Re-Dwarf: Bodysnatcher

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Bodysnatcher is the ‘lost episode’ from Red Dwarf series 1, the script for which was finished and recorded as an audio story board performed by Chris Barrie to become the headline act when Red Dwarf Re-mastered was released on DVD.

In actual fact not much was lost at all, just used in different episodes. The title of the story comes from Rimmer’s slightly unhinged attempt to create (with the help of the skutters and their sonic screwdrivers – is that the only mention of such a tool in Red Dwarf?) a solid body for himself from Lister’s eyebrows. Lister, having also lost his beloved dreads to this project, gets a little annoyed and switches Rimmer’s hologram off, planning to replace him with someone less psychotic. Unfortunately Rimmer is one step ahead and hides all the holodisks before he is deactivated, leaving Lister with a choice of either Rimmer… or Lister, to keep him company.

Lister 1: Everybody picks their nose.
Lister 2: Not with a carrot.

Obviously, he chooses Lister, which leads to the sort of arguing we see with the two Rimmers in Me², the episode which ultimately replaced Bodysnatcher in the broadcast line-up. As well as this idea getting recycled, some of the Cat’s scenes get used in other episodes (because he still hasn’t actually done much to affect the plot in most episodes), and the idea of Rimmer finding a way to become corporeal will crop up repeatedly in later seasons (notably series 3’s Bodyswap).

As part of the plan for the re-watch was to look at how religion is reflected in Red Dwarf, of interest in this script is this brief insight into Rimmer’s philosophy on life:

If you don’t have rules, what are you left with?

Here Rimmer takes legalism to a literal extreme, insisting on undertaking a role call to establish the extent of casualties in the explosion which has quite plainly killed everyone but Lister. Rimmer’s blinkered respect for the rules leaves no room for adaptation when circumstances have clearly changed way beyond the need for the original rules; he fails to see what is really needed here is not rigid adherence to irrelevant rules, but compassion for the remaining crew member as he grieves everyone he ever knew. Surely it is ok to change or even discard the rules when the world in which they are being applied has changed in a way the rulemakers could never have foreseen? Not everyone sees it, but I believe Jesus showed that love and compassion is better than blind legalism; they don’t go out of date as readily either.

Later, Rimmer is hypothesising about why he and Lister are the last vestige of the human race:

It can’t be luck, because then nothing has any meaning. There has to be some kind of purpose.

Obviously, Rimmer has taken this ‘purpose’ to be the creation of the next stage in human evolution – Homo Rimmer – and starts fantasising about Rimmer City on Rimmer World… another idea which will become a frightening reality in a later series.

At the end we also see how Lister really does need Rimmer, who is able, even in his hologramatic form, to save Lister from burning Red Dwarf down. Holly, in his (not quite) infinite wisdom, was right in that what Lister needed – someone to keep him sane and alive 3 million years from Earth – was not what Lister himself would have wanted – a girlfriend or a drinking buddy.

Funny how we sometimes need to burn our metaphorical spaceship before we’ll accept that maybe the all-knowing Holly who looks out for us actually does know best…

Watch this episode for an interesting peek at what might have been, yet another take on fighting with yourself, and some interesting philosophical tidbits.


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