Red Dwarf

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This article is about the British comedy franchise. For the eponymous spaceship, see Red Dwarf (spaceship). For the type of star, see Red dwarf.
Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf logo.png
Red Dwarf logo introduced in 1992
Genre Situation comedy
Created by Grant Naylor
(Rob Grant and Doug Naylor)
Based on Dave Hollins: Space Cadet 
by Rob Grant
Doug Naylor
Directed by Ed Bye (1988–91, 1997–99)
Juliet May (1992)
Grant Naylor (1992)
Andy de Emmony (1993)
Doug Naylor (2009, 2012)
Starring Chris Barrie
Craig Charles
Danny John-Jules
Robert Llewellyn
Chloë Annett
Norman Lovett
Hattie Hayridge
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 10
No. of episodes 61 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Paul Jackson (1988–90)
Doug Naylor
Rob Grant
Producer(s) Ed Bye (1988–91, 1997–99)
Hilary Bevan-Jones (1992)
Justin Judd (1993)
Jo Howard and Helen Norman (2009)
Richard Naylor (co-producer; 2012)
Running time 28 - 30 minutes (Series I-VIII, X)
25 minutes approx (Back to Earth)
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Two (1988–99)
Dave (2009, 2012)
Dave HD (2012)
Picture format 576i (4:3) (1988-1999)
576i (SDTV) (2009, 2012)
1080i (HDTV) (2009, 2012)
Original airing Original run:
15 February 1988 –
5 April 1999

Miniseries:
10 – 12 April 2009

Current run:
4 October 2012 – present
External links
Official website

Red Dwarf is a British comedy franchise which primarily comprises ten series (including a ninth mini-series named Back To Earth) of a television science fiction sitcom that aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1993 and from 1997 to 1999, and on Dave in 2009 and 2012, gaining a cult following.[1] The series was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. In addition to the television episodes, there are four novels, two pilot episodes for an American version of the show, a radio version produced for BBC Radio 7,[2] tie-in books, magazines and other merchandise.

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[3] 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 which 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 to Back to Earth, 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.[4] The series attracted its highest ratings, of over eight million viewers, during the eighth series in 1999.[5] The series was revived after a ten-year break, when digital channel Dave screened a three-episode production, titled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, in April 2009 during the Easter weekend.[6] This was followed by Series X, consisting of six episodes, which was first broadcast on Dave in October/November 2012.[7]

Radio origins[edit]

Dave Hollins: Space Cadet is a series of five sketches that aired in the BBC Radio 4 series Son of Cliché, produced by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor in 1984.[8] The popular BBC sci-fiction comedy television show Red Dwarf was based on these radio sketches.[9]

The sketches centered around Dave Hollins (voiced by Nick Wilton), a hapless space traveler that is marooned in space far from earth.[10] His only steady companion is the computer Hab (voiced by Chris Barrie).[11]

Grant and Naylor chose to use the Dave Hollins: Space Cadet sketches as a base for a television show after watching the 1974 film Dark Star.[12] They changed some elements from the sketches:[13]

The 7 trillion year figure was first changed to 7 billion years and then to 3 million and the characters of Arnold Rimmer and the Cat were created. The name Dave Hollins was changed to Dave Lister when a football player called Dave Hollins became well-known, and Hab was replaced by Holly. One of the voice actors from Son of Cliché, Chris Barrie went on to portray Arnold Rimmer in the Red Dwarf TV series.

Episodes of Dave Hollins can be found on the 2 disc Red Dwarf DVD sets starting with series 5 and ending with series 8.

Setting and plot[edit]

The second Red Dwarf ship model as used for series 5.

The main setting of the series is the eponymous mining spaceship Red Dwarf,[14] which is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, 4 miles (6.4 km) tall, and 3 miles (4.8 km) wide and is operated by the Jupiter Mining Corporation.[15] 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.[16] 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.[16] Lister therefore emerges as the last human being in the universe – but not alone on-board the ship.[17] 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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[18] During the second series, the group encounter the service mechanoid Kryten, rescuing him from a long-since crashed vessel.[19] Initially, Kryten only appeared in one episode of series two, but by the beginning of series three he had become a regular character.[20] At the end of series five, Red Dwarf itself is stolen by persons unknown, forcing the crew to travel in the smaller Starbug craft for two series, with the side-effect that they lose contact with Holly.[21] 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 encounters 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.[22] A complicated series of events leaves Kochanski stranded in "our" universe, where she is forced to join the crew.[22] At the end of series seven, we learn that Kryten's service nanobots, which had abandoned him years earlier, were behind the theft of the Red Dwarf at the end of series five.

At the beginning of the eighth series, Kryten's nanobots reconstruct the Red Dwarf, which they had broken down into its constituent atoms.[23] 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).[23] 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).[24]

Nine years later, the four 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; although it is not quite what it appears to be, it gives Lister new hope when he learns that Kochanski is still alive after all.

The tenth series sees Lister still traveling with Rimmer, Kryten and Cat in Red Dwarf, in hopes of eventually locating Kochanski or returning to Earth, whichever comes first.

Characters and actors[edit]

  • Dave Lister, played by Craig Charles, is a genial Liverpudlian and self-described bum. He was the lowest-ranking crew member on the ship before the accident. He has a long-standing desire to return to Earth and start a farm and/or diner on Fiji (which is under three feet of water following a volcanic eruption), but is left impossibly far away by the accident, which renders him the last (known) surviving member of the human race.[25] He deeply enjoys Indian food, especially chicken vindaloo, which is a recurring theme in the series.
  • Arnold Judas Rimmer Bsc Ssc ("Bronze swimming certificate" and "Silver swimming certificate"), played by Chris Barrie, was the second-lowest ranking member of the crew while they were all alive. He is a fussy, bureaucratic, neurotic coward who, by failing to replace a drive plate properly, is responsible for the Red Dwarf cadmium II accident that kills the entire crew (including himself). Nevertheless, Holly chose him to be the ship's one available hologram[26] because he considered him the person most likely to keep Lister sane. From the Series III episode "Timeslides" onwards, the timeline of the crew is adjusted and Rimmer's death is newly attributed to a moment in which he hits a cardboard box filled with explosives.[27] During Series VII, Rimmer leaves the dimension shared by his crewmates to become the new Ace Rimmer. Along with the Red Dwarf ship and its crew, Rimmer is resurrected at the start of Series VIII by nanobots. He comes face to face with Death at the end of the series, whom he kicks in the groin. From the Back to Earth specials onwards, he is once again a hologram.
From left to right: Kryten, Lister, Cat, and Rimmer as they appeared in 2009's Back to Earth.
  • The Cat, played by Danny John-Jules, is a humanoid creature who evolved from the offspring of Lister's smuggled pet cat Frankenstein. Cat is concerned with little other than sleeping, eating and fawning over his appearance, and tends not to socialise with other members of the crew. He becomes more influenced by his human companions over time, and begins to resemble a stylish, self-centred human. It is later revealed that, unlike his human companions, he has a "cool" sounding pulse, six nipples and colour-coordinated internal organs.[28]
  • Kryten, full name Kryten 2X4B-523P (played by Robert Llewellyn from series III onwards, and as a one-off appearance in series II by David Ross), was rescued by the crew from the crashed spaceship Nova 5 in series II, upon which he had continued to serve the ship's crew despite their having been dead for thousands or even millions of years. Kryten is a Service Mechanoid and when first encountered by the crew, he was bound by his "behavioural protocols", but Lister gradually encouraged him to break his programming and think for himself. His change in appearance between the two actors is explained away by an accident involving Lister's spacebike and Lister having to repair him.[29]
  • Holly, the ship's computer, (played by Norman Lovett during series I, II, VII and VIII and Hattie Hayridge in series III to V). Holly has a functional IQ of 6000, although this is severely depleted by the three million years of runtime and lack of repairs. Holly is left alone after the radiation accident that kills Rimmer and the rest of the crew except for Lister and the Cat. The computer had developed "computer senility" before the radiation accident, rendering it functionally inert. The change in appearance for series III is explained by Holly having changed his face to resemble that of a computer from a parallel universe "with whom he'd once fallen madly in love".[30]
  • Kristine Kochanski (originally portrayed by Clare Grogan before Chloë Annett took on the role from series VII) was initially a Red Dwarf navigation officer whom Lister had a crush on (later retroactively altered to be his ex-girlfriend) and whose memory he had cherished ever since.[25] In one episode, the crew happens upon an alternative dimension where Kochanski survived the Red Dwarf cadmium II accident. She joins Lister and the crew after the link to her own dimension collapses.[22] By the first episode of the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth specials, Lister believes her dead, but it is later revealed that Kryten (the sole witness to her "death") had lied to Lister. Kochanski had instead fled the ship in a Blue Midget when it became clear Lister's complete lack of self-respect and indulgence on excesses was slowly killing him, which greatly depressed her. Lister is advised by fans of the television series to find her in "the next series" and to make amends.

Production[edit]

The first series aired on BBC2 in 1988. Ten further series have so far been produced,[20] and a film has been in development almost continually since before series VIII in 1999.[31]

Concept and commission[edit]

The concept for the show was originally developed from the sketch-series Dave Hollins: Space Cadet on the BBC Radio 4 show Son of Cliché in the mid-1980s, written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.[32] Their influences came from films and television programmes such as Silent Running (1972), Alien (1979), Dark Star (1974) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981),[20] but also had a large element of British-style comedy and satire thrown into the mix, ultimately moulded into the form of a sitcom. Having first written the pilot script in 1983, the former Spitting Image writers had hawked their unusual and original script around but it was rejected by everyone at the BBC, as it was believed a sitcom based around science fiction would not be popular.[32]

It was finally accepted by BBC North in 1986, a result of a spare budget being assigned for a second series of Happy Families that would never arise, and producer Paul Jackson's insistence that Red Dwarf should be filmed instead.[33] The show was lucky to be remounted after an electricians' strike partway through rehearsals in early 1987 shut the entire production down (the title sequence was filmed in January 1987).[34] The filming was rescheduled for September, and the pilot episode finally made it onto television screens on 15 February 1988.[20]

Casting[edit]

Alan Rickman and Alfred Molina auditioned for roles in the series, with Molina being cast as Rimmer.[35][36] However, after Molina had difficulties with the concept of the series, and of his role in particular, the role was recast and filled by Chris Barrie, a professional voice-actor and impressionist who had previously worked with both the writers on Spitting Image, and with the producers on Happy Families and Jasper Carrott productions.[36] Craig Charles, a Liverpudlian "punk poet", was given the role of Dave Lister. He was approached by the production team for his opinion about the "Cat" character, as they were concerned it may be considered by people as racist.[37] Charles described "Cat" as 'pretty cool' and after reading the script he decided he wanted to audition for the part of Dave Lister.[34] Laconic stand up comedian Norman Lovett, who had originally tried out for the role of Rimmer, was kept in the show as Holly, the senile computer of the titular ship.[37] A professional dancer and singer, Danny John-Jules, arriving half an hour late for his appointment, stood out as the Cat immediately. This was partly due to his "cool" exterior, dedicated research (reading Desmond Morris' book Catwatching), and his showing up in character, wearing his father's 1950s-style zoot suit.[37]

Writing, producing, and directing[edit]

Grant and Naylor wrote the first six series together (using the pseudonym Grant Naylor on the first two novels and later as the name of their production company, although never on the episodes themselves).[38] Grant left in 1995,[20] to pursue other projects,[39] leaving Naylor to write series VII and VIII with a group of new writers, including Paul Alexander and actor Robert Llewellyn who portrayed the character Kryten.[40]

For the most part, Ed Bye produced and directed the series. He left before series V due to a scheduling clash (he ended up directing a show starring his wife, Ruby Wax) so Juliet May took over as director.[41] May parted ways with the show halfway through the series for personal and professional reasons and Grant and Naylor took over direction of the series, in addition to writing and producing.[42] Series VI was directed by Andy de Emmony, and Ed Bye returned to direct series VII and VIII. Series I, II and III were made by Paul Jackson Productions, with subsequent series produced by the writers' own company Grant Naylor Productions for BBC North. All eight series were broadcast on BBC2. At the beginning of series IV, production moved from the BBC North's New Broadcasting House in Manchester to Shepperton.[43]

Theme song and music[edit]

The theme tune and incidental music were written and performed by Howard Goodall, with the distinctive vocals on the closing theme tune courtesy of Jenna Russell. The first two series used a relatively sombre instrumental version of the closing theme for the opening titles; from series III onwards this switched to a more upbeat version. Goodall also wrote music for the show's various songs, including "Tongue Tied", with lyrics written by Grant and Naylor.[44] Danny John-Jules (credited as 'The Cat') re-orchestrated and released "Tongue Tied" in October 1993; it reached #17 on the UK charts.[45] Goodall himself sang "The Rimmer Song" heard during the series VII episode "Blue", to which Chris Barrie mimed.[46]

Remastered[edit]

Main article: Red Dwarf Remastered

In 1998, on the tenth anniversary of the show's first airing (and between the broadcast of series VII and VIII), the first three series of Red Dwarf were remastered and released on VHS. The remastering included replacing model shots with computer graphics, cutting certain dialogue and scenes,[47] re-filming Norman Lovett's Holly footage, creating a consistent set of opening titles, replacing music and creating ambient sound effects with a digital master.[48] The remastered series were released in a 4-disc DVD boxset "The Bodysnatcher Collection" in 2007.[49]

Hiatus[edit]

Three years elapsed between series VI and VII, partly due to the dissolving of the Grant and Naylor partnership, but also due to cast and crew working on other projects.[39] When the series eventually returned, it was filmised and no longer shot in front of a live audience, allowing for greater use of four-walled sets, location shooting and single-camera techniques.[50] When the show returned for its eighth series two years later, it had dropped use of the filmising process and returned to using a live audience.[51]

The show received a setback when the BBC rejected proposals for a series IX. Doug Naylor confirmed that the BBC decided not to renew the series as they preferred to work on other projects.[52] A short animated Christmas special was, however, made available to mobile phone subscribers.[53] Ultimately, however, fans had to wait a decade before the series returned to television.

Revival[edit]

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth[edit]

In 2008, a three-episode production was commissioned by the digital channel Dave. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was broadcast over the Easter weekend of 2009, along with a "making of" documentary.[54][55] The episode was set nine years after the events of "Only the Good..." (with the cliffhanger ending of that episode left unresolved, a situation that would continue with Series X). The storyline involves the characters arriving back on Earth, circa 2009, only to find that they are characters in a TV show called "Red Dwarf". Kochanski is supposedly dead and Holly is offline due to water damage caused by Lister leaving a tap running.[56] Actress Sophie Winkleman played a character called Katerina, a resurrected hologram of a Red Dwarf science officer intent on replacing Rimmer.[57]

To achieve a more cinematic atmosphere, Back to Earth was not filmed in front of a studio audience. Some previous Red Dwarf episodes had been shot in that way ("Bodyswap" and all of the seventh series), but Back to Earth represented the first time that a laughter track was not added before broadcast.[58] It was also the first episode of Red Dwarf to be filmed in high definition.[56]

The specials were televised over three nights starting on Friday, 10 April 2009. The broadcasts received record ratings for Freeview channel Dave;[59] the first of the three episodes represented the UK's highest ever viewing figures for a commissioned programme on a digital network.[60] Back to Earth was released on DVD on 15 June 2009,[61] and on Blu-ray on 31 August 2009.[62] Back to Earth was subsequently described on the series' official website as "for all intents and purposes, the 'ninth series' of Red Dwarf".[63] Its placement as Series IX was confirmed when Series X was commissioned and branded as the 10th season.

Red Dwarf X[edit]

Main article: Red Dwarf X

On 10 April 2011 Dave announced it had commissioned a six-episode Red Dwarf "Series X" to be broadcast on Dave in autumn 2012.[64][65] Filming dates for the new series Red Dwarf X were announced on 11 November 2011, along with confirmation that the series would be shot at Shepperton Studios in front of an audience.[66] Principal filming began on 16 December 2011 and ended on 27 January 2012, and the cast and crew subsequently returned for six days filming pick ups.[67] Discounting guest stars, only the core cast of Charles, Barrie, Llewellyn and John-Jules returned for Series X, with Annett and Lovett absent, though the scripts include references to Kochanski and Holly.

On 20 July 2012, a 55-second trailer for series X was released on Facebook, followed by a new teaser every Friday.[68] The new series debuted on Thursday 4 October 2012.[69]

Since series X aired, which produced high ratings, Dave, Doug Naylor and the cast have shown a strong interest in doing another series with Naylor already starting on scripts, but this is dependent on UKTV commissioning the series. During the Dimension Jump fan convention in May 2013, Doug Naylor stated that discussions were happening with all involved parties but arrangements had not been finalized, but he hoped shooting could begin in February 2014.[70] In October 2013, Doug Naylor played down reports of a new series being commissioned;[71] but in January 2014 Danny John-Jules stated that the eleventh series of Red Dwarf was currently being written.[72]

Red Dwarf XI[edit]

In October 2013, Robert Llewellyn posted on his blog, stating that "an eleventh series would happen" and that it would be "sometime in 2014". Llewellyn removed the post from his blog and Doug Naylor issued a statement on Twitter, saying: "Getting tweets claiming Red Dwarf XI is commissioned. Not true. Not yet."[73]

At the April 2014 Sci-Fi Scarborough Festival, during the Red Dwarf cast panel, Danny John-Jules confirmed that filming of the eleventh season would commence in October 2014, with an expected release of Autumn 2015 on Dave.[74]

Themes[edit]

The episode "Polymorph" parodied the 1979 Alien film

Red Dwarf was founded on the standard sitcom focus of a disparate and frequently dysfunctional group of individuals living together in a restricted setting. With the main characters routinely displaying their cowardice, incompetence and laziness, while exchanging insulting and sarcastic dialogue, the series provided a humorous antidote to the fearless and morally upright space explorers typically found in science-fiction shows,[20] with its main characters acting bravely only when there was no other possible alternative. The increasing science-fiction elements of the series were treated seriously by Grant and Naylor. Satire, parody and drama were alternately woven into the episodes, referencing other television shows, films and books. These have included references to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968),[75] Top Gun (1986),[76] RoboCop (1987), Star Wars (1977), Citizen Kane (1942), The Wild One (1953), High Noon (1952), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Easy Rider (1969), The Terminator (1984)[77] and Pride and Prejudice (1813).

The writers based the whole theme of some episodes on the plots of feature films. The series III episode "Polymorph" references and parodies key moments from Alien (1979); series IV's "Camille" echoes key scenes from Casablanca (1942);[77] "Meltdown" borrows the main plot from Westworld, (1973); and "Back to Earth" was partially inspired by Blade Runner (1982).[78] The series' themes are not limited to films or television, having also incorporated historical events and figures.[79] Religion also plays a part in the series, as a significant factor in the ultimate fate of the Cat race, and the perception of Lister as their "God",[80] and of the crew meeting a man they believe to be Jesus Christ in "Lemons". The series also makes a literary reference to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot in the title for the episode Waiting for God. The episode titled Ouroboros derives its name and theme from the ancient mythological snake by the same name.

The series explores many science-fiction staples such as time-travel paradoxes (including the grandfather paradox), the question of determinism and free will (on several episodes), the pursuit of happiness in virtual reality and, crucially to the show's premise of Lister being the last human, the near-certainty of the human species' extinction some time in the far future.

Aliens do not feature in the series, as Rob Grant and Doug Naylor decided very early in the process that they did not want aliens in the show. However, there are non-human life forms such as evolutions of Earth species (e.g. the Cat race), robotic or holo-life forms created by humans, and a "Genetically Engineered Life Form" (GELF), an artificially created creature. Most of the enemies within the later series are some variant on GELFs or Simulants.[81]

Hallmarks[edit]

The series developed its own distinct vocabulary. Words and phrases such as hologramatic [sic], Dollarpound, Felis sapiens, Simulants, GELF, space weevil and Zero Gee Football appear throughout the series, highlighting a development in language, political climate, technology, evolution and culture in the future.[82] The creators also employed a vocabulary of fictional expletives in order to avoid using potentially offensive words in the show, and to give nuance to futuristic colloquial language. "Smeg", "gimboid", "goit", and variants of "smeg" such as "smegging", "smegger", and "smeg-head" were used.[83]

Ratings[edit]

Red Dwarf VIII[edit]

Episode no. Airdate Viewers BBC Two weekly ranking
1 18 February 1999 8,050,000 1
2 25 February 1999 7,580,000 1
3 4 March 1999 6,920,000 2
4 11 March 1999 5,950,000 1
5 18 March 1999 6,760,000 1
6 25 March 1999 6,320,000 1
7 1 April 1999 4,520,000 3
8 5 April 1999 4,240,000 3

Back to Earth[edit]

Episode No. Air date Dave Viewers Dave Rank Rank
(cable)
Dave ja vu
Viewers
Total Viewers
1 April 10, 2009 2,357,000 1 1 385,000 2,742,000
2 April 11, 2009 1,238,000 2 6 366,000 1,604,000
3 April 12, 2009 1,197,000 3 7 245,000 1,442,000

Red Dwarf X[edit]

Episode no. Airdate Dave Viewers Dave Rank Rank
(cable)
Dave ja vu
Viewers
Total viewers
1 4 October 2012 1,978,000 1 3 113,000 2,091,000
2 11 October 2012 1,567,000 1 2 78,000 1,645,000
3 18 October 2012 1,519,000 1 3 106,000 1,625,000
4 25 October 2012 1,345,000 1 7 119,000 1,464,000
5 1 November 2012 1,561,000 1 4 73,000 1,634,000
6 8 November 2012 1,400,000 1 5 107,000 1,507,000

Reception and achievements[edit]

Mixed reactions[edit]

The changes that were made to the series' cast, setting, creative teams and even production values from series to series have meant that opinions differ greatly between fans and critics alike as to the quality of certain series.[20][84] In the "Great Red Dwarf Debate", published in volume 2 issue 3 of the Red Dwarf Smegazine, science-fiction writers Steve Lyons and Joe Nazzaro both argued on the pros and cons of the early series against the later series. Lyons stated that what the show "once had was a unique balance of sci-fi comedy, which worked magnificently."[85] Nazarro agreed that "the first two series are very original and very funny", but went on to say that "it wasn't until series III that the show hit its stride."[86] Series VI is regarded as a continuation of the "Monster of the week" philosophy of series V, which was nevertheless considered to be visually impressive.[87] Discussions revolve around the quality of series VI, seen by viewers as just as good as the earlier series',[88] but has been criticised as a descent into formulaic comedy with an unwelcome change of setting.[89]

The changes seen in series VII were seen by some as a disappointment; while much slicker and higher-budget in appearance, the shift away from outright sitcom and into something approaching comedy drama was seen as a move in the wrong direction.[90] Furthermore, the attempt to shift back into traditional sitcom format for series VIII was greeted with a response that was similarly lukewarm.[20] There was criticism aimed at the decision to resurrect the entire crew of Red Dwarf, as it was felt this detracted from the series' central premise of Lister being the last human being alive.[91] There are other critics who feel that series VII and VIII are no weaker than the earlier series, however,[92][93] and the topic is the subject of constant fervent debate among the show's fanbase.[20]

Achievements[edit]

Although the pilot episode of the show gathered over four million viewers, viewing figures dipped in successive episodes and the first series had generally poor ratings.[94] Through to series VI the ratings had steadily increased and peaked at over six million viewers,[39] achieved with the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".[95] When the series returned in 1999 it gained the highest audience figures yet – over eight million viewers tuned in for series VIII's opening episode "Back in the Red: Part I".[96] In its eight-series history, the series has won numerous awards including the Royal Television Society Award for special effects, the British Science Fiction award for Best Dramatic Presentation, as well as an International Emmy Award [97] for series VI episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", which tied with an Absolutely Fabulous episode, "Hospital", in the Popular Arts category. The show had also been nominated for the International Emmy Award in 1987, 1989, and 1992. Series VI won a British Comedy Award for 'Best BBC Comedy Series'. The video sales have won eight Gold Awards from the British Video Association,[98] and the series still holds the record for being BBC2's longest-running, highest-rated sitcom.[99] In 2007 the series was voted 'Best Sci-Fi Show Of All Time' by the readers of Radio Times magazine. Editor Gill Hudson stated that this result had surprised them as 'the series had not given any new episodes this century'.[100]

Spin-offs and merchandise[edit]

The show's logo and characters have appeared on a wide range of merchandise.[38][101] Red Dwarf has also been spun off in a variety of different media formats. For instance, the song "Tongue Tied", featured in the "Parallel Universe" episode of the show, was released in 1993 as a single and became a top 20 UK hit for Danny John Jules (under the name 'The Cat').[45] Stage plays of the show have been produced through Blak Yak, a theatre group in Perth, Western Australia, who were given permission by Grant Naylor Productions to mount stage versions of certain episodes in 2002, 2004 and 2006.[102][103][104][105] In October 2006 an Interactive Quiz DVD entitled Red Dwarf: Beat The Geek was released, hosted by Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge, both reprising their roles as Holly.[106]

Novels[edit]

The German edition of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, entitled Roter Zwerg.

Working together under the name "Grant Naylor", the creators of the series collaboratively wrote two novels. The first, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, was published in November 1989, and incorporates plot lines from several episodes of the show's first two series. The second novel, Better Than Life, followed in October 1990, and is largely based on the second-series episode of the same name. Together, the two novels provide expanded backstory and development of the series' principal characters and themes. Retaining the show's offbeat sense of humor, the novels share some similarity with Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, also a science-fiction comedy series.

The authors began work on a sequel to Better than Life, called The Last Human, but Rob Grant was drawn away from Red Dwarf by an interest in other projects.[citation needed] Still owing Penguin Publishing two more Red Dwarf novels, Grant and Naylor decided to each write an alternative sequel to Better than Life. Two completely different sequels were made as a result, each presenting a possible version of the story's continuation. Last Human, by Doug Naylor, adds Kochanski to the crew and places more emphasis on the science-fiction and plot elements, while Rob Grant's novel Backwards, is more in keeping with the previous two novels, and borrows more extensively from established television stories.[39]

An omnibus edition of the first two novels was released in 1992, including edits to the original text and extra material such as the original pilot script of the TV series.[107] All four novels have been released in audiobook format, the first two read by Chris Barrie,[108][109] Last Human read by Craig Charles,[110] and Backwards read by author Rob Grant.[111]

In December 2009, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers was released in Germany with the title Roter Zwerg (Red Dwarf in German).[112]

Home video releases[edit]

For the initial release of the VHS editions, episodes of Red Dwarf were separated and two tapes were released for each series (except series VII, which was released on three separate tapes), labelled 'byte one' and 'byte two'. These videos were named after the first episode of the three presented on the tape, as was typical with other BBC video releases at the time. However, on occasions the BBC decided to ignore the original running order and use the most popular episodes from the series to maximise sales of the videos. For series V, "Back to Reality" and "Quarantine" were given top billing on their respective video release.[113] For the second VHS volume of series I, "Confidence and Paranoia" was given top billing, even though the original broadcast order was retained; this was due to the leading episode being "Waiting for God" which shared its name with the title of another comedy series (set in a retirement home). Future releases would increasingly observe authenticity with the 'original broadcast' context. All eight series were made available on VHS, and three episodes of series VII were also released as special "Xtended" [sic] versions with extra scenes (including an original, unbroadcast ending for the episode "Tikka To Ride") and no laugh track;[114] the remastered versions of series I–III were also released individually and in a complete box-set.[115][116][117] Finally, two outtake videos were released, Smeg Ups in 1994, and its sequel Smeg Outs in 1995.[118][119]

The first eight series have since been released on DVD in Region 1, 2 and 4, each with a bonus disc of extra material and each release from series III onwards being accompanied by an original documentary about the making of each respective series.[120] Regions 2 and 4 have also seen the release of two Just The Shows, digipack boxsets containing the episodes from series I–IV (Volume 1) and V-VIII (Volume 2) with static menus and no extras.[121][122] Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection, containing the 1997 remastered episodes, as well as new documentaries for series I and II, was released in 2007. This release showcased a storyboard construction of "Bodysnatcher", an unfinished script from 1987, which was finally completed in 2007 by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor who were working together for the first time since 1993.[49] In December 2008 an anniversary DVD set entitled Red Dwarf: All The Shows was released, reworking the vanilla disc content of the two Just The Shows sets within A4 packaging resembling a 'photo album', which carefully omitted information that no extras were included. This box-set was re-released in a smaller slip-case sized box, reverting to the Just the Shows title, in November 2009. The series is also available for download on iTunes.

DVD releases[edit]

Release # of discs DVD release date
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Series I 2 25 February 2003 4 November 2002 3 December 2002
Series II 2 25 February 2003 10 February 2003 1 April 2003
Series III 2 3 February 2004 3 November 2003 18 November 2003
Series IV 2 3 February 2004 16 February 2004 9 March 2004
Just the Shows Vol. 1
Series 1-4 with no extras
4 N/A 18 October 2004 12 November 2004
Series V 2 15 March 2005 8 November 2004 1 December 2004
Series VI 2 15 March 2005 21 February 2005 6 April 2005
Series VII 3 10 January 2006 7 November 2005 1 December 2005
Series VIII 3 2 May 2006 27 March 2006 20 April 2006
The Complete Collection
Series 1-8 with extras
18 5 September 2006 N/A N/A
Just the Shows Vol. 2
Series 5-8 with no extras
6 N/A 2 October 2006 3 November 2006
Beat the Geek
(Interactive DVD quiz game)
1 N/A 23 October 2006 3 March 2011
The Bodysnatcher Collection
The remastered versions of Series 1-3
4 N/A 12 November 2007 7 May 2008
Just the Smegs
DVD reissue of the VHS release Smeg Ups and Smeg Outs
1 N/A 19 November 2007 3 March 2011
All the Shows
Series 1-8 with no extras
10 N/A 10 November 2008 N/A
Back to Earth 2 6 October 2009 15 June 2009 17 December 2009
Just the Shows
Series 1-8 with no extras
10 N/A 9 November 2009 N/A
The Complete Collection
Series 1-3 (Remastered), Series 4-8, Just the Smegs and Back to Earth – The Director’s Cut
19 N/A N/A 4 August 2010
Series X 2 8 January 2013[123] 19 November 2012[124] 12 December 2012[125]

Blu-ray releases[edit]

Release # of discs Blu-ray release date
Region A Region B Region C
Back to Earth 2 6 October 2009 31 August 2009 15 December 2009
Series X 2 8 January 2013[126][127] 19 November 2012[128] TBA

Magazine[edit]

Rimmer with a greyscale appearance

The Red Dwarf Magazine – the magazine part of the title changed to "Smegazine" from issue 3 – was launched in 1992 by Fleetway Editions. It comprised a mix of news, reviews, interviews, comic strips and competitions. The comic strips featured episode adaptations and original material, including further stories of popular characters like Mr. Flibble, the Polymorph and Ace Rimmer.

Notably, the comic strip stories' holographic characters, predominately Rimmer, were drawn in greyscale. This was at the request of Grant and Naylor, who had wanted to use the technique for the television series, but the process was deemed too expensive to produce.[129] Despite achieving circulation figures of over 40,000 per month,[129] the magazine's publisher decided to close the title down to concentrate on their other publications.[39] A farewell issue was published, cover dated January 1994, and featured the remaining interviews, features and comic strips that were to feature in the following issues.[130]

Another Red Dwarf magazine was started called Red Dwarf: Better Than Life which is only available through the Red Dwarf Official Fan Club. It features cast interviews and the latest news. Each person gets four issues each year.

U.S. version[edit]

Cast of second Red Dwarf USA pilot

A pilot episode for an American version (known as Red Dwarf USA) was produced through Universal Studios with the intention of broadcasting on NBC in 1992.[131] The show essentially followed the same story as the first episode of the original series, using American actors for most of the main roles:[132] Craig Bierko as Lister, Chris Eigeman as Rimmer, and Hinton Battle as Cat. Exceptions to this were Llewellyn, who reprised his role as Kryten, and the British actress Jane Leeves, who played Holly. It was written by Linwood Boomer and directed by Jeffrey Melman, with Grant and Naylor onboard as creators and executive producers.[133] Llewellyn, Grant and Naylor travelled to America for the filming of the American pilot after production of the fifth season of the UK series. According to Llewellyn and Naylor, the cast were not satisfied with Linwood Boomer's script. Grant and Naylor rewrote the script, but although the cast preferred the re-write, the script as filmed was closer to Boomer's version. The pilot episode includes footage from the UK series in its title sequence, although it did not retain the logo or the theme music of the UK series. During filming of the pilot, the audience reaction was good and it was felt that the story had been well received.[133]

The studio executives were not entirely happy with the pilot, especially the casting, but decided to give the project another chance with Grant and Naylor in charge.[134] The intention was to shoot a "promo video" for the show in a small studio described by the writers as "a garage".[133] New cast members were hired for the roles of Cat and Rimmer,[133] Terry Farrell and Anthony Fuscle respectively. This meant that, unlike the original British series, the cast was all Caucasian. Chris Barrie was asked to play Rimmer in the second pilot, but he declined. With a small budget and deadline, new scenes were quickly shot and mixed in with existing footage of the pilot and UK series V episodes, to give an idea of the basic plot and character dynamics, alongside proposed future episodes, remakes of episodes from the original show.[133] Llewellyn did not participate in the re-shoot, though clips from the British version were used to show the character. Despite the re-shoots and re-casting, the option on the pilot was not picked up.[133] Farrell was cast almost immediately afterwards for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which she was cast as Jadzia Dax and went on to star as 6 in the 2nd version of the pilot of the cartoon sci-fi spoof series Tripping the Rift.

The cast of both the British and American versions criticised the casting of Red Dwarf USA, particularly the part of Lister who is portrayed in the British version as a likable slob but in the US version as somewhat clean cut. In the 2004 documentary Dwarfing USA, Danny John-Jules said the only actor who could have successfully portrayed an American Lister was John Belushi. In a 2009 interview on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, Bierko said that casting him as Lister was a "huge mistake" and also said a "John Belushi type" would have been better suited to the role.[135]

The American pilot has been heavily bootlegged, but it has never been broadcast on TV in any country. Excerpts from the first pilot are included in Dwarfing USA, a featurette on the making of the pilots included on the DVD release of Red Dwarf's fifth series. Because of rights clearance issues, no footage from the second pilot is included in the featurette.

Character UK series 1st US pilot 2nd US pilot
Dave Lister Craig Charles
Craig Bierko
Arnold Judas Rimmer Bsc Ssc Chris Barrie Chris Eigeman Anthony Fuscle
Cat Danny John-Jules Hinton Battle Terry Farrell
Kryten 2X4B-523P David Ross (series 2)
Robert Llewellyn (series 3-)
Robert Llewellyn
Holly Norman Lovett (series 1, 2, 7 & 8)
Hattie Hayridge (series 3, 4, 5 & 6)
Jane Leeves

Film[edit]

Since the end of the eighth series in 1999, Doug Naylor has been attempting to make a feature length version of the show. A final draft of the script was written, by Naylor, and flyers began circulating around certain websites. The flyer was genuine and had been distributed by Winchester Films to market the film overseas.[136] Plot details were included as part of the teaser. It was set in the distant future where Homo sapienoids - a race of cyborgs — had taken over the solar system and were wiping out the human race. Spaceships that tried to escape Earth were hunted down until only one remained... Red Dwarf.[137]

Naylor had scouted Australia to get an idea of locations and finance costs, with pre-production beginning in 2004 and filming planned for 2005.[137] However, finding sufficient funding has been difficult. Naylor explained at a Red Dwarf Dimension Jump convention that the film had been rejected by the BBC and the British Film Council. Reasons given for the rejections were that while the script was considered to be funny, it was not ready.[138]

Contents from early drafts of the film were eventually used in the Series X finale "The Beginning".[139][140]

Roleplaying game[edit]

Deep7 LLC released Red Dwarf - The Roleplaying Game in February 2003 (although the printed copyright is 2002).[141] Based on the series, the game allows its players to portray original characters within the Red Dwarf universe. Player characters can be human survivors, holograms, evolved house pets (cats, dogs, iguanas, rabbits, rats and mice), various types of mechanoid (Series 4000, Hudzen 10 and Waxdroids in the corebook, Series 3000 in the Extra Bits Book) or GELFs (Kinatawowi and Pleasure GELF in the corebook, "Vindaloovians" in the Extra Bits Book).

A total of three products were released for the game: the core 176-page rulebook, the AI Screen (analogous to the Game Master's Screen used in other roleplaying games, also featuring the "Extra Bits Book" booklet), and the Series Sourcebook.[142] The Series Sourcebook contains plot summaries of each episode of every series as well as game rules for all major and minor characters from each series.

The game has been praised for staying true to the comedic nature of the series, for its entertaining writing, and for the detail to which the background material is explained.[142][143] However, some reviewers found the game mechanics to be simplistic and uninspiring compared to other science fiction roleplaying games on the market.[144]

Red Dwarf Night[edit]

On 14 February 1998, the night before the tenth anniversary of the show's pilot episode broadcast, BBC2 devoted an evening of programmes to the series, under the banner of Red Dwarf Night. The evening consisted of a mixture of new and existing material, and was introduced and linked by actor and fan Patrick Stewart. In addition, a series of special take-offs on BBC2's idents, featuring the "2" logo falling in love with a skutter, were used.[145] The night began with Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg, a spoof of the cookery programme Can't Cook, Won't Cook, presented by that show's host Ainsley Harriott who had himself appeared as a GELF in the series VI episode "Emohawk: Polymorph II". Taking place outside the continuity of the series, two teams (Kryten and Lister versus Rimmer and Cat, although Cat quickly departs to be replaced by alter ego Duane Dibbley) were challenged to make the best chicken vindaloo.[145]

After a compilation bloopers show, featuring out-takes, the next programme was Universe Challenge, a spoof of University Challenge. Hosted by original University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne, the show had a team of knowledgeable Dwarf fans compete against a team consisting of Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Robert Llewellyn, Chloë Annett and Danny John Jules.[145] This was followed by The Red Dwarf A–Z, a half-hour documentary that chose a different aspect of the show to focus on for each letter of the alphabet. Talking heads on the episode included Stephen Hawking, Terry Pratchett, original producer Paul Jackson, and Patrick Stewart. Finally, the night ended with a showing of the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".[145]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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References[edit]

  • Dessau, Bruce (1992). The Official Red Dwarf Companion. Titan. ISBN 978-1-85286-456-9. 
  • Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Virgin. ISBN 978-0-86369-682-4. 
  • Red Dwarf Smegazine, (March 1992 - January 1994), Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]