Tongue Tied

Balance of Power is the third episode of Series I of Red Dwarf. It first aired 29 February 1988 on BBC2.


Dave Lister is determined to take an Officer's exam so that he will no longer be a Third Technician (thereby outranking Second Technician Arnold Rimmer) and will become the new senior crewmember aboard Red Dwarf.

Lister's ultimate aim is to revive his old crush as a hologram, replacing Rimmer as ship's hologram, which he could only do without Rimmer's permission as an officer.

Naturally, to keep the status quo aboard the ship, and to maintain his hologrammatical existence, Rimmer does everything he can to prevent this from happening.


Cat has found the cigarettes that Rimmer was hiding from Lister...

Rimmer has used the skutters to hide Lister's cigarettes, and has "rationed" them to control him - one cigarette for each day Lister obeys him. Eventually Cat finds a hoard of "shiny things" on a trolley in Pipeline 22, Level 541 - actually Lister's cigarette packs. Rimmer bumps into Cat taking the "shiny things", but Rimmer bribes him to keep quiet by teaching Cat how to order Trout a la Creme from the vending machines.

Lister has a flashback to the disco in times gone by...

Lister finally gets a reprieve from Rimmer's boring inventory checks in the Drive Room ("4,691 irradiated haggis") and goes for a drink at the old ship disco. Sitting in the empty bar, he flashes back to a "1990s Nostalgia" night that he attended there three million years earlier with his mates, Olaf Petersen, Selby and Chen, and they played the drinking game "I've Been to Titan". Even Lister's crush Kochanski was there; Rimmer was on learning drugs to cheat at exams, and all he remembered was the conversation he had with a mocking Lister. Snapping out of the flashback in the empty disco, Lister finally realises that he is alone, whilst simultaneously burning himself on one of the daily cigarettes Rimmer has allowed to him to have.

"Give me Kochanski"

After he wallows in self-pity for being alone in Deep Space, Lister pleads with Rimmer to allow him to create a hologram of Kristine Kochanski, an old upper-class love interest. When Rimmer invokes his standing as a superior crew member (2nd Technician as opposed to 3rd Technician) and flatly refuses, Lister plans revenge and threatens to take the exams to become an officer and outrank him.

Olaf Petersen's arm continually attacks Rimmer

Rimmer scoffs at the idea, since if he couldn't pass the engineering exam then what chance does Lister have... only to then find out Lister is actually taking the chef's exam, which technically does rank higher than the people who do the menial repairs. Like Rimmer. Rimmer tries to discourage Lister from taking the exam and even orders him not to but Lister doesn't give in saying that the only way he wont take the exam is if Rimmer lets him see Kochanski. Lister reveals that Cat has betrayed Rimmer and told him where the cigarettes are, so Rimmer cannot bribe Lister anymore. Rimmer has continuing problems as a hologram glitch has left him with Olaf Petersen's arm, which continually attacks him, jabbing him the eyes and hitting him in the crotch, something both Cat and Holly find very amusing. In the midst of all this Rimmer makes yet another attempt at the officer's exam so he will continue to outrank Lister, but as with all of his previous attempts finds himself totally out of his depth. 

Rimmer in Kochanski's body...

On the day of the exam, Kochanski walks in and Lister is stunned beyond belief. However, Kochanski tells him that she isn't interested in him and wants a real man. Lister is hurt but is puzzled at the way she speaks. He tricks her by commenting on the night that they had sex, and she replies in disbelief, proving to him that it is actually Rimmer. Lister tells Rimmer to go away, which Rimmer does since he still has Kochanski's breasts (asking Holly to leave them on), and Lister finishes the exam.

Lister comes from the exam room to receive his results and Rimmer asks how he did. Lister's face is expressionless until he leaps in the air and shouts "How'd I Do, Mr Lister, Sir!"

Deleted Scenes

Available on the Series I DVD:

Olaf Petersen

  • Additional dialogue in Lister's flashback of a Saturday night party with his boozing mates was cut for time. This includes Olaf Petersen telling the others that they aren't doing so well, since it is 11pm, and they can all still see. Olaf also tells the others about some strange new tattoos which have appeared on his arms that he doesn't remember getting whilst drunk.
  • Additional dialogue before Lister's chef exam was cut for time reasons also. Rimmer is very worried and tries to dissuade Lister, who is reading a Zero Gravity Football magazine and "revising buns", eating them. Rimmer claims that Lister is being "confident on purpose to torture him".
  • Lister's exam scene was originally longer, and featured a larger role for Clare Grogan playing as Rimmer inside Kochanski's body.


  • In Lister's disco flashback he tells his mates that his uncle is a "brain-in-a-jar". It must run in the family since he discovers that is how he ends up in Series VI episode "Out of Time".
  • This episode contains the first and only appearance of Lister's talking toilet.
  • Lister's love of the music Rastabilly Skank, and playing on his guitar, was established in this episode - as is Rimmer's disdain for it. Lister's guitar playing will remain a running gag throughout all series.
  • When Cat is ordering FISH from the machine, he orders six of them. Several other food containers are visible on the console, so apparently he did eat a whole lotta fish.
  • The Skutters' love for John Wayne is first established on this episode, as Rimmer finds them in the cinema pretending to clean whilst a John Wayne film is playing. They are later revealed to be members of the John Wayne fan club.
  • This is the first episode when we see a skutter give Rimmer a "two-fingered salute" by twisting their heads at certain angle. This gesture, the UK equivalent of the middle-finger/flipping the bird gesture, originating around The Hundred Years War, is largely lost on North American viewers.
  • Apparently Olaf Petersen's consciousness still lives in his arm, as it's the arm that attacks Rimmer. However, it's only in a deleted scene -- a longer version of the disco sequence -- that it's explicitly indicated that it is Petersen's arm, as the deleted scene shows the character discussing the tattoos later shown in close-up when Rimmer gets the arm.
  • The subject of rank and status on-board ship is later revisited in the Series X episode "Dear Dave" with the risk presented of Rimmer being demoted down to Third Technician and thus becoming Lister's equal; as is Lister's depression and misery about being the last human being alive.

Background Information

  • The flashback scene was intended to be a recurring theme throughout the series, showing Lister's secret feelings of intense loneliness and his contrasting past and present lives, but the idea was scrapped.
  • The Rimmer-in-Kochanski's body scene was originally much longer, showing off Clare Grogan's acting ability as she impersonated Chris Barrie, but the scene had to be cut due to running time (the full-length version is included on DVD releases).

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • Holly: In the three million years we've been away, it is my fond hope that mankind has abolished war, cured all disease, and gotten rid of those little western saloon doors you get in trendy clothes shops.
  • Rimmer: 140,000 rehydratable chickens.
    Lister: Check.
    Rimmer: 72 tons of reconstitutable sausage pate.
    Lister: Check.
    Rimmer: 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: Rimmer, it's Saturday night. I've had enough.
    Rimmer: 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: Rimmer, it's Saturday night. I wanna boogie on down.
    Rimmer: 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: We've been doing this for four hours. Let's have a break.
    Rimmer: 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: Rimmer, will you stop saying 4,681 irradiated haggis and speak to me?
    Rimmer: [pause] 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: Rimmer, I want to go for a drink!
    Rimmer: 4,691 irradiated haggis.
    Lister: Rimmer, I wanna have some fun!
    Rimmer: This is fun! Are you mad?
  • (after shutting off Lister's "Rastabilly Skank Music)
    Rimmer: Why don't you listen to something really classical, like Mozart, Mendelssohn or Motörhead?
  • Holly: I'll have you know I chose this face out of the billions available because it happened to be the face of the greatest and most prolific lover who ever lived.
    Rimmer: Really? Well he must have operated in the dark a lot
  • Lister: Holly, why did you bring Rimmer back as a hologram? He was the most unpopular man on this ship. He even had to organise his own surprise birthday parties.
    Holly: Who should I have brought back, then?
    Lister: Anyone. Selby and Chen... Petersen... I mean even Hermann Göring would have been more of a laugh than Rimmer. Ok, he was a drug-crazed transvestite, but at least we could of gone dancing.
  • Holly: I brought Rimmer back because he's the best person to keep you sane.
    Lister: Rimmer?
    Holly: He's the person you knew best, over fourteen million words in all.
    Lister: Holly -- seven million of those were me telling him to "Smeg Off!" and another seven million of those were him putting me on report for telling him to "Smeg Off!"...
  • Holly: Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Hell was being locked forever in a room with your friends."
    Lister: Holly, all his mates were French.
  • Rimmer: Good evening you stupid stinking festering gimboid of a cat.
  • Lister: I'm gonna take the exams and become an Officer.
    Rimmer: And on that day, Lister, Satan will be skating to work.
  • Rimmer: What's this? Learning drugs? They're illegal, matey! I'm afraid you're in very serious, grave, deep trouble, Lister. Where did you get them? I want names, I want places, I want dates.
    Lister: Arnold Rimmer, his locker, this morning.
  • Rimmer: We're mates! We're pals!
    Lister: When?
    Rimmer: Oh, come on, Lister! Laugh, laugh, laugh. Chuckle, guffaw, giggle. That's Rimsy and Listy!
    Lister: When?
    Rimmer: Millions of times.
    Lister: When?
    Rimmer: Ah... ah... how about the time your safety harness snapped and you fell into the cargo bay? We laughed then, didn't we?
    Lister: My back was broken in three places.
    Rimmer: Yes, but it was hilarious! We laughed like trains!
    Lister: *You* laughed. I spent six weeks in crutches.
  • Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: Fish!
    Machine: Today's fish is trout a la creme. Enjoy your meal.
    Cat: I will. (Later) Cat: Oh I'm gonna die. I've been fished to death!
  • Cat: Hey, cake! Looks good!
    Lister: It's not that good, it's supposed to be roast beef.

Inconsistencies / mistakes

  • When Lister washes his face in his sleeping quarters, Rimmer is seen off set in the reflection in the fish tank walking past. You can see his uniform and can just make out the H on his forehead.
    • He was probably checking up on Lister.


On the Internet Movie Database, "Balance of Power" has a weighted average rating of 8.1 out of 10. Out of the 73 total episodes in Red Dwarf, this rating places it 55th highest rated out of the 73.[1]

In late 2017, prominent fan site Ganymede & Titan ran the Pearl Poll from among hundreds of fans. The aim of the Pearl Poll was to produce a 'definitive' list of all 73 episodes of Red Dwarf in order of their popularity. In February 2018 the list was published, and "Balance of Power" was voted 41st out of the 73 episodes.[2]