Red Dwarf, the cult sci-fi comedy classic, is still much loved by fans all around the world. This weekend, Manchester Comic Con featured Chris Barrie (Rimmer) and Hattie Hayridge (Holly) who took questions from a packed audience.
Rob Grant and Doug Naylor originally created Red Dwarf for the BBC in the late 1980s and the British public mopped up the toilet humour. Lister, played by Craig Charles, and Rimmer, played by Chris Barrie, were the centre of the comedy, supported by a cast with complicated character traits liked a cat that evolved into a human-cat hybrid played by Danny John-Jules, or a domestic android trying to protect and do housework for the last living human.
Not sure what Red Dwarf is about? Watch Hattie Hayridge, who played the ship’s computer user interface Holly in series III to V, explain what Red Dwarf is and who the characters are:
But Red Dwarf itself is magic. What other British TV series could have been picked up for a new production by a different TV channel? Cancelled by the BBC in 1999, Red Dwarf was picked up by the TV channel Dave in 2009 and in 2012 reached it’s 10th series. Dwarfers around the world were smegging happy and new viewers were picked up too. Red Dwarf even joined their Time Lord friend by being mentioned on The Big Bang Theory. IMdB has no end date on Red Dwarf’s life, leaving hope that Dave might commission a new series.
However, many viewers had left Red Dwarf before it was cancelled in 1999. Inconsistencies in the plots and characters drove some fans mad, not being able to cope with seeing a version of Lister in clean underwear. The characters had begun to change, and not for the funnier. The sets and budget had also become grander, which many fans felt destroyed the likeability of the series as a few left over ‘people’ in a shoddy spacecraft – a full shiny spaceship was too much like good fortune. Science fiction fans are serious about their shows and although one of the most inventive and creative comedy sitcoms ever, the writers broke rules. When it ended its BBC2 run, it had 4.2 million viewers. It’s revival on Dave came with just over 2 million viewers, a channel record at the time (October 2012).
But the characters will always survive beyond the series downfall. When asked about his favourite moments in shooting Red Dwarf, Chris Barrie talks about Ace Rimmer, Arnold Rimmer’s antithesis. He names “Ace riding around on a motorbike with Princess Bonjela” as his favourite moment.
But he says the cast did their own stunts, including the motorcycle scene and says that Charles “ate his own dogfood” in the episode Marooned. The Comic Con audience’s reaction to that was understandably mixed, but lightened when told that many of the scenes in series 1 and 3 were filmed in Manchester at the BBC’s building on Oxford Road, and when told that the building is now a car park, Hayridge quiped that was good because “it always had no parking.”
Red Dwarf may not return to our TV screens but it has given us so much already. We have memorable scenes, such as the birth of the Vindaloovians (eye stuck on chin, filmed upsidedown), scenes filmed in reverse, or guns literally turning into doves. It’s added “smeg” to the English language and took the scouse accent into space for the first time. Importantly for TV history, it’s given viewers a science fiction comedy- the only one that has truly worked in sitcom format – and for that, we will always love Red Dwarf, and all who sail in her.