Friday, July 26, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Red Dwarf

Today I'm here to tell you about the 1988 BBC series Red Dwarf. It ran periodically for many years, topping out at 61 episodes and 9 seasons (or Series).

Series One begins with frenemies Dave Lister and Arnold Rimmer serving as crew members aboard the titular city-sized starship. One day it is discovered slovenly Lister has been keeping a pregnant cat aboard against regulations. Rather than destroy the felines, he elects to go into suspended animation as punishment. However, when he finally emerges, he is told by the ship's dry-witted AI Holly (who, despite the name, is a disembodied bald man) that three million years have passed. A radiation leak killed off everyone else. Not to worry, though; Holly has brought back Rimmer as a hologram (he wears a silver H on his forehead so we don't forget). Why Rimmer? Simple: he was the person Lister spent the most time with, even if they spent most of that time hurling insults at one another.

Lister and Rimmer soon discover they're not the only ones left after the radiation leak. They encounter a bizarre man who somewhat resembles an Anne Rice version of pop icon Prince. Turns out the cats evolved into people over the millions of years Lister was in stasis, and this colorful character with a massive wardrobe is one of them. Lister, Rimmer, Holly and Cat set a course for Earth--assuming there is still an Earth--and suffer through one hilarious misadventure after another. And though Series One is pretty much confined to the ship, later episodes feature more diverse sets, and the characters even get to go outside thanks to a VR program and time travel.

This show has a lot going for it. The stories, written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, are delightfully insane and frequently make you question your sanity. One particularly memorable episode involves different parts of Lister's psyche taking on human form and then ultimately committing suicide. I also like Howard Goodall's diverse score which accompanies each episode. The opening theme is serious sci-fi fare, while the ending features a catchy pop tune reminiscent of 70's kid shows.

But it's really the characters that keep you watching. From lovable loser Lister to hopelessly downtrodden Rimmer to gonzo Cat to either-super-intelligent-or-super-incompetent Holly to wacky android Kryten, Red Dwarf is full of strong personalities that play well off each other. And while there are only the handful of crew members mentioned above, many episodes have guest characters in the form of holograms, cat people, AIs, MST3K-esque robots and hallucinations. Let's just say a ship the size of the Red Dwarf holds many surprises.

Yes, Red Dwarf is that nutty. Go watch it. Now.

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