Red Dwarf is a science-fiction sitcom created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (credited collectively as Grant Naylor). It originally aired on the BBC between 1988 and 1999, before later being revived on the channel Dave in 2009.
The series focuses on the last known surviving human, Dave Lister, who is accidentally left in stasis for three million years after a radiation accident on the mining vessel Red Dwarf, and upon revival finds himself alone apart from a holographic duplicate of his annoying room-mate Arnold Rimmer, along with a descendant of his pet cat, now evolved into humanoid form (and later on, a servile android named Kryten).
Why it Rocks
- Emphasizes the characters and sitcom aspects first, ensuring that even people who generally don't watch science-fiction will usually find something to enjoy.
- Despite being mainly a sitcom, it does play with some interesting sci-fi ideas, including "future echoes" that show visions of the future when travelling faster-than-light, a universe where everything happens in reverse, and a space prison where any crime that anyone commits happens to them instead (i.e. trying to stab someone results in the attacker being wounded and the victim left unharmed). At the same time, it always manages to display these concepts in a very amusing way.
- Memorable characters who actually evolve over the course of the series - Lister starts out as an idiotic slob but turns out to be quite capable given the right situation, Rimmer for the most part is an over-confident failure with delusions of grandeur, but turns out to have a complicated backstory which explains how he ended up such a mess, and even Kryten manages to become a more rounded character than the completely servile robot he was when first seen.
- The special effects are surprisingly pretty good considering the show didn't have much more of a budget than most other BBC sitcoms, with the titular monster in "Polymorph" being especially well-realized.
- All four of the main cast members are very naturally funny, and have other skills that they bring to the role (Chris Barrie's mimicry, Craig Charles' ability to carry out stunts, Danny John Jules' dance training, and Robert Llewellyn's ability with accents) and deploy for maximum comic effect.
- Memorable theme song.
- Not afraid to shake up the status quo, including setting Seasons 6 and 7 entirely on the shuttle ship Starbug, and resurrecting the ship's deceased crew for Season 8.
- Plenty of self-deprecating humor, including poking fun at the budget, how the notorious cliffhanger at the end of Season 8 has never actually been resolved, and how the historical figures which occasionally appear on the show never actually look much like their real-life counterparts.
- Ran an episode in Season 12 (2017) critiquing the idea of "safe spaces" and protecting people from hurtful criticism, when plenty of other shows would have supported such ideas.
- Even during the show's weaker years most of the episodes aren't really outright bad, just below the show's usual par.
- Received a feature-length special in the form of The Promised Land, which explores what happened to the Cat's species and Lister's status as their god.
- Seasons 7 and 8 are considered low points for the show, due to Chris Barrie being absent for most of the former season, and the show feeling less like a sitcom and more like a standard sci-fi adventure show in those years. The first Dave season, Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Season 9) also has its problems, though fans usually cut it a little more slack since it was produced on a very short schedule with even less budget than usual.
- Kristine Kochanski, who was introduced as Rimmer's replacement in Season 7, is an incredibly annoying character who sucks the fun out of any scene she's in. Fortunately, aside from a brief cameo in Back to Earth, the Dave episodes have completely ignored the character, and Doug Naylor has said she probably won't ever return.
- Despite the show having run for 12 seasons, Cat has never really gotten a whole lot of character development.
- The effects, while generally impressive considering the show's budget, occasionally look a bit cheap, and the primitive CGI effects from Seasons 7 and 8 have aged poorly.
- The attempt at producing an American adaptation of the show really didn't work out well.