On February 15th 1988, Red Dwarf aired on UK TV. It was a one of a kind sci-fi comedy that had never been seen before. Up until now, comedy and sci-fi hadn't really been put together and most sci-fi had been lumped in with the various time travel, space western and other types. Now, we had a comedy show starring the last human being, a hologram, an android, a lifeform that evolved from a cat and a senile computer, lost, 3 million years in deep space.
The origins of Red Dwarf lie in the 1974 comedy movie called Dark Star, the movie tells the story of a whacked out crew onboard a ship that's slowly deteriorating and causing problems, such as a cargo bay that exploded and wiped out all the toilet paper. Bombs that drop into the bomb bay without orders. An explosion that wiped out the sleeping quarters and a radiation leak that can't ever be fixed. This served as inspiration for Rob Grant and Doug Naylor to create a similar show, which was a radio show on BBC Radio 4, called Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, who was a traveller, marooned in deep space, 7 billion years from home. His only companion is the computer Hab.
Taking inspiration from other movies such as Silent Running, Alien and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor pitched their new show to the BBC in 1983, however it wouldn't be accepted until 1986. An electrician's strike in 1987 halted production, however it was picked up again in september of 1987 and broadcast in February of 1988.
The cast as we know it today didn't start out playing those roles. Alan Rickman had auditioned and had actually gotten the role of Rimmer. Alfred Molina had gotten the role of Lister. Molina dropped out as he didn't understand the role of Lister. Craig Charles had originally been cast as Cat, however, he changed his mind when he felt the role was racist. Norman Lovett had originally auditioned for Rimmer, but was cast as Holly, the ship's senile computer.
Later series would continue the theme of capitalising on themes made popular by other sci-fi franchises like Jaws, RoboCop. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Pride and Prejudice, Citizen Kane, Casablanca and more. Polymorph takes cues from Aliens. Back to earth takes cues from Blade Runner, Meltdown takes cues from Westworld.
The show hit 4 million viewers to begin with and achieved a peak of 10 million for later series, even thoiugh series 7 and 8 were heavily derided by fans for the changes they made from the sci-fi sitcom to a more comedy drama series with movie-esque camera effects. Many fans believe that series 1-6 and X are among the best series. Despite this, the series has won multiple awards. including an Emmy.
Red Dwarf has had such an impact on popular culture that many concepts it bought to the table have found their way into pop culture, many things such as killer simulants, gelfs and even the red dwarf swearing. Many people use the words "smeg", "gimboid" and "goit" as a replacement for swearing. The show produced a huge variety of merchandise over the years, ranging from books, to a comic, a table top RPG and it's own single
Here's the TV version of the Tongue Tied song,
Here's the music video for the single version, which reached number 17 in the British Charts
In the 90s, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor sold a pilot of Red Dwarf to the US, with an all new cast. It starred Robert Llewellyn as Kryten, Craig Bierko as Lister, Chris Eigeman as Rimmer and Hinton Battle as Cat. Despite original test audiences liking it, it was broadcast and then pulled after the first run of audiences despised it
In 1993, they retried the show again, this time with Terry Farrel (Star Trek: DS9) as Cat and Anthony Fuscle as Rimmer. Once again, it failed to be picked up past the pilot
VHS rip of the original 1st Pilot.
The 2nd pilot.
Series 11 is due for release sometime this year, with series 12 due for release in 2017.