Chicken soup machine repairman and intergalactic loser Dave Lister awakes from suspended animation to discover he is the lone survivor of a radiation leak and is now three million years into deep space and the last surviving member of the human race. Dave is soon joined by a hologram of his dead bunkmate, a lifeform who’s evolved from his pet cat, and a neurotic sanitation mechanoid. Together this unlikely bunch of heroes attempt to find their way back to earth, under the guidance of Holly, the ship’s senile computer, encountering a heap of smeg on the way.
When space janitor Dave Lister sneaks his pregnant cat onto the gargantuan mining ship RED DWARF, he’s busted for breaking quarantine regulations and sentenced to six unpaid months in stasis. Upon awaking from suspended animation, Lister realizes two horrible truths: a radiation leak has killed the rest of the crew, and he missed the six month window by about three million years. Stranded in deep space and probably the only human left in the universe, Lister’s only companions are an obnoxious hologram, a humanoid cat, a paranoid sanitation mechanoid, and a senile computer. One of the few science fiction shows to not feature any aliens, the Dwafers roam an empty, godless galaxy, searching for adventure, direction, and a good Indian takeout place.
Craig Charles as Dave Lister
Once the lowest ranking crewman on RED DWARF, Lister suddenly finds himself the last human alive and the effective leader of the crew of space bums. What he lacks in common sense, musical talent, ambition, physical fitness, and basic hygiene, he…well, he has good qualities as well. Determined to make it back to earth and to somehow reconnect with his ex-girlfriend, Kristine Kochasnski, Lister plays pool with planets, punches Adolf Hitler in the face, and gives birth to twin sons. And that’s just the first few seasons.
Lister: THREE MILLION YEARS? (pause) I still have that library book.
Chris Barrie as Arnold Rimmer
Once the second-lowest ranking crewman on RED DWARF, Rimmer died in the radiation explosion. But the DWARF has the power to resurrect one, and only one, crew member as a hologram. Holly, the ship’s computer, brought back Rimmer as a way to keep Lister sane.
A man who never had a break in his life, Rimmer tried desperately to get ahead, only to to be thwarted by circumstance, luck, and his own general incompetence. Universally disliked and the least popular member of a crew of only five, Rimmer still dreams of the day he’ll become an officer. Meanwhile, he’s plagued by alternate universe versions of himself: a woman, a popular officer, a cowboy, and a Dr. Frankenfurter-eque dominatrix.
Rimmer: It just so happens that my (school) nickname was ‘Ace.’
Lister: Your nickname was never Ace. Ace-hole, maybe.
Danny John-Jules as The Cat
Remember Lister’s cat? Well, she survived the radiation leak and safely gave birth in RED DWARF’s cargo hold. And her kittens continued to breed. Over the course of three million years, they evolved into a race of sentient cats who eventually slaughtered each other in holy wars over the teachings of ‘Cloister the Stupid’, father of Catkind. The Cat is the last member of their race.
Catlike in mentality, The Cat has nothing but feline traits, positive and negative. He’s agile, fast, and mega cool. He’s also vain, arrogant, and lazy. He holds his crewmates in contempt, though has a soft spot for the monkey people he has to live with.
Rimmer: What’s more important? The man’s life or your smegging lunch?
Cat: I’m not going to dignify that with a response.
Robert Llewellyn as Kryten
After a couple of years of space wandering, the boys are excited when a mechanoid named Kryten contacts them from a crashed ship, begging them to rescue the three helpless female crewmembers on board. The boys’ joy is short lived when they remember it’s the year Three Million and Kryten presents them with three stylishly dressed, impeccably made over…skeletons.
A sanitation bot by trade, Kryten joins the RED DWARF crew. Paranoid and self-loathing, he’s probably the smartest one on board and maintains an almost motherlike devotion to Lister. A running gag involves Lister attempting to teach Kryten how to insult people, with Rimmer being a prime candidate.
Kryten: There’s an old android saying which I believe is peculiarly appropriate here. In binary language it goes something like this: 001100111011000111100, which roughly translated means, “Don’t stand around jabbering when you’re in mortal danger”.
Holly was once the most advanced computer in the Space Corps, with an IQ in excess of 6,000. After three million years alone, however, their IQ has sank to the double digits. In charge of life support for the degenerate crew (and Rimmer’s hologramatic existence), Holly must deal with phenomena and lifeforms only guessed at by theorists…and that’s just in Lister’s laundry hamper.
Holly was played by Norman Lovett for the first two seasons, then Hattie Hayridge for the next three. The character vanished for a while, then resurfaced again played by Lovett.
Holly: Our deepest fear is going space crazy through loneliness. The only thing that helps me keep my slender grip on reality is the friendship I have with my collection of singing potatoes.
Couch Sharing Capability: Boys From Da’ Dwarf!
While this show isn’t for everyone, fans of both British science fiction and British humor will enjoy this offbeat program.
Me, far left, 1995. I totally didn’t hook up with any girls that night.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Jackson Pollock
Crack open a case of lager and enjoy the laughs. Pretty soon you’ll be craving a triple fried egg sandwich with chili sauce and chutney.
Lister: We’re on a mining ship, three million years into deep space… can someone explain to me where the smeg I got this traffic cone?
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Beter Than Life
I’d recommend starting with seasons 3-5. They’d really hit their stride and this was before they started doing all those confusing alternate reality reboots. Oy, smeghead, what are you waiting for?