The first episode of “Red Dwarf” opens on an ordinary working day for Dave Lister (Craig Charles), a slovenly technician who is the lowest-ranking crew member on board, and his jobsworth roommate and supervisor Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), the second-lowest person in the ship’s hierarchy. Lister dreams of getting back to Earth and starting a farm on Fiji while Rimmer aspires to become an officer, despite already flunking the entrance exam several times already.
Lister gets in trouble for smuggling a pregnant cat onboard and, rather than turn her over, takes 18 months in suspended animation as punishment. When his sentence is complete, he finds the ship deserted. A deadly radiation leak caused by Rimmer’s incompetence has killed the entire crew and three million years have passed until it was safe enough for Holly (Norman Lovett), the ship’s dim computer, to release him.
Lister is not all alone, though. The ship can support one holographic crew member and Holly has deduced that the best person to keep Lister sane is his old roomie Rimmer. They also encounter Cat (Danny John-Jules), a preening, style-conscious, self-obsessed humanoid evolved from Lister’s pet, who was stashed safely in the cargo hold at the time of the leak.
In the second series, the new-look crew of the Red Dwarf picks up a distress signal and rescues Kryten (David Ross), a service android with an overdeveloped sense of guilt. The character became a regular in the third series when Robert Llewelyn took the role. Rather than upset the dynamic between the characters already established by Charles, Barrie, and John-Jules, Kryten added another dimension to the crew, his desire to both serve and become more human providing another battleground for the constantly bickering duo of Lister and Rimmer.