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Red Dwarf episode
Episode no. Series 7
Episode 7
Directed by Ed Bye
Written by Paul Alexander and Doug Naylor
Original air date 28 February 1997
Guest appearance(s)
  • Gary Martin as Epideme
  • Nicky Leatherbarrow as Caroline Carmen
Episode chronology
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"Beyond a Joke"
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List of all Red Dwarf episodes

"Epideme" is the seventh episode[1] of science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf VII and the 43rd[2] in the series run. It was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 28 February 1997.[3] Written by Paul Alexander & Doug Naylor and directed by Ed Bye, the episode involves Lister contracting an intelligent, but deadly, virus.


The crew encounters an abandoned ship, the Leviathan, which is buried in the middle of an ice planetoid. After further investigation they find the frozen body of one survivor - Caroline Carmen, one of Lister's former crushes. She is taken on board the Starbug, where the crew attempts to thaw her out, but are unable to melt the ice. That night, Carmen defrosts of her own accord and turns out to be in an advanced state of decomposition, and she sneaks into Lister's bed. After a brief episode where Lister confuses her with Kochanski (eventually resulting in him being punched by the real Kochanski when he tries to get her back into bed, when it wasn't the real Kochanski in his bed), Carmen grabs Lister and spits part of her jaw and tongue down his throat, infecting him with the Epideme virus. Epideme is an intelligent virus (with an annoying personality) that was supposed to cure nicotine addiction, but in practice kills its victims within a day, then reanimates their corpse to find a new victim to transfer itself to.

Lister tries reasoning with Epideme directly through a communication link, but has no luck in convincing the virus to leave. Kochanski comes up with a drastic plan to save Lister's life: coax the virus to move down toward Lister's hand and then cut off the hand, isolating the virus outside his body. Unfortunately the plan proves a total failure, as they end up cutting off Lister's right arm instead of the left one as he had requested, and they only manage to dispose of part of the Epideme virus, with the end result that they only succeed in prolonging Lister's life by an hour. Lister sneaks aboard the Leviathan with some explosives, intending to kill both himself and Epideme, but the virus talks him out of it by revealing that the destination of the Leviathan was Delta VII, a research base that might have a cure.

Unfortunately, when Starbug arrives at Delta VII, it turns out that the planet has been destroyed in order to deal with a massive Epideme outbreak—a fact that the virus was fully aware of, and used in its attempt to prevent Lister from killing himself. With Lister on the verge of death, Epideme taunts the crew by revealing that it will infect Kochanski next, then the Cat, and finally it will smash Kryten up (while in control of Cat's body) for the fun of it. In a desperate move, Kochanski injects Lister with a drug that stops his heart, then gets his corpse to bite her left hand, infecting it. She then immediately slices off most of her left arm to the astonishment of Kryten and the Cat (who faints). Only after she has ejected the arm into space does she reveal that it was actually Caroline Carmen's arm, and that her own left arm is still perfectly intact. Kryten admits that he was wrong about Kochanski, and the two finally put their differences aside... before Kryten realises with utter horror that Lister is still dead. Kryten and Kochanski successfully revive the now virus-free Lister; however things are far from back to normal as Lister is still without a right arm...


For Paul Alexander's second script, he used an old Jasper Carrot joke for the premise of the plot - "What if your flu could talk to you? Wouldn't it just say that it was doing its job?" Again, Naylor helped out with the script, tweaking it to conform to the Red Dwarf universe.[4]

An alternate ending was scripted and filmed for the episode - involving the dead arm, containing the Epideme virus, flying through space and then towards the camera - but it was decided to end the episode just before this scene.[5]

Of the many new props needed for the new series was a laser bone-saw - used for the scenes of severing the Epideme-infected arm. For the scene, Chloë Annett had taken several attempts to cut the arm off.[6]

Voice artist Gary Martin played the talking virus Epideme. He was recommended by Danny John-Jules, his friend of many years' standing, and had even been with Danny when he auditioned for the role of the Cat in the mid-eighties.[7]

Nicky Leatherbarrow also appeared, in heavy make-up, as Caroline Carmen - the initial carrier of the Epideme virus.[8]


Originally broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 28 February 1997 in the 9:00 pm evening slot,[3] this episode's television ratings were high.[9] Although Series VII as a whole received a mixed response from fans and critics alike,[10][11] this was considered one of the better episodes.

DVDActive thought the episode was "a nice idea, and one that is well-executed ... the final scene is one of the funniest of the series."[12] DVD Verdict thought that this episode was the first in which the character of Kochanski finally "reached her stride" after all the "attitude and aggravation during those first few shows".[13] Sci-Fi Online noted that the episode was "particularly reminiscent of Confidence and Paranoia, since it deals with a talking disease."[14]


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide - Red Dwarf - Series 7". www.sitcom.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  2. ^ "TV.com - Epideme summary". www.tv.com. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "BBC - Programme Catalogue - RED DWARF VI - EPIDEME". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  4. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VII Writing". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  5. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VII Production". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  6. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VII Effects". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  7. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VII Casting". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  8. ^ "'Red Dwarf' Epideme (1997) full cast and crew". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  9. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VII Aftermath". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  10. ^ "Series VII review at DVD Active". www.dvdactive.com. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  11. ^ "TV Reviews at SciFi.com". www.scifi.com. Archived from the original on 30 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  12. ^ "Red Dwarf VII (UK - DVD R2)". www.dvdactive.com. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  13. ^ "Red Dwarf: Series 5-8". www.dvdverdict.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "DVD Red Dwarf Series 7". www.sci-fi-online.com. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 

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