This article is about the Red Dwarf episode. For the character of the same name, see Epideme.

Epideme is the seventh episode in Series VII of Red Dwarf. It is the forty-third episode overall.


After being molested by an animated corpse, Dave Lister is horrified to discover that not only has be contracted a fatal virus from the zombie, but also that the virus is intelligent and he can communicate with it.


The crew encounters an abandoned ship, Leviathan, which is buried in the middle of an astro-glacier. After further investigation they find scores of twisted bodies, but also the frozen body of one survivor - Caroline Carmen, one of Lister's former crushes, who is encased in a block of ice. She is taken on board Starbug, where the crew attempts to thaw her out, but are unable to melt the ice. The life sign is however not coming from Carmen, but something else inside her.


"I've just been molested by Tutankhamen's horny grandma!"

That night, Carmen defrosts of her own accord and turns out to be in an advanced state of decomposition, and in a zombie-like state she sneaks into Lister's bed. After a brief episode where Lister confuses her for Kochanski (eventually resulting in him being punched by the real Kochanski when she and Kryten walk in halfway through), Carmen grabs Lister and spits part of her jaw and tongue down his throat. Lister is horrified by this, describing being molested by Tutankhamen's horny grandma" and faints. After coming around, Kryten explains that Carmen has infected him with the Epideme virus. Epideme is an intelligent virus (with an annoying personality) that was supposed to cure nicotine addiction, but in practice kills its victims within a day, then reanimates their corpse to find a new victim to transfer itself to. Lister remarks that he's been "tongue hockeyed to death".

Lister armless

Lister has lost an arm in the fight against Epideme

Lister tries reasoning with Epideme directly through a Universal Translator communication link, but has no luck in convincing the virus to leave. Kochanski comes up with the idea to coax the virus to move down towards Lister's hand and then cut off the hand with a laser bone saw, with virus and all. Unfortunately the plan proves a total failure, as they end up cutting off Lister's right arm instead of the left one as he had requested, and they only manage to dispose of part of the Epideme virus, with the end result that they only succeed in prolonging Lister's life by an hour.


Lister back on Leviathan telling Epideme he's going to commit suicide and explode them both

Lister sneaks aboard Leviathan with some explosives, intending to kill both himself and Epideme, but the virus talks him out of it by revealing that the destination of Leviathan was Delta VII, a research base that might have a cure. With the knowledge of many great minds, Epideme even tells Kryten an extremely complex way of modifying the drive module of Starbug to make it 300% faster, so that it can reach Delta VII in hours.

Unfortunately, when Starbug arrives at Delta VII, it turns out that it was a ruse the planet has been destroyed in order to deal with a massive Epideme outbreak; a fact that the virus was fully aware of, and used in its attempt to prevent Lister from killing himself. With Lister on the verge of death, Epideme taunts the crew by revealing that it'll infect Kochanski next, then Cat, and finally it'll smash Kryten up (while in control of Cat's body) for the fun of it.


Kristine Kochanski seemingly cuts off her Epideme-infected arm

In a desperate move, Kochanski injects Lister with a drug that stops his heart, then gets his reanimated corpse to bite her left hand, infecting it. She then immediately slices off most of her left arm with the laser bone saw to the astonishment of Kryten and Cat (who faints). Only after she has ejected the arm into space does she reveal that it was actually Caroline Carmen's arm, and that her own left arm is still perfectly intact. Kryten admits that he was wrong about Kochanski, and the two finally put their differences aside... before Kryten realizes with utter horror that Lister is still dead. Kryten and Kochanski successfully revive the now virus-free Lister, and Kochanski gives her first real kiss to Lister. However a jealous Kryten immediately sanitizes Lister, who may be rid of Epideme but is still missing an arm.

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • Lister: - "I've just been molested by Tutankhamen's horny grandma!"
  • Lister: - "You absorb knowledge from the people you kill?"
    Epideme: - "So as you can imagine, killing you ain't exactly a career highlight. No offence, but when you're a virus there's not much call for knowing how to open a lager bottle with your ANUS".
  • Epideme: - "Is me killing you so different to that chicken you biryanied last night?"
  • Epideme: - "I'm red hot in quantum mechanics, sub-molecular biology and TV theme tunes."
  • Epideme: - "Ask me a hard question."
    Kryten: - "A hard one?"
    Epideme: - "A HHAAAAAAAAARRDDD one."
  • Lister: - "Ok, but make it my left arm, since my right arm does all my favorite things."
  • Lister: - [To Kochanski as the wrong arm has been off] "My left arm I said! What kind if Navigation Officer can't tell left from right?"
  • Cat: - [Starbug is made to go faster] "Starbug is going faster than a speeding bullet stuck in the back end of a bat out of hell!"

Deleted scenes

Available on the Series VII DVD:

  • More of the crew discussing the astro-glacier when they first discover it. Whereas Kochanski is fascinated by it, Cat is not impressed by "a big iceberg", instead saying what fascinates him is animals which reproduce without sex. As Kochanski asks if they can get closer, Lister attempts a little light flirting with her which she raises a smile to, showing she is becoming more accepting of his advances.
  • As the four crewmembers enter the Leviathan, Kryten notes that the Psi-Scan is reading five life-signs aboard. Cat says that he ate a mouse about 20 minutes earlier, and that "it's probably still running around in my stomach wondering what the hell happened". Kochanski sarcastically thanks him for the mouse story. Kochanski also asks Cat if his pimp coat is made of real fur, to which he replies "I don't know. You'll have to ask the little squealy things I cut it off".
  • As the Starbuggers discover the bodies of the Leviathan crew, Cat says that "It's grotesque. I mean, blue lips with yellow work suits? What were they thinking of?"
  • More of Kochanski mocking Lister as he says that he once dated Caroline Carmen.
  • Kochanski puts some ice down the back of Cat's clothes, causing him to wail.
  • Extensions to the crew discussing the Epideme virus, and chatting with it. After, Kochanski says that she never thought she would hear a disease that likes the sound of its own voice, and Cat replies that she must have never watched daytime television.
  • Cat gets a dictionary and tests Epideme at spelling, and Cat finds Epideme smart and funny.
  • Kryten pleads with Lister not to blow himself up by telling him that washing his underwear is the only thing what gives his life meaning.
  • Cat asks Kochanski not to go near Lister's corpse without a gun and a bucket of breath mints lest he turn into "one of those crumbly snot monsters".
  • Kryten throws the severed, Epideme-infected arm out of the waste disposal unit airlock holding it with a pair of tongs. He then throws the containing towel out into space too, then the tongs, then the medical tray.
  • An alternate ending which was cut as it was ultimately felt to be too ill-fitting and also suffered special effects issues. The severed, Epideme-infected arm floats in space, and Epideme's voice is heard discussing which way he should go. The arm then points at the camera, saying in a deep voice "this way"...


  • This is the first episode where Kochanski gives a real kiss to Lister.
  • Although Lister loses an arm in this episode, he finds a way to rebuild a new arm later on in the next episode.
  • Given the existence of Delta VII three million years into Deep Space, it would seem that the Space Corps once had a far reach in the Galaxy.
  • Epideme tells Kryten how to make Starbug 300% faster, although he says it so fast it is hard to discern, before sighing smugly. In this Epideme tells Kryten to "Re-route the pulse relays by the auxiliary conductor node and transpose all the prime numbers in the first line of the alphabet to the energy equation."

Background Information

  • Doug Naylor has said that the inspiration for this episode came from his one-time writing partner, stand-up comedian Jasper Carrot. The comedian once pondered: "What if your flu could talk to you? Wouldn't it just say it was doing its job?".
  • 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.
  • An early draft of the script had Lister going into AR to consult some of history's greatest thinkers on his predicament. These included Einstein, Solomon and Herbert J. Spilliker, the inventor of the sink which perfectly bounces water up to soak your crotch. These parts were cast before the scene was written out. Spilliker was to have been played by Ian Masters who went on to play Birdman in the next series.
  • In the original draft, Arnold Rimmer was still part of the crew and the hologram would have defeated the virus by letting it infect him before de-activating his Light Bee, leaving the virus hanging in mid-air to be blasted by a bazookoid.
  • An alternate ending was scripted and filmed for the episode - involving the dead arm, containing the Epideme virus, flying through space and then towards the camera - but it was decided to end the episode just before this scene since Doug Naylor wasn't happy with it. The scene can still be seen on the Series VII DVD deleted scenes.
  • One of the many new props needed for the new series was a laser bone-saw - used for the scenes of severing the Epideme-infected arm. For the scene Chloë Annett had taken several attempts to cut the arm off.
  • Caroline Carmen's fallen-off ear was used as a cooking ingredient in the special Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg.
  • Lister pulling out Caroline Carmen's teeth during the attack was improvised by Craig Charles pulling out the fake teeth during rehearsals, with Ed Bye finding it so funny he decided to include it in the episode.

Guest Stars

  • Voice artist Gary Martin played the talking virus Epideme. He was recommended by Danny John-Jules, his friend of many years' standing, and had even been with Danny when he auditioned for the role of Cat in the mid-eighties. Martin also played Judge Dredd in an audio adaptation of the comic series by Epideme co-writer Paul Alexander.
  • Nicky Leatherbarrow also appeared, in heavy make-up, as Caroline Carmen - the initial carrier of the Epideme virus.