PODCAST: S01E05 – Boys from the Dwarf!

Red Dwarf is getting ready to launch its 11th series later this year, with a 12th already filmed for a 2017 release. The MovieMuse podcast team have recorded a special episode to celebrate the show and below, Graeme Mason gives his extensive low down on a very British, off world comedy…

One of them is a bum. Another is a dead incompetent engineer with a Napoleon complex. The third a self-obsessed, shallow feline-man hybrid. And finally, the servile robot that dotes on them all. Putting all these characters into a sit-com might sound like madness, but it worked, and it worked big time. It has now been over 25 years since Red Dwarf’s first episode, “The End”, was transmitted on a chilly February Monday night. 25 smegging years.

“This is an SOS distress call from the mining ship Red Dwarf. The crew are dead, killed by a radiation leak. The only survivors were Dave Lister – who was in suspended animation during the disaster – and his pregnant cat, who was safely sealed in the hold. Revived three million years later, Lister’s only companions are a life form who evolved from his cat and Arnold Rimmer, a hologram simulation of one of the dead crew.”

If there was ever a depressing start to a comedy, then Red Dwarf had it. From the opening statement above delivered by Red Dwarf’s laconic “super” computer, Holly, it is assumed that in those three million years, not only has the crew of the titular mining ship been wiped out, but so has the human race. Not that this would discourage Dave Lister’s initial efforts in getting home.

castRed Dwarf is the brainchild of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, fellow alumni of The University Of Liverpool. Upon leaving, they formed a partnership, initially on the radio sketch programme Cliché and its follow-up, Son of Cliché. Son of Cliché featured a regular character known as Dave Hollins – Space Cadet, which would one day be seen as a big influence on Grant and Naylor’s most famous work. Starring in Dave Hollins (as the computer, Hab) was Chris Barrie and Grant Naylor’s (as they became known) relationship with the talented many-voiced Barrie would continue as they graduated to television, most famously as head writers for the fantastically rude rubber puppet show Spitting Image. Despite these early successes, the writers harboured a burning ambition to create their own sitcom and with science fiction already an interest, they built on the earlier success of the lonely Space Cadet, Dave Hollins.

After a few minor changes to the character and background of Dave Hollins and the computer, it was obvious to Grant and Naylor that more characters would be required in order for the concept to fit into a weekly 30-minute show. Keen to emphasise the “last human” premise, the remaining characters were to be non-human: a hologram of one of his dead colleagues and a creature descended from his very own cat.

According to legend, the pilot script for Red Dwarf was written in 1983, halfway up a Welsh mountain in a cottage belonging to Doug Naylor’s father. When completed, the writing team submitted the script to producer Paul Jackson who attempted to sell the comedy, hampered by Naylor and Grant’s insistence that the show be made by the BBC, presumably to ensure that each episode ran to a full 30 minutes.  Eventually Jackson persuaded BBC North-West to commission the series and casting began.

With Normann Lovett first on board, followed by Danny John-Jules and poet Craig Charles, it was ironic that the final cast member to be approved was that man again, Chris Barrie, who beat out competition such as renowned thespian Alfred Molina to secure the part of Arnold Judas Rimmer. Finally the team was assembled and shooting would begin on what would become perhaps the biggest sit-com phenomenon the universe has ever known.


Series1dvdSeason 1

  1. “The End” – 15th February 1988
  2. “Future Echoes” – 22nd February 1988
  3. “Balance of Power” – 29th February 1988
  4. “Waiting for God” – 07th March 1988
  5. “Confidence and Paranoia” 14th March 1988
  6. “Me2” – 21st March 1988

Even the most ardent of Red Dwarf fans would admit that the early episodes of the hit comedy were not the best in terms of production values. Cheap, grey sets failed to contrast with cheap, grey wardrobes, with only the Cat standing out thanks to his array of cheap, gaudy baubles and clothing. Yet the quality of the writing was readily apparent, and the polar opposite characters of the slovenly Dave Lister and uptight Arnold Rimmer were already simmering nicely by the end of the opening scene. “Lister, have you ever been hit over the head with a welding mallet?” enquires Rimmer threateningly within the first few moments, irritated by Lister’s incessant chirpiness. Like several other early episodes Red Dwarf, “The End” offers a glimpse back to life on the mining ship prior the disaster that killed the majority of the crew. The hologram concept is introduced as deceased crewmember George McIntyre has his funeral, closely followed by a welcome back party and Lister is given a choice by Captain Hollister: hand over the cat or face 18 months in stasis.

In many ways Red Dwarf’s low budget origins helped its cause. Lacking the sheen of a production that has had way too much money thrown at it, the comedy relied on its quality of scripts to entertain its audience along with the producers’ theory that people “felt sorry” for it. In line with this, the season produced some memorably high concept sci-fi plotlines; “Future Echoes” saw the big rouge one break the light barrier, causing all sorts of mayhem and strange goings-on, whilst in “Confidence and Paranoia”, Lister contracts a mutated form of pneumonia that manifests itself physically – his “confidence” a positive and upbeat jovial fellow, his paranoia a weasly and overly critical little man. Finally, in Me2, we got to see two Rimmer’s in action, with predictably disastrous results.

Six weeks later the season was over and a moderate success. The tricky second season approached.

imgresSeason 2

  1. “Kryten” – 6th September 1988
  2. “Better than Life” – 13th September 1988
  3. “Thanks for the Memory” – 20th September 1988
  4. “Stasis Leak”- 27th September 1988
  5. “Queeg” – 4th October 1988
  6. “Parallel Universe” – 11th October

Despite haemorrhaging a significant amount of viewers in its first season, the BBC renewed Red Dwarf thanks mainly to a large volume of letters from fans and a high score in the Audience Appreciation Index. In terms of the design and look of the show, Red Dwarf season 2 was very similar to season one. There were still plenty of grey beer cans and dull uniforms, and the one shining light remained the cat’s lapels.  Yet despite the major changes that were to come in season 3, it’s obvious that season 2 is the key one; a future regular character was introduced (despite appearing in only one episode), the concepts got higher and – most importantly – the show got funnier.

In the season’s first episode, we are introduced to the robotic Kryten, or as Rimmer notes “the android version of Norman Bates”. Mistakenly under the impression that the crew of his ship, the Nova 5, are still alive, Kryten is brought up to speed by the Dwarfers and returns back with them, although the character would not re-appear again until the following season, partly due to Grant and Naylor’s reluctance to entertain such a famous Science Fiction stereotype; Kryten’s popularity eventually persuaded them otherwise. The other episodes all demonstrate how the cast and writers were becoming more comfortable with their roles. “Better than Life” embraced the concept of virtual reality and not for the last time delves into the dark recesses of the AJ Rimmer psyche; “Thanks for the Memory” is a mystery-style plot concerning a bizarre birthday present; and “Stasis Leak” – well, that’s about an actual leak, your basic actual leak, in stasis.

Perhaps the most fondly remembered, however, were the final two episodes: “Queeg” was Holly’s back-up personality, actually a hoax engineered by the computer, fed up with Rimmer and Lister’s constant put-downs, and finally “Parallel Universe”. Thanks to the Holly Hop drive (a box with “Stop” and “Start” on it), the boys travel to an alternate dimension and find themselves face-to-face with female versions of themselves. Except the cat who’s opposite is a dog. Obviously.

imgres-1Season 3

  1. “Backwards” – 14th November 1989
  2. “Marooned” – 21st November 1989
  3. “Polymorph” – 28th November 1989
  4. “Body Swap” – 05th December 1989
  5. “Timeslides” – 12th December 1989
  6. “The Last Day” – 19th December 1989

For many, Red Dwarf 3 is where the series began, which does a disservice to the previous two seasons, but is entirely understandable given the apparent change of production values. That we would have never reached this stage without the incessant grey and sparse sets of the original 2 seasons is indisputable; low cost was a key factor in Red Dwarf getting its important second series when its popularity went through the roof.

Actually, Red Dwarf’s budget had not been raised significantly but was benefitting from the increased involvement of its creators on the production side. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor utilised their budget carefully, ensuring that Red Dwarf 3 appeared on the surface to be a very different type of comedy. Gone were the grey cotton shirts and slacks which no-one was really ever happy with; in came Lister’s leather casuals and Rimmer’s spangly uniform. And it wasn’t just with the sets and costumes that things changed: there was a new logo, updated theme tune, a change of sex for Holly, a semi-new character in the form of the android Kryten and most crucially, a widening of the show’s comedic concepts with the crew frequently venturing into the inky darkness of space. Oh, and we almost forgot Starbug.

The first episode, “Backwards”, proved to be an excellent introduction to the new Dwarf. Lister and the Cat discuss the relative merits of Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble in their new “officers’ quarters” while Rimmer gives Kryten a flying lesson aboard Starbug One. When they crash on a strange planet where everything runs backwards, it becomes a rich minefield for jokes and hijinks. Further episodes such as “Marooned” and “Body Swap” delved once more into the disturbed mind of Arnold Rimmer, the popular “Polymorph” finally sees the hologram meet one of his beloved aliens while “The Last Day” provided a fitting conclusion to the third season of a series that was fast becoming a comedy phenomenon.

imgres-2Season 4

  1. “Camille” – 14th February 1991
  2. “DNA” – 21st February 1991
  3. “Justice” – 28th February 1991
  4. “White Hole” – 07th March 1991
  5. “Dimension Jump” – 14th March 1991
  6. “Meltdown” – 21st March 1991

Now the pressure was really on. With Red Dwarf 3 a certifiably smegging hit and the comedy also beginning to gain popularity in the United States, the weight fell on its creators to devise another six episodes of hilarious mining ship madness. Their plans hit a snag when BBC North’s studios on Manchester were selected for a much-needed refurbishment just when the Red Dwarf crew needed them, resulting in a frantic search for new premises. Eventually suitable locations were found and the fourth season began filming.

The end result of Red Dwarf 4 is something of a curio. It contains two of the best loved episodes from the whole series (“Dimension Jump”, which introduced the brave and dashing Ace Rimmer, and “White Hole” which contained the famous “So, what is it?” scene), and yet also featured two of its most ill-regarded: the robotic theme park of “Meltdown” and odd Casablanca parody, “Camille” which was at least partially redeemed by Lister’s amusing attempts to teach Kryten to lie (“It’s a banana…”), another one of the greatest gags in Dwarf history. On the plus side, “Dimension Jump” in particular, the endearing tale of two Rimmers separated by a momentous single moment in their youth, is a major highlight.

On the whole, however, season four continued to cement Red Dwarf’s place as the premier sci-fi comedy in the world and a fifth season was never in doubt.

imgres-3Season 5

  1. “Holoship” – 20th February 1992
  2. “The Inquisitor” – 27th February 1992
  3. “Terrorform” – 05th March 1992
  4. “Quarantine” – 12th March 1992
  5. “Demons and Angels” – 19th March 1992
  6. “Back to Reality” – 26th March 1992

After what some would claim the mis-step of season 4, Red Dwarf was most definitely back with a bang for season 5. Despite the absence of perennial director Ed Bye and a slight tilt of focus more towards science fiction, Red Dwarf 5 proved to be a another successful season, boosted by what remains one of its most popular episodes.

Kicking things off was “Holoship” which introduced a very different kind of Rimmer; not only does he actually get to have sex with a woman, thanks to the bewitching Nirvanah (played by Jane Horrocks), even more bizarrely, he betrays his previous incarnation with an act of self-sacrifice that appeared to shock himself almost as much as his fellow crewmembers.

Yet it was episode four of this season that would truly take Red Dwarf to another level. When the team answers a distress call, Rimmer contracts a form of mutated holo-virus which turns him completely insane. Well, more insane than usual. Beaming back to Red Dwarf, he directs the remaining crew to quarantine before stalking them with the aid of his new friend, Mister Flibble. “Quarantine”, despite being played for laughs (“Why don’t we ever meet anyone who can shoot straight?” whinges the Cat in response to Lister’s claim that they never meet anyone nice), has a very dark undertone which is emphasised by a moody score, an unpredictable performance from Chris Barrie and an obvious sense of fear from the rest of the crew – it’s no surprise the episode is regularly voted one of Red Dwarf’s best. It’s even got a cute-but-deadly hand puppet. With the also-popular “Back to Reality” bringing the curtain down, season 5 remains a firm favourite for many fans.


Season 6

  1. “Psirens” – 07th October 1993
  2. “Legion” – 14th October 1993
  3. “Gunmen of the Apocalypse” – 21st October 1993
  4. “Emohawk – Polymorph II” – 28th October 1993
  5. “Rimmerworld” – 04th November 1993
  6. “Out of Time” – 11th November 1993

The gap between seasons five and six was slightly longer as Grant Naylor Productions began using Red Dwarf’s popularity to investigate other projects. Some cite this as the beginning of the end, where the series began to lose focus, but the quality of season six would suggest otherwise, despite a controversial deviation in location and the loss of one of the characters.

At some point in 1992, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor reached a critical conclusion: there simply wasn’t enough room (or rather dialogue) for both computer and android. A season over-reaching plot that embraced a change of backdrop to their favoured Starbug, involved the crew desperately searching for the mining ship which had apparently been stolen. The story gave a convenient way to drop the mentally-challenged computer Holly from the series, no doubt much to actor Hattie Heyridge’s disappointment.

With the crew effectively left on their own to fight for survival, their abilities mysteriously increased as if they had just “levelled-up”, to use the videogame vernacular. The Cat was now in possession of heightened Spiderman-esque senses that enabled him to detect approaching threats while, critically, Rimmer now possessed a hard-light drive that meant he could finally interact physically with the environment.

The most fondly remembered of its episodes is without doubt “Gunmen of the Apocalypse” where the crew take on the Apocalypse Boys – War, Famine, Pestilence and Death – in a virtual reality attempt to regain control over Starbug from a group of rogue simulants. Given the opportunity of a wild west themed parody, it’s a great episode and highlight of a season that would conclude with the apparent destruction of Starbug and the demise of the crew.


Season 7

  1. “Tikka to Ride” – 17th January 1997
  2. “Stoke me a Kipper” – 24th January 1997
  3. “Ouroboros” – 31st January 1997
  4. “Duct Soup” – 07th February 1997
  5. “Blue” – 14th February 1997
  6. “Beyond a Joke” – 21st February 1997
  7. “Epideme” – 28th February 1997
  8. “Nanarchy” – 07th March 1997

The elongated gap between seasons 6 and 7 saw the most radical behind-the-scenes shift since Red Dwarf began, which no doubt contributed to the gap of over three years. Rob Grant decided to split the productive writing team and go his own way, leaving Doug Naylor to fly the flag for Red Dwarf. In addition, Chris Barrie announced he would be leaving the show (which caused much more consternation amongst fans) although ultimately he would appear in four of the season’s eight episodes. With perhaps half an eye on a possible Red Dwarf movie or US series, it was decided to replace Rimmer with a female character for which there was only ever one choice; Chloe Annett was selected as the lucky lady to step into the shoes of Lister’s old flame, Christine Kochanski. With Ed Bye returning to direct, the stage was tentatively set for the long-awaited return of Red Dwarf. Well, we say stage, actually that was another change, and perhaps one that would draw the most bazookoid fire: Red Dwarf, for the first time in its history, had no segments at all filmed in front of a live studio audience. Laughter of the canned variety was also used for the first time.

Looking back on season 7 is difficult. For many, it was the end of dwarf as we know it thanks to the breaking up of the familiar cast and the loss of one half of the writing team behind the show. However, at the time, the season was a massive success and inevitably topped the BBC2 viewing charts once more. Episodes such as opener “Tikka to Ride” and the triumphant return of Ace Rimmer (“Stoke Me A Kipper”) evoke classic Dwarf, whilst the arrival of Christine Kochanski in “Ouroboros” unfortunately began a slide into some of the least-liked episodes punctuated only by the amusing “Blue” in which Lister and Rimmer finally get to show their true feelings for each other (although admittedly in a dream sequence). Despite this, an eighth season of Red Dwarf was already in the works and would feature the full, triumphant return of one Arnold Judas Rimmer.


Season 8

  1. “Back in the Red” Part One – 18th February 1999
  2. “Back in the Red” Part Two – 25th February 1999
  3. “Back in the Red” Part Three – 04th March 1999
  4. “Cassandra” – 11th March 1999
  5. “Krytie TV” – 18th March 1999
  6. “Pete” Part One – 25th March 1999
  7. “Pete” Part Two – 01st April 1999
  8. “Only the Good…” – 05th April 1999

Doug Naylor took a huge risk with the start of Red Dwarf VIII. The introduction of a regular Kochanski had already been enough to scotch Lister’s cachet of being the last human alive, yet resurrecting the entire mining ship crew represented a whole new level of risk akin to flicking your love spuds in a hungry lion’s mouth whilst tickling its nose. But resurrected they were (thanks to some enterprising nanobots which had debuted in the final episode of season seven) and several cast members from the first two seasons of Red Dwarf returned, most notably Mac McDonald as Captain “Fat Bastard” Hollister.

In the opinion of most fans, the gamble did not pay off. A nod was made to earlier episodes as Rimmer and Lister were imprisoned together by the Captain for stealing Starbug, but many claimed the show had been completely imbalanced by the introduction of a considerably fuller cast. Five of the episodes, including the first three, which for the first time continued one story over multiple episodes, regularly feature in Red Dwarf ten worst episode lists and “Krytie TV” took the show to previously unknown depths with its lewd and voyeuristic subject material, despite its amusing consequences. Worse was to come with the swallow-inspired “Pete”, stretched painfully into two episodes and featuring a wholly unnecessarily bald and naked Rimmer and Lister. Yet still Dwarf was drawing in the viewers with “Back in the Red” regularly commanding a figure of around eight million watchers. It was clear there was a still much feeling for the series despite the apparent decline in quality. As a result, once more the series ended on a cliff-hanger with Rimmer desperately attempting to save Red Dwarf from being munched by a hungry microbe.

51yBmVCyntLSeason 9

  1. “Back to Earth” Part 1 – 10th April 2009
  2. “Back to Earth” Part 2 – 11th April 2009
  3. “Back to Earth” Part 3 – 12th April 2009

Is it season 9? Is it an official season at all? Is it any good? Most Red Dwarf fans would answer no, no and no, although Channel Dave’s reboot of Red Dwarf, some ten years after its previous appearance, does have its supporters. With Rob Grant returning to the fold, a complicated plot was developed involving the despair squid from season five’s “Back to Reality”. Of course this meant it was inevitable the whole thing would be forgotten as some sort of delusional escapade on a par with that episode, yet “Back to Earth” retained very little of Red Dwarf’s original look or feel.  Like season seven it was filmed without a studio audience; unlike season seven, there was no canned laughter.

In fact, there wasn’t a great deal of laughter to be had at all, despite some clever Blade Runner-esque sci-fi shenanigans in the concluding episode. With viewing figures well down from the programme’s previous seasons (although admittedly it was now not being shown on a major terrestrial channel), it was something of a surprise when news of yet another Dave-produced season was officially announced appeared in 2011.

Red-Dwarf-Series-Ten-DVD-Version-TwoSeason 10

  1. “Trojan” – 04th October 2012
  2. “Fathers and Suns” – 11th October 2012
  3. “Lemons” – 18th October 2012
  4. “Entangled” – 25th October 2012
  5. “Dear Dave” – 01st November 2012
  6. “The Beginning” – 08th November 2012

Whilst attending the 16th Dimension Jump Red Dwarf Convention on Sunday the 10th April 2011, Doug Naylor confirmed the news that everyone had suspected – Red Dwarf would be returning in 2012 in the form of Red Dwarf X and in conjunction once more with TV channel  Dave. Naylor outlined his ideas for the latest season which would include a full six episodes and a return to studio audiences.

Despite the possibility of rampant continuity errors, Red Dwarf X served as an effective re-boot for the series, with the original cast (plus Kryten of course) reunited on board the mining ship and the events of season 9, and to a certain extent 8, seemingly forgotten. Elements of the first six seasons are re-introduced with Rimmer’s sibling inferiority and resentment coming to the fore.

The first episode, “Trojan” was met with generally good feedback and a return to form was proclaimed from many quarters. With convoluted follow-up “Fathers and Suns” also attaining praise, it wasn’t until episode three and the somewhat contrived “Lemons” that Red Dwarf X began to dip in quality. However, with the final episode improving thanks to a climactic simulant battle, hopes for further adventures of the Boys from the Dwarf remain high, although this episode’s title, “The Beginning”, which nicely bookends with the very first episode (“The End”) suggests otherwise!

Maybe one day the boys will return; maybe not. But either way, Red Dwarf has undeniably gone down in TV History as one of the most-loved comedies set on board a big red mining spaceship ever…

Red Dwarf Trivia File

–Red Dwarf’s pilot mentioned Lister’s age as 41.

–In the same episode, ship’s computer Holly was prophetically female.

–The Ganymede Inn, which featured in season 2’s “Stasis Leak” was actually the less stellar Crown Plaza Midland Holiday Inn, located in Manchester.

–By season 3, the BBC Studios lighting gantrys often doubled for Red Dwarf’s corridors.

–David Ross, who played the original Kryten, eventually made it back onto the show as the voice of that infernal machine, the Talkie Toaster. Now, Does anyone fancy a toasted teacake?

–Season 4 episode “Meltdown” was originally scheduled to be the opener until the BBC refused to screen it during the Gulf War (supposedly because of the episode’s anti-war message). Fortunately the war ended in time for “Meltdown” to appear at the end of the season.

–The working title for season 7’s “Stoke me a Kipper” was “Natural Born Rimmers”.

Continue, Error

Red Dwarf was infamous for continuity errors and one of the most well-known was the Red Dwarf crew count which ranged from 129 to 1169. Less easy to spot was from the episode “Demons and Angels” when Lister recalls playing pool with planets, despite the events from “White Hole” supposed to have not actually happened! But perhaps the most renowned error has to be the story of Lister’s appendix. In the season two episode “Thanks for the Memory” we discover that Lister had it removed back on Earth; so why is Legion removing it once more four seasons later?

Guest Appearances

Red Dwarf featured many guest stars over the years who were either famous or on their way to achieving it:-

 –Actor Tony Slattery (Peter’s Friends, Whose Line is it Anyway?) starred as a cast member of the soap “Androids” in the episode “Kryten” from season two. He returned eleven years later as a dispensing machine in “Only the Good”.

–Comedian and author Tony Hawks made many guest appearances including as a compere in “Backwards”, the Emperor Caligula in “Meltdown” and a computer-generated host in “Better than Life”. He also provided the voices for a dispensing machine, suitcase and, er, toilet.

–Female cameos aplenty in “Psirens”: Anita Dobson played a valiant captain, Jenny Agutter the alluring Professor Mamet and Samantha Robson (The Bill) was Pete Tranter’s sister.

–Timothy Spall played the Leisure World attendant who gleefully informed the crew how badly they’d done in the Red Dwarf Total Immersion Video Game from season five’s “Back to Reality”

–Screen veteran Don Henderson (Star Wars, Doctor Who) played a rogue simulant in “Beyond a Joke”.

–The svelte Jane Horrocks (Little Voice, Absolutely Fabulous) was the object of Rimmer’s desire in “Holoship”

–Ruby Wax played an obnoxious loud-mouthed TV presenter in “Timeslides”

–In the same episode, Adolf Hitler guest-starred as himself.

My Favourite Amazing Jokes

Along with Blackadder, Red Dwarf is my favourite sit-com ever. The humour from the show came from some brilliant writing that extracted the soul of each character before mercilessly and cleverly creating hilarious situations from them. These are my best ten jokes from Red Dwarf but be warned, my sense of humour has often been called odd, so some of these might not be too obvious. But I still love them…

10. Eating Rimmer’s Dad (Better Than Life)

When a mail pod arrives at Red Dwarf, Rimmer gets a letter from his mother (“Dear Rimmer,”) explaining his father’s unfortunate demise. Of course he’s dead; with the exception of the slovenly Dave Lister, the whole human race has expired. But receiving this letter causes Rimmer and Lister to have a touching moment in the mining ship’s observation booth. “Owwwwwwww! Oooooh! Eeeeeeeeeeh, I’m hungry, feed me!” punctures the sad atmosphere as the cat announces his arrival in his customary manner. “Cat, Cat, Rimmer’s Dad’s just died!” exclaims a perturbed Lister. The cat looks indignant. “I’d rather have chicken.”

9. Deathday Treat (Thanks for the Memory)

When the boys celebrate Rimmer’s Deathday a smidgen more enthusiastically than they should have, Lister offers up his special hangover-cure: a triple fried-egg sandwich with chilli sauce and chutney. “You what?” mutters a delightfully morose Holly. “It’s a state of the art sarny!” claims an excitable Lister. “It’s the state of the floor I’m worried about.” comes the laconic reply.

8. Pleading with Vegetables (Quarantine)

When Rimmer contracts a dangerous form of holovirus, he imprisons the rest of the crew in quarantine as they return from a stricken spaceship. Eventually revealing his true colours, the crew have this brilliant exchange:-

RIMMER: I can’t let you out.

LISTER: Why not?

RIMMER: Because the King of the Potato People won’t let me. I begged him. I got down on my knees and wept. He wants to keep you here. Keep you here for ten years.

CAT: Could we see him?

RIMMER: See who?

CAT: The King.

RIMMER: Do you have a magic carpet?

LISTER: Yeah, a little three-seater.

RIMMER: So, let me get this straight. You want to fly on a magic carpet to see the King of the Potato People and plead with him for your freedom, and you’re telling me you are completely sane?! I think that warrants 2 hours of W.O.O.

LISTER: What’s W.O.O?

CAT: You had to ask.

RIMMER: With … out … oxygen. No oxygen for 2 hours. That will teach you to be bread baskets.

And then to finish the gag off…

LISTER: What do we do?

CAT: I think our only hope’s the Potato King.

7. Quagaar Warrior (Waiting for God)

This hilarious exchange exemplifies for me how clever the writing was in early Dwarf. There isn’t even really any punch line or joke, it’s just simply funny and extremely well written. When Red Dwarf encounters what Rimmer assumes is some sort of alien craft, the hologram finally breaks in the face of Lister’s incessant musings on the fate of the cat race. “LOOK, I’M SICK TO DEATH OF HEARING ABOUT THESE STUPID CATS! MY CONCERNS ARE SLIGHTLY MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT KIND OF STUPID, SMEGGING CARDBOARD HAT I’M WEARING! I’M TRYING TO DECIPHER THIS! THIS IS SCIENCE, LADDIE!” explodes Rimmer and how he kept a straight face I’ll never know. When Lister belittles his studies (“Never mind this tot…”), his colleague goes quite literally mental. “Tot? Tot? TOT! WE’LL SEE HOW TOTTY THIS IS, LADDIE, THE QUARANTINE PERIOD’S NEARLY UP! ….BASTARD!”

And of course the final joke is on Rimmer: “IT’S A SMEGGING GARBAGE POD!”

6. Never one when you need it (Psirens)

The Psirens are luring the crew to their doom, and whilst I’m not a particular fan of the episode in general this bit always makes me chuckle. When the boys discover something gruesome (“The poor sucker must have written it using a combination of his own blood, and even his own intestines” says Kryten), Rimmer asks who would do that. Lister, completely missing the point (maybe deliberately) chimes: “Someone who BADLY needed a pen.” in a suitably grim tone. Horrible – but funny.

5. Milk (Kryten)

When supplies begin to get low, Holly gleefully (well, as gleefully as Norman Lovett could be) informs Lister they’ve been running on dog’s milk for some time. “Nothing wrong with dog’s milk. Full of goodness, full of vitamins, full of marrowbone jelly. Lasts longer than any other type of milk, dog’s milk.” Why’s that? enquires Lister guardedly. “No bugger’ll drink it.” replies the maudlin computer.

4. One Hell of a Night (The Last Day)

When Kryten is served notice of his impending replacement, the dwarfers celebrate at a party with Holly providing intoxicating liquor even for Kryten. The next morning Lister awakes in the company of a strange object: “We’re on a mining ship, 3 million years into deep space. Can someone please tell me where the smeg I got this traffic cone?!” The joke is take one step further by (of course) the cat and his new-found apparel: “Hey, it’s not a good night unless you get a traffic cone! It’s the policewoman’s helmet and the suspenders I don’t understand!” This totally ludicrous scene is never explained, making it even funnier.

3. Colour Blind (Queeg)

Holly is going (or gone) mad. Or senile, or both. Either way, this scene is a great set up to the computer’s April fool joke. Everyone is down in the computer room. The scutters have gone crazy and Rimmer has been separated from his legs. When Lister picks up a yellow lead, he naturally consults the computer. “Oh yeah, that joins up with the white cable.” it replies. After the very best the BBC Pyrotechnics department has to offer transpires, the camera pans back to a confused-looking Holly. “Or is the yellow cable? Yes, it should have been the yellow cable.” seemingly unaware of the pandemonium he has caused. Norman Lovett’s confuddled style fits the scene perfectly.

2. It’s a B… (Camille)

This isn’t one of my favourite episodes by a long chalk, but I love this opening scene. Lister is trying to break Kryten’s programming by forcing him to lie. By holding up fruit. “It’s a banana” mutters Kryten when Lister holds up a banana. After several attempts, Kryten finally gets it: “It’s…It’s a b… It’s a b… It’s a small, off-duty Czechoslovakian traffic warden!” “It’s the Bolivian Navy on manoeuvres in the South Pacific!” Of course, when the cat wanders in and the duo demonstrate to him, Kryten can’t repeat the trick and goes back to correctly identifying the fruit. “You taught him that?” says the cat sarcastically, “That’s terrific! You two should audition for “What’s my fruit?””

1. So What Is It? (White Hole)

hqdefaultThis scene is so finely tuned, so expertly written, it gets the honour of my favourite Red Dwarf joke. The mining ship has encountered a white hole which is causing all sorts of messing with the time-space continuum. This scene is so finely tuned, it gets the honour of my favourite Red Dwarf joke. It’s made even funnier by Kryten’s attempt to explain the phenomenon and represents the Cat’s finest hour. So here it is, in its entirety…


CAT: So, what is it?

KRYTEN: I’ve never seen one before — no one has — but I’m guessing it’s a white hole.

RIMMER: A _white_ hole?

KRYTEN: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A black hole sucks time and matter out of the universe: a white hole returns it.

LISTER: So, that thing’s spewing time back into the universe? (He dons his fur-lined hat.)

KRYTEN: Precisely. That’s why we’re experiencing these curious time phenomena on board.

CAT: So, what is it?

KRYTEN: I’ve never seen one before — no one has — but I’m guessing it’s a white hole.

RIMMER: A _white_ hole?

KRYTEN: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A black hole sucks time and matter out of the universe: a white hole returns it.

LISTER: (Minus the hat.) So, that thing’s spewing time back into the universe? (He dons his fur-lined hat, again.)

KRYTEN: Precisely. That’s why we’re experiencing these curious time phenomena on board.

LISTER: What time phenomena?

KRYTEN: Like just then, when time repeated itself.

CAT: So, what is it?


They all stare at him.


CAT: Only joking.

LISTER: (Suddenly upright, and minus his hat, again) Okay, so it’s decided then. We consult Holly.

CAT: Hey, wait a minute — I missed the discussion!

RIMMER: (Suddenly on the bench, where the CAT used to be sitting) We all did.

KRYTEN: (Suddenly on the table previously occupied by LISTER) Time is occurring in random pockets. The laws of causality no longer apply. An action no longer leads to a consequence.

CAT: (Back on the bench) So, what is it?

KRYTEN: I think we’ve experienced this period of time before, Sir.

CAT: Only joking.

KRYTEN: And that one. Since we’re no longer affected by the laws of causality, we can override these time jumps if we concentrate.

RIMMER: Look, the only way out of this is to consult Holly.

CAT: (Snaps fingers) I’ll go with that.

KRYTEN: Gets my vote.

LISTER: Okay, so it’s decided then. We consult Holly.

KRYTEN: Ah, I think we’ve just encountered the middle of this conversation!

CAT: So, what is it?

LISTER: Ooh, someone punch him out.

What do you think?

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