Tongue Tied

Nanarchy is the eighth and final episode in Series VII of Red Dwarf. It is the forty-fourth episode overall. It first aired 7 March 1997 on BBC2.


Aboard Starbug, Dave Lister struggles to come to terms with the loss of his arm, whilst Kryten looks for a way to rebuild his missing limb, resulting in a search for Kryten's nanobots.

The search has shocking results as the crew of Starbug find out what happened to their mothership - Red Dwarf - that was either lost or stolen by persons or lifeforms unknown 13 episodes earlier.


Kryten opens the episode with a sobbing voice over - Last week, on Red Dwarf...something terrible happened to Mr. Lister's arm!

Lister is finding one-armed life difficult, despite the help Kryten gives him to play the guitar, dunk biscuits, scratch his nose and operate doors. His shipmates try to cheer him up but, when pressed, they come up with a pretty inadequate list of historical figures who have lost an arm and yet achieved something. Cat also tries to cheer Lister up, but in his usual completely-clueless style only manages to make him feel worse.

Lister attempts to use Kryten's shoddily-made prosthetic arm, which can't even pick up a ball

Kochanski also disagrees with Kryten's nannying attitude: she believes in tough love, to help Lister become independent, and she suggests the mechanoid takes time to build Lister an artificial arm. He does, but the replacement is hardly suitable. At first the arm is so insensitive Lister would have to take the morning off each time he wanted to pick up a ball - and when Kryten adjusts the impulse valve to make the aid more sensitive, it instead responds to it's owner's subconscious thoughts, and takes to punching the mechanoid who left him in this predicament in the first place. There's no question of allowing him near Kochanski with it, of course.

So it's back to square one - until Kochanski recalls that the Kryten of her universe had a self-repair system made up of subatomic nanobots. They are capable of breaking anything down into its component atoms, and rebuilding it in a different form, so they could probably make Lister a new arm from his own excess body tissue. Kryten confirms that he has nanobots too... or rather, he did as they deserted him after the incident on SSS Esperanto. There is no chance of finding them - but Lister won't give up anyway.

Starbug on the planet which was once Red Dwarf

The crew go into deep sleep while Starbug, driven on auto-pilot by the navicomp, returns to the ocean moon on which Esperanto was found. The computer wakes them early as, towards the end of the journey, it detects a strange planetoid straight ahead. Kryten can't believe the evidence of the scanners, which indicate that the planetoid is actually their long-lost mothership Red Dwarf. The weather scanner reports beautiful weather and tropical temperatures on the surface, so the crew dress for extremely bad weather which they find. Exploring the surface in Starbug's buggy, Lister asks Kochanski if she'll think any different of him now he's only got one arm. Kochanski assures him that her opinion of him is no different; she still considers him to be a total slob. As Cat explores the surface he finds items littered all around. The Psi-Scan reveals the sand molecules didn't start off as sand but were transformed by the nanobots, with the results showing that the planet itself is Red Dwarf.

The three return to Starbug with items from the surface all of which came from Red Dwarf. Although most of it is worthless, they do find the Holly Watch containing the original, senile Holly (Norman Lovett) who explains that the nanobots had deconstructed Red Dwarf, creating their own miniature version of the ship and turned the rest into a planet for safekeeping. The crew now realize that it was the nano version of Red Dwarf that they were chasing all along – the nanobots ended up evading them by coming aboard Starbug and traveling around their own Galaxy inside Lister's clothes hamper.

The nanites try to make up for past transgressions, making Lister buff...

Kryten captures the nanobots in a glass jar, and gives them a good piece of his mind. Since the nanobots are programmed to follow Kryten's orders, Kryten tells the nanos to construct a new arm for Lister, and to reconstruct Red Dwarf out of the sands of the planet below. The nanobots follow Kryten's orders but, perhaps feeling guilty for the all the trouble they've caused, they seemingly overcompensate by giving Lister an upgrade. Lister wakes up screaming as he sees he now has the body of a steroid using bodybuilder, instead of his old body.

Starbug enters the new Red Dwarf hangar, and flies by the new, giant nanobot-reconstructed 'bugs

Meanwhile, alone in the cockpit of Starbug, Cat pilots the 'bug towards a newly-reconstructed Red Dwarf. Cat comments on the "nice rebuild", saying that the "nano-dudes have done a good job". However, something feels wrong to Cat: the new Red Dwarf, already a massive ship before, seems even bigger than Cat remembers. Starbug flies into the Red Dwarf hangar bay like a buzzing fly against a massively enlarged ship. Cat calls to the others, saying that they may have a problem. Their Starbug buzzes by some new, nanobot-reconstructed Starbugs, which are enormous, then past the massive hangar bay and into a cavernous corridor...

Deleted Scenes

Available on the Series VII DVD:

  • More scenes of Kochanski and Kryten trying to make Lister feel better about losing his arm, only for Cat to butt in and make him feel worse. As they talk about Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, Cat says that he wouldn't have won if it had been an arm-wrestling contest.
  • More discussion on the nanobots, with Kochanski saying that they are smaller than a supermodel's lunch bill. She suggests how they could repair Lister's arm from his "excess tissue"; Cat agrees, saying that his "butt has spread more than most religions."
  • Continued discovery, including more time in the newly-acquired buggy on the Red Dwarf planetoid.
  • With the team so pleased to have Holly back, his part in the episode became a little over-written, and so a few of Holly's jokes were cut. These show that the Holly inside the wristwatch is more deranged than ever, possibly since he has had to endure further and extended isolation. He's also realised that "he's no longer a woman", explaining the reintroduction of Norman Lovett instead of Hattie Hayridge. Holly also continually tells them the time as they have a discussion on where the nanobots could be.
  • More of Kochanski realising that the nanobots are onboard Starbug.


Background Information

  • Viewing figures had reached over eight million viewers, and the series also gained a Sunday night repeat. These were the highest ratings garnered so far.
  • The episode's name is a play on the words "nanobot" and "anarchy", to reflect the disobedient nature of the bots.
  • The series finale proved to be one of the most problematic scripts. James Hendrie was not available to do any rewrites to the script, so Alexander was asked to do one of his own, before Naylor did a final polish. It was the only episode to date with three credited writers.
  • This episode, alongside the series opener "Tikka to Ride", both feature recaps of the events of the last episode.
  • Starbug approaching Red Dwarf at the end of the episode used stock footage from earlier series, since the old model no longer existed (having been blown up for "Demons & Angels" in Series V). For the beginning of the next episode, the same scene was recreated in GCI to showcase the new, streamlined, improved, nanobot-recreated Red Dwarf of Series VIII. By Series X, a new physical model had been created for Red Dwarf.
  • Chloë Annett was highly visible on British TV the week "Nanarchy" aired; on 1 March her science fiction detective series Crime Traveller debuted on BBC One, and would run for a further seven episodes after Series VII ended its run. However, despite good ratings, it would not be renewed, whereas Annett and Red Dwarf would return.
  • Prosthetic limbs are, in the real world, of course much more advanced even today than the once Kryten makes for Lister in this episode. There are prosthetic arms which can not only pick up a ball, but pick up an egg without cracking it.
  • Writer / creator Doug Naylor has a prosthetic leg, which may have in part inspired Lister's tribulations in this episode.

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • Kryten: "Your Brain is saying Pick up the ball but you sub-conscious is saying HIT KRYTEN IN THE HEAD!"
  • Holly: "He's back. Kicking bottom or what?"