It’s almost upon us! A new series of Red Dwarf (Red Dwarf XI) starts on September 22nd on UKTV’s Dave and to celebrate it Dave are running a Red Dwarf marathon this weekend, including the new trailer for the series. Here’s it is:
So in anticipation of the eleventh series depicting the tribulations of the most notorious space bums, here’s my top 10 Red Dwarf Episodes in no particular order. I know right now I’m going to be ejected out of the nearest airlock for not mentioning Polymorph and I’d be remiss if not to mention my favourite Red Dwarf line from Holoship:
Kryten: Sir they’ve taken Mr. Rimmer. SIR, THEY’VE TAKEN MR. RIMMER!
Cat: Quick, let’s get out of here before they bring him back!
10: Thanks for the Memory
The earlier episodes of Red Dwarf can sometimes be overlooked due to their uniform low-budget look, but it is in some cases some of the best writing of the entire show. Let’s be honest, the dynamic of Red Dwarf has always been Lister and Rimmer and this episode is the earliest instance of Lister doing something good for Rimmer, even if it is a complete lie. Even so, you haven’t lived until you’ve actually made a triple fried egg sandwich with chilli sauce and chutney.
9: Tikka to Ride
After the incredible success of Series 5 and 6, Red Dwarf was at a precipice. The writing team had split, the cast were splitting and the budgets were changing. But when season 7 started, with new sets, big effects (for 1997) and the news of Chris Barrie leaving, it needed a strong outing to keep the ship going. Tikka to Ride is probably Red Dwarf at its Science Fiction finest. Time travel, curry, JFK and some incredible cinematography.
8: Fathers and Suns
A new one from Series 10! Fathers and Suns is an excellent dual storyline episode. There’s Lister’s attempt to make his son, himself, less of a bum and new computer Pree getting the full Rimmer treatment in her construction. Series 10 has some excellent moments where jokes go from funny, to very long and then to hysterical with the Moose and Lister’s video to himself. The only joke that beats it is possibly the resolution of Dear Dave. But it is a great Lister-centric episode.
One of two Holly episodes on this list. Dissatisfied with Holly’s increasing senility, the crew finds itself with a new computer who puts everyone to work, demanding Holly to make the ultimate sacrifice. From Lister’s pea disappointment to Holly using the Encyclopedia of Space (cue anyone under 18 asking what an encyclopedia is) and some excellent acting in a rather busy pyrotechnic filled room. Queeg (who also was the choreographer of Red Dwarfs occasional dance routines) is stern, stubborn and as close to a military commander you’ll find in Dwarf until Series 8, and excellently played by Augins.
6: White Hole
The second Holly episode is on this list for a few reasons. Even though Justice has the best crew dialogue in Series 4, it’s a prime example of GrantNaylor’s excellent use of repetitive comedy. The time spewing White Hole famously makes the Cat repeatedly ask “What is it?” before Lister gets “pished” enough to play pool with planets and who can forget the star of the show – The Talkie Toaster. Would you like any toast?
5: Demons and Angels
This is one of those things that Sci-Fi has done for years – subvert the cast to their opposites. The crew accidentally blow up Red Dwarf (which must have been fun for the model department) and find it duplicated with a light, hippy-esque side and a dark Camden bar toilet side. Holly looks amazing with black hair, there’s an edible Pot Noodle, Rimmer’s dance and some excellent physical comedy when Lister is under the control of the Dark Ship. Speaking of physical comedy…
4: Back to Reality
I could just leave this with the car chase scene which is possibly one of the finest cuts in comedy. From crazy halloucination to the back of Starbug, the cast are incredible. Let alone the brilliant idea of losing the identity you think you had by everything being a video game. It’s a very Philip K. Dick episode but it has the debut of one of Red Dwarf’s greatest characters, the Cat’s antithesis, Dwayne Dibbley.
3: Better Than Life
One of the reasons Red Dwarf survives with its cast’s various problems is because occasionally they could escape them. Better than Life sees the crew playing a total immersion video game where their wildest dreams come true. Pints of Champagne, a Wardrobe that crosses time zones and a neurotic Rimmer who cannot let anything good happen to him, ever.
But like I said at the beginning, the core of Red Dwarf is Lister and Rimmer. One alive, one dead, tasked with keeping the other sane despite the fact they loath each other. Marooned is that two person dynamic that just works with the right characters. Bottom had it with Mayall and Edmonson, Beckett wrote it with Waiting for Godot and Red Dwarf has it with Charles and Barrie. We peer in to the abyss and see the sacrifices both men are willing to make in order to keep one alive, and their own history. Then there’s the dog food.
1: Gunmen of the Apocalypse
This episode won an International Emmy for a reason. It was one of the first scripts I ever read in the Son of Soup script book. There’s a great story in Kryten having to save the ship by creating an anti-virus program, which sees him play everything out like a Western. It’s Red Dwarf’s holodeck adventure, and is probably one of the best episodes of British comedy ever made. Then there’s the classic story that then BBC commissioner Janet Street Porter ordered the episode be re-written after seeing the script claiming it would be too expensive and impossible to film in the UK, only to be told that they had already done it. A success story if there ever was one.