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Recap / Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

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"...We're characters from a TV series who've somehow escaped the TV world... into the real world?"

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (also referred to as Red Dwarf IX and Red Dwarf: Series IX) is a three-part miniseries which marked the first outing of Red Dwarf for ten years.

After a series of incidents on Red Dwarf involving a giant squid, the hologram of a female scientist and a dimension portal, Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten arrive back on Earth circa 2009, only to find that they are not actually real, but characters in a television series called Red Dwarf.


  • Actor Allusion: The crew meet Craig Charles, and Rimmer asks for his own sitcom (Chris Barrie starred in The Brittas Empire, which alluded to Brittas having a similar event occur in his past to Rimmer).
  • Call-Back: Cat describes the set of Coronation Street as being "worse than Rimmerworld". And, of course, the whole miniseries is a sequel to "Back to Reality".
  • The Cameo: ChloĆ« Annett turns up as Kochanski in a single-scene dream/fantasy sequence, her last appearance in the series to date.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The Cat bringing a Despair Squid onto the Red Dwarf makes the Prelude To Nanarchy webcomic non-canon as it has Starbug going back into space after "Back to Reality" and finding the Red Dwarf missing.
  • Cassette Futurism: Kryten actually provides a Watsonian explanation for why Red Dwarf has this aesthetic when the Boyz visit a DVD shop in 2009 and Lister (being a late-22nd century boy) is confused as to what DVDs are. Turns out, at some point in the mid-21st century, humanity had such a problem with losing DVDs that they reverted back to videotape — as VHS cassettes, being bigger and bulkier than DVDs, are much harder to lose. Ironically, streaming services took off after this and supplanted the need for physical media at all!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Compared to the latter Dave episodes, this story features a different sleeping quarters set that has a grey colour scheme rather than red, and takes clear inspiration from the Series III-V sleeping quarters.
  • Enhance Button: One scene features a wildly over-the-top parody of this, ending with Kryten Stating the Simple Solution of simply looking their target up in the phone book after they just got the reverse face of his business card.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • This fact that the Crew get attacked by a Squid in Part One, as well as the title of the Mini-Series itself, Foreshadow that it is actually a Sequel to the Episode "Back To Reality".
    • Bartikovsky blanks a confused Rimmer when he asks how there can do two Hard Light holograms operating when Red Dwarf has only ever had the power for one. Turns out he's right, and everything from her turning up onwards is a hallucination.
    • When the clerk at a sci-fi shop mentions an event in Series IX where Kryten rushed to tell Lister that Kochanski had been sucked out of an airlock, Kryten is shown giving a rather guilty expression. He later confesses that he helped Kochanski leave Red Dwarf and made up her death as a cover story.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: It's all a hallucination of the crew.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Katerina Bartikovsky is definitely one.
  • Mythology Gag: There are several items in the threw episodes that hark back to older episodes:
    • Mugs Murphy, the Show Within a Show that Lister and The Cat go to see in the cinema and Rimmer mistakes for Citizen Kane in "Me2" is one of the DVD boxsets in the shop, as is Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head, one of the video nasties The Cat found in the Lows sleeping quarters in "Angels And Demons".
    • In the bunkroom scene in the shopping centre, a photograph of Lister's adoptive father's dog that previously appeared in "Future Echoes" is hanging in the background.
    • Swallow wears the Simulant's costume from "Beyond A Joke".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Cat sheepishly reveals that he was the one who brought the female Despair Squid onboard Red Dwarf in the first place. He intended to eat her later, but forgot about her due to losing Red Dwarf shortly afterwards. This essentially means everything that happened in the miniseries is his fault.
  • No Fourth Wall: The plot consists of the intrepid four discovering that they're just characters in a TV series, and trying to track down the writers to find out how long they have left. Subverted, as it was actually a group hallucination brought on by the ink of a psychedelic squid.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Lister manages to complete a trifecta of being annoyed at other versions of himself... by adding his own actor!
  • Put on a Bus: Everyone who was on the reconstituted Red Dwarf is presumably still in space somewhere and Kochanski left in a Blue Midget when she was sick of Lister's drinking.
  • Right Behind Me: Rimmer unleashes a verbal assault on the new female crewmember Katerina Bartikovsky, unaware that she's behind him. The task of warning him that she's standing right behind him falls to Kryten, who ends up complimenting Bartikovsky's breasts to make his point.
  • Self-Deprecation: Much of the episode is the show making fun of itself.
  • Sequel Episode: One for the Season V Episode "Back To Reality".
  • Skewed Priorities: Rimmer is distracted listening to music rather than paying any attention to the mission, resulting in Lister, Kryten, and Cat being attacked and almost killed by the squid. When Lister calls him out on this after barley surviving, Rimmer of course blames Lister for trying to make it all about him.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: As noted above, the special features a sequence showing ludicrous usage of the Enhance Button trope, bouncing off of windows and even reflective doorknobs, all to get the phone number on the reverse side of a man's business card. In the end, Kryten asks why they didn't just look him up in the phone book, since his name was on the side of the card visible in the original photo.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kochanski's died since the last season. Turns out she left Red Dwarf on a Blue Midget because she was sick of Lister's drinking and he just pretends she's dead.
  • Take That!: A great number of Take That(s) aimed at Blade Runner, The BBC, Coronation Street and other material.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The show resumes in its traditional four-character format with no mention or explanation of how the ship survived being eaten by microbes at the end of Series VIII. Doug Naylor later said that the current hologram Rimmer is the same one from the first seven seasons returned from being Ace, so it's possible that the unused ending for "Only The Good..." with Ace Rimmer coming back to save the ship might be canon.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Katerina Bartikovsky argues that there's no moral problem with murdering a hologram. She is a hologram who wants to kill Rimmer, also a hologram, so he kills her instead.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The mini-series is a long parody of Blade Runner.