Oct 6, 2012

Red Dwarf

A new episode of Red Dwarf premiered this week, the first since 1999.  Only in Britain, but thank God for youtube.

The cast has gotten noticeably middle aged -- let's hope they aren't expected to do a lot of action scenes -- but their comic timing was impeccable, the script was sharp and witty, and the sets looked great.  This was the classic Red Dwarf that first appeared in Britain in 1988, and in America a couple of years later.

The premise: Dave Lister (Craig Charles), a lower-level employee on the interplanetary mining ship Red Dwarf, is put into stasis as punishment for bringing a cat on board.  But there's a nuclear accident, so the ship computer leaves him in stasis until it's safe to come out -- 3,000,000 years later.  He's now the last human being left in the universe, all alone except for three companions:

Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), a holographic replica of his insufferably priggish bunkmate.

Cat (Danny John-Jules), a self-absorbed, fashion-obsessed humanoid cat (evolved from the one Lister brought on board).

The self-effacing, servile mechanoid Kryten (Robert Llewellyn).

Four distinct personalities, thrown together by chance, alone in the universe -- more or less. As they zap through time and space, fight mind-controllng monsters, explore alternate dimensions, face mechanical and medical emergencies, they learn to work together as a team.  Each develops beyond his "programming,"  Lister into an unexpected leader, Kryten into a passive-aggressive counselor, the Cat into a skilled navigator, and Rimmer into a hero (sort of).

Aside from being riotously funny, there was more than enough on Red Dwarf to interest gay teens:

1. Four guys zapping through time and space, rarely mentioning girls and almost never meeting any.
2. A significant beefcake factor.
3. The Cat's gay-coded flamboyance.
4. The homoerotic subtext between Lister and Rimmer.  They even share a passionate kiss in a dream sequence.

Nine series were produced between 1989 and 1999, plus a feature film, Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (1999), a series of novels (which unfortunately minimize the homoerotic subtexts), guidebooks, an official magazine, and a lot of mechandising tie-ins (most available only in Britain, but thank God for ebay).

All of the cast are gay allies.  Chris Barrie has played gay characters.  Danny John-Jules participated in the "Say My Name" project,  to raise awareness of black gay people in Britain.  In 2012, Craig Charles appeared with his fellow Coronation Street stars at the Manchester Gay Pride Parade.