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Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf logo.png
Red Dwarf logo
Genre Sitcom/Sci-Fi Spoof
Created by Grant Naylor
(Rob Grant and Doug Naylor)
Starring Chris Barrie (1988-present)
Craig Charles (1988-present)
Danny John-Jules (1988-present)
Robert Llewellyn (1989-present)
Norman Lovett (1988, 1997-1999)
Hattie Hayridge (1989-1992)
Chloë Annett (1997-present)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 8 (+Red Dwarf: Back to Earth)
No. of episodes 55 (List of episodes)
Running time 30 mins
Original channel BBC Two (1988-1999)
Dave (2009)
Original airing 15 February 1988 - 5 April 1999 (original series);
10 April 2009 - 12 April 2009 ("Back to Earth" specials)
External links
Official website

Red Dwarf is a British situation comedy franchise, primarily comprising eight series of a television sitcom / comedy drama that ran on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999 and gained a cult following.[1] It was created by, and the first six series were written by, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. The show originated from a recurring sketch, Dave Hollins: Space Cadet part of the mid-1980s BBC Radio 4 comedy show Son of Cliché, also scripted by Grant and Naylor. In addition to the television episodes, there are four bestselling 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 scatalogical 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 but 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 that evolved from Lister's pet cat Frankenstein; Holly, Red Dwarf's computer; and, as of Series III, Kryten, a service mechanoid.

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]

In the years following the end of the eighth series, numerous attempts were made to get a movie into production, but funding could not be found. In 2007, the BBC rejected proposals for a ninth series.

A three-episode production was commissioned by the digital channel Dave. These episodes were screened in April 2009 during the Easter weekend and comprised a three-part story titled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, followed by Red Dwarf: the Making of Back to Earth, a behind-the-scenes special from the new episodes.[6]


Setting and plot

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

The main setting of the series is the eponymous mining spaceship Red Dwarf[7] which is 6 miles (10 km) long, 5 miles (8 km) tall, and 4 miles (6 km) wide and is operated by the Jupiter Mining Corporation.[8] 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.[9] 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.[9] Lister therefore emerges as the last human being in the universe—but not alone on-board the ship.[10] 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.[10]

The main dramatic thrust of the early series is Lister's desire to return home to Earth.[11] 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.[11] During the second series, the group encounter the service mechanoid Kryten, rescuing him from a long-since crashed vessel.[12] Initially, Kryten only appeared in one episode of series two, but by the beginning of series three he had become a regular character.[13] At the end of series five, Red Dwarf itself is stolen by persons unknown, forcing them to travel in the smaller Starbug craft for two series, with the side-effect that they lose contact with Holly.[14] 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 found 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.[15] A complicated series of events leaves Kochanski stranded in "our" universe, and she is forced to join the crew.[15] At the end of series seven, we learn that Red Dwarf had been stolen by Kryten's service nanobots, who had abandoned him years previously.

At the beginning of the eighth series, Red Dwarf is reconstructed by Kryten's nanobots, who had broken it down into its constituent atoms.[16] 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 confidental files). .[16] 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).[17]

Nine years later, the four "Boys from the Dwarf" 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, but though it is not quite what it first appears to be, it results in giving Lister new hope when he learns that Kochanski is still alive after all.

Characters and actors

  • Dave Lister, played by Craig Charles,[18] is a genial Liverpudlian and self-described bum. He was the lowest-ranking crew member on the ship before the accident and has a long-standing desire to return to Earth and start a farm on Fiji (which is under three feet of water following a volcanic eruption), but is left impossibly far away by the accident that renders him the last surviving member of the human race.[19] He deeply enjoys Indian food, especially chicken vindaloo, which is a recurring theme in the series.
  • His bunk mate Arnold Judas Rimmer Bsc Ssc ("Bronze swimming certificate" and "Silver swimming certificate"), played by Chris Barrie,[18] is the second-lowest ranking member of the crew: a fussy, bureaucratic, neurotic coward, who is in fact the one responsible for the Red Dwarf cadmium II accident that killed the entire crew (along with himself). Nevertheless, he is chosen by Holly to be the ship's one available hologram.[20] Rimmer was the chosen hologram because he was the person who Lister shared the most sentences with and therefore the person most likely to keep Lister sane. In Series VII, Rimmer left the dimension to become the new Ace Rimmer. He is brought back to life in Series VIII by the nanobots, which rebuilt Red Dwarf and the rest of the crew. He comes face to face with Death at the end of the series, though he is last seen kicking Death in the groin.

In the Back to Earth specials, he is once again a hologram.

From left to right: Kryten, Lister, Cat, and Rimmer.
  • The Cat, played by Danny John-Jules,[18] 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. As time goes by, however, he becomes more influenced by his human companions, and so begins to resemble a stylish, self-centred human.[21]
  • The ship's computer, Holly (played by Norman Lovett during series I, II, VII and VIII[18] and Hattie Hayridge in series III to V),[22] has an IQ of 6,000, although this is severely depleted by the three million years it is left alone after the accident, having developed "computer senility". 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".[23]
  • Kryten, full name Kryten 2X4B-523P (played by Robert Llewellyn from series III onwards,[18] and as a one-off appearance in series II by David Ross),[22] was rescued by the crew from a crashed spaceship Nova 5 in series II, upon which he had continued to serve the ship's crew despite them 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 by an accident involving Lister's spacebike.[24]
  • Kristine Kochanski (originally portrayed by Clare Grogan before Chloë Annett took on the role from series VII)[22] 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.[19] In one episode, the crew happen upon an alternative dimension, where Kochanski had survived the Red Dwarf cadmium II accident. She joined Lister and the crew after the link to her own dimension collapsed.[15] Although she does not appear in the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth specials, as Lister believes her dead, it is 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.


The first series aired on BBC2 in 1988. Seven further series have so far been produced,[13] and a film has been in development almost continually since before the last series in 1999.[25]

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.[26] Their influences came from movies and television programmes such as Silent Running (1972), Alien (1979), Dark Star (1974) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981),[13] 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.[26]

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.[27] The show was lucky to be remounted after an electrician's strike partway through rehearsals in early 1987 shut the entire production down (The title sequence was filmed in January 1987).[28] The filming was rescheduled for September, and pilot episode finally made it onto television screens on 15 February 1988.[13]


Alan Rickman and Alfred Molina auditioned for roles in the series, with Molina being cast as Rimmer.[29][30] 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. Barrie was 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.[30] 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.[31] Charles described the character as 'pretty cool' and after reading the script he decided he wanted to audition for the part of Dave Lister.[28] 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.[31] 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's book Catwatching), and his showing up in character, wearing his father's 1950s-style suit.[31]

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).[32] Grant left in 1995,[13] to pursue other projects,[33] leaving Naylor to write the final two series with a group of new writers, including Paul Alexander and actor Robert Llewellyn who portrayed the character Kryten.[34]

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.[35] 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.[36] 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's Manchester studios to Shepperton.[37]

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 theme tune for the opening titles; from series III onwards this switched to an instrumental version of the closing theme. Goodall also wrote music for the show's various songs, including "Tongue Tied", with lyrics written by Grant and Naylor.[38] Danny John- Jules (credited as "Cat") re-orchestrated and released "Tongue Tied" in October 1993; it reached #17 on the UK charts.[39]


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,[40] 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.[41] The remastered series were released in a 4 disc DVD boxset "The Bodysnatcher Collection" in 2007.[42]


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.[33] 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.[43] When the show returned for its eighth series two years later, it had dropped use of the filmising process and restored the live audience.[44]

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 things.[45] A short animated Christmas special was, however, made available to mobile phone subscribers.[46]

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

In August 2008, Robert Llewellyn appeared on Seattle public television station, KCTS 9. In an interview, he revealed that BBC Worldwide, in collaboration with another party, had invested in one hour of new Red Dwarf to be filmed in early 2009.[47] Grant Naylor Productions announced that it had been "on the cards" since February 2008.[48] It subsequently transpired that UKTV channel Dave would screen four new 30-minute specials to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the show.[49] The new episodes would form part of an effort by Dave to screen more original programming, instead of just repeats.[50]

An announcement in January 2009 clarified that the new special was to be a brand new two-part story entitled "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth", broadcast over the Easter weekend of that year along with a "making of" documentary and a one-off entitled Red Dwarf: Unplugged.[51] On 20 February 2009, it was announced that Red Dwarf: Back to Earth would instead be a three part special and that the unplugged episode had been postponed.[52] Unplugged had been described by Craig Charles as "just the four of us - and some chairs - trying to improvise, or rather trying to remember, classic scenes".[53]

Plot-wise, lead-actor, Chris Barrie was reported as saying, “Yes, Lister’s dream is about to come true. But like everything in Red Dwarf, nothing is straightforward.” On 4 March 2009 it was revealed that actress Sophie Winkleman would be playing a character called Katerina, a resurrected hologram of a Red Dwarf science officer intent on replacing Rimmer.[54] Further plot details were explained in issue 181 of British Science Fiction magazine, SFX. The episode is set 9 years after the events of "Only the Good...", Kochanski is dead and Holly is offline due to water damage caused by Lister leaving a tap running.[55] On 11 March 2009, the official Dave blog posted a brief synopsis of each episode; due to them being released too early, however, these were promptly removed and replaced with an apology.[56]

To achieve a more cinematic atmosphere, "Back to Earth" was not to be filmed in front of a studio audience. Although this was not the first time this had happened (for instance, series 7 was filmed entirely without a live audience), it was the first time a laughter track was not added for broadcast.[57] It was also the first episode of Red Dwarf to be filmed in High Definition.[55]

The specials were televised over three nights starting on Friday, 10 April 2009 to a mixed audience response. Back to Earth received record ratings for freeview channel Dave. Back to Earth was released on DVD on 15 June 2009.[58] The DVD includes both the individual episodes and a newly edited "Director's Cut" combining the three episodes into a single feature film.

The future

Doug Naylor stated in an interview with Dave before the broadcast of Back to Earth that he would like to make another full-length series, but added that "we would have to wait and see" how good or bad the reaction to the new specials would be. He also stated that he would not want to make a series 9 but that he might make a series 10, and explained that this would "make a lot more sense in future". The specials establish that two series focusing on the events leading up to Back to Earth occurred after series eight; during the fictional ninth series (described within the episode by one fan as "the best series yet"), Kryten informed Lister that Kochanski had died, but within Back to Earth Lister learned that Kochanski hadn't died at all, leaving open the possibility of Lister's pursuit of Kochanski in future episodes.

In late September 2009, rumours in the Red Dwarf community suggested that a brand-new full-length series had been commissioned by Dave, although Dave has since neither confirmed nor denied these rumours. Robert Llewellyn recently confirmed these rumors to be true at Dimension Jump XV via his twitter account, his comments saying "Series 10 of Red Dwarf announcement just been made at DJ 09. To clarify the scripts have been commissioned, won't be filming til 2010".[59]


The episode "Polymorph" parodied the 1979 Alien film

Red Dwarf was founded on a standard sitcom trope: namely, 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, such as Star Trek,[13] with the 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 — not always science fiction — television shows, films and books.[60] These have included references to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968),[61] Top Gun (1986),[62] RoboCop (1987), Star Wars (1977),[63] Citizen Kane (1942),[64] The Wild One (1953), High Noon (1952), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Easy Rider (1969),[65] The Terminator (1984)[66] and Pride and Prejudice (1813).[67]

The writers would even base the whole theme of an episode on a film's plot. The series III episode "Polymorph" references and parodies key moments from Alien (1979),[63] series IV's "Camille" echoes key scenes from Casablanca (1942),[66] "Meltdown" borrows the main plot from Westworld, (1973)[68] and "Back to Earth" is greatly inspired by Blade Runner (1982). But the series does not limit its themes to movies or television; historical events and figures have also been referenced and even integrated as part of an episode.[69] 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".[70] Religion is turned on its head as mundane things are shown to acquire deep religious significance. The dispute over the colour of cardboard hats in Lister's fantasy doughnut diner (which has become the Cat version of Paradise) sparks the holy war that almost annihilates the species. 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.[71][72]

The series also explores many sci-fi staples such as time-travel paradoxes (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.[citation needed]

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. Instead, the only non-human life forms are Earth descended: either an evolution of an Earth species, a robotic life form created by humans, or 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).[73]


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.[74] 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.[75]

Reception and achievements

Mixed reactions

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.[13][76] 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."[77] 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."[78] 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.[79] Discussions revolve around the quality of series VI, seen by viewers as just as good as the earlier series',[80] but has been criticised as a descent into formulaic comedy with an unwelcome change of setting.[81]

The changes seen in series VII were seen 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.[82] Furthermore, the attempt to shift back into traditional sitcom format for series VIII was greeted with a response that was similarly lukewarm.[13] 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, as well as recognition that the cast "acted-up" to the live audience in a manner that was detrimental to the world of the series.[83] There are other critics who feel that series VII and VIII are no weaker than the earlier series, however,[84][85] and the topic is the subject of constant fervent debate among the show's fanbase.[13]


Although the pilot episode of show gathered over four million viewers, viewing figures dipped in successive episodes and the first series had generally poor ratings.[86] Through to series VI the ratings had steadily increased and peaked at over six million viewers,[33] achieved with the episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".[87] 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".[88] 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.[89] The International Emmy Award achieved was for series VI episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", which tied with Absolutely Fabulous' episode "Hospital" in the Popular Arts category.[90] The show had also been nominated for the International Emmy Award in 1987, 1989, and 1992.[90] Series VI won a British Comedy Award for "Best BBC Comedy Series".[90] The video sales have won eight Gold Awards from the British Video Association,[91] and the series still holds the record for being BBC2's longest running, highest rated sitcom.[92] 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 show hadn't broadcast any new episodes this century".[93]

Spin-offs and merchandise

The show's logo and characters have appeared on a wide range of merchandise.[32][94] 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').[39] 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.[95][96][97][98] And 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.[99]


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-season 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 alternate 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.[33]

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.[100] All four novels have been released in audiobook format; the first two read by Chris Barrie,[101][102] Last Human read by Craig Charles,[103] and Backwards read by author Rob Grant.[104]

In December, 2009, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers will be released in Germany with the title Roter Zwerg (Red Dwarf in German).[105]

VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray releases

For the initial release of the VHS editions, Red Dwarf episodes were separated and two tapes were released for each series, 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 "Quarantine" and "Back to Reality" were given top billing on their respective video release.[106] For the second series I VHS release, "Confidence and Paranoia" was given top billing, even though the original broadcast order was retained. 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 and no laugh track;[107] the remastered versions of series I–III were also released individually and in a complete box-set.[108][109][110] Finally, two outtake videos were released, Smeg Ups in 1994, and its sequel Smeg Outs in 1995.[111][112]

The 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.[113] 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.[114][115] 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.[42] 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 rereleased 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.

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, the most recent entry into the franchise, was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2009.


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 the Mr. Flibble, 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.[116] Despite achieving circulation figures of over 40,000 per month,[116] the magazine's publisher decided to close the title down to concentrate on their other publications.[33] 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.[117]

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

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.[118] The show essentially followed the same story as the first episode of the original series, using American actors for most of the main roles:[119] Craig Bierko as Lister, Chris Eigeman as Rimmer, and Hinton Battle as Cat.[120] Exceptions to this were Llewellyn, who reprised his role as Kryten, and the British actress Jane Leeves who played Holly.[120] It was written by Linwood Boomer and directed by Jeffrey Melman,[120] with Grant and Naylor onboard as creators and executive producers.[121] During filming of the pilot the audience reaction was good and it was felt that the story had been well received.[121]

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.[122] The intention was to shoot a 'promo video' for the show in a small studio described by the writers as 'a garage'.[121] New cast members were hired for the roles of Cat (re-named Woo-fen) and Rimmer;[121] Terry Farrell and Anthony Fuscle respectively.[120] 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.[121] Despite the re-shoots and re-casting, the option on the pilot was not picked up.[121] (Farrell was cast almost immediately afterwards for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)

As a result, the US pilot exists and has been heavily bootlegged but it has never been broadcast on TV in any country.


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 movie overseas.[123] Plot details were included as part of the teaser. It was set in the distant future where Homo sapienoids - a fearsome flesh machine hybrid race — 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.[124]

Naylor had scouted Australia to get an idea of locations and finance costs, with pre-production beginning in 2004 and filming planned for 2005.[124] 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.[125]

Roleplaying game

Deep7 LLC released Red Dwarf - The Roleplaying Game in February 2003 (although the printed copyright is 2002).[126] 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.[127] 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.[127][128] However, some reviewers found the game mechanics to be simplistic and uninspiring compared to other science fiction roleplaying games on the market.[129]

Red Dwarf Night

"Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg" as featured on BBC Two's "Red Dwarf Night"

On 14 February 1998, the night before the tenth anniversary of the show's pilot episode broadcast, BBC2 devoted an evening of programming 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.[130] 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 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.[130]

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, Chloe Annett and Danny John Jules.[130] 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 "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".[130]

See also


  • Dessau, Bruce (1992). The Official Red Dwarf Companion. Titan. ISBN 1-85286-456-7. 
  • Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Virgin. ISBN 0-86369-682-1. 
  • Red Dwarf Smegazine, (March 1992 - January 1994), Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603

Further reading

  • Alexander, Paul (1995). Red Dwarf Log No. 1996. William Heineman Ltd. ISBN 0-434-00370-0. 
  • Burnett, Sharon; Nicky Hooks (1997). A Question of Smeg. Penguin. ISBN 0-140-27070-1. 
  • Charles, Craig; Russell Bell (1997). The Log: A Dwarfer's Guide to Everything. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-026862-6. 
  • Grant; Naylor (1993). Primordial Soup: The Least Worst Scripts. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-017886-4. 
  • Grant; Naylor (1996). Son Of Soup. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-025363-7. 
  • Grant; Naylor (1996). Scenes from the Dwarf. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-600243-1. 
  • Hooks, Nicky; Sharon Burnett (1994). The Red Dwarf Quiz Book. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-023662-7. 
  • Llewellyn, Robert (1994). The Man in the Rubber Mask. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-023575-2. 
  • Naylor, Doug; Paul Alexander (1996). The Space Corps Survival Manual. Mandarin. ISBN 0-7493-2374-4. 
  • Naylor, Doug; Paul Alexander (2000). Red Dwarf VIII Scriptbook. Virgin. ISBN 1-85227-872-2. 
  • Nazzaro, Joe (1994). The Making of Red Dwarf. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-023206-0. 


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External links

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