The Red Dwarf Philosophy

When I was little, Red Dwarf would come on PBS either sometime before Doctor Who, or sometime after. I can’t really remember because it took me a long time to be interested in either. I was too young to really understand either series, one because it was already well into its twentieth season by the time I was able to watch and understand television, and the other because it was a show that unabashedly didn’t make sense.

As I’ve grown up now, and as I’ve learned to love Doctor Who, I’ve also learned to love Red Dwarf.

But, I’m not surprised at all that I didn’t get it as a little kid. As a television show, it’s not only absurd, it is constantly revisionist. Or rather, to put in terms I would understand as a little kid, it just didn’t make any sense.

After all, the only real constant is that the Lister is a bit of a slob, Rimmer is an uptight smeghead, Kryten is a tidy mechanoid, and Cat is a humanoid cat who loves fashion. Everything else about the plot? Well, that’s subject to change at anytime.

So, while out having coffee with a friend, I complained that while I liked Red Dwarf, the further I got into the series, the less I enjoyed it. This was because they kept changing entire plot points from the previous series. I found it difficult to keep changing what I knew about the show.

All of that was encapsulated in one character: Kristine Kochanski. Her character’s past is changed depending on what they needed her for. Did they need Lister to pine after someone he only spoke to twice? Or did they need Lister to pine for someone he once had an intimate relationship with? Or did they need Lister to pine for a dead love?

(Yes, I can probably write a feminist analysis of why Kochanski’s character changes to fit what they need for Lister, but that’s another blog for another day).

I reasoned to my friend that with only six episodes a season, it shouldn’t be that hard to keep some semblance of continuity, or at least explain why the senile ship computer changed appearances very suddenly.

“But you’re missing the beauty of it,” my friend said. “With Red Dwarf, you just accept what is. That’s the secret to enjoying it.”

And I realized right there that there was some sort of life lesson wrapped up in that.

I often think that there should be emotional continuity to what people say and do, but I forget that all of our actions are influenced by how we change and develop as people, how outside influences exert pressure on us, and how we deal with those. All of those things are constantly change, so you and your friends are also constantly in flux.

People and relationships will usually still be what they are at the heart, just like Red Dwarf is always a roommate sitcom in science fiction at heart.

So, you got to treat people and relationships like they’re Red Dwarf; treat them like they are who and what they are now. Let go of what you sort of knew, and know that history is always being edited. It’s a part of our very DNA to rewrite the past. After all, we are not made of the same cells we were when we were born, let alone last year.

So just accept life on an episode by episode basis. Do that, and not only will you like Red Dwarf more than you do (I assume you already like it some, because… come on, it’s got some great zingers), you’ll maybe find that you like the people in your life more. That way, if something goes bad, there’s always the next episode. It’ll be different then.

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