By the fourth series of Red Dwarf the show had really hit its stride and was a combination of great scenarios encompassing great laughs from an experienced and comfortable cast and crew. It had established a rabid and loyal fan base that, at one time, rivalled that of Star Trek.
Okay, so the last statement was a bit ambitious, but there can be little doubt that the anorak brigade had really taken to Red Dwarf and elevated it to cult status. The cast had well and truly cemented their roles, including Hattie Hayridge (Holly) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) who had spent much of Series III establishing their place in the crew.
For the uninitiated, Red Dwarf is a mining ship trying to find its way back to Earth. The crew are all dead thanks to a stasus leak, apart from Dave Lister (Craig Charles), who was in deep freeze during the accident, his cat, Cat (Danny John-Jules), who has evolved into human form, Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), a hologram sustained by the ship's computer Holly, and Kryten, a mechanoid that crossed paths with the crew and stayed for the ride. The remaining crew are subject to a wide range of interesting and amusing scenarios as they travel aimlessly around the universe.
For Series IV, production had moved from Manchester to a film studio in Shepperton and the sets were more intricate and realistic, giving the series a more expensive look. It meant that sets were more permanent and there was no need to break them down on a regular basis. Rehearsals could take place on the same sets where filming would take place. Naturally, there was more money to be spent and there was more location filming in this series than before.
There is little to really set this series apart from the series' either side, but this is a good thing. Fans know what to expect, those who have not seen the show could almost certainly pick up on the character histories without too much help, and fans of multi-levelled comedy will appreciate the subtle gags, as well as the bludgeoning ones.
Episode One: Camile. Rimmer and Kryten pick up a distress call and against Rimmer's orders rescue the last survivor of a derelict space vessel. The survivor appears to be a series 400 Mechanoid named Camile, but to Lister she is a trashy babe, and Rimmer thinks she is his perfect match who shares his love of 20th century telegraph poles and Hammond organ music. Can they all be right? Yes, they can. She is a pleasure gelf, and even Cat gets to meet his perfect match - himself! But is she really all she seems? Oh no...
Episode Two: D.N.A.. Another rogue space craft and another crazy discovery. This time it's a machine capable of altering DNA which, after turning Lister into a chicken and back, turns Kryten into a human. It seems perfect, but Kryten quickly learns that being human is not to his liking. He attempts to turn himself back, experimenting on one of Lister's vindaloos first, with monstrous results.
Episode Three: Justice. Yet another craft crosses Red Dwarf's path, and this time it's a prison ship. After finding a floating space pod, they track down the ship to return the contents that may be a dangerous criminal or a beautiful female warden. On board, their criminal past is examined and Rimmer is found guilty of killing the entire Red Dwarf crew and sentenced to 1000 years in prison.
Episode Four: White Hole. Holly's I.Q. drops to double figures and the crew attempt to restore it using a technique called Intelligence Compression. They succeed - and how - giving Holly an I.Q. of more than 12,000, but creating a white hole in the process. However, her life expectancy is now only a few minutes. The solution? Plug the white hole using planets as billiard balls in a game of galactic pool.
Episode Five: Dimension Jump. At any given time there are an infinite number of possible futures. We get a glimpse of one, as we meet the Red Dwarf crew in another dimension, one where 'Ace' Rimmer is a popular, all-round nice guy who's much admired by all. When 'Ace' crashes his new test space ship through a dimension barrier into our favourite Red Dwarf ship, he discovers that 'our' Rimmer is a complete prat.
Episode Six: Meltdown. Kryten discovers a matter-panel in the lower decks of the ships and, whilst testing it, transports himself and Rimmer to the nearest life-sustainable planet. They are promptly arrested by Elvis Presley and Pope Gregory! Meanwhile, Lister and Cat beam themselves down straight into Adolf Hitler's headquarters and are thrown into prison with Abraham Lincoln. They are, of course, waxdroids that have run amok a la Westworld in a struggle of good versus evil. With General Rimmer's help, the good (Marilyn Monroe, Einstein, Pythagorus, Elvis, Stan Laurel and Noel Coward) hope to overthrow the evil (Hitler, Caligula).