DNA (Red Dwarf)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Red Dwarf episode
DNA (Red Dwarf).jpg
Kryten, turned human by the DNA modifier, presents his "double Polaroid" to Lister
Episode no. Series 4
Episode 2
Directed by Ed Bye
Written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date 21 February 1991
Guest appearance(s)

Richard Ridings as D.N.A. Ship Computer

Episode chronology
← Previous
Next →
List of all Red Dwarf episodes

"DNA" is the second episode of the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf Series IV[1] and the twentieth episode in the series' run.[2] It was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 February 1991, although it was planned to be broadcast as the fifth episode, it was moved forward in the schedule by the BBC. Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and directed by Ed Bye,[3] the episode revolves around the genetic engineering technology that the crew discover.


Red Dwarf encounters a drifting spacecraft, which Rimmer quickly assumes is alien, and the crew board it to investigate. Kryten and Rimmer discover a three-headed skeleton, but it appears to be a mutated human. Meanwhile Lister and Cat find an unusual looking console, which, despite Lister's warnings, Cat fiddles about with. The machine turns Lister into a chicken, as Kryten and Rimmer approach detecting a huge power surge. Kryten deduces that it is a DNA modifier and asks Cat what buttons he pressed to turn Lister into a chicken. Cat retraces his steps and accidentally catches Kryten in the machine's beam. Cat panics and frantically presses the buttons and Lister is restored. However, Kryten changes into a human.[4]

Kryten is ecstatic about being human, but soon discovers the downside—having no zoom function in his eyes, his nipples don't work and he is repulsed by the looks of the male member. Being human soon loses its charm and, having insulted his own spare heads, Kryten decides to revert to his old self.[4]

Whilst preparing the DNA modifier console, Rimmer suggests they try the device on a test subject. Lister has a mutton vindaloo dish on hand and places the tray in the beam; however, rather than turn it into a chicken vindaloo, Holly accidentally creates a "mutton vindaloo beast". It seems indestructible as their bazookoid blasts have no effect on it. They have little choice but to run off, but it won't be long before it finds them. So that they can defeat the beast, Lister asks Holly to turn him into a "super human — man plus". It nearly works as he becomes a Lister/Robot hybrid, but he is also shrunk to about one foot in size. Lister inadvertently discovers that a spilled lager can inflict pain on the beast as it stands on the liquid ("Of course, lager! The only thing that can kill a vindaloo!"). Using this knowledge Lister throws a can of lager into its mouth, shoots the can and the monster explodes in a shower of vindaloo.[5]


"DNA", official full title "Do Not Alter",[6] changed the continuity of the relationship between Lister and Kristine Kochanski. It is established that they had been dating and that she broke up with him, an idea which had been introduced in the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.[7] Doug Naylor and Craig Charles explained that Lister's infatuation with Kochanski, despite barely knowing her,[8] was unrealistic.[9]

With the tail end of production and finances running low the DNA ship's set was rushed and was not as had been expected. However, the grungy-looking corridors and rooms were better than nothing which may have been the case.[10]

Paul McGuinness, a member of the effects team, wore the Vindaloo Mutant outfit. He also produced the three-headed corpse that Kryten and Rimmer discover on board the DNA ship.[11] Richard Ridings voices the D.N.A. Ship Computer.[3]

A cast-inspired gag came in at the end of the scene with Rimmer planning to clone himself from his own dandruff. Timing it just right into the rehearsals, Danny John-Jules sneezed on the microscope at the right moment—and it had just made the rehearsal.

Blue-screen techniques was used to produce the transformation of Lister to a one-foot-tall (0.30-metre) "super-human" man plus. Craig Charles was shot in front of a bluescreen to make him appear one foot tall, while this was added to the other crew's footage, who were also involved in blue screen, as they run by the small Lister.[11]

Cultural references[edit]

The 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein is referenced by the Cat regarding the way he looks when he cannot use an electrical socket to blow-dry his hair.[12]

Rimmer initially concludes that the spacecraft encountered is alien and that it is attempting to contact the Red Dwarf crew in order to return Glenn Miller. This references the alien abduction myth of Miller, whose plane went missing in 1944 and was never found.

Lister attributes Popeye the Sailor Man's saying "I am what I am" to Descartes (in reference to the latter's famous line, "I think, therefore I am"), but the attribution is corrected by Rimmer. (Kryten later makes the same mistake.)

Using the DNA modifier, Holly turns Lister into a super-human fighting machine "Man Plus". The result transforms Lister into a small replica hybrid of RoboCop from the 1987 film of the same name.[13]

When Lister is being chased by the vindaloo mutation he parodies Bruce Willis' line from Die Hard 2 (1990); "How can the same smeg happen to the same guy twice?",[12] referencing the previous series when he was attacked by what he thought to be a shami kebab in "Polymorph". Jaws is then parodied in the final scene when Lister disposes of the vindaloo mutation by throwing a lager can into its mouth and then shooting at the can, making it explode along with the mutation.


"DNA" was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 February 1991 in the 9:00 p.m. evening time slot,[14] although it was intended to be broadcast fifth in the series run—as seen in the repeat showings in 1992 and 1994.[14] The change in the scheduling was affected by the Gulf War hostilities at the time, which meant that "Dimension Jump", originally the series' opener, and "Meltdown" were held back.[15]

The episode was considered to be one of the better episodes from the fourth series;[16] however, it did receive some criticism for moving the humour away from the characters and into situation-based comedy.[17]


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide - Red Dwarf - Series 4". www.sitcom.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  2. ^ "TV.com - DNA summary". www.tv.com. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  3. ^ a b "DNA cast and crew". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  4. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 68.
  5. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 69.
  6. ^ Chris Howarths & Steve Lyons. Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Section 1: The History: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1. 
  7. ^ "Red Dwarf IV changes". www.genreonline.net. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  8. ^ Red Dwarf I episode "Balance of Power".
  9. ^ Ellard, Andrew (Director) (2004-02-16). Red Dwarf: Built to Last - Series IV (Television production). United Kingdom. 
  10. ^ "Red Dwarf series IV Sets". www.reddwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  11. ^ a b "Red Dwarf series IV Effects". www.reddwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  12. ^ a b "Red Dwarf movie connections". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  13. ^ "Red Dwarf series IV Costumes". www.reddwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  14. ^ a b "BBC - BBC - Programme Catalogue - RED DWARF IV - DNA". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-12. [permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Section 1: The History: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1. 
  16. ^ Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd., ISSN 0965-5603
  17. ^ "DNA review". www.reviewsbygavrielle.com. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 


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

External links[edit]