REVIEW: Red Dwarf: Series 1, Episode 5 “Confidence and Paranoia” (1988)

A Television show by the BBC

We’re at the penultimate episode of the first season of Red Dwarf. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this, so it’s been fun to go back and see how well it holds up from the very first time I watched it. It’s definitely not quite in “the groove” that some later episodes get into, perhaps because Kryten has not joined the cast as of yet, but what we have here has been generally fun. Episode five brings us one of the more classic science fiction tropes, a space virus, and plays around with it a tad. Imagine what would happen if your fever hallucinations came to life? What if your own Confidence and Paranoia became personified, I’m sure chaos would ensue.

“Lister contracts a mutated pneumonia virus. The hallucinations of his fevered brain materialise in solid form, and suddenly the ship is beset by herring rain and an exploding 16th-century mayor of Warsaw. When his fever breaks, Lister wakes up to find he has created personifications of his Confidence and Paranoia, and a war of manipulation begins.”

For me, one of the coolest things about this episode is that it’s the FIRST credited role for Scottish-American actor and TV personality Craig Ferguson. Ferguson was a staple of my TV consumption in the 2000’s when he took over for Craig Killborn on CBS’s Late Late Show, a late night talk show that came on after David Letterman (at the time, now it’s Stephen Colbert hosting). He went to the extra mile to completely deconstruct what it meant to be on a late night talk show, having a robot co-host, a nightly segment with a pantomime horse, and usually did not practice or pre-write interviews giving them a raw edge that no other talk show had at the time. I’m sure James Corden is doing fine ever since Craig stepped down, but it’s not the same.

I know many UK viewers may not know who he is or care about this at all, but in the US, Ferguson definitely has his fans. This being his first role, and likely while he was in the throws of his well-documented drug addiction, the acting isn’t spectacular. This is especially true considering he is playing an over-the-top embodiment of Lister’s “pure confidence” as a ridiculous American gameshow host or something (funny that Ferguson is currently a game show host in 2022 lol). He doesn’t quite have the accent down, and is almost “too much” in many ways. That said, I love seeing his humble beginnings.

Paranoia is played by veteran character actor Lee Cornes who was a staple of 80’s and 90’s UK sitcoms.

While the concept in the episode was fun, I feel like the story was somewhat hampered by the time allotments. Confidence and Paranoia only really show up towards the end of the episode, and we never get the attachment to confidence we’re obviously supposed to have until he ultimately becomes the villain of the whole thing. Neither are we able to build up the sort of animosity towards Paranoia that would make the ending shocking. When everything happens at the end, it’s just sort of there, and credits troll. awesome premise, average execution. Onward to the final episode of series one!

For more Red Dwarf reviews and ancient news articles I did on here, click HERE.

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