Tongue Tied
This article is about the Red Dwarf character. For the Red Dwarf episode, see RD: Epideme.

Epideme was a man-made, genetically-engineered sentient virus that terrorised the crew of Starbug in the Series VII episode of the same name.


Origin and biology

"Epideme" is a virus engineered by the Space Corps as a rival to the nicotine patch, however it blocked all nicotine cravings but also stopped all signals for food, oxygen etc., killing its host. It became a pandemic, infecting spaceships such as the Leviathan, and entire worlds such as the astro-glacier and Delta VII.

Since it was an intelligent virus it could be spoken to with a Universal Translator. It could obtain knowledge from its victims. The virus, when it felt in control of a situation, was quite sociable and had a good understanding of popular culture, which it drained from its victims, and as such referred to itself often in television metaphors. It also knew a lot about other topics, like spacecraft acceleration.

If the infected body part was amputated the victim could be saved, but in order for this to be effective, 100% of Epideme's virons needed to be inside the amputated body part. If any were to remain in the rest of the body, Epideme would continue to multiply inside the body. This meant that unless 100% of virons were removed, amputation would result in only a short amount of extra time, before Epideme overwhelmed the body.

If was new victim was available after the death of its host, the virus could freeze the body of its host until a suitably idiotic life form woke it. It could also animate and control the cadavers of its victims, as seen in the case of Caroline Carmen. Epideme had a degree of self-determination, seemingly, in the extent to which it absorbed knowledge from the host, or at least accessed it.

On Starbug

The crew of Starbug try to reason with Epideme for Lister's life

Epideme had arrived on a ship named the Leviathan via a doctor who was attempting to remove the disease from a colony that was later incinerated to prevent any risk of contamination. It then spread to the whole ship. The last victim was Caroline Carmen. After her second death, Dave Lister contracted the virus, which was able to communicate with the crew via a UT comlink (it was intelligent after all), and it spoke with some philosophy albeit in the the manner of a game-show host.

Epideme liked to taunt Lister with his impending doom and suggested that he deserved to survive at Lister's expense, since he was a superior being. An attempt by Kryten to cure Lister by forcing the virus into his arm and then amputating it with a laser bone saw failed because Epideme managed to sneak back into Lister's body. Lister was saved by Kristine Kochanski when she temporarily stopped Lister's heart and tricked the virus into infecting a fake arm, salvaged from Carmen's corpse and injected with blood to create the illusion of life, and was subsequently flushed into space.


  • Since Epideme assimilated knowledge of popular culture from his victims, and spoke like a television show host, Epideme may have based his persona on that of Bing Baxter.

Behind the scenes

  • As revealed in "Back from the Dead", the Series VII making-of documentary on the DVD, "Epideme" co-writer Paul Alexander originally intended for the Epideme virus to be voiced by Patrick Stewart, who showed interest as a fan of the show. However since the episode had such a dark tone, Doug Naylor decided that rather than Shakespearean, the virus should be more like a game show host to add a little light-heartened comedy to the episode, and Gary Martin was cast instead.
  • Epideme was considered not only to be one of the best science fiction concepts of Series VII but also one of the funnier introduced characters, and thus many consider Epideme to be the best of a series that only achieved partial acceptance by the fan-base.