Tongue Tied

Psirens is the first episode in Series VI of Red Dwarf, and the thirty-first overall episode. It first aired 7 October 1993 on BBC2.


Having lost Red Dwarf to unknown forces, the Starbug crew have to negotiate a dangerous asteroid belt filled with carnivorous, telepathic GELFs in an attempt to reach their mothership.


Lister emerges from two centuries in Deep Sleep

As Starbug travels through space, Lister awakens from Deep Sleep with long hair and fingernails, which he cuts with a pencil sharpener. As he looks into the mirror, he realises he doesn't know who he is.

As he moves through the ship, he meets Kryten, who explains that he's been in Deep Sleep aboard Starbug for the past two hundred years. Assuring Lister that his amnesia is a temporary side effect of Deep Sleep, he reintroduces himself to his personal items including a picture of Kristine Kochanski and his guitar as well as reminding him of his love of curry. Kryten then thaws out Rimmer's light bee and reactivates the hologram, the sight of whom is the catalyst for Lister's memory returning.

Later, with Lister, Rimmer and Cat all completely recovered from their hibernation, Kryten updates them on the situation: Red Dwarf has been lost. Although Rimmer blames Lister for forgetting where he parked it, Kryten reminds them it wasn't lost but instead stolen by an unknown party forcing them to chasing the ship's vapour trail ever since. Red Dwarf has currently been forced to circumnavigate an asteroid belt, giving the crew the opportunity to reach the ship by shortcutting through the belt, allowing them to hopefully recover Holly. Naturally, Rimmer is scared of going through the belt, citing Space Corps Directives on how dangerous asteroid belts are to transverse, but it vetoed by the others. After entering the belt, Starbug is nearly hit by an asteroid the size of "King Kong's first dump of the day", as Rimmer puts it, but Kryten is able to blow the asteroid up before impact using garbage and nitroglycerin bombs shot out of the waste disposal units.

Having lost Red Dwarf, Starbug follows it into an asteroid belt that is a spaceship graveyard

The illusionary Captain Tau and Lister's ex-girlfriend

The Starbuggers soon realise that the belt is a massive spaceship graveyard. The scouter blasts its way into one of the wrecks, finding the Black Box which shows the last moments of a Crazed Astro and causing Rimmer to faint with fear. The asteroid belt is inhabited by Psirens, telepathic GELFs who lure unwary travelers to them and suck out their brains.

Starbug soon gets a distress call from two attractive women claiming that there are only woman left on their planet and they desperately need men to come and make love to them. Cat is more than ready to volunteer, and it's only the rest of the crew who stop him from heading towards the blatantly obvious trap. Then another distress call comes in from a Captain Tau of the SCS Pioneer, who reports that her ship is being attacked by Psirens before she is shot. Just then another crew member arrives, and it's Kochanski to Lister's astonishment. She tells Lister that she's finished but won't let the Psirens get either her or her two children Jim and Bexley, that are his thanks to her stealing his sperm sample from Red Dwarf after he was put into stasis. Lister is desperate to stop her, and it's left to Rimmer to tell him this is also clearly a trap. A flaming meteor then appears hurling towards the ship, but Kryten deduces it to be an illusion as Starbug's sensors do not detect it. Unfortunately, Rimmer is left in charge and assumes another flaming meteor to be fake; the illusion this time, is the lack of response from the ship's sensors.

Lister blasts the Starbug landing gear free with a bazookoid, Psirens approaching.

Psirens fighting over Lister's brains, one which is pretending to be Kryten, another the weathergirl of Groovy Channel 27

Starbug is struck and crashes onto an asteroid. Although the air outside is very thin, it is still breathable and Lister exits Starbug to blast the front landing gear free with a bazookoid. Outside he encounters a lustful figure from his adolescent fantasies, the sister of one Pete Tranter. Lister snogs with the woman not knowing it is actually a hideous Psiren. He is ironically saved by another Psiren disguised as Kryten, whom murders the first one in order to steal its victim and is in turn killed when it exposes itself to Lister by calling him "Dave", something the real Kryten would never do. Another tries to seduce him as the weathergirl from Groovy Channel 27.

The Axeman is back!

Lister manages to get back on board Starbug safely, only for a second Lister to arrive claiming he is the real article. With no-way to know which is which, the second Lister is allowed to board. After a series of tests to determine which is the false Lister, the crew ask them to play his guitar. The first Lister they give the guitar plays it extremely well, and the crew don't hesitate in blasting the Psiren away. Kryten explains that when the Psiren read it Lister's mind it believed Lister's delusion that he is guitar god and therefore could play very well, and the real Lister's attempts to prove that he can also play the guitar nearly get him shot as well. During the distraction, the Psiren escapes to the rear section of the 'bug.

A trail of yellow Psiren blood leads to the engine room. Lister and Cat stay behind to deal with a meteor shower, while Rimmer declines the offer to help, leaving Kryten to follow the Psiren blood trail alone. When Kryten finds the Psiren he tells it there's no point in trying to fight him as he has no desires and his brain in synthetic and therefore of no use to it. He suggests the Psiren give itself up, when it changes into Professor Mamet, his creator. He cannot harm Mamet, and has no choice but to obey her commands. Under her orders, he cannot call for help and instead climbs into the waste compactor and starts it up. Kryten tells Mamet that she is sick, as she tells Kryten to die.

Lister, Cat, and Rimmer quickly appear (the meteor storm having been another illusion) to find Kryten's Psi-Scan and bazookoid, abandoned on the floor. Rimmer suddenly fades out as his hologramatic light bee battery runs flat. Now just the two of them, Lister and Cat walk up to the Psiren disguised as a vending machine, but as they realise a vending machine in the engine room is amiss, the Psiren quickly gives up the illusion and knocks them out.

Kryten emerges from the trash compactor.

As the Psiren decides whose brains to suck out first, Kryten, now cube-shaped from his experience in the waste compactor, emerges "almost annoyed" and waddles over to the edge of the walkway from the deck above, and crashes down on top of it, knocking the Psiren out cold. The Psiren is then presumably flushed it into space through the airlock which they were planning to do.

The threat ended, the crew continue onward, as the still cuboid Kryten offers his services to the crew to act as a table and a die before repairing himself. As Kryten says, he cannot go off repairing himself when there is a mountain of laundry the size of the north face of the Eiger.

Starbug leaves the asteroid belt, and although the crew have escaped the Psirens they have missed their chance to catch up to Red Dwarf. The crew find the vapour trail heading into a gas nebula, and they go in to see what awaits them...

Deleted Scenes

Available on the Series VI DVD

  • A couple of trimmed gags, including an improvised celebration by the cast. They were not asked to repeat it for take two. Among these are Kryten discussing photographs of Lister's ex-girlfriends dressed up as nurses, which he hides a book on Aristotelian metaphysics; and the crew doing the "Boys from the Dwarf" hand-shuffle when they destroy the asteroid with the high-impact garbage cannon.
  • An extended scene with the Crazed Astro discussing his mutilated crewmates.
  • Two cuts regarding the deviousness of the Psirens. As with most edits, these were made to keep the episode running time to the designated half-hour. These include Cat's disappointment over the Temptresses wanting "seed-spreaders" being an illusion.
  • Pete Tranter's Sister gets a little more screen time, during which it is said that a teenage Lister made a 'special hole in his pocket' for her, and the "Albanian shepherd" joke was originally about "Welsh sheep"...
  • Rimmer quotes Space Corps Directives 5796 - that Kryten corrects him is about no officer above the rank of mess sergeant is allowed in combat with pierced nipples.
  • Extended scene with Rimmer trying to ascertain who is the real Lister and who is the Psiren Lister by asking them personal questions. During this it emerges that Lister has a tattoo on his right buttock; it is a heart with a arrow through it, and underneath dripping in curry sauce, "I love vindaloos". He got it on planet leave on Ganymede, when Olaf Petersen spiked his cocktail with four-star petrol. He awoke with the tattoo, and to learn that he had enrolled as a novice monk in Ganymedian monastery. Lister discovered the tattoo when he handed in his habit.
  • An unused FX shot available on the "raw FX footage" section of the Series VI DVD contains a scene wherein the Starbug crew would have been seen in the cockpit from the outside of Starbug.

Guest Stars


  • The preceding events which happen immediately before this episode are covered in the Prelude to Nanarchy webcomic.
  • Clare Grogan appears as Kochanski for the first time since "Stasis Leak" in Series II, and for the final time; this is also the last appearance of the original version of the character introduced in Series I. When Kochanski next appears in Series VII, she will be played by another actress and be, effectively, a completely new character.
  • Anita Dobson's cameo in this episode as Captain Tau came as a result of her partner (later husband) Brian May of Queen being approached to provide Lister's hands for his guitar solo. Although May wasn't available, Dobson agreed to play Tau when the possibility was mentioned to her. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor later stated that had they known that Dobson was willing and available they would have written a more substantial part for her.
  • When discussing Lister's desire to find Kochanski and what he would do if he did, Kryten states that human sex is "curious" and that he would prefer playing partnership whist.
  • The name of the illusionary captain of the ill-fated SCS Pioneer in this episode, Captain Tau, was also the name of the captain of Red Dwarf from the failed American Red Dwarf pilot.
    • Another element lifted from the Red Dwarf USA pilot (in this case, the second attempt) was the exchange between Rimmer and Cat in regards to the old Cat saying.
  • The Starbug crew are forced to blow apart incoming wayward asteroids by ejecting crushed cubes of garbage soaked in nitroglycerin in the direction of the asteroids. This is because, at this stage, the 'bug had no offensive or defensive capabilities. Presumably, Kryten or the skutters had forgot to load mining torpedoes when they last left Red Dwarf. However, they do acquire laser cannons for the 'bug later on in this series, during the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".

Background Information

  • Although the show had never had a proper 'series opener' since "The End" (the episode order usually being decided after filming), the BBC requested that vital information be recapped for new viewers leading to the opening where Lister suffers amnesia.
  • Actor Craig Charles had been complaining to writer Doug Naylor that he had no romantic liaisons recently in the show, especially since in the former series Chris Barrie had been smothered in oil by two temptresses ("Terrorform") and even had a girlfriend at one point ("Holoship"). Naylor got fed up with these complaints and so deliberately wrote in the disgusting Lister-Psiren snog. Nevertheless, the complaints from Charles continued, and despite Lister seeing some action in later episodes ("Gunmen of the Apocalypse", "Stoke Me a Clipper"), the gay snog between Lister and Rimmer in episode "Blue" of the next series was written in for the same reason of Naylor getting fed up with Charles's complaints.
  • The slime on the Psiren when Craig Charles is snogging it was agricultural jelly used in inseminating cows.
  • Among the wrecked spaceships in the asteroid field are models of the Narcissus shuttle from Alien, the Eagle from Space: 1999 and a Klingon Vor'cha class attack cruiser from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Noteworthy Dialogue

  • Kryten: The poor devil scrawled it in his death throes, using a combination of his own blood and even some lengths of his own intestines.
    Rimmer: Who would do that?
    Lister: Someone who badly needed a pen.
    Cat: What I don't understand is why he went to the trouble of using his kidney as a full stop.
    Rimmer: I don't think he meant to do that. It probably just plopped out.
  • Kryten: Starbug was built to last, sir. This old baby's crashed more times than a ZX81.

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • If everyone bar Kryten has been in stasis for 200 years, what rubbish would he have to throw out at the start of the episode?
    Possibly burned out ship parts, waste organic matter, things of that sort to finish off cleaning the ship prior to awakening the crew.
  • Why does Starbug have two stasis pods when previously stated that Red Dwarf in a whole has only two?
    They are Deep Sleep units, which only slow time down rather than stop it completely (80%-95%) as evidenced by Lister's hair and nail growth. In "Out of Time", Kryten established a temporary "Stasis seal" on the Deep Sleep units.
  • We never see Cat coming out of stasis.
    Not a continuity error as it is established numerous times after this that Starbug has two such Deep Sleep units, in both bunks. ("RD: Out of Time") ("RD: Nanarchy") Cat was simply not seen emerging, coming out after Lister. A shame, since it was a missed opportunity to have seen Cat emerge with long hair and fingernails like Lister; essentially it would have been Cat's wild, feral, unkempt look.
  • It's never explained how Starbug is able to sustain itself and a crew - even with the living crew in deep sleep for 200 years -when "Demons & Angels" established it could only stay away from Red Dwarf for a few hours.
    In previous instances, Starbug had left Red Dwarf only planning for short forays, or in hurry. In "Demons & Angels" they left without getting supplies or back-up power because the ship was about to explode.
    When Starbug last left Red Dwarf it was planning for a long voyage, including being underwater for a long time, when investigating
    SSS Esperanto in "Back to Reality". Lister probably would have brought curry and lager for such a trip, and Kryten would have brought extra fuel on board for such a trip, and extra batteries for Rimmer's light bee. Throughout Series VI and VII, they are seen looting space corps derelicts for supplies and fuel, and even scraping moss off asteroids for food. ("Rimmerworld") They recycle water every day, and they gain an engine which doesn't need fuel. ("Ouroboros")
  • In this episode Kryten says his brain is entirely synthetic but in "D.N.A." it is said to be part organic.
    Kryten's brain used cloned organic material from John Warburton (RD: Beyond a Joke) but it was still not a "living brain" as such and was still synthetic, mostly plastic and wiring still. Such a brain would almost certainly be useless to Psirens as they would likely require 100% organic brains to eat.
  • At the end of Series VII, it found out that Red Dwarf has been turned into a planetoid and it was a microscopic Red Dwarf which they were chasing. However, in this episode it is explained that Red Dwarf must avoid the asteroid field due to being top large, but if it isn't, why did it avoid the asteroids?
    It didn't. Don't forget, at this stage the crew didn't know they were chasing a microscopic Red Dwarf so assumed that the full-sized ship would be going around the asteroids. The nanobots were hiding in Lister's sock drawer the whole time, and deliberately led the crew on a merry goose chase around the Galaxy to avoid detection. The micro-Dwarf was merely a distraction.
  • Lister claims not to have had sex for three million years. However, he did have sex with the female version of himself from a parallel universe and even got pregnant.