When I was a teenager I decided to get some goldfish. There were three of them, and they were duly named Lister, Rimmer, and Kryten. It seemed cruel and existentially confusing to name a fish The Cat, so the decision of which of the four main characters to leave out was made easier for my teen self.
Hopefully, this admission provides some sort of credence for my claim to be able to pick the ten best supporting characters in the glorious history of Red Dwarf. If not, then at least we have all been able to share a moment. And just so we are all clear on the criteria here, both Holly and Kristine Kochanski are counted as main characters, as they have been in so many episodes.
For many it seemed like Red Dwarf had lost its way by the eighth series and the Back To Earth miniseries, seemingly unlikely to recapture the charm and comic writing of the earlier years. But Red Dwarf X has made many a Dwarfer very happy, so much so that we all have our fingers crossed for an eleventh run. So, basking in the warm glow of tenth series success, let’s take a look at some of the best supporting characters in Red Dwarf…
In the episode Back to Reality where we first meet Duane Dibley, the Red Dwarf crew are led to believe they have been playing a completely immersive video game which has just ended. They are awoken back on Earth to discover that they are in fact all completely different people. The Cat is probably the most disapointed to find out he is thermos-carrying, anorak wearing super-nerd Duane Dibley. With no style, bad teeth, and a bowl-haircut, Duane Dibley is the total antithesis of everything The Cat has ever known and admired about himself.
When Rimmer is infected with holo-virus passed on to him from the psychotically deranged Dr Hildegarde Lanstrom, his new-found insanity manifests itself in the form of a penguin glove-puppet named Mr Flibble. Mr Flibble is easily enraged, and when angered is liable to fire red bolts of hex-vision from his eyes at his victims.
After some misguided advice from Holly leads to Lister being given a substantial electric shock, and Red Dwarf is hit by a meteorite that should have been detected and avoided, Holly is replaced as ship’s computer by the militaristic Queeg. Named after Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (1954), he puts Rimmer through a tortuous exercise regime and refuses to give Lister and The Cat food unless they carry out chores such as scrubbing the floor.
Ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech Lister, Dave’s Gelf Wife
Yes, the ultimate human space bachelor (or the only remaining human space bachelor) has been married. In the episode Emohawk, the crew need parts to repair Starbug, namely an oxygen-supply unit, that the native large, hirsute Gelfs of the planet they have crash landed on can supply. However the trade-off is that Dave must marry the chief’s daughter, Ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech-ech. Lister goes through with the ceremony but bottles it on the wedding night and leaves at a running pace, leaving his hairy new wife behind proclaiming “Men! They’re all bastards!”
The polymorph is a shape-changing alien that can morph into anything it wants, including that which you fear the most, and then feed on your negative emotions with its tentacle. This leads to the removal of Rimmer’s anger, turning him into a hippy with a t-shirt that says ‘give quiche a chance’. The Cat loses his vanity and becomes a slovenly hobo with no sense of self-worth. Kryten loses his guilt and wants to offer the other three to the Polymorph in exchange for his own survival. And Lister loses his fear and wants to strap bomb to his head and “nut the smegger to oblivion!”
There may be more than a hint of Blackadder‘s Captain Flashheart (played by Rik Mayall) about Ace Rimmer but nonetheless, what a guy. Ace Rimmer is an alternative reality version of regular Rimmer, and the alternative is a first-class pilot, man of action and stud. Needless to say, he’s somewhat perplexed when he meets the Rimmer we know in the episode Dimension Jump, in which we also meet alternative reality versions of the whole crew. Still it doesn’t stop him from being generally quite heroic and breaking out his catchphrase “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!”
After contracting a rare form of space-flu, Lister materialises into being two of his own personality traits, confidence and paranoia, as living beings. Confidence is brash, arrogant, and wears loud suits whilst telling Dave that he’s the champ and can do anything he likes. Unfortunately he also believes that oxygen is for losers when in outer space and decides to prove it by removing his space-suit helmet. He explodes.
Legion is an advanced being who has been composed from the greatest minds in the history of mankind. As such, when the crew meet him on his abandoned space station, he is able to provide Rimmer with a hard light drive, enabling him do all the things he hasn’t been able to as a hologram, such as touch objects. He is the consummate host, but the crew discover that he is only kept alive by their presence, and so refuses to let them leave.
A toaster that you can have a conversation with while it grills your bread-based product of choice sounds like a fun futuristic invention, doesn’t it? Well it could be, but not for Lister, who once grew weary of Talkie Toaster’s incessant questioning about toast and committed what was described as “toastercide” with a large hammer.
Camille the Pleasure Gelf
Upon searching a doomed ship for survivors, Kryten happens upon what appears to be a mechanoid that is the same model as himself, only with female traits, called Camille. However, when Rimmer meets her, he sees his own perfect female partner and the same happens to Lister too. Camille is a Pleasure Gelf with the telepathic ability to sense what a person wants to see the most in a partner, and so it follows that when The Cat meets her, he just sees himself.
Read our reviews of Red Dwarf X here.
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