The G&T Review of the Year 2023 featured image
Screenshot from the Red Dwarf episode Better Than Life

Screenshot from the Red Dwarf episode Back in the Red: Part I

At the start of Red Dwarf's 35th anniversary year, things had never seemed grimmer for the health of the franchise. The protracted legal kerfuffle between the show's creators was dragging on into its third calendar year, with no indication whatsoever that it would end any time soon, and any possibility of new material dwindling with each passing day. But as 2023 comes to an end, despite there still being no solid news in terms of actual production, there has been so, so much to give us hope that Red Dwarf shall live again.

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Hot on the tails of Red Dwarf returning to its mother channel’s bosom via iPlayer, today’s weekly release of the television schedules sees the news that The End is to be repeated on BBC Two at 10pm on Friday 25th August. It’s not yet clear whether this is a one-off, or the start of a full repeat run of at least the first series – BBC Two has been giving classic comedies both of these treatments recently. We’ll find out this time next week whether Future Echoes will follow. Either way, it’s nice to see the show getting this treatment in its 35th anniversary year. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we get a full 1994-style run though, including the Dave era?

Thanks to cwickham for drawing our attention to this. He’s going to have to update his BBC broadcast guide now.

Yesterday, Doug Naylor updated his Twitter to say that an announcement was coming, and sure enough, at one minute past midnight, the BBC published a press release to say that all twelve series of Red Dwarf, plus The Promised Land, are coming to BBC iPlayer. This is great news for the show, with the exposure that comes from having your boxset front and centre on one of the UK's biggest streaming platforms, free to access and free from ads. And it's really significant that the Dave era is included too; it's not entirely unprecedented, and not surprising given the links between UKTV and the BBC, but it's a rare treat to see shows that originated on other channels appearing on iPlayer.

However, now that the episodes have turned up, there's a problem.

Updated with a quote from the BBC below

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Channel Hopping featured image

It cannot have escaped anyone's attention that Red Dwarf turned 35 years old this year. It's easy to underestimate just how long ago that was in terms of television as a medium. The BBC Television Service was launched on 2nd November 1936. That was only 86 and a half years ago - the lifespan of Red Dwarf to date covers around 40% of the entire history of scheduled broadcasting. And so it goes without saying that British telly in 1988 looked very different to the landscape of today, but just how different? What else was on BBC Two when each series of Red Dwarf first aired, and what was the competition on the other channels?

Using a combination of the amazing BBC Programme Index and newspaper archives, we're going to answer those exact questions for the first episode of each BBC series in detail, along with an overview of how the rest of the run panned out. For some readers, this will be a nostalgic reminder of the television of their childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. For those that are too young or too foreign to have lived through it, it's a window into a bygone age. Either way, the power of hindsight allows us to spot the subtle clues that television was changing before our eyes, as we piece together the transition from one era to another, through a Dwarfy prism.

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Interesting Television Centre fact no. 1: Studio 1 is the biggest and most expensive studio in television centre. For the early series of Red Dwarf, there was no budget for any set after the production team hired it for filming so they had the hapless space team running around the exposed lighting rigs and gangways, which worked brilliantly (and cheaply) for convincing us they were on board a massive spaceship.

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