Episode four, Waiting For God, is where things get really philosophical for the crew of Red Dwarf. Lister is busy learning to read cat books – specifically the Holy Book which tells of Cloister the Stupid – when Holly detects an unidentified object crossing their path, which Rimmer believes will contain an advanced alien being able to give him back a physical body.
During the course of the story Rimmer questions the point of existence; Cat hangs out with an aging Cat priest; even Talkie Toaster goes from an ‘I toast, therefore I am’ view of life to believing there must be more to life. Lister, meanwhile, is coming to terms with what the Cat people have made him; yet his revelation:
I am your God!
meets with only mockery from Cat. This could easily have been a Cat story, but somehow wasn’t; Cat still comes across as quite childish, with his Food Detector, Shiny Thing and Investigating Feet.
We discover that the ultimate fate of the Cat people was sealed by a series of Holy Wars, between those who believed the cardboard hats at Lister’s Fijiian Doughnut Diner were supposed to be red, and those who believed they should be blue. Lister’s responses are, I imagine, similar to God’s as he looks down on our religious squabbles:
They were supposed to be green!
They’re just using religion as an excuse to be extremely crappy to each other.
This is followed by a further theological misunderstanding, as one of the factions sets off for Fuchal following what turns out to be Lister’s laundry list.
As Lister reflects on this – and discovers that he has broken four of the five Sacred Laws attributed to him – he feels the need to make amends for what he has inadvertantly done. As he later confides to Rimmer,
I’m not a god, I’ve just been misquoted.
Meanwhile, Lister also discovers that Cat is not the only, er, cat left on board, as he too meets the blind old priest who has lost his faith, and is able to bring some comfort to the old man at his deathbed.
Rimmer, on the other hand, claims the idea of God is preposterous, yet puts his faith in the Quagaars – an alien race he admits to having made up, as the logical explanation for everything from the Egyptian Pyramids to the unidentified pod they have recently retrieved. Unfortunately, Rimmer’s Quagaar theory turns out to be literally garbage…
A lot of the dialogue about the Cat religion was cut from the remastered version, which does improve the pacing and overall quality of the episode, but some of the cuts – Lister talking to Rimmer about the rules of Cat religion, and some of the dialogue involving the Cat priest – leave some gaps which might be of interest to those interested in religion in sci-fi. Lister’s interaction with the old priest also looks a bit disjointed in the remastering, at least if you know some of it has been cut.
Admittedly some of the cut lines served no useful purpose, but more importantly the remastered version does include some new artwork for the Cat Holy Book, including a likeness of Lister as Cloister the Stupid on the Holy Land of Fuchal. The extra sound effects are also a nice addition to a number of scenes here, making it tough to choose a favourite version…
Watch this episode for the discussion of faith and religion in its many guises.