Great British Comedy-Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf - Science Fiction Comedy

Red Dwarf first came onto British television in 1988.

It was unlike anything attempted before in comedy - a melding of comedy and science fiction.

Science Fiction certainly has a lot of followers, as does comedy but could the writers attract both types of followers to the same show?

The short answer is "Yes" and they did it by keeping the comedy very funny but also by making the science fiction a central core of the show.

Red Dwarf is a great British comedy because it presented the viewer with the same line-up of characters every week and had them trapped in space trying to find a way to get back to earth. It regularly borrowed from other sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Blakes Seven and also doffed its cap at movies like Star Wars. Sci-Fi fans had more technological dialogue than you could shake a stic at but the clever part was in making it a comedy show - place three inept character and two clever ones together and see how they scheme to find a way out of this ugly red 'tin can'.

Red Dwarf (proper) ran for 8 series and Dave TV created a one-off series after calls from the public to bring the show back,

There were rumours of a new Red Dwarf series in 2012 - we are still waiting but series X of Red Dwarf should hopefully appear on British TV screens before the end of this year. The show is currently in post-production after photography and filming is completed - the attention to detail on the show has won over just shoving it back onto our screens and we can be sure that the show will be worth the wait.

Lister - leather jacket, dreadlocks and a Scouse dialect - a Liverpudlian with attitude
Lister - leather jacket, dreadlocks and a Scouse dialect - a Liverpudlian with attitude

Lister - The 'Repair' Man

Dave Lister awakens on the spaceship, Red Dwarf to discover that he has been in stasis for 3 million years and is now the only human being alive on the ship - everyone else has perished except him.

Listen, played by Craig Charles, a stand-up comedian is one of the funniest characters ever in a comedy show. He is the anti-hero, an ordinary bloke and of all the people needed to survive and get the ship back to earth, he has none of the talents needed to help himself or anybody else.

He used to be the ships repair man - but at a very low level, fixing the drinks machines for the rest of the crew. He was put in stasis because he broke the rules - luckily for him, stasis saved his life.

Throughout all of the series of Red Dwarf, Lister is in search of the perfect curry - a vindaloo preferably and he is the main character in the show because he is the only human being.

But he is not alone.

The Cat
The Cat

The Cat

The Cat is the result of 3 million years of evolution, a human crossed with a cat played by Danny John-Jules as a smartly dressed man with all of the poise and wiles of a pussy cat. He even has long fangs to help with his mouse-catching. He is in fact an ancestor of Lister's own house cat, Frankentein.

The Cat moves in a way you have never seen before; Danny John-Jules is a dancer forst and an actor second so he was perfect for the role.

The Cat is also a very funny character, definitely more cat than human but he can talk like a human being so at least Lister has some more company.

So that makes two of them. But there is non-human life on Red Dwarf.

Arnold Rimmer.  The H on his head stands for 'Hologram' - he ain't real.
Arnold Rimmer. The H on his head stands for 'Hologram' - he ain't real.

Rimmer - A Hologram of A Now Dead Human Being

Arnold Rimmer is the character responsible for most of the conflict on Red Dwarf. He is one annoying hologram. He existed as a human being before the crew were wiped out and is brought back to life as a hologram by the ship's computer, Holly, to help Lister stay sane after he realises he is the only human on the ship.

Rimmer believes himself to be far superior to Lister. Indeed, he believes he is far superior to most of the people he's ever encountered.

This makes him a rather annoying man and he will always be the butt of Lister's jokes. Of all the people to bring back to 'life', Holly could have done a bit better. Lister wishes Holly had brought back his old girlfriend, Kristine Kochanski and he spends the next several series hoping he can find her and that she might have escaped.

Chris Barry who plays Rimmer is an actor and also a very good impressionist. He is most famous for his own successful British comedy show, 'The Brittas Empire'. He left Red Dwarf briefly but returned in Series 8 after not appearing at all in series 7.

Kryten - Series 4000 Humanoid Robotic Servant
Kryten - Series 4000 Humanoid Robotic Servant

Who is your favourite Red Dwarf character?

  • Dave Lister
  • The Cat
  • Arnold Rimmer
  • Kryten
  • Holly
See results without voting

Kryten - The Ship's Android

Kryten the humanoid robotic servant with the oddly shaped head is brilliantly played by Robert Llewelyn.

He did not appear in the first two series except in a guest star role in series II but the writers could see the potential of the character and he appears in Series III to provide Lister with a project of sorts - Lister tried everything in his power to get Kryten to escape the shackles of being the Series 4000 Mechanoid.

Lister tries to teach him human traits to much amusement as Kryten has been programmed to always behave in a literal way to and to respect the commands of human beings.

Lister is the ultimate rebel on a ship with only 4 'creatures' and a human 'front faced' computer and he could just think 'what's the point?' but he doesn't. Every day he gets up and deals with whatever lies ahead of him, ultimately, he wants to get back to earth.

Holly I
Holly I
Holly II
Holly II

Holly - The Ship's Computer

Holly is the ship's computer. You see him (at first in Series I & II) and then her (Series III - VIII) on a computer screen - a very user friendly 'front end'. Holly can be asked about what actions are needed to correct things but mainly she looks after the circuitry on the ship.

Sometimes, she doesn't have a clue what to do and she admits it. This can be quite funny - she is one of the most intelligent computers ever created but on this ship she has no interaction except with 4 characters who can barely interactive with one another.

Red Dwarf Favourite Episodes

Red Dwarf ran for 8 series and had many 'classic' episodes across its 8 series but I have chosen my favourite shows as the Gunmen of The Apocalypse and White Noise.

Series VI- 'Gunmen of The Apocalypse'

The show is an amazing episode where Kryten has gotten infected with a computer virus which might 'kill' him so the rest of the crew decide to enter his mindscape to see if they can find and kill the virus.

They find themselves in a wild west town and have to be like cowboys - it is an amazing episode where you are laughing all the way through the episode but also worried about Kryten's ability to recover from the virus.

They enter his mindscape through a computer simulation linked to his brain. Lots of fun to be had by all! Lister's early game playing is featured in the first video.

Series IV - White Hole

The Series IV episode 'White Hole' shows Kryten's interactions with a humble toaster and Lister's frustrations at Talkie the Toaster - really funny!

When Lister sees it back in the galley, all back together after 'the accident between me, the toaster and a four thousand pound lump hammer' he can't believe it.

Kryten has put all four thousand pieces back together, all for Lister to enjoy some toast.

Lister has other ideas.



Red Dwarf X

So is Red Dwarf X much anticipated? You bet it is. As a long time fan, I can't wait to see Lister and Co travelling through the twenty third century trying to get back to earth. There will still be the same conflict, the same technological problems etc. What made Red Dwarf such a great British comedy? Aside from the characters was the actual ship itself.

Considering the set was built for a BBC TV series, it has great attention to detail and is not unilke Blade Runner in style. It also gives the viewer a string sense of the scale of the Red Dwarf spaceship - not so little anymore.

Thank you very much for joining this Red Dwarf geek in her little tribute - I hope you get a chance to see Series X when it hits screens soon. Red Dwarf was consistently funny, consistently well-written and its longevity was down to the fact that its viewing figures increased and fans stayed with it.

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Comments 10 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

teaches12345, many thanks for commenting - strange how we like the characters we like isn't it? Chris Barry who plays Rimmer is a very gifted impressionist as well as a good comedian/actor.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

So far Rimmer wins on the votes, he is my favorite. My husband loves this comedy series and has videos he plays on occasion. The wit of the British really comes through on this series and it is really a great entertainment for us.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

James, I am smeggin' grateful for the view :o) I prefer the middle series 4-6 and Kryten is my favourite character, even with that bizarre head!


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Great Hub Jools, in fact I smegging loved it hehehe- see what I did there. I absolutely love Red Dwarf, got all the DVD's- never get tired of watching them. My favourite series is 1 and 2, mostly because of Holly (Norman Lovett). My favourite overall character is Rimmer, he's just so funny :D Thanks.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Kelley, thanks so much for your comment. I hope you get a chance to see it sometime. There was an American version made a few years ago, not sure how well it did though. Red Dwarf has conventions and stuff - just like Star Trek but the fans love the comedy as much as the sci-fi stuff.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

fpherj48, many thanks for commenting. My favourite character is Kryten the humanoid robotic servant. I always thought that Robert Llewelyn who plays him must be an American; I was shocked to hear he was English.


kelleyward 4 years ago

I'm not familiar with this but you did such a fantastic job writing this hub because I now feel like I know these guys already. I'll look for some of these series on the British comedy channel I have at home! Voted up! Kelley


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

British comedy is my absolute favorite. I will watch it specifically to make me laugh and induce the endorphins...so I feel better and my spirits are lifted........What is it, I wonder, that makes the British to totally and naturally hysterical?......I don't know, but I do love it... Those videos nearly made me choke, I laughed so hard! Thansk for this FUN hub!! UP+++


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Bill, many thanks for your comment - so glad you like this series.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Already a classic and a truly hilarious series. I, for one, love British comedies and this one is a cut above most of the others. Great hub! I want to live in Great Britain!

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