||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (June 2015)|
|Red Dwarf character|
|Portrayed by||David Ross (Series II)
Robert Llewellyn (Series III–present)
Kryten[note 1] is a fictional character in the British science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf. The name Kryten is a reference to the head butler in the J.M. Barrie play The Admirable Crichton. Originally referred to as a Series III mechanoid, he is later described in the show as a 4000 Series, or Series 4000.
In their original plan for the series, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor had specified that there would be no aliens and no robots. Following the success of the first appearance by the Kryten character, Naylor convinced Grant to bring him back.
In the character's first appearance, originally only intended as a one-off, Kryten was played by actor David Ross but the popularity of the character meant that Kryten was introduced as a regular in Series III. The intention was to bring Ross back to play the role, but he was not available at the time and the position was filled by Northampton-born actor Robert Llewellyn, whose performances as Kryten from series III resulted in even greater popularity of the character. David Ross later returned to voice Talkie Toaster in the series IV episode "White Hole".
Kryten is a Series 4000 mechanoid or "slave 'noid" — a robotic servant — and is quite neurotic. He is very humanoid, with the exception of the flat cubic planes visible on his face and head, and stands at 6 feet tall. Kryten's design is mostly plastic, but there are some slight organic elements in his construction.
Kryten was built by the corporation DivaDroid International in 2340; one of a number of Series 4000 models based on a design by Professor Mamet, a roboticist (played by Jenny Agutter). This design was actually intended as a joke on Mamet's ex-fiancé, John Warbuton, the mechanoids being a caricature of his fussiness and pomposity. All negative emotions such as jealousy, guilt, envy, frustration, and insecurity build up in a "mind negadrive", which when full would cause the head of the Series 4000 mechanoid to literally explode. This was supposedly a likeness to when Warburton would "blow".
Kryten is hard-wired to obey all of Mamet's orders without question, so when a Psiren impersonated Mamet and ordered Kryten to crush himself in a garbage compactor, he had no choice but to comply. His reply upon emerging, having been compacted into a cube: 'I'm almost annoyed!'.
Before Kryten left the Solar System, he was made to attend "toilet university", as he would remind people. This was revealed by Kristine Kochanski to be merely a piece of software which ensured Kryten was thorough in his cleaning of lavatories. Nevertheless, he still had to take an exam to ensure that it was properly installed.
Kryten originally left the Solar System aboard a ship destined for "Deep Space", the SS Augustus, and served aboard the vessel for decades. Not much is known about these years of Kryten's life, except that the human crew of the SS Augustus all died of old age, leaving Kryten alone for an unspecified amount of time.
Sometime after this, Kryten was picked up by the crew of the Nova 5 and he became the personal servant of the crew members of this vessel. The Nova 5 crashed into a planetoid, killing the male crew, but, according to Kryten himself, leaving the female officers "stable, but injured". "Centuries" after the females eventually died as well, Kryten refused to believe the crew were dead and continued to serve them even after they decayed into skeletons. It was from these long years alone that Kryten developed a phobia of being left alone, or human crews deserting him. Kryten's rigid belief in "Silicon Heaven", the electronic afterlife, kept him going — the idea that he would be rewarded for his servitude in the afterlife. Kryten was eventually rescued by the crew of Red Dwarf where he is now reduced to serving the pompous Arnold Rimmer.
Lister endeavours to teach Kryten how to be as insulting, lying, and selfish as any human to break his programming. Lister has also attempted to teach Kryten how to curse, as breaking his programming to be polite to his human "superiors" will be another step towards being independent, but Kryten has to fight through heavy blocks in his programming to do so: attempting to say "smeg-head", the best he can muster is to choke out "Smeeeeg-heeeed".
It is possible that Kryten was inadvertently responsible for the accident aboard the Nova 5. In the first Red Dwarf novel, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, the Nova 5 crashed because Kryten washed the navigation computer with soapy water. It is unclear whether or not this is canon in the Red Dwarf universe. It is mentioned by Dave Lister in the television series, that the accident aboard the Nova 5 was Kryten's fault.
Kryten (as portrayed by David Ross) was introduced in the first episode of the second series, in which he was only supposed to be a guest star. Initially, Arnold Rimmer took advantage of his servility, getting him to paint a grand portrait of Rimmer. Dave Lister persuaded Kryten to rebel against his programming (which included showing him the movies Rebel Without a Cause and Easy Rider) and to become independent. Kryten changed the portrait of Rimmer to make it appear as though he was sitting on the toilet, and then poured soup onto Rimmer's bed sheets. Kryten took Lister's space-bike and went out to find a planet with an atmosphere he could grow a garden, which had always been a dream of the robot's.
Kryten did not appear in the rest of the second series. The character proved popular amongst fans of the show, and so the decision was made to bring him back at the beginning of the third series and make Kryten a permanent member of the Dwarfers. David Ross was unavailable, and so Robert Llewellyn was brought in to play the character.
A very fast scrolling text at the beginning of the third series (a parody of the Star Wars opening crawl) explains that Kryten smashed the space-bike into an asteroid. Lister found Kryten's remains and had to rebuild him from scratch, and so was unable to recreate him exactly. This was intended to explain the differences between Ross' portrayal of the character and Llewellyn's, as well as Lister needing to help Kryten break his programming all over again. Most noticeably, whereas he previously had an "English butler" voice, he now spoke with what Llewellyn admits to be a bad Canadian accent.
In the episode DNA, Kryten is briefly transformed into a human being (played by Llewellyn, minus his usual make-up) using the organic material used in his construction as a template. He quickly decided to change himself back into mechanoid form, because he didn't like his time as a human. This was because his nipples couldn't pick up radio waves (specifically "Jazz FM"), his eyes didn't have a digital zoom capability, power leads didn't fit in his anus properly when he tried to recharge himself, and he got "double polaroids" when looking at photos of kitchen appliances.
In the seventh series, Kryten discovered that he has a "brother" named Able as they both had the "same motherboard" (also played by Robert Llewellyn, who co-wrote the episode), named in reference to the Biblical Cain and Abel.[additional citation needed] Kryten originally rejected the wastrel, drug-addicted mechanoid before an act of supreme self-sacrifice convinced him of his brother's worth.
In the eighth series, Kryten becomes a prisoner in Red Dwarf's Tank along with his friends. He is classified as a woman due to his lack of male genitalia and sent to the woman's wing. He becomes friendlier with Kristine Kochanski while there, but is still desperate to correct the situation. He builds himself a makeshift penis from an old electron board, a toilet roll, some sticky back plastic, and an Action Man's poloneck jumper. He names his penis "Archie", and tries to teach it by getting it to jump through hoops. "Archie" however runs around the prison wings and many prisoners mistake it for a haywire mouse.
In "Only the Good...", the final episode of series VIII, Red Dwarf is attacked by a corrosive chameleonic virus. Kryten and his fellow Dwarfers are abandoned aboard the rapidly decaying Red Dwarf. To develop a solution, Kryten builds a prism based laser, which if concentrated on a mirror, creates a portal to a reverse universe, in the hopes of discovering an alkaline to cancel out the virus' effects. The machine successfully transports Rimmer to a reverse universe but breaks soon afterwards. As the damage to the ship becomes irreparable, Kryten, Lister, Kochanski and the Cat fix the machine and cross into the mirror universe to escape, Rimmer would later become stuck on board the dying Dwarf as the virus destroys the prism.
Back to Earth
In the 2009 special Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, after battling a female version of the despair squid that they encountered many years ago, Kryten, along with the rest of the crew, hallucinate an alternate reality in which they are fictional characters and their life is a TV series.
Having lost his obedience programmes, Kryten has been able to better himself. While he continues to be a sanitation droid, and to enjoy cleaning and serving others, he has also become the science expert amongst the Dwarfers, often leading missions such as their search for Rimmer on the psi-moon in "Terrorform". The dichotomy between these two aspects of his personality has led to Rimmer naming him things such as "Captain Bog-bot" and "Commander U-Bend".
Kryten has also extended his emotional range, which has led to him deactivating his shutdown disk (DivaDroid believes in planned obsolescence), although the crew were then forced into a showdown with his would-be replacement. His greatest ambition is to be human, and to this end he has attempted to learn to lie and insult people (mostly Rimmer), although he has trouble with the words "smeg head" (the best he can manage is "smeeeeeeee heeeeeeeee").
Perhaps the most significant element of his personality is guilt. When his ability to feel guilty for his actions is compromised in some way, he can become careless, rude and even aggressive. This guilt is not necessarily balanced out by a sense of pride in the good work he does — in the episode 'The Inquisitor', he believed his selflessness was purely a matter of programming and therefore he had not led a worthwhile life. In the series 5 episode "Back to Reality", Kryten almost commits suicide when under the belief that he took the life of a human (he later found out it was just an illusion created by the despair squid).
Kryten had at least three spare heads, one of which has droid-rot (a condition similar to computer senility) that gives it a Lancastrian accent. The spare heads can engage in conversation with Kryten. Once, the other heads held a poll and voted Kryten as the ugly, big-eared one, upsetting Kryten. The others took turns being head head. All of these were destroyed due to the final step of Mamet's joke; eventually a 2X4B mechanoid will "blow its top" (due to Lister wanting to put ketchup on a lobster). The "negadrive" which caused this has been removed, and, luckily, Kryten's personality chips survived and were placed in a new head. It is not made clear whether or not the personality chips of his spare heads were destroyed.
Kryten thinks that his middle name "2X4B" is jerky, but says he once knew a "poor sucker" of a mechanoid whose middle name was "2Q4B". He also knew a robot called Gilbert, who suffered from computer senility, who preferred to be called 'Rameses Niblick the Third, Kerplunk, Kerplunk, Whoops Where's My Thribble'.
Kryten formed an irrational dislike of the new Kristine Kochanski when he first met her, mostly out of a fear that she and Lister would fall in love and abandon him. However he grew to respect her (although not necessarily like her) after she saved Lister's life from the Epideme virus.
Robert Llewellyn writes in his book The Man in the Rubber Mask that before settling on a Canadian accent, he, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor considered Swedish and American. Llewellyn discovered the Canadian accent while spending time in Vancouver, British Columbia; which he describes as being a cross between Scottish and American. The Kryten make-up was a constant source of discomfort for Llewellyn, as the prosthetic rubber mask required him to be in make-up for up to six hours. By Series VII, this had been reduced to two hours.
Llewellyn was the only British cast member originally invited to participate in the American version of Red Dwarf, though Chris Barrie was, later, also approached to reprise his role of Rimmer as "no American actor could hate themselves" quite so well as the character needed. Barrie declined. In this series, Kryten was owned by the ship's Captain prior to the disaster that wiped out the crew, and passed the three million years by repeatedly reading a sign saying 'FIRE EXIT' in a loop. The Kryten costume and make-up was redesigned so Robert Llewellyn was more comfortable while inside it.
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