Liverpudlian bum and all-round slob, Third Technician David Lister was discovered under a pool table as a baby. He is a fairly competent man, but avoids ambition which might threaten his slobby routine. Lister was the sole survivor of the Cadmium-2 leak which wiped out the crew of Red Dwarf, because he was serving eighteen months' "temporal stasis without pay" for smuggling a cat onto the ship.
All Boys Want Bad Girls: For a while he kept playing the Gumshoe AR game so he could have sex with Loretta, a homicidal, serial-killing Femme Fatale. He also tries to ask a rogue simulant for a date. He confides to Kryten that he's only ever attracted to "heartbreakers or moral garbage on legs."
Regarding Lister's intelligence, he's fairly bright but at the same time quite ignorant: he can think on his feet and plan brilliantly, but only knows of the Bermuda Triangle as a hit song and doesn't know what an iguana is (though if the RPG is any indication, iguanas are supposedly extinct by Lister's time). In the words of the Inquisitor in Series V, which had taken on his form: "You've got brains, man. Brains you've never used."
Lister tends to be the guy coming up with plans a lot of the time, and is paticularly good at doing so on the fly — check out 'Inquisitor' or 'Fathers and Suns' for some very great plans under pressure. Also, one shouldn't forget that he twice repaired Kryten after the mechanoid was badly damaged (off-screen between series II and III, and part of the way into the Series V episode 'Terrorform'). True, neither repair was entirely perfect, but considering Lister has no formal training in the subject... which may explain why 'Fathers and Suns' has him enroll in the Robotics course in order to "make something of himself".
Calling the Old Man Out: Actually does this to himself in "Fathers and Suns", after finding a recording he had made whilst drunk the previous night, where his fatherly advice amounted to berating himself for being such a massive disappointment.
He made a cake, and then said that it was supposed to be roast beef. This would appear to be a joke though, as it's a pretty good cake.
In keeping with Lister's personality, it seems he could be a good cook if he really applied himself, but he's happy eating overspiced crap, so overspiced crap is all he ever makes. He looked to be doing quite well when he was trying to pass the Chef's exam to outrank Rimmer.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Just watch the bar room tidy scene backwards and you'll find he's an accomplished bar brawler. And when he's not lying in bed reading What Bike?, he might be launching flying kicks and bazookoid fire at Simulants and Gelfs.
Deadpan Snarker: Not quite as much as Rimmer, but he certainly gets some pretty good quips.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Lister's plan for taking on the Polymorph involves strapping a nuke to his own head and nutting the smegger into oblivion.
And, of course, defeating The Inquisitor, a nigh-indestructible self-repairing droid that can shrug off laserchainsaws.
Dreadful Musician: "A little survival tip, bud. Never play your guitar in front of a man with a loaded gun."
Sometimes he seems aware of how bad he is, other times he's apparently completely blind to his own musical incompetence and thinks he's the greatest musician since Hendrix.
His illusions about his musical abilities usually disappear when he's going through a bout of depression.
Early Installment Weirdness: Lister was originally conceived as being "as if his brain had been fried", reminiscent of Reverend Jim from Taxi — although the first episode was mostly rewritten and reshot, it still contains scenes where Lister is uncharacteristically slow-witted. The character was later tailored to suit Craig Charles better.
Extreme Omnivore: Lister's fondness for curries and spices of all sorts means his ordinary meals tend to be gross (like, onion-and-tabasco cornflakes served with a glass of cold chili sauce-level gross), and the stuff he's eaten that he thinks is unusual... Some of the more notable items have included swarfega (industrial-grade soap used to remove oil) mixed with glass cleaner, a baked space weevil (which he didn't look at and which he thought, from the taste, was crunchy King Prawn), dog food (because he was starving, admittedly), dog's milk in his tea (he didn't know — once he finds out he throws it out: "Why didn't you tell me, Hol?" "What? And spoil your tea?"), beer milkshakes, and a live tarantula. Admittedly that last one wasn't voluntary. And a dead guy (who looked like a bit of salt). The fact he's a major boozehound presumably doesn't help matters.
And Lister's favorite "sarney", more or less of his own design, is three fried eggs on chutney-spread bread and given a generous dollop of chili sauce.
Rimmer: I feel like I'm having a baby!
Lister: The trick is, you've got to eat it before the bread dissolves...
Lister is stated to have only a few functioning taste buds remaining (or just the one).
The dog's milk proved a bit much even for him.
And the dog food was to avoid eating a Pot Noodle.
Sugar Puff sandwiches are his favorite...
Most of the strange white powder lying around Red Dwarf, before Holly explained it was the remains of the crew.
There actually are preparations of cannabis (generally known as "Green Dragon") that involve letting it sit around in high proof alcohol until the THC has dissolved into the liquor, and then drinking it. It's generally not done with gin, though.
God Guise: Played straight by the Cat civilization, which, as the Cats developed sentience and formed a religion, put Lister at the top as their god, Cloister the Stupid. Lister is less than thrilled by this, especially when he discovered the Cat people nearly wiped themselves out in holy wars over what the colour of the sacred donut hat was supposed to be, Red or Blue? (It was actually meant to be Green)
Inverted in "Waiting for God". Lister is treated as a god ("Cloister the Stupid") by a priest of the cat-race and attempts to explain he isn't. He fails.
In the Red Dwarf game from the episode "Back to Reality", Lister's ultimate fate when played properly is supposed to be jump starting the second Big Bang with Starbug. This is meant to be ironic - Lister, the ultimate atheist, being God. Which is strange because Lister is outright stated to be a pantheist and it's Rimmer who scoffs at the notion of God.
In the second novel, Holly gains an IQ of 12000 through intelligence compression and, thus, knows everything. When asked by Talkie Toaster who created the universe, Holly answers that it is Lister. Nothing more is said of this after.
Hell-Bent for Leather: Wears a rather cool looking leather jacket, strewn with badges and patches (including Kochanski's Console Officer rank markings) and with a picture of Wilma Flintstone on the back.
Human Popsicle: He was supposed to be put into stasis for 18 months as punishment for smuggling a cat aboard, but was in there for 3 million years while the radiation decayed, setting in motion the rest of the series.
Identical Grandson: Bexley, from "Future Echoes". Justified in this case,considering his parents were opposite sex versions of each other from parallel realities. Presumably applies to his brother Jim as well.
Lister also happens to be his own father thanks to a time loop, and as a result sends himself a Father's Day card every year.
I Hate Past Me: In "Timeslides", he quickly becomes annoyed by his pretentious 17-year-old self.
Lister: Stop calling everything "Crypto-fascist". You make me sound like a complete git!
Laser-Guided Karma: In the novels, it's explained that 18 months was precisely how long it would take for the Red Dwarf to finish its run and reach Earth, and the punishment for smuggling a cat on board was precisely 18 months in stasis. Lister learned of this in advance, and deliberately got caught after they took off so he could spend the trip in stasis, and thereby make the trip without working. Though here the karma is nearer to Disproportionate Retribution.
This doesn't really mesh with the notion that he was saving up all his pay to buy a hot dog stand on Fiji: then again, in the AU of the novels his ambition was simply to get back to Earth because he'd ended up off-world after a particularly drunken birthday pub crawl and the hot dog stand is never mentioned.
Manchild: He's incredibly immature, even though he's in at least his early-to-mid forties (and played by 48-year-old Charles) by "Trojan".
Mr Fix It: Has twice repaired Kryten from a state of practical destruction. Plus, he's shown to have managed to repair various pieces of complex equipment.
Mr Seahorse: Between the second and third series. Entirely off-screen and pretty much never referenced again.
Mr. Vice Guy: Lister's a good guy who likes nothing more than laying around, not doing anything beyond eating, drinking and maybe annoying Rimmer.
My Own Grampa: It turns out Lister is his own father, through IVF with Kochanski as the mother. Subject to Call Back in Series X where he celebrates Fathers' Day by getting blind drunk and leaving himself father-to-son messages to view the morning after when he's lost all recollection.
Odd Friendship: Despite having a nearly total irreverence for any kind of authority, before the accident, Lister was friends with Frank Todhunter, the second officer of Red Dwarf.
In a really strange way, he can be seen as having this with Rimmer. In spite of the fact that Rimmer annoys him, they still share the same sleeping quarters and Rimmer hasn't been switched off even after all the years they've spent together. Lister even shares several Pet the Dog moments with Rimmer when he's at his lowest.
Omniglot: Knows at least some Esperanto, or at least, he speaks it better than Rimmer.
He learnt to read the Cat Language, which is written entirely in smell.
The Pig Pen: Lister routinely wears horribly stained clothes and lives in filth because he's just such a "blokish bloke" that he doesn't care about cleanliness. Though a recurring gag is that something ends up being too disgusting even for him (for example, in 'Me2', he ends up putting his dirty socks right back in the basket he dumped them out of because he realises just how bad they smell).
Robosexual: Sort of; Lister has flirted with a female Simulant (a Ridiculously HumanKiller Robot) once, Kryten's relationship with him looks awfully like that of a possessive girlfriend in series VII and VIII, and in series X he has a female-personalitied vending machine with a crush on him (and a second one who accuses him of flirting with her).
Skewed Priorities: Though it might be the shock talking, his reaction to learning how long he was in stasis.
Lister: 3 million years?! But I've still got that library book!
Amusingly, the American!Lister from the US Pilot of Red Dwarf has similar views, just on the other end of the scale.
American!Lister: 3 Million Years?! My baseball cards must be worth a fortune!
Lister's immediate superior, Second Technician Arnold Rimmer (B.S.C., S.S.C.) is an ambitious but unpleasant and almost universally hated underachiever. Born on Io, Rimmer was loathed by his brothers and classmates, who went on to achieve great things while he remained a lowly Second Technician. Any references to his underachievements are immediately blamed on mitigating circumstances. He includes his only two achievements after his name, B.S.C. and S.S.C. (which stand for Bronze Swimming Certificate and Silver Swimming Certificate). He steadfastly believes in the existence of aliens and attributes any unexplained events to such aliens. It was Rimmer's incompetence which led to the leak, killing him and the other crew members. Rimmer was resurrected by Holly as a hologram after Lister's stasis.Earning his highly-respected father's approval lays heavily on Rimmer's mind, and is one of the larger reasons why his self-loathing is so enormous, and yet his ego so similarly massive.
Abusive Parents: When he was 14 years old, he went to court, divorced his parents and got visiting rights to the family dog every other weekend. He and his three brothers were abused by their father in various ways; the most severe of them was the use of a rack to try to accelerate their growth (Rimmer's father had been refused entry to the Space Corps for being an inch below regulation height). Indeed, all of the abuse they suffered was to make them succeed where Rimmer Snr. had failed; unfortunately, Arnold continually tries to use this as a Freudian Excuse for his constant failures and annoying behaviour, whilst his brothers other than Howard at least each become successful in their own Space Corps specialty.
Achievements in Ignorance: If Rimmer really did screw up fixing the drive plate, according to Rimmer's comments in season 8, it's supposed to be such a trivial task that only an epic screw up could possibly fail.
Also, briefly in "Cassandra". Although that may have been just Cassandra messing around in her efforts to try and get Lister to end up killing Rimmer as payback for killing her.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Rimmer is an atheist and doesn't even pay lip service to the tiniest possibility of there being a god, but spends the first two series searching for aliens everywhere he can and declaring the flimsiest evidence to be proof of alien existence and involvement. He also expresses firm belief in reincarnation, claiming that in all his past lives he was a great warrior.
Lister: Your explanation for anything slightly peculiar is aliens, isn't it? You lose your keys, it's aliens. A picture falls off the wall, it's aliens. That time we used up a whole bog roll in a day, you thought that was aliens as well.
Rimmer: Well, we didn't use it all, Lister. Who did?
Armchair Military: Rimmer fixates on war and deeply wants to be a general, but is, as noted in "Marooned", a total coward who is quick to run away at the threat of actual violence to himself — generals, in his own words, are "in the nice white tent on top of the hill, sipping Sancere and directing the battlefield", not actually doing the fighting. He's also a total incompetent.
Attending Your Own Funeral: Rimmer has a videocassette of his death. Admittedly, Holly recorded the deaths of everyone on the ship, but Rimmer is the one who went and created a long ode glorifying himself as the foreword.
Also done in "Stoke Me a Clipper". Ace Rimmer dies and Rimmer leaves the crew to become Ace. Lister claims that Rimmer, not Ace, was killed and Rimmer, acting as Ace, attends Ace's funeral which the crew think is for Rimmer.
Back from the Dead: Rimmer pulls this a few times, only to die again fairly quickly afterwards.
Black Comedy Rape: Sort of. Rimmer didn't deliberately rape Yvonne McGruder, but she was concussed and thought he was someone else. The continuity of Last Human establishes that McGruder already liked him and became convinced that she imagined the whole thing after she relapsed.
Blessed with Suck: His Hard Light abilities allow him to touch and feel as though he was a real person and also makes him Nigh Invulnerable. Unfortunately, Arnold Rimmer is an abject coward and has low tolerance for pain, so injuries that would kill him/knock him out don't do anything more than hurt severely and he'd be forced to suffer through them.
Cannot Tell a Joke: In "Better than Life", the newly-titled "Admiral" Rimmer is attempting to tell an anecdote, but can't remember exactly what happened. It was so bad that even the fictional officers from his ideal dream went through a couple of seconds of embarrassed, uncertain silence before bursting into sycophantic laughter.
In general, his anecdotes that are meant to be funny aren't very amusing, while the ones that aren't meant to be funny are hilarious.
Character Development: It's subtle, but, by series VII (where he ends up leaving to become Ace Rimmer), Rimmer's actually become a lot more likeable. Lampshaded in series VIII where Lister immediately notes in disgust that the nanobot-resurrected Rimmer is "just like you used to be".
The Chew Toy: Lampshaded in "Better Than Life" where, even in a video game which fulfils one's ultimate fantasies, Rimmer is the Chew Toy: "My brain's rebelling because it can't accept nice things happening to me!" This actually gets expanded into the major plot point of the first half of the novel of the same name; his self-loathing is so powerful that when he visits the others in BTL, his brain corrupts their fantasies because of this, which is ultimately what enables them to escape.
Extraverted Nerd: Part of the reason why his fellow Dwarfers dislike Rimmer is because he's extremely outspoken about the various nerdy things he enjoys (Hammond organs, telephone pole and diesel engine spotting, James Last music, muzak, morris dancing, Risk, etc), never seeming to realise the others find this all incredibly boring and find him irritating for trying to shove it in their faces all the time.
The Extremist Was Right: In the books, Rimmer is immensely jealous of the head of A-shift, so when he hears rumors about him selling illegal Better Than Life mods, Rimmer does everything he can to promote these rumors. Turns out, the guy really was selling Better Than Life mods.
Freudian Excuse: Almost everything is on his parents, or in earlier episodes, being dead. He even blamed Lister for his shortcomings very early on.
Lister: Rimmer, you can't blame me for your lousy life.
Rimmer: Oh, yes, I can.
Lister: See! It's always the same. You never had the right pens for your G.E. drawing. Your dividers don't stretch far enough.
Lister: See! In the end you can't turn around and say, "I'm sorry I buggered up my life." It's all Lister's fault!
The Friend Nobody Likes: Lister and Holly seems to be the only ones who actually like Rimmer most of the time. Kochanski finds Rimmer incredibly sexist, Kryten repeatedly undermines his authority, while Cat often seems downright giddy whenever it seems Rimmer potentially might die. Justified in that A: Rimmer genuinely is that much of an unlikable person, and B: the intelligent population of the universe that isn't actively trying to kill them pretty much boils down to Rimmer and the others, so they can't bring themselves to get rid of him.
Leads to something of a subtle loop in that Rimmer often ends up making himself even less likeable because he knows how unliked he is and takes steps to ensure his safety despite this — "Quarantine" ultimately stems from his own knowledge that the other Dwarfers would be seriously tempted to never turn him back on if they had another hologram, and this knowledge is the driving conflict of "Balance of Power".
General Ripper: To go with his Armchair Military person, as seen in "Waxworld"; he manages to kill all of his own army, but considers it a victory because all the enemy wax droids are also dead. A disgusted Lister gets him back.
Gung Holier Than Thou: So long as he's not actually in danger, he's the most blatantly military of the group.
Hand Puppet: Mr Flibble, a cute but evil toy penguin through which Rimmer channels his hex energy while infected with the holovirus in "Quarantine".
Hard Light: post-"Legion", where his hardware is upgraded. It's not constant, though, and because it burns through power faster than his 'Soft Light' mode there are times when he has to switch back to it.
Hidden Depths: He gets to show his Hidden Heart of Gold in "Confidence & Paranoia," "Thanks For the Memory," "Queeg," "Marooned," "The Last Day," and "Holoship", and is genuinely heroic in "Out of Time" and "Stoke Me A Clipper".
Hilariously Abusive Childhood: His parents basically loathed him, his father was, in Rimmer's own words, a "crazed military maniac", his mother was a cold and aloof woman who cheated on his father, and his brothers were not only more successful than him, but bullied him mercilessly, something all the other kids in school did as well.
And then it turns out his father was only his social father; he was born as a result of his mother's extramarital affairs.
Honor Before Reason: Only once. When the crew's future selves appear and start attacking, Rimmer gives the order to fight as he's "better dead than smeg."
Hypocrite: In the first episode, Rimmer wanted Lister up on mutiny charges because he accidentally stepped on his toe. In a later episode, we find out that he had tried to jam a pencil up the captain's nose after he gave Lister a lenient punishment for drugging him.
Inferiority Superiority Complex: Whenever Rimmer is faced with something that challenges his inflated ego, his knee-jerk reaction is to deny it. In the event that denial doesn't make the issue go away, he gets very unbalanced.
Intangible Man: As a soft-light hologram, Rimmer is often complaining that he cannot touch or taste or feel anything, and in one scene in "Balance of Power" when Rimmer tries to block Lister's path, Lister simply walks out through Rimmer. This largely stops being mentioned after Kryten joins the regular cast, as he carries out most of the tasks Rimmer would otherwise do, and is dropped altogether when Rimmer gets his Hard Light body in Legion.
Subverted even later in the series, when it's mentioned he has a tiny projector inside him to maintain his physical presence> This usually crops up when it becomes a plot element.
It's All About Me: One of his defining characteristics, especially early on. After witnessing (what he thinks is) future-Lister's death in "Future Echoes", his reaction is to ask why Lister, who's just found out about what Rimmer saw, isn't thinking about him. "I'VE just had a rather nasty experience! I'VE just seen someone I know die in the most hideous, hideous way!"
It's All My Fault: Its hinted at in "Justice" that Rimmer blamed himself for the death of the entire Red Dwarf crew and gets charged for 1167 counts of manslaughter. He is acquitted as Kryten points out that the accident would likely have occurred anyway and that Rimmer was clearly unqualified to repair the drive plate, being so incompetent he should have never been put in that position in the first place. Though in "Back in the Red", it's stated that repairing the Drive Plate was such an easy task that only someone with the brain the size of a newt's testicle could possibly screw it up.
JerkassWith AHidden Heart of Gold: His jerkassery seemingly knows no bounds, yet it's more pronounced with Lister (granted, Lister is a slob, but still). However, Rimmer obviously cares about Lister's wellbeing, and often shares intensely personal stories with him - but this is in between mercilessly insulting everyone else on the ship, acting like an obstructive asshat, and on one occassion rejoicing when he thinks that Lister is about to die. Despite this, he outright panics when Lister collapses in "Confidence and Paranoia", and he has a surprisingly heartwarming moment in "Marooned" when he thinks Lister has burned his guitar to stay warm, admitting how proud he is of Lister's nobility and offering his nineteenth century wooden soldiers as firewood. Also, his reaction when his brother Howard dies in series X showcases him at his most Jerkass. To make a long story short, Rimmer's better traits are downplayed, and only slip out occasionally, but he does have them.
Last Stand: When Lister, Cat, and Kryten are all killed by the fire of the future Starbug crew, Rimmer is the only one left, desperately trying to stop what's happening. Despite how hopeless it looks, he picks up a bazookoid, makes a mad charge, and blasts the time machine. His single act of courage and bravery ends up saving his ship mates. Although they don't realize this, and attribute the reset to their future selves' attack instead.
Lawful Stupid: Rimmer loves to quote regulations in an effort to try and make others comply with him. In "Balance of Power" he himself proclaims that he "follows orders blindly and without question".
Lovable Coward / Dirty Coward: Varies between these in regards to the fans. In-Universe, he's seen as strictly a Dirty Coward; in season 3, Lister resentfully brings up the time Rimmer accused one of Red Dwarf's nastiest characters, to his face and in front of his four biggest mates, of being a necrophiliac, and then ran away whilst leaving Lister to face them singlehanded ("Marooned"). Three seasons later, Rimmer attracts the enraged disgust of all his shipmates when he leaves them to die in a derelict ship with an angry simulant ("Rimmerworld").
Madness Mantra: Rimmer when he suffered a nervous breakdown during one of his failed astro-navigation exams, referenced in the episode "The End".
Rimmer: Up, up, up, that's where I'm going!
Lister: Not until you pass an engineer's exam. And you won't do that because you'll just go in there and flunk again.
Rimmer: Lister, last time I only failed by the narrowest of narrow margins.
Lister: You what? You walked in there, wrote "I am a fish" four hundred times, did a funny little dance, and fainted.
Man, I Feel Like a Woman : Rimmer becomes Kochanski in "Balance of Power". He doesn't concern himself with feeling his feminine physique until the process is only partly reversed by Holly.
Not that he was in any hurry to get that last body part replaced.
Also The Cast Showoff: before he was cast in Red Dwarf, Chris Barrie was an accomplished vocal impressionist. (He briefly slips into his 'Ronald Reagan' during "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", and it's well-known enough that the rest of the cast call it out during the DVD commentary.)
One unfilmed script was included as a DVD extra with storyboards standing in for visuals, and Barrie voicing everybody.
The Neidermeyer: Rimmer has this general sort of attitude at all times, which made him the joke of the ship before the accident, but he really gets to show it off in "Meltdown". Except for Kryten (whose programming forces him to do so, as he laments), the other Dwarfers don't listen to him and he can't make them, so he's a lot less dangerous than most examples of this trope.
Never My Fault: As noted above, he refuses to accept the blame for any of his mistakes or shortcomings, passing them on to everyone around him. He even blamed Lister for the radiation leak, claiming that if he had been there to help him repair the drive plate, the accident wouldn't have happened.
Ironically, this might be technically true. According to Series VIII, fixing the Drive Plate is supposed to be trivially easy. If anyone but Rimmer tried to fix it, they probably wouldn't have screwed it up. And that's not counting Lister's Hidden Depths regarding his technical expertise, as he's managed to fix Starbug and Kryten on more than one occasion.
He claims that had he been taught gazpacho soup was meant to be served cold, he could have been an admiral. Despite the fact that he'd been with the corps 14 years by that point, was a chicken soup vending machine repair man, and died a year later.
Nigh Invulnerable: Gained with hard light. Doesn't stop him cowering in terror under the nearest convenient table when the crew are in trouble in future episodes, resulting in it being something of an Informed Ability (though Rimmer is explicitly stated to be able to feel normally, which implicitly includes pain, something Rimmer has an incredibly low tolerance for).
Not So Different: From his brother, Howard. As it turns out Howard is also a coward and a lowly vending machine repairman who lied about how successful he really was.
Arguably subverted when Howard comes clean about how he's been lying all along and admitting he was envious of the apparently truly successful Rimmer, and then goes on to dive in front of an energy blaster, sacrificing himself to save his little brother. Rimmer not only doesn't admit he was lying too, he lies to Howard again so he goes to his death with his mind blanked out from resentment, while Rimmer happily celebrates Howard's death afterwards.
Obsessed Are the Listmakers: A throw-away gag in the flashback of "Balance of Power" is that Rimmer wasted seven months that he could have spent studying for his exam on instead writing up a timetable for studying, with the implication that he does this every single time he tries to take the exam. In the novelization ("Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers"), it's explicitly stated that this is exactly what he does.
He comes clean (against Lister's advice) after getting catastrophically drunk celebrating his "death-day". The details of the one time are really quite depressing. Another episode discloses the fact that his partner may have been too concussed to have given informed consent (The novels attempt an Author's Saving Throw by establishing that Yvonne was interested in him but could never work up the nerve, though how much that offsets things is very YMMV).
He does manage a genuine affectionate sexual relationship later on in the series. Naturally, it doesn't last.
Other Me Annoys Me: In "Me2", he quickly grows to loathe the other Rimmer hologram after just a few days.
The core of Kryten's defence in Justice is essentially one protracted "The Reason You Suck" Speech, pointing out in excruciating detail the worst of Rimmer's character flaws to demonstrate how incompetent (and therefore unculpable) he is. It works perfectly, in spite of Rimmer's objections to his own defence
He can dish them out rather well too, mostly regarding Lister's deadbeat lifestyle and Kryten's semi-human status and awkward attempts at human mannerisms.
Reincarnation: In "Marooned", Rimmer claims that, in a previous life, he was Alexander the Great's chief eunuch.
The Resenter: Rimmer has an intensely deep loathing of himself that's well documented in both the series and the novels. Also of pretty much everyone around him, as well, but he definitely hates himself first and foremost. It proves almost lethal in "Trojan" by overloading and crashing his hard disk, and manages to negatively affect the other crew members in "Better Than Life" and "Terrorform".
Seems to be alleviated after his discovering who his real father is; he no longer has to live up to the high achievements of his father or his established family history.
Sense Loss Sadness: Until he became a Hard Light hologram, he sometimes resented being unable to interact with the physical world. Until he made an agreement with Lister to switch bodies to get Lister in shape, he welched on it in favor of doing things he'd missed (i.e. chain smoking cigars, eating a mountain of ice cream). When he was made to relent, he (as usual) became unscrupulous in "borrowing" people's bodies. (Until the next episode.)
Stealing The Credit: He does this quite a bit, laying claim to other people's successes and ideas as long as they actually work.
Strange Salute: The novels establish that it's actually Rimmer's own invention, and he's trying to sell the Space Corps on the idea of adopting it. This tells you almost everything you need to know about Rimmer.
He calls it the "Rimmer Salute" explicitly in the series on one or two occasions as well. Series VIII establishes on screen that the salute was developed by Rimmer.
Made funnier during the intro for the intro for the 10th anniversary Red Dwarf night, the salute was delivered by Patrick Stewart.
Super Strength: Apparently another benefit of his hard light form; it's alluded to in one episode that he can scrunch up enamel cups like Styrofoam and rip a fridge off a wall (in an attempt to insert it into Lister). It's never really demonstrated on-screen though.
That Was Objectionable: Rimmer repeatedly objected to his own defense counsel in "Justice" — and was overruled by the judge AI of the prison spacestation every time — because Kryten's defense strategy hinged on proving that Rimmer was too all-around incompetent to have been liable for the disaster aboard Red Dwarf that he felt guilty for.
"A man of such awesome stupidity, he even objects to his own defense counsel!"
One feels he was taking advantage of the (golden) opportunity to insult Rimmer as well: Kryten can so rarely do so without violating his programming.
Throw the Dog a Bone: Season X gives Rimmer some much needed closure on his family life (though some of it is mitigated). Not only is one of his jerkass, successful brothers revealed to be just as much a lying, sniveling, cowardly, ineffectual chicken soup machine repairman as he is (though he's promoted posthumously after his light bee is damaged), but his father reveals he isn't even his father, so the pressure to live up to Rimmer's ancestors is lost.
Took a Level in Badass: In "The Beginning" from Series X, where he comes up with the plan to trick four Simulant ships into surrounding Blue Midget on all sides and open fire, causing them to destroy themselves with their own weapons when the missiles pass straight through the hull, due to the molecular destabilisor the Dwarfers are using to make their hull intangible.
Took a Level in Jerkass: For series VIII and X. Somewhat justified in Series VIII, as that was a living Rimmer without the memories of the hologrammatic Rimmer.
Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Rimmer, sad pathetic weasel of a man that he is, would give his full title as Arnold J. Rimmer, BSc, SSc - in this case they stand for Bronze Swimming Certificate and Silver Swimming Certificate. This is made even worse when it's stated in one episode that he can't swim, meaning he was self-aggrandizing with forged/stolen swimming certificates, of all things!
Unreliable Narrator: The Rimmer ride from "Blue", while programmed by Kryten, was based on entries from Rimmer's journal.
Inverted in one of the novels, Last Human, where his son, having been raised on falsified tales of what a hero Rimmer was, has become the sort of Space Marine type Rimmer's always wished he could be.
Played by: Danny John Jules
Cat (sometimes The Cat) is the last known member of felis sapiens (also spelt felix sapiens), a race which evolved from the kittens of Lister's pet cat Frankenstein. Cat is known for his outlandish fashion sense, and gauges danger by how it will affect his looks.
Advertised Extra: Despite being one of the main characters, he's the one we know the least about.
On the other hand, the Cat freely admits that he's incredibly shallow, so who-he-is is right there on the surface.
Agent Peacock: Extremely vain, fastidious and fashion-orientated, but quite obviously straight and there are subtle signs of how dangerous he could actually be in a fight. Even with Red Dwarf's tendency to play fights for laughs, he still is the first to tool up with the bazookoids and he's their favored pilot for the smaller vessels.
Black and Nerdy: "Duane Dibley" - the persona was introduced as his worst nightmare, then brought back via a polymorph removing his "cool". Jules attributed Dibley's popularity to the lack of black nerds on TV at the time.
Blue and Orange Morality: The novels explain that many of The Cat's 'flaws' can't really be judged by human standards any more than the morals of an alien - he's not human; he's descended from cats and Lister and Rimmer are the first humans he has ever encountered.
Cats Are Mean: Most of his comments, even the ones that are well-meaning, come across as this in early series.
Cat: Hey, monkey, you're sick. Sick, helpless, and unconscious. If you weren't my friend, I'd steal your shoes
Likewise, it takes until around Series 3 before his reaction to Lister or others being in mortal peril becomes anything more than "So?"
A Cat Named Cat: It's established in the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers that the Cat race don't actually name themselves; they're all such egocentric individualists that they can't imagine anyone not knowing who they are. Though the Cat does seem to eventually pick up on the fact that there are people out there who don't know him, he still sees no need for any other name than simply "Cat."
Cloudcuckoolander: Initially - he becomes more of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer as time passes and the need for his skills increases. Imagine a wild cat becoming more domesticated or a kitten growing up.
Entirely justified, given that before encountering Rimmer and Lister in the first episode he'd never met a human before. It only makes sense that it takes a while for him to adapt to how humans interact.
Genius Ditz: Occasionally comes up with a workable plan. During Back To Earth, the origami foil squids he keeps making are the first clue that it's all an illusion.
Forgot Flanders Could Do That: Cat's self-centred vanity and ignorance are played for laughs so much that folks tend to forget he's got excellent reflexes and senses; not once in the series does he ever get hit.
Hidden Depths: He actually is pretty good at reading people, given his analysis of Rimmer's obsession with his father.
Human Outside, Alien Inside: The Cat looks almost perfectly human, except for rather overly prominent upper canines. He has six nipples and, according to a medical analysis, color-coded internal organs and both a heartbeat and a pulse that are much "cooler" than those of a human's. The former is portrayed as a catchy rhythmic beating sound, the latter a full-blown tropicano-type musical number.
According to the Backwards novel, male Felis Sapiens have not diverged from the reproductive model of their housecat ancestors. Meaning that their penis is covered in dozens of tiny, painful barbs. A pity the attractive hillbilly girl that Cat loses his virginity to (sort of) fails to see these barbs before they, uh, get put to work.
Jerk Ass: As mentioned in Rimmer's tropes, he gets happy when Rimmer appears to be close to death, and could care less about Lister's life as long as he does not have a snack. He also is totally vain, though he has gotten a little better as the show went on.
Kryten: Sir, (the crew of the Enlightenment) have taken Mr. Rimmer!
Cat: Quick; let's get out of here before they bring him back!
Large Ham: His actor described him as having the body of James Brown, the voice of Little Richard, and the face of Richard Pryor. Damn.
Last of His Kind: In a sense. The Cat Species left Red Dwarf many years ago, leaving behind only the stupid, the sick and the crippled. After the death of the Blind Cat Priest in "Waiting for God", the Cat becomes the sole survivor of the Cats that remained aboard Red Dwarf.
Took a Level in Badass: Although he's played more for comedy, from seasons 3 and on he still is always quick to join a fight and he proves he's an expert pilot.
Played By: Norman Lovett (1988, 1997-1999); Hattie Hayridge (1989-1992)
Red Dwarf's computer, Holly starts off amazingly intelligent with a purported IQ of 6,000. However, he has become senile before Lister's return to non-stasis. After an encounter with his counterpart from an alternate universe, a blonde female named Hilly, Holly performed a sex change on himself.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. Although Holly is regularly a menace to the crew, it's never intentional on his part. The crew soon learn not to rely on him.
Idiot Savant: Holly suffers from severe computer senility, which has reduced his intellect considerably to the point where he often forgets words and can barely string a slightly complicated sentence together, but he can also design and build advanced technology that allows them to jump between dimensions and resurrect the crew and rebuild his old self. He can play a mean prank using his Obfuscating Stupidity.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Holly is said to be temporarily offline due to water damage in Back to Earth, but something apparently happened between that episode and "Fathers and Suns" to the point where the crew were forced to find and install a completely new computer.
Oddly, early episodes such as "White Hole" imply that Holly is essential for to maintain the critical systems aboard Red Dwarf and when they went offline even briefly, the systems quickly began to fail. However it's possible that because of those events, the crew might have bodged the essential systems to run automatically without Holly, although Rimmer implies in "Fathers and Suns" that the ship is slowly beginning to fall apart now Holly's gone.
Put on a Bus: Actor wise, at the end of series 2. But character wise, at the end of series 5. Although...
Sixth Ranger: His return in series 8 generally saw him treated as much less of a focus than he was in series 2, only really playing a support role. And with the other 5 already established, and the show having changed so much since the second series, Holly was practically the new guy all over again.
Kryten 2 X 4 B- 523 P
Played By: David Ross (1988); Robert Llewellyn (1989-present)
Kryten is a 4000 series mechanoid. He was encountered by the crew on the wreck of the starship Nova 5, where he had obediently served his three female owners, not realising they had died on landing. Although, in the novels Kryten is actually the cause of the crash as he scrubs the computer's motherboard and guidance system out with hot soapy water as a nice surprise, causing it to malfunction and randomly spout French poetry. Kryten was helped to break his programming by Lister and eventually chose to oppose Rimmer, before leaving on Lister's space bike. He crashed and was rebuilt by Lister, giving him a new accent and new programming.
Absurdly Dedicated Worker: He's first encountered obediently serving the three female crew members of the Nova 5, completely oblivious to the fact that they were killed when the Nova crash-landed.
Camp Straight: Particularly in his first appearance, he's pretty campy, but his "ideal love interest" was the female equivalent of his model of mechanoids.
Clingy Jealous Mechanoid: Happens in VII most prominently after Kochanski becomes a permanent crew member, thanks to his almost motherly attitude towards Lister. Much less prevalent in Back To Earth as Kochanski has long since left Red Dwarf at that point.
Though it's better than one poor sod he knew who had the middle name 2Q4B...
Gag Penis: When he was temporarily turned human in "DNA", he apparently took pictures to see if everything was normal. In particular, why he got a "double-polaroid" from looking at kitchen utensils?!
Innocently Insensitive: He has a wavering grip of human emotions and pleasantries, so even when trying to be kind and complimentary, he often ends up insulting people with his matter-of-fact perception, particularly Rimmer.
Mr. Exposition: Became the primary means of delivering background information to the other characters, despite his nature as a domestic service robot. Beautifully spoofed after several seasons when the other characters appear to have gotten used to him knowing practically everything when he's asked how long a t-rex's bowel movements take and he mocks the idea that he'd know something so outlandish.
Pinocchio Syndrome: Subverted in "DNA" where he becomes human, but is unable to figure it out and Lister eventually convinces him to change back.
Robosexual: A sort of inversion in that he's a robot who has a relationship with a human man that can have a very romantic overtone (particularly during series VII and VIII, where he gets a lot of "Clingy Jealous Girlfriend" type moments). The fact he's technically a physical asexual (which gets him classified as a woman in series VIII) doesn't help, nor does the fact that the official diagnosis of the rogue emotions he has developed includes "Affection, Possessiveness and Love".
Robot Buddy: He talks to his spare heads and even the scutters could be counted.
Robot Religion: All mechanoids are programmed to believe in the electronic afterlife of Silicon Heaven, where Humans will serve them for all eternity. It's something to look forward to after a lifetime of dedicated service.
Kryten: For is it not written, "the Iron shall lay down with the Lamp?" Are you not a pantheist sir?
Lister: Well yeah, I just dont believe it applies to kitchen utensils. I'm not a frying pantheist!
Straight Man overlapping with The Smart Guy: Kryten is typically the one coming up with a solution to the Dilemma of the Week, moreso after Holly stops being a regular character.
Swiss Army Appendage: His groinal socket, which he can apparently plug a variety of devices into, including vacuum hoses and egg whisks. He also has a hot air dryer in his arse, which seems to be perfect for drying cutlery.
Technical Pacifist: While he is programmed not to kill, he has broken his programming enough to bestow violence upon those threatening his crewmates.
His directives also allow him to incapacitate Cat and Lister in Legion, as it is an act ultimately for the greater good of the crew.
Played By: Claire Grogan (1988, 1993); ChloŽ Annett (1997-?)
Navigation Officer Kristine Kochanski was Lister's partner, who perished along with the other crew members. Shortly after Rimmer's departure from Starbug, the crew encountered an alternate version of themselves where Kochanski had survived the leak instead of Lister. Kochanski was saved from falling into a dimensional vortex by Lister, but the vortex closed, preventing her from rejoining her crew.
Action Girl: Both Kochanskis definitely have their moments.
The first one has to be fairly smart as well, given that she was an officer.
Characterization Marches On: In her earliest appearances when played by Clare Grogan, she was quite friendly, flirty with Lister and had a Scottish accent. By the time she had joined the main cast (and Ms Grogan had been replaced by ChloŽ Annett) she was rather neurotic, very upper class and had an English accent (although still canonically from Scotland).
On the other hand, the second Kochanski is from an alternate reality. Presumably alt!Kochanski's family moved to England when she was young and she experienced a slightly different upbringing, though she still ended up on Red Dwarf and dated Lister.
The Lad-ette: In the Last Human novel, thanks to filling in the missing Lister's role in several of the scenes based on the TV series, she's this.
Love Interest: Not exactly, however Kryten thinks she's this for Lister...and occasionally so does Lister.
In the novels, especially Last Human, where she has a fairly large role, she plays the trope straight.
Ms. Fanservice: Most notably in the Shower Scene Kryten films in "Krytie TV" and at the end of "Ouroborous" where her medical gown is accidentally tucked into the back of her underwear.
Retcon: In the first few series she was Lister's friend whom he had a secret crush on, but never had the nerve to ask out. The tie-in novels make her his ex-girlfriend, something which was eventually retconned into the TV series when she joined the main cast. (True, the Kochanski who ends up joining the crew is from an alternate reality, but it's clear from her conversations with this world's Lister that he now remembers them being in a relationship and her breaking up with him.)
Sixth Ranger: A rather odd example, as she may be the sixth and final member to join the main cast, but she actually joins after two of the former main characters have left. Although one of them (Rimmer) is still considered main cast even in his temporary absence, and the other (Holly) returns at the end of the series Kochanski joins anyway , and being an online computer, has no tangeable presence, so in a way he qualifies as a fifth member by default, making Kochanski sixth automatically. Nethertheless, she's the sixth cast member.
Played By: Chris Barrie (1991, 1993, 1997)
Pandimensional super-hero, Ace Rimmer is Rimmer's counterpart from another dimension. Ace was held back at school, which spurred him on to succeed. Any non-Rimmer character may remark 'what a guy!' upon meeting Ace.
Another Dimension: Ace first left his dimension on an experimental Space Corps ship with a "dimension drive." Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way for him to choose his target dimension - meaning he can't get home! Presumably, the Padre, "Spanners" Lister, Secretary Mellie and his commanding officer "Bongo" are all still hoping Ace pops back up sometime.
'80s Hair: Has a magnificent bouffant compared to Rimmer's regulation cut.
For Want of a Nail: Rimmer believes Ace is a version of him that got all the lucky the breaks in life. However Ace reveals that the difference between their lives was a decision to hold him back a year in school, rather than just let him move on. It was actually Rimmer who got the break. When this happened it was the moment Ace realised he'd been underachieving and from that moment onward dedicated himself to being a better person.
Furthermore, with the reveal in Series X that his father was really the family gardener, one can surmise that after Ace became an officer and learned the truth, this is the reason he has such amazing self-confidence and can act without hearing his "father's" disapproving voice in his head.
Humble Hero: Despite a well-earned reputation an all-around Ace and being incredibly popular with his personnel and officers, he is modest, and surprisingly down-to-earth (in social situations, he has a tendency to be blase about danger).
Implacable Man: Helped fix Starbug with a broken right arm in his debut, then proceeded to perform surgery on Cat before tending to his own wounds (and even then, only after he'd been up for 36 hours).
Gets shot and simply laments that his best top is ruined. Justified in that he's a Hard Light hologram at that point. Though it still counts as it's an ultimately lethal shot.
Breaks his arm in when he ejects to save Starbug. Tells Lister that he's about to do something sissy and passes out for about a second before continuing on.
Take Up My Sword: In "Stoke Me a Clipper", Ace Rimmer tells the hologram of Arnold J. Rimmer to become the next Ace, and even briefly trains him to do so with what little life he has left.
You Can't Go Home Again: The dimension jump drive on his ship is stated to be a one way trip with no hope of going back. This is further elaborated in Backwards (the book, not the tv episode) when it's stated that new dimensions are created constantly due to choices made by people every day. Ace doesn't seem to mind, though.
Captain Frank Hollister
Played By: Mac McDonald (1988, 1999)
The overweight captain of Red Dwarf who is killed off (along with the rest of the crew bar Lister) halfway through the first episode. Hasn't stopped him being the most frequently reccuring non-main cast member.
All Men Are Perverts: When Rimmer lies and announces that he's lost the Sexual Magnetism Virus, he exclaims "I wanted that! I mean the lab boys wanted that."
Fat Bastard (Not all that much of a bastard but he does get a lot of fat jokes)
To top it off, Rimmer describes him as exactly this once.
Flanderization: In the first episode he seems a competent, strict-but-fair Captain. In series 8 he has become a tough, unfair Pointy-Haired Boss who, as previously mentioned, is subject to a lot of fat jokes — and in the character interview page on the Red Dwarf site, he's pretty much become a walking fat joke, constantly hungry and eating, demanding so much toast that even Talkie Toaster capitulates.
Gender Flip: In the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, he's a she — the Captain here is a woman with the unfortunate surname Kirk, but apart from the gender and name it's essentially the same character.
Hypocritical Humor: Denounces Rimmer's use of confidential files as sickening and unforgivable, but acknowledges that's how he became captain in the same log.
Pointy-Haired Boss In series 8, it's revealed that Hollister bribed and blackmailed his way up to Captain Rank.
Hollister: If the crew find out I'm really just "Dennis the Doughnut Boy", I'm finished.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Seemed actually rather understanding and competent in the first two seasons, with him even showing significant magnanimity towards Rimmer after the latter insulted him. Unfortunately it seemed resurrection had the effect of removing his patience and reasonableness.
Played By: John Lenahan (1988); David Ross (1991)
A very minor, but very well-remembered, character, Talkie Toaster belongs to Lister, is equipped with artificial intelligence and, to the annoyance of everyone, completely obsessed with making toast. Was destroyed off-screen by Lister sometime during the first two series and rebuilt (with a completely different voice and appearance) by Kryten in Series IV.
Ascended Extra: Talkie Toaster appears only in three episodes in the TV show, but plays an important and major part in the novel Better Than Life, and later went to do character interviews (complete with offers of toast) on the official Red Dwarf web page.
Catch Phrase: "Would you like some toast?" and endless variations thereof.
Another minor character who has achieved surprising fame despite his lack of screen time, Mr Flibble is a penguin hand puppet used by Rimmer when under the influence of a holovirus. Is known for his capacity to become very cross.
Ascended Extra: Like the Toaster, he does interviews on the series' website.
A rogue droid appearing in Series X episode "The Beginning", though unlike other insane robots he doesn't seem overly bothered about actually killing the Dwarfers. He's more interested in trying to convince them to take part in duels across time and space.
Affably Evil: The main reason he seems to be trailing the Dwarfers is because of sheer boredom, and the Dwarfers themselves are not threatened by his presence whatsoever.
Canon Immigrant: Of sorts. He was originally meant to be a character in the ill-fated movie, and ended up in The Beginning thanks to it being partially based on an early draft of the film script.
Chekhov's Gun: Quite literally; his gun proves pivotal to the plot.
Friendly Enemy: The main reason he's challenging them to duels across time and space is because they're both really bored and they serve as a distraction to the tedium. The sad thing is, even these death-defying duels have become routine.
It's Personal: Hogey claims Lister killed his brother, and uses it regularly as an excuse to initiate his requests for duels.
Played By: Jack Docherty (1992)
An extremely powerful simulant who, according to legend, survived to the end of time itself. Concluding that there was no God or afterlife, and that the only purpose of existence is to lead a worthwhile life, he embarks on a mission to judge everyone who has ever lived. Those he deems to have wasted the gift of life are erased from existence, and replaced with people who weren't fortunate enough to be conceived. Unsurprisingly, this includes numerous members of the Red Dwarf crew.