After a boozy party on a passing moon, the boys from the Dwarf wake up four days later with no memory of what has happened during the intervening days. Lister and Cat have broken legs, pages are missing from their diaries, and somebody has been messing with Holly's star charts. The Dwarfers then set off to locate the missing flight recorder of Red Dwarf, which could solve the mystery.
Red Dwarf passes by a barren, rocky planetoid which nonetheless has a breathable atmosphere. The boys take a Blue Midget shuttle down to the planetoid since they desire a Saturday night trip away from Red Dwarf. It also the anniversary of the radiation leak disaster, so they decide to have a "deathday party" for Arnold Rimmer.
Dave Lister plays on his guitar with giant amplifiers, whilst Cat dances and the skutters play on keyboards. They get very drunk on leopard lager and GELF hooch, and the Holly Robot also simulates intoxication for himself and Rimmer. Rimmer is able to exist on the surface of the planetoid by use of a Hologramatic Projection Cage.
When some sausages finish cooking above a fire, Lister raises a toast to Rimmer's deathday, and reveals a cake in the shape of a spanner, since Rimmer had been a technician. Holly quips that they are lucky Rimmer was not a gynecologist. Holly then reminds them that the moons will be setting soon, rendering the planetoid inhospitable, and so the gang make their way back to Blue Midget. As Lister drunkenly pilots the shuttle back to Red Dwarf, Blue Midget flies erratically and occasionally in reverse, and the boys sing their own version of 'Show me the way to go home'.
Back aboard Red Dwarf and in the sleeping quarters, Lister is attempting to complete a jigsaw puzzle of their ship, whilst Rimmer struggles to read the time on the alarm clocks. Lister activates Holly, who appears on the mirror monitor wearing a nightcap and complaining about needed his offline time. Lister asks Holly to generate one of his favourite recipes, the triple fried egg, chilli and mango chutney sandwich for the "deathday boy" to try. Rimmer has conflicting emotions about Lister's sandwich, saying that the sandwich is like Lister himself - all the ingredients are wrong, but put them together, and it somehow works.
Rimmer moans about how Lister is slobby and undisciplined, yet people like him, and he has led an interesting and full life; meanwhile he himself was hated by everybody on the ship, and has never experienced love. Asking Lister why he believes that is, Lister tells him that brown-nosing his superiors was not "having time for people", and that he had always put his career above everything else. Rimmer tells Lister that he has only ever had sex once, to Yvonne McGruder, and goes into intimate detail even though Lister had told Rimmer that he didn't want to know and that Rimmer would regret telling him in the morning. Rimmer tells Lister that he would trade in his pips, long-service medals, swimming certificates, telescope, and shoe trees to be loved and to have been loved. Rimmer then slinks off into his bed, singing 'Someone to Watch Over Me' and pathetically wailing. Lister is surprised at how much he suddenly pities Rimmer, and for once doesn't hate him.
Rimmer wakes up and is surprised to notice that the jigsaw Lister was struggling with is already finished. Rimmer is horrified when he remembers telling Lister about McGruder the night before, and wakes Lister up, begging him not to tell anyone. However Lister, who is evidently in great pain, removes his bed sheets to see that his leg is broken and in an orthopedic plaster cast. Cat also enters with his leg broken in a cast. Nobody can explain why they have broken feet. Rimmer looks in his diary and sees that four pages have been torn out; similarly Lister checks his alarm clock and confirms that it is four days later. Rimmer is convinced that they have had a visit from aliens, although the others are not. They activate Holly and ask him what is going on, but Holly too is mystified; four days of his memory have been deleted, and his star charts have been messed with. Lister suggests that Holly check the ship's Black Box, which is supposed to record everything, but Holly reports back that the Black Box is not on-board.
Soon after, the boys decide to try and track the Black Box in Blue Midget out in space, and are searching for the signal which the Black Box gives off. As Lister struggles with the ancient gearbox, Rimmer detects the signal out on an asteroid. They land and Lister and the Cat began a slow and awkward space walk with their broken legs. Coming across a large indentation in the ground which they take to be a massive footprint, Rimmer who is watching from the safety of Blue Midget begins to panic and asks Holly to keep the engine running.
Lister and the Cat follow the "footprints" round to the corner to what is apparently a shallow grave, at the end of which is a black grave stone. Remarkably, the grave stone reads "To the memory of the memory of Lise Yates", and Lister is in shock as he tells the others that he used to date a girl named Lise Yates.
Intrigued, they unearth the Black Box from the ground, take it back to Blue Midget, and load it into the cockpit console. A pre-recorded message flashes up from Holly, warning them not to watch the footage. Holly freezes it, saying that Holly clearly knows what he is talking about, but Lister tells him to continue. It begins with Rimmer telling Lister how many times he has had sex in his life, and Lister and the Cat begin laughing behind Rimmer's seat.
The footage from the previous Saturday night shows Rimmer drunkenly crying and wailing before falling asleep. Lister then goes to find Cat, and he then takes him to the Hologram Simulation Suite, which he explains has Rimmer's mind on file. Cat asks if they have come to blow it up, and Lister then shows Rimmer's dreams to Cat, and they both laugh since Rimmer is wearing a top hat and dinner jacket singing "Someone to Watch Over Me" with no trousers. Lister downloads all his memory and knowledge into the console, which only takes a second. Lister then tells Cat what his present to Rimmer is - Lister is going to copy eight months of his memory and paste it into Rimmer's. More specifically, the eight months that Lister dated Lise Yates, and so Rimmer will think that he dated her too, letting Rimmer experience a love affair for the first time.
In the morning, Rimmer wakes up feeling better about himself, and tells Lister about the phenomenal love affair he once had with Lise Yates, believing it to be his own memory. Lister, smiling to himself, asks Rimmer to elaborate. Rimmer tells him that he dropped out of a maintenance course at Saturn Tech, suddenly moved to Liverpool. He drank too much, smoked too much, and became a complete slob. He stopped adoring Mantovani and got into Rastabilly Skank. Rimmer then laments letting Lise Yates go, saying that he treated her badly since he was selfish, refused to share her ambitions, and refused to commit. Lister slowly begins to sadly agree with him.
Back on Blue Midget, Rimmer is horrified as to what he is seeing, and the Cat offers him popcorn. We go back to the flashback playing out on the monitor, and we see Lister's deception begin to fall apart as Rimmer found a bunch of old love letters from Lise Yates to Lister. Rimmer believes that the woman was a nymphomaniac and was cheating on him with Lister, since she was with Lister at the same hotel when they were there and on the same night. Lister explains that he copied some of his memory and implanted it into Rimmer's, so his memory of Lise Yates is actually Lister's memory, and Rimmer never even met her. This leaves Rimmer devastated and heartbroken, and he leaves to be alone. Cat tells Lister he should have got Rimmer a tie.
Lister eventually finds Rimmer up in the Observation Dome, and tries consoling him by telling him that although heartbreak is unpleasant, it is still a common and character-building experience. Rimmer is having none of it, and wants Lister's memories and ensuing emotional turmoil removed. Lister says that they can erase everybody's memories of the last four days using the Holo Suite. Rimmer moans about the ship's Black Box, and Lister suggests destroying it, but Rimmer reminds him that it is indestructible. Lister suggests shooting it off into space, but Rimmer is worried that someone might find it. Finally, Lister suggests burying it on an asteroid.
Soon after, Lister and Cat are in space suits carrying the gravestone to where they have buried the Black Box. The gravestone was Rimmer's idea, since he didn't just want to disappear entirely. However, Lister and Cat drop the heavy gravestone repeatedly, creating the "giant footprints" they saw earlier. Towards the end of their walk, they drop the gravestone on each other's feet, breaking them.
Back in the sleeping quarters, Lister and Cat already have their legs in plaster. Lister tears pages from his diary and talks about going to erase their memories. As they walk out of the sleeping quarters, or limp out in some places, Lister puts the last piece of his jigsaw. The picture is that of Red Dwarf in space.
Available on the Series II DVD:
- Extended dialogue from Rimmer's Deathday party. Cat mocks Rimmer's dancing, and Rimmer tells the others that he is trained in classical ballroom dancing. Rimmer also tells them that he attended an officer's party once where he was stripped naked and had horse chestnuts forced up his bottom, among other humiliations. The promotion-obsessed Rimmer proudly went through this since he mistakenly believed it was an initiation into the 'Space Masons Guild', of which many of his family were members, but Rimmer had never managed to join.
- A scene was cut where, after drink-driving it back to Red Dwarf in Blue Midget, the staggering boys are escorted back to their bunks by the skutters. Holly has simulated extreme drunkenness for Rimmer, causing him to crawl.
- Extended dialogue from the scene where Rimmer drunkenly expands on just how few times he has made love (see Yvonne McGruder)
- Additional dialogue showing Rimmer remembering Lister's past was cut for time. This dialogue reveals that Lister once pawned his Gran's false teeth for money to take Lise Yates out on a date. He justified this to himself by saying that Gran didn't use them, except to open bottle tops and chew tobacco. Three months later, he got Gran some more, only they didn't fit and she looked like Ed the Talking Horse.
- Fans have drawn parallels between this episode and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called 'Clues'. Both involved crew members finding parts of their memories missing and set about trying to find out what happened, only to learn they were better off not knowing. It should be noted that the Trek episode aired three years after the Red Dwarf episode (1988).
- During the Lise Yates video, she first says, "I love you Dave" referring to Lister. She thus should have said, "I love you Arnold" when referring to Rimmer, but instead she said, "I love you Rimmer".
- On the planetoid, we see Rimmer inside a cage intended to project his hologram, allowing him to exist outside Red Dwarf. This somewhat contradicts the episode "Kryten" in which Rimmer is able to exit Red Dwarf and board another vessel, the Nova 5, without difficulty.
- It could be argued that it was easier to project a hologram on a vessel than on a moon or a planet, and the Light Bee that allowed Rimmer to walk more freely on a planet was most likely not installed yet (that or there could be conditions that made it more difficult to project a stable image).
- Rimmer mentions that one of his strengths as a character is that "he always has a pen". This foreshadows an event which will occur many years later, in the Series XI episode "Officer Rimmer" during which Lister uses this character trait to his advantage when facing the Rimmer Monster.
- During the filming of this episode, Craig Charles had to leave to attend the birth of his son, Jack. Production Manager Mike Agnew wears Lister's spacesuit in the space walk / recovery of the Black Box scene, causing some continuity issues regarding the leg cast. According to the insert notes with the Series II DVD set, the moon scenes were shot at a Welsh quarry near to Rhyl where the beach sequences in "Better Than Life" were filmed. The scenes involving Charles were filmed quickly while they awaited the arrival of a vehicle to take him to the birth. Someone discovered the scene and said to the director Ed Bye at a Red Dwarf convention that it could have been a flashback being watched in a mirror. Bye then said: "Yes, that's right. Well done for noticing."
- In "It's Cold Outside", the making-of documentary of Series II (which is included in The Bodysnatcher Collection) there is behind-the-scenes footage of Craig Charles from during the deathday party scene. During this footage he is getting notably impatient and agitated (in the end, Charles was 20 minutes late to the birth).
- In the documentary Craig Charles also talks about how he was angry about Chris Barrie's impersonation of him in this episode (where Rimmer is seen with Lise Yates instead of Lister), causing the two actors to have a fall out.
- Holly: Supplies are plentiful. We have enough food and drink to last 30,000 years, although we have run out of Shake 'n' Vac.
- Holly Robot: [During the party on the planetoid] It's the business innit? It's nice to get out once in a while, stretch your cables.
- Rimmer: [Very slurred] I can't understand it. I've had so much to drink and it hasn't even afflicted me. I'm not in the least bit tiddly.
Lister: Oh yeah? Why are you dancing then?
Cat: Ha! You call that dancing? I've seen people on fire move better than that!
- Lister: And for this very special occasion, I have baked a cake.
Holly: What's that, then?
Lister: It's shaped like a spanner, Holly, because he was a technician.
Holly: That's very apt, that is. If he'd have been a postman, you would have baked it in the shape of an envelope, I suppose?
Holly: Gordon Bennett. It's lucky he's not a gynecologist.
- [All singing and laughing in Blue Midget] "I had a little drink about an hour ago to celebrate Rimmer's death."
- Rimmer: I'm disciplined, I'm organized, I'm dedicated to my career, I've always got a pen. Result? Total smeghead despised by everyone except the ship's parrot. And that's only because we haven't got one. Why? Why is that?
- Lister: What time is it?
Rimmer: Drunkenly crawls over to the alarm clock] Saturday.
Lister: Is that the best you can do?
Rimmer: There are some numbers next to it but they could be anything.
- Lister: Hol, give us something to eat.
Holly [appearing on the mirror monitor wearing a nightcap] You what? I'm jiggered man.
Lister: Oh come on. You don't sleep.
Holly: Course I do. I've got to offline. I can't keep up my full tilt, full power, red hot, maximum pace all the time. I've got to take the odd breather, haven't I?
- Rimmer: I want a triple fried egg sandwich with...
Lister: With chili sauce and chutney.
Holly: You what?
Lister: It's a state-of-the-art sarnie.
Holly: It's the state of the floor I'm worried about. All right, okay.
Lister: Trust me.
[several conflicting emotions cross Rimmer's face] Rimmer: I think I'm having a baby.
Lister: It's good, innit?
Rimmer: It's incredible. Where did you get the recipe?
Lister: I can't remember. I think it was a book on bacteriological warfare.
Rimmer: It's like a cross between food and bowel surgery.
- [Rimmer is drunk and determined to reveal how many times he's had sex]
Rimmer: One time only.
Lister: [Covers his ears] Don't tell me this Rimmer. You'll want to kill yourself in the mornin'.
Rimmer: Yvonne McGruder. A single brief liaison with the ships female boxing champion. March 16, 7.31p.m to 7.43p.m.
Rimmer: Twelve minutes.
Rimmer: And that includes the time it took to eat the pizza.
Lister: Please Rimmer.
Rimmer: In my entire life, I've spent more time being sick.
- Holly: Oi. Whose been messing with my star charts! Here I am trying to do the comprehensive, nay, definitive A-Z of the entire universe with street names, post offices, and little steeples and everything and some git's been fiddling with it.
- Rimmer: Somehow we've lost the last four days.
The Cat: Did you look behind the fridge? If you lose something it's nearly always there.
- Rimmer: Aliens!
The Cat: What are you talking about, grease stain?
Rimmer: It's a well documented phenomenon. They kidnap you, give you a mind probe, erase your memory, and put you back.
Lister: OK, aliens came aboard.
Rimmer: Without question.
Lister: They broke my leg.
Rimmer: For some reason.
The Cat: They broke MY leg.
Holly: And then they did a jigsaw.
Holly: Well, that's cleared that up then.
Rimmer: Look, you're not thinking alien. That's what aliens are: alien. They do alien things. Things that are... alien. Maybe this is the way they communicate.
The Cat: By breaking legs?
Lister: And doing jigsaws?
Rimmer: Why should they speak the way we do? They're aliens.
Lister: OK, professor, what does it mean?
Rimmer: Maybe, maybe, OK? Breaking your leg hurts like hell, OK? "Hel." They do it below the knee, "lo." "Hel-lo," gettit? They do it twice - twice, "two." "Hello two." And the jigsaw must mean "you." "Hello to you."
The Cat: I wouldn't like to be around when one of these suckers is making a speech!
- [Lister struggles piloting Blue Midget even when sober, repeatedly stalling it] Lister: It's the gearbox man, I'm telling ya!
- Lister: It's a footprint the size of a surfboard.
Cat: I don't believe the size of these feet. Can you imagine the problems this guy must have trying to get fashionable shoes?
Lister: I wonder if it's true what they about the size of your feet? I mean, if it is this guy could probably go to a fancy dress party as a petrol pump.
- Rimmer: So, a surfboard-foot-sized monster came aboard, did a jigsaw, drained our memories and broke a couple of legs, so what? Forgive and forget, that's what I say!
- The Cat: What is this place?
Lister: This is the Hologram Simulation Suite. This is the room that creates Rimmer.
The Cat: Have we come to blow this room up?
- Rimmer: You gave me eight months of your memory, as a present?
Rimmer: That's why I was an orphan, even though my parents were alive. That's why I had my appendix out ... twice.
Lister: I thought it was what you needed.
Rimmer: You've destroyed me, Lister. The woman I loved most in the whole world didn't love me, she loved you.
Lister: Rimmer, listen. Rimmer, listen. Rimmer! Oh Smeg!
Cat: You should have bought him a tie.
- Rimmer: That time she stuck her tongue down my ear. It wasn't my ear at all - it was your ear. The woman I loved most in the whole world had her tongue down your ear. The most romantic thing I've ever had down my ear is a Johnson's baby bud.
Lister: Come on, as far as you're concerned you had a love affair, right? Which was wonderful, yeah? And for some reason that you can't understand it all went hideously wrong. ell, so what? Join the club, bucko. It's just you, me, and everybody else in the world.
Rimmer: I don't want to feel like this any more.
Lister: So, so you're in pain, yeah? I know, but Rimmer, if you go through life without feeling, if you go through life never experiencing, you're no better than a jellyfish. No better than a bank manager.
Rimmer: I don't want this feeling any more. I want my own memory back.
Lister: OK, OK, OK. I'll erase the last four days. The incident will never have happened.
On the Internet Movie Database, "Thanks for the Memory" has a weighted average rating of 8.5 out of 10. Out of the 73 total episodes in Red Dwarf, this rating places it 15th highest rated out of the 73.
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 "Better Than Life" was voted 7th out of the 73 episodes.
- Series II DVD Collector's Booklet
- "It's Cold Outside", Series II DVD making-of documentary
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