Red Dwarf: Episodes: S01E01: The End
Wadda great title for the first show in the series. This was typical of Grant and Naylor, they continued to confound, confuse and humour us with some wacky concepts, strange and rather suspect science and superb storylines. The BBC had done it again, they had filled that cavernous gap of cult comedy science fiction left following the end of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. The first show may look a little dated now, but who cares!
It opens innocently enough, with Lister escorting Rimmer (a superior technician) round the decks of Red Dwarf on routine maintenance. Lister annoys his companion by making silly noises and humming incessantly. Rimmer responds by putting him on report…. Again!
Lister points out that Rimmer ranks lower than ‘all four of the Service robots’. This will change soon, Rimmer will take his test (for the ninth time). An officer, Todd Hunter joins them to find out why Rimmer has filed 247 complaints against Lister. (I would have thought the reason was obvious! – Lister is a compete banana. He’s one of those guys that you can laugh from a distance, but god forbid, you having to work with geezer!).
Lister, eating a pie with a lighted cigarette sticking out of his ear, tells Hunter, “You see I try sir, I’m not an insubordinate man by nature. I try and respect Rimmer and everything, but it’s not easy when he’s such a Smeghead!”
On the flight deck, the officers are gathered for the funeral of one of the crewmembers, George Macintyre. The captain respectfully launches a tin of ashes into space the sound of the ‘See you later alligator’ (at Macintyre’s request). As the officers bow their heads you can just make out a Skutters dancing to the music.
In Lister and Rimmer’s quarters, Rimmer is writing what he assumes to be answers to the questions of his test tomorrow. Lister tells Rimmer of his dream to own a Farm on Fiji. He intends to breed horses, cattle and sheep. Rimmer tells Lister that he has the brain of a ‘cheese sandwich’. Fiji suffered a volcanic eruption and is now under three feet of water. This fact didn’t deter Lister, who pointed out that never told Rimmer anything because of his negative and derisory comments.
The ship’s computer, Holly, introduced the ‘Welcome back George Macintyre Reception’ in the refectory. The Hologram of George is sat at the officers’ table. He stands and thanks everyone for the wonderful funeral service and even cracks a few jokes the best one being, “As you know, the ship can only support one hologram, so if someone dies that is more vital to the ship than me, I’ll kill them!”
Later that night, Rimmer is awake revising for his test. He is sat on his bed in his underwear trying to understand what he’s written on his arms and legs. When Rimmer leaves for his exam, Lister locks the cabin door and lets out his pregnant pet cat, Frankenstein (Franky). He feeds it a bowl of milk and shows it a picture of Fiji.
Rimmer begins his exam and is not able to answer a single question. He looks frantically at the questions then decides to roll up his sleeves in the hope that the answers on his arm will help. Unfortunately his perspiration has made the ink run and the writing on his arm is smudged. Rimmer then stand up, gives the happiest salute you’ve ever seen, and promptly faints.
Meanwhile, Lister has an appointment with the Captain. He walks onto the bridge and makes straight for Kochanski. He asks her where the Captains office is. She is fully aware that he knows and plays along with Lister’s flirting. He asks her why she thinks that the captain wants to see him, “He wants to promote you to Admiral for your diligence and general devotion to duty.” She says. The captain spots Lister and calls him over.
The Captain is not impressed. “Not are you stupid enough to bring a cat on board and jeopardise the safety of the entire crew, but you take a photograph of yourself with the cat and send it to be processed in the ships lab. I’ll ask you again, do you have a cat?”
“No” Replies Lister. The captain holds up a photograph of Lister cuddling a cat and asks again. Lister admits that he has a cat, but refuses to hand it over to the captain. Captain Hollister threatens to put Lister in stasis unless he hands over the cat. Lister still refuses and is escorted by Todd Hunter to the suspended animation chamber for the remainder of the flight (eighteen months).
In the next scene we see the door open and Lister walks out. He hears Holly (the ship’s computer) welcoming him and asking him to report to the Drive Room for debriefing. Lister notices that there is no one about, he walks into the canteen and sees that it is empty. The place is clean except for small piles of white dust on some of the tables. He tastes the powder and asks Holly, “Where is everybody Hol?”
“They’re dead Dave.” Replies Holly.
“Who is?” says Lister.
“Everybody Dave” replies Holly.
“What, Captain Hollister?” Asks Lister.
“Everybody’s dead Dave.” Answers Holly.
“What, Todd Hunter?” responds Lister as he eats some more of the white powder.
“Everybody’s dead Dave.” Answers Holly.
“What Selby?” asks Lister in a sort of nonchalant disbelief.
“They’re all dead. Everybody’s dead Dave!” says Holly with a slight tinge of irritation.
“Peterson isn’t is he?” Says you know who.
“Everybody is DEAD Dave.” Replies Holly even more irritated.
“Gordon Bennett, yes Chen, everybody, everybody’s dead Dave!”
“He’s dead Dave, everybody’s dead, everybody is dead Dave!”
“Wait” says Lister finally, “are you trying to tell me that everybody is dead?”
Holly mutters, “I wish I’d never let him out in the first place…”
Holly goes on to explain to Lister how the crew suffered a lethal dose of Cadmium II radiation before he was able to re-seal a drive plate that have been left open by Rimmer.
Lister is mortified. “That’s terrible!” he consoles himself by eating another bit of white powder and asked Holly, “Why is it so dirty round here, what is this stuff,”
“That’s catering officer Olaf Peterson!” reply’s Holly. Lister spits out the powder in disgust, coughing and spluttering, Lister gradually recovers just as Holly tells him that he’s been in stasis for 3 million years!
The shocking news about his friends being 3 million years dead is compounded when he remembers Christine Kochanski. He’d always fancied her and he dejectedly tells Holly of his plans to take her to Fiji to help him start a farm. Holly, by way of consolation said, “Well, she wouldn’t be much help to you in Fiji now, not unless it snows and you need something to grit the path with.”
Holly is just apologising when the hologram of Rimmer walks in. “Lister, long time no see.” He says. Lister greets Rimmer with a mild enthusiasm and asks what it’s like to be dead. “Like being on holiday with a group of Germans.” Informs Rimmer.
The greeting between the two long lost workmates rapidly deteriorates into an argument. It ends when Rimmer tries to put Lister on report for smoking on the flight deck. He of course can’t touch anything because he’s a hologram. Lister notices Rimmer’s mild embarrassment and walks out calling Rimmer a Smeghead.
Rimmer follows Lister into the corridor. He is intent of re-establishing some sort of authority over Lister when, as the two pass by a ventilation panel, we see the Cat, dressed in a rather spiffing orange suite. He emerges from the ventilation shaft and checks himself in his portable mirror, “How am I looking? I’m looking nice. Hey I’m looking better than nice, I’m looking dangerous!” He wanders off stopping only to complement his shadow on the wall. “Even my shadow looks nice.”
Suddenly Lister and Rimmer meet the Cat in the corridor. The three stand there looking surprised until the Cat takes the initiative and states to himself that he should make himself look big. This he does (rather effeminately), and it is enough to frighten the wimpy Lister and Rimmer to run off. Cat pauses to complement himself on his fierceness before continuing his journey down the corridor.
A frightened Lister and Rimmer end up in the canteen. Lister, still trembling, asks Holly what it was that they just saw. Holly tells them, “During the radioactive crisis Dave, your cat and her kittens were safely sealed in the hold and they’ve been breading there for three million years and have evolved into the life form you just saw in the corridor.” Suddenly the Cat appears. The three stand there momentarily until Lister says hello.
Minutes later, Lister gets some milk and crisps from a machine and places the bowl on the floor. Cat looks on in disgust, “Hey, you monkeys eat off the floor! Ain’t you got no style or sophistication?” Lister places the bowl on the table and the Cat laps up his breakfast with his tongue.
Lister enquires as to the whereabouts of Cat’s family and friends. Before the Cat can answer, Rimmer objects, “who cares, I want it off the ship”. But Lister is determined that the Cat should return home with everyone else. I reckon he’s pleased to have another companion, one that isn’t made up of light and electrons.
Rimmer points out that there probably wont be an Earth now. Lister is unconcerned and says that he still has his plan, “Ok I’ve still got me cat, I know it’s not Frankenstein, but…….”
Cat chirps up, “Frankenstein…….. The holy mother, the virgin birth, no one believes that stuff…… Wait a minute, I remember the story from Kitty School, the holy Mother saved by Cloister the stupid who was frozen in time and who gave of his life so that we might live.”
“No.” Replies Lister, “It’s not Cloister, it’s me. It’s Lister the stupid.” A mild look of consternation etches its way onto his face, as Rimmer nods in agreement.
“He shall returneth, to lead us to Fushall, the Promised Land.” Continues the Cat.
“No, it’s not Fushall, it’s Fiji.” Exclaims Lister, “And I’ll lead you there. Holly,” adds Lister, “plot a course for Earth. The slime’s coming home!”
And there, the first episode of this epic saga ends. Not the best by a long way, but all the main characters have been introduced (except for Kryten of course) and you just know that the show can only get better.
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This episode review is © 1999 – 2019 Tony Fawl.
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