It’s an established fact that Red Dwarf is quite possibly one of the best things ever to be created on or beyond planet Earth. The British sci-fi/comedy series has aired new seasons on and off again since 1988, with the longest gap occurring between series 8 and Back to Earth in 2009. This coming Thursday (September 22) will see the release of series 11. Almost thirty years since its creation and only eleven seasons. What the smeg? It’s an injustice! As longtime fans of the series, we are legitimately hyped to see the boys from the Dwarf return to deep space once more. Here’s why you should be too!
It’s the distant future. The Jupiter Mining Corporation ship Red Dwarf is returning home with working, class do-nothing Dave Lister sealed in stasis. After a nuclear reaction causes an instantaneous and mass extinction of the crew, the ship’s onboard computer Holly heads out into the universe to avoid spreading nuclear radiation through the solar system. Now three million years out into deep space, Dave is the last human left in the universe. With only a hologram of his dead roommate, an evolved descendant of his cat, a senile computer, and a mechanoid to keep him company, he’s otherwise alone on a ship that’s six miles long, two miles across, and four miles deep. Whether the human race still exists is anyone’s guess, but Lister is determined to return to Earth. The slime is coming home!
Nearly a decade hot off the buzz of Alien in 1979 and with Star Trek: The Next Generation starting its second season, Red Dwarf was jointly created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor in 1988. Originally pitched as a sitcom in space, it wasn’t well-loved by the BBC. Not understanding the concept, one veteran producer even asked if the ship could have a couch and bay window. Early seasons played out as a back and forth with the tension between Rimmer and Lister being the driving force of the show. Rimmer is around to keep Lister sane. Hell is an eternity spent with your friends, after all.
The first real change to Red Dwarf came in series 3, when Robert Llewellyn was added to the main cast as Kryten and Hailee Hattridge replaced Norman Lovett as Holly, bringing a long overdue female voice to the series. It was in this season that the gang began exploring strange space phenomenon in earnest. Dave and Rimmer still got on each others’ nerves, but it was monsters of the week like the Polymorph, Simulants, and G.E.L.F. that got top billing. By series 6, the boys had even lost Red Dwarf entirely and spent time on Starbug, finally on a definitive mission in deep space.
Then came the dark times. It was series 7 that saw the semi-departure of Chris Barrie as Rimmer and the inclusion of Kristine Kochanski, an ex-girlfriend of Lister’s, in a move that disastrously shook up the cast and made a move to single-camera rather than live studio recordings in front of an audience. While series 8 was a return to form by bringing Red Dwarf back to its original state, going as far as to bring back Norman Lovett as Holly and reincarnating the original crew. While this season gained some traction in returning Red Dwarf to its former glory, it remained the final season for ten years.
Since 2009, Red Dwarf has aired on UK channel Dave. Back to Earth was a prelude. Series X was a triumphant return. With Craig Charles’ departure from Coronation Street in 2015, schedules cleared enough for Red Dwarf to film two seasons worth of episodes back to back, the first of which begins airing Thursday.
Boys from the Dwarf:
David Lister, played by Craig Charles, is the last man alive (presumably in the whole universe), a total slob, and the lowest ranking crew member. He was the third technician aboard the ship and survived the nuclear fallout because he was put in stasis (a state of frozen time that makes you not exist in the regular plains of existence) after he brought a pregnant black cat on board against quarantine regulations.
He’s often seen in his leather jacket and deerstalker hat, a cigarette stuck in his ear or a curry in his hand, and a smeg-eating smile on his face. With no ambitions beside where his next bit of fun is coming from and someday getting an ex-girlfriend back. Even though she’s been dead for three million years. That’s just semantics as far as the ever optimistic Lister is concerned.
Arnold Rimmer, played by Chris Barrie, was a fussy, bureaucratic, neurotic, second technician in life. And he’s exactly the same in death. If not worse because now he’s got that extra thing to bitch about! He’s brought back as a hologram to keep Lister sane. At least that’s Holly’s story. Chances are he didn’t think the decision through much more than looking at the records and seeing they were roommates.
Rimmer is the constant butt of whatever joke is being told. He failed his astronavigation exam on no less than ten occasions. He only ever had sex once before dying. His parents hated him, his brothers hated him–everyone hated him! But it’s not his fault, it’s their fault! He’s a super ego and a super id with nothing to stop the two from constantly clashing. He goes between a yellow-bellied coward to selfless hero without anyone (including himself) understanding how or why.
Kryten, played by Robert Llewellyn, is a service mechanoid that’s introduced in season two but doesn’t become a full time member of the show until season three. Kryten is picked up off the Nova 5, a crashed ship that Red Dwarf happens to stumble upon on their way home.
He breaks his programming throughout the series as he learns to lie, insult, and cheat. All at Lister’s instance and against his guilt chip, which is usually in overdrive. He watches a soap opera called Androids and dreams of being a human. Which is weird because he’s lived with Lister, so surely he’s seen it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
The Cat, played by Danny John-Jules, is a fashionable creature who evolved from the cat Lister smuggled on board three million years ago. Three million years of breeding led to feline erectus to feline sapiens. A whole cat religion sprung up. Lister was their god and would one day return to take them to the promised land. Holy wars raged for hundreds of years until only the weak and sick were left. Cat was born to a cripple and an idiot and is now the last of his species.
So there’s that in common with Lister. But beyond that? He’s a humanoid cat in flashy suits. He claims what he wants as his, he snoozes seven times during the day so he can rest up for his big snooze at night, and, if you’re a fish, he’s gonna eat you little fishy!
Holly, played by Norman Lovett in series 1,2, and 8 and Hattie Hayridge in seasons 3-5, is the onboard computer. Originally built with an IQ of 6000, Holly’s mind has lost some of its sharpness over the three million years spent alone. Holly is still able to do calculations (provided you don’t need them the same day you ask for them) but most of his or her run time is now dedicated to Agatha Christie novels and pranks.
Why It’s So Smegging Good:
Red Dwarf is so smegging good! It’s a cruel injustice that this isn’t a yearly series because it’s one of the funniest things to ever come out of England! It’s well written (aside from the disastrous series seven), amazingly acted, and wholly original. Patrick Stewart once thought to sue because he thought it was too similar to The Next Generation. He changed his tune (and is now a huge fan) before he even finished that first episode.
While Doctor Who, Britain’s biggest sci-fi export, seems to depend on the same few aliens doing something that threatens humans every episode, season after season, every episode of Red Dwarf sees Lister, Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten in a new ridiculous situation unlike any they’ve been in before. Maybe Lister wants to take the catering officer’s exam so he’ll outrank Rimmer, or perhaps they’ve travelled back in time and met Jesus. There’s nothing too outlandish for the boys from the Dwarf!
Smoke them a kipper, they’ll be back for breakfast!