Red Dwarf logo (1992–99)
|Genre||Sitcom, Science fiction|
|Created by||Grant Naylor|
(Rob Grant and Doug Naylor)
|Based on||Dave Hollins: Space Cadet|
by Rob Grant
|Directed by||Ed Bye (1988–91, 1997–99)|
Juliet May (1992)
Grant Naylor (1992)
Andy de Emmony (1993)
Doug Naylor (2009, 2012–present)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||12|
|No. of episodes||73 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Paul Jackson (1988–90)|
Henry Normal (2016–present)
|Producer(s)||Ed Bye (1988–91, 1997–99)|
Hilary Bevan-Jones (1992)
Justin Judd (1993)
Jo Howard and Helen Norman (2009)
Richard Naylor (2012–)
Kerry Waddell (2016–present)
|Camera setup||Tape (1988–93, 1997–99); Digital (2009, 2012–present)|
Multi-camera (Series 1–6, 8, 10–present),
Single-camera (Series 7, Back to Earth)
|Running time||28–30 minutes (Series 1–8, 10-present)|
25 minutes (per part) (Back to Earth)
|Production company(s)||Grant Naylor|
Baby Cow Productions (2016–)
|Budget||£250,000 per episode|
|Original network||BBC Two (1988–93, 1997–99)|
Dave (2009, 2012–present)
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV) (1988–93, 1997–99)|
576i (16:9 SDTV) (2009, 2012–present)
1080i (16:9 HDTV) (2009, 2012–present)
|Original release||Original run:|
15 February 1988 – 5 April 1999
10 – 12 April 2009
4 October 2012 – present
Red Dwarf is a British science fiction comedy franchise which primarily consists of a television sitcom that aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, and on Dave since 2009, gaining a cult following. To date, eleven full series of the show plus one "special" miniseries have aired. The most recent series, Red Dwarf XII, started airing in October 2017.
The series was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. In addition to the television episodes, there are four novels, a radio version adapted from the audiobooks, two pilot episodes for an American version of the show, tie-in books, magazines and other merchandise.
The main characters are Dave Lister, initially the last known human alive, and Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of Lister's dead bunkmate. The other regular characters are Cat, a life form which evolved from the descendants of Lister's pregnant pet cat Frankenstein; Holly, Red Dwarf's computer (Series I-V, VIII and briefly in the final episodes of VII, XII); Kryten, a service mechanoid (Series II-present); and Kristine Kochanski, an alternative-reality version of Lister's love interest (Series VII-VIII).
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 more than eight million viewers, during the eighth series in 1999.
The revived series on digital channel Dave has consistently delivered some of the highest ratings for non-Public Service Broadcasting commissions in the UK. The show has been critically acclaimed, and has a Metacritic score of 84/100. Series XI was voted "Best Returning TV Sitcom" and "Comedy of the Year" for 2016 by readers for the British Comedy Guide.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Setting and plot
- 3 Characters and actors
- 4 Production
- 5 Themes
- 6 Hallmarks
- 7 Episodes
- 8 Ratings
- 9 Reception and achievements
- 10 Spin-offs and merchandise
- 11 Dave Hollins: Space Cadet
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (November 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Despite the pastiche of science fiction used as a backdrop, Red Dwarf is primarily a character-driven comedy, with 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 yet are trapped together deep in space.
Setting and plot
The main setting of the series is the eponymous mining spaceship Red Dwarf. In the first episode, set sometime in the late 22nd century, an on-board radiation leak kills everyone except lowest-ranking technician Dave Lister, who is in suspended animation at the time, and his pregnant cat, Frankenstein, who is safe in the cargo hold. Following the accident, the ship's computer Holly keeps Lister in stasis until the radiation levels return to normal – 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 (a character plagued by failure) is resurrected by Holly as a hologram to keep Lister sane. They are joined by a creature known only as Cat, the last member of a race of humanoid felines that evolved in the ship's hold from Lister's pregnant cat during the 3 million years that Lister was in stasis.
The series revolves around Lister being the last human alive, 3 million years from Earth, with his companions (initially Rimmer, Cat and Holly). The crew encounters phenomena such as time distortions, faster-than-light travel, mutant diseases and strange lifeforms (all evolved from Earth, because the series has no aliens) that had developed in the intervening millions of years. Though it has a science fiction setting, much of the humour comes from the interactions of the characters, particularly the laid-back Lister and the stuck-up Rimmer.
In Series III, the computer Holly changes from male (Norman Lovett) to female (Hattie Hayridge), and the mechanoid Kryten (who had appeared in one episode in Series II ) joins the crew and becomes a regular character.
Series VII is also set in Starbug. Early in series VII, Rimmer departs (due to actor Chris Barrie's commitments) and is replaced by Kristine Kochanski, Lister's long-term love interest, from an alternate universe. Kochanski becomes a regular character for Series VII and VIII.
At the end of Series VII, 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.
As a consequence, Series VIII features the entire original crew of Red Dwarf resurrected (except for the already-alive Lister and Kochanski), including a pre-accident Rimmer; and the original male Holly. The series ends with a metal-eating virus loose on Red Dwarf. The entire crew evacuates save the main cast (Lister, Rimmer, Cat, Kryten and Kochanski), whose fate is unresolved in a cliffhanger ending.
Series IX onwards revert to the same four main characters of Series 3–6 (Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten), on Red Dwarf and without Kochanski or Holly; and Rimmer is again a hologram. It has not been confirmed whether the Rimmer onboard ship is the one who originally left, the revived version, or a third incarnation entirely; however, episodes have alluded to him remembering events from both previous incarnations' lives.
Characters and actors
- Dave Lister, played by Craig Charles, is a genial Scouser and self-described bum. He was the lowest-ranking of the 169 crew members 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. He likes 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) except Lister. Nevertheless, Holly chose him to be the ship's one available hologram because he considered him the person most likely to keep Lister sane. 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; with no explanation as to whether he is the same hologram who left in Series VII, or what happened to the human Rimmer from series VIII.
- 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 in early episodes. 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.
- 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.
- Holly (played by Norman Lovett in series I, II, VIII, and a guest appearance in each of series VII and XII; and Hattie Hayridge in series III to V), is the ship's computer. 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".
- 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. 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. 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. (However the character does not appear in any of the later series.)
Concept and commission
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. Their influences came from films and television programmes such as Star Trek (1966), Silent Running (1972), Alien (1979), Dark Star (1974) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981), but also had a large element of British-style comedy and satire thrown into the mix, ultimately moulded into the form of a sitcom. Many visual and character elements bear similarities to the Trident nuclear submarine BBC documentary "Defence of the Realm". Having written the pilot script in 1983, the former Spitting Image writers pitched their unique concept to the BBC, but it was rejected on fears that a science fiction sitcom would not be popular.
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. 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). The filming was rescheduled for September, and the pilot episode finally made it onto television screens on 15 February 1988.
Alan Rickman and Alfred Molina auditioned for roles in the series, with Molina being cast as Rimmer. 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. 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. Charles described "Cat" as 'pretty cool' and after reading the script he decided he wanted to audition for the part of Dave Lister. 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. 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.
Writing, producing and directing
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). Grant left in 1995, to pursue other projects, 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) .
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. 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. 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 BBC Two. At the beginning of series IV, production moved from BBC North's New Broadcasting House in Manchester to Shepperton.
Theme song and music
The theme tune and incidental music were written and performed by Howard Goodall, with the distinctive vocals on the closing theme tune by 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. Danny John-Jules (credited as 'The Cat') re-orchestrated and released "Tongue Tied" in October 1993; it reached number 17 on the UK charts. Goodall himself sang "The Rimmer Song" heard during the series VII episode "Blue", to which Chris Barrie mimed.
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, 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. The remastered series were released in a 4-disc DVD boxset "The Bodysnatcher Collection" in 2007.
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. 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. 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.
The show received a setback when the BBC rejected proposals for a series IX. Doug Naylor confirmed in 2007 that the BBC decided not to renew the series as they preferred to work on other projects. A short animated Christmas special was, however, made available to mobile phone subscribers the same year. Ultimately, however, fans had to wait a decade before the series returned to television.
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth
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. 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. Actress Sophie Winkleman played a character called Katerina, a resurrected hologram of a Red Dwarf science officer intent on replacing Rimmer.
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. It was also the first episode of Red Dwarf to be filmed in high definition.
The specials were televised over three nights starting on Friday 10 April 2009. The broadcasts received record ratings for Dave; the first of the three episodes represented the UK's highest–ever viewing figures for a commissioned programme on a digital network. Back to Earth was released on DVD on 15 June 2009, and on Blu-ray on 31 August 2009. Back to Earth was subsequently described on the series' official website as "for all intents and purposes, the 'ninth series' of Red Dwarf". This placement was confirmed when Series X was commissioned and branded as the tenth series, although Back to Earth continues not to be referred to as "Series IX" on home media or digital releases.
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 late 2012. 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. 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. 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.
Red Dwarf XI and XII
Following series X, which attracted high viewing figures, Dave, Doug Naylor and the cast showed strong interest in making another series. During the Dimension Jump fan convention in May 2013, Doug Naylor stated that discussions were ongoing with all involved parties and while arrangements had not been finalised, he hoped shooting could begin in February 2014. 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 later 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." However, in January 2014 Danny John-Jules stated that the eleventh series of Red Dwarf was in the process of being written.
At the April 2014 Sci-Fi Scarborough Festival, during the Red Dwarf cast panel, Danny John-Jules stated that filming of the eleventh series would commence in October 2014, with an expected release of Autumn 2015 on Dave.
On 2 May 2015, at the Dimension Jump XVIII convention, Naylor announced that an eleventh and a twelfth series had been commissioned. The two series would be shot back-to-back towards the end of 2015 for broadcast on Dave in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and would be co-produced by Baby Cow Productions, with company CEO, Henry Normal, executive producing the new episodes.
Series XI and XII were filmed back-to-back at Pinewood Studios between November 2015 and March 2016. The eleventh series premiered on UKTV's video on demand service UKTV Play on 15 September 2016, a week ahead of its broadcast transmission on 22 September.
On 8 September 2017, it was announced that Red Dwarf XII would begin broadcasting on Dave on 12 October 2017, and on 15 September 2017 it was further announced that each episode would preview a week earlier via the UKTV Play video on demand service, effectively meaning that Series 12 would be starting on 5 October 2017.
Red Dwarf XIII
On 28 April 2018 at Thames Con, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn stated that a 13th series would be made in 2019. It is once again expected to be produced for and shown on the channel Dave, although this is yet to be confirmed.
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 series, 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 creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Satire, parody and drama were alternately woven into the episodes, referencing other television series, films and books. These have included references to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Top Gun (1986), RoboCop (1987), Star Wars (1977), Citizen Kane (1942), The Wild One (1953), High Noon (1952), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Casablanca (1942), Easy Rider (1969), The Terminator (1984), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Isaac Asimov's Robot Series (1939 - 1985).
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); from series IV, "Camille" echoes key scenes from Casablanca (1942), while "Meltdown" borrows the main plot from Westworld (1973). For series IX, "Back to Earth" was partially inspired by Blade Runner (1982). The series' themes are not limited to films or television, having also incorporated historical events and figures. 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', both within the episode "Waiting for God"  (whose title makes a literary reference to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot), as well as the crew meeting a man they believe to be Jesus Christ in series X episode "Lemons". The series VII 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 Grant and Naylor decided very early in the process that they did not want aliens involved. This is usually addressed with Rimmer's belief in extraterrestrial life being shot down, such as a vessel he believes to be an alien ship turning out to be a garbage pod. 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 kind of 'Genetically Engineered Life Form' (GELF), an artificially-created creature. Simulants and GELFs frequently serve as antagonists among the later series of the show.
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. 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; in particular "smeg" (and variants such as "smegging", "smegger", and "smeg-head") features prominently, alongside the terms "gimboid" and "goit".
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||I||6||15 February 1988||21 March 1988|
|2||II||6||6 September 1988||11 October 1988|
|3||III||6||14 November 1989||19 December 1989|
|4||IV||6||14 February 1991||21 March 1991|
|5||V||6||20 February 1992||26 March 1992|
|6||VI||6||7 October 1993||11 November 1993|
|7||VII||8||17 January 1997||7 March 1997|
|8||VIII||8||18 February 1999||5 April 1999|
|9||Back to Earth||3||10 April 2009||12 April 2009|
|10||X||6||4 October 2012||8 November 2012|
|11||XI||6||22 September 2016||27 October 2016|
|12||XII||6||12 October 2017||16 November 2017|
Red Dwarf VIII
|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
|Episode No.||Air date||Dave Viewers||Dave Rank||Rank
|Dave ja vu
|1||10 April 2009||2,357,000||1||1||385,000||2,742,000|
|2||11 April 2009||1,238,000||2||6||366,000||1,604,000|
|3||12 April 2009||1,197,000||3||7||245,000||1,442,000|
Red Dwarf X
|Episode no.||Airdate||Dave Viewers||Dave Rank||Rank
|Dave ja vu
|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|
Red Dwarf XI
|Episode no.||Airdate||7-day viewers||28-day viewers||Dave Rank|
|1||22 September 2016||1,456,000||1,724,000||1|
|2||29 September 2016||1,443,000||1,710,000||1|
|3||6 October 2016||1,144,000||1,310,000||1|
|4||13 October 2016||1,096,000||1,292,000||1|
|5||20 October 2016||1,180,000||1,272,000||1|
|6||27 October 2016||1,024,000||1,158,000||1|
Red Dwarf XII
|Episode no.||Airdate||7-day viewers||28-day viewers||Dave Rank|
|1||12 October 2017||1,200,000||1,352,000||1|
|2||19 October 2017||1,179,000||1,278,000||1|
|3||26 October 2017||1,189,000||1,286,000||1|
|4||2 November 2017||973,000||1,077,000||1|
|5||9 November 2017||901,000||950,000||1|
|6||16 November 2017||846,000||968,000||1|
Reception and achievements
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 as to the quality of certain series. 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." 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." 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. Discussions revolve around the quality of series VI, seen by one reviewer as just as good as the earlier series', but has been criticised by another reviewer as a descent into formulaic comedy with an unwelcome change of setting.
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 by one reviewer as a move in the wrong direction. Furthermore, the attempt to shift back into traditional sitcom format for series VIII was greeted with a response that was similarly lukewarm. 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. There are other critics who feel that series VII and VIII are no weaker than the earlier series, however, and the topic is the subject of constant fervent debate among the show's fanbase.
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. Through to series VI the ratings had steadily increased and peaked at over six million viewers, achieved with the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse". 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". 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  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, and the series still holds the record for being BBC Two's longest-running, highest-rated sitcom. 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'. In January 2017, Series XI was voted "Best Returning TV Sitcom" and "Comedy of the Year" for 2016 by readers for the British Comedy Guide. A year later Red Dwarf once again was voted "Best Returning TV Sitcom" for Series XII retaining the title from British Comedy Guide.
Spin-offs and merchandise
The show's logo and characters have appeared on a wide range of merchandise. 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'). 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. 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. In 2005, Grant Naylor Productions and Across the Pond Comics collaborated to produce the spin-off webcomic Red Dwarf: Prelude to Nanarchy.
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.
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. 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.
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. All four novels have been released in audiobook format, the first two read by Chris Barrie, Last Human read by Craig Charles, and Backwards read by author Rob Grant.
In December 2009, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers was released in Germany with the title Roter Zwerg (Red Dwarf in German).
List of Red Dwarf Novels
|Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers||Grant Naylor Productions|
Co-authored by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
|Better Than Life||Grant Naylor Productions|
Co-authored by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
|Last Human||Doug Naylor|
Home video releases
For the initial release of the VHS editions, episodes of Red Dwarf were separated and two volumes released for each series (except series VII, which was released on three separate tapes), labelled 'Byte One' and 'Byte Two' (plus 'Byte Three' for series VII). 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 III (the first ever release), "Bodyswap" and "Timeslides" were swapped round, so that the latter could receive top billing on the second VHS volume; 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); and for series V, "Back to Reality" and "Quarantine" were given top billing on their respective video release, which completely re-organised the order of episodes from that in which they were originally broadcast. 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; the remastered versions of series I–III were also released individually and in a complete box-set. Finally, two outtake videos were released, both hosted by Robert Llewellyn in character as Kryten: Smeg Ups in 1994, and its sequel, Smeg Outs, in 1995.
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. 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. 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. 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.
|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||19 November 2012||12 December 2012|
|Series XI||2||8 November 2016||14 November 2016||8 March 2017|
|Series XII||2||21 November 2017||20 November 2017||18 February 2018|
|Release||# of discs||Blu-ray release date|
|Region A||Region B||Region C|
|Series I-VIII||19||TBA||14 January 2019||TBA|
|Back to Earth||2||6 October 2009||31 August 2009||15 December 2009|
|Series X||2||8 January 2013||19 November 2012||TBA|
|Series XI||2||8 November 2016||14 November 2016||8 November 2016|
|Series XII||2||21 November 2017||20 November 2017||TBA|
In 2016, BBC Worldwide began creating an 'up-resed' version of the first five series for release on Blu-ray, due to demand from Japan. When asked about the project in 2017, Doug Naylor confirmed he had stopped it due to lacklustre picture quality. By 2018, the project, now encompassing the entire original run, had been restarted, and a Series 1-8 Blu-ray set release was confirmed in August.
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 grayscale. 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. Despite achieving circulation figures of over 40,000 per month, the magazine's publisher decided to close the title down to concentrate on their other publications. 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.
The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club produces a periodical magazine for members titled Back to Reality. The previous volume of this magazine, dating back to the 1990s, was known as Better Than Life.
Despite the original version having been broadcast on PBS, 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. The show essentially followed the same story as the first episode of the original series, using American actors for most of the main roles: 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. Llewellyn, Grant and Naylor travelled to America for the filming of the American pilot after production of the fifth series 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.
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. The intention was to shoot a "promo video" for the show in a small studio described by the writers as "a garage". New cast members were hired for the roles of Cat (now depicted as female) and Rimmer, Terry Farrell and Anthony Fusco respectively. This meant that, unlike the original British series, the cast was all Caucasian, which Charles referred to as "White Dwarf". 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. 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. Farrell found work almost immediately afterwards with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which she was cast as Jadzia Dax. Similarly, one year later Jane Leeves was cast in Frasier as Daphne Moon.
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 U.S. 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.
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|
|Arnold Rimmer||Chris Barrie||Chris Eigeman||Anthony Fusco|
|Cat||Danny John-Jules||Hinton Battle||Terry Farrell|
|Kryten||David Ross (series 2)
Robert Llewellyn (series 3-)
|Holly||Norman Lovett (series 1–2, 7–8, 12)
Hattie Hayridge (series 3–5)
Red Dwarf: The Movie
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. 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.
Naylor had scouted Australia to get an idea of locations and finance costs, with pre-production beginning in 2004 and filming planned for 2005. Costumes were made, including Kryten’s, and A-list celebrity cameos, including Madonna, were announced. 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.
In 2018, Naylor suggested production of the movie was still under consideration, "The order will probably be another TV series, a stage show and possibly a movie, and I think the guys agree on that. The film is a long shot at this point just because it can take so long to get funding."
Deep7 Press (formerly Deep7 LLC) released Red Dwarf – The Roleplaying Game in February 2003 (although the printed copyright is 2002). 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 role-playing games, also featuring the "Extra Bits Book" booklet), and the Series Sourcebook. The Series Sourcebook contains plot summaries of each episode from series I-VIII 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. However, some reviewers found the game mechanics to be simplistic and uninspiring compared to other science fiction roleplaying games on the market.
Red Dwarf Night
On 14 February 1998, the night before the tenth anniversary of the show's pilot episode broadcast, BBC Two 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 BBC Two's idents, featuring the "2" logo falling in love with a skutter, were used. 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.
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. 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, Mr. Blobby, Patrick Stewart, and a Dalek. Finally, the night ended with a showing of the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".
Dave Hollins: Space Cadet
The sketches recounted the adventures of Dave Hollins (voiced by Nick Wilton), a hapless space traveller who is marooned in space far from earth. His only steady companion is the computer Hab (voiced by Chris Barrie).
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.
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- British sitcom
- List of science fiction sitcoms
- List of television series that include time travel
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