Dave Lister

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For other people named Dave Lister, see Dave Lister (disambiguation).
David Lister
The "Last Human"
First appearance The End
Created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Portrayed by Craig Charles
Nickname(s) Listy, Dave, Skipper, Dave "Cinzano Bianco" Lister
Aliases Lister of Smeg
Species Human
Gender Male

Technician, Third Class,

Bum (Self Proclaimed)
Family Dave Lister (father, himself)
Kristine Kochanski (mother)
Significant other(s) Kristine Kochanski
Children Jim Lister and Bexley Lister (in alternate realities)
Dave Lister (himself)
Relatives Adopted by the Wilmot family
Grandma Lister

David "Dave" Lister, (both Sr. & Jr.), commonly referred to simply as Lister, is a fictional character from the British science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf, portrayed by Craig Charles.

Lister was a third-class technician (the lowest ranking crewman) on the mining ship Red Dwarf spending his time performing tasks under the hated supervision of Arnold Rimmer. He becomes marooned three million years into the future, but maintains a long-standing desire to return to Earth and start a farm and/or diner on Fiji, preferably with the one true love of his life, Kristine Kochanski, a navigation officer of Red Dwarf. As a character Lister is lazy, slobbish, and unmotivated, but he frequently shows moral courage. He deeply enjoys Indian food, especially chicken vindaloo, which is a recurring theme in the series.

Early life[edit]

An orphan, he was discovered at six weeks old on 26 November 2155, under a pool table in a Liverpool pub (the Aigburth Arms), nestled in a cardboard box with the mysterious word "ouroboros" scribbled on its side. He uses 14 October as his official birth date.[1] Lister is in fact his own father, as shown in the episode "Ouroboros".

He was adopted by the Wilmot family, but after his adoptive father died when he was six[2] he went to live with Grandma Lister, whose last name he took. She was a tough, pipe-smoking woman who once famously headbutted the headmaster of Lister's school when Lister came bottom in French, leading to Lister's expulsion, and whose cooking led to his being nicknamed "Fat Boy" from ages eleven to thirteen. After his grandmother's death, Lister apparently lived and attended school in an orphanage. Around the same time he got his first job as a supermarket trolley attendant, which he would eventually quit after ten years "because he didn't want to get tied down to a career".

Lister lost his virginity at the age of twelve in one of the bunkers on the ninth hole of Bootle Municipal golf course. As a teenager he formed a band called Smeg and the Heads in which he was the lead singer and guitarist. One of the band's songs was called "Om", the only lyrics to which appeared to be repetitions of the vocalisation "om". Lister was accepted at art college, but dropped out on his first day when he learned his schedule would include lectures "first thing in the afternoon". Lister went out with a girl named Lise Yates, but the relationship ended because he did not want a commitment, a fact that Lister later regretted.[3]

Within the continuity of the books by Grant Naylor, Lister went on a drunken Monopoly board pub crawl in London with his friends to celebrate his 23rd birthday, where he got very drunk; when he awoke, he was on Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, with no money. After six months, having failed to make enough money to get back home, he signed up for a job on the mining ship Red Dwarf, which, unknown to him, was due to make a four-and-a-half-year mining run to Triton before heading back to Earth.

Life onboard Red Dwarf[edit]

As a third-class technician, Lister was the lowest ranking crewman on Red Dwarf, a ship with a crew of 169,[4] and spent his time performing tasks too menial for the skutters (under the hated supervision of Arnold Rimmer), or getting drunk with his friends Olaf Petersen, Selby and Chen. Lister was imprisoned in a stasis booth because he smuggled an unquarantined cat, which he named Frankenstein, aboard the ship.

Dave Lister being put into stasis at the start of his 3-million-year wait.

While Lister was in stasis, a release of lethal radiation occurred on board as a result of a faulty repair carried out by Rimmer, killing the entire crew. Holly, the ship's computer, kept Lister in stasis for three million years until the radiation levels returned to normal. Lister was left as presumably the last human being in the universe, accompanied on Red Dwarf by a hologram simulation of Rimmer and a humanoid creature "Cat" that evolved from his cat. Lister is actually believed to be the god of this race of cat-people, who know him as "Cloister the Stupid".

In the series II episode "Parallel Universe" Lister becomes pregnant following a sexual liaison with "Deb Lister", his female alter-ego from a female-oriented parallel universe. The two baby boys were first seen in "Future Echoes" in a photograph and later in person when a future tense Lister comes on board Red Dwarf for a short visit. The opening sequence of the series III episode "Backwards" explains that Lister successfully gave birth to two baby boys who he named Jim and Bexley, but since they were conceived in a parallel universe with different physical laws, both children grew to be eighteen years old within three days. In order to save their lives, Lister returns them to the universe of their origin.[5]

Lister is dedicated to resurrecting and winning over the one true love of his life - Kristine Kochanski, the long dead navigation officer of Red Dwarf. It is his ambition to marry Kristine Kochanski and start a frugal life on the Earth islands of Fiji where he will have a farm and run a donut and hot dog stand.


Lister is normally dressed in a leather jacket and deerstalker hat, his boiler suits and his lengthy dreadlocks that he grows only from the back of his head.

Lister has a tattoo on his right buttock, dedicated to the love of his life: it is a heart with an arrow through it and underneath it has in dripping curry sauce, "I love Vindaloo". It was obtained while on planet leave on Ganymede with Petersen, who spiked his cocktail with four-star petrol. When Lister woke up the next day, he had enrolled as a novice monk in a Ganymedian monastery.[6] He also has another tattoo claiming that he loves Petersen placed on his inner thigh, which stems from an unidentified incident where the two got so heavily drunk together that Lister had no idea what was happening to him.


Lister is very lazy, and more importantly, unmotivated. He is a slob, his best shirt is a one with only two curry stains on the front. He enjoys "bumming around", drinking large amounts of lager, and eating Indian food and listening to a band called Rastabilly Skank. He is a supporter of the London Jets zero-gravity football team.

He prides himself on being a good man, a man of moral courage.[7] When confronted with an evil version of himself on a corrupted version of Red Dwarf ("Demons and Angels"), Lister says of his evil counterpart, "But he kills; I'm not capable of that." Likewise when he kills "The Creator" of Red Dwarf during his Back to Earth hallucination, his initial reaction is to state that he doesn't kill people and doesn't understand why he did it. In the episode "Waiting for God" he also showed an extreme amount of remorse when he hears that vast numbers of Felix Sapiens (Cat's race) have been killed due to holy wars and one of their arks flying off and crashing into an asteroid due to declaring him their God. Lister's religious beliefs are unclear. In the episode, "The Last Day", Kryten states that Lister is a pantheist, believing God to be in all things; however, in the later episode "Back to Reality" he is described as the "ultimate atheist". Lister has had a number relationships with women, albeit not all successful (his lack of ambition being the main cause for not settling down).

In many ways Lister is the opposite of Rimmer, and the two are constantly at odds with each other. Rimmer is constantly accusing Lister of stupidity but it is apparent that it is his lack of motivation which really what holds him back. He thus managed to learn the international language Esperanto from Rimmer's tapes, while Rimmer himself was unable to. In the episode "Thanks for the Memory" Arnold Rimmer described that, even though all its ingredients were wrong, a chilli chutney sandwich somehow made a right and likened this fact to Lister's personality. He is capable of piloting a spaceship and has a knack for mechanical repairs, particularly amateur cybernetics. He also considers himself good at pool, saying that he was nicknamed "Dave Cinzano Bianco Lister" because once he was on a table you couldn't get rid of him. When the Inquisitor appeared on Red Dwarf to judge the crew, he declared that Lister's failure to put his brain to good use was evidence that he had not lived a worthwhile life.

Dave Lister is also an avid junk collector who has purchased (among other things) a talking toilet, a talking toaster with artificial intelligence, and two robot goldfish, which he named Lennon and McCartney (the latter of which swims backwards and is prone to breaking down).


To prevent boredom, Lister enters in many recreational activities.

  • Television — Lister and Cat have in depth discussions about The Flintstones (debating if Wilma Flintstone is sexier than Betty Rubble) as well as Tales of the Riverbank: The Next Generation ("Camille").
  • Films — Lister enjoys watching films, from classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca (the remake with Myra Binglebat and Peter Beardsley, which Lister described as "definitive") to films like Revenge of the Surfboarding Killer Bikini Vampire Girls. Lister also likes sappy romance films (see "Confidence And Paranoia" and "Holoship"). In the novels, his all-time favourite film is It's A Wonderful Life.
  • Games — To pass time onboard Red Dwarf, Lister has created many different games including "Durex Volleyball" (Timeslides), "Match the Bodypart to the Crewmember" and "Armpit Name That Tune" ("Blue"). Kochanski even suggests that Lister's favourite games include "Name That Smell" and "How Many Marbles Can You Fit Up Your Nostril" ("Beyond a Joke").
  • Virtual/Artificial Reality — Lister enjoys using the virtual reality suite onboard Starbug playing such games as Wimbledon and Gumshoe ("Gunmen Of The Apocalypse"). Rimmer claims that Lister only uses the AR machine to have sex — a claim supported in "Stoke Me a Clipper". Although Lister agreed with Kochanski to partake in Jane Austen World, Lister found the experience boring ("Beyond a Joke").
  • Annoying Rimmer — in the 2nd series ("Kryten") he explains that "Because it drives Rimmer nuts! And driving Rimmer nuts is what keeps me going."


Lister is very attached to his guitar,[8] believes himself to be an excellent guitarist, although his belief is misplaced. Lister eventually acknowledges his inability to play the guitar to at least some degree; in "Nanarchy" he comments, after playing his guitar with assistance from Kryten due to the loss of an arm, "at least now I'm only half-crap." In Series 1, Lister's guitar is firstly an Ovation acoustic and silver in colour. Then in Series 3, episode 2 ("Marooned"), his guitar is shown to be a black, electric guitar — according to Lister it is a "authentic Les Paul copy.")


Throughout the previous series several glimpses of Lister's future have been seen:

  • In the episode "Future Echoes" in the first series of the show, a vision of Lister is seen with him as a very old man of 171 years old with a mechanical prosthetic hand. This future version of Lister still has his dreadlocks, although they are over two metres long and almost white with age.
  • In the episode "Cassandra" in the eighth series of the show, the Dwarfers make contact with a prophetic and clairvoyant computer that has the ability to predict the future. Lister is told that he will live to 181 years old and will die whilst trying to take a bra off with his teeth. This initially excites him, until the others point out by that age, it could be his own bra, and the teeth might not be in his mouth at the time.
  • In the book Better Than Life Lister eventually discovers Earth, but discovers that it has left the orbit of the Solar system and finds that eight-foot-long cockroaches are the dominant species. He becomes their king and plans to rebuild the planet. The others find him thirty-six years later (after believing Lister was missing for a fortnight due to a time dilation). Later, after Lister dies of a heart attack in a confrontation with a polymorph, his body is taken to the alternative universe where time runs backwards and is told that he will be rescued in thirty-six years time. Two accounts of what followed are Backwards and Last Human.

Alternative Listers[edit]

As well as Deb Lister, there have been various other alternative versions of Lister:

  • In "Timeslides", when transported to an alternate reality in which he is rich and famous, Holly finds a news report stating he died in a plane crash aged 98; he was making love to his 14th wife at the time and lost control of the plane.
  • In "Dimension Jump" we see an alternate reality where Ace Rimmer has a friend with the nickname Spanners. This Lister is a highly skilled technician, married to Kochanski, with twin boys, Jim and Bexley.
  • During an encounter with The Inquisitor, Dave is replaced with an alternative version of himself. This Dave Lister, one of the sperm who didn't have the chance to fertilize his mother's egg, was given the chance to live a better life than the one lived by the real Lister. However, the fact that he is dressed identically, and also stranded on Red Dwarf, suggests that this Dave fared no better. This Dave was ultimately killed by The Inquisitor whilst the real Dave tried to escape deletion from existence. The real Lister referred to this alternative version of himself as his "sperm-in-law".
  • In "Back to Reality", the crew are fooled into thinking that the time spent aboard Red Dwarf was just a videogame. Lister briefly gets to see another group play the "Red Dwarf" game as it was intended to be played - the scenario observed involves the team having exciting adventures in outer space and interacting in a far less dysfunctional manner, and where the role of Lister is filled by a good-looking and suave new player (John Sharian).[9]
  • In "Ouroboros" Lister, along with the rest of the crew, encounter a Red Dwarf crew from an alternate reality. In this reality, it is Lister who is the hologram, having failed to survive the accident which wiped out the crew. His hologramatic status led to this Lister becoming a better person, more caring and attentive, and cured of his slobby habits.
  • In the novel Last Human, the crew fought an alternate version of Lister who was adopted by different parents, this Lister choosing the wealthy but psychotic Thorntons over the poorer but more emotionally stable parents which the normal Lister had. As a result, this Lister grew up to be a sociopath, often manipulating others with his efforts, claiming not to believe in even the concept of love, and perfectly willing to murder his shipmates in order to achieve his goals.

American pilot[edit]

In the unaired pilot for the American version of Red Dwarf, Lister was played by Craig Bierko.[10][11]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Naylor, Grant (1989). Red Dwarf. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-012437-8. 
  2. ^ "Lister, David | Personnel | Space Corps Database". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  3. ^ Red Dwarf, Series II, Episode 3 - "Thanks for the Memory"
  4. ^ ^ This number has changed between series. In the first series, it was mostly given as 169, although it was 129 in one episode. In Series IV, Episode 3, Rimmer is accused of 1,167 counts of manslaughter, due to his own guilt over the accident that killed the crew of Red Dwarf. This would make the crew count 1,169 (as Lister is the only survivor and Rimmer cannot be charged with his own murder). The novelisation Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers states that the crew number is actually 11,169.
  5. ^ Opening Crawl of Series III episode 1 "Backwards". Red Dwarf. Season III. Episode 1. 
  6. ^ "Psirens". Red Dwarf. Season VI. Episode 1. 
  7. ^ RED DWARF Series 5 Episode 6, "Back to Reality", PlanetSmeg. Retrieved 4 March 20142
  8. ^ LISTER: All I've ever had is that guitar. It's the only thing in the whole of my miserable smegging life that hasn't walked out on me. "Marooned". Red Dwarf. Season VI. Episode 1. 
  9. ^ "Back to Reality cast and crew". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  10. ^ Red Dwarf Series II (19 July 2002). "Dwarf USA | Features". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Red Dwarf (1992) (TV)". Imdb.com. 9 August 2003. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

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