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Red Dwarf episode
Psirens (Red Dwarf).jpg
Lister awakes onboard Starbug after 200 years of Deep Sleep
Episode no.Series 6
Episode 1
Directed byAndy de Emmony
Written byRob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date7 October 1993
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Red Dwarf episodes

"Psirens" is the first episode of science fiction sit-com Red Dwarf Series VI[1] and the 31st in the series run.[2] It was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 7 October 1993.[3] Written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor and directed by Andy de Emmony. The episode – which involves Psirens who try to lure the crew to them to feast on their brains – had its script published before the episode was broadcast.[4]


Lister awakens with amnesia and Kryten explains that he's been in Deep Sleep aboard Starbug for the past 200 years. When Rimmer and Cat both recover from their hibernation, Kryten updates them on the situation: Red Dwarf itself had been stolen by an unknown party and the original crew had been chasing the ship's vapour trail ever since. Red Dwarf has currently been forced to circumnavigate an asteroid belt, giving Starbug the opportunity to reach the ship by shortcutting through the belt. However, the belt turns out to contain a spaceship graveyard inhabited by Psirens, shape-changing GELFs who lure unwary travellers to them using psychic visions and suck out their brains.

Cat is almost lured by attractive women claiming to need mass insemination and Lister sees Kristine Kochanski, who tells him that she has two children, Jim and Bexley, that are his. A flaming meteor then appears hurtling toward the ship, but Kryten deduces it to be an illusion as Starbug's sensors do not detect it. Unfortunately, Rimmer is left in charge and assumes another flaming meteor to be fake; this time, the illusion is the lack of response from the ship's sensors.

Starbug is struck and crashes onto an asteroid. Lister exits the ship to blast the front landing gear out. Outside he encounters a lustful figure from his adolescence (the sister of one Pete Tranter). Although he is fully aware that she is actually a Psiren, the illusion is too strong for Lister to overcome his desires, and he snogs with her. He is ironically saved by another Psiren disguised as Kryten, who murders the first one in order to steal its victim. The second Psiren gives itself away by calling Lister 'Dave' (something the real Kryten would never do) and is killed by a panicking Lister. Lister manages to get back on board Starbug safely, only for a second Lister to arrive claiming he is the real article. Unwilling to risk leaving the real one behind, Kryten brings the second Lister aboard and holds them both at gunpoint while Starbug takes off.

To determine which is the false Lister, the crew ask them to play guitar; the first 'Lister' plays so well that the rest of the crew blast it without waiting to hear how the other performs. The rationale for this test was that the real Lister is a terrible guitar player, but believed he was an excellent one (contrary to his admission that he's not a very good player in "Marooned"), with the result that the Psiren's illusion was based on Lister's belief in his skills rather than being a reflection of his genuine capabilities. Lister gets suitably upset by their accusations that he is a poor player, not helping his cause by providing a practical demonstration, which leads the Cat to give him 'a little survival tip': "Never play your guitar in front of a man with a loaded gun", cocking a Bazookoid, and while they argue the Psiren escapes to the decks below.

A trail of green Psiren blood leads to the engine room. Lister and Cat stay behind to deal with a meteor shower, while Rimmer chickens out of helping Kryten, leaving him to follow the Psiren blood trail alone. When Kryten finds the Psiren it changes into Professor Mamet, his creator. With no choice but to obey her commands, he climbs into the waste compactor and starts it up. Lister, Cat and Rimmer quickly appear (the meteor shower being yet another illusion) to find Kryten's psi-scan and bazookoid abandoned on the floor. Rimmer suddenly fades out as the battery on his light bee runs flat. Now just the two of them, Lister and Cat walk up to the Psiren, which is disguised as a vending machine and knocks them unconscious. As the Psiren decides which to eat first, Kryten, now cube shaped from his experience in the waste compactor, waddles over to the edge of the walkway from the deck above and crashes down on top of it. The threat ended, the crew continues onward, following Red Dwarf into a vast nebula.


This episode features the first appearance of Kochanski since series 2's "Stasis Leak", albeit as a Psiren illusion used to fool Lister. Clare Grogan returned to play Kochanski for the last time. Samantha Robson plays a Psiren that lures him with an illusion of one of his teenage fantasies - Pete Tranter's sister. Jenny Agutter plays another Psiren, this time an illusion of Kryten's creator Professor Mamet. Anita Dobson also appears as Captain Tau, part of the Psiren illusion to fool Lister. The hands of Phil Manzanera appear in the scene in which the fake Lister plays the guitar brilliantly. Zoe Hilson and Elizabeth Anson both appear as Temptresses in a Psiren illusion to tempt the Cat.[5] Race Davies and Janan Kubba had been cast as temptresses but in the end were "not used".[6]

Anita Dobson's guest role came about when Grant and Naylor approached her partner (later husband) Brian May about providing his hands for the sequence where the fake Lister plays guitar. Although May was unavailable, Dobson agreed to play the part of Captain Tau when Grant and Naylor mentioned the possibility to her. The two regretted that—had they known that Dobson was willing and available, they would have written something more substantial for her.

The book Primordial Soup: The Least Worst Scripts contained the script for the "Psirens" episode. Edited by Grant Naylor and published by Penguin Books, it was released just a few months before the episode was broadcast.[4]

Cultural references[edit]

The concept of sirens creating illusions to lure unwary travellers to their deaths first appears in Homer's Odyssey, and this concept is much-repeated in Western film and literature.

Among the derelicts in the asteroid field are models of the Narcissus escape shuttle from Alien (1979), the Eagle from Space: 1999 (1975) and a Klingon Vor'cha attack cruiser from Star Trek: The Next Generation.[7]


The episode was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 7 October 1993 in the 9:00pm time slot.[3] The ratings had yet again increased on the previous series,[8] stated that "though no less funny, the show looks more and more like conventional, plot-driven science fiction."[9] while Sci-Fi Dimensions said "the show was at its best when it was fresh" before adding "these slightly slicker episodes, with their confusing discontinuity, are still some damned funny stuff."[10]


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide - Red Dwarf - Series 6". Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  2. ^ " - Psirens summary". Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b "BBC - Programme Catalogue - RED DWARF VI - PSIRENS". BBC. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Red Dwarf series VI Writing". Red Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  5. ^ "Psirens cast and crew". Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  6. ^ Cast and Crew | Series VI | Guide | Red Dwarf,, retrieved 11 May 2013
  7. ^ "Psirens movie connections". Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Red Dwarf Series VI Aftermath". Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Red Dwarf VI review at". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2008.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  10. ^ "Series VI review at Sci-Fi Dimensions". Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2008.

External links[edit]