Before I go too far, I must first say that Red Dwarf has to be my favourite sitcom of all time, so I was pretty excited when I discovered there are plans to bring some new episodes to our screens on UK satellite channel Dave. Â Two new episodes are planned, and also a “Making Of” show and a clips show with a difference. Â For more details on this, check out the page on the Official Red Dwarf Fan Site.
With that out of the way, lets consider the original Red Dwarf series, which first aired in 1988 and lasted eight series, with the final series airing in 1999. Â The series was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (together known as Grant Naylor) who were also, rather dubiously, creators of The Chicken Song for Spitting Image.
Red Dwarf is the name of a giant 6 mile long space ship that belonged to the Jupiter Mining Corporation. Â One fateful day a leak of Cadmium II radiation wiped out the entire ships crew, except for one, Dave Lister (Craig Charles), a lowly technician who only survived as he had been put into stasis (a kind of suspended animation) as a punishment for bringing a pet cat aboard.
Lister emerges from stasis to find 3 million years have passed, and that he is now surely the last human being alive. Â The ships computer, Holly (Norman Lovett), had kept Dave safe waiting for the radiation to recede to safe levels, and has gone a little computer senile over the years. Â To keep Dave sane, Holly brings his long dead bunk mate Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) back to life as a computer generated hologram. Â This is an odd choice given that Lister and Rimmer both hated each other.
It soon transpires however that Lister is not the only lifeform left aboard the ship. Â A creature who becomes known simply as Cat (Danny John-Jules) is also aboard. Â Whilst looking human it turns out that Cat is actually a creature who evolved over the millenia from Lister’s pet cat, which was pregnant when first brought aboard Red Dwarf. Â The cat race survived locked in the ships massive hold, which was one area of the ship not to have been flooded with radiation.
The first two series of the show were very character based, despite the science fiction setting, with some great comedy moments coming from conversations between the characters rather than weird and wonderful sci-fi happenings. Â One of my favourite episodes from this era is Queeg, where the inept Holly is replaced by the ships backup computer, much to the dismay of the rest of the crew. Â I won’t spoil the fantastic ending if you haven’t seen it!
By the third series the main cast had been joined by another regular character, that of android Kryten (Robert Llewellyn). Â Kryten had first appeared played by a different actor (David Ross) in the second series. Â Holly also underwent a sex change, now being played by Hattie Hayridge, who had been Holly’s counter part in Parallel Universe, another second series episode. Â The show had also got a bigger budget and started to look much more streamlined in terms of sets and costumes, and the balance in the comedy began to tip towards strange science fiction storylines, like the excellent Polymorph, a shape changing creature who sucks emotions out of people.
So we arrive at the fourth series, and leave the 1980’s behind. Â To summarise though, series four and five were similar in tone to the third series. Â Series six was rushed through by the BBC, which meant the loss of Red Dwarf itself, with most of the action taken place aboard Starbug, one of Red Dwarf’s mini cargo ships.
Series 7 saw the departure of Rob Grant, and this series became more film like in feel. Â It also brought incidental character Kochanski (Chloe Annett, although originally played by Claire Grogan) into the regular cast. Â Kochanski was the girl Lister had lusted over for years, but she wasn’t quite so keen on Lister. Â The final series saw the crew finally get back to Red Dwarf, but it was a slightly different ship, recreated by nanite robots with a full living crew, who promptly stuck our gang in jail.