Okay so obviously I am deep in fandom hell when it comes to Red Dwarf now, there’s headcanons, there’s fanfiction, there’s everything! But naturally when that happens I start thinking something along the lines of “why do I like this thing?” And I think I know why I like Red Dwarf so much, beyond the jokes, I mean. It’s because almost all the time it’s constantly extolling kindness as a virtue.
Much of it revolves around Lister. Lister is that rarity of a sitcom character who’s a really geniunely good person. You wouldn’t expect him to be, considering his situation, but he is.
(alright, there’s the odd 80s-era sexist joke in there, in fact there’s the odd 80s-era sexist joke in there even now, but we’re going to ignore that.)
It’s Lister’s act of kindness in saving an innocent cat that kickstarts the whole plot of Red Dwarf and creates a whole new species in the world. (The Promised Land even points this out, I think.) It’s also Lister’s kindness which turns Kryten into more than a mechanoid and Cat into slightly less of uh, a cat. But most important of all I think is Lister’s relationship with Rimmer.
Lister has absolutely no reason to like Rimmer and he doesn’t. But, especially once he learns why Rimmer is the way he is, he does treat him like a person. Whether or not Lister likes Rimmer is completely irrelevant to whether or not he’s going to talk him out of suicide. And that strikes me as something really quite big and important, that just happens to be wrapped up in a big wacky-space-comedy bow.
Rimmer himself is another matter. There’s an extent to which he’ll always remain an arrogant little shit, because that’s where the comedy comes from, but we’ve seen him learn and grow over the years and the show indicates that a lot of that is Lister’s influence.
RIMMER: The Anubis stone? You can’t use that on him! I need it! It’s the only way for me to remain diamond-light! If I don’t recharge I’ll lose all my superpowers!
LISTER: [putting his hand on Rimmer’s shoulder] Mighty… We’re gonna have to. All great superheroes put the needs of other people before themselves.
RIMMER: Not all superheroes. What about the Fickle Four, who save only those wearing designer clothes? Or Doctor Dodgy, who saves people but first asks them to step behind a curtain and remove their underwear? [Heavy sigh] I knew this was too good to last. [Gesturing to the Anubis Stone] What do I do?The Promised Land
Red Dwarf is a big ol’ daft sitcom with continuity leaking out all over the place, but its beating heart has always been “SEE? SEE? PEOPLE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER BETTER!” You know… life has thrown you some curveballs, you’re trapped in deep space and everyone you ever knew is dead. Why not be kind?
Why not give some sunlight to someone who you don’t like, but has none?