Created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, Red Dwarf started life on BBC radio as a sketch called Dave Hollins — Space Cadet, but it was only when it transferred to BBC2 in the form of a totally re-worked thirty-minute sitcom that the premise really took flight.
The first episode sees Dave Lister (Craig Charles), a Liverpudlian slob with an obsession for curry that borders on the pathological, getting himself placed in stasis for the remainder of Red Dwarf's voyage after smuggling a cat aboard.
And while Lister remains un-ageing in a stasis chamber, Second Technician Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) manages to neglect his duties and get the whole crew of the ship, himself included, killed by a blast of radiation.
Two million years later and Holly (Norman Lovett), Red Dwarf's computer, releases Lister from stasis, where he discovers that he is now the last human alive. And in order to keep him sane Holly also brings back Rimmer in the form of a hologram — denoted by an H on his forehead.
The final member of the original cast was Cat (Danny John-Jules), whose race had evolved over from the descendants of Lister's pet, Frankenstein.
The first two seasons of Red Dwarf would be fairly basic, ship-bound character pieces. But with the introduction of Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) as a regular character at the start of Season 3, the series took a slight change of direction. The plots began to move towards a slightly more sci-fi based approach, and at the same time the series started to gain a fan following as well as some impressive ratings. Season 2 also saw Hattie Hayridge replacing Norman Lovett as Holly.
Another change in the format of the show occurred in Season 6. Red Dwarf had been lost (along with Holly), which meant the cast were travelling from one scrape to the next in Starbug, one of the ship's shuttlecraft. A major development was also on the cards for Rimmer, who obtained a hard-light body in Legion, enabling him to physically interact with his surroundings.
By the time Season 7 came around in 1997, Chris Barrie had decided to leave the show, although he would still appear in a number of episodes, before departing to take-over the role of galactic hero from the deceased Ace Rimmer. But before he left, the series saw the introduction of Chloe Annett as a parallel-universe version of Kristine Kochanski, who had appeared in a number of the earlier episodes in the form of Clare Grogan. The series also saw a major change behind the scenes, as Grant and Naylor had now gone their separate way, and the majority of the episodes for this new run would be written by Doug Naylor, often in collaboration with other writers.
Season 8 would see the re-introduction of Red Dwarf and also the return of the original crew when Kryten's nanobots conveniently manage to recreate them. This also served as a convenient way of re-introducing Rimmer, who was now as human as the rest of the crew. This would be the last that was to be seen of the series on the BBC, and despite much talk of a movie being made, nothing would actually come of it.
Finally, nearly ten years after Red Dwarf's apparent demise, it was announced in January 2009 that a number of new episodes had been commissioned for broadcast on Dave (a UK digital television channel) at Easter 2009. The three-part Back to Earth was accompanied by a making-of documentary, and proved successful enough that a full season of six episodes was eventually commissioned in 2011. Red Dwarf X finally began being broadcasting on Dave in October 2012.
An eleventh season of Red Dwarf is currently in the planning stages and is expected to be produced for broadcast on Dave in 2014.