Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article describes the British science fiction comedy television series. For the type of star, see red dwarf.
It parodies most (if not all) of the sub-genres of science fiction but is first and foremost an 'odd couple' type comedy (the couple in question being the characters of Rimmer and Lister). 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 Son of Clichť.
Rob Grant and Doug 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 Alexander .
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 these changes were only cosmetic; all eight series were made for and by the BBC. At the beginning of series IV production moved from the BBC's Manchester studios to Shepperton.
A period of four years elapsed between Series VI and VII. The show was apparently not expected to last beyond five series, indicated by the closure of major plot elements and continuity during the first two series. However, popular demand forced the BBC to make continual renewals (and thus scrapping the original continuity). When the series returned, it was filmized and no longer in front of a live audience. Although critics praised the higher production values for Series VII, when the show returned two years later for Series VIII, it had dropped use of the filmizing process.
In 1998, on the tenth anniversary of the show's first airing (between the releases of Series VI and VIII), the first three series of Red Dwarf were remastered. The remastering included reformatting the series in widescreen, applying film grain techniques and more critically replaced model shots with computer graphics, cut small pieces of dialog and changed music and sound effects. Red Dwarf Remastered was met with a generally poor fan reaction, no futher series were remastered and the later DVD release reverted to the original versions.
In the show, the Red Dwarf is a gigantic spaceship, belonging to 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 (where he'd been placed as punishment, though his stay was intended to be only eighteen months) and is surprised to face this grave reality.
This is the slob anti-hero Dave Lister. Lister speaks with a marked Scouse accent. He craves Indian food such as vindaloo curries and shami kebabs, all of which are in plentiful supply on board the ship (the mechanics of storing curries for thousands of millennia have not been explored on the show, although the use of vacuum storage is mentioned in the book).
Lister enjoys the company of a hologrammatic simulation of a deceased crew member Arnold J. Rimmer (the 'J' stands for Judas). Rimmer, Lister's room-mate before the disaster, is a humourless and status-obsessed loser, loathed by everybody on board. It was he who actually caused the radioactive disaster by poorly repairing a shielding plate on the power core, although in his defense he would have been able to do a better job if Lister hadn't been imprisoned in stasis. (Technically, the facility for simulating dead crew, which is so resource-intensive that only one such simulation can be maintained at a time, 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".) The choice of hologram personality was rendered a moot point early in the first season when Rimmer hid all of the remaining holographic identity disks somewhere where Lister would never find them, in order to avoid being replaced with someone else. Notwithstanding his desperate desire to not be turned off, the holographic Rimmer bemoans his fate — he's dead, and his current sensibility is just a simulation of how he would feel if he were alive. As the seasons go on, though, Rimmer acquires a physical form for brief periods of time due to various astronomical phenomena, and eventually acquires a "hard-light drive", giving him the ability to taste, touch, smell, and feel - although he is practically indestructible he is still capable of feeling pain. In later episodes, Rimmer is also manifested as the superheroic character, Ace Rimmer, who hails from an alternate timeline where a pivotal humiliation led Rimmer to actually make an effort to improve his life instead of just whining about it.
Also accompanying Lister on his voyage back to Earth is The Cat. The Cat is no ordinary cat, but a member of the species Felis sapiens, evolved from a domestic cat which Lister had smuggled aboard three million years prior (the reason Lister was placed into stasis was as a punishment for this). The Cat appears as a typical biped humanoid with slightly elongated canines; he retains a cat-like interest in fish and females, a heightened sense of smell, unbridled vanity, and cat-like obsession towards grooming and appearance, with a uniquely feline fashion sense. He also has six nipples.
The other principal character is Holly, the ship's computer with a supposed IQ of 6000 (visible as a disembodied head on the screens dotted around the ship). Holly runs most of the ship'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.
Lister's longlasting crush is Kristine 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 alternative Kochanski from a parallel universe (played by ChloŽ Annett) joined the series as a regular character.
One interesting aspect of the Red Dwarf universe is that there are no aliens (much to the disappointment of Rimmer, who hopes one day to meet an advanced race that can bring him back to life). Although there is a large and bizarre mix of intelligent life within the Red Dwarf universe, all of these are in one way or another derived from Earth, as a result of developments in robotics and/or genetic engineering during the millions of years the ship has been isolated.
Characters and actors
- Main article: Red Dwarf characters
- Dave Lister (played by Craig Charles)
- Arnold J. Rimmer (played by Chris Barrie)
- The Cat (played by Danny John-Jules)
- Holly (played by Norman Lovett in series 1, 2, 7 and 8, and by Hattie Hayridge in series 3, 4 and 5)
- Kryten (played by David Ross in his first appearance in series 2, and then by Robert Llewellyn in series 3 through 8)
- Kristine Kochanski (played by C. P. (Clare) Grogan in series 1, 2 and 6 then by ChloŽ Annett in series 7 and 8)
Semi-regular characters in series 8
- Captain Frank Hollister (played by Mac McDonald) (also made guest appearance in two episodes in Series 1 and one episode of Series 2)
- Warden Ackerman (played by Graham McTavish )
Recurring guest characters
- Olaf Petersen (played by Mark Williams) appeared in three episodes and is mentioned regulary when Lister talks about the days before the accident.
- Selby and Chen (played by David Gillespie and Paul Bradley, respectively) appeared in three episodes altogether.
- Frank Todhunter (played by Robert Bathurst ) only appeared in the first episode but was regularly mentioned in following episodes.
- George McIntyre, a Welsh officer, appeared once in the first episode as a hologram at his own "Welcome Back Reception".
- Kill Crazy (played by Jake Wood ) appeared in four episodes.
- Baxter (played by Ricky Grover) appeared in the last three episodes of the series.
Recurring guest actors
- Tony Hawks was the warm-up man for the first few series of Red Dwarf and has often been called 'The Fifth Dwarfer'. He also appeared on screen as the host in Better Than Life, the voice of various food dispensers (and a talking suitcase in Stasis Leak), the compere in Backwards, and Caligula in Meltdown.
The spaceship Red Dwarf is an enormous (five miles long, according to the novels) mining vessel owned by the Jupiter Mining Corporation and commanded by Captain Frank Hollister. All of Red Dwarf's systems are controlled by the computer Holly. Red Dwarf has a large complement of shuttles, including Starbugs, Blue Midgets. Also mentioned but never seen is White Midget (See Starbug). It is powered by a Bussard ramjet and can, theoretically, keep going forever. It has so far been travelling for roughly 3,000,000 years. The ship has enough food and drink to last 30,000 years (although they've run out of cow's milk, Shake 'N' Vac and have just one After Eight mint left, which everyone is too polite to take). The crew size was repeatedly stated in the first series to be 169, but the number grew with time: in the Series 4 episode "Justice" it was said to have been 1,169, and in the books the figure is given as 11,169. In the programme, however, these continuity errors are more or less ignored and are usually regarded as unimportant by the majority of the show's fanbase.
Red Dwarf itself was the main setting for the first five seasons of the programme, but was apparently lost for 200 years before the first episode of Season Six. It was later discovered that a collective of rogue nanobots which formed the mechanoid Kryten's auto-repair system dismantled Red Dwarf and created their own nano-version of the ship. The crew chased this nano-version of the ship in Starbug 1 and eventually convinced the nanobots to rebuild the ship. As a joke, the nanobots revived the dead crew as well, causing some disorientation among the formerly dead denizens of the reconstructed Red Dwarf. The rebuilt ship was based on the original specifications, meaning it was even larger than the Red Dwarf of the first five seasons, with a quark-level matter/anti-matter generator and a karaoke bar (this was at least partly meant as justification for new sets and a new CGI model of the ship's exterior). The ship was again destroyed by a corrosive chemical but all of the crew (bar Arnold Rimmer) managed to escape in the Starbugs and Blue Midgets.
Notable areas of the ship include:
- Rimmer and Lister's original sleeping quarters - The main setting for the first two seasons. A grey room with bunk beds built into the wall, a table, two lockers, a sink with a mirror that also acts as a computer screen and a voice activated toilet. It made a reappearance in the first episode of Series Eight.
- Rimmer and Lister's second sleeping quarters - In season three, they relocated to a room in the unused Officer's Block; substantially larger, with a cream colour scheme and en suite shower as well as classier versions of much of the apparatus from their original quarters.
- The Drive Room - The control centre of the ship, where Kristine Kochanski used to work as well as the other top officers and ship's captain. Also contains the Navicomp, the ship's navigational computer, and several computer monitors which Holly used to project his image and communicate with the crew.
- The Science Room - This became the crew's main area of conducting technical business such as mind swaps and consultations with Holly, the ship's computer, in Series 3 to 5.
- The cargo bay - The area of the ship where the fleets of Starbugs and Blue Midgets were stored and from where these ships launched and landed.
- White Corridor 159 - The initial site of the accident that wiped out the crew.
- Parrot's Bar - A wine bar on G Deck, apparently named purely for a Casablanca gag. ("We'll always have Parrot's.")
- The Tank - A two-hundred cell prison on the top-secret Floor Thirteen. Contained four hundred hardened criminals on their way to a penal colony on Adelphi 12. And, in season 8, the main cast.
Blue Midget is a type of shuttle. The craft was used mainly in series 2 before being replaced by Starbug. In series 8 Blue Midget was redesigned to resemble a bubble car, with retractable legs for take-off and landing (also enabling them to dance).
The JMC transport vehicle Starbug is a small shuttle craft. It is green in colour and has three bulbous sections; the cockpit, mid-section and engine rooms. Starbug is featured from the third series of Red Dwarf, replacing Blue Midget as the crew's primary choice of shuttle and became the show's primary craft in series 6 and 7. Series 6 began a full 200 years after the final episodes of season 5 during which time only Kryten was "concious". During this period it is persumed that Kryten remodelled Starbug for the crews needs. Starbug becoming much larger and gaining sleeping quarters, an engine deck, an artifical reality suite and a hangar bay in the process. Since series 6, Starbug has been armed with laser cannons.
It originally seemed as though there were only 2 Starbugs on Red Dwarf, aptly titled Starbug 1 and Starbug 2. Starbug 1 was the one that featured the most, with Starbug 2 only appearing once in series 3 and once in series 5. Throughout seasons three to six, Starbug 1 has crashed many times and always seemed to be fully repaired by the next episode. In series 8 it was revealed that there was an entire fleet of Starbugs (and Blue Midgets) stored on Red Dwarf.
According to the cast commentary on the Red Dwarf DVD's, Starbug was originally named White Midget.
Ace Rimmer's ship, Wildfire, appears in "Dimension Jump" and "Stoke Me A Clipper". Its purpose as part of Ace's mission is to explore alternative realities. Upon Ace Rimmer's return in "Stoke Me A Clipper", the ship is given to the next generation of Ace.
The wreck of the Nova 5 was discovered in the second series episode "Kryten." The series 4000 mechanoid Kryten was still servicing his long-dead crew when encountered by the members of the Red Dwarf.
In the seventh series episode "Ouroboros," it was revealed that Kryten was responsible for the accident that killed the ship's crew. A reason has not been given in the series, but Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers explains that the crash was caused by Kryten cleaning the computer with soapy water.
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 (including Craig Bierko as Lister, Chris Eigeman as Rimmer, Hinton Battle as the Cat and Jane Leeves as Holly) for the British; the one exception being Robert Llewellyn, who reprised his role as Kryten. The pilot was unsuccessful.
A later pilot consisting of scenes from the first pilot edited in with new footage (and featuring Terry Farrell as a female Cat), was also unsuccessful.
However, the comparison between the UK and US shows is interesting: the anti-hero, slobby pantheist 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 "I've still got 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 bi-racial, and Barrie and Llewelyn white) was replaced by an entirely Caucasian one for the second US pilot (the first pilot still had a black Cat), leading John-Jules and Charles to dub it 'White Dwarf'.
The franchise has expanded to include four novels, written by the show's creators, Doug Naylor and Rob Grant.
- Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers - Grant Naylor - ISBN 0-45-145201-1
- Better Than Life - Grant Naylor - ISBN 0-14-012438-1
- Last Human - Doug Naylor - ISBN 0-14-014388-2
- Backwards - Rob Grant - ISBN 0-14-017150-9
Last Human and Backwards are both (different) sequels to Better Than Life, and are not consistent with each other.
All four books were published in audiobook format, the first two read by Chris Barrie with Last Human read by Craig Charles and Backwards read by its author Rob Grant.
The BBC World Service re-recorded the first two books as The Red Dwarf Radio Show with Chris Barrie narrating and included additional sound effects. The first series was broadcast on 3 December 1995 to 17 February 1996 and the second March 13 1997 to March 28 1997.
The song "Tongue Tied", originally featured in a dream sequence in the episode Parallel Universe, was released as a single in 1993. It reached number 17 in the UK charts. It was expected to get higher, only a planned Top Of The Pops performance did not come to happen, thus halting momentum for the single.
A planned Red Dwarf: The Movie has been delayed from its original schedule. According to the official website, it will enter pre-production 'shortly', with details of a release date to follow.
Red Dwarf is famous for using 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 "smegger", "smeghead", "smeg off", "smeg-for-brains", and "smegging hell". The character of Rimmer tells a vending machine in one episode to "...smeg off, you smeggy smegging smegger!" 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"; however, lexicographer Tony Thorne, in his 1990 Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (ISBN 074752856X), reports instances of "smeg" (and derivatives) being used as a term of "mild contempt and even affection" among "schoolboys, students and punks" as early as the mid-1970s – a decade or so prior to the inception of the Red Dwarf phenomenon – and unequivocally traces the etymology of the term back to "smegma".
There are other terminologies invented by Red Dwarf that are not as well-known as "smeg". Given the sarcastic and argumentative nature of the show's plotlines, many of these other new words are derogatory designations including "goit" (one who is annoying or awkward — perhaps adapted from the word "git") and "gimboid" (one who is stupid or clumsy — similar in meaning to "moron", and possibly an adaptation of the word "gimp").
The currency in use at the time Red Dwarf left the Solar System was apparently the "dollarpound", divided into one hundred "pennycents".
In one episode, Cat uses the word 'Jozxyqk' in a Scrabble game, claiming it to be a cat word meaning "the sound you get when you get your sexual organs trapped in something".
Several sets, seen often in the earlier episodes, have the phrase "Level Nivelo" prominently displayed on one wall. "Nivelo" is not an invented word within the series, but rather the Esperanto word for "level". In the Red Dwarf universe, the constructed language Esperanto is in much wider use than it is today, and Red Dwarf is officially a bilingual vessel. See the first episode in season two, "Kryten", in which Rimmer attempts to learn Esperanto.
In the episode "Back To Reality", Timothy Spall's character Andy refers to the regular cast as "a bunch of twonks". Twonk is also used by Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. He often calls Rodney a "dozy little twonk".
Whilst on his own for three million years, Red Dwarf's computer, Holly, decided to entertain himself by inventing Hol Rock, a fictional decimalised version of music. The notes he invented were 'H' and 'J' and he was convinced it would be a whole new sound. Unfortunately triangles would need an extra side, pianos would be the length of zebra crossings and women would be banned from playing the cello.
- Red Dwarf FAQ
- Official Red Dwarf site
- Entry for Red Dwarf: The Movie (in production) in the Internet Movie Database
- The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club
- British Sitcom Guide
- Norman Lovett's (Holly's) Website
- Robert Lewellyn's (Kryten's) Website
- Craig Charles'(Lister's) Website
- Chris Barries' (Rimmer's) Website
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