Dave Lister is the last human being in the universe. A lowly technician on the mining ship Red Dwarf, he wakes up one day to find that the rest of the crew have been killed by a radiation leak. He has been in stasis for three million years.
He is doomed to drift in space for the rest of eternity with only two companions: the hologram of his former crewmate, Rimmer, and a creature called Cat who has evolved from a pet he smuggled on board.
From series III onwards, they were joined by a mechanoid servant called Kryten, and from series VII, by the attractive human female, Kochanski.
Devised by writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the series ran from 1988 until 1999 and became a cult hit sitcom with a huge and dedicated fan following. But it was a while in the making.
Grant and Naylor were a writing partnership for many years before they devised Red Dwarf, with writing credits including such diverse shows as Son of Cliché, Three Of A Kind and Carrott's Lib.
They went on to become head writers and producers on Spitting Image, just as it was on the brink of cancellation due to disastrous ratings, and managed to double the audience figures within six shows.
Grant Naylor (as the duo became known) also edited a best-selling book of the series, and, much to their embarrassment, penned a number one single, The Chicken Song, which earned a silver disc.
It was Red Dwarf, however, for which they are best known. There was a painful gap of three years between the writing of the pilot and the transmission of the first series. The script was rejected by various BBC bigwigs until it was finally picked up by BBC North, based in Manchester.
Ratings for the first series (February to March 1988) were not too impressive, but a second series had already been commissioned and the BBC kept the faith. Series II was a ratings success.
In series III, the insecure mechanoid, Kryten, became a permanent crew member, and Hattie Hayridge replaced Norman Lovett in the role of Holly.
There was a change of direction for series VII, with the departure of Rob Grant, only two episodes featuring Rimmer, and the introduction of Kristine Kochanski as a regular character. Rimmer returned full time for series VIII, and the entire crew of Red Dwarf were rebuilt by nanobots. Well, it's never been exactly predictable.
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