Gunmen of the Apocalypse
|"Gunmen of the Apocalypse"|
|Red Dwarf episode|
|Episode no.||Series 6|
|Directed by||Andy de Emmony|
|Written by||Rob Grant & Doug Naylor|
|Original air date||21 October 1993|
"Gunmen of the Apocalypse" is the third episode of series VI of the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf. It was first broadcast on 21 October 1993, on BBC Two, and went on to win an International Emmy Award. The episode was written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor, and directed by Andy de Emmony. In the episode, the regular cast find themselves in a computer simulation of a Wild West town, facing a gunfight against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Starbug strays into a Rogue Simulant hunting zone and is detected by a battle-cruiser whose xenophobic mechanoid occupants despise humanity. Despite Lister and the Cat's efforts to fool them, the Starbug crew are captured, but instead of killing them the Simulants upgrade the systems, weapons and armour of Starbug, intending to battle them for sport.
By a fluke the Starbug crew cripple the Simulant ship, but before their destruction the Simulants transmit an "Armageddon Virus" into Starbug's navigation computer, locking the ship on a suicide course toward a large volcanic moon. Kryten deliberately infects himself with the virus in order to try to formulate a software antidote.
Kryten's battle with the virus manifests itself as a Wild West–flavoured dream; he is the cowardly, drunken and burnt-out Sheriff of a town called Existence, who is standing against four outlaws known as the Apocalypse Boys: Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death. The crew use an artificial reality machine to enter Kryten's dream, taking the roles of characters from a wild west video game with various skills: Lister with knife throwing, Cat with expert shooting skills, and Rimmer with hand-to-hand combat.
All three show off their skills as Lister pins a bully to the wall with his knives, Cat shoots the bullets of two gunmen out of the air simultaneously, and Rimmer fights off several cowboys with his bare hands. As Kryten tries to flee town, Cat stops him by shooting a bullet which ricochets off numerous objects until it hits a sign, which falls and knocks Kryten down. The others try to sober him up by force-feeding him raw coffee. He finally begins to recognise them when Cat returns from repossessing Kryten's guns and finds there are doves inscribed on the handles (a reference to the "dove program" Kryten needs to assemble to counteract the virus).
The trio then confront the Apocalypse Boys while the still-confused and unsteady Kryten struggles for a solution. Unfortunately, Lister, Cat, and Rimmer are rendered powerless by the virus before the final showdown, but manage to delay the Apocalypse Boys long enough for Kryten to finish his antidote, which appears in the dream as his guns turn into doves which destroy the Boys. Kryten leaves the dream and hastily loads his antidote into the navigation computer, seemingly too late as Starbug crashes into the molten surface of the moon. Several seconds later, it bursts free with the crew giving an apropos "Yeeha!" before flying off into the sunset.
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the script was originally titled "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", and then had the working title of "High Midnight"; it was later changed to "Gunmen of the Apocalypse". The Western themes of the episode were written first, with the plot framing with the Simulants coming later, and described by Grant and Naylor as a 'roast beef western' (parodying the phrase 'spaghetti western').
During filming of the episode Janet Street Porter was Head of Art & Culture and when she received the ambitious script for "Gunmen..." she sent out a memo that all production for this episode must be stopped immediately because she believed it too difficult to film, too costly and too time-consuming. By the time the ‘’Red Dwarf’’ crew received her memo, filming had already wrapped and even post-production already started.
Denis Lill appears as the Simulant Captain and Death. The other 'Apocalypse Boys' were played by Dinny Powell, Robert Inch and Jeremy Peters playing Famine, War and Pestilence respectively. Jennifer Calvert plays the 'Artificial Reality' character in Lister's detective scenario. Steve Devereaux plays Jimmy. Liz Hickling appears as Simulant Lieutenant, Imogen Bain plays Lola and Stephen Marcus plays Bear Strangler McGee.
The title is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The plot of a drunken sheriff defending his town against an incoming gang of cowboys parodies Rio Bravo. The artificial reality and wild west plot also shows similarities to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun", and to the Star Trek: The Next Generation's episode "A Fistful of Datas".
The episode also has references to the 1971 film Gumshoe, which the AR game of the same name is based on, and "Butch Accountant and the Yuppie Kid" references the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The name of Rimmer's video game character likely references the 1907 poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew, in which the title character is repeatedly referred to as "Dangerous Dan McGrew". Lister's name, Philip, is likely a reference to fictional detective Philip Marlowe.
The game itself is named "Streets Of Laredo", after the famous cowboy ballad.
The episode was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 October 1993 in the 9:00pm time slot. The episode was watched by over 6 million viewers, and it has been described as "the best episode of Series VI". One reviewer described the episode as "an excuse to transport the characters to a Wild West landscape, with results just as contrived as those on the original Star Trek but considerably funnier." The episode won an International Emmy award in 1994.
- Backwards, the fourth Red Dwarf novel by Rob Grant, features plot elements from the episode (Although the novel's events culminate in Kryten and Rimmer dying).
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- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Red Dwarf, Gunmen of the Apocalypse (1993)".
- "Gunmen of the Apocalypse movie connections". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- "Red Dwarf Series VI Aftermath". Red Dwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2008-01-02.
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- "SCI FI Weekly review - Red Dwarf Series VI DVD". www.scifi.com. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
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