The End (Red Dwarf)

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"The End"
Red Dwarf episode
RD The End.jpg
Lister is frozen in stasis, shielded from a radiation leak which kills the crew of the Red Dwarf ship.
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 1
Directed byEd Bye
Written byRob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date15 February 1988
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Red Dwarf episodes

"The End" is the first episode of science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf, which was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 15 February 1988. The episode introduces the main characters and sets up the story backbone of the series. On the mining ship Red Dwarf, Dave Lister is placed in stasis for refusing to give up the whereabouts of his forbidden pet cat. When he emerges from stasis, three million years later, he discovers that everybody has died from a radiation leak.

The episode was written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, directed by Ed Bye and starred Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett. The script was rejected by the BBC three times before it was given the go ahead three years later. An electricians strike at the BBC prevented filming and production on the series halted, only going ahead after the dispute was resolved.

The broadcast episode differs greatly from the originally filmed version. Grant and Naylor felt that scenes from the episode did not work, so with a spare filming slot additional scenes were added and previous scenes filmed again. Gaining over five million viewers on its first showing, the episode is considered as one of the best from the first series by fans. It was later re-mastered, along with the rest of the first three series, in 1998.


On the mining vessel Red Dwarf, Dave Lister (Craig Charles) and Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) go about their daily routine of maintenance. Rimmer takes the maintenance duties very seriously while Lister would rather be slobbing around and drinking with his ship mates Petersen, Selby and Chen. But it is not always about slobbing and drinking, he has a plan which he tells his pregnant cat Frankenstein. When he gets back to Earth he is going to start a farm on Fiji and bring the only true love of his life, Kristine Kochanski (Clare Grogan). Rimmer on the other hand is more concerned with his career and prepares for his latest engineering exam by copying notes and equations onto his arms and legs.[1]

Captain Hollister (Mac McDonald) soon finds out about Lister's non-quarantined pet and demands he hand over the animal. Since Frankenstein would be "put down" for a biopsy, Lister refuses and is taken to the stasis chambers to carry out an 18 months sentence of suspended animation, where he will cease to exist until revived. Meanwhile, Rimmer's scribbled notes on his arms have blurred due his sweating body, so he promptly mashes his ink stained hand print onto the examination paper, salutes the seated examiner and faints.[1]

Revived three million years later by Holly (Norman Lovett) - the ship's ever increasingly senile computer — Lister is dismayed as he is told that the crew are dead — killed by a lethal dose of Cadmium II.[1] Rimmer then appears, whom Holly has resurrected as a hologram — he can not touch or feel anything. Rimmer quickly blames Lister for the accident stating that if he was there to help, the faulty drive plate would have been repaired. As they continue arguing along the corridors they bump into a graceful looking humanoid and both run off. Holly explains to them that the creature is an evolved cat — descended from Lister's pregnant cat Frankenstein, which was safely sealed in the ship's hold during the accident.[2]

The creature catches up with them and quickly pulls out a miniature iron to flatten a crease on his sharp suit. As it soon becomes clear that they pose no threat to each other Lister makes the creature Krispies and calls him Cat (Danny John-Jules). Through discussing Frankenstein with the Cat it becomes apparent that Lister is the Catkind God "Cloister the Stupid" who would lead them to the promised land "Fuchal". Lister states that it is him "Lister the Stupid" and he will lead them to the promised land. Lister tells Holly to plot a course for Fiji, "the slime's coming home."[2]



The episode was written in 1983 during a stay at a cottage in Wales belonging to Doug Naylor's father. Almost a mile up a mountain the writing duo team of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor spent day and night writing.[3] Almost finished the pair had a near fatal accident during nightfall when their car veered perilously near the edge of a cliff. The script was not finished as expected as they spent the next day rescuing the car.[3]

Grant and Naylor passed the completed script to their agent Paul Jackson, whom they had worked for on Three of a Kind and Carrot's Lib, and John Lloyd, whom they worked with on Spitting Image. They both came back saying that they loved it, with even talk of them doing a co-production for the series.[4] However, the task of dealing with the production rested with Jackson who had trouble convincing the BBC who went on to reject the script three times. Grant and Naylor were keen to have the series done on the BBC as they felt the extra 3 minutes of non-commercial time would be invaluable. It would take another three years before the series was accepted by BBC North West.[5]


When casting auditions started Norman Lovett was the first member of the cast selected, but had originally auditioned for Rimmer. Grant and Naylor thought otherwise and offered him the role of Holly, who at this stage was just a voice-over part. Danny John-Jules auditioned successfully for the Cat. Craig Charles was sent the script for his opinion as there were concerns over the Cat character coming across as racist. Charles was also being considered for the role.[6] However it was later decided that Craig would be better suited auditioning for the role of Lister, who was initially described in the script as in his early forties.[7] Chris Barrie later auditioned for both the Lister and Rimmer roles. A previous collaborator with Grant and Naylor, Chris had worked on their radio show Son of Cliché.[6] Bigger named actors like Alan Rickman and Alfred Molina had also auditioned but were not considered as they would be unlikely to stay for a series run.[8][9] Paul Jackson's initial plan was for the show to run for two series only, like The Young Ones.[6]

The character of the first hologram seen on screen, George McIntyre, was intended to be Australian to fit into the idea that the ship was international, but the actor, Robert McCulley had problems with the accent and decided to make the character Welsh instead.[8] The episode featured a host of guest stars and extras, most uncredited. As well as featuring Mac McDonald as Captain Hollister and Clare Grogan (she changed her name to C. P. Grogan because of an Equity clash with another person with the same name) as Kristine Kochanski, Robert Bathurst appeared as Todhunter, Mark Williams as Petersen, Paul Bradley as Chen, and David Gillespie as Selby.


Lister ejects the crew canisters into space. One of the scenes cut from the original shoot

The episode, and the series, almost never happened due to an electricians strike at the BBC in 1987 which prevented filming and the project was shelved.[10] Filming eventually went ahead after the industrial action was resolved.[11] Filming a scene with the Frankenstein cat caused problems when it came to trying to get the right shot. The cat would not stay still long enough, would not look at the photo of Fiji, and kept scratching Craig Charles' leg and running away. Charles' genitals were also visible in some takes; Grant and Naylor later considered digitally editing them out, but went for an inferior take instead.[8]

The opening theme tune was written by musician Howard Goodall. With its classical music style it parodied Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.[12] Goodall also wrote the lyrics for the end credits theme tune, which was sung by Jenna Russell. The intention was to match the lyrics to Lister's desire to go to Fiji, especially regarding the "goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes" line.[13]

For the opening credits and exterior shots a Red Dwarf model ship had to be built from scratch. Peter Wragg was the visual effects designer of Red Dwarf; Wragg also had a large part in set building and was the chief model maker. Wragg had previously filled a similar role in British television series such as Thunderbirds Are GO, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Doctor Who. The opening effects shot features a dissolve from Lister painting the ship to a full model shot of the city-sized vessel traveling through space. Originally it was supposed to be one long take but it proved too difficult to mesh together with a small budget and lowly special effects of the day. The model of Red Dwarf itself measured about 8 feet (2.4 m) long from scoop to engine.[14]

With a seventh episode slot left over at the end of production, Grant and Naylor decided to go back and re-shoot certain scenes and drop others that they felt did not work.[15] Scenes removed include Lister ejecting the crew members' canisters into space and Rimmer conducting his own eulogy. One of the more drastic changes was the ship's computer, Holly. Initially shot as a voice over, Norman Lovett had convinced the creators to have a disembodied head on screen. The Holly scenes from the first three episodes were re-edited to feature the newly shot lines with the head of Holly.[16] Altogether, approximately two-thirds of the broadcast episode was composed of reshoot footage.

Set designer Paul Montague gave the ship interiors a grey submarine look. Walls, floors, bunks, cans and even cigarette packets were coloured grey. The "Welcome Back George McIntyre" reception featured bright red plastic chairs, which had to be covered up with jackets to avoid harsh clashes of colour.[17]


Originally broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 15 February 1988 in the 9:00 p.m. evening slot.[18][19] The episode gained 5.1 million viewers from its first showing.[20] The BBC had also received letters from viewers regarding the quality of the series as a whole. An audience Appreciation Index score of 80 out of 100 was also seen as a sign that the series had done well.[20] Co-creators/writers Grant and Naylor were so embarrassed by the first series that they had requested that the BBC not repeat the episodes as they felt that it would harm the following series.[21][22] The video release of the first series was held back, making the first release of the series — featuring "The End" on tape one and "Confidence and Paranoia" on the second tape — hotly anticipated.[23] Series I episodes performed poorly in a Red Dwarf Smegazine poll. This was perceived to be because fans hadn't seen, or had forgotten, the episodes — Series I not being repeated until 1994.[19][24] However, the episode was considered as the best from Series I.[24]


The remastering of Series I to III was carried out during the late 1990s.[25] Changes included replacement of the opening credits (re-instating the original idea of the one shot pulling away from the ship),[26] the picture has been given a colour grade and filmised,[27] new computer generated special effects of Red Dwarf flying through space,[21] and visual, audio and scene adjustments.[21]

Changes specific to "The End" include bluescreen elements added to the opening scene with skutters - small maintenance robots — placed in the foreground of Rimmer and Lister. Silhouettes of the crew's heads were added to the foreground of George McIntyre's funeral scene.[27] Background noise was added to the soundtrack to give the impression that the ship was busy with a full crew on board.[27] The George McIntyre funeral scene was trimmed down, with shots that did not work removed, and a new shot of the canister leaving the ship was inserted.[27] Music and sound effects were added to Cat's entrance, with hissing noise added when he tries to frighten Lister and Rimmer.[27]

See also[edit]

  • Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers - the first Red Dwarf novel features an expanded version of events from this episode and builds on the backstory as well as featuring new stories not seen in televised episodes.[28]


  1. ^ a b c Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 45.
  2. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 46.
  3. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 3-4.
  4. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 4.
  5. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c Interview: Grant Naylor, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 6, August 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  7. ^ Howarth & Lyons, (1993) p. 5-6.
  8. ^ a b c Episode Guide — Series 1 episode 1, Red Dwarf Semagazine, volume 2 issue 1, May 1993, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  9. ^ Interview: Norman Lovett, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 9, November 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  10. ^ "screenonline: Red Dwarf". Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  11. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 6.
  12. ^ "Series I Music". Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  13. ^ Interview: Howard Goodall, Red Dwarf smegazine, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  14. ^ Intrerview: Peter Wragg, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 8, October 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  15. ^ Remastering Crew (2007). In The Beginning documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  16. ^ "Series I Production". Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  17. ^ "Series I Sets". Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  18. ^ "British Sitcom Guide — Red Dwarf — Series 1". Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  19. ^ a b "BBC — Programme Catalogue — RED DWARF — THE END". BBC. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  20. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 8-9.
  21. ^ a b c Remastering Crew (2007). 'Re-Dwarf' Documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  22. ^ Naylor, Doug & Ed Bye (2007). Red Dwarf Bodysnatcher DVD documentary "Re-Dwarf" (DVD). BBC.
  23. ^ "Series I Aftermath". Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  24. ^ a b Red Dwarf episode survey results, Red Dwarf Smegazine, p. 27., issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  25. ^ "Remasters of the Universe". Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  26. ^ "Series I Remastering". Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  27. ^ a b c d e Remastering Crew (2007). The End Re-Mastered DVD Commentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  28. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 206


  • Howarths, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1.

External links[edit]