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The Edgar Allan Poe Collection: Volume 1—Annabel Lee
Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix
Masters of Science Fiction
Fallen: Parts 2 and 3
March 03, 2003

Red Dwarf Series I DVD

Arnold Rimmer is the sole survivor of starship disaster—and he still has roommate problems
Red Dwarf Series I DVD
Starring Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Dules and Norman Lovett
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Warner Home Video
MSRP: $34.98
By Adam-Troy Castro
As a technician third class on the starship Red Dwarf, Dave Lister (Charles) is easily the least competent, lowest-echelon member of the crew, fit only for pushing a cart behind the arrogant and no less incompetent but slightly higher-ranked technician second class Arnold Rimmer (Barrie) in his own repairs of only minimal importance. Both men are colossally stupid. Lister is so dumb his life's ambition is to start a farm on Fiji, an island which is now several feet under water. And Rimmer is so dumb that he fails officers' tests despite covering his entire body with answers in smearable ink.

Placed in stasis for the crime of refusing to give up the whereabouts of his forbidden pet cat, Lister discovers on waking that everybody but him has died from a radiation leak, and that the Red Dwarf has been drifting in space for 3 million years. He orders the computer personality Holly to set course for Earth, hoping that there's still an Earth to which to return. His only companions on the interminable journey will be Cat (John-Jules), the self-absorbed descendant of the people evolved from his contraband pet, and Rimmer, who has been preserved as a hologram with all of his priggishness and pretentiousness intact.

As their journey begins, this crew more motley than most encounters such phenomena as the time distortions caused by faster-than-light travel, a mutant disease that imbues Lister's Confidence and Paranoia with human form and the secret significance of gazpacho soup.

The odd couple explores outer space
Red Dwarf is a long-time cult hit among SF fans, and it's not hard to see why. The characters are engaging, and the interplay is frequently very funny. Much of the humor derives from the sheer cluelessness of the principals and the time-honored comedic tradition of rendering the dominant member of the team, in this case Rimmer, a bossy, self-absorbed twit who thinks he's a lot more impressive than he actually is.

Say what you must about Lister, the most useless slob who ever occupied the upper berth on a spaceship—at least he knows he's useless, and harbors no pretensions of ever being anything else. He's likeable, if you don't expect anything from him. But Rimmer, who in life succeeded only as the laughingstock of the crew, is a vain and posturing twit whose every attempt to trumpet his own competence only reveals himself as even dumber than Lister. As for Cat, he's so impressed with himself that he spends his days strutting through the corridors, praising his own coolness in a series of garish suits.

It's all cheap and rude, with an occasionally interesting science-fiction idea despite off-putting (and quite probably facetious) creator commentary to the effect that they tried to avoid actual science fiction whenever possible, because nobody really likes that stuff anyway.

The extras on the two-DVD package include outtakes, episode commentaries by the performers, a sound library, photos, deleted scenes and an excellent animated menu.

In the first-episode scene of Lister playing with his beloved but illegal pet cat, the feline actor's desperate struggle to escape his clutches demonstrates a considerable aversion to its supposed owner. The outtakes of that scene do much to expand on that moment's less-than-affectionate emotional dynamic. — Adam-Troy