Hasslein Blog: The Red Dwarf FAQ


Hasslein Blog

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Red Dwarf FAQ

by Paul Giachetti

The new series of Red Dwarf has brought many fans, old and new, to online gathering holes such as the Official Website Forum, Ganymede and Titan and Facebook Groups such as The Red Dwarf Posse and A Real Red Dwarf Fan Club. These fans join groups such as these to learn about their favorite show, and oftentimes have similar questions to each other. To aid in their pursuit of knowledge, I have compiled a list of several Frequently Asked Questions about the show by fans. This is my own list and separate from the Official Website's own FAQ, although there are a few overlapping questions. These are mostly about technical aspects of the show, and do not include opinion questions such as "what's your favorite episode?" This list will be updated regularly; if there are any questions you have that do not appear on this list (and are not toast-related), feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Q. What happened between the end of Series 8 and Back to Earth? Which Rimmer has it been since BtE?

A. No official answer has been given; in fact, in the Series 10 finale, “The Beginning”, there’s a recurring joke where Rimmer starts to explain how he saved the ship, but keeps getting cut off. All we know is that somehow, the version of Rimmer we have now saved the ship accidentally, despite his claims that it was intentional and very heroic.

Because this question is asked so frequently, I decided to write a short story explaining what I believe happened directly after the Series 8 finale, "Only the Good…" It can be found here: Homecoming

Q. How many novels are there? What order should I read them in?

A. There are four novels altogether. The first two, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life, were written by both Grant and Naylor, and should be read in that order (Red Dwarf Omnibus combines these two novels into one book, with very minor additions not worth mentioning).

The next two were written separately by the authors in order to fulfill their contractual obligations. Backwards was written by Rob Grant, Last Human was written by Doug Naylor. The two are direct but separate sequels to Better Than Life, and are not congruous with each other (in other words, they cannot exist in the same universe). My personal opinion is that Backwards is much better, and the spiritual sequel to Better Than Life, so read that one next, then read Last Human as a weird alternate-universe account of the events after the second novel.

Besides the novels, there are a plethora of other books out there about the small rouge one; for a complete list of publications, please refer to our previous blog entry Red Dwarf: Beyond the Shows.

Q. Are there aliens in Red Dwarf?

A. This is a tricky question depending on what your definition of an alien is. In the case of Red Dwarf, the definition is anything not originating from Earth (or the solar system) or not made directly or indirectly by humans. So by that definition, then... no, there are no aliens in Red Dwarf. EDIT: There are possibly three. 

1. On the official Red Dwarf website, there is an "Interview" with Nirvanah Crane in which she says the biggest discovery the crew of Enlightenment made was space weevils. They believed they had found proof of extraterrestrial life but, being holograms, couldn't retrieve a sample to confirm. So, it's possible space weevils are, in fact, alien, although if you asked the show's writers themselves they would most likely argue that they are mutated versions of terrestrial weevils. Without that confirmation, however, the official website stands canon. 

2. Another thing that may fall into the ‘alien’ territory is the mention of the pan-dimensional liquid beast from the Mogidon cluster in "Out of Time". 

3. Also, ((SPOILER ALERT FOR SERIES XI)) despite "the Universe's" confirmation in "Krysis" that it only created one planet with intelligent life, one MIGHT be able to argue that the Universe itself is an alien species, as it does not originate from Earth, nor is it man-made. That is more of a metaphysical discussion - can the universe, despite having a singular intelligence, be considered a separate species when it is made of literally everything in existence, including all life that exists? We'll have to wait until Naylor weighs in on this. 

Everything else... all Gelfs (pleasure gelfs, polymorphs, BEGGs, psirens, etc) — made by humans. All mechanoids and simulants — made by humans. Cat and the Felis sapien race: Originated from Earth. The Despair and Elation squid — accelerated evolution by humans. The DNA ship — from Earth, making the three-headed crewman and Lister's curry monster products of Earth tech. Legion — a gestalt creation made by human scientists. The Inquisitor — a simulant, man-made. Mimosian bladderfish — either brought from Earth or native to Mimas (in other words, native to our solar system).

Q. What happened to Lister’s twin sons, Jim and Bexley, at the end of Series 2? Why does Kryten look different at the beginning of Series 3? Why did Holly change sexes?

A. All three of these questions were answered in the fast-paced opening scroll seen before the first episode of Series 3, "Backwards". Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can now actually read what it said here: Backwards Opening Scroll.

Also, the twins make a cameo appearance in one of the comic strips within the pages of the July 1992 issue of the Smegazine, as well.

Q. Have you seen the American version? Isn’t it total trash?

A. Yes, I have, and yes, it is. However, the reason this question is on this list is the common misconception of WHY is was awful; it’s not, as some fans believe, because Americans just don’t “get” British humor. I think the appeal in America of the original Red Dwarf, Monty Python, The Office, Eddie Izzard and pretty much anything by Simon Pegg debunks this. No, Red Dwarf USA failed because it was a carbon-copy of an original episode with American actors who didn’t quite fit, making the whole thing come across as a really bad high school drama class interpretation of Red Dwarf.  To make matters worse, we have the original to compare it to, against which no reimagining can really hold up.

I’ve often said that the only bits I found actually pretty funny were the jokes that were original to the USA version; if Grant and Naylor had been allowed to use the script they put together after seeing the rehashed original script, I think it would have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it exists, so just enjoy it for what it is.

There were two pilots created, one full episode and one promo reel-type episode. They can be found here:

Q. Where does Back to Earth fall within the numbered series?

A. Many people think that, because it was said in Back to Earth (as well as on the back of the dvd box) that the "fictional" Back to Earth trilogy takes place after Series 10, that it does so in the real world as well. But that is not the case; First off, it was simply a joke by the writers referring to the amount of time that had passed between the two series. Second, Lister believes for a better portion of the time between Series 8 and BtE that Kochanski died in an airlock accident. He only discovers she’s alive at the end of BtE, after which he proceeds to spend a good amount of Series 10 looking for her (with the BEGGs, on the ERRA station, etc.) Also, it makes no sense that the sequence of series would be: Series 7, Series 8, Series 10, BtE, Series 11, etc.

The Red Dwarf wiki also states that BtE was officially retconned as Series IX back in 2011 with the announcement of Series X .

The Official Red Dwarf FAQ states that "Although Back to Earth is a special rather than a series - and so should not be called Series IX - as the tenth set of episodes, the 2012 series is officially designated Series X".

Q. Why is McIntyre’s funeral song different on streaming services than on the DVD? 

A. Basically it boils down to licensing rights. GNP did not have to rights to use the original song, "See You Later, Alligator", on streaming services like Netflix (most likely because services like that weren't available when they acquired the rights to the song). Therefore, it was changed to "Here We Go" for release on streaming services. To date, I haven't been able to find the original artist, although it sounds remarkably like a slower version of a song by the same title by The Bouncing Souls. (If anyone can verify, please comment below).

For more thoughts on the change, check out Ganymede and Titan's take on the switch HERE.

Q. Why are there some episodes with extended scenes/no laugh track on some streaming services?

A. Besides the original aired episodes, the DVD set for Series 7 included extended versions of a handful of episodes, which put back in some of the deleted scenes. These extended episodes were released without a laugh track, most likely due to issues with sound editing (Series 7 was the only series to use a laugh track as opposed to a live audience). These are the episodes that were picked up for streaming services.

Q. Has anyone noticed that Lister had his appendix out twice?

A. Yes, someone noticed =). Although there is no explanation in the show, the novels do in fact address it; at one point, Kryten mentions the fact that Lister was unfortunate enough to be born with two of the vestigial organs. So, as far as official explanations go, there it is.

Still, if you don’t consider the novels canon, there are plenty of other ways to explain it. The DNA machine could have put it back when changing him back from a hamster, for example. Also, mucking around in parallel dimensions and time travelling may have caused it to grow back. Red Dwarf is filled with inconsistencies like this; part of the fun is trying to make them all fit.

Q. Where are Red Dwarf fans from?

A. There's a handy little map created on ZeeMaps where Red Dwarf fans can pin their town and country, to get a feeling for how many others are in their area. Check it out and feel free to add yourself! Map of Red Dwarf Fans

Q. How many people are stationed on Red Dwarf? The pilot says 169, but "Justice" added 1,000 people.

A. In the pilot episode, Todhunter tells Rimmer that "there are 169 people on this ship" and that Lister is the only man under him. Since then, the writers decided that it was ridiculous to believe that a ship five miles long would only have 169 crewmembers on board (not even one person per deck) so in the 1989 novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, they retro-fixed that number to 11,169. Later, in the Episode "Justice", they changed it again to a more modest 1,169 (1,167 counts of murder, minus Lister, who was in stasis, minus Rimmer, who wouldn't be charged for his own death).

Taking just the episodes into account, one could simply say that Todhunter was referring only to enlisted personnel or those in charge of running the ship, and that the other 1,000 were civilians, miners, merchants, etc. You can also make the novel work when you realize that the Justice computer only counted those deaths that Rimmer felt guilt over (i.e. only the crew members he knew about). Given Rimmer's lack of preparation and research, and his tendency to only learn enough to get him by, it's very possible that there are 10,000 people on board Red Dwarf that he would have no idea existed (including around 400 Tank inmates and security personnel).

Q. Why is there a rock embedded in the hull of Red Dwarf?

A. Several explanations have been given for the presence of the meteor/asteroid/small moon embedded in the ship’s hull. One theory is that, given Red Dwarf is a mining ship, the asteroid is there intentionally to be mined; some fans even go so far as to say the ship was built around the rock (though no evidence exists to support this). The second theory is that an asteroid or meteorite had smashed into the ship’s side, embedding itself in the hull. 

In a documentary about the pilot episode featured in The Bodysnatcher Collection, the crew discusses the genesis of Red Dwarf’s design and the need for the ship to be self-sustaining, which included a meteor in its belly to be used for mining fuel. This idea was apparently scrapped, however, in lieu of the hydrogen ram scoop idea, which collected gases from space and could power the ship indefinitely. In an interview posted on the Official Red Dwarf website, Peter Wragg, the man responsible for the ship’s initial design, said, “Rob and Doug didn't want it to look like a sophisticated space ship, they wanted it to look like something that had been around for donkey's years. A meteorite had imbedded itself in it - so they left it there!” He added that “Rob and Doug had this idea about the ram scoop at the front which sucked meteorites, etc. in; [in line with] the fact that it was a mining vessel.“ Thus, it’s clear that despite the original concept of the embedded asteroid being used for mining, the final model was built with the idea that it had been an accidental strike.  

More evidence that the writers switched gears from concept to final design can be found in the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers; in the book, it’s implicitly stated that the rock is actually a small moon that was ripped from it’s orbit by the sheer size of the ship and embedded into the hull. Add to that this behind-the-scenes production still from Series X of the Red Dwarf model being built:

Here, you can clearly see impact damage and bent metal, especially at the top of the hole. 

If you're STILL on the fence, here's a still from the Series XI documentary of a computer monitor used on the show. The image was originally created by the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club, and acquired by the production team to use in the show, making it official.

Still, some people cling to the theory that the meteorite was intentionally captured for mining. These fans point to the redesigned ‘pencil’ version of the ship, seen in Series VIII and the remastered episodes as part of The Bodysnatcher Collection. Here, the old ‘squat’ ship model was replaced with a CGI version with a drastically altered design which stretched the ship out and placed large meteor bays in its lower half. Some claim that this proves the original intent of the embedded meteorite was for mining purposes. Given the propensity of the writers to completely ignore continuity, I firmly believe that the addition of meteor bays was simply a result of attempting to ‘update’ the look of the ship, and should not be used to retroactively explain the existence of the embedded meteorite in earlier (and later) versions. For one, the hole in the ‘squat’ design is uneven and forms perfectly around the rock; once the rock was mined, what were the chances of finding another meteorite to fit that exact custom-shaped hole? Do they just throw the ship away after the meteorite is all mined out? Also, the rock was off-center, leaning towards the ship’s starboard side, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense design-wise, but perfectly matches the impact theory. 

Fans will always come up with their own personal explanations; my own opinion is that the impact theory jibes much better with the presented evidence, and fits better with the show’s absurd sense of humor. 

Q. Why does Butler, a 3000 Series mechanoid, look, well, like a mechanoid, when it was established in "Out of Time" that the 3000 Series looks human?

A. Butler being a 3000 Series mechanoid in episode 11.5 (“Krysis”) contradicts episode 6.6 (“Out of Time”) in which it’s stated that 3000 Series mechs looked completely human, and were therefore recalled. Addressing the contradiction on Twitter, Doug Naylor posted a tweet in October, 2016 which simply read, “Reality bubble”, inferring that what we learned in “Out of Time” was due to the warping of reality by the reality minefield, and not actually factual in-universe. This is disappointing, as it erases an interesting bit of mechanoid history from the Red Dwarf universe; however, it does fix another continuity error with Hudzen 10, who was Kryten’s successor, looking human (at least from the neck up).

For everything that’s ever appeared in Red Dwarf, don’t forget to check out Total Immersion: The Comprehensive Unauthorized Red Dwarf Encyclopedia!

Edited 12/11/16: Added G&T's article on the change in funeral music. Added numbers to questions.
Edited 12/12/16: Added Question 10 about fan location.
Edited 12/14/16: Added Question 11 about the number of crew members.
Edited 12/23/16: redacted and corrected part of answer from Question 6, added link to the Official Website's own FAQ page.
Edited 1/3/17: Added Question 12 about embedded meteor.
Edited 1/22/17: Added "The Universe" in the discussion of aliens on Question #3.
Edited 2/6/17: Added TORDFC image to question #12.
Edited 3/10/17: Amended question #3, adding space weevil history.
Edited 7/19/17: Added Question #13 regarding 3000 Series.



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