In 1988, an odd series premiered on British television. Red Dwarf was a science-fiction show, but, unlike Star Trek or even Doctor Who, it was a half-hour sitcom rather than the usual hour-long space operas that made up most televised versions of the genre. Red Dwarf is the story of David Lister, a low level technician on a mining ship (the eponymous Red Dwarf), who, through an unusual set of circumstances, ends up three million years into his own future and as the last human alive. He’s not alone, though. Lister has company in the form of the ship’s computer, Holly, which once had an IQ of 3000 but has gone a bit…off after spending so many millennia alone. And Holly has brought back Lister’s officious twit of a roommate, Arnold Rimmer, as a hologram to keep Lister sane. Also on board is the Cat, a humanoid creature from a species that evolved from the ship’s cats, and Kryten, a service droid.
None of them are exactly Starfleet material, and I think even Arthur Dent might be more qualified to handle space travel. But the Dwarfers have been doing their best to survive the cosmos for ten seasons filmed over the last 26 years, with the most recent airing back in 2012 (Yes, British television is weird).
This week’s pick is, “Backwards,” the first episode of Red Dwarf’s third season. First, a warning: the episode starts with a quick, Star Wars-style crawl, dispensing of some events from the previous season. In all honesty, it DOES NOT MATTER. You don’t have to freeze-frame it (it moves by really fast), and, even if you do, it won’t make a lick of sense. Don’t worry about it. Once the actual episode begins, it is its own standalone story, and it does a good job of introducing the characters to viewers. Actually, ”Backwards” was the first Red Dwarf episode I ever saw, and it got me hooked on the series.
As for the plot, I hesitate to say much. It’s only a half-hour show, so in describing it, I risk spoiling the entire thing. In general, though, Kryten and Rimmer go missing while out in one of the Starbug shuttles, and it’s up to Lister and Cat to find them. What happens from there exemplifies the show’s ability to put comedic twists on science fiction concepts. It’s a lot of fun and well-worth watching.
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