So naturally, they notice Starbug. Even Lister's plan to disguise himself as Tarka Daal, ambassador of the human-hating Great Vindaloovian Empire, doesn't work. The Simulant captain is a little miffed at the sheer lack of competition he faces, and knocks all four of the crew out. They awaken several weeks later to find Starbug's been massively improved... so that the Simulants can have more sport hunting and killing them. The four talk tactics, the Cat points out they're in a game of Cat and Mouse, and there's only one way to win: Don't be the mouse. They never win.
So in total defiance of all logic, they fire on the Simulant ship. By a complete and utter fluke of logic, it fatally cripples the Simulant ship, preventing them from firing back. Their last resort is to transmit a little something called the Armageddon Virus into Starbug before they blow up. The virus quickly takes over the ship, locking it on course with a volcano moon. Kryten thinks he can engineer a countervirus before they land, but it'll take all his run-time. Plugging himself into the VR simulator, Kryten's last words are for them to "watch his dreams".
They do so, finding that Kryten's systems and the simulator are contextualizing Kryten's battle as part of the Wild West game, with Kryten as the sheriff. Problem is, he's a cowardly drunk, easily cowed and intimidated by the Virus' avatars, the Apocalypse Boys. An outraged Lister decides to help out, and the three load themselves into the game, complete with specialized skills of their characters. Their attempts to talk to Kryten don't work too well - he tries fleeing the game, which would mean certain death for the crew. With a little tough love, they drag him back, and tell him about everything.
Unfortunately, in the time they've talked, the Apocalypse Boys have lost patience. Bolstered by their skills, the trio are pretty sure they can take them... until Brother Death infects the simulator, robbing them of their skills. Outgunned, Lister, Rimmer and the Cat leg it, unplugging themselves, leaving Kryten alone. But he's not worried - their scrambling has given him the time to write the dove program.
- Kryten: Now, if you'll excuse the confrontational imperative: Go fer ya guns, ya scum-sucking molluscs!
The Dove Program immediately overpowers and kills the Apocalypse Boys, freeing Kryten's system of the virus. He revives and the crew rushes to upload a copy into Starbug's system, just as the ship crash lands into the boiling lava fields of the volcano moon...
And then triumphantly flies back up into space and off into the sunset.
- Actor Allusion: When Rimmer says "I'm Dangerous Dan McGrew, bare fist fighter extraordinaire", Chris Barrie puts on an American accent very similar to his impression of Ronald Reagan in Spitting Image. Reagan also appeared in a number of westerns during his acting career.
- The Alcoholic: With his systems succumbing to the virus, Kryten's avatar in the old west program has become a pitiful, drunken sheriff.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Line his lungs with lead!"
- All Boys Want Bad Girls: For a while Lister kept playing the Gumshoe AR game so he could have sex with Loretta, a homicidal, serial-killing Femme Fatale, on the grounds that he found the default female romantic interest to be to goody-goody and boring. He also tries to ask a rogue simulant for a date. He confides to Kryten that he's only ever attracted to "heartbreakers or moral garbage on legs."
- Animal Motif: The Simulant spaceship was designed after a cow skull.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: Dangerous Dan McGrew, Rimmer's character, fights with his bare hands.
- Bare-Handed Puppetry: Lister and Cat's Vindaloovian disguises.
- Bar Brawl: Rimmer gets into one. He gets by thanks to his special skills.
- Betty and Veronica: In the private eye simulation, Lister lampshades how he's supposed to arrest the Femme Fatale and end up with the nice girl. Unfortunately he thinks Evil Is Sexy.
- Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Taken one step further: The Cat shoots two incoming bullets while they're in mid flight, although the crew are in a computer simulation at the time. (Aside: it turns out that bullets are an absolute nightmare to film, requiring a great many takes to get them to fall from just outside camera and stay in the field of view.)
- Brought Down to Normal: The special skills of the boys' characters allow them to absolutely destroy some Mooks, but before taking on the enemies who really matter the virus spreads to the game and deletes their new abilities.
- Beware the Skull Base: The Rogue Simulant Battle Cruiser was deliberately designed with a skull-like form. Originally this was going to be a human skull and then later a goat one, but the creators decided that a cow skull would fit better with the Western theme of the episode.
- Chekhov's Gun: The AR video game console; shows up just as a source of some early gags, but then they figure to hook it up to Kryten to help him fight the virus.
- Cowboy Episode: The episode involves the Dwarfers entering a virtual Western town that serves as a metaphor for Kryten's struggles with the computer virus. The episode even ends with Starbug flying off into the sunset.
- Cutting Back to Reality: The episode begins with Lister apparently starring in a black-and-white film noir movie as a private detective. When he kisses the Femme Fatale, however we cut back to reality to reveal that Lister is playing a virtual reality game and acting out the seduction in thin air - complete with him working on an invisible bra strap!
- Dumbass Has a Point: Cat is the one to suggest that they make the first strike against the simulants, and it ends up working, because the Sim Captain really didn't expect them to fire. Secondly, Cat's the one who suggests that they go into VR to help Kryten. Much to his surprise, they listen to him both times.Cat: Twice in one lifetime? When you're hot, you're hot!
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Cat stops a fleeing Kryten by firing a bullet in apparently the wrong direction. It ricochets off several objects, hitting a sign just as Kryten is passing under it. The sign collapses on top of him.
- Fictional Video Game: We hear about a couple in this episode, most prominently the cowboy one the guys use to enter Kryten's dreamscape.
- Gargle Blaster: The stuff served up in the saloon. Although the Cat was expecting something with a little more kick to it.
- Gone Horribly Right: The Simulants wanted a Worthy Opponent. They... still didn't get one, but they did give Starbug the ability to get in a freak lucky shot.
- Hideous Hangover Cure: The other three Dwarfers sober up Kryten by making him eat raw ground coffee.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: A group of rogue simulants attempt to hunt the crew of Starbug. They even upgrade Starbug's armor and engines and fit it with a laser to make it more worthy prey.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Given to the Cat, AKA the gunslinger "The Riviera Kid" as part of his game persona.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Brett Riverboat.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The dreamscape inhabitant "Bearstrangler" McGee.
- Nasal Trauma: After the Armageddon virus locks them into the virtual reality scenario, the crew are forced to manually remove their gloves and helmets, resulting in the Cat nearly pulling Lister's nose off in his efforts to free him.
- Not Worth Killing: The Simulants are disgusted with the lack of challenge presented by Starbug, so they knock everyone out and proceed to upgrade it.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Lister's alien costume is a googly eye stuck to his chin with the camera upside-down.
- Riding into the Sunset: Or flying into it in Starbug, as the case may be.
- The AR game of the same name is based on the film Gumshoe.
- 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".
- Showdown at High Noon: As noted above, done in somewhat metaphorical fashion between Kryten and the virus's in-game personification.
- Take That!: Cat's reason to not be the mouse in the game of cat and mouse is that the mouse never wins unless you believe those lying cartoons.
- A Taste of Power: The boys get a chance to be actual butt-kicking heroes for a little while, but it's taken away when they have a showdown with the Apocalypse Boys.
- Theme Tune Cameo: The piano player in the bar is playing the Red Dwarf theme.
- Titled After the Song: The game itself is named Streets Of Laredo, after the famous cowboy ballad.
- Variations on a Theme Song: The closing theme tune is re-done in a Western format.
- Weapon of Choice: Each of the characters the boys select has a particular weapons specialty.
- Whole Plot Reference: The plot of a drunken sheriff defending his town against an incoming gang of cowboys parodies Rio Bravo. The artificial reality plot also shows similarities to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Fistful of Datas".