Back during my grade school years, my friends (all two of them) and I discovered a science fiction BBC Britcom via the wonders of public television. It was entitled Red Dwarf, and it soon became one of my all-time favorite British television series. The premise (inspired by classic sci-fi films like Silent Running, Alien, and Blade Runner) featured a complete slob of a man named Dave Lister (Craig Charles) — an incompetent, low-level technician aboard a massive mining ship called the Red Dwarf. Sentenced to six months in suspended animation for smuggling an unquarantined (pregnant) cat on board the massive, city-sized ship, Dave is released one day only to learn that the entire ship’s crew was killed in a radiation leak — three million years ago — leaving him the last human being in the universe (presumably).
Much like the tagline for the various incarnations of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Lister soon discovers that the last man alive is not alone. The ship’s computer, Holly (played by Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge throughout the show’s run), had brought back Dave’s ultra-annoying and ultra-anal roommate, Arnold Judas Rimmer (Chris Barrie), as a hologram — to keep him sane. Also on board is The Cat (Danny John-Jules), the last of a long line of humanoid creatures that had evolved from Lister’s pregnant cat. Later in the series, a cleaning mechanoid named Kryten (played for the most part by Robert Llewellyn) joined the crew of space bums, followed by the character of Kristine Kochanski (Chloë Annett), Dave’s former girlfriend.
Despite being a great show, Red Dwarf has had its share of setbacks. The general public always seems to have “issues” with sci-fi/comedies; the original pair of writers (creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor) had their differences (to which Grant left); and actors’ schedules were often complicated (Chris Barrie left briefly during series seven). Most importantly, though, Red Dwarf managed to yield only eight series (or “seasons” as we might call them in America) from 1988 to 1999. Series seven (the last series produced) left us all hanging with a cliffhanger — one that we had always hoped we would see the conclusion of.
In late 2008 it was revealed that the “Boys from the Dwarf” would be back in early 2009 on British television network Dave. We, the faithful fans of the small rouge one, were terribly excited — and the result, Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
In keeping with the show’s smartass sense of humor, writer Doug Naylor sets Back To Earth nine years following series eight — after the non-existent series ten. Kochanski is dead. Holly is nowhere to be seen, thanks to a flooded floor that put him out of commission (Lister’s fault, naturally). And, because of the flood, the water supply on Red Dwarf is very low. Discovering that the ship’s one remaining water supply tank is inhabited by a large dimension-hopping squid, the boys decide to investigate. Soon after their encounter with the creature (which hops to another dimension), the hologram of former Red Dwarf science officer Katerina Bartikovsky (Sophie Winkleman) appears, intent on setting the crew straight since none of them have been able to do it during the last 20 years.
Using DNA from the vanished squid, Bartikovsky assembles a dimension jumping contraption-thingy, hoping to find Dave a mate somewhere so that the human race will not be extinguished altogether. Unfortunately for all, they soon discover that their current dimension is invalid, and neither it — or they — exist. Seeking the nearest valid reality, the contraption-thingy hurls Lister and his fellow crew members to present day Earth in the year 2009. There, they learn the shocking and horrifying truth: they are nothing more but characters in a TV show called Red Dwarf. Worse still, the crew learn that their creator is planning to kill his characters off in the upcoming final episode of the series, “Back To Earth.” And so, “in best Blade Runner tradition,” Lister and Co. decide to track down their creator and plead with him for more life.