Better Than Life (Red Dwarf episode)

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"Better Than Life"
Red Dwarf episode
Better Than Life.png
The crew enter the "Better Than Life" total immersion video game
Episode no.Series 2
Episode 2
Directed byEd Bye
Written byRob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date13 September 1988
Guest appearance(s)
  • John Abineri as Rimmer's Dad
  • Debbie Ash as Marilyn Monroe
  • Jeremy Austin as Rathbone (autograph seeker)
  • Nigel Carrivick as The Captain
  • Tony Hawks as The Guide
  • Judy Hawkins as McGruder
  • Tina Jenkins as The Newsreader
  • Ron Pember as The Taxman
  • Gordon Salkilld as Gordon
Episode chronology
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"Thanks for the Memory"
List of Red Dwarf episodes

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


The post pod arrives three million years late, which, as Holly observes, is about average for second class mail.[3] Among the usual bills and junk mail is the "Better Than Life" total immersion video game. Rimmer receives a large tax bill from Outland Revenue, along with a letter from his mother informing him that his father is dead.[4] Although he knew his father (and in fact, everyone he knew on Earth) is already long dead, seeing the news in writing upsets him, mentioning that he looked up to the man. However, he stated that he loathed him, due to his strict requirements for his kids to get into the space corps to make up for his failure to get on the corps. (Rimmer wound up emancipating himself at age 14.)

To cheer him up, Lister and the Cat invite Rimmer to play "Better Than Life", where everyone's deepest desires come true. Everything is going well; the Cat has got himself two girlfriends, Marilyn Monroe and a mermaid (top half fish, bottom half woman). Lister is rich enough to eat caviar-covered vindaloo and play golf. Rimmer, who has a physical form in the game, leads an admiral's life with drinks and parties while Lister enjoys golfing around the lavish golf courses.[5] Rimmer meets his dad, whom says that he is a "total smeghead". Rimmer is very puzzled by this as he always wished for his father's respect, but the Cat chimes in and says that it is part of his imagination and steals Rimmer's cigar. In spite of this knowledge, the event brings out Rimmer's feelings of inadequacy, and his neurotic mind, subconsciously unable to accept nice things are happening to him, rebels against him, and he quickly becomes unable to control his negative imagination.

He soon ends up back as a hologram, with a wife (Yvonne McGruder, who earlier in the game, had a liaison with him), seven kids (said liaison resulted in pregnancy), a mortgage and an unsympathetic Outland Revenue Collector (who demands ₤18,000 and threatens to break his legs and thumbs). This continues until the others find themselves caught up in his nightmare, buried up to their necks in sand, smeared with jam and about to be eaten by ants. The game ends, which comes as a great relief to everyone. As they are calling out Rimmer for his "messed up brain", Rimmer gets a letter informing him that he passed the astro-navigation examination and will be promoted, causing Rimmer to believe his life is turning around. When they get back to their quarters, the tax collector emerges from a locker, causing the crew to realise that the game is not over. He then proceeds to break Rimmer's thumbs.[5]


After looking back at the first series the writers, Grant and Naylor, realised that they needed to expand on Rimmer's background and explore his character. To achieve this the Rimmer family was written into the episode. There were his three high-flying brothers, his distant mother and psychotic father.[6] His father appeared in the "Better Than Life" scenario, played by John Abineri.

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

For the first time since the series began, filming of several scenes took place on location. To film the "Better Than Life" scenarios the crew went to locations including a seaside landscape in Rhyl[7] and Sacha's Hotel in Manchester.[8] The same hotel would later hold science fiction conventions for Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Doctor Who.[9] The seaside beach location caused a headache as it was dull and cold looking. One scene proved so problematic — when they were meant to be sunbathing on the "paradise-like" beach, Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules could not stop shivering — that the scenes were re-written and re-shot as on a golf course.[10] Even the golf course scenes looked dull and cold looking,[10] but director Ed Bye convinced the crew that it was okay and that the sunshine could be put in during the edit.[7] However, it couldn't be made to look sunny and it wasn't until the episode was remastered that the sunshine was finally seen.[11]

Other "Better Than Life" appearances were made by Ron Pember, who played the Taxman, Debbie Ash as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Hawkins as Yvonne McGruder.[12] Tony Hawks, who had appeared in the Red Dwarf I episode "Future Echoes",.[13] returned to the series to play the 'Better Than Life' game guide.[12] Gordon Salkilld appeared as computer Gordon, the chess email gaming chum of Holly.[12]


Originally broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 13 September 1988[14] in the 9:00 pm evening slot,[14] the episode gained average viewing ratings.[15] The episode may not have topped many fans' favourites lists,[16] but the story turned out to be very influential. Grant and Naylor used the plot for their first and second novels - Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers ended on a cliffhanger when the crew entered the game and the majority of the second novel, Better Than Life, followed on from there.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide — Red Dwarf — Series 2". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  2. ^ " — Better Than Life summary". Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  3. ^ RED DWARF Series 2 Episode 2, "Better Than Life", PlanetSmeg. Retrieved 30 November 2012
  4. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 53.
  5. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 54.
  6. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Writing". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Red Dwarf series II Production". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  8. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Sets". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  9. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 9.
  10. ^ a b It's Cold Outside documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD disc 1: BBC. 2007.
  11. ^ "Red Dwarf series II Remastering". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  12. ^ a b c "Better Than Life cast and crew". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Future Echoes cast and crew". Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  14. ^ a b "BBC Programme Catalogue — RED DWARF — BETTER THAN LIFE". BBC. Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  15. ^ "Red Dwarf Series II Aftermath". Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  16. ^ Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  17. ^ Red Dwarf II On Video, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 3, May 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  18. ^ a b Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Section 6: Spin-offs: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1.


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

External links[edit]