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Recap / Red Dwarf Season III Polymorph

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The Polymorph, ready for seconds.

"This week's Red Dwarf contains scenes which are unsuitable for younger viewers and people of a nervous disposition. You have been warned!"

Airdate: 28 November 1989.

It starts out as an average day aboard the Dwarf. Lister is preparing a meal that is being served with medical utensils, which disgusts the Cat. Rimmer is watching some old home movies, and Kryten feels incredible guilt over calling Rimmer's mother a trout. Their relative peace is shattered by Holly declaring that a non-human lifeform has been detected on board.

Said lifeform turns out to be a shape-shifter which transforms into a kebab, and attacks Lister before squirming away. It then copies his boxers, and begins shrinking when Lister unwittingly puts them on. Rimmer comes in to see Kryten trying pull the "boxers" off. Because of his vantage angle, and Kryten having his groinal vacuum attachment plugged in, Rimmer comes to the immediate conclusion that Lister has finally surrendered all standards. The shape-shifter turns into a snake, and then a giant armor-plated monster, sucking all fear out of a terrified Lister.

It turns out the creature, a Polymorph, is a shape-changing human-created genetic mutant that went wrong, the 'Ultimate Warrior' that as shown provokes negative emotions like fear, guilt, anger, paranoia and drains them out of its prey. There is just one problem though. "It's INSANE!" The crew discusses their options and decide to run off rather than take it on. They seal Lister (who, due to having no fear, is all too eager to take on the Polymorph and "twat it") in the medical unit and go off to prepare Starbug, deciding not to tangle with anything that has "more teeth than the Osmond family".

As they travel through the cargo decks, a false alarm causes the Cat and Kryten to let off a couple of heat-seeking bazookoid bolts down the corridor. The bolts immediately turn back towards the group: they are now homing in on the Cat as the only heat-source present, and he makes a run for it. He manages to trap the bolts behind a door, and on his way back, he is joined by a woman who flatters the Cat on his good looks, but she then unsurprisingly turns out to be the polymorph and drains the Cat's vanity. Kryten rushes onto the scene, followed by Rimmer. Rimmer tells Kryten that this is all his fault, then changes into the polymorph and drains out Kryten's guilt, transforming him into a colossally snarky Jerkass. On their arrival back at the medical unit, Rimmer finds his mother lying down with Lister. Rimmer tries to suppress his anger, but eventually fails when he learns that Lister's sex life with her involved Alphabetti Spaghetti. Rimmer's mother changes into the polymorph and drains Rimmer's anger.

In the sleeping quarters, the emotionally crippled crew try to work out their next move.

  • Rimmer plans to hit the polymorph with a major leaflet campaign followed up by a series of charity drives. His biggest problem is deciding on what acronym to use for their group: one of his favourites is the same as the name of a certain body part which is not polite to mention out loud.
  • Lister is determined that whatever plan they think up must be as violent as possible, and would hopefully involve him killing himself.
  • The Cat, now a vagrant, declares himself to be a nobody, with any possible opinion he has to be worthless.
  • Kryten turns into a cowardly slimeball like the old Rimmer, willing to sacrifice the others to save himself and acting like a Jerkass along the way.

Despite all this, the four head down to the cargo decks to confront the creature. Although things don't start well, the two heat-seeking bazookoid bolts are released and finally find the Polymorph, destroying it. Splattered with the debris, the four are restored to normal, with the Cat desperate to clean himself up, Kryten ready to commit suicide to make up for his bad behaviour, and Rimmer confused.

The space-pod that the creature emerged from is shown, and belatedly reveals a sign that states "Contents 2". Back on the cargo bay, the group walk in line, first Cat, then Kryten, Rimmer, Lister - and finally a second Lister, who looks at the screen, turning into another Polymorph.

"Polymorph" contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Rimmer, after losing his anger, suggests they should name themselves: "The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Oganisms, and their Rehabilitation Into Society. Also, when you're writhing on the floor, begging an android with a large tube attached to its crotch to pull off your underwear, it's kind of easy for people to get the wrong idea.
  • Actual Pacifist: Rimmer after losing his anger.
  • Apologizes a Lot: Kryten, before being affected by the polymorph, turning him into a Jerkass.
  • Ate His Gun: Lister prevents an incredibly guilty-feeling Kryten from doing this at the end of the episode.
  • Brain Bleach: Rimmer is increasingly disturbed by his mother's (really the Polymorph's) sexual escapades with Lister. It finally reaches a head when she mentions that, sometime during their fun, Lister did something involving Alphabetti Spaghetti.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The heat-seeking laser bullets that Cat traps behind a door. At the end of the episode the foursome go back down there, open the door and accidentally blow the polymorph to bits by releasing the laser bullets that were still in there.
  • Content Warnings: The quote at the top of the page. (Note that it was a joking reference to the likes of Alien, rather than a genuine attempt to warn viewers of the content.)
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Lister is first seen in this episode carefully measuring out a spoonful of curry powder, remarking "Not too much... not too little..." before throwing the rest of contents of the tin into the mix. Shami Kebab Diablo must be about 95% curry powder by weight.
  • Defcon 5: Apparently used correctly when Lister prepares a super-spicy Indian meal and warns Cat to "put your taste buds on Defcon Three."
  • Dirty Coward: See Jerkass above.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kryten attempts to shoot himself for his actions under the Polymorth's influence. Lister stops him.
  • Emotion Eater: The Polymorph.
  • Extreme Doormat: Rimmer, after his anger's been drained. He's too much of a non-confrontational dork to take exception to Kryten's constant insults, and his plan for dealing with the salivating monster is a major leaflet campaign.
  • Fearless Fool: Lister, once he's had his fear removed, does not think going up against an eight-foot-tall armour-plated killing machine is all that dangerous. Nor does he think attacking it while its busy eating him is a bad idea.
  • Flanderization: A temporary example here. The character's more prominent negative emotions are inverted, and their inverted emotions take over their entire character (Lister is borderline suicidal in his attempts to take down the Polymorph, Rimmer is a politically correct CND pacifist, the Cat becomes a slovenly drunk who's dressed like a homeless guy, and Kryten wants everybody but himself dead).
  • Fun T-Shirt: The anger-free Rimmer sports a T-shirt with "GIVE QUICHE A CHANCE" printed on it.
  • Fun with Acronyms: See Accidental Pervert.
  • Gag Penis: The episode introduces Kryten's Groinal Attachment, a power socket located in a place that should be obvious from its name to which he can attach various utensils including a vacuum cleaner hose and an electric egg-whisk. It makes the odd appearance in subsequent episodes.
  • Giant Medical Syringe: At the meal served with medical equipment, Lister offers Cat lemon juice in one of these (justified by the fact that it's for artificially inseminating cows). This is the last straw for Cat, who storms off.
  • Groin Attack: A self-inflicted one on the crazed Lister during their "attack" on the Polymorph.
  • Jerkass: Kryten loses his ability to feel guilt, and begins insulting everybody that moves. When discussing the plans to take down the polymorph, all of them include killing the others for his own gain.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Lister, after being drained by the Polymorph, is determined to kill it in as needlessly violent a way as possible.
    Lister: It needs killin'! And if that means I have to sacrifice my life in some stupid, pointless way, all the better!
  • Mistaken for Gay-Robosexual: As Kryten is trying to pull Lister's shrinking boxers off of him, Rimmer walks in. From Rimmer's vantage point, he believes that Kryten and Lister are doing some rather kinky stuff. "Well, I can't say I'm TOTALLY shocked! You'll BONK anything, won't you, Lister?"
  • Mistaken for Transformed: The eponymous creature can shapeshift into just about anyone or anything while hunting for emotions to devour. Naturally, this results in a good deal of paranoia when the Dwarfers have to hunt it down, quickly leading to Rimmer panicking and having the others open fire on an ordinary shadow. Worse still, the bazookoids were set to heat-seeker, and Cat is forced to spend the next few minutes trying to outrun his own salvos.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The trope namer.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kryten is ready to terminate himself after he regains his conscience and realises all the horrible actions he committed.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Polymorph's prior attacks have left the Dwarfers as an incoherent unit, who would have gotten themselves or each other killed, had it not been for a stroke of luck when they released Cat's heat seeking missiles when the Polymorph was right behind them.
  • Never My Fault: Subverted; Rimmer blames Kryten for letting Cat run off by himself, even though it was Rimmer's false alarm over a Polymorph sighting that caused them to fire off the bazookoid blasts that chased Cat away. However, it turns out that the "Rimmer" blaming Kryten is really the Polymorph, guilt-tripping him so that it can suck out his guilt.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The appearance of the angerless Rimmer was based on Rolf Harris.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Blowing up the Polymorph causes the four to immediately revert to their usual personalities, without any additional steps required. Contrast this to the next time the Polymorph shows up, where they have to be careful to freeze it rather than just killing it.
  • Noodle Incident: Rimmer reacts to Holly's warning by asking if its like "last time", where she sent the crew down into the ship's hold fully armed, only to find Lister's sock.
  • Noodle Implements: "The things this boy can do with Alphabetti Spaghetti!"
    Rimmer: (very cross) ALPHABETTI SPAGHETTI?????!!
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When looking for the Polymorph (the first time), Kryten, instead of speaking with his Canadian Accent, briefly speaks with Robert Llewellyn's British accent.
    • The Cat briefly slips into Danny John-Jules' natural accent with the line "I'm sure I have an opening in my schedule somewhere."
  • The Pig-Pen: Holly once mistook one of Lister's socks for an alien life form.
    Holly: I didn't recognize the genetic structure. Biologically speaking, they were a completely new life-form!
  • Rage Breaking Point: Rimmer tries to resist the Polymorph's taunting. Oh, he tries, even as he's quivering with rage. But then it mentions the Alphabetti Spaghetti.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Lister is knocked out after waking up and wanting to take on the Polymorph himself. The others decide to load up Starbug and flee the ship.
  • Sequel Hook: After the crew defeats the eponymous creature, it is revealed that a second one has made it on board. Subverted in the remastered version, in which on-screen text reveals that this one, much less intelligent than the first, took up residence harmlessly in Lister's underwear drawer and eventually died of old age. Doubly subverted by the episode Emohawk: Polymorph II three series later in which they meet another one.
  • Shapeshifter Showoff Session: The eponymous Emotion Eater first demonstrates its powers in a deliberately showy fashion in order to provoke fear in Lister so that it can feed. Initially impersonating one of his kebabs, it then goes for his neck, before becoming his underwear and painfully constricting him from the waist down, then becoming a boa constrictor and trying to attack him head-on - before finally reverting to its gigantic armoured Shapeshifter Default Form and devouring Lister's fear.
  • Shapeshifting Sound: The eponymous monster's transformations occur in a jump cut, accompanied by a quick "sniffing" sound effect. For good measure, this allows for comedic use of off-screen transformation when the Polymorph transforms into Lister's boxer shorts; the audience knows from the sound effect that the monster has transformed into something, but they don't know what it is until Lister makes the mistake of putting the boxer shorts on...
  • Shout-Out:
    • A parody of Star Trek comes up when Kryten says it is the overriding directive of the Space Corps to seek out new lifeforms "and wherever possible, bring them home".
    • "It's clobberin' time!"
  • Show Stopper: When Rimmer walks in on Kryten trying to remove Lister's shorts, there is a considerable pause before Chris Barrie can deliver his line as he waits for the audience laughter to subside.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Lister after the Polymorph eats his fear.
  • Take That!: "What about the Rimmer Directive, which states 'never tangle with anything that's got more teeth than the entire Osmond family'?"
  • Waving Signs Around: How anger-drained Rimmer confronts the polymorph.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of the second Polymorph. Eventually when the Remastered version of this episode was made, it ended with these subtitles:
    The 2nd Polymorph, which was much less intelligent than the 1st, stowed away in Lister's clean underpants drawer - where it died of old age many years later.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The episode was heavily inspired by Alien (which was already an influence on the series).
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Lister states that snakes are his all time second worst fear after the titular mutant takes the form of one. His all time worst fear is a ten foot tall armoured killing machine, which the polymorph turns into.
  • Xenomorph Xerox: The episode was inspired by the movie, Alien.