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Hmm, what to say. This is basically a sitcom set in space. The basic scenario is that you have the last human left alive (Lister), a hyper-evolved cat (Cat), a robot (Kryten), and a hologram (Rimmer), who all bum around in space. Once this situation has been established, you get the comedy; there isn't really any mission. Early on Lister was trying to get back to Earth, but unlike Voyager this was never the thrust of the series, and it got completely abandoned in later series. An interesting aspect of it, which differentiates it from other shows such as Star Trek, is that the crew aren't all friends. Rimmer and Lister get on each other's nerves all the time.
The series was originally written by the
"gestalt entity" Grant Naylor. This is a pen name for the writing team of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Unfortunately, they had creative differences, and wound up going their separate ways.
There have been eight seasons so far. Personally, I feel that the series peaked between seasons 3 and 5. I think that the break-up of the writing partnership hurt the show, and seasons 7 and 8 were a definite let down. Interestingly, they were longer than usual (eight episodes each rather than six). It has been suggested that this was to get the total number of episodes over 50, as this is the minimum for syndication in the USA.
When Red Dwarf was shown in the USA, it was quite popular, so the studio execs decided to make their own version of it. However, this only got as far as the pilot stage before being abandoned. The proposed cast had Robert Llewellyn staying on as Kryten, but everyone else was different. In particular, Terry Farrell (who later played Jadzia Dax in DS9) as the Cat, and Jane Leeves (who later played Daphne in Frasier) as Holly.
Doug Naylor is going to write it, and the original cast are going to star in it, so it should be recognisable! It's due to come out in December 2003.
There are basically two types of books associated with RD: novels and tie-ins.
There have been four novels to date. The first two (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, and Better than Life) were written by the Grant Naylor team. (These two have been collected into the Red Dwarf Omnibus, along with some extra material.) The third (Last Human) was just by Doug Naylor, and the fourth (Backwards) was just by Rob Grant.
Typically, if you get novels based on a TV series or films, they will tell the same story, with only minor alterations or additions. The Red Dwarf novels take a different approach, by taking characters and ideas from the series, but turning them into a different story. In particular, there is much more of a flow to the novels, rather than a series of disconnected events. That said, there is a definite fork after the first two. Essentially, the third and fourth novels take the end of the second novel as a starting point and go off in different directions, so in a sense they are both the third novel. Personally, I still want to know what Lister's plan was (from the end of Better than Life)...
I'd also like to give an honourable mention to Robert Llewellyn's novel The Man on Platform 5. It's not a Red Dwarf story, but it should appeal to the same audience, and it has a few RD references thrown in. Similarly, Rob Grant has written a novel called Colony, which isn't a Red Dwarf story, but is set on a spaceship, far in the future, with the last surviving humans aboard (sound familiar?) - well worth reading.
As for the tie-ins, there are various books available. Some are fairly standard (i.e. you get them for most series), such as episode guides and script collections. Others are more specific to Red Dwarf, such as the Red Dwarf Space Corps Survival Manual.
At the time of writing, episodes are also being shown on TV:
Daily, BBC 2, 01:10-01:40 - season 6
Daily, UK G2, 20:00-20:30 - season 5
Official Red Dwarf
Brief episode guide although it does have video clips but the general guides are more informative. The news section is pretty up to date keeping track of cast and crew and the
"Time hole" which has lots of behind the scenes info is fun.
The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club
Fairly basic site - useful if you want to join the fan-club, and/or attend one of the
"Dimension Jump" conventions (as shown in the SmegUps video).
Looks like it hasn't been updated for a while, so there are a few pages which are out of date, or under construction.
This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk