A badly disheveled Lister awakens on Starbug, and finds he's got a touch of total amnesia. After a few minutes stumbling about, he's met by Kryten, who explains the amnesia is a side-effect of two hundred years in stasis (Kryten had tried to wake him up in the spring, but he absolutely insisted on another three months). Kryten quickly tries filling Lister in on himself; his fondness for vindaloo, his snobbiness, his desire to find and then have sex with Kochanski, and his "ability" to play the guitar. Lister isn't remotely impressed at his being a "barely human grossed-out slimeball". The reactivation of Rimmer at least kick-starts some of his memories.
Soon enough, the Cat's up too, and Lister is well on his way to recovery, enjoying a nice bowl of Corn Flakes (with grated raw onion) with a little tabasco sauce for extra pep, and convinced he can play the guitar. Rimmer tries to get down to business: What's happened to Red Dwarf, which they've lost, for which he blames Lister forgetting where he parked it. Kryten fills him in: They didn't lose the Dwarf, it was stolen. They've been in stasis because Starbug couldn't keep up, but now it's had to make a massive detour around an asteroid field that the Bug doesn't, giving them a chance to head it off.
Of course, since this is Red Dwarf, it's not so easy. After blowing up an asteroid with their newly designed weaponized garbage disposal unit, they discover the asteroid field is filled with dozens of crashed ships. Examining one finds a warning scrawled in blood (and a lower intestine): PSIRENS. They're GELFs that use psychic mirages to lure unsuspecting saps onto asteroids and suck their brains out, the scrawled message being an attempt at warning anyone from falling into the same trap.
Still, Rimmer reasons they're probably safe, since between the four of them there's barely a snack on-board. They continue onward, quickly receiving a distress call from a colony of attractive, lustful women in need of men to "spread their seed". The Cat nearly falls for this, but they continue on. Then they get a call from a crashed ship, under attack from Psirens... with Kochanski on-board. And she's got children. Lister's, in fact, thanks to breaking into the sperm bank on Red Dwarf. Before Lister can go charging in, Rimmer points out it's an obvious trick.
The Starbug makes its way further in, only to find a flaming asteroid coming toward them, even though the readout says there isn't. The asteroid is too fast to dodge and too big to destroy like they did earlier. Kryten deduces that the asteroid is fake and they don't need to do anything. It works, allowing Kryten to momentarily activate Smug Mode and leave to do ironing. As soon as he's gone, another flaming asteroid shows up. A thoroughly annoyed Rimmer argues that the asteroid is another illusion, because that's what the readout says, but it's pointed out that the asteroid may be real and it's the readout that's being tampered with. Rimmer smugly assures them they'll be fine. He's wrong, they crash on one of the asteroids.
Fortunately, Starbug is tough enough to survive the impact and the crash-landing. The only problem is the landing gear gets buried in rock, forcing Lister to go outside to fix it. The same outside filled with ravenous Psirens after his grey matter. The first tries appearing as his teenaged crush, and almost succeeds until another Psiren pretending to be Kryten saves him. Narrowly avoiding it and another Psiren pretending to be a TV weather girl, Lister makes his way back to the 'bug... as does Lister. Now there's two of them, and they can't leave one behind. On the other hand, if they do, they'll definitely have a Psiren on-board.
With no options left, Kryten lets the second Lister in. Soon, both Listers are asked to prove who they are. Trimming their toenails doesn't work since the Psiren can match Lister in disgusting detail. They have to go nuclear: Someone has to play the guitar. The first Lister does so, effortlessly playing an amazing guitar riff... at which point Kryten and the Cat blow him away. The Psiren picked up on Lister's belief of how he could play, rather than the "talentless ten-toed, tone-deaf noise polluter" he actually is.
Lister's outrage over this allows the Psiren to limp away, and everyone goes hunting for it, in the dark recesses of the ship. Rimmer quickly steps out of the picture when his battery runs low, and then Cat and Lister go heading back to the cockpit following an alarm from the readout. Kryten, alone, finds the Psiren. No problem, then, since his brain is synthetic, and he has no lusts or desires for it to exploit. Unless, that is, the Psiren takes the form of his creator, Dr. Mamet, who he's programmed to obey. Even if said order is to climb inside the waster disposal unit and use it to crush himself. Lister and the Cat return, the sensor read out turning out to be another illusion, and take a break at a convenient vending machine. Which wasn't there before.
The Psiren knocks them out and prepares to suck on their brains, when Kryten - now crushed to a cube and almost annoyed - returns, and drops on it from the upper railing, slaying the beast. In the aftermath, Starbug escapes the belt unscathed, ready to catch up on the Dwarf, and all is well. Except Kryten can't get around to fixing himself while there's still laundry that needs doing.
This episode contains examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: Kryten manages to convert Starbug's waste disposal unit into a garbage cannon. Though a vial of nitroglycerin also does the trick.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Lister, coming out of a several hundred-year long nap, is disturbed by Kryten's description of him.
- Amnesiac Resonance: It's seeing Rimmer's smug smile again that allows Lister to remember who he is.
- Apocalyptic Log: Parodied. While investigating a derelict ship, the crew find a flight recorder showing a fear-crazed astronaut munching a burger as he documents the horrible fate of his crew. A hideous insectoid monster approaches as the astronaut backs away in terror. A spray of red splatters across the screen...
- Astronaut: You've squeezed all the ketchup out of my burger!
- Art Evolution: The Starbug sets get a beef-up. The cockpit now has seats for all four crew members, the back room is larger and has a staircase going up to a second level, and an adjoining back kitchen.
- Asteroid Thicket: The crew is chasing the stolen Red Dwarf in the much smaller Starbug. They have an opportunity to catch it because it's had to make a detour around an asteroid field, which Starbug can go through. Even then they need the Cat, with his fast reflexes, as the pilot to get safely through.
- Bait-and-Switch: The Boys find a recording of a man confronted by a Psiren. It drags him off-camera, and there's a spurt of red across the screen...Captain: YOU'VE SQUEEZED THE KETCHUP OUT OF MY BURGER!
- Blatant Lies: Kryten prefaces lying to Rimmer by loudly announcing "lie mode".
- Brick Joke: Early on, Kryten makes a remark about Lister turning his underpants inside out. Later on, Rimmer remarks that if the Starbug's viewscreen is blown out, they'll be turned inside out "quicker than a pair of Lister's old underpants".
- The Cameo: Jenny Agutter as Kryten's creator, Dr. Mamet (or more accurately, the Psiren impersonating her).
- Captain Obvious: Cat can't recall the term for those giant meteorites that are covered with flames. "A giant flaming meteorite?" "That's it."
- Chekhov's Gun: The waste disposal unit.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Lister after the Psiren guitar-test: "I resent this. I resent you saving my life in this fashion."
- Continuity Nod: Kryten suggests one of the things that might have taken the Dwarf is "figments of Mr. Lister's imagination brought to life by some weird space virus", as happened back in "Confidence & Paranoia".
- Couldn't Find a Pen: The first warning about the Psirens is written in blood and intestines. The Cat is mystified as to why the scribe went to the effort of using his kidney as a full stop. Rimmer suggests he probably didn't, but it just "fell out".
- Covered in Gunge: Lister gets Psiren slime on his face and mouth.
- Cutting Back to Reality: One of the eponymous monsters corners Lister in the form of his old crush, Pete Tranter's sister; unable to resist after going for so long without sex, he gives in and kisses her... and then the shot dissolves to the reveal of what Lister is actually kissing: a giant slime-drooling cockroach that's about to suck out his brains with a straw.
- Damned by Faint Praise: The best example Kryten can think of when a distressed Lister asks him to give an example of some laudable quality of his is that Lister sometimes turns his underpants inside out, allowing him to wear them for a few more weeks.
- Dreadful Musician: "Little survival tip, bud: never play your guitar in front of a man with a loaded gun."
- Empathy Doll Shot: Mentioned by Lister when he's trolling Cat about how the ship's so durable. Supposedly the one thing that always survives a tragic plane crash is a "cute little doll", and so Starbug was made out of the same materials.
- Enthralling Siren: Involving telepathy rather than music.
- Fainting: Rimmer, on seeing the Apocalyptic Log.
- Fan Disservice: Lister fulfills his adolescent fantasy, making out with Pete Tranter's sister. But then we see Lister kissing a bug ugly Psiren.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Played for Laughs. The crew watch the Apocalyptic Log of a victim of a psiren. It drags him off-camera, and there's a spurt of red across the screen...Captain: YOU'VE SQUEEZED THE KETCHUP OUT OF MY BURGER!
- Hidden Depths: Conclusive proof is given that Rimmer does actually have some small reserve of charisma. It's located entirely within his pinky finger.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: The psiren lures Lister by appearing as the Girl Next Door that he lusted after all through puberty.
- Hypocritical Humour: Rimmer insists the situation with the Dwarf missing is not the time for small-minded, petty recriminations. That's when they find it, and Lister is court-martialled.
- In Medias Res: The story already begins with Red Dwarf missing and the crew in pursuit. An explanation isn't given until several minutes in.
- Instant Turn-Off: Lister and the Cat are tempted with illusions of lustful, beautiful women, which turn out to be gross Psirens.
- Irony: Claire Grogan makes her last appearance as Kochanski, only this one's an illusion.
- Large Ham: Aforementioned captain in the recording.
- Mood Whiplash: The joke of the crazed astro's burger getting ruined is followed immediately by the siren actually eating his brains.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The slime on the Psiren when Lister is snogging it was agricultural jelly used in inseminating cows.
- Out-of-Character Alert: The crew is trying to figure out which of two Listers is a mind-reading impostor. The two act alike, until the crew has one of them play Lister's guitar. Because Lister sincerely (but utterly incorrectly) considers himself a brilliant player, the fake reads this, belts out a few power-chords, and goes down in a hail of laser-fire.
- Played straight earlier when Dave realizes that the "Kryten" that saved him was not really Kryten, since Kryten never calls Lister "Dave".
- Rip Van Winkle: Episode starts with Lister waking up to find he has been in stasis for 200 years, with his hair and finger nail grown long.
- Rule of Drama: As they hunt the psiren, Rimmer's light bee starts suffering battery problems, something it's never done before and never does again, leaving Lister and the Cat to fend for themselves.
- Schmuck Bait: The Psiren's way of finding food. They pretend to be someone the target finds attractive, and while they're distracted, stick a straw in their ear. The Cat and Lister nearly fall for it. The Cat's even more so since it's painfully obvious it's a trap; a colony of lusty women in need of men to breed with. Kryten even notes this.Kryten: If I may, sirs, that was the level of sophistication required to ensnare the Cat. And it worked. Had we not been here he would now be on one of those asteroids, crawling around without a brain trying to write "oh, boy was I suckered!" with his own intestinal tract.
- Something Only They Would Say: Inverted. Lister realizes a Psiren isn't Kryten because it calls him "Dave", rather than "Mr. Lister".
- Spot the Imposter: The fake Lister knows everything the real Lister knows because it can read Lister's mind. So the others get Lister to play the guitar, and shoot the Lister who's as good as the real Lister thinks he is.
- Take That!:
- The name of the illusionary captain of the ill-fated SCS Pioneer, Captain Tau, was also the name of Red Dwarf's captain from the failed American pilot.
- Rimmer's comment on the Kochanski illusion is that it's "as plain as a Bulgarian pin-up".
- Kryten remarks that the Starbug crashes "more often than a ZX81".
- Talent Double: Fake Lister's guitar playing was performed by Phil Manzanera. While Craig Charles can play guitar, he isn't that good.
- Zeerust: In what universe does a robotics expert wear tinfoil silver go-go boots?