Red Dwarf (science fiction series)
|Format: Science Fiction; Comedy|
|Country: United Kingdom|
|Channel: BBC Two; Dave|
|First Aired: 15 February 1988|
|Last Aired: 10-12 April 2009|
|Episodes: 55 (6x6-episode series; 2x8; 3-part special)|
|Creators: Rob Grant, Doug Naylor|
|Starring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles,|
|Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn,|
|Norman Lovett, Hattie Hayridge,|
|Chloë Annett, Mac McDonald|
Red Dwarf is a science fiction situation comedy first aired on British television by the BBC in 1988. By the final BBC series in 1999, it had gone from a cult television favourite to mainstream success, spawning several original novelisations and merchandise, even popularising several mild expletives in British English. It won an Emmy award in the United States in 1994, reflecting its popularity outside the UK, though an American pilot version failed to generate a series. However, interest in Red Dwarf remains high, with a loyal fan base and continuing attempts to launch a movie version of the series. In the meantime, the series returned for a three-part special in 2009 on the UK digital channel Dave.
Red Dwarf was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, Manchester-based scriptwriting partners who worked under the pseudonym Grant Naylor. Their partnership began in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s had contributed to several comedy series. During this time, they were attempting to get a sci-fi 'sitcom' into production, influenced by films such as Dark Star and Blade Runner, with the central character the last human in the universe. In 1983, this saw the light of day on radio as Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, though Grant and Naylor continued to approach the BBC via producer Paul Jackson with a script made for television which expanded upon the basic idea. This script, which was rejected by the BBC for three years, was called Red Dwarf, after the mining ship on which the central character would find himself almost alone.
The new programme had been considerably changed and expanded upon. Hollins became Dave Lister, a lazy and rather unkempt employee of the Jupiter Mining Corporation, who has the dubious honour of being the lowest-ranked crew member of the JMC's gigantic ship Red Dwarf, a vessel sent through the solar system on a mining expedition. His room-mate is Arnold Rimmer, a deeply competitive, thoroughly nasty incompetent who has reached the dizzying heights of second-lowest rank aboard the ship. Lister is punished for bringing aboard an unquarantined cat by being placed in suspended animation for eighteen months; however, while he and his cat are respectively sealed in stasis and the ship's hold, a radiation leak kills everyone else on board.
Having set up the idea of a near-empty ship the size of a city drifting through space, Grant and Naylor now had Lister almost alone in the universe; three million years passed before Red Dwarf's computer, the artificially-(un)intelligent Holly, was able to release him unharmed. Whereas Dave Hollins had only the ship's computer for company, Dave Lister was given two new companions: a hologram simulation of the long-dead Rimmer, and Cat, apparently the last of a race of feline humanoids that evolved from Lister's pet. With the crew reduced to dust (as Lister discovered, but not before accidentally eating some of their remains), these four characters would find themselves travelling through an empty universe; initially confined to the ship, the series moved towards comedy drama as more money flowed into the production team's coffers and more special effects and location filming was made possible.
Characters, cast and crew came and went over the years. Having initially resisted the idea of including a robot in the show, Grant was persuaded by Naylor to make Kryten, a sanitation droid, one of the central characters, in the process removing much responsibility for exposition from Holly - who was later written out for some years. After six series, Rob Grant opted for a solo writing career, leaving Doug Naylor in charge of the programme. Towards the end of its run, Naylor added a female character, a version of Lister's former girlfriend Kristine Kochanski, and for the final BBC series both returned Holly to the programme and took the surprising step of abolishing the 'last human' idea by having Red Dwarf's original crew resurrected via nanotechnology. He continues to pursue backing for a big-screen return for Red Dwarf, and wrote the 2009 three-parter (including a homage to Blade Runner) which once again saw the characters alone in deep space aboard Red Dwarf.
See also Craig Charles - Red Dwarf, Chris Barrie - Red Dwarf, Danny John-Jules - Red Dwarf, Norman Lovett - Red Dwarf, Robert Llewellyn - Red Dwarf, Hattie Hayridge - Red Dwarf, Chloë Annett - Red Dwarf and Mac MacDonald - Red Dwarf
Lister, Rimmer, the Cat and Holly formed the initial group of regular characters in Red Dwarf's first two series. The actors assembled to play them were all ultimately recruited via the producer Paul Jackson, who had hired or consulted them for various projects in the past. It was through appearing in the programme that several of these performers made the leap into mainstream acting; prior to this they had been associated with other professions.
Although both Alfred Molina and Alan Rickman were in the running to play respectively Lister and Rimmer, the parts of the two bickering bunkmates went to Craig Charles and Chris Barrie - the former with no acting experience at all, the latter chiefly known as an impersonator on satirical programmes such as Spitting Image. Charles in fact was a 'stand-up poet', developing a reputation as an 'angry young man' nevertheless open to the mainstream through appearances reading poetry on the prime-time BBC chat show Wogan. Jackson had in fact never considered Charles for Lister; he sent the script for episode one to ask Charles, as a member of the black community, whether he considered the role of the Cat racist. Charles approved the characterisation and asked to read for Lister, ultimately landing the role. Likewise, Chris Barrie gave a good audition, but temporarily lost out to Molina. Creative differences between Grant and Naylor versus Molina's interpretation of how the role would develop meant that Molina was let go and Barrie brought back.
Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett were cast as the Cat and Holly. John-Jules, a dancer and singer by trade, notoriously got the role through an extraordinary performance at the audition; having unwittingly arrived half an hour late, he appeared to be cool and collected despite his tardiness. Though other actors were seen, John-Jules was pencilled in for the role of the Cat from the start. Lovett, meanwhile, was a stand-up comedian with some acting experience who had originally auditioned for Rimmer, but was brought back to read for Holly - originally a voice-only role. After two episodes were already in the can, Lovett convinced the production team to allow his face to be seen on Red Dwarf's computer screens, and the early sequences were largely re-filmed to reflect this.
The original cast was now complete: a poet, an impersonator, a dancer and a comedian were set to break into mainstream acting. Joining them in series three was Robert Llewellyn as Kryten, an actor and comedy performer who was given the role after the original actor who played Kryten in series two, David Ross, was unavailable. Lovett's departure after two series meant that Holly was recast using a comedian known as 'the female Norman Lovett' - Hattie Hayridge. Finally, in series seven, Chloë Annett was cast in the role of Kochanski, with the final episode including Lovett's return as Holly. As well as this line-up, Mac MacDonald, an American actor, cropped up occasionally in the series and in most of series eight as Hollister, captain of Red Dwarf. For the 2009 special, Back to Earth, Lovett and MacDonald did not appear, while Annett returned for a cameo.