Red Dwarf is a British comedy franchise which primarily comprises eight series (plus a ninth smaller series named Back To Earth) of a television science fiction sitcom that aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999 and on Dave in 2009 and 2012. It gained cult following. It was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who also wrote the first six series. The show originated from a recurring sketch, Dave Hollins: Space Cadet part of the mid-1980s BBC Radio 4 comedy show Son of Cliché, also scripted by Grant and Naylor. In addition to the television episodes, there are four bestselling novels, two pilot episodes for an American version of the show, a radio version produced for BBC radio 7, tie-in books, magazines and other merchandise.
In 2008, a three-episode production was commissioned by the digital channel Dave. These episodes were screened in April 2009 during the Easter weekend and comprised a three-part story titled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. Unlike the majority of the original BBC episodes, this mini-series was a comedy drama filmed without a studio audience or an added laugh track.
Despite the pastiche of science fiction used as a backdrop, Red Dwarf is primarily a character-driven comedy, with off-the-wall, often scatological science fiction elements used as complementary plot devices. In the early episodes, a recurring source of comedy was the “Odd Couple”-style relationship between the two central characters of the show, who have an intense dislike for each other and are trapped together deep in space. The main characters are Dave Lister, the last known human alive, and Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of Lister’s dead bunkmate. The other regular characters are Cat, a lifeform that evolved from the descendants of Lister’s pregnant pet cat Frankenstein; Holly, Red Dwarf’s computer; Kryten, a service mechanoid; and, as of Series VII, Kristine Kochanski, an alternative-reality version of Lister’s long-lost love.
One of the series’ highest accolades came in 1994, when an episode from the sixth series, “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, won an International Emmy Award in the Popular Arts category, and in the same year the series was also awarded “Best BBC Comedy Series” at the British Comedy Awards. The series attracted its highest ratings, of over eight million viewers, during the eighth series in 1999.
Series X will consist of six episodes, recorded in front of a studio audience in December 2011-January 2012 and will air in Autumn 2012 on Dave and also on Dave HD.
The main setting of the series is the eponymous mining spaceship Red Dwarf, which is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, 5 miles (8.0 km) tall, and 4 miles (6.4 km) wide and is operated by the Jupiter Mining Corporation. In the first episode set sometime in the late 22nd century, an on-board radiation leak of cadmium II kills everyone except for low-ranking technician Dave Lister, who is in suspended animation at the time, and his pregnant cat, Frankenstein, who is safely sealed in the cargo hold. Following the accident, the ship’s computer Holly keeps Lister in stasis until the background radiation dies down – a process that takes three million years. Lister therefore emerges as the last human being in the universe – but not alone on-board the ship. His former bunkmate and immediate superior Arnold Judas Rimmer is resurrected by Holly as a hologram to keep Lister sane. At the same time, a creature known only as Cat is the last member on board of Felis sapiens, a race of humanoid felines that evolved in the ship’s hold from Lister’s cat, Frankenstein, and her kittens during the 3 million years that Lister was in stasis.
The main dramatic thrust of the early series is Lister’s desire to return home to Earth, although the crew’s ownership of an unlimited time-space travel drive in series seven was to later negate this intention. As their journey begins, the not-so-intrepid crew encounters such phenomena as time distortions, faster-than-light travel, mutant diseases and strange lifeforms that had developed in the intervening millions of years. During the second series, the group encounter the service mechanoid Kryten, rescuing him from a long-since crashed vessel. Initially, Kryten only appeared in one episode of series two, but by the beginning of series three he had become a regular character. At the end of series five, Red Dwarf itself is stolen by persons unknown, forcing them to travel in the smaller Starbug craft for two series, with the side-effect that they lose contact with Holly. In series seven, Rimmer departs the crew to take up the role of his alter ego from a parallel universe, Ace Rimmer, whose name has become a long-standing legend and a legacy passed down from dimension to dimension. Shortly afterwards, the crew found a parallel version of themselves from a universe in which Kristine Kochanski, Lister’s long-term love interest, had been put into stasis at the time of the leak and so became the last remaining human. A complicated series of events leaves Kochanski stranded in “our” universe, where she is forced to join the crew. At the end of series seven, we learn that Red Dwarf had been stolen by Kryten’s service nanobots, who had abandoned him years earlier.
At the beginning of the eighth series, Red Dwarf is reconstructed by Kryten’s nanobots, who had broken it down into its constituent atoms. In the process, the entire crew of the ship – including a pre-accident Rimmer – are resurrected, but the Starbug crew find themselves sentenced to two years in the ship’s brig (at first, for crashing a Starbug and bringing onboard Kryten and Cat as stowaways, but later for using information from the confidential files). The series ends with a metal-eating virus loose on Red Dwarf. The entire resurrected crew evacuates save the original dwarfers. In the cliffhanger ending, Rimmer is left stranded alone to face Death (and promptly knees him in the groin and flees).
Nine years later, the four “Boys from the Dwarf” are once more the only beings on the ship. Rimmer is again a hologram, Holly is offline, and Lister is mourning Kochanski, lost to him out of an airlock some time previously. A chance to get back to Earth through a dimension warp presents itself, but though it is not quite what it first appears to be, it results in giving Lister new hope when he learns that Kochanski is still alive after all.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: