Polymorph is my favourite episode from season 3 of Red Dwarf. It looks as if the effects budget for this episode was bigger than for the whole of the previous two seasons, with the shape-shifting emotion-eating Giger-esque monster, and suitably scary sounding bazookoids with which to see the thing off.
The polymorph – which isn’t an alien, it’s a genetic experiment gone wrong – pushes each crew member to the limit of his worst emotion and then sucks it right out of his forehead; even a mechanoid with no emotions and a hologram with no forehead, but we’re not here to go plot-holing.
Never tangle with anything that’s got more teeth than the entire Osmond family
That gives our heroes an opportunity to play different versions of themselves, just for a few minutes: Lister becomes fearless and just wants to rip out the monster’s windpipe and beat it to death with the tonsil end, while Rimmer turns into a goatee wearing hippy and sets himself up as some sort of peace envoy. Cat just gets finds a gutter somewhere and falls over drunk, and Kryten is quite happy to just hand the others over and do a runner while the monster is busy eating them alive.
On the one hand, Polymorph is an Alien homage with jokes. On the other, it’s a lesson in how the negative aspects of our personality – our fear, anger, guilt, vanity, *insert negative emotion here* – shape who we are, for better or worse.
I’m sure there’s a better message to be pulled from this, but it’s getting late and I can’t do it justice if there is, so I’m going to leave you with this thought:
Maybe God makes us fearful so we won’t end up sacrificing our lives in some stupid pointless way. Maybe he allows us to be vain because the opposite – a complete lack of self-worth – would be more damaging. Maybe he lets us get angry because there are some things in life that can’t be reasoned with, and we just need to face them head on. Maybe He makes us feel guilt because, at some point in our lives, we put a bazookoid to his back and fed him to the mutant.
(Actually, that didn’t turn out bad in the end.)
A whole bunch of stuff is updated, moved, shortened and improved in the remix, mostly to make the scenes in the cargo deck that bit more spooky and atmospheric.
Most noticeably though, the final scene, in which a second Lister follows the crew away from the cargo decks, was binned and replaced by a somewhat naff epilogue explaining what happened to the second polymorph. Obviously by the time the remastering was done, there had been no sign of it, so someone decided to tie up the loose end. It was better in the original version.
Watch this episode for peacenik Rimmer and an even more motley crew than usual .