Waiting for goD

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Lister lied about succeeding in the exam.

Lister becomes fascinated with the cat culture, learning how to 'read' cat books by scent and very interested in seeing more about their religion. Rimmer, meanwhile, discovers a pod which he believes is of alien origin, and is under the belief the alien race it originated from would have the technology to build him a new body, and tries to decipher the supposedly alien text on it.

Holly translates the cat bible for Lister, revealing their own series of commandments and their holy wars over the precise details of his dream of starting a restaurant in "Fuchal," followed by two arks searching for that promised land. While exploring the ship's hold he discovers a blind cat priest who has lost his faith, but under the belief of Lister being god, Lister makes everything all right for him before he unceremoniously dies. The alien pod, meanwhile, is revealed to be a garbage pod.


LISTER: I mean, Rimmer, what sort of Holy Writ is this, Rimmer? "It is a sin to be cool."
RIMMER: Look, I'm sick of hearing about these stupid cats! My concerns are slightly more meaningful than what coloured stupid smegging cardboard hat I'm wearing! I'm trying to decipher this! This is science, laddie! You can smirk, Lister, but I believe the Quagaars--
LISTER: Quagars?
RIMMER: Quagaaahs! It's a name I made up! Double A, actually! I believe the Quagaars have the technology to give me a new body!
LISTER: Never mind this tot, where's the Cat?


Waiting For God would have to my be favourite series 1 episode, and quite possibly among my personal top 10.

The reason I love it is simply because of Lister's storyline. Lister's struggles with being treated as a god during his three million years in stasis is an astounding plot, I feel; he may almost be considered petty in his ambitions, to just move somewhere nice and spend the rest of his days with the love of his life, but he clearly doesn't condone the suffering of others without reason - he's not selfish or ignorant, he's genuinely concerned and bereaved over the three million years of suffering generated in his name.

His ambitions are quaint and he doesn't seem to ask a lot from life, so to have the unsuspecting guy become the subject or worship and countless cat people following in his lifestyle to attain holiness is just... hilarious and tragic.

The in-depth analysis they made on his dream of starting a restaurant on Fiji and even his laundry list is amusing, and the concept of them venturing into space in search of 'Fuchal' is interesting, though I never quite understood how the book had the fact of one ark crashing into an asteroid; did they have contact with Red Dwarf, was the accident visible from the ship, or...?

What particularly interested me was how the other ark is never said to have crashed, and its whereabouts remain unknown. The Cat and Lister are essentially the last of their kind (that they know of, at least), but the second ark could still be out there. Apparently a later episode was going to explore that concept wherein they find a planet colonised with cats, but sadly it was never made, denying the Cat of a true spotlight episode and a conclusion to that interesting little plot point. At least, I found it interesting.

I'm a big history nerd, so naturally the very concept of the facts on Lister 'corrupting' over time just entrances me, and the emphasis on minor facts such as the colour of the hats at the restaurant and the laundry list being interpreted as instructions or a guide to the promised land of Fuchal just amuses me.

A lot of mock religions in fiction are about as subtle as an anvil in terms of going "hurr hurr religion is stupid," and the holy wars part is pretty obvious in its satire (though Lister's response to it at the end is hilarious), but I think why the episode works so well for me is that it gives you a vivid image of the lifestyle and culture of the cat people. One slobby guy indirectly created a whole new culture with lots of odd perceptions; the commandments are completely oddball, but the fact slobbiness is perceived as a positive thing is fascinating, though I don't know where "it is a sin to be cool" came from.

The very concept of a "cat book" is just awesome, though how it would logically work is a bit baffling. To start speaking out of my ass, smells are perceived differently by everyone; the smell remains the same but the brain and taste perception recognises it as either good or bad, so would that create misreadings? Of course, animals generally have more keen senses of smell than humans so creating a language of smells would be easier, but would a human still be able to perceive it? And then there's the matter of how they actually 'write' in smell...

But another great element is simply Lister exploring the nooks and crannies of the ship where the cats once lived and discovering the cat priest. Despite the ship essentially hosting a brand new species and its presumably vast civilisation for three million years, the crew had never got exploring the entirety of the ship yet, so there could've been all kinds of surprises lying in wait for them. What was originally just a ship was now a home for many, many cat people. The fact it's beyond Holly's range of supervision is an extra clincher, making it that much more mysterious and interesting.

The scene afterwards with the cat priest is a satisfying revelation, but it's just a pity that no other remnants of the cat civilisation is found - afterwards the crew are constantly exploring the odd parts of the ship when there's monsters onboard, but that seems to be the only reason they bothered looking into them again. The scene with the priest is a great little tragicomedy, with the Cat not even caring about him dying and losing his faith, and just when Lister effectively turns his life around, he dies in a second. Lister is pretty bummed about it, but at least he died happily - that's probably more than could be said of the many other cats who ventured out in search for Fuchal.

Of course, the others get content, too! Rimmer gets a sub-plot about finding an allegedly alien pod, which is the main source of humour for the episode; it's insignificant and given how much potential I feel the main story has, I almost wish Lister got a little extra time to explore some more of the themes and concepts, but Rimmer's story has some great laughs. You could say there's a parallel between the cat people seeing the Lister's laundry list as a religious manuscript and Rimmer trying to see meaning in the charred lettering, and both just as futile.

Rimmer as a whole gets some great moments such as flip-flopping rant about Captain Hollister and claiming he's "just better" than Lister, and Lister's theory of humans being the planet-equivalent of facial herpes is hilarious, but I personally found the climax to the plot wasn't as strong as it could've been. You need the scene where Lister recognises it as a garbage pod to show that he's more interested in his religion problem, but it does result in a weaker ending, I feel.

The Cat, likewise, gets some great moments such as his interaction with the priest; his selfishness if played up a lot, but you can't help but love him, as he's still a cat at heart. It's like the claim that Garfield is humourous because he's a cranky and sarcastic cat, but no one would like him if he was a cranky and sarcastic human. The scene with the yoyo is hilarious and cute, and it's sad to see that later on his cat traits would be ditched in favour of just being stereotypically vain, and his role would turn into that of a sniffer hound than a self-centred cat.

And, of course, the end of the previous episode is revealed to be pointless before the episode begins, with Holly explaining that Lister lied about the result. It does make a good gag of what constitutes as 'exciting' on a dead ship with only three known residents, and it's even better in hindsight when later series would feature the characters practically tripping over fascinating planets, bizarre lifeforms and all kinds of crazy crap every episode. Similarly, Lister's statement that "it's just you, me, the Cat, Holly, and a whole bunch of smegging rocks," would become kind of ironic later on, where although there still aren't aliens, there's certainly lots and lots and lots of man-made creatures and organisms still out there.

So, yeah, I love this episode. It's got such a rich and vibrant concept, and is practically asking for a continuation of some kind; a second part just to see what more of the cat culture and society was left would've fascinated me, but it was not to be. It's not the most comedic episode and people probably won't be satisfied with Rimmer not getting the main spotlight, but the plot is fascinating and there are some great, strong jokes.

Commentary highlightS

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Fanbase opinionS

Now, I seem to be in the minority about this episode, as while I'm totally enamoured with Lister's side of the story and the cat society and history in general, most people consider it very weak and much prefer Rimmer's side; which is understandable, given how Lister's side isn't very strong on the laughs. But while Red Dwarf is considered a comedy, I'm particularly partial to these early episodes because of the strong writing and storylines, and the many ways Waiting For God could be explored just fascinates me.
I think some people consider it weak because of the uninspiring presentation, but for the most part it's probably because the story isn't endless giggles, though it still has its fans. The Japanese poll ranked it as the second-best of this series, which is another complete opposite opinion. Maybe they just like cats.