Fast forward three million years. The simulant, in his time-space travels, finds Starbug and announces that he is going to try the crew on their worthiness to live. Kryten explains that this must be The Inquisitor, a rogue simulant who has made it his mission to travel throughout the universe and "delete" people, replacing them with individuals created from a different sperm or egg, if he deems them to have failed living up to their potential and thereby wasted the precious gift of life.
Which is bad news for everyone.
The first called before the Inquisitor is Rimmer, who angrily demands how the Inquisitor can be a fair judge. The Inqusitor responds that all who are tried before him are judged... and here he lifts the mask to reveal Rimmer's face... by themselves. "Oh, smeg!" remarks Rimmer, something his other self agrees with. Rimmer's defence falls flat, prompting the Inquistor to remark on how he's a slimy, despicable, rat-hearted green discharge of a guy. Rimmer concedes he can't have been anything else, with his lunatic dad and his mad mom. Hell, from his starting standpoint, being a nothing is a step up.
The Cat is next, and his only defence is his ass. Hey, he's a shallow guy, but he's got a great ass! Then comes Kryten, who declines to accept commendation for all his selfless deeds, since that's just him following his programming, angering the Inquisitor when he asks why it judges people. And Lister... just tells the Inquisitor to smeg off.
The judging complete, the Inquisitor tells the four that two of them have been found unworthy, and will be erased. At the press of a switch, the Cat and Rimmer disappear. Lister is outraged, until Kryten points out the problem: The Cat and Rimmer aren't the ones on the chopping block.
- Lister: The Cat has led a more worthwhile life than either of us?Inquisitor: He is a shallow and selfish creature - as is the hologram. By their own low standards, they have acquitted themselves. Whereas you and the mechanoid could've been so much more.
Before the Inqusitor can finish erasing Lister and Kryten, they're saved by... Kryten? A future version of Kryten jumps in and slices off the Inquisitor's hand, giving them his gauntlet. But while they're talking, the Inquisitor recovers. Future Kryten's final words before his head is crushed are "enig". Lister and Kryten scarper back to Starbug, where they try to get the Inquisitor's bindings off. Lister blames himself for getting Kryten into the whole mess, but Kryten insists he believes in Silicon Heaven, but he doesn't anymore, thanks to Lister teaching him to lie. They do eventually manage to crack the chains, and head back into Red Dwarf. Only there's a problem: The ship and Holly don't recognise them. Because they don't exist there anymore. note
They're met by Rimmer and the Cat. Rimmer, as the smeghead he is, insists on killing these weirdo intruders immediately. Lister manages to prove he knows who he is by producing a very, very long list of all the reasons Rimmer is a smeghead. Then Lister and Kryten come in. ... err, that is, the Lister and Kryten who've been created thanks to the Inquisitor, their "sperms in-law" as Lister puts it. Despite the physical differences, Lister-B is pretty much the same as Lister-A, and he defends his counterpart from Rimmer's attempts to kill them. Then the Inquisitor shows up again. In the ensuing melee, the other Kryten and Lister are killed. But Lister manages to find a way to access Red Dwarf's systems now.
As the two try to think of a way to deal with the Inquisitor, the Cat and Rimmer catch up, throwing their lot in with them. Not that it does them much good when the Inquisitor returns, leaving just Kryten and Lister. Kryten has managed to figure out the way the gauntlet works, and freezes the Inquisitor in time while he's beating up Lister. As Kryten prepares to go back in time and sacrifice himself, his replacing the gauntlets gives Lister an idea.
The Inquisitor gets free once more, but Lister is able to knock him out, and drags him to one of Red Dwarf's cargo bays, hanging him on a chain. As he tells the Inquisitor, in a lot of ways he's killed Lister's friends today. He then threatens to drop the Inquisitor, only to pull him back up, claiming that it makes them even - if he didn't exist, he wouldn't have saved the guy from falling. Except, as the Inquisitor notes, if he didn't exist, the Inquisitor wouldn't have been in peril in the first place. Oops? But, as the Inquisitor fires his time gauntlet, he realizes the truth: Lister's sabotaged his gauntlet so it fires backwards. Instead of erasing Lister, it'll erase him.
With the Inquisitor gone, his victims are restored. Kryten tells Lister this is probably an appropriate juncture for them to high-five. Lister, who's still got his alternate's arm, thinks he can do Kryten one better...
- Adaptation Decay: The episode begins with Lister reading Virgil's Aeneid, in comic book form. Judging by Kryten's glimpse at it, it's not entirely accurate.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Simulants are not stable to begin with. This one wound up deciding that there was so much wasted life in the universe, it was his job to clean up all of it.
- Backwards-Firing Gun: "Yeah! It's the old backfiring time gauntlet routine!"
- Blatant Lies:
- Rimmer's initial defence is just full of it. The Inquisitor immediately interrupts his first attempt, and then calls him out on every one after.
- Kryten doesn't fear death. He believes in silicon heaven. He believes in an afterlife for droids. Except, as Lister notes, his leg shakes when he lies, and at that moment it's shaking so much he has to shout to be heard over the noise it's causing.
- When Lister and Kryten are met by Rimmer and the Cat, Rimmer tries to claim he's a rough-and-tough ex-Green Beret who's not to be messed with.
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass: How Lister gets through the door after Holly rejects his palmprint. Much to Kryten's disgust.
- Call-Back: While trying to prove his identity Lister references a number of facts about Rimmer that he's learned over the course of the series including:
- Chekhov's Gun: The episode begins with Lister complaining about the Schmuck Bait of the Trojan Horse gambit, and how anyone that stupid deserves to be kapowed in their sleep. At the very end of the episode, guess what does the Inquisitor in?
- Deathly Unmasking: In a deleted scene, the final confrontation between Lister and the eponymous villain plays out a little differently. Here, the Inquisitor removes his mask to discuss Lister's reasons for saving his life - revealing his true face for the very first time. Consequently, when the Inquisitor is erased from history by the booby-trapped time gauntlet after trying to kill Lister with it, he dies unmasked.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?:
- Lister's strategy in dealing with The Inquisitor during his "trial"? Display utter contempt and non-compliance with the time-travelling simulant who can and will erase him from existence! His final statement was simply "Spin on it".
- Kryten gets a more low-key one, when he questions by what right the Inquisitor has to judge humans.
- Grand Theft Me: The Inquisitor announces himself by seizing control of Lister's body and speaking through it.
- Insane Troll Logic: The Inquisitor's brand. He has people judged by themselves, meaning Rimmer and the Cat get by on the flimsiest of reasons (Rimmer once again claims Never My Fault and the Cat... just says he has a good ass), while Kryten, whom the Inquisitor notes is probably one of the most selfless beings there is, is sentenced for erasure.
- Then again it's by Kryten's own admission that his good deeds probably don't count because he's programmed to be selfless and subservient, not because he decided on his own that he should behave that way (as well as sorta mouthing off to the deranged droid by asking what right he had to appoint himself the final authority on who gets to live).
- This is arguably intentional, as the episode is essentially a riff on the philosophy of existentialism. To offer a simple summary, existentialism essentially argues that there's no fundamental meaning or purpose to the universe or existence, and no one who can act as the ultimate judge of the merit of any other person's actions or life other than that person themselves; a person is ultimately free to make their own choices and find meaning in their lives their own way, with the ultimate caveat being that in order to be truly meaningful their actions are subject to genuine introspection in order to determine whether or not they are "authentic" to themselves and their values. For all their faults, the Cat's vanity and Rimmer's blaming of others for his own life are true to who they are, whereas Kryten's good works are a result of his programming, not his true self, and Lister essentially refuses to play the game.
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite the fact that the Inquisitor is explicitly giving potential people the chance to make more meaningful lives than the ones who ended up being born, none of the replacements that we see end up anywhere different than the originals.
- Irony: The Inquisitor's whole plan is predicated on the absence of God: in appointing himself the final arbiter of every sentient being's worth, he has put himself in the place of God. Kryten subtly calls him on this.
- Knight of Cerebus: The Inquisitor, an immortal android that exists until the end of time, where he concludes that the only meaning of existence is to live a good life. He invents a time machine, judges everyone who ever lived, and if he deems them unworthy of existence, he erases them from history. He has no comical traits and is treated very seriously. And from his debut episode onward, the show gets progressively Darker and Edgier.
- Look, a Distraction!: Kryten's contribution to the duel with the Inquisitor."Excuse me, could I please distract you for a brief second?"
- The Narcissist: Cat justifies his existence by saying he has given the world pleasure by having a beautiful ass. It works.Inquisitor: Some might call that a pretty shallow argument.
Cat: Some might call me a pretty shallow guy. But a shallow guy with a great ass!
- Nausea Fuel: When Kryten realizes that Lister has used his alternate's severed hand to open the door, he says that if he was capable of vomiting he would do so.
- Oh, Crap!: When Kryten explains that the Inquisitor only deletes people who have lived worthless lives, pathetic losers, and those who have failed to make anything of themselves, Rimmer's immediate response is "we're in trouble." Not to mention as Kryten describes the qualifications for not getting erased, each sentence gains a "oh, God" from Rimmer. And when he realizes his worthiness will be judged by himself, he can only say "oh, smeg."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lister unleashes a devastating one on Rimmer to prove he knows who he is, listing Rimmer's failings as a person. The Cat admits that Lister's got his number.
- The Social Darwinist: The Inquisitor, with his philosophy that only the worthy should live.
- Slouch of Villainy: The Inquisitor is laid out on his dark throne as he asks people to justify their own existence.
- Understatement: Prior to his travelling back in time to perform his Heroic Sacrifice, Kryten sums up the disastrous events which have led to himself and Lister being rendered non-persons who never existed, the entire Red Dwarf crew subsequently being horribly killed and Lister himself being left alone potentially to be killed by the Inquisitor with this:Kryten: All in all, today's been a bit of a bummer, hasn't it sir?