane war lust goes too far for some, and there is a serious issue with the episode’s most heavily featured waxdroid, which could certainly taint a modern day rewatch. One of only eight episodes to drop five places or more, it might struggle to mount a comeback next time.

33. Emohawk: Polymorph II

Up 7. Avg score: 7.366 (585 votes) Worst Series VI episode

Random Smegadrive still from Emohawk: Polymorph IIThe infamous triple sequel has never been part of the bubble in either of our previous polls, but it’s arrived in style after a huge climb of seven places – the biggest improvement of any episode this time around. It’s still considered the runt of the Series VI litter, but by a much smaller margin. While its biggest fault is the attempt to pack far too many returning concepts into just one episode, it benefits from only being the second appearance of these beloved characters, made before anyone had the chance to become sick of them. And it does them all justice – the sequences of the Emohawk baffling the crew with its shape-shifting are very funny, and both Ace and Duane get a plethora of good lines, even if some of them are drowned out by excessive whooping and hollering from the audience. Or maybe its boost in popularity is because a load of us have recently re-read Last Human, and so we realise that the honeymoon scene between Lister and the GELF could have been much much worse.

32. The Promised Land

New entry. Avg score: 7.378 (492 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from The Promised LandHere we are! The solitary new entry in this poll finishes in a very respectable 32nd place – some distance above all but one other episode from the Dave era, and safely within the comfort of the bubble, thus ranking among the upper echelons of what Red Dwarf has achieved over the last 35 years. Part of its success comes from its duration – the first time an attempt to make a longer episode of the show has actually resulted in a longer episode of the show, and thus it has three times more material to judge it on than any other entry on this list. It’s a story that justifies its running time – the long-awaited answer to a question posed back in Series 1, finally reuniting Cat with the rest of his species, and addressing Lister’s role in their society. The main criticism is that the Cat himself was surprisingly glossed over most of the time, but what it did do was executed very well indeed. Norman Lovett’s third return to the show – seemingly intended to be permanently this time – is great, as is Rimmer’s dalliances with superheroism and Lister’s struggles with whether or not to come clean to his worshippers. But the unexpected standout moment is the beautiful moonlight scene between Rimmer and Lister – after all these years, and all these iterations of the show, it all boils down to the ever-evolving relationship between these two former enemies turned begrudging best friends. It really felt like this format could lay the foundation for Red Dwarf‘s future – the occasional feature length special to wring out the last few untold stories of the crew before everyone gets too old to do any more. Instead, it’s looking increasingly like one last hurrah, but if it is to be the final ever episode, then at least it went out on a high.

31. Skipper

Non-mover. Avg score: 7.395 (476 votes) Best Series XII episode

Random Smegadrive still from SkipperFor a huge chunk of the time that the voting was open, The Promised Land was above Skipper more often than not, but in the end the Series XII finale holds on to its crown as the best Dave episode, and stays in the exact same position as its debut poll appearance. It’s an episode of two halves, both of which are really good – every last drip of humour is wrung from the opposite-decisions concept, before Rimmer embarks on his dimension-skipping mission. What follows is a series of inventive skits, which are extremely enjoyable in and of themselves once you get past how weird it is that in a quest to find a universe where Rimmer is successful, nobody even mentions Ace. Other than that it’s pure fan service: cameos for Holly (again) and Hollister, recreations of the original sets and uniforms from the first series, and a fascinating alternative history of how the timeline would have turned out had the crew not been wiped out. And there’s also Mr Rat, undoubtedly one of the most bizarre yet hilarious moments in the whole of the revival; an era which, according to the results, finished with the best two episodes of the 21st Century.

30. Bodyswap

Down 4. Avg score: 7.408 (600 votes) Worst Series III episode

Random Smegadrive still from BodyswapInto the Top 30 now, and here comes Series III – only Series V yet to make an appearance now. A bit of a tumble down the table for Bodyswap, which is now the lowest ranked episode from its series, but there can be no doubt that there’s no such thing as a bad episode from this point on. A prime example of Rob and Doug pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved within the confines of a low-budget sitcom, it was shot without a studio audience so that Chris and Craig could later ADR their lines over their counterpart’s mouth movements. The result can be a little unusual at times, not least when Chris is having to speak twice as fast as usual due to the pace at which Craig belts out lines, but it’s a gimmick that works overall. The initial drama with the self-destruct system has a great punchline, Rimmer is at his most duplicitous, and the chase sequence is one of the best visual effects set pieces in the show’s history. Plus, Lister sets a world record for the most smegs per second.

29. Camille

Up 1. Avg score: 7.418 (589 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from CamilleUp a solitary place and, thanks to Meltdown‘s comedown, no longer the worst episode of its series is Camille, the show that gave us “smee heee” and referring to a banana as a female aardvark, and that’s just the first scene. The iconic hits keep on coming – E5 A9 08 B7, Cat’s self high-five, “droid meets droid” – in an episode of exceptional quality, all wrapped up in a homage to Casablanca that somehow avoids getting in the way of what is quite a touching love story between Kryten and the eponymous Camille. All the better for the ready-made chemistry provided by Robert Llewellyn’s real life partner Judy Pascoe; one of my favourite Red Dwarf stories is that Robert’s mum had a framed photo of Kryten and Camille on her wall, proudly telling guests that her son and his partner were robots.

28. Rimmerworld

Up 4. Avg score: 7.548 (588 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from RimmerworldThe second Series VI episode on the list, and the second to have made a big leap up the table since last time. It perhaps doesn’t stand out as much as the rest of its run, without an attention-grabbing hook to latch on to – it even has the rare sight in this era of the Cat reusing an outfit. It’s nevertheless consistently funny and well thought through, serving as a little “what happened next” following an earlier adventure, and playing out at a slightly more sedate pace than the rest of the Series VI with its quickfire gag formula. The jokes that are there make a huge impact – there’s the Chinese worry balls, the accidental time travel to the crew’s very recent past and future, and of course the superlative teleporter joke that provides this episode with its crowning glory.

27. Terrorform

Down 2. Avg score: 7.657 (578 votes) Worst Series V episode

Random Smegadrive still from TerrorformAll series present and correct, and once again it’s Series V that has the honour of the highest-placed “worst” episode. Funnily enough, the low point for the peerless fifth series was also at #27 last time, although it’s now a different episode – Terrorform has dropped a couple of places, and once again it’s probably a case of this episode’s hilarious and iconic moments just being marginally less hilarious and iconic as the rest of a particularly hilarious and iconic series. This is the second entry in a row for episodes about a celestial body being moulded in Rimmer’s image, but while Rimmerworld was played for laughs, the psy-moon is pure horror. While the middle act focusses on drama more than comedy at times, any episode that opens with Kryten’s distress call and the “taranshula” sequence, and ends with the four-way-hug situation, has got to be worth its salt. We later learned that this was the episode that led to new director Juliet May being relieved of her duties, and was apparently rescued by a frantic re-edit with Doug at the helm. Whatever the problems it faced behind the scenes, not a bit of it shows.

26. The Last Day

Up 2. Avg score: 7.669 (590 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from The Last DayThe former worst episode of Series III is up a couple of places, and it’s another all time classic with so many standout moments. Gordon Kennedy makes such an impression that you forget he’s only in it for a few minutes at the end, save for a brick-breaking teaser video shortly before. Written and recorded last, Rob and Doug were able to write Kryten with Robert Llewellyn’s performance in mind for the first time, and it’s only here that he’s really established as an integral member of the crew, going from cheerily accepting his imminent demise in his role as a talking appliance, before building a genuine friendship with his masters via a drunken bonding session. This rip-roaring party scene is full of comedy before entering the melancholy stage and giving us real pathos, revealing for the first time that Lister was abandoned under a pool table as a baby. Lemming Sunday, Rimmer’s pervy Uncle Frank and the concept of Silicon Heaven are all classic Red Dwarf masterpieces originating in just one episode – and it’s not even in the Top 25.

25. Stasis Leak

Down 6. Avg score: 7.670 (594 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Stasis LeakStasis Leak comes crashing out of the Top 20, the formerly firm fan favourite tumbling a whopping six places, the joint-second biggest drop. It received a bit of an unexpected kicking in our forum’s recent rewatch of the whole run, with questions raised over messy time travel logic, dated pop culture references, the odd dodgy effect and of course why Rimmer and Lister didn’t try to prevent the accident happening in the first place, rather than just saving one person each. Not that any of this really matters on the first hundred or so watches of an extremely funny episode that has a lot of fun messing around with its only recently established lore. Everything that happens in the Ganymede Holiday Inn is great (that man Tony Hawks again providing a highlight), as are all of Rimmer’s interactions with his past self. It all culminates in a deliberately ridiculous escalation of the number of versions of the crew in one place, director Ed Bye performing miracles with analogue TV technology, as he did so often in those first two series in particular.

24. Timeslides

Down 3. Avg score: 7.673 (596 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from TimeslidesJust 0.003 points separate the average scores for Stasis Leak and Timeslides, which drops three places but could so easily have been one worse. The two episodes share a lot in common – they both deal with audacious attempts by Lister to reality-alter his way out of his predicament, they both invent an interesting form of heavily-limited time travel, and are both showcases for Ed Bye doing things that look simple on screen but required an extraordinary amount of skill and invention to pull off in the late 80s. They do also share a slight wonkiness in the logic at times – just why was someone taking a photo of a dorm room full of sleeping young boys? – but again there’s more than enough exemplary comedy to counteract any niggles. Junior Angler, the Tension Sheet, banana and crisp sandwiches, the Om Song and the under-rated gem of a guest character that is Gilbert are just some of the classic items of Red Dwarf iconography contained within.

23. DNA

Down 1. Avg score: 7.675 (585 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from DNAVery little to choose between these few entries; this is the fifth of six episodes with scores that came out as 7.6-something, so DNA‘s slip of just one place is nothing to write home about. It remains a popular episode; following on from The Last Day and Camille, its a third consecutive opportunity for Robert Llewellyn to shine, and the most successful of the three according to the data. As well as portraying human Kryten, with his iconic double polaroid and attempts to shove a recharge cable into the nearest available orifice, he also gives us his Spare Heads and Hand, in a superb scene where it’s easy to forget that you’re watching the same actor four times. It suddenly turns into a monster story right at the end, which perhaps detracts a little from the more subtle musings on the nature of humanity that take up the bulk of the episode, but it’s nevertheless one of the great “the one where” episodes that the Grant Naylor era provided in spades.

22. The End

Up 2. Avg score: 7.678 (631 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from The EndThis episode received more individual votes than any other, thanks to a number of well-intentioned people who attempted to start their rankings and then gave up after the first one. It’s fascinating to track The End‘s popularity, because as good as it is, by its very nature it’s fundamentally different to every other episode. Some sitcoms open in media res, dropping you in to an established status quo without any fuss, whereas The End is one of those pilots that sets up the situation before your very eyes, building its premise on screen. And yet it’s consistently within the high-twenties in the rankings, and has gained a couple of places this time round; I wonder if there are people out there who’d have rather seen a workplace sitcom about two low-ranking technicians forced to share a bunkroom. I jest – the events of The End are such a great hook for the forthcoming series that it’s bound to hold a special place in fans’ hearts, especially for those lucky enough to have witnessed it thirty-five years ago today. It’s also funny in its own right, particularly Lister’s exchange with Hollister and of course the oft-quoted Everybody’s Dead Dave scene.

21. Demons & Angels

Up 6. Avg score: 7.753 (580 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Demons & AngelsA huge and perhaps surprising leap up the table for Demons & Angels – the lowest ranked episode of Series V last time, but six whole places above Terrorform this time, and just one step away from making a quarter of the Top 20 turn turquoise. The criticism in recent years has been that the vast number of alter egos on screen are only given enough time to be painted in broad strokes; they’re all largely playing the same generic tropes as Highs and Lows, rather than each one being tailored to the individual traits of each character. But hey – rather than lamenting what could have been had the episode developed a different way, the voting public are clearly more than happy with what we did get, which is an episode packed with both peril and laughs. It’s great fun to explore the two alternative versions of the ship, and the episode really starts to shine when Lister is captured by the Lows and forced to do their bidding, with a rare yet successful foray into slapstick to round off a varied and lightning-paced adventure.

Right then, Top 20 time! For both the Silver Survey and the Pearl Poll, we ended up with the exact same twenty episodes at the top each time. Not so now, with Stasis Leak‘s capitulation shifting the balance of delicious pie chart number two.

Pie chart showing the split of Top 20 episodes by series. Series 1 - 2; Series 2 - 4; Series III - 3; Series IV - 3; Series V - 4; Series VI - 4

20. Kryten

Non-mover. Avg score: 7.788 (604 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from KrytenKryten is categorically the twentieth best episode of Red Dwarf – it’s been in that position for three polls in a row. Astonishingly not even in the top half of Series 2, this is the episode where, according to the cast at least, Red Dwarf really clicked. Specifically, the big reveal of the Nova 5 skellingtons is cited as an example of the studio audience being totally in tune with the humour of the show, and that carries across to those watching at home. The show gets two huge laughs out of its bony guest stars, first when we see them for the first time, then when the characters do, in a scene absolutely dripping with classic dialogue. We wouldn’t want to imagine Series III onwards without Robert Llewellyn, but David Ross’s performance here is so strong that the alternative dimension in which he was available in 1989 is a fascinating prospect. A very different take on the character to the one we’d become accustomed to, but it laid the vital foundations, and it’s not hard to see why Rob and Doug decided to expand the regular cast to adopt this irresistible new character. And we’ve not even mentioned Hol Rock, frogs in bidets or dogs’ milk – all gags from the first five minutes of this extraordinary episode.

19. Me²

Down 1. Avg score: 7.816 (602 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Me2Often dubbed Series 1.5, Me² was written long after the rest of the series, as a replacement for the infamous Bodysnatcher episode which wouldn’t surface until nearly 20 years later. As such, Rob and Doug benefitted from having seen their characters brought to life, and began tailoring their writing to the abilities of their actors. The most blatant example is Danny John-Jules roller-skating about, but fundamentally this was a huge leap forward for the characterisation and dynamics that would launch Red Dwarf to new heights. The show’s success was cemented by the gradual softening of Rimmer into a much more sympathetic and relatable figure, and it all started here, in what’s unsurprisingly considered one of the best episodes of the initial run. The luxuriously long Gazpacho Soup scene is the crowning glory of a Chris Barrie masterclass; a comedy actor of the finest calibre learning how best to play his career-defining role before our eyes. That Me²  is not higher in the list is testament to the quality that followed, which it played a huge part in paving the way for.

18. Psirens

Up 5. Avg score: 7.964 (585 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from PsirensHere’s that newcomer to the Top 20 party we were waiting for, Psirens making a big leap up the chart to be comfortably nestled within the crème de la crème of Red Dwarf episodes. It plays an unusual role in the evolution of the series, serving as both the first example of a new formula for the show, but also opening with what is essentially a comedic recap of the previous setup, at the BBC’s behest. It does it with style, and wastes no time in establishing the high gag rate that Rob and Doug brought home from their ill-fated American adventure. While it’s by no means the first time our crew have been befuddled by shape-shifting GELFs, it never feels like it’s treading old ground; the Psirens’ illusions are more elaborate and pervasive than a Polymorph’s, and they force the crew into interesting scenarios like having to figure out which Lister is real, and Kryten having no choice but to obey a Psiren taking on the form of his creator, even though he knows it isn’t really his creator. It’s never been an episode to particularly stand out against some of its more headline-grabbing peers, but it’s solid, consistent and deserves the reputation it’s acquired from this escapade.

17. Holoship

Down 4. Avg score: 8.010 (586 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from HoloshipConversely, here’s an episode that appears to be on the opposite trajectory. Holoship has had a troubled history when it comes to fan opinion; the Smegazine absolutely hated it when it first aired, and their readers ranked it 29th out of 30 in the first ever mass Red Dwarf poll. It’s absolutely baffling to many modern viewers to understand why the reaction was so negative. It’s an episode with real heart, its most complex character going on a journey that sees him glimpse everything he’s ever dreamed of, do whatever morally dubious things it takes to secure it, and then give it all up for the sake of a woman he loved, even though they’d never see each other again. But it’s also incredibly funny, from Don Warrington’s appearance as Commander Binks, to the post-coital scene between Rimmer and Nirvanah Crane (the brilliant Jane Horrocks on fine form), to the mind-patched Rimmer’s verbal and mathematical gymnastics. And it’s the source of an extraordinary amount of iconic lines – “quick let’s get out of here before they bring him back”, “such a big one it was worth mentioning twice” and “people I… met” have no right all being uttered within the same half hour. While a drop of four places sees Holoship drift further away from the very top of the charts, it’s the first episode to reach an average score of at least eight out of ten, keeping it firmly among the elite.

16. Future Echoes

Down 5. Avg score: 8.027 (620 votes) Best Series 1 episode

Random Smegadrive still from Future EchoesAnother big drop sees another fan favourite appear much lower down the table than many might have expected. Future Echoes reached as high as #7 in 2013’s Silver Survey, before dropping out of the Top 10 in the Pearl Poll. Now it’s way down in sixteenth place, setting a new low for a highest-placed episode from a Grant Naylor era series; five of the six episodes from Series 1 have suffered a drop for this poll, indicating that no matter how much affection the original run commands, it just can’t compete with what followed. But Future Echoes itself remains a fine episode, with its huge sci-fi concept at the centre setting the template for what the show would evolve into. It’s a smart and unforgettable conceit, with the Double Rimmer scene widely considered one of Red Dwarf‘s all time greatest moments, in only the second ever episode. It contributes so much to the show’s nascent lore, from hints at Lister’s unusual childhood, to his fandom of Jim Bexley Speed, which in turn leads us to the mystery of his twin sons, a setup which wouldn’t pay off until ten episodes later. It’s not directly signposted on screen, but it must be the promise of pre-destined developments that stops Lister going through with his plan of returning to stasis for the trip home, thus giving the series a reason to keep going. It had the same effect on viewers too – after an episode of this quality in only the second week, you have no choice but to stick around for the long haul.

15. Backwards

Up 2. Avg score: 8.150 (615 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from BackwardsAs per the template set down by Future Echoes, it’s not uncommon for an episode to be centred entirely around one central sci-fi concept, but the conceit of Backwards has been seen as somewhat of a gimmick over the years. No doubt technically impressive for 1989, modern viewers would be forgiven for failing to be impressed by what are now seen as common editing techniques, but at its heart Backwards offers so much more than video trickery. Yes, the logic is completely doolally when you consider the sequence of events as they unfolded within the reverse universe, but it’s a hell of a fun ride along the way. Showing us the consequences of the adventure first provides an unfolding mystery as to how Lister’s injuries came about, with hilarious anti-Bulgarian slander, a woman stuffing an entire eclair into her mouth, and an incandescent yet incomprehensible Arthur Smith building up to the majestic barroom tidy. And that’s not taking into account the fact that it opens with one of the most recognisable and oft-quoted vignettes in the show’s history, and ends with the indelible image of the Cat’s reaction to his own faeces being forcibly inserted back into his rectum. Backwards richly deserves its little bump up the table.

14. Justice

Up 1. Avg score: 8.160 (593 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from JusticeAnother small rise in the wake of Future Echoes and Holoship‘s misfortunes for a deeply philosophical episode that touches on the nature of guilt, the ethics of punishment, the flaws in various legal systems and the karmic balance of the universe, whilst also opening with scenes of Lister with a prosthetic pair of tits on his head. Justice features stunning location work at Sunbury Pumphouse (although admittedly some of the studio scenes have such little budget that they take place in front of black curtains rather than actual sets), and at least three all-time classic scenes – Rimmer’s diesel deck slideshow, the fight between Lister and the Simulant, and of course the highlight of the episode, Rimmer’s trial. It’s always a rich source of comedy to put Rimmer’s neuroses and motivations under the microscope, and his character is thoroughly dismantled by Kryten in hilarious fashion. And speaking of hilarious fashion, those escort boots are pretty funny too. When I was a kid, we used to play “Justice” in the school playground, miming extreme acts of violence against each other and then acting out the consequences on ourselves. Not many sitcoms can do that.

13. Out of Time

Up 1. Avg score: 8.173 (579 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Out of TimeHere’s an episode that we at G&T have always been huge advocates of, going as far as putting it in second place back in 2008, in a staff-only poll that’s now considered non-canonical. It seems the fandom at large doesn’t rate it quite as highly as we do, but it nevertheless climbs a place here to creep that little bit closer to the Top 10. It’s mainly remembered for one thing – the stunning action sequence culminating in the show’s most famous cliffhanger, which remains one of the most dramatic and heart-racing moments Red Dwarf ever produced. But there’s so much more than that; even before the time-travel shenanigans and the encounter with the future crew, the unreality bubbles are a fantastic idea, used so sparingly for maximum comedy effect over a riotous and unforgettabubble five minutes or so. There’s also Rimmer’s morale meeting, the jaunt back to 15th Century deep space and the one thing that for my money stands tall over even the famous cliffhanger – Future Kryten’s wig and eyebrows. A guaranteed laugh in every individual frame.

12. Thanks For The Memory

Down 5. Avg score: 8.196 (601 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Thanks for the MemoryOuch! Another episode that G&T have always championed, Thanks For The Memory takes a huge hit in popularity and tumbles down the table. This is beginning to feel personal. Considered the best episode of Series 2 and 5th best overall in the Silver Survey, ten years later it drops out of the top ten altogether, and is now only the third best of its run. Quite astonishing considering just how remarkable this episode is. It’s the first time that a show growing in confidence really plays with its narrative structure; the audience skips three days in the same way the characters do, and have to fill in the blanks alongside them. All of the different mysteries – Lister and Cat’s broken legs, torn diary pages and surfboard-sized footprints – end up falling into place as perfectly as the pieces of Lister’s jigsaw. Along the way, both Chris and Craig are on fine form, their characters’ relationship beginning to thaw as they learn more about each other, thanks to a misguided but well-intentioned act of kindness from Lister to Rimmer. It’s unusual, compelling and now seemingly returning to its previous categorisation as an under-rated gem. Interestingly, this one seems to be a prime example of how the collective opinion of one section of fandom doesn’t necessarily match the wider picture; correspondents who identified as G&T regulars put this safely in ninth place, but the non-regulars had it down in 15th.

11. Better Than Life

Up 1. Avg score: 8.253 (608 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Better Than LifeHaving seen its neighbouring episode come careering down the table, Better Than Life is one of the entries to take advantage, rising one place in its wake to come within smelling distance of the Top Ten. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the way its concept was expanded upon so comprehensively in the first two novels, this is nevertheless an iconic piece of Red Dwarf history, fondly remembered by hardcore fans and casual viewers alike. As with so many of the show’s early successes, it all revolves around Rimmer, with his reaction to his father’s death and the revelation of his horrendous childhood rounding his character out to be unrecognisable from the single-faceted antagonist from just a few episodes earlier. And that’s before we get to – surprisingly late in the episode – the crew entering the game itself and unveiling all the delights that a windswept Rhyl and a run-down hotel dining room have to offer. All the jokes that can be had from the guys’ outlandish fantasies play out before Rimmer’s mind rebels and the whole thing falls apart in a hugely enjoyable way. While perhaps a little lightweight compared to some of the episodes later on the list, and certainly compared to its novelisations, it’s a fun and pacey romp that lives long in the memory.

All of which means that the overall balance of our Top Ten has changed, with now only one representative from Series 2, whereas last time round the pie was equally divided between Series 2-V.

Pie chart showing the split of Top 10 episodes by series. Series 2 - 1; Series III - 2; Series IV - 2; Series V - 3; Series VI - 2

10. The Inquisitor

Up 2. Avg score: 8.297 (585 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from The InquisitorWe didn’t have to wait long to see which episode would replace Thanks For The Memory in the Top 10, with The Inquisitor expanding Series V’s stranglehold on the very top of the table. Two places gained for an episode whose reputation as continually grown over the years, appreciated now as one of the darker and grittier tales Red Dwarf ever told, but nevertheless another story that mines the majority of its humour from the idiosyncrasies of the characters at the show’s core. The self-judgement scene is a masterful showcase of the whole ensemble, each reacting uniquely and fittingly to their metaphysical inquisitions. The quality of the comedy is matched by the menacing nature of the villain; a threat that the episode takes very seriously, played so brilliantly by Jack Docherty, never veering into spoof territory. With a plot to rival any non-comedic sci-fi show you care to mention, The Inquisitor is a stunning example of Grant Naylor coming up with a concept that could easily form the basis of an entire series, but instead channelling it into just thirty minutes of exquisite comedy.

9. Dimension Jump

Up 1. Avg score: 8.413 (588 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from Dimension JumpThe original appearance of Red Dwarf‘s most frequently recurring alter ego (if you don’t count Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg or the Dibbleyfier app), and still categorically the best. Dimension Jump jumps up one place to consolidate its position of one of the show’s finest half-hours. As with so many of the higher ranking character-based episodes, it’s another Rimmer-centric one, his backstory having been sufficiently fleshed out by now to base a story around the what-if scenario of his childhood playing out differently. Chris Barrie clearly has a fantastic time as Ace, both him and Howard Goodall inspired by Top Gun in their work here. After some all too brief glimpses of tantalising alternative versions of the rest of the crew, Ace comes crashing into our universe and gives Chris the opposite brief as our Arnold, becoming increasingly twisted and jealous over his new counterpart. Ace’s universe would be examined in much more detail in the novel Backwards, with mixed results, but nothing can match the impact made by this episode, inspiring multiple sequels as well as one of the most iconic t-shirts of the early-to-mid-90s.

8. White Hole

Down 2. Avg score: 8.430 (593 votes) Best Series IV episode

Random Smegadrive still from White HoleMeanwhile, the closest we ever get to a Hattie’s-Holly-centric episode, White Hole drops a couple of places but still holds the title of the best from Series IV. From start to finish, it’s awash with all-time-great scenes, from the glorious return of the Toaster, now regenerated into David Ross, to the famous “what is it?” scene, to the exemplary playing pool with planets. It’s the middle of those that’s undoubtedly the standout moment, of the episode and probably the entirety of Series IV. Rivalling Future Echoes‘s double Rimmer scene for the cleverness of the dialogue, enhanced by having the full ensemble take part. The episode is a rare example of an idea that originated in the novels being adapted into the TV series rather than the other way round, and an even rarer feat of the filmed version easily surpassing the prose version in terms of depth and quality. Ideas that sprawl across various sections of the Better Than Life novel are condensed and polished into a tight half hour of exceptional finesse. No longer quite up there with the very very best, but one of those that would probably be the best of any other sitcom that managed to match it.

7. Polymorph

Up 2. Avg score: 8.529 (607 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from PolymorphLeapfrogging White Hole in the table is Polymorph, the show’s first foray into what would later be dubbed the “monster of the week” formula – often used in a pejorative way when discussing the show’s development, but clearly a winning strategy when it produces episodes like this. Part Alien parody, part excuse to let the cast loose on alternative versions of their characters, it’s a fine balance of the show’s trademark character comedy combined with blockbuster action. The various methods used by the eponymousmorph to pick off each of its victims are great fun, and the resultant alterations caused by removing an emotion from each are inventive and hilarious, as well as providing an element of psychological musing on the role that so-called “negative” emotions can have in keeping the human psyche balanced. Plus of course, it contains the scene which would no doubt top a poll to find Red Dwarf‘s best moment as opposed to best episode – the shrinking boxers have become legendary for the tales of how long Chris Barrie had to stand there looking shocked while the audience calmed down, and of keeping Doug Naylor chuckling all the way out of the edit suite, into the pizza shop and back again.

6. Legion

Up 2. Avg score: 8.569 (591 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from LegionIf there’s a single line that’s synonymous with Red Dwarf – our equivalent of “don’t tell him Pike” or “small, far away” – it’s the lightbulb gag from Legion. Rob Grant once cited the first ten minutes of this episode as his favourite bit of Red Dwarf ever, and it’s easy to see why; it’s the most snappy, gag-packed, relentless onslaught of one-liners that the show ever produced, with both writers and cast really hitting their stride in bringing Series VI’s new ethos to life. And while the foot is taken off the gas for a more sedate second and third acts, there’s still no shortage of comedy, from Rimmer trying to buy Legion’s light switch, to the crew’s attempts at using anti-matter chopsticks, to the escape plan of Kryten knocking everyone the fuck out one-by-one. Once again, the episode has at its heart a sci-fi concept that’s used to shed new light on our characters’ personalities and motivations, and it’s an encounter that irrevocably changes one of them, with Rimmer gaining a hard light drive and no longer having intangibility as a defining characteristic. Legion himself perhaps surprisingly made it all the way to the final of the Guest Character World Cup we ran a few years back, and is another impressive string to this episode’s bow. Always bubbling under in previous polls, a leap of two places sees it come so close to breaking the Top 5, coming within 0.007 average points of pulling it off.

5. Queeg

Non-mover. Avg score: 8.576 (623 votes) Best Series 2 episode

Random Smegadrive still from QueegBut it couldn’t quite dislodge Queeg, the now thoroughly undisputed highlight of the second series, and the crowning glory of both Holly as a character, and of any of Norman Lovett’s stints on the show. With a status quo of characters only just having been established, Rob and Doug threaten to change things up a couple of episodes early, and it’s a measure of how much the audience values Holly at this stage that the prospect of the character being removed is a genuine affront – we know now that Red Dwarf can very much be a success without Norman and Holly, but it must have been unimaginable in 1988, after the role got much more prominent and much funnier throughout Series 2. Holly could have carried this episode on his own, but it just so happens to be graced by one of the best guest performances the show has ever had, the peerless Charles Augins making a lasting impression, with Queeg’s bureaucratic version of villainy creating all manner of unpleasant but hilarious situations for the characters. Of course, it turns out that Holly was carrying the episode all along, with an ending that on paper is a hackneyed cop-out, but somehow totally works, even though it was the result of Rob and Doug writing themselves into a corner and having no idea how to get out of it. Sometimes Red Dwarf is planned meticulously at every stage, at other times it’s made up on the fly, but both approaches are equally capable of producing stunning results.

As you’ll no doubt have noticed, Queeg is a non-mover, having popped into the Top 5 for the Pearl Poll and stayed there once more. So for the third poll in a row, the top four episodes are exactly the same. The Silver Survey and The Pearl Poll even had them in the exact same order – Quarantine, then Gunmen, then Marooned, then Back To Reality on top. Even with a brand new polling method, and after some interesting and unexpected changes elsewhere in the chart, are we in for another huge anti-climax?

4. Marooned

Down 2. Avg score: 8.809 (601 votes) Best Series III episode

Random Smegadrive still from MaroonedHell no. This one is a total shock – it was no surprise whatsoever that it held on to its runners up spot last time, and now here it is without even a podium finish. And yet it’s clearly one of the best half hours of comedy this country has ever produced. A (mostly) two-hander of exceptional quality, performed by two actors who had grown to fully inhabit their roles, from the pens of two writers at the peak of their powers. It’s often been noted that Marooned would make an excellent stage play, because aside from the trappings of deep space and flaming asteroids, it’s just two characters, stuck together, chatting away to pass the time. It’s Red Dwarf at its rawest, eschewing the concept-driven formula that the show mostly stuck to between Series III and VII, in favour of a deep dive into the psyches of its two central characters. It gives us Rimmer being Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch, the tales of how the pair lost their virginities, Lister’s duplicity in secretly burning Rimmer’s trunk instead of his guitar, and his subsequent guilt when Rimmer responds with warmth and admiration. Plus a comedy set piece in which a character eats dog food, plus it gave rise to the word “awooga”, which due to a complicated sequence of events ended up becoming a catchphrase for the 1990s’ most popular Saturday night game show.

It’s hard to see where it’s gone wrong in this poll, other than simply not doing as well as some of the other candidates for best ever episode – you can see from the average scores that there’s a distinct leap in quality between fifth and fourth, with these remaining episodes simply on a whole other level of brilliance compared to the rest.

3. Quarantine

Up 1. Avg score: 8.958 (595 votes)

Random Smegadrive still from QuarantineAnd it’s ANOTHER change in position towards the top. Yes, the top four are a league apart, but within that mini-bubble it’s more competitive than ever. Quarantine takes the bronze medal for the first time, following a period in our lifetimes where its setting felt more relatable than we would ever have expected it to. What we wouldn’t have given for a crochet magazine and a wallpapering video in 2020, or even the excitement of a member of our household going insane and threatening us all with a psychotic penguin. The visual icons of Quarantine have always been a high watermark in the show’s history, with Mr Flibble becoming a much more popular and recognisable figure than a glove puppet that appears on screen for all of five minutes has any right to be, along with the classic gingham dress and army boots that padded out many a Dimension Jump fancy dress competition in the days before cosplay was taken more seriously.

Then there’s the luck virus, functioning as both a plot device and a comedy goldmine, the brief but unforgettable appearance of Maggie Steed as Professor Lanstrom, and Kryten getting a medium-sized fireaxe buried in his spiral column. It’s an unrelenting display of sheer quality, backed up by yet another virtuoso performance by Chris Barrie, along with the rest of the ensemble firing on all cylinders. With the show in perhaps the finest run of form it ever managed, it’s easy to overlook Quarantine when it stands in the shadow of the episode that came along two weeks later, but at any other point in the show’s history, this would have been extremely tough to beat.

Just two episodes to reveal. You’ve already figured out which ones they are. Back To Reality and Gunmen of the Apocalypse. The only episodes ever to have won polls on this scale, whether conducted by the Smegazine, Better Than Life or Ganymede & Titan. Back To Reality has never before failed to win a G&T poll, but then again Pete (Part Two) has never before failed to come bottom. Everything is topsy-turvy. The perpetual runner-up is down in fourth. The usual fourth-best ep is up in third. Is this it? Is this the moment that we finally, against all odds, see the crown wrestled from Back To Reality for the first time since 1997?

2. Gunmen of the Apocalypse

Up 1. Avg score: 9.109 (603 votes) Best Series VI episode

Random Smegadrive still from Gunmen of the ApocalypseNo, but it was a lot of fun finding out. Honestly, the top two were so close during the voting process. There were a good few days at the start where the positions would swap around with practically every vote we received. Eventually it settled down and Back To Reality stayed on top, but the margins remained incredibly fine. There were only two episodes to achieve a final average ranking above 9, and in the end they were separated by exactly 0.01 points. This would have been unthinkable at one stage, and while Gunmen ultimately only rose one place, that is no mean feat at this stage in proceedings, and represents a huge leap in reputation over the last five years. And considering it’s Red Dwarf‘s most decorated episode within the industry itself, winning both a British Comedy Award for Best BBC Comedy and an International Emmy for Best Popular Arts, its standing was already pretty bloody high.

Undoubtedly a format-breaker, Gunmen delights in presenting us with multiple Artificial Reality alternatives to the mundanity of deep space, opening with a film noir before transporting us to Laredo, the show making use of an existing Wild West replica town in the heart of Kent to produce an episode that BBC2 Head of Entertainment Janet Street-Porter criticised as unfilmable based on the script, only to be informed that they’d already recorded it. Each of the cast clearly has a whale of a time as their cowboy counterparts, and it’s perhaps Danny’s Riviera Kid that grabs most of the headlines, not least with the trick shot that keeps Sheriff Kryten in town in the most exquisite slapstick fashion. Ultimately, it’s a tale of this band of brothers sticking together to fight a common enemy, working as a team to overcome the odds, demonstrating the unique bond that more casual viewers of the show tend to miss amongst all the bickering and insults. That’s why the gimmick of Gunmen hasn’t grown old in the last thirty years – despite the attention-grabbing trappings, it’s a story of friendship at heart.

And so, before we complete the formality of reiterating Back To Reality‘s dominance, let’s pause for a deeper dive into some of the more interesting titbits from our big spreadsheet of voting data…

We usually like to start by taking a look at how many people picked each episode as either their favourite or least favourite of the lot. With the new voting method, we can’t do that this time, but we can see how many times each episode was given the maximum or minimum score…

Most 10/10 Ratings

  • 1. Back to Reality (355)
  • 2. Gunmen of the Apocalypse (334)
  • 3. Quarantine (269)
  • 4. Marooned (257)
  • 5. Queeg (218)
  • 6. Polymorph (180)
  • 7. Dimension Jump (164)
  • 8. White Hole (157)
  • 9. Legion (155)
  • 10. Thanks For The Memory (136)

Most 1/10 Ratings

  • 1. Timewave (113)
  • 2. Pete (Part Two) (91)
  • 3. Krytie TV (83)
  • 4. Pete (Part One) (63)
  • 5. Back To Earth (Part Three) (43)
  • 6. Back In The Red (Part Three) (40)
  • 7. Back To Earth (Part Two) (39)
  • 8. Back To Earth (Part One) (36)
  • 9. Back In The Red (Part Two) (32)
  • 10. Only The Good… (29)

Well, the top five is identical to the main table, so we’ll skip past that to note that it starts varying wildly from then on, with Legion dropping to ninth, the two Series IV episodes swapping round, and Thanks For The Memory sneaking back into the Top 10 at the expense of The Inquisitor. Down at the other end of the scale, my main takeaway is wishing that most of the least popular episodes of Red Dwarf didn’t start with the word “Back”. We can see that Krytie TV got far more minimum scores than Pete (Part One), despite being above it in the main table, and that the order of those various Back episodes is completely higgledy-piggledy. It’s clear to see from both charts which episodes provoke the most extreme reactions, and which are in their positions despite being nobody’s absolute most or least favourite.

Our next interesting alternative tables are provided by comparing the results of those who told us they were G&T regulars, and those who told us they weren’t…

G&T Regulars Top 10

  • 1. Back to Reality (9.332)
  • 2. Marooned (9.158)
  • 3. Gunmen of the Apocalypse (9.109)
  • 4. Quarantine (8.929)
  • 5. Queeg (8.863)
  • 6. Legion (8.754)
  • 7. White Hole (8.634)
  • 8. Out of Time (8.536)
  • 9. Thanks For The Memory (8.475)
  • 10. Dimension Jump (8.435)

Normal People Top 10

  • 1. Gunmen of the Apocalypse (9.369)
  • 2. Back To Reality (9.211)
  • 3. Quarantine (9.027)
  • 4. Marooned (8.762)
  • 5. Polymorph (8.670)
  • 6. Legion (8.640)
  • 7. Dimension Jump (8.538)
  • 8. Better Than Life (8.481)
  • 9. Queeg (8.440)
  • 10. Backwards (8.387)

Not that G&Ters are stuck in their ways or anything, but our Top 5 is identical to that of the Pearl Poll. So while the consensus round these parts hasn’t changed much in the last five years, it’s the wider community that have had a real impact on the Coral Canvass scores, even going as far as to put Gunmen at number one. The regulars here love Out of Time and Thanks For The Memory way more than average, while the normies would have Better Than Life and Backwards in the Top 10 if they had their way. Polymorph is fifth for non-regulars and way down in thirteenth for regulars, whereas it’s White Hole that would miss out on the Top 10 if not for the G&Ters’ vote. One thing that we can all agree on is that Legion is categorically the sixth best episode, the only entry to be in the same place in both of these tables and the main one.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the pile…

G&T Regulars Bottom 10

  • 65. Duct Soup (4.778)
  • 66. Beyond A Joke (4.777)
  • 67. Can of Worms (4.711)
  • 68. Only The Good… (4.279)
  • 69. Back In The Red (Part Two) (4.211)
  • 70. Back In The Red (Part Three) (3.878)
  • 71. Krytie TV (3.669)
  • 72. Pete (Part One) (3.333)
  • 73. Pete (Part Two) (2.983)
  • 74. Timewave (2.698)

Normal People Bottom 10

  • 65. Back In The Red (Part Three) (6.192)
  • 66. Beyond A Joke (6.159)
  • 67. Can of Worms (6.138)
  • 68. Krytie TV (5.803)
  • 69. Back To Earth (Part One) (5.698)
  • 70. Back To Earth (Part Two) (5.673)
  • 71. Pete (Part One) (5.645)
  • 72. Pete (Part Two) (5.576)
  • 73. Back To Earth (Part Three) (5.541)
  • 74. Timewave (5.440)

Ah, everyone hates Timewave, that’s reassuring. But note that G&Ters are much harsher with their scoring than non-regulars – even the very worst episode gets more than half marks from the wider fandom, whereas us lot barely give it a quarter. On the flipside, G&T regulars’ highest scores are generally slightly bigger than the others’, so I guess we just attract those with the strongest opinions either way. The biggest difference between the two tables above is that you won’t find a single part of Back To Earth on the G&T side, whereas the normies put Part Three below even the dreaded Petes. It’s the …in the Reds that we can’t stand, along with Only The Good… and Duct Soup taking Series IX’s place in the regulars’ bottom ten.

But the real story of any poll is how it compares to the previous one. Let’s look at which episodes made the biggest gains in league position, and which dropped the furthest down the table.

Biggest Gains in Position

  • 1. Emohawk: Polymorph II (up 7)
  • 2= Demons & Angels (up 6)
  • 2= Stoke Me A Clipper (up 6)
  • 4= Better Than Life (up 5)
  • 4= Psirens (up 5)
  • 6= Rimmerworld (up 4)
  • 6= Back In The Red (Part One) (up 4)
  • 8= Cassandra (up 3)
  • 8= Only The Good… (up 3)
  • 10= (eight episodes) (up 2)

Biggest Falls in Position

  • 1. M-Corp (down 8)
  • 2= Stasis Leak (down 6)
  • 2= Back To Earth (Part Three) (down 6)
  • 2= Can of Worms (down 6)
  • 2= Mechocracy (down 6)
  • 6= Future Echoes (down 5)
  • 6= Thanks For The Memory (down 5)
  • 6= Meltdown (down 5)
  • 9= (eight episodes) (down 4)

We can also see how each individual series fared compared to the Pearl Poll:

Total positions gained/lost by each series

  • 1. Series VI (+20)
  • 2. Series VIII (+9)
  • 3. Series V (+3)
  • 4. Series VII (+1)
  • 5= Series III (-3)
  • 5= Series X (-3)
  • 7= Series 2 (-5)
  • 7= Series VII (-5)
  • 9. Back To Earth (-12)
  • 10. Series 1 (-13)
  • 11. Series XI (-16)
  • 12. Series XII (-18)

That’s a really impressive performance from Series VI, the only series to see each and every episode improve its position on the Pearl Poll. Series VIII was also a big winner, and that’s not something we’ve said all that often over the years. Marginal differences poll-on-poll for the majority of series, though only four of the twelve made gains overall, the exceptional performance of Series VI leaving others losing places in its wake. Poor old Back To Earth and Series 1 both took substantial hits though, their standing in the oeuvre seeming to drop regularly every five years. And it’s no real surprise that Second Survey Syndrome is definitely a thing, with Series XI and XII suffering the heaviest losses now that they’re no longer our brand new bundles of pride and joy. But which episodes were hit the hardest, and which managed to buck the trend?

Total positions gained/lost by Series XI & XII episodes

  • 1. Cured (1)
  • 2= Samsara (0)
  • 2= Officer Rimmer (0)
  • 2= Skipper (0)
  • 5. Twentica (-1)
  • 6= Give & Take (-3)
  • 6= Krysis (-3)
  • 8= Siliconia (-4)
  • 8= Timewave (-4)
  • 10= Can of Worms (-6)
  • 10= Mechocracy (-6)
  • 12. M-Corp (-8)

It comes to something when the second best outcome you can hope for is merely to stay in the exact same place you were in last time. But still, congratulations to Cured on being the only episode from the two most recent full series to actually improve its standing the second time around, by a whole one place. On the flip side, it’s M-Corp that suffers the most – the biggest drop for any episode from any era. We’re really going to have to re-examine the reputations of some of these episodes, because hardly any of them have fared remotely well.

However, we’ve established that it was a fantastic poll for Series VI, but what does that mean for the Constructors Championship, ie how the series rank against each other? Will Series V fight off the competition to remain on top, and will Series VIII’s renaissance lift it off the bottom? The average points per episode per series is as follows:

Average points per episode per series

  • 1. Series V (8.412)
  • 2. Series VI (8.122)
  • 3. Series III (8.040)
  • 4. Series 2 (7.968)
  • 5. Series IV (7.910)
  • 6. The Promised Land (7.378)
  • 7. Series 1 (7.334)
  • 8. Series X (6.733)
  • 9. Series XI (6.530)
  • 10. Series XII (6.352)
  • 11. Series VII (6.262)
  • 12. Back To Earth (5.470)
  • 13. Series VIII (5.418)

There’s just no shaking Series V from the top of the pile, but that is indeed an extraordinary turnaround for Series VI – it was only the fifth best series according to the Pearl Poll, but it’s right up in second place now. Not much has changed elsewhere in the last five years, other than the Dave era series now being neatly aligned in chronological order – XI had the edge over X last time. But while it’s not exactly a like-for-like comparison, look how well The Promised Land does by this metric – easily beating the rest of the Dave era and even ranked higher than Series 1!

Similarly, as part of the survey we also asked participants what their favourite series overall was – will their responses match the statistics?

Favourite Series Results

  • 1. Series V (125 votes)
  • 2. Series VI (80)
  • 3. Series III (58)
  • 4. Series IV (45)
  • 5. Series 2 (41)
  • 6. Series 1 (20)
  • 7. Series VII (6)
  • 8. Series X (3)
  • 9. Series XI (3)
  • 10. Series XII (2)
  • 11. Back To Earth (1)
  • 12. Series VIII (0)

Fair play. We didn’t include The Promised Land as an option here for obvious reasons, but other than that the two tables are almost identical. Only two differences to note – Series 2 and IV are swapped round, but their points/votes are very close in both cases. More dramatically, Series VII leapfrogs the entire Dave era, and we wouldn’t have been surprised if the two charts were even more different to each other, given that a particular series isn’t necessarily equal to the sum of its parts. Variations in tone, visual quality, set design, character combinations and any other number of factors can contribute towards someone’s preferences, even if their individual episode ratings tell another story. Poor old Series VIII though. Even Back To Earth got one vote.

And finally, just for fun, let’s take a look at how the results of The Coral Canvass look in a big line graph, so that we can see how the quality of Red Dwarf rose, fell and rose again over the years.

Line graph depicting the Coral Canvass results

And for anyone with any lingering doubts about how the new methodology may or may not have skewed the results, check out how the general trend matches up across the last three polls:

Line graph depicting the Silver Survey, Pearl Poll and Coral Canvass results

So anyway, that was all a lot of fun, but we’re just delaying the inevitable. The big throne already has this episode’s arse groove thoroughly established, the crown fits perfectly, and it will probably reign as king for longer than the UK’s new monarch. Once again, the fans’ favourite episode of Red Dwarf of all time is…

1. Back To Reality

Non-mover. Avg score: 9.119 (599 votes) Best Series V episode

Random Smegadrive still from Back to RealityWhat more can be said about Back To Reality at this stage? After just shy of 600 votes, an average score of 9.119 is nothing short of phenomenal. More than half the people who rated this episode gave it a ten out of ten – 355 maximum scores, more than any other episode. There’s barely a single Red Dwarf fan who doesn’t absolutely adore this episode, with the richly detailed dystopia it creates absolutely dripping with potential, which unsurprisingly inspired more Smegazine comic strips than any other single source. The four alter egos it gives us are all striking and memorable in their own way, with the slow piecing together of the crew’s “real” personas in the recuperation lounge one of the show’s finest ever scenes. Guest actors of incredible pedigree in the form of Lenny Von Dohlen and Timothy Spall. An imaginary car chase, acted out on crates but played completely straight. A dark turn towards the end, with the crew seconds away from ending their own lives. Duane Dibbley’s teeth. Jake Bullet’s mid-digit. Billy Doyle’s eau de yak urine. Sebastian Doyle’s ponytail. Comedy. Peril. Drama. Existential crises. Metafiction. This episode has everything.

But best of all, and most of all, it’s all about those four characters. The Despair Squid is a very clever opponent; it doesn’t make it obvious to its victims that they’re in an hallucination by making their lives unbearable immediately, instead it takes its time to chip away at the fundamentals of each character’s sense of self-worth, inducing a deeply personalised attack of despair by making them believe they’re someone they’re not. But it’s not The Despair Squid that’s doing this in real life – it’s Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the twin genuises behind the show who created such a fantastic set of characters, built a whole universe around them, and then took great delight in deconstructing it all for our entertainment.

With the current status and future of Red Dwarf so uncertain, it’s worth reflecting on what makes it the masterpiece it is. It isn’t a vastly detailed sci-fi universe like Star Trek or Star Wars. It doesn’t play with all of time and space like Doctor Who, it doesn’t combine the fantastical with the everyday like Harry Potter or the MCU, and it’s not an epic fantasy like the works of Tolkien, Martin or Pratchett. It’s something much more fundamental than that – it’s about the people. Regardless of what century they’re from or what crazy adventures they find themselves in, or even what species they are, these are ordinary people just trying to make it through the day and get on with their lives. That’s why it has such a special place in the hearts of its most devoted fans; it’s about us.

From The End to The Promised Land, this is a programme all about Dave Lister and Arnold Rimmer – two complicated, flawed but well-meaning individuals, trapped together by fate, learning to get along. There’s more to it than that, and of course Cat, Kryten and (at times) Holly are huge factors in its success too, but all the very best episodes have one thing in common – regardless of the plot, regardless of the setting, regardless of the big sci-fi concept or monster of the week, it’s fundamentally a character comedy. And it may have had its ups and downs over the years, its peaks and troughs in quality and consistency, but the appeal of this particular set of characters has not diminished one iota in thirty-five years.

Regardless of what the future brings (if anything), Red Dwarf will never die. The communities, friendships and relationships that it’s inspired will outlive us all. Happy anniversary, everyone – and a toast to all the talented, hard-working people who brought this extraordinary programme to life. Thank you.

The Coral Canvass was brought to you by Ganymede & Titan. Article written by Ian Symes. Development and design by Jonathan Capps. Graphics by Danny Stephenson. Images powered by The Smega-Drive. Special thanks to every single one of you who took part. Don’t miss further analysis in our Coral Canvass Livestream Spectacular, tonight from 9pm!

100 comments on “The Coral Canvass Results

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  • Don’t read it too quickly – it’s been such an epic undertaking that I’m currently only halfway through proof-reading it. I’m banking on being able to finish doing so before anyone catches up, but don’t be alarmed if things suddenly change when you refresh the page.

  • Nice to see Krytie TV sinking. It’s got a shot at the bottom some year.  It’s a contender. 

    Beyond a joke is better than duct soup though you’re all wrong. I look forward to seeing in 5 years if The Promised Land holds onto top 36 status as last shout Red Dwarf or loses this place when less in modern memory or fingers crossed surpassed by something new.  The wider world seems ever more catching up with the idea ive had for years which is series 1 hadn’t hit it’s stride and looked increasingly like the tackiest old tv tat, at least it lacks rewatch value that series 2 onwards nailed until VII. 

  • Don’t read it too quickly – it’s been such an epic undertaking that I’m currently only halfway through proof-reading it. I’m banking on being able to finish doing so before anyone catches up, but don’t be alarmed if things suddenly change when you refresh the page.

    Coming soon:  The Coral Canvas re-collated. :-)

  • Fascinating to see where Promised Land wound up, I think in the 30s makes good sense!

    And well done to everyone for getting Timewave relegated to last place where it deserves to be! :-) After having read Robs ‘Incompetence’ recently, it only made Timewave seem even worse for me! 

  • (the odd shot of a ceiling on a supposedly outdoor street aside)

    And my mark on history is made. A pleasant read, as always, my congratulations to the pollrunners.

  • the average age was just under 37 and a half

    I’m the most average fan ever.

    Loving the return of editorialising after the Pearl Poll write-up was more strictly stat-based. Probably right that it’s not needed every single poll.

    Interesting that the bottom of the list starts from an average of 4, then just hits 9 at the end. (Ah, it turns out the ‘Normal People’ are using the old IMDb scale where just showing up and pointing cameras is considered acceptable).

    Eight episodes in before I realised these were probably randomly generated screencaps. Any way to algorithm out the end credits?

    Not going to bother arguing about the fair fandom appraisal, except that on seeing “52. Waiting For God” I let out a “you fucking cunts” that woke the cat.

    Fitting that some similar episodes ended up ranking side by side (Terrorform/Rimmerworld, Stasis Leak/Timeslides).

    I did a big lol after that build-up to the top 2, tensely scrolling down to avoid seeing the banner colour. More than half of votes for an episode being 10/10 is well impressive.

  • Fascinating results and an excellent write-up! Great work all round, guys. Took me a moment to get what you did with the Officer Rimmer entry.

    Most notable details for me:

    – Glad to see Krytie TV drop, but it definitely deserved to be bottom. I guess considering the 1/10 scores for it, it was down to the fact that people who find it offensive really hate it, but a lot of other people just consider it along the same lines as Series VIII overall. I just about agree that Timewave is worse than Pete though.

    – I was hoping the Dave era would improve its score, but instead it did much worse. Bit of a shame. Especially for M-Corp, which is bizarre in how low it ranks, even just relative to the rest of the Dave era.

    – Good and correct that Stasis Leak got its dressing down, but if there were any justice Parallel Universe would have beaten it. Stasis Leak was the only episode of the Grant/Naylor era to get as low as a 4 from me.

    – I wasn’t so naive as to expect that the wider fan community would come around to my strong dislike of Stoke Me a Clipper, but equally I wasn’t expecting it to actually improve its rank by so much! In terms of Series VII overall, Epideme and Duct Soup deserved to do better. Epideme in particular turned out to be my favourite of the series in the recent rewatch.

    – Demons & Angels doing so much better than Terrorform is genuinely shocking. The rewatch actually made me appreciate why D&A has a history of being ranked lowly in polls. I gave it a 6 IIRC, a whole 2 points worse than the 2nd worst episode in the series.

    – Very pleasing to see The Inquisitor in the top 10, as it’s one of those episodes which I know has flaws, but I love it too much to dock it any points. The upper half of Series V did well for me, because all 3 of my 10/10s made the top 10.

    – Balance of Power and Waiting for God doing worse than any Series VII or VIII episodes is an actual CRIME. I demand an investigation.

    – The rise of Series VI is a little surprising, because I assumed that Emohawk (and to a lesser extent Rimmerworld) would have dragged it down. Emohawk in particular went down in my estimation recently and was the only Grant/Naylor episode other than Stasis Leak to score under a 6 from me.

    – Back to Earth’s result was harsh, because I’d watch BtE over any episode of Series VIII (maybe excepting Cassandra) any day of the week. It was also unexpected that Part I did so much better than the other two Parts, because I gave Parts II and III a full 2 points more than Part I.

    – Marooned controversially “only” getting 4th feels spot on to me. It’s undeniably one of the best half hours of comedy ever produced, but its focus on just Lister and Rimmer means it’s not quite quintessential Dwarf, which is something all of the top 3 definitely are.

    – Very nice to see The Promised Land comfortably in the Top 36 bubble. It’s probably my favourite episode from the Dave era, even if the Dave era tops out at 9/10.

    – The Last Day didn’t come first, survey invalid.

  • Loving the return of editorialising after the Pearl Poll write-up was more strictly stat-based.

    I’m glad this came across, because I re-read the Pearl Poll before writing this, and discovered it was fucking dull as dishwater. I can only apologise on behalf of my five-years-ago self.

  • Were the images selected by mashing the ‘random’ button on the Smega Drive and using the first one you got from each episode?

  • Honestly baffled at every single big mover there. The normies who turned up in droves this year are quite clearly all plebs. 

    Really, given the larger number of less obsessive fans, it turned out largely as I would have expected. VI is very fondly remembered by a lot of people as a series of classic moments and lots of gags, whereas here it gets an unusually negative response due to the lack of pathos and character stuff, so I had a feeling it would do particularly well this time. Similarly BtE is so much more Dwarfy than VIII with some superb character stuff that makes it much more fondly considered here than the average person’s reaction of it being that weird one with Coronation Street and no jokes. The Refresh for the Memory threads seemed to have some traction in the direction of Kochanski-VII actually being better than previously considered, with episodes like Epideme and Beyond a Joke actually being fairly conventional Dwarf for the most part, but I suppose that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the 700 people who took part. I would be interested in seeing how the series did for G&T regulars, though, to see if those episodes moved at all. Thanks for the Memory is clearly a top ten, nay top five worthy episode, but it’s not one that has a moment that would stick in many people’s memories. 

    A couple of things did baffle me: the drop for M-Corp is insane, the biggest wtf in there, and BtE part 3 being the lowest of IX when it’s probably the funniest and most moving of the three. 

    All in all though, sterling work, a very enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to this evening. Happy birthday Red Dwarf!

  • Were the images selected by mashing the ‘random’ button on the Smega Drive and using the first one you got from each episode?

    Hit refresh.

  • OH THAT’S CLEVER. I got quite a few end credits shots the first time round which seemed odd (only one this time though)

  • #JusticeForMCorp

    My hopes that Holoship would break into the Top 10 crushed again.

    But a good read and largely reasonable results. Thoughts and prayers to those who had to go for a lie down after ranking The End.

  • A very interesting read and well done to everyone who helped to put the list together.

    My one comment about the rankings would be that Series One was robbed. I understand that it isn’t the prettiest and that it isn’t always the fastest moving, but there is some great writing and some wonderful character stuff.

  • I spent the first ten or so entries trying to work out how the screencaps had been chosen – was there a theme of choosing the least remarkable moments from each episode, I wondered? Then I checked the alt-text, which made me think of hitting refresh.

    I know Ian said in the voting closure post that no entries had been discounted for obvious trolling, but were there any noteworthy individual sets of votes that stuck out thanks to patterns in their scores?

    How many voters made use of the full 1-10 range, and how many stuck to a small subset like 6-10? (The “IMDb scale”, as Warbodog puts it!)

    I’m also wondering if there’s any correlation between when someone first started watching the programme, and what scores they awarded – did people tend to give a boost to the first series they watched upon becoming a fan? I think that’s the case for me: part of the reason I still have a fonder view of Stores VII than a lot of fans is that those were the first episodes I saw new, on first broadcast.

  • Oh, the image randomisation is brilliant!

    You know, in 2018 I celebrated the anniversary by watching the worst, best and mediocre-est episodes as decided by the Pearl Poll (Pete Part II, Back to Reality, and Confidence & Paranoia), as well as The End for the live DwarfCast.

    This time around, if I did the same thing, it would mean watching Timewave.

    I think it proves how much more correct of a worst episode it is that I instinctively don’t want to repeat that activity.

    Thoughts and prayers to those who had to go for a lie down after ranking The End.

    They took the title too literally.

  • I think I like the fact that Red Dwarf being a show that started by calling it’s first episode The End, and later sort of did a whole show backwards, and a show where the actors voices swapped, managed to Smeg up and make a show about criticism the genuine worst voted episode.  I don’t think they were trying to.  I almost agree it’s worse than my nemesis of dullness duct soup. But then I genuinely like Johnny Vegas and Joe sim’s Tut. So I’ll maybe just concede that Timewave is worse than Duct Soup is with the Extended with the squeaky Gibson it, and keep those as my lowest ranked shows. 

  • The Random smegadrive episode pics are a clever touch, but I had genuinely convinced myself that you had just chosen some kind of pictures to denote low place rankings, when i read the first five or so subtitles, they seemed like genuine comments on crapness of episode until I worked out it was more random. 

  • I’m not done reading yet. However this just struck me, regarding Beyond a Joke 

    Kryten blowing up the Bennett sisters with a big tank, quickly followed by his head exploding, provides a memorable and attention-grabbing first act, but then the episode rapidly descends into tedium.

    has it ever been mentioned how the Robert L written parts at the start are genuinely better than the stuff Doug clearly add in the re-writes?

    Because it’s Doug’s stuff we most have issues with isn’t it. Bobby’s general idea and the set up goes quite well until then.

  • Thanks for the Memory is clearly a top ten, nay top five worthy episode, but it’s not one that has a moment that would stick in many people’s memories. 

    I was going to make a similar comment when airing my bafflement at its 5 place drop. There is the obvious caveat that it’s my favourite episode, so I’m biased, but yes… maybe it doesn’t have the type of ‘hook’ that would lead a less obsessive ‘normie’ to recall and rate it so highly. It’s notable that the entry for it makes a point of the disparity between the regular/non-regulars scores.

    Still… FIVE places.

  • If only Out of Time had been a non-mover, the screencap I got on this page refresh would have been perfect for it:

    Also, on this page refresh, the image I got for Polymorph (“screw you, hadron-head!”) was exactly the same as the one I got when I first read through the list earlier.

  • Good stuff guys, hard work much appreciated. 

    How many voters made use of the full 1-10 range, and how many stuck to a small subset like 6-10? (The “IMDb scale”, as Warbodog puts it!)

    The lowest mark I gave was 4. That was for Timewave, though, obviously. 5s and 6s were employed for much of VII, VIII and BtE, most of Dave era Dwarf getting 6s and 7s from me.

    I gave 10s to Future Echoes (pos: 16), Thanks for the Memory (12), Queeg (5), Marooned [always top of my personal list] (4) and Quarantine (3).

    And my own marks for the final Top 10:

    1. Back To Reality: 9

    2. Gunmen of the Apocalypse: 8

    3. Quarantine: 10

    4. Marooned: 10

    5. Queeg: 10

    6. Legion: 7

    7. Polymorph: 8

    8. White Hole: 9

    9. Dimension Jump: 8

    10. The Inquisitor: 9

    So that just shows that 35 years in, I know smeg all about what fans like. 

  • I like si’s idea, so I’ll contribute to the clutter.

    1. Back To Reality: 9

    2. Gunmen of the Apocalypse: 10

    3. Quarantine: 10

    4. Marooned: 8

    5. Queeg: 8

    6. Legion: 7

    7. Polymorph: 7

    8. White Hole: 10

    9. Dimension Jump: 10

    10. The Inquisitor: 9

  • The biggest smile just spread across my face when I realised the refresh button changed the images. Guys, we made it. You’ve been bringing joy to my life since the 2008 Top 51 episodes and I thank you. I’ll see you on YouTube in a bit waaay past my bedtime (I’m in Texas but I work nights)

  • Top stuff. Solid top 10 – minus Thanks for the Memory?! Some people need to resit their Astronavigation exams. On a side note I was looking for an old YouTube video that was done by someone for the 25th Anniversary / Series X launch (I think!) which took clips from Series 1-8 and made them into an awesome song. All I can remember is it started with “Feckles, heckles, hackles, schmeckles”…..Anyone have a clue what I’m on about! and if it exists? Or am I space crazy.

  • On a side note I was looking for an old YouTube video that was done by someone for the 25th Anniversary / Series X launch (I think!) which took clips from Series 1-8 and made them into an awesome song. All I can remember is it started with “Feckles, heckles, hackles, schmeckles”…..Anyone have a clue what I’m on about! and if it exists? Or am I space crazy.

    Noise from the Dwarf.

  • What a guy! Thanks man

    On a side note I was looking for an old YouTube video that was done by someone for the 25th Anniversary / Series X launch (I think!) which took clips from Series 1-8 and made them into an awesome song. All I can remember is it started with “Feckles, heckles, hackles, schmeckles”…..Anyone have a clue what I’m on about! and if it exists? Or am I space crazy.

    Noise from the Dwarf.

  • That was an absolutely tremendous write-up, fan-smegging-tastic!

    I wasn’t here for previous polls but as I mentioned previously in another thread, rating how ‘good’ episodes are felt very different to me than trying to rank in order of preference; my personal favourites are not necessarily all ones I would mark 10/10.  My scores were all mostly in the 7-10s for the bubble era, and dropped down to 6/5/4 for really not great/pretty bad episodes, but I did make some use of 2s and 3s where justified (for a select few terrible and/or offensive episodes – only 3 of those out of 74, not bad going!).

    My scores for the top ten:

    1. Back To Reality: 10

    2. Gunmen of the Apocalypse: 10

    3. Quarantine: 10

    4. Marooned: 10

    5. Queeg: 10

    6. Legion: 10

    7. Polymorph: 8

    8. White Hole: 9

    9. Dimension Jump: 8

    10. The Inquisitor: 8

    And where my other 10s ended up: Psirens (18), Me² (19), Kryten (20), The Last Day (26).

    My brain’s not just foggy but a pea souper after all that reading so I shall leave it there.  Congratulations to you guys for putting this piece together, and a smegging HUGE congratulations to everyone involved in bringing such a beloved show into our hearts. 
    35 years and still wonderfully popular, that’s quite a feat.
    ♫ … androids have fee-lings toooo. ♫♩
  • Been playing a little bit of spreadsheets with this today, and got my most underrated/overrated episodes.

    Most underrated: I gave Back to Earth Part III a 10, a whole 4.5 ahead of the average. Balance of Power, Give & Take, and Trojan all being 10s for me also separated me from popular opinion by more than 3 points.

    Most overrated: My 2 for Emohawk – Polymorph II put me below fan placement by 5.4. Where some people find it good before all that rather unfortunate emohawk business, I can’t even get into the opening, none of it’s terribly interesting to me. Others I’m 4+ points below popular opinion on are Demons & Angels (3), Back in the Red Parts II and III (both 1s), and Krytie TV (1 as well).

    I was only exactly in line with the poll average (after rounding, so within half a point) on 10 episodes: Me², Parallel Universe, The Last Day, Legion, Blue, Epideme, Lemons, Twentica, Krysis, and Can of Worms.

  • More silly little finds – average scores for all credited writers and directors of Red Dwarf.


    1. Rob Grant (7.945)

    2. Doug Naylor (7.040)

    3. Kim Fuller (6.373)

    4. James Hendrie (5.795)

    5. Paul Alexander (5.723) (absolutely riding on Stoke, take that out he’s at the bottom)

    6. Robert Llewellyn (5.595) (poor guy)


    1. Rob Grant (8.532)

    2. Paul Jackson (8.430)

    3. Juliet May (8.167)

    4. Ed Bye (7.024)

    5. Doug Naylor (6.754)

  • Series 1, dear me. I was dismayed by how badly it did in the PP, never mind this time. The problem with democracy is that every silly normy gets a vote.

    Excellent analysis but in the ‘Total positions gained/lost by each series’ table there are two Series VIIs, one of which should be IV.

    Really enjoyed the livestream tonight as well and LOLed at Cappsy’s impromptu takeover as host :) 

  • Thanks for the Memory deserved better than this. Also what crazy people were consistently ranking Series X above XI / XII?!

  • I’m kinda disappointed and just how safe all those results feel. Things were shook a bit but it doesn’t feel like much. And there being this clear series 1-6/ followed by Dave era/ followed by VII, VIII, BTE divide feels a bit too obvious too.

    I think there are definitely Dave era episodes that stand alongside BBC era and are in every way just as good as those top 36.  Many Dave era episodes are in my top 36, two are my top 10 and one is my favourite ever.

    We talk about recency bias but there’s clearly a nostalgia bias for those original 36.  Cracks are given more of a pass for various reason than later episode.  Later episodes seem to have to justify themselves more.  And I think many of the complaints of Dave era come down to production quality which we absolutely ignore for BBC era.  So when it comes to ranking episodes they’re pushed down the list unfairly a bit.

    That all said, I’m in a minority that think Thanks for the Memory is the worst of II and Waiting for God is at least top 3 of I, so what do I know.

  • Agree with Capps on the livestream that the inevitable graph trend even when using different approaches and sample sizes was slightly spooky. It’s like when Charlie can’t avoid dying in Lost or Eternal Fun Fun Funshine.

  • We talk about recency bias but there’s clearly a nostalgia bias for those original 36.  Cracks are given more of a pass for various reason than later episode

    That’s the thing about nostalgia, it gives us warm fuzzies about what we perceive as our ‘good ol’ days’. I imagine it takes a very ordered and clinical (emotionless?) mind to make completely objective judgements on things without allowing any nostalgic influence whatsoever.

  • Nostalgia’s a valid metric when you’re celebrating your favourite show getting older. There are also all those ingredients like atmosphere, chemistry, sound and visuals, ever-increasing retro charm and everything else that makes the classic years so classic and endlessly watchable. I’ll get more out of rewatching a middling older episode every few years than an impressive Dave episode like M-Corp with its cold lighting, uneven performances and desperate back references.

    The mix being off also makes the primordial series 1’s unpopularity understandable, I just really love that more desolate take.

  • Firstly, I feel bad for Back To Earth. It was very poor but unlike some of the worst moments of Red Dwarf, it’s not outright offensive or cringe-inducingly poor. It’s just not very funny and not very interesting. The acting was good, the premise wasn’t too bad, the characterisation felt right, decent script. It just missed the mark in the realms of being entertaining or funny or exciting in any meaningful way other than it being “New Dwarf” at the time.

    I don’t know why exactly one could possibly feel sorry for 3 episodes of a TV show but I do. I pity Back To Earth and the unfortunate nature of its very existence.

    Waiting for God and Balance of Power! Lets get real now, I know it’s popular to slag off these episodes but to rank Cassandra higher is an atrocity. We’re in danger of going too far the other way and disregarding brilliant Bubble episodes purely because they aren’t to the standard of other bubble episodes. Cassandra might be the best of VIII but its still nonsense as an episode and nowhere near even the Bubbles lowest moments.

    Timewave on the scrapheap. Far and away the worst. Pete Part 1 and 2 look like The Sopranos in comparison. I’ve only seen Timewave 3 times and I really think I’ll never watch it again. The only episode of Red Dwarf I can say that about.

    Fathers & Suns may not be popular but it deserves to be round about where it is. The summation on there is absolutely perfect and hits the nail on the head, so bravo. Without the “Chinese Whispers” subplot (if you can even call it a plot of any kind) and perhaps the annoying denti-bot, this episode would be looked upon as one of the best of Dave era. Everything else in this episode is top drawer Red Dwarf. The double Lister scene is funny but also shows his parent issues, his midlife crisis, the awkward way he has to psychologically project his desire for self-improvement into a father and son dynamic etc…

  • Doesn’t reflect the way I’ve ranked them but all of II through VI being represented in the top 36 feels like the right call.

    Personally, I found the scoring a lot harder than preference order. Just ended up dividing my previous polling into groups and putting those in preference order. The livestream reminded me of the not-Bast stone so maybe I wouldn’t have scored Tee Pee El as high had the attempted rewatch not fallen through, but that episode has a lot a heart going for it.

  • I can understand comments about nostalgia, but that is probably balanced up with recency bias.

    Personally, I don’t think most of the Dave episodes can really compare with Series I to VI. There are the issues of Chris and Robert not being the actors they once were and the production standards not being up to the same level, but mainly it comes down to the writing.

    There is a huge amount of innovation in those first six series and, to my mind, the writing in Waiting for God is so much more impressive than what we got in a really patchy sequel like Samsara.

  • Yeah, I think only M-Corp, Skipper and TPL would make the top 36 if I did them in order. Pretty much every Dave episode has at least one moment where I cringe at a genuinely appalling gag or Chris’s performance, which isn’t something that really happens in any of the bubble. 

  • First : Great job! Thank you for the time and energy needed to make this happen. 

    Second : Yay!!! *Dancing* *Dancing* I’m not the oldest respondent this time lol. 

    Third: Along with some others I’m stunned at M-Corp and especially , ESPECIALLY Waiting for Gods poor showings. WfG while not my favorite episode is way up there. 

    Plenty of winners and losers this time around but the real winners are us because we not only have a truly outstanding show to hold dear but ,lol, we also just got to re-watch them all :D

  • Technically anything five or above is doing okay.

    Ok….. I’ll give you that…. with a caveat. Waiting for God does such a humorous job skewering religion  as a whole I guess I feel like it should be higher. I’m in the U.S. and we are SO AWASH with religious nutjobs pushing their beliefs on us as a whole I tend to go the other way. Becoming more militantly atheist as I age too. The whackos here will destroy the world if they had their way. Kill us all so they can see god. Beware of the American christians as they are becoming more powerful each and every year. 

  • I can’t help but wonder if the first two Smeg-up compilation/VHS releases were included in the poll, whether they would rank higher than a lot of the Dave-era shows. Nostalgia and familiarity must play a part in the high esteem in which the first 6 series are held. I’d personally rather watch an hour of Chris cocking-up and morphing into Kenneth Williams or doing random David Coleman impressions than a double-header of most of the Dave-era stuff. But then I’m old and the modern world scares me…

  • Re: nostalgia, I don’t have any personal nostalgia for any of the episodes as I only fell in love with Dwarf very recently.  If it’s of interest, in the first six series my lowest score was a 7, and there are only three of those.  There is a clear drop for the Dave era – still some 9s but it seems the really good Dwarf material in most episodes is mixed with some either not great or downright naff material.  The best of Dave era, for me, is almost up there with the best of the bubble era … there’s just less of it per series, and too often is alongside tasteless gags/attitudes in the same ep that for me fall into the category of ‘really should have known better by now’.  (And VII-BTE are the lowest chunk of course.)

    E.g Father and Suns, had potential to be great (and I appreciated this time round how good a villain and how well acted Pree is) but was for me tainted by the stereotypical accents cropping up throughout – whereas if it had been a one-off like the R-word in Justice it would have been easier to not let it have much of an effect on scoring.

    I think the Dave era is characterised overall by still having some of the heart and depth of classic Dwarf, but is unfortunately just much less consistent.

    For scoring context I gave two episodes a 2, one 3, six 4s, five 5s, seven 6s, nine 7s, eighteen 8s, fourteen 9s and ten 10s.  So I don’t think I’m overly harsh scoring, but nor am I just casually going ‘this is Red Dwarf so it’s all great’.  I have no personal nostalgia for the original episodes, I didn’t have a TV until the early 2000s so there’s not nostalgia for generally watching TV in that era either – although I can’t completely discount nostalgia for the idea of ‘the way things were’, knowing how BBC sitcoms were made and the charm of the sets, proper model shots, etc.

    My voice is but one amonst hundreds though. I wonder if there are any other regulars who are also relatively new fans, how their scoring from a similar perspective compares.

  • Even accounting for taste (as best I can), Psirens is maybe the oddest placing for me, which stands out as really bogstandard among the otherwise iconic top 20. It’s not an episode I thought was ever considered particularly special outside of the effects, so just getting a boost along with the whole VI package, I guess.

    At least Me² and Kryten still scraped into the top 20 or this would all be bollocks.

  • I tried to rate everything as episodes of Red Dwarf (ie in isolation) to give me plenty of range. So, 10 was “A really good episode of Red Dwarf” and 1 was “a not so good episode of Red Dwarf”. So plenty of 1s in VIII for example.

    So with few exceptions between 10-6 for I-VII, low scores for two series, and a mild recovery into the Dave era (though for me even after doing the whole rewatch I don’t find anything from the recent series quite as good as the things I enjoy least from the original run… though the rewatch did knock off the rose tinted nostalgia glasses on some of the earlier BBC episodes)

    I also think series 1 woz robbed though.

  • I also think series 1 woz robbed though.

    Better Than Life and Backwards being placed above Future Echoes is an outrage.

  • Series 1 was my joint second highest scored series on average (tied with IV, behind V). Series 1 is all killer, no filler.

  • I haven’t been a fan of any of the Dave Era stuff. Every time there is new Red Dwarf i really want to like it. But there always feels like there are major issues that make me cringe more than i find it enjoyable. And i often put that down to the fact that the first 6 seasons, and abit of 7 here and there are so tightly written, witty and clever that to get modern Red Dwarf where its a step down and kinda lazy/goofy in areas just makes me feel kinda sad.

    I mean take the Polymorph boxer shorts joke and take the Dear Dave bonking vending machine joke. They are very similar, but somehow the boxer shorts joke works better because its shot in a way that really makes it work. While the Vending machine one isn’t shot in a good way and almost seems like there was no way to really make that joke work anyway. so why do it? Its funny as long as you laugh at Craig really trying to make the joke work. Which seems like a fail to me.

    Thats modern Red Dwarf, and thats really all we can have now.

  • It is undeniable that the thing Dave Dwarf misses the most is a director of Ed Bye’s caliber. 

  • It is undeniable that the thing Dave Dwarf misses the most is a director of Ed Bye’s caliber.

    I will say though that the location stuff in Give & Take is probably the best Red Dwarf has ever looked.

  • How you can have X genrally above XI and XII, and have bloody Lemons as the best of X is absolutely beyond me. And Gunmen is the best episode ever. Maybe I don’t belong here actually. XD 

  • How you can have X genrally above XI and XII, and have bloody Lemons as the best of X is absolutely beyond me. And Gunmen is the best episode ever. Maybe I don’t belong here actually. XD

    Gunman won when the votes were filtered down to non-G&T regulars only, interestingly.

  • How you can have X genrally above XI and XII, and have bloody Lemons as the best of X is absolutely beyond me. And Gunmen is the best episode ever. Maybe I don’t belong here actually. XD

    I think its a fix mate. I’d go to the press if I were you

  • I had wondered if ragging on Timewave is becoming a bit of a tired old cliche. But then you have to be honest, it really is that bad. It’s the only episode I skip when I do a run-through of the show.

    All of VIII is watchable even if it’s in a “I can’t be bothered to find the remote, it’ll be over soon” sort of way but Timewave is seriously painful viewing, I have to skip over it

  • Me watching that, ID:

    (Anyone know how to get captions on gifs from Morbotron?  All the existing captioned ones I saw didn’t have long enough laughing.)

  • (Anyone know how to get captions on gifs from Morbotron?  All the existing captioned ones I saw didn’t have long enough laughing.)

    Make GIF —> Add Meme

  • Not to be that guy, but “he’s standing behind me isn’t he” was in part 2, not part1.

  • More silly little finds – average scores for all credited writers and directors of Red Dwarf.

    1. Rob Grant (7.945)
    2. Doug Naylor (7.040)
    3. Kim Fuller (6.373)
    4. James Hendrie (5.795)
    5. Paul Alexander (5.723) (absolutely riding on Stoke, take that out he’s at the bottom)
    6. Robert Llewellyn (5.595) (poor guy)

    1. Rob Grant (8.532)
    2. Paul Jackson (8.430)
    3. Juliet May (8.167)
    4. Ed Bye (7.024)
    5. Doug Naylor (6.754)

    What about Andy De Emmony?

  • Have we ranked actors by average rating? I do mean repeat guest actors mainly but main cast would be kinda funny too

  • Everyone except Chris gets their average dragged down by VII, and Chloe gets completely screwed over for exclusively appearing in the three lowest rated series in the poll.

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