Top Ten Reasons Why These Two Americans Love Red Dwarf
by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
For those of you who haven’t seen Red Dwarf, this U.K. science-fiction comedy concerns the adventures of Dave Lister (Craig Charles), the last Earthman alive, and his pals – the hologram Arnold Rimmer, BSC, SSC (Chris Barrie), a humanoid feline simply named Cat (Danny John-Jules), ex-girlfriend Christine Kochanski (Chloe Annett), and square-headed android Kryten (Robert Llewellyn). Their home is the enormous space vessel Red Dwarf, which is operated by the computer persona Holly (Norman Lovett & Hattie Hayridge), a floating head who spouts witticisms from the ship’s monitors. The program is shown in America on public television and BBC America.
Here are the top ten reasons this show has become a firm fan favorite….
1. The Anti-Heroes
Most American science-fiction 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 to the common man. Lister’s a slob, Rimmer is neurotic, and 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 science-fiction 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 into a screwball misadventure, where a tiny sparrow is transformed into a rampaging T-Rex.
3. The Monsters and Aliens
Science-fiction and horror fans love aliens and monster, and when it comes to science-fiction comedy, the more outrageous they are, the better. In Red Dwarf, we are treated to a bumper crop of bizarre creatures. There’s the Pleasure Gelf, who can be anybody’s dream date, but is in fact an eyestalked mound of what looks like moldy Jell-O. 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-streamed monstrosity. Even the crew members are somewhat monstrous. Cat has bulging fangs, Rimmer is a ghost-like hologram, and Lister’s sloppiness puts him on a par with Neanderthals.
Curry, the crew’s favorite dish, offers viewers the mysterious allure of exotic cuisine!
Who doesn’t love a wisecracking computer? Americans remember with fondness the deadpan comic stylings of B9 from Lost in Space – the seven-foot-tall, bubble-headed, arm-waving, “Danger! Danger!”-shouting robot who constantly drove finicky space-traveler Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) into cosmic hissy-fits.
The earthly nature of both the male and female Hollys of Red Dwarf makes a welcome departure from the more mechanical entities of other science-fiction epics. Both pasty-faced floating heads are simply likeable – how we wish all 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 love to have a sporty little space shuttle for tooling around the universe? The fact that it looks like a big, 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 personality – or perhaps anti-personality: Duane Dibbley, the ultimate nerd. Duane has it all: huge buckteeth, lunch pail, thermos, a Moe Howard haircut – and loads of plaid clothes. This walking sight-gag always gets a laugh.
8. Space Vixens
The Red Dwarf universe is peppered with beautiful young females – and they’re not always human. 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? The show’s writers use the concept of sexual fantasies to explore the role of gender in society and in space.
9. Future Sex
With all those space vixens, can sex be far behind? Red Dwarf is a kooky variation on the concepts found in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and Lost in Space – and sometimes, one thinks it should have been Lust in Space. They may not always have a warp drive, but they’ve definitely 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 an unlikely 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 constantly pursues Kochanski through space and time. Various 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 number one 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 a ship with a hologram crew, he meets 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.
We’ve saved the best for last! Kryten is alternately tough and tender – and constantly struggling with what it means to be both a machine and a living creature. Who can forget the time when, like Pinocchio, he became a real boy? But with Kryten, it wasn’t his nose that grew. The fact it was a vacuum cleaner that jump-started his libido truly emphasized how much trouble he had figuring out his true nature.
Kryten is always a true friend to Lister, no matter what – the ultimate science-fiction sidekick. Loyal, supportive, and ingenious, he comes with amusing groin attachments (he uses them to vacuum or stir tea).
Red Dwarf, the longest-running BBC2 comedy, was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Now rumors are circulating about 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 American love Red Dwarf because it is funny, eccentric, well-written, and well-acted. 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.
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