Reaching back decades, R is for Red Dwarf. I’ll admit right up front, I have not seen the later seasons, which I believe aired in 2008 or so. Public television in the state I used to live in showed lot of British comedy and science fiction, but after we moved I learned that our new public television station didn’t carry any science fiction at all. The horror!
So, for those who haven’t seen it, or who’s memory has faded, Red Dwarf was the name of a mining ship in the 22nd century. The two human main characters were the lowest ranking crew members, and for good reason. One of them, Lister, was discovered to have smuggled his pet cat, Frankenstein, aboard, which was strictly against the rules, and so in punishment he was placed in suspended animation. Berift of his work partner, Rimmer failed to properly replace a drive plate, which caused the entire ship to be flooded with cadmium II, killing everyone aboard except Lister and his pregnant cat, which was safe in the cargo hold.
Fast forward 3 million years, when radiation levels have finally returned to normal. The ship awakens Lister from stasis, and also animates a hologram of Rimmer, who is thought to have the best chance of keeping Lister from losing his mind to loneliness. Now if this had been a serious show, just about any other crew member would have been chosen, bit it’s a comedy, so Rimmer was the perfect companion.
Very early on, they discover that there is another life form on the ship. They come across Cat, the highly evolved last living descendant of Lister’s cat. Cat is a very cool, self absorbed, dancing man in a soot suit. The actor does an excellent job of portraying a cat in human form.
The ship’s 6,000 IQ computer, Holly, is the final main character early on. It had contracted ‘computer senility’ before the radiation incident, and time didn’t treat it well after that.
Late in the second season they encounter an android, Kryten, in an ancient spaceship wreck. Being a service droid bound by very strict behavioral protocols, he had continued to serve his crew, even though they had all been dead for a very, very long time. His character manages to grow significantly through the series, mainly because Lister works rather hard at teaching him to break out of his behavioral programming. One of my favorite scenes with Kryten has him serving Lister a dinner of lobster. Lister asks for some ketchup to go with it. “Not the red ketchup, the brown.” “Ketchup? With lobster?” Kryten’s head explodes. When a replacement head is fitted, his first words are, “Ketchup? With Lobster?” Again, he blows up. Fortunately he had severel replacement heads available.
Episode wise, the most memorable one for me was the first in season 3. Backwards. They land on a world where everyone lives backwards, and for a reason I no longer remember, they are stranded there for a while. They make a living as comedians who have an uncanny ability to appear to live backwards themselves. As they are about to leave, Cat goes into the bushes to relieve himself. Lister yells, “No!” Then you hear Cat screaming in horror as the inevitable happens.
As I said earlier, I haven’t seen any of the 2008 and beyond seasons, have you? I’d love to hear what you think of them, as well as the original ones. I know it was a silly, campy, very low budget show, but I loved it – perhaps for those very reasons.