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30 Years of Red Dwarf: The Best Episodes

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of one of Britain's best loved sitcoms. Classic sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf first hit our screens way back in 1988.

Penned by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the show charmed audiences with the misadventures of four misfits stranded 3 million years into deep space, complete with low-budget 1980s special effects (a warp drive made out of a cardboard box, anyone?)

Three decades later, after several hiatuses, four novelisations, a Coronation Street crossover, and a 21st-century revamp, the show is celebrating its 30th anniversary and still going strong, with Series XII airing just last year. With 73 episodes to its name since the late eighties, choosing favourites is no easy task. But I tried anyway.

1. The End (Series I, Episode 1)

What better place to start than The End? The first ever episode to air introduces us to Dave Lister (Craig Charles), third-technician on the mining ship Red Dwarf and his neurotic bunkmate Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie). The inaugural episode packs a huge amount of science-fiction concepts into a half hour, and does a great job at near-instantaneous world-building.

Lister, after smuggling a cat onboard the ship, is put into stasis (think cryogenic freezing, minus the ice) just before a radiation leak wipes out the rest of the crew. 3 million years later, the only people left are the incorporeal hologram of now-dead Rimmer and a feline life-form evolved from Lister’s cat (Danny John Jules). Oh, and the ship’s senile AI, Holly (Norman Lovett). Way to throw everyone in at the deep end!

2. Kryten (Series II, Episode 1)

Although sanitation droid Kryten doesn’t become a regular member of the cast until Series III (played most memorably by Robert Llewellyn), he actually gets his introduction in the first episode of series II (played by David Ross).

When Red Dwarf’s crew encounter a distress call from a crashed vessel containing three female officers, they jump at the chance to rescue them. There’s only a tiny snag - the women have been dead for millions of years, and Kryten, the android assigned to their care, hasn’t noticed.

3. Parallel Universe (Series II, Episode 6)

Red Dwarf was always pretty savvy for its time. Nowhere better is that illustrated than in the final episode of series II, when the crew warp into a parallel dimension where gender roles are reversed.

Parallel Universe humorously critiques sexual harassment with a sci-fi twist - a surprisingly self-aware take on attitudes to sexism which unfortunately backtracked by Series VIII, after Rob Grant left the writing team.

4. Dimension Jump (Series IV, Episode 5)

After Starbug, the ship’s small green exploration craft, crashes on the way to a fishing expedition, Lister and the crew are rescued by a parallel version of Rimmer - Ace, galactic space hero.

This obviously proves to be a problem for the regular neurotic man himself - cue a lot of male posturing and space antics and you’ll have some idea what this episode is about. "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast!"

5. The Inquisitor (Series V, Episode 2)

The Inquisitor perhaps plays around with more serious sci-fi concepts than the other episodes in this list - but who said exploring the meaning of life couldn’t be hilarious?

A time-travelling droid who proclaims himself judge, jury and executioner of people who have ‘wasted’ their lives erases Lister and Kryten from history. It’s up to them to prove that their lives haven’t been worthless - and there’s a glove that can zap people out of existence, what more needs to be said?

6. Back to Reality (Series V, Episode 6)

Featuring Timothy Spall, this episode had to make the list because of how, well, mad it is.

After encountering a squid that shoots ink filled with despair - yes, you read that right - the crew awaken to find that their reality was a lie and they were actually playing a Red Dwarf virtual reality game the whole time. There’s also a fascist government and an imaginary car chase. Well, I warned you it was mad.

7. Legion (Series VI, Episode 2)

Series VI might be one of the more sombre, partly due to time constraints which meant its writing was slightly rushed and partly because the entire thing is set on Starbug.

The crew have managed to lose Red Dwarf and are following it across the galaxy; in Legion, they’re kidnapped by a Gestalt life-form which takes on the personalities of whoever is nearby. The episode is also a kind of turning point as Rimmer is gifted with a hard-light drive, finally giving him the ability to touch things.

8. Can of Worms (Series XI, Episode 6)

One of the later episodes, 'Can of Worms' aired in Series XI. The so-far narcissistic Cat finally meets a female felix-sapien, and falls in love. Except she’s not a cat. She’s a polymorph - a creature with the ability to morph into any chosen form.

The Cat is impregnated - okay, this episode’s mad too - with baby polymorphs and… well. Shit goes down.

Red Dwarf: Series I-VIII are available to watch on Netflix. The revival series airs in the UK on Dave.




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