G.E.L.F. or GELF is an acronym for Genetically Engineered LifeForm. It was used in two science fiction television programs, originally appearing in the BBC's cult sitcom Red Dwarf, and later on in the U.S. drama seaQuest DSV.
The concept of GELFs is explored in several episodes of Red Dwarf including "Polymorph", "Camille", "Psirens", and "Emohawk". The writers of the series had stated early on in production that they did not want any aliens to exist in their show's universe; but as the series continued, in order to provide a stream of characters for the main crew to interact with, their cosmos was gradually populated with deranged robots and bizarre creatures that turned out to be the result of genetic engineering.
The Kinitawowi are bulky humanoids about six feet high covered in warts and shaggy dull orange/copper/brown fur similar to that of an orangutan. Kryten states some GELFs (though he does not detail whether this is a feature unique to the Kinitawowi) have their sphincteral orifice in their face, and as such touching of the face can be considered highly offensive to them. Their bodies are extremely tough; a direct blast of plasma from a bazookoid merely stunned a Kinitawowi at close range.
The Kinitawowi were originally bred as quartermasters aboard deep space starships. They lead a primitive tribal existence on various moons and asteroids. Their space is bordered by gigantic stone warning beacons that resembled skulls many miles across carved out of asteroids. Arnold Rimmer recalled from old space legends that unfortunate humans that unwittingly wandered into Kinitawowi space were often skinned alive to make beanbags. Nevertheless, the Kinitawowi were one of the friendlier "kintetiakh" (or tribes) of humanoid GELFs and that they didn't always kill on sight as other humanoid GELFs apparently do. Indeed, not skinning strangers alive on sight was considered a warm greeting.
Kinitawowi villages resemble African tribal villages, dimly-lit by flaming torches. The structures of these villages are simple huts or "watunga". After a successful trade, instead of a handshake, Kinitawowi custom is to hold the ankle of the other individual with one hand whilst the other does the same; and then jumping up and down on the spot.
The Red Dwarf crew first met the Kinitawowi when they were in need of supplies, especially an oxygen-generation unit. The Kinitawowi had one to trade but required Lister to marry the chieftain's daughter (played by Steven Wickham) in exchange. A disgusted Lister married the chief's daughter, but fled in the night. The furious chief (played by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott), sent his Emohawk after the Red Dwarf crew to drain their emotions. The Kinitawowi pursued Starbug across space in a battle cruiser, in a bid to return Dave Lister to his Kinatawowi wife until the Kinitawowi battle cruiser was crippled when it crashed onto an ice planet during a chase with Starbug.
Biologically Engineered Garbage Gobblers (BEGGS)
Seen in series X episode Entangled, BEGGS were engineered to eat garbage. Much like the Kinitawowi, BEGGS are hoarders who collect artefacts they consider valuable. During a card game with Lister they won Star Bug, in an attempt to win back the ship Lister bet with Rimmer, and lost. In order to assure that Lister would return with their newly won hologram the BEGGS attached an explosive device to Listers groin which was set to explode unless he delivered Rimmer. The BEGGS have been described as "what would happen if you mangled a pig, a hobbit and a member of a 80s hair metal band." The BEGG chief was played by Steven Wickham, who had played Lister’s Kinitawowi bride in series VI.
The Brefewino are a separate tribe of humanoid GELFs, who appeared in the "lost episode" of the seventh series, Identity Within. They are vaguely similar in appearance to the Kinitawowi tribe except the Brefewino are taller, more muscular, hairy, mercantile and aggressive than their Kinitawowi counterparts. Brefewino tribesmen stand on average seven or eight feet high, but despite this their beards often almost reach the ground. They also weigh on average two tonnes.
They were initially bred as butchers and are prolific gamblers, merchants, and slave traders, and amongst their favourite commodities are Felis sapiens. The universal currency of the Brefewino is Brefewinan, a kind of green lumpy paste in jars (made from small delicately preserved pulses). In order to enter a Brefewino trading post one must show exactly what their specific profession is with a "badge of merchantship". For example, Lister wore a potato to signify he was a farmer. Brefewino gambling dens resemble a Star Wars cantina. Brefewino music utilises more traditional instruments but is still fairly raucous and their beer is exceptionally strong.
In the series six episode Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Lister and the Cat pretend to be members of a GELF species called the Vindaloovians in an attempt to outwit a rogue Simulant. While they are considered mere fiction in the television series, Vindaloovians were expanded into being an actual GELF race in the Red Dwarf role-playing game, appearing first as racial stats in The Series Sourcebook, then receiving a more detailed description in the Extra Bits Book. Vindaloovians are a small, but proud, martial culture who descended from experimental GELFs that were left to evolve over millions of years with the aid of 20th century war movies and a plentiful supply of curry and other spicy foods (the Vindaloovian colonies are described as having "garlic naan trees" and rivers of madras).
Vindaloovians are about 1 meter tall and basically resemble a humanoid egg, with a single prominent, blue eye placed in their tiny forehead above a horizontal mouth, their only other facial feature.Vindaloovians originally were highly xenophobic and aimed to destroy all other intelligent lifeforms (a policy referred to as Wipe Out Everyone!, or WOE!), but have in recent times relaxed this to merely hating humans with a passion (Wipe Humans Out All Over!, or WHOA!).
Vindaloovian society consists of three tiers. The topmost tier are the high officials, a member of which is referred to as a Tarka, from whose number is selected the Emperor or Empress of the Vindaloovian Empire. Below them are the skilled middle class, which includes the military officers, whose official title is Bindi. The final tier makes up the majority of the labor and soldiery, and carries the title of Grunti. Social mobility is possible through individual deeds, but does not apply to the Vindaloovian's family unit (mainly because Vindaloovians reproduce through cloning vats and offspring are raised by the state).
Pleasure Gelfs are, in their natural form, amorphous, green slimy blobs around 1.5 metres high. In this default form they have a single tentacle-like appendage with an eye on the end. At least one Pleasure GELF has resolved to finding a "cure" for its "condition".
Pleasure GELFs are telepathic. They can sense whatever the people around them would be attracted to, and make them believe that this is what they're seeing. The Pleasure GELF named Camille took the form of a female Series 4000 GTi mechanoid when rescued from a wreck by Kryten.
Unlike several other genetically engineered life forms, such as the manipulative polymorphs and the aggressive beastmen-GELFs, pleasure GELFs are actually benevolent and non-threatening. Some such as Camille will attempt to pass themselves off as humans (or holograms, mechanoids, etc.) but this is generally not an attempt to be manipulative, more akin to a camouflage reflex so other species won't try to harm them (though they can voluntarily stop the telepathic projection and reveal their true form if they need to).
Each of the Dwarfers saw their dream partners, and Camille was forced to reveal her true nature. Despite its natural form, Kryten began dating it. Camille eventually left to help her partner, a Pleasure GELF named Hector, in a manner similar to Casablanca.
A polymorph is a shape-shifting organism that can change into anything it pleases. It survives by draining a person of a negative emotion. It was designed to be the perfect warrior, blending into any background, causing confusion and disarray amongst the enemy by playing with their emotions, but the creature mutated into something terrifying and insane its creators couldn't control. One of the polymorph's forms appears somewhat similar to the Xenomorph Alien from the movie Alien (1979). Polymorphs and emohawks appear to be able to drain emotions from mechanoids and holograms, and are able to physically touch soft-light holograms.
The Grant Naylor novel Better Than Life provides a slightly different origin to the polymorphs. According to that book, the surviving gelf of a great war were dumped on a Garbage world (actually future Earth) and left to die. Most did die, except for those specifically suited to survive in such an environment. The polymorphs evolved from these organisms.
When it arrives on board the ship, the Polymorph attacks the crew by turning into a ruthless monster to drain Lister's fear, a beautiful woman to drain the Cat's ego, a duplicate of Rimmer to blame Kryten for the Cat's condition and thus extract his guilt, and Rimmer's mother after having sex with Lister (TV)/a computer virus to access Rimmer's negative memories (book) to provoke Rimmer's rage. It is eventually defeated when two heat-seeking blaster bolts that the Cat had previously trapped in an elevator are released once again, the bolts destroying the Polymorph in its monster state and its death restoring the crew to normal.
Emohawks are domesticated variants of Polymorphs that are spayed at birth, raised by the Kinitawowi and trained to do their bidding. Emotions drained by the Emohawks are a highly valued trading commodity amongst the Kinitawowi.
The Emohawk seems to be able to drain specific aspects of an individual's personality as well as mere emotions; it drains Arnold Rimmer of his bitterness and Cat of his cool, turning them into Ace Rimmer and Duane Dibbley.
Psirens are GELFs which can telepathically alter the perception of humans, in order to suck out their brains with a straw. In their natural form, Psirens are insectoids standing at around two metres high and look something like giant Assassin Bugs, with giant bulbous eyes and a large carapace. Their name and manner are similar to the Sirens of Greek mythology.
GELFs in the Red Dwarf novels
Symbi-morphs are very similar to the Pleasure Gelf, but seems to have actual shape-shifting abilities. Its neutral or "true" form is an androgynous humanoid with a black and white matrix colour scheme. It has five telepathic hooks which it can fire into someone to read their mind and shape-shift accordingly, with each additional hook making the connection more powerful. Even a single hook was enough to access the subject's subconscious; Lister was able to use a symbi-morph bonded to him with a single hook to not only determine the nature of the symbi-morphs based on information he had subconsciously put together, but also reveal the subconscious doubts he had harboured about the mission to rescue an alternate version of himself who turned out to be a homicidal sociopath.
Dingotangs are chimera-type GELFs: orangutans with the heads of dingoes. Dolochimps are chimera-type GELFs with the heads of dolphins, the bodies of chimpanzees and the legs of giant locusts. Alberogs are chimera-type GELFs with the heads of albatrosses, the bodies of bears and the legs of giant frogs. Alberogs make up most of the population of the asteroid Arranguu 12, the site of the Gelf Forum of Justice. The Regulator of Justice is an Alberog.
Snugiraffes are chimera-type GELFs with the heads of cobras, the bodies of giant slugs and the legs of giraffes, who also appear to have had a bucket of mucus thrown at them. Snugiraffes are called the most repulsive creatures ever to have lived, with the exception of George Formby — even just seeing them can trigger vomiting (or, in the case of holograms and mechanoids, dry-retching). They are still highly prized, however, because they eat everyone else's effluence and process it into a smokeless fuel. It isn't troubled by the reaction other beings have to its appearance, considering vomiting to be a form of greeting.
When NBC decided they wanted more science fiction oriented episodes for the second season of seaQuest DSV, G.E.L.F.s were introduced to the program, primarily via Peter DeLuise's main character Dagwood.
Dagwood was the imperfect prototype "Dagger", a group of G.E.L.F.s intended as supersoldiers. Unlike the other Daggers, Dagwood was less intelligent than normal and his fighting skills were not fully developed, although he had great physical strength. He was assigned to the seaQuest cleaning crew.
In the show's canon, the G.E.L.F.s were created during the dark age of genetics (2001 to 2003). They were manufactured solely for the purpose of waging war. United Nations Resolution G-932 outlawed them by 2004. The existing G.E.L.F.s were rounded up and exiled to an island colony, "Dagger Island". The second season's opening episode Daggers established much of their background, and also introduced Mariah, the leader of the G.E.L.F. uprising. Portrayed by actress Sam Jenkins, she would reappear in the episode Dagger Redux.
- Elyce Rae Helford "'OK, homeboys, let's posse!' Masculine anxiety, gender, race and class in Red Dwarf" in John R. Cook, Peter Wright, (2006), British science fiction television: a hitchhiker's guide, page 243. I.B.Tauris
- "Beyond a Joke". Red Dwarf. Season VII. Episode 6.
- "Identity Within". Red Dwarf. Season VII. Episode Lost Episode.
- "Emohawk: Polymorph II". Red Dwarf. Season VI. Episode 4.
- Dee Amy-Chinn "Red Dwarf" in David Lavery, (2010), Essential cult television reader, page 208. University Press of Kentucky
- New characters in Red Dwarf X, uktv.co.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2012
- Red Dwarf X: Entangled review, www.denofgeek.com. Retrieved 28 October 2012
- "Camile". Red Dwarf. Season IV. Episode 1.
- Elyce Rae Helford "'OK, homeboys, let's posse!' Masculine anxiety, gender, race and class in Red Dwarf" in John R. Cook, Peter Wright, (2006), British science fiction television: a hitchhiker's guide, page 248. I.B.Tauris
- "Polymorph". Red Dwarf. Season III. Episode 3.
- Grant Naylor, (1995), Last Human, Penguin. ISBN 0-14-014388-2