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Red Dwarf (1988-99)
Created by Grant Naylor

review by Mike McCarty and Mark McLaughlin

For those of you who haven't seen Red Dwarf, this sci-fi comedy concerns the adventures of Lister, the last Earthman alive, and his pals - the hologram Rimmer, a humanoid feline simply called Cat, and Lister's ex-girlfriend Kochanski. Their home is the space vessel 'Red Dwarf', which is operated by Holly, a floating head who spouts witticisms on the ship's monitors. The programme is shown in America on public TV and is a cult favourite. Here's 10 reasons why two Americans love Red Dwarf...

1. The Antiheroes
Most American sci-fi heroes are glamorous and self-confident, with perfect hair, looks and teeth. But the cast of Red Dwarf..? Basically, they're misfits, but lovable misfits, in touch with their misfit-ness. They know they are substandard and they're proud of it. That brings them closer Lo the common man. Lister's a slob, Rimmer is neurotic, the Cat's completely egotistical... But so what? Those faults make them what they are. They are defined more by their flaws than their virtues.

2. The Outrageous Storylines
Most SF fans would never admit that they might not understand a convoluted storyline with detailed, up-to-date scientific concepts. However, that's not a worry with Red Dwarf. The show's science concerns itself with pulp concepts taken to their wackiest extremes. For example, in the episode Pete: Part 2, they took the idea of birds evolving from dinosaurs and turned it into a screwball misadventure, where a tiny sparrow is transformed into a rampaging T-Rex (too bad Carnosaur, a movie with a similar concept, couldn't have been this funny).

3. The Monsters And Aliens
Science fiction and horror fans love aliens and monsters, and when it comes to sci-fi comedy, the more outrageous they are, the better. In Red Dwarf, we have a bumper crop of bizarre creatures. There's the Pleasure Gelf, who can be anybody's dream date, but who is in fact an eye-stalked mound of what looke like mouldy jello. There's Legion, a composite creature who is the perfect host: he never wants his guests to leave. There's the Polymorph, who can look like anything from a chicken to a huge slime-streaked monstrosity. Even the crew members are somewhat monstrous. Cat has his bulging fangs, and Rimmer was a ghost-like hologram (for seven aeasons), and Lister's sloppiness puts him on a par with neanderthals.

4. Curry
The mysterious allure of exotic cuisine!

5. Holly
Who doesn't love a wisecracking computer? Americans remember with fondness the deadpan comedic style of the Lost In Space robot, who constantly drove finicky Dr Smith into a frenzy. The earthy nature of both the male and female Hollys from Red Dwarf makes a welcome departure from the more mechanical entities of other sci-fi epics. The pastyfaced floating heads from Red Dwarf are simply likeable - how we wish computers would be! They don't bog down their human colleagues with complex technical mumbo-jumbo: they simply state their case in easygoing slang, with a few jokes thrown in for good measure.

6. The Space-Bug
Who wouldn't like to have a sporty little space shuttle for tooling around the Universe? Also, the fact that it looks like a friendly green ant makes it seem more like a pet than a form of transportation.

7. Duane Dibbley
In a few episodes, the Cat (coolness personified) is shown to have an alternate, or perhaps, anti-personality: Duane Dibbley, the ultimate nerd. Duane has it all: buckteeth, lunch pail, tragic haircut - and plaid. This walking sight-gag always gets a laugh.

8. Space Vixens
The fact that the Red Dwarf universe is peppered with young lovelies makes it a nice place to visit! The show appeals to typical male fantasies, but it also points out that women are more than just male playthings. Remember the episode where Rimmer is constantly annoyed and pursued by his alternate-universe female counterpart, and Lister is impregnated (via the logic of that alternate universe) during a one-night-stand with a she-Lister? They use the concept of sexual fantasies to explore the roles of gender in society.

9. Future Sex
With all those space vixens, can sex be far behind? This sci-fi show is a variation on the Lost In Space concept - and sometimes, one thinks it should have been entitled 'Lust In Space'. They may not always have a warp drive, but they've definitly got a sex drive! Kryten has a red-hot romance with a space blob. Too bad he doesn't have the equipment to consummate the affair. Cat has a virtual reality affair with a mermaid (fish above the waist, lady below), and Marilyn Monroe. Lister has sex with a female version of himself, almost has a honeymoon with a hairy gelf maiden, and is constantly pursuing Kochanski through time and space. Versions of Rimmer have sex with other versions of Rimmer on a planet populated by male and female clones of the hapless hologram (millions of Rimmers copulating with each other - that concept could replace syrup of ipecac as the No.l vomit-inducer). Rimmer is the most neurotic creature in the Universe - but he does manage to find his heart's desire every now and then. For example, on the ship with the hologram crew, he does meet up with a lovely young crew member who actually finds him attractive! Even Holly finds love, albeit with a female Holly - and eventually, he becomes her.

10. Kryten
We've saved the best for last! Arguably, Kryten is the funniest mechanical man in sci-fi history. He is alternately tough and tender - constantly struggling with what it means to be both a machine and a living creature. Who can forget the time when, like Pinoechio, he became a real boy? With Kryten, it wasn't his nose that grew. The fact that it was vacuum cleaner that jump-started his libido truly emphasised how much trouble he had figuring out his true nature. Kryten is always a true friend to Lister, no matter what - the ultimate sci-fi sidekick. Loyal, supportive, ingenious - and with amusing groin attachments, too (he uses them to vacuum or stir tea).

Red Dwarf crew

The show has been on television for eight seasons over ten years. Now rumours are circulating of a feature film in the works - and deservedly so! It would be great to sit down to a full banquet of Red Dwarf adventure, as opposed to the smaller hors d'oeuvre episodes. Basically, these two Americans love Red Dwarf because it is funny, eccentric and well-written. If we have any complaint at all, it would be that there aren't enough episodes to enjoy - and a movie would certainly help to correct that matter.

previously published in TOUCHPAPER #12 ©1999
Red Dwarf main cast

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Red Dwarf season 1

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Red Dwarf season 3

Red Dwarf season 4

The RED DWARF
Theme Song
(Lyrics and music by Howard Goodall)

It's cold outside
There's no kind of atmosphere
I'm all alone
More or less
Let me fly,
far away from here
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun

I want to lie
Shipwrecked
and comatose
Drinking fresh
Mango juice
Goldfish shoals,
nibbling at my toes
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun

I'll pack my bags
And head into hyperspace
Velocity at time-warp speed
Spend my days in ultraviolet rays
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun

We're locked on course
Straight through the universe
You and me
And the galaxy
Reached this stage,
this hyperpathic age
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun
Fun, fun, fun
in the sun, sun, sun

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