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Red Dwarf (television)

Red Dwarf is a British science fiction sitcom ("Britcom" in the U.S), created and originally written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.

It parodies most (if not all) of the sub-genres of science fiction but is first and foremost an 'odd couple' type comedy. The first series aired on BBC2 in 1988. Seven further series have so far been produced, and a film is currently in production. The idea was originally developed from the 'Dave Hollins: Space Cadet' sketches introduced on Grant and Naylor's 1984 BBC Radio 4 show called "Son of Cliché".

Grant and Naylor wrote the first six series together, before Grant left in 1996 leaving Naylor to write the next two with a series of new and less well-known writers, notably Paul Jackson.

Series I and II were BBC productions, series III was made by Paul Jackson Productions, and all subsequent series were made by Grant Naylor Productions. In practice all that changed were the names, as the show continued to be shot at the BBC's Manchester studios.

Table of contents
1 Scenario
2 US Version
3 Spin-offs
4 Invented Words
5 External links
6 See Also


In the show, the Red Dwarf is a gigantic spaceship, belonging to the Jupiter Mining Corporation, which, following an on-board radioactive disaster, is left to drift through deep space. Three million years later, after the radiation has dropped to a safe level, the only surviving crew member emerges from stasis and is surprised to face this grave reality.

This is the slob anti-hero Dave Lister (played by Craig Charles). Lister speaks with a thick Scouse accent. He craves Indian food such as vindaloo, curries, and shami kebabs, all of which are available in great supply on board the ship (though the mechanics of storing curries for thousands of millennia have not been explored on the show).

Lister enjoys the company of a hologrammatic simulation of deceased crew member Arnold J. Rimmer (played by Chris Barrie). Rimmer, Lister's room-mate before the disaster, is a humourless and status-obsessed loser, loathed by everybody. (Technically, the facility for simulating dead crew is reserved for high-ranking and/or essential personnel, but the ship's computer explains in an early episode that it believes company — and specifically Rimmer's company — to be essential to Lister's mental health. Lister expresses incredulity, but later implicitly admits that the computer was right, telling another character that "driving Rimmer nuts is what keeps me going".)

Also accompanying Lister on his voyage back to Earth is The Cat (played by Danny John-Jules). The Cat is no ordinary cat, but a member of the species Felix sapiens, descended from a domestic cat which Lister had smuggled aboard three million years prior. While The Cat is humanoid, he retains a cat-like interest in fish, a heightened sense of smell, and grooming in a uniquely feline fashion sense.

The other principal character is Holly, the ship's computer with a supposed IQ of 6000 (played, for the first two series, by Norman Lovett and later by Hattie Hayridge after Holly performed a 'head sex change' upon himself; Lovett is scheduled for the movie version). Holly runs most of Red Dwarf's systems despite now suffering from computer senility. Among Holly's systems are the service droids known as skutters that clean, perform engineering tasks and function as Rimmer's hands since he cannot touch anything non-holographic.

Later on, the crew are joined by the servile android Kryten (most famously played by Robert Llewellyn, but played by David Ross in his first episode) whom Lister encourages to break his programming and become a lying, cheating human like the rest of us.

Lister's longlasting crush is Christine Kochanski, played by C. P. (Clare) Grogan. She was killed along with the rest of the crew in the first episode, and several subsequent episodes revolve around Lister attempting to bring her back, either through time travel or as a computer-generated simulation like Rimmer. In the seventh season, an alternate Kochanski from a parallel universe (played by Chloë Annett) joined the series as a regular character.

US Version

A pilot episode for an American version was produced for NBC in 1992, though never broadcast. The show followed essentially the same story as the original UK pilot, substituting American actors for the British; the one exception being Robert Llewellyn, who reprised his role as Kryten. The pilot was terribly unsuccessful since the American design was so bad.

However, the comparison between the English and American shows is both interesting and hilarious: the anti-hero, slobby atheist Lister was replaced with a muscular hunk when he is translated for American TV. When Lister learns that three million years have passed in the UK show, he says "What about that library book?"; in the American version he says "My baseball cards must be worth a fortune!" It is also interesting to note that the multi-ethnic cast of the British original (John-Jules is black, Charles mixed-race, and Barrie and Llewelyn white) was replaced by an entirely caucasian one for the second American pilot, the first still having a black Cat, leading John-Jules to dub it 'White Dwarf'.


The franchise has expanded to include four novels, written by the show's creators, Doug Naylor and Robert Grant.

Backwards and The Last Human are both (different) sequels to Better Than Life, and are not consistent with each other.

A planned Red Dwarf: The Movie has been delayed from its original schedule. According to the official website, it will now enter full production in May 2004, with details of a release date to follow.

Invented Words

Red Dwarf is famous for innovating the word "smeg" in order to remove swearwords from the show and to add to a futuristic terminology. Some examples of the word in context are "smeg head", "smeg off", "smeg-for-brains", and "smegging hell". The writers of Red Dwarf have stated that they invented the word and that it has no connection with any similar real words, such as "smegma".

The idea of a substitute curseword was borrowed from the BBC sitcom Porridge, which brought the word "Naff" into popular usage.

External links

See Also