Does Red Dwarf Still Have the X Factor?

I shouldn't admit this but I totally relate toLister. He's a lazy, curry munching dreamer with no ambition and even less personal hygiene. I try hard not to be like him and do things like this blog, writing for radio and not being a stranger to showers

I shouldn't admit this but I totally relate to Red Dwarf's Lister. He's a lazy, curry munching dreamer with no ambition and even less personal hygiene. I try hard not to be like him and do things like this blog, writing for radio and not being a stranger to showers. But deep down, I could easily slip into Lister's lazy ways, watching old TV shows and getting nostalgic to the point of tears.

I was a disruptive little boy, humming, clicking and being quiet, annoying parents and teachers up until the age of eight. Although I mellowed I was never the model pupil. Like Lister, I studied art but spent more time getting drunk and playing in a band. I spent my youth drifting, not focussing on what I wanted to do in life, despite knowing, from the age of eleven that I wanted to write. I remember telling my form teacher in my first year of high school this fact, receiving a snort of derision for my honesty.

But we're supposed to be talking about Red Dwarf, so what's my favourite episode? Back To Reality? Gunmen of the Apocalypse? Backwards? We'll get back to that later; it's called 'suspense'. Here's my brother's (@robbietwoshoes) favourite:

'Marooned. The only two-hander in the entire run and full of most of the best dialogue. You can't beat Lister/Rimmer exchanges'

I can't deny it's a classic; a tour de force from Barrie and Charles playing off each other brilliantly.

I thought, since I'm writing a post about Red Dwarf, and there's a new series on Dave in the offing, I'd go straight to the horse's mouth. Or Robert Llewellyn as he prefers to be called. He admitted it was, 'very hard to choose, and in my case, even harder to remember.' But he did let slip that, 'The ep we've been rehearsing today is right up there.' The new series is being filmed in front of a live audience and hopes to recapture the spirit of the originals.

I for one am optimistic. I've always been a huge fan of the show and I'm no puritan; I like change. But oddly, I also get quite nostalgic. Series seven really changed the landscape of the show from just sitcom to comedy drama. Series eight was a return the anarchic sitcom brilliance and Back To Earth reflected the crew's age and the changes that had happened in the world since Red Dwarf last aired on BBC 2. Really, it was the perfect plot for the big move to Dave, a reintroduction of the characters in readiness for a full return to audience sitcom. Many will disagree with me I know. My tweet feed jumps again. It's Andrew Ellard, Red Dwarf script editor:

'(My) favourite episode is Bodyswap, Series III. A neat idea, smartly introduced in the first act, allows for great character exploration and jokes. Basically just the main cast, almost a bottle show. Though still some fab model effects at (the) climax. And a simple but effective production technique - redubbing.'

Rob Grant, Red Dwarf writer up to series six replied that he was, "torn between Back to Reality & Legion."

Okay, okay I can see you're getting fidgety and sweaty-palmed. So, what is my favourite?

Well the answer's probably surprising. It's Timeslides. It's an episode that I'd forgotten about the first time round. I saw it with fresh eyes years later, when my dad had left my mum and my brother was taking his GCSEs. I was about 23, still at home and unemployed. Life was pretty much at a standstill.

Time Slides begins with Lister and the Cat, playing a game of table golf. Lister is not his usual chipper self. He's reflecting on his life, the choices he's made, the mistakes and the regrets and he says, "I'm sick of this ship, I'm sick of this life. I'm just sick of it." I sat there watching this with my brother, on UK Gold as it was then, feeling that those words could be my own. I was stuck in a rut and something had to change. It was the beginning of a long journey that eventually led me to a new life in Newcastle, where I met my wife and we had our first child.

Lister's biggest goal is to get back home, back to earth. I returned too, to Norfolk, a place that as a kid, I couldn't wait to get out of. I still sometimes hum, and sometimes click but most of all I enjoy being quiet. What better quality for a writer?

Oh and I love curries.

Red Dwarf X is scheduled for broadcast in 2012.

Robert Llewellyn, Rob Grant and Andrew Ellard's comments are included here by kind permission.


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