A is for ... Aliens
You'd expect a futuristic show set in space to be full of aliens. You'd be wrong. While the crew of the Jupiter Mining Corporation ship Red Dwarf meet several creatures on their travels, all of them are either genetic mutations, the products of evolution, or man-made; there are no aliens in Red Dwarf. Rimmer believed in them, but what he thought was an alien craft turned out to be a garbage pod.
B is for ... Back to Reality
In the last episode of series five, the Dwarfers discovered their entire lives aboard the ship had all been a total immersion video game, and they were not the people they thought they were. The Cat suffered in particular, finding out he was the graceless nerd Dwayne Dibley, with “teeth that druids could use as a place of worship”. Luckily it turned out to be a hallucination caused by the ink of the despair squid, which made its victims commit suicide, but they were snapped out of it just in time.
C is for ... Cat
Being Dwayne was tough for the Cat because style and panache is vital to his species. He is the last surviving member of a race that evolved from Lister’s pet cat Frankenstein, who was stored in the hold while Lister was put into suspended animation for three million years. As such, he sleeps for several hours a day, is indifferent to the needs of anyone else and preens himself in mirrors constantly.
D is for ... Dimension Jump
Ace Rimmer, a version of our own Arnold from a parallel reality, figures out how to leap dimensions and meet the other versions of himself he could have become. Our Rimmer hates him because he’s handsome, confident and heroic, and Arnie … well, he’s none of these things. The guy’s even got his own catchphrase: “Smoke me a kipper: I’ll be back for breakfast.” Rimmer would later leave Red Dwarf for a while to take on the mantle of Ace.
E is for ... The End
Good name for a first episode. Way back in 1988, we first saw lowly vending machine repair technicians Dave Lister and Arnold Rimmer aboard the Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel Red Dwarf. When the crew were wiped out by a nuclear explosion only Lister, trapped in a stasis booth, survived. Three million years later he was woken up, with only a hologram simulation of the dead Rimmer for company, until they discovered the Cat and later Kryten. And they’re all trapped together, unable to escape!
F is for ... Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun
One of your all-time classic sitcom themes, written by Howard Goodall (also responsible for the Blackadder music). Its lyrics are probably about Lister’s deep-space predicament versus his ultimate dream of flying “far away from here”, returning to Earth and living on Fiji (“I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose, drinking fresh mango juice, goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes …”). Whatever, it’s a great opportunity for air guitar.
G is for ... Gunmen of the Apocalypse
Winner of an International Emmy Award, this series six episode sees the gang in another virtual reality game, trying to locate the antidote to an Armageddon virus that’s infected the navigation computer of their transport vehicle Starbug. This time they’re all in Kryten’s dream where he’s a drunken Wild West sheriff trying to protect his town against the “Apocalypse Boys”: Famine, Pestilence, War and Death. It all makes sense when you watch the episode.
H is for ... Holly
Holly is the ship’s computer, and has an IQ of 6,000 – or at least he (and later “she”, and then later “he” again) used to before he spent three million years on his own and went computer senile. While he’s good for the odd practical joke, like telling Lister he owes NORWEB £180 billion for leaving his bathroom light on when he left Earth, he does have a worrying blind spot where the number 7 is concerned, which means his calculations can be a bit off.
I is for ... The Inquisitor
A series five episode that plays with multiple timelines, discusses philosophical concepts around the purpose of existence, and – hey! – has a good laugh along the way. The Inquisitor is a simulant that has appointed itself ultimate judge for all sentient beings, and travels through time demanding everyone justify their life. After it wipes Lister and Kryten from existence their only way back is to negate the timeline in which it happened by erasing the Inquisitor so their erasure won’t have happened in the first place. You just don’t find this kind of storyline in other sitcoms.
J is for ... Jim and Bexley
In the second episode of series one, the ship breaks the light barrier and the crew begin to see “future echoes”: scenes from their own futures. One of these is the sight of Lister holding his newborn twin sons, Jim and Bexley (named after his favourite sportsman, Jim Bexley Speed). “How are you supposed to get twin sons without a woman on board?” Rimmer asks. “I don’t know,” says Lister. “But it’s going to be a laugh finding out!”. And, oh wow, it was.
K is for ... Kryten
The fourth member to join, Kryten was a service droid on a ship called the Nova 5, whose crew he continued to serve for years despite the fact they were dead. Invited aboard the Red Dwarf, he had no desires other than laundry, cleaning and watching his daily soap “Androids” until Lister encouraged him to break his programming. Now more independently-minded, he even managed to call Rimmer a smeghead once.
L is for ... Lister
The last surviving member of the human race, but not one of its stand-out examples. Dave Lister’s hobbies include drinking, eating curries, and ... well, that’s about it really. His plan now is to get back to Earth, and in the meantime “generally slob around, have a few laughs”. As time goes on he becomes more resourceful and useful as a crew member, but is still a sucker for the idea that he will one day win back Kristine Kochanski, the love of his life. Her having been dead for three million years is only a minor hurdle.
M is for ... Marooned
A classic episode from series three which consists largely of Rimmer and Lister trapped together on an ice planet. With Lister forced to eat dog food to survive, the two confide in each other and become closer than ever before. Told he needs to burn his precious guitar in order to survive, Lister instead cuts a guitar shape out of Rimmer’s treasured antique chest and burns that instead, which pretty much shatters all the goodwill they built up over the last half-hour.
N is for ... Naylor, Grant
Oh yeah, the guys who actually created the whole thing. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, collectively known as Grant Naylor, became a writing partnership in the eighties and went on to create six series, two collaborative novels and another solo book each using the Red Dwarf characters. They also wrote the lyrics to the Spitting Image single “The Chicken Song”, so, uh, thanks for that too.
O is for ... Out Of Time
The final episode to air written by the Grant Naylor partnership before they went their separate ways, Out Of Time ends series six on a cliffhanger, with the crew seemingly killed by their future selves. Features a rare moment of heroism from Rimmer, who blows up the time drive that will allow them to time-travel and eventually become the future selves who kill them, meaning they couldn’t be killed because they never became the future selves who would kill them. Oh, do try to keep up.
P is for ... Polymorph
A shape-shifting creature invades the ship and begins to feed on the characters’ emotions, taking Lister’s fear, the Cat’s vanity, Kryten’s guilt and Rimmer’s anger. Hampered by the absence of these feelings, the crew struggle to eliminate the creature, with Lister’s suggestions involving extreme violence and a willingness to sacrifice his own life pointlessly. Meanwhile, Rimmer’s plans to hit the polymorph with “a major – and I mean major leafleting campaign”.
Q is for ... Queeg
In series two, the backup computer Queeg 500 assumes control of the ship after Holly’s constant mistakes endanger the crew, and the gang find him a stricter taskmaster than his predecessor as he forces them to do chores and exercise. Holly returns and challenges Queeg to a game of chess for control of the ship, the loser being erased. He loses. Then it turns out he was having them on all along and Queeg never existed. Great practical joke, right? As Holly puts it, “We are talking April, May, June, July and August Fool.”
R is for ... Rimmer
Arnold Judas Rimmer, Bsc, Ssc (Bronze Swimming Certificate, Silver Swimming Certificate) is the member of the dead crew selected by Holly to be revived as a hologram to keep Lister sane, on the grounds that the two of them exchanged more words than Lister did with anyone else. But as Lister protests: “Half of those words were me telling him to smeg off”. Rimmer is a petty, neurotic underachiever who enjoys enforcing Space Corps regulations and pointing out Lister’s shortcomings, and the minor handicap of being dead isn’t going to stop him.
S is for ... Smeg
By the late 22nd century when the series begins, the English language has evolved to include a popular expletive, “smeg”. The characters use the word liberally as a term of abuse (“Smeg-head”), or an exclamation, as in “Oh smeg! What the smegging smeg’s he smegging gone and done?”
T is for ... Tongue Tied
In the series two episode Parallel Universe, the Cat is looking through the onboard machine that records the crew’s dreams and comes across one of his own in which he performs a song, Tongue Tied, with Rimmer and Lister on backing vocals. Written by Howard Goodall with lyrics by Grant and Naylor, it reached number 17 in the UK charts when released as a single by Danny John-Jules in 1993.
U is for ... The Unspeakable One
In the episode “Terrorform” the Starbug is trapped on a psi-moon: a planetoid whose terrain shifts to mimic someone’s subconscious. Unfortunately for the crew, it’s using Rimmer’s subconscious, and Rimmer really doesn’t like himself. He is captured and prepared for torture by the Unspeakable One, a creature created by his own self-hatred. The gang escape by convincing Rimmer that they all like him so the planetoid stops trying to attack them, before telling him they didn’t mean it.
V is for ... Vindaloo
Staple diet for Lister, who has a hot curry for dinner most nights. In series seven, dangerously low on curry supplies, Lister insists they travel back in time to stock up, whereupon they accidentally prevent the assassination of John F Kennedy. They also once used Lister’s mutton vindaloo to test a DNA modifier machine, which created a mutton vindaloo beast that rampaged through the ship until finally destroyed by lager.
W is for ... White Hole
In series four the ship is in danger of being sucked into a White Hole, which spews time and matter into space, causing time to repeat. To save the ship, Lister sets up a shot with a solar flare (“playing pool with planets”) to knock a planet into the white hole and plug it up, but not before settling himself by getting “nicely drunk” on wicked strength Leopard Lager.
X is for ... uh, HeX Vision
When the crew encounter a hologram infected with a psi-virus she passes it on to Rimmer, who develops Hex Vision as a side-effect: the ability to fire an electrical discharge from his eyes. The other three manage to escape him by deliberately contracting some of the samples of positive viruses they find, including Luck, which makes them incredibly lucky for a brief period of time.
Y is for ... Yates, Lise
Lister feels sorry for Rimmer who complains of an unfulfilling love live, and so transplants the memory of his ex-girlfriend Lise Yates into Rimmer’s mind as a gift. While this initially cheers Rimmer up, he discovers letters she wrote to Lister and concludes she must have been seeing them both at the same time. Still, it’s the thought that counts.
Z is for ... Zero-G Football
A sport played in zero gravity and a favourite of Lister’s. He is a fan of the London Jets – in particular their star player, Jim Bexley Speed – and has their posters on his bunk. Next to them is the picture he had taken when he met his hero, who was, Lister is convinced, “really, really, really pleased to see me”.
Red Dwarf Series XI starts on Dave on Thursday 22 September at 9pm. Can’t wait? The first episode of the new series is available to preview now in UKTV Play.
Recommended for you