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Recap / Red Dwarf Season IV Justice

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A man of such awesome stupidity, he even objects to his own defence counsel.

Kryten enters the medical deck, bringing attention and breakfast to Lister, who is laid up with yet another bizarre future-illness. In this case, Space Mumps, a disease that causes his head to swell up with grotesque pustulent blisters and growths. Lister thanks Kryten for his care, lamenting at the absence of Rimmer and Cat. Kryten explains that both of them have had other things on their mind; Rimmer has just returned from a ten-day hike through the engine deck with some of the skutters and is even now loading up the slide projector with pictures from his trip (something that Lister reacts to with horror), while Cat has been distracted by the escape pod containing what evidence suggests is a woman that they just picked up.

Naturally, Lister immediately goes to investigate the pod, where he shares some banter with Cat before they realise the pod's stasis release process hasn't been activated and switch it on. Rimmer and Kryten arrive too late to stop them, with Rimmer explaining that the release was left off on purpose because, according to the black box, the pod came from a prison ship that was the scene of a riot that left only two survivors; a guard and a prisoner. Thus, there's a 50% chance the person inside the pod is not the female guard Barbara Bellini, but instead the surviving prisoner. Once they learn that the prison ship was carrying a cargo of 40 Simulants — psychotic, kill-crazed combat droids — Lister and Cat are forced to agree that finding some way to identify who was in there first would have been better.

With no way to stop the release, or to identify who's inside, as well as being unwilling to risk murdering an innocent woman should it be Barbara inside, they hit upon the plan of going to the penal colony station where the original prison ship was heading; that way, if it is a simulant in the pod, they can trap him there and leave.

The penal colony, Justice World, is still functioning, despite its age, and the group board with no problems. While the initial mind probe to detect crimes scares Lister, he gets through without a problem. Unfortunately for Rimmer, the Justice World computer declares he is guilty of 1167 counts of 2nd-degree murder, courtesy of causing the radiation leak that wiped out the crew of Red Dwarf. And in the light of him being a hologram, each murder piles up with a minimum of eight years each, to be served consecutively, making a total sentence of 9328 years incarceration.

Kryten, however, manages to convince the Justice Computer to give Rimmer a retrial. There, he presents an eloquent defense for Rimmer that ultimately convinces the computer that Rimmer is not guilty of the crime by virtue of being A: so egotistical that he would blame himself for the accident despite the fact he was nowhere near important enough to be held guilty, and/or B: so incompetent that the real blame lies with whoever was stupid enough to appoint him to such a vital task in the first place.

Unfortunately, the trial took so long that the pod has opened by the time the crew get back to it — and the contents are one angry simulant. The Dwarfers flee into the Justice Zone section of the colony, the simulant close on their heels. While Lister manages to sneak up on the simulant, the droid's pleas that he is willing to talk (and Lister's own disgust at both the idea of shooting him in the back and Rimmer's eagerness to do so) persuade him to go and talk to the cybernetic killer.

Unfortunately, the droid was lying and attacks Lister with a concealed pistol and knife. Unfortunately for the simulant, the Justice Zone's effects mean that it is he who takes the damage; realizing this, Lister gets the simulant to smash himself repeatedly in the head and then strangle himself into submission.

Once the simulant is dealt with, the Dwarfers fly away while Lister launches into a long soliloquy about the impossibility of there being both justice and free will in the universe. His crewmates watch in dispassion as he promptly falls down an open maintenance shaft; they then close the cover-shaft and walk away.

Tropes Included:

  • Accidental Suicide: The Simulant intended to attack Lister but thanks to the effects of the justice field (which reverses any crime committed on the user), winds up being dealt the same blows that he intended to make instead and is destroyed as a result.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: A weird example, where Kryten proves that Rimmer is such a neurotic incompetent that, really, the blame for his causing the radiation leak that wiped out the crew of Red Dwarf should be laid upon whatever dumbass actually thought to put such an ignorant screwup in charge of such a vital piece of maintenance.
  • Attack Reflector: The Justice Field means that if you attack someone, the attacker takes the damage instead of the victim.
  • Badass Boast: Kryten delivers one for lawyers everywhere prior to the re-trial, especially with its accuracy.
    Kryten: Sir, provided I could have full access to your personal files, I believe I could come up with a winning case by lunchtime.
  • Blatant Lies: Both the Simulant and Lister lie about being armed. Actually, the Simulant lied twice.
  • The Bore: Rimmer's slide show about ship engines threatens to melt Kryton's intelligence circuits.
  • Boring Vacation Slideshow: Rimmer tries to show off the holiday slides of his trek through the Diesel Decks to Kryten. Kryten is in clear pain throughout the presentation and tries to get a break from it, only for Rimmer to note that they weren't going to get through the presentation if they had a second break.
  • Brass Balls: Lister is perfectly willing to go toe to toe with a Simulant, armed with nothing more than a lead pipe, as opposed to shooting him in the back. Bear in mind that earlier in the episode, Kryten informs the crew that the Simulant is perfectly capable of surviving bazookoid fire for long enough to make balloon animals out of someone's lower intestines. The Simulant is carrying both a knife and a gun, but fortunately, the Justice Field turns his own attacks against him.
  • Brick Joke: The whole episode really. The boys go to the prison to lock up the person in the pod in case it turns out to be a killer android. Rimmer gets convicted of a thousand counts of manslaughter. They spend so much time trying to get him off the rap they forget why they came to the prison in the first place. Until they get back to Starbug and find the killer android about to kill them...
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: Lister panics when told about the justice probe.
    Rimmer: Oh, Listy, Listy. Is that a small sewage plant you're carrying in your trousers, or do I detect you're a tad concerned?
  • Covered in Gunge: One symptom for "Space Mumps" is a build up of pus underneath Lister's scalp. Lister's mumps pop like a zit covering Lister and the Cat in slimy pus.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The initial plot about the escape pod is seemingly forgotten in favour of Rimmer's trial. Then it comes back around...
  • Honor Before Reason: Lister can't bring himself to shoot the simulant in the back, despite the threat he poses, instead agreeing to the simulant's request to "talk" (though he did bring along a lead pipe, just in case). Although as soon as the attacks start flying, it turns out not taking the shot actually saved Lister from blowing a hole through his own back.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're not androids, they're Simulants. The key difference being an android "would never rip off a human's head and then spit down his neck".
  • In the Back: Rimmer urges Lister to shoot the Simulant in this fashion. Lister refuses to do so and confronts the guy face to face. It turns out that thanks to the Justice Field, this was a very good decision.
  • I Reject Your Reality: After Kryten successfully manages to prove Rimmer is innocent via sheer incompetence, Rimmer praises him for "twisting" the facts to make him look so stupid.
  • It's All My Fault: In contrast to his usual attitude, it's revealed that Rimmer blamed himself for the death of the entire Red Dwarf crew and gets charged for 1167 counts of manslaughter. He is acquitted as Kryten points out that Rimmer was clearly unqualified to repair the drive plate, being so incompetent he should have never been put in that position in the first place.
  • Killer Robot: The Simulant qualifies, for all practical purposes.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Enforced within the Justice Field, which instantly applies the effects of any wrongdoings you commit unto others onto yourself. If you steal something, something of yours goes missing, attack someone, you take damage from the blow instead. The intent is for this to hammer through to the inmates that they must obey the law (or else) until doing so becomes second nature for them upon release.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: Played with. Given that Rimmer is a hologram, and thus, unable to technically die, his sentence for each count of second-degree murder is to run consecutively. Each count carries a minimum eight-year sentence - thus, for 1,167 deaths aboard the Red Dwarf, Rimmer is given a 9,328-year term.note  Rimmer even lampshades this when Lister gives him a book while visiting.
    "I'll be up for parole in another couple of ice ages."
  • Now You Tell Me: Lister didn't learn about what the Justice Field does until he started setting fire to the bedsheets. And he is not happy about it.
    Lister: Nice example, Rimmer. Nice example! You could just have explained that to me verbally!
    • And he only really gets it after he hits the Simulant over the head with a pipe, and he's the one who goes down from it.
    • He was also smegged up about having learned what the mind probe does after having put the escort boots on.
    Lister: Why did no one tell me this before I put the smegging boots on?
    Rimmer: Ah, Listy, Listy, is that a small sewage plant you're carrying in your trousers, or do I detect you're a tad concerned?
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Rimmer is alarmed to find that Cat has started opening the pod.
    • The lads return to Starbug to find the pod empty and the simulant awaiting them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Justice Computer. It judges the crew quite fairly since it doesn't find many crimes on them. For Kryten, a mechanoid who is incapable of committing a crime, he gets through. Cat, who doesn't seem to have committed any crimes despite his attitude, gets through. Lister, who actually had committed crimes, gets through because he was mainly a small-timer who didn't do anything completely outrageous. He also was routinely caught and thus already punished, and even if he did have any lingering crimes, he was a nonviolent offender save for the occasional nonlethal pub brawl and would have run out any statute of limitations millions of years ago. Of course, when it comes to Rimmer, who believed that he was guilty of the deaths aboard the Red Dwarf, he gets sentenced effective immediately. The computer does sanction a re-trial to properly examine if he was guilty or not of the crime he feels responsible for, and after carefully analyzing Rimmer's psych profile and the details of the situation, realizes the fault really lies with whoever gave someone so useless such an important job to do.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rimmer's trial is one big, long such speech, for the explicit purpose of convincing the Justice Computer that he sucks so badly there's no way he can be held guilty of this particular crime.
  • Ret-Canon: Lister states that Rimmer was in charge of "Z Shift", which first appeared in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, where it was a team of twelve members. Presumably in the show it had just two, since it was established back in the pilot that Rimmer is in charge of only one man — Lister (though a deleted scene establishes everyone else transferred out).
  • Retcon:
    • Rimmer is charged with 1,167 murders. Presumably, his own death isn't included as that wouldn't count as murder and Lister obviously survived, meaning the full crew, according to this episode, was 1,169. The early episodes stated Red Dwarf's crew to be just 169 but the writers later realised this was far too small for such a huge ship.
    • Rimmer's culpability for wiping out the crew. His incompetence had been played for humor so many times, eventually the writers realized someone like that would never have been put in charge of a job that could've endangered his crewmates' lives...unless whoever assigned him that task was even more incompetent.
  • Shovel Strike: The Cat whacks the already-incapacitated Simulant in this way. Or rather, thanks to the Justice Field, he whacks himself.
  • Stealing from the Hotel: A nervous Lister about to be judged for his sins reveals that he used to steal the furniture from hotel rooms.
    Lister: There was one time at this hotel...
    Kryten: Oh, lots of people take towels from hotels.
    Lister: I took the bed. Winched it out of the window to my mate outside. I was renting this flat. It was unfurnished.
    Rimmer: So you went to a hotel and stole the bed?
    Lister: I stole the entire room, actually. Armchair, dressing-table, carpet. Even the fitted wardrobe. The only thing I didn't take were the towels.
  • Tempting Fate: Lister with his final speech about there being no justice in the universe.
  • That Was Objectionable: Rimmer repeatedly objects to his own defense counsel — and is overruled by the judge AI of the prison space station every time — because Kryten's defense strategy hinged on proving that Rimmer was too all-around incompetent to have been liable for the disaster aboard Red Dwarf that he felt guilty for.
    "A man of such awesome stupidity, he even objects to his own defense counsel!"
    • One feels he was taking advantage of the (golden) opportunity to insult Rimmer as well: Kryten can so rarely do so without violating his programming.
    • There was a limit to be reached, of course. On the third consecutive objection:
    Kryten: An incompetent vending-machine repairman with a Napoleon complex, who commanded as much respect and affection from his fellow crew members as Long John Silver’s parrot.
    Rimmer: OBJECTION!
    Justice Computer: If you object to your own counsel once more, Mr Rimmer, you’ll be in contempt.
  • Varying Competency Alibi: Rimmer is accused by a Justice Computer on a penal colony station of the murder of 1167 counts of second-degree murder thanks to his failure to fix the drive plate which led to a radiation leak on Red Dwarf. Kryten eventually manages to get the Justice Computer to let Rimmer go by convincing it that he was such an incompetent worker that the real blame should lie on whoever got him to do the job in the first place. Rimmer even helped unwittingly back the argument of his own stupidity by repeatedly trying to object to his own defense for these "accusations", simply because he was offended by them.
    Kryten: Who would permit this man — this joke of a man, this man who could not outwit a used teabag — to be in a position where he might endanger the entire crew? Who? Only a yoghurt. This man is not guilty of manslaughter. He is only guilty of being Arnold J. Rimmer. That is his crime. It is also his punishment. Defence rests.