Red Dwarf

Work Title: Red Dwarf
Medium: TV Episode
Episode Title: Back to Reality
Year: N/A
Writer(s): Bob Grant
"Original" Writer: Yes Writer(s): Doug Naylor
"Original" Writer: Yes Own work?: No


(See other Red Dwarf description for background information). Surprisingly complicatd for a 30 minute sit-com. The participants experience a (VR1) virtual reality in which they are told that they have just exited a virtual reality game (VR2). VR2 is actually the real-world of the sci-fi series itself (R1). You don't find any of this out until the denoument. At the start of the episode you see the crew of the space ship visit a water world. They get a sense of despair and get attacked by a "despair squid". They then see the sign "Game Over". They exit the game to a room with VR pods (this is actually VR1) they are told that they have been playing a VR game called "Red Dwarf" (VR2) for four years, and that they got kicked from the game because they died. The main jokes of the episode are that they did really badly at the same (scored 4%) and missed lots of the best content in the game (including planet of the nymphomaniacs). The character Rimmer missed the clue that actually he has been playing the wrong character for four years and actually his character was supposed to be a special agent, not a nerd. The second main joke is that in VR1 their "real" personalities, appearances and jobs are completely opposite. Cat who is suave in VR2 is a poorly dressed geek in VR1, Lister who is a slob in VR2, is a wealthy, influential man in VR1. However they don't remember this, it is implied solely by their possessions that are returned to them. They are told their real memories will come back in 20 minutes, but in the rest of the episode they do not. VR1 quickly turns in to a nightmare. They find that they are in a totalitarian state. They get close to suicide before they are "woken up", by a transmission from the R1 world's ship's computer. She tells them they have been hallucinating, and this was caused by the R1 despair squid. The despair squid was trying to get them to commit suicide by creating the VR1 fantasy. Overall then, VR1 is not strictly a technological VR, it itself includes a representation of a technological VR (VR2).

  • Self-Written?: 1
  • Source Name:
  • Source URL:

Era/Year of Portrayal: distant_future

Distinctive characteristics of the world in portrayal:

See summary!


  • Name of portrayed presence-evoking technology: Leisure World International total immersion game
  • Description of the technology: VR1 - a hallucination VR2 - a VR "pod" with seat, over-head display, otherwise passive. Participants spend years in the game.
  • Nature of task or activity: Participant acts out a character for years.
  • Performance of the Technology: Perfect.
  • Description of creator(s): Creators of VR2 are a game company. Implication is that VR is an escape from an otherwise totalitarian state.
  • Major goal(s) of creator(s): To entertain (explicit) and control (implicit).
  • Description of users of technology: Seems that a wide cross-section take part.
  • Type(s) of presence experience in the portrayal: both
  • Description of presence experience: See summary.
  • User awareness of technology during experience: VR2 - not aware VR1 - just a hallucination, so they can be contacted from outside.
  • Valence of experience: VR2 - neutral VR1 - designed to be unpleasant (and induce suicide)
  • Specific responses: After VR2, subject are disoriented and summary short term memory loss.
Long-term consequences:

Ends happy, but both VR1 and VR2 were actually hallunications.


This episode was the end of series 5 of Red Dwarf, and there is a nice "meta" joke where in VR1, the players comment that all of the Red Dwarf experience (and thus the 5 series of tv programes) was not real. There are further references to VR in later series of Red Dwarf, but I have not seen those episodes. On the web it state that this episode is regarded as being one of the best overall.

Coder name: Anthony Steed
Coder email:
Coder affiliation: UCL