Marooned in Albion in the year 23, the Dwarfers need a battery to power their Returner Remote and get home. Remembering a lesson from school, Arnold Rimmer suggests they make a battery out of lemons but the nearest lemon to Britain in this time period is in India 4,000 miles away. They begin their journey, one that will ultimately lead them to a meeting with a historical A-List Celebrity that could alter the entire history of civilization.
Dave Lister is cooking on a grill in his sleeping quarters, but he is soon interrupted by Cat rushing in to inform him of a new and inventive golf course he built in the medi-bay. Lister states that he is not interested, as he came across a freezer with some meat on B Deck. Cat inquires whether or not there is enough there for him, and Lister states that there is just one steak, one chop, one rib, which Cat decides is just enough and makes off with it, commenting only that it perhaps could use a little more soy sauce. Resigned to going hungry, Lister heads off into the Drive Room room in order to read some more of a book he was assigned as part of the robotics course he took up in the previous episode: The Most Influential Humans.
Arnold Rimmer walks in, wishing to tell Lister something, but is distracted by the sight of him reading. Aghast, he informs Lister again of his weariness of the concept, comparing it to giving a "hamster who is only used to his little wheel the keys to an Aston Martin". Lister ignores the jibe, and informs Rimmer of his thoughts about the people in the book, particularly Shakespeare and his many accomplishments. He proceeds to comment on his unique ability to create creative expressions such as a "dish fit for a king" and "in a pickle." Rimmer contests that Shakespeare is overrated, and coasted on his success while sporting a bad haircut (a "skullet": a bald mullet). Kryten joins them, proclaiming an amazing discovery, only to be mocked by the two after Kryten tries to assert his evolution from a mere cleaning droid into a more advanced individual.
Kryten collects them all back in the sleeping quarters and presents his find: a rejuvenation shower, which is capable of restoring any living being's genome back to its physical prime. The crew are intrigued, until Rimmer points out that it is a Swedish made flat-pack self assembly and they have to build it themselves. In a bungle of parts and effort, the crew get to work. Lister eventually proclaims it to be done after complaining that they had taken it apart and rebuilt it "over a hundred times", despite Cat's insistence that there are too many spare parts still lying around. Deciding that they should test it on something unimportant first, they place one of Lister's more infested socks into the shower. Once the machine is activated however the beam extends farther outward than it should due to a lack of alignment brackets. The crew find themselves encased in "beamer light" and are teleported away from Red Dwarf to a distant forest.
Kryten checks his internal chronometer and finds that they have reached the land of Albion (or Britain) back on Earth in the year 23, to the disappointment of Cat that it is always Earth they end up on and not a planet full of naked warrior cat babes who want to make love to him. Unfortunately, they find that their returner remote lacks it's battery, preventing them from going back to the ship. Rimmer suggests that they can make a battery out of potatoes, copper and an iron nail. The problem is that potatoes will not reach Britain until the 16th century. Undaunted, Rimmer suggests then that they use lemons instead, but unfortunately those will not reach Britain until the 14th century. The nearest source of them, Kryten explains, is in India, which is four thousand miles and a six month walk away. With no other choice, being in "a real pickle", the crew begin their transcontinental journey, walking through Gaul, half the Roman Empire, Persia and Parthia, before finally arriving at a marketplace in India.
They explain their need to a shopkeeper called Erin, who, much to her incredulity, allows them to purchase their much desired citrus fruit. The first part of their check-list completed, they collect some copper coins and eventually manage to acquire some iron nails from a Chinese merchant. Settling for a meal, they discuss the primitiveness of the time, only for Lister to finally exclaim in bemusement "really? Jesus!" Much to their shock, a young bearded man leans over form a nearby table, evidently assuming that he had just been addressed. Lister explains that he was just talking to his mates, and the man hastily apologizes for his intrusion. The crew discuss whether or not they could have possibly just met who they think they have, with Kryten concluding that it could be Jesus Christ during the wanderings of the "missing years" of his youth.
Rimmer immediately expresses a desire to meet him and get his autograph, stressing that his middle name being Judas should imply that they could become "big buds", which leads him to reveal the true reasons behind his middle name, as well as his mother's faith in the Church of Judas. The others still insist that he keep away from Jesus, but Rimmer leaps out of his chair anyway intent on meeting him. Jesus takes this as a cue of impatience, and so comes up and offers that they go and join him at his table, stressing that they are all travellers in a unfamiliar land (taking Kryten as a gladiator in full armour). Honoured by the offer, the Dwarfers take their place at his table and share a meal in his company, with Cat commenting that the bounty was a "dish fit for a king", much to Rimmer's annoyance.
The respite is interrupted however when Jesus' uncle Aaron rushes in and informs him that some Roman legionaries have come here after him. Despite his protests, the crew help lead Jesus away into a hiding place, but find themselves cornered. With no choice, they scramble to build their lemon battery and use the returner remote to take them all back to Red Dwarf, much to Jesus' utter shock and dismay. After refreshing and cleaning themselves, Lister sets out to show Jesus some of the wonders of the future, most notably the invention of the bag. Awed, Jesus expresses his astonishment at its genius, before recoiling back in pain, complaining that the demon inside of him has returned and that he must go rest.
Kryten tells the others that he suspects Jesus is suffering from an impacted kidney stone, and Rimmer notes that this could be life threatening if untreated. With the medi-bot hardly reliable after some past errors in Lister's care (going in for a "rube jab" Lister instead received a "boob job"), they have no option but to perform the procedure themselves, with Kryten assuring the others that he is qualified and in fact has been performing operations on Lister for years, with Rimmer's permission. Just last year in fact, he performed a splenectomy on him, storing the extracted organs, like the others, in a fridge on B-Deck just outside of his quarters. Both Lister and Cat realize what this signifies, and Cat runs off feeling sick to the stomach.
The matter of qualifications now put aside, Kryten explains what the procedure is going to entail, much to Lister's dismay upon hearing about the sensitive region which they must probe in order to operate. The impromptu surgery finally concluded, with Rimmer being honoured by his nonetheless still unsavoury role in the operation, Jesus is laid out in Lister's bunk for a good night's rest and recovery. Just in case he gets bored, Lister gives him full permission to look into the ship's video games, videos and books, but Jesus insists that seeing the bag again would be more than sufficient. Kryten comes in the next morning with his breakfast tray and finds that Jesus did in fact prove to be a bit more inquisitive than he first made out, having read a particular passage from a history book and then hastily left behind a note before ultimately vanishing.
He informs the others of the bad news: Jesus has ran off back into the past determined to trash his reputation in order to prevent the birth of Christianity after reading about the various wars waged in it's name. Back in the past, Jesus is getting to this task with vigour, nosily informing Erin and all those who will listen about his planned transgressions of the Ten Commandments and his lack of respect for their validity and virtue. The Dwarfers use a spare remote to go back after him, desperate to save Christmas (including Wallace and Gromit) and preserve the time line. They eventually corner the fleeing Jesus and try to calm him down. Lister explains that, no matter what some may do in his name, he also makes a lot of people happy. Lister himself notes that, after meeting him, he no longer feels so inadequate compared to the famous, and cites this as one of his virtues.
Jesus states that that is all very well, but says that he still does not want to be himself any more, not "Jesus of Caesarea, the one who caused all the wars". Surprised, Rimmer asks Jesus if his name is very common, only for Jesus to state in the affirmative. Realizing their mistake, Jesus settles into not being the son of god with mixed feelings, but takes Lister's advice about putting his knowledge of the future to good use, becoming the first ever bag manufacturer. Their work done, Lister proclaims they will head home after ordering one more bowl of goat curry, only for twin brothers, naming themselves Jesus and Judas (congruent to the teachings of the Church of Judas), to arrive and take up their table arrangements. Horrified at the prospect for it all to begin again, Cat, Kryten and Lister loudly order Rimmer to stay put.
- Indira Joshi as Erin
- James Baxter as Jesus (of Caesarea)
- Nicholas Richards as Uncle Aaron
- Pepper Tom Pepper as "Men Who May Be Jesus & Judas"
- Hormuzd Todiwala as Waiter
Available on the Series X DVD:
- More of Lister saying "Jesus" as a figure of speech which unwittingly, and repeatedly, gets the attention of a man named Jesus who is sat behind the Dwarfers. Writer Doug Naylor thought this would be funnier if the Dwarfers realised who he is (or may be) the first time round, and so that is how it transpired in the broadcast episode.
- As Lister and Cat try to hold the door against the Roman soldiers, Jesus says that he could get them out of it by praying, or baptising them all. Lister responds that they don't have time to "go swimming".
- When aboard Red Dwarf, Jesus wonders if he is in Heaven. Lister tells him no, he's in the future, and Cat tells him - Jesus wide-eyed - they have made great advances: everybody has the carrier bags which Jesus has never seen.
- When trying to defend Christianity, Lister says that "somebody else can do that speech", and Kryten says that they've had "some good ceilings" out of it. Writer Doug Naylor cut the lines as he believed the comments were not fair.
- An extended scene of the Dwarfers looking for Jesus in the crowded marketplace. They are swamped by market traders trying to sell them things, and find it hard to make their way through.
- A scene with Jesus now plying his new trade as a carrier bag salesman, but the people of the marketplace don't seem interested.
- Given that Kryten later uses wire from his finger in order to rig up the lemon battery, and both Rimmer and he are somehow able to stay powered for over six months in the wilderness, it is unclear why they can not use Kryten's power source or Rimmer's Light Bee to power the returner remote (although it is possible that their power sources are either incompatible with the remote or difficult to access without risk of damage). It has also been pointed out that other fruits and vegetables, such as apples, can be used to make batteries and are found in Britain; though it is plausible that Rimmer would narrow-mindedly not know this.
- Rimmer states that his mother gave him the middle name Judas as she was a member of the Church of Judas. However, in "The Last Day" he stated that his parents were "Seventh Day Advent Hoppists", although that did seem to be based on their own particular Bible and not their actual church's teachings. The Church of Judas might also have been the church Rimmer's mother belonged to before her marriage to Rimmer's social father, with her son's middle name as a tribute.
- Like several other instances of time travel in the series (see "Tikka to Ride", "Ouroboros" and the later "Twnetica"), the episode leaves questions about how come they can not use the inverted rejuvenation shower to return to Earth in their own time period. However, it is never shown that the shower can take them anywhere other than 23 A.D.
- Kryten refers to the tongue of Albion as if it were synonymous for English (and indeed, Jesus is even able to read in English, although he does not write in it), even though (the gradual evolution of languages over time aside) the root of the modern language is Germanic and the Britons of the time were actually Celtic; the character Erin even goes on to refer to various ancient Celtic gods - one of which would be very well known to any Asterix fan. Lister also refers to the Pictish custom of painting themselves with woad, even though the truth of this interpretation of Julius Caesar's writings is dubious. The Dwarfers may be able to communicate with the people of the past due to the "Universal Translator" mentioned in "Epideme".
- Unlike in previous episodes such as "Backwards", "Out of Time" and "Back to Earth, Part Two" (as well as the later "Twentica"), Kryten makes no attempt to hide his mechanoid appearance behind a costume, though Jesus takes his artificial plating for gladiatorial armour; making Kryten stress that he too is in fact a man of peace.
- The Dwarfers respond with some surprise that the name Jesus was so popular, even though it is still widely used today by Hispanic speakers. Persons with that name are often called by the nickname Chuy.
- Rimmer appears to have had an intelligence upgrade in this episode. Not only does he correctly come up with a solution for the missing battery (and even a Plan B solution when the first proves impossible), but he also directly identifies the danger posed by Jesus' kidney stone. This might be partly explained by the resentment drain he received in "Trojan" that made his head feel "roomier".
- When it is revealed that the barbecued meat that Cat stole from Lister at the start of the episode was actually Lister's own internal organs, Cat reacts with instant disgust, feeling over his teeth with his tongue before running off to wretch. However, logically, he would have eaten that meal over six months ago and nothing of it would still remain in his digestive system. However, the psychological reaction is still plausible, although it is perhaps bizarre that Cat still remembers eating it.
- This is the second time that the Felis sapiens Cat has eaten roasted human flesh, the first was "Tikka to Ride" from Red Dwarf VII. Coincidentally, the human ancestor australopithecus is thought to have been commonly prey to the prehistoric dinofelis.
- This is the only episode of Series X to feature a scene shot on-location which was done in a forest outside Shepperton Studios. This was due to the entire location budget being scrapped at the last second, which caused two episodes which had already been written to be abandoned.
- The lemon battery actually did work, delivering an 8-volt charge.
- The scene in which the four crew operate on Jesus to remove the kidney stone was originally written for the abandoned Red Dwarf movie (with Captain Hollister as the character being operated on originally).
- Rimmer: He's got a skullet.
Lister: A skull what?
Rimmer: A bald mullet. A skullet. Bald at the front, mullet at the back. You wouldn't want to go out in public with this guy.
- Cat: With just an Allen key and a Phillips screwdriver, assembly should take less than three hours.
Rimmer: That's Swedish for a week.
- Erin: You walked across half the known world for EIGHT lemons?
- Rimmer: You're him off the Bible, aren't you?
- Jesus: The only escape from our enemies is to turn and love them!
Rimmer: Or run. Running's good too!
- Jesus: It's as if I've smoked some bark from an acacia tree. Bad bark! Well bad bark!
- Kryten: Mr. Jesus? He hath risen!
- Lister: What about Christmas? We've killed Wallace and Gromit!
- Jesus: Isn't that breaking the Sixth Commandment? Thou shalt not kill?
Erin: That's not killing, that's genocide. I think that's okay.
Initial ratings for the episode were 1.23 million, or 5.5% of the total UK television audience. This is an increase when compared to the viewer ratings of the previous episode "Fathers and Suns" (1.1 million) but still less than was achieved by the series opener "Trojan" (1.46 million).
The episode received a largely positive reception from the mainstream press, although it did have something of a polarizing affect on the fan community. It was generally praised for it's intelligent delivery and the obvious chemistry between the main cast, although some criticized it's alleged repetitiveness and the reuse of old Red Dwarf concepts. James Baxter's portrayal of Jesus was also meet to a mixed reception, and the very nature of the episode assured that it would always be somewhat controversial.
The prominent community website Ganymede & Titan summarized the episode as an exercise in creativity, pushing the boundaries of what a audience sit-com could be while still maintaining coherence: "Despite my quibbles, Lemons is by far my favourite episode of Red Dwarf X yet. Trojan‘s phone plot derailed the whole episode for me; Fathers and Suns was better, but perhaps ultimately unsuccessful with combining the three plotlines, and also had too many flat moments. Lemons is more classic in terms of its structure: it does one story, does it well, and builds to a climax which is actually clear and makes sense. This episode felt more like Red Dwarf to me than any show since 1993, "Bodysnatcher" aside. Even little moments like Kryten’s chuckle after 'He hath risen!' make the show feel more… Dwarfy."
- Cat's makeshift golf game reflects the stupid time-wasting games Lister bemoans in the opening of the Series III episode "Timeslides", and the use (or rather misuse) of medical equipment is similar to what Lister uses to cook in the opener of "Polymorph". It should also be noted that this episode opens with Lister cooking as well, and reputedly when originally filmed it also featured him singing "Lunar City Seven".
- The music that plays as the Dwarfers build their Rejuvenation Shower is the same music that plays when Kryten is following Rimmer's cleaning orders in the Series II episode "Kryten", which is one of many musical homages to earlier series shown throughout the episode, including Series I-style interstitial cues and a "D.N.A." style Indian remix of the Red Dwarf theme.
- Rimmer desires Jesus' autograph, similar to how he went to get Napoleon Bonaparte's autograph in "Better Than Life".
- The idea of a technology that is meant to affect an isolated object being turned outward to affect the larger area is the same premise as what happens with the triplicator in the Series V episode "Demons & Angels".
- Unsurprisingly, there are parallels to the earlier time travelling story "Tikka to Ride" in terms of accidentally changing history. Although this is kind of subverted by Jesus of Caesarea not actually being Jesus of Nazareth, unlike in "Tikka" where they actually meet John F. Kennedy. It also involves the consumption of a roasted human body part, although in this case it was Lister's spleen eaten by Cat rather than the man (in the extended version of that episode, he is revealed to be Eric White) found on the streets of Dallas in an alternate 1966 by both Lister and Cat.
- The opener of Series XI called "Twentica" also features the crew misidentifying someone as a famous historical figure, with them searching for a down and out Albert Einstien and instead coming across Bob the Bum (aka "Einstein Bob").
- Jesus' utter distaste for the acts of violence done in his name is exactly how Lister felt when he learned he was the cat god Cloister in the Series I episode "Waiting for God", with both episodes being similar in tone with regards to religion; Jesus' postulation that the Ten Commandments were made to "keep a primitive people in check" is also similar to the reasoning behind Silicon Heaven.
- Equally, the episode is also similar to Monty Python's Life of Brian in terms of setting and an unwilling prophet who comes to realize that people are just blindly following the words of others and should learn to think for themselves.
- When the Dwarfers sit down to share a meal with Jesus, they form into a remarkable impersonation of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper". A similarly evocative shot opens the episode, showing Red Dwarf flying above a cold desert planet, with a star glowing very much like the "Star of Bethlehem".
- The claymation characters Wallace and Gromit are mentioned; the reason for Lister's outburst during this episode is that they are usually shown on British television around Christmas. Mention is also made of the online auction site eBay.
- The handling of famous historical characters is very similar to the style of humour used on the Series IV episode "Meltdown"; including mentions of Gandhi.
- In what seems to be a running tradition for the show, Jesus responds to the absurdity of his situation by thinking that he is on a hallucinogen (smoked acacia bark), just like past Rimmer does in "Stasis Leak" (Titan Mushrooms) and Craig Charles does in "Back to Earth, Part Three" (Crack Cocaine).
- Just like in "The Last Day", "Legion" and several episodes in Series VIII, mention is made of Kryten not having genitalia and how that perhaps alters his perceptions of certain actions somewhat, in this case with regards to medical urethra probing.
- The episode contains a great deal of continuity with the previous episode, in that they are still out of anaesthetic and Lister is still working on his robotics course.
- The Rejuvenation Shower is a Swedish flat pack assembly device, this is a probable reference to IKEA, a Swedish company that sells flat pack assembly furniture.
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