I woke up the other morning and felt genuinely sad that the dream I’d just had wasn’t real.
It was about a TV show, you see. I think in my head somewhere was the memory of my recent discovery that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is now being remade as a serious Netflix-style drama called Bel-Air, now in its second series of ten glossy hour-long episodes with spectacular production values, grappling with issues of racial tension and culture shock. Well, my brain said, if you can make a big-budget serial drama out of the Fresh Prince, you can do anything.
In my dream, there was going to be a huge new Netflix series that would be serious, dramatic reboot of Red Dwarf. I can’t convey to you in words just how amazing it looked – with a proper budget for the sets and special effects – but my dream brain did a cracking job with the pitch.
Waking up from stasis, three million years in the future, Dave Lister is horrified to find himself alone on a crumbling wreck of a spaceship that had suffered a nuclear meltdown. Holly resurrects his dead roommate, but the two have nothing in common, and as a hologram he can’t do anything to help anyway. The ship that is now his home is virtually derelict – nothing lasts for three million years and Holly has been forced to shut down almost everything as it failed, rotted and collapsed. Large parts of Red Dwarf are missing after an eternity of asteroid strikes. (Holly avoids explaining because it would be too much for Lister to know that a civilisation rose on the ship and then dismantled it for structural metalwork and machinery to leave on their own starships. Hints about that part of Red Dwarf’s history keep appearing in the background but the story won’t develop until season two.)
Exploring what’s left of the ship, he finds the remains of a service robot in the cargo decks, and decides to start repairing it so he has some help in making his miserable surroundings survivable. For the time being Kryten is just a head on a shelf with a severed hand that can roam the ship, but at least he’s company.
Searching for more robot spares, Lister finds that another stasis booth on the lower decks that has developed a fault and has been radiating a stasis field into the adjoining storeroom for the last three million years, draining the engines but preserving a link to the same room back before the accident.
With nothing to lose, Lister steps into the stasis field and finds he can return to a time he recognises, but not for long – passing through it brings on headaches and nausea and the longer he remains the worse it gets. But brief visits to the past give him a break from the harrowing loneliness of his situation so he keeps going back, and soon finds himself coming awkwardly face to face with Kristine Kochanski, an ex he can barely get off his mind.
Back before the accident, Kochanski is a successful officer with a busy social life who is, in private, unhappy with a career that’s taken over her life. She had a brief romance with Lister that she ended because they found it too hard to bridge the gap between their ranks. But she still thinks about him, and sometimes even visits the stasis booth where his frozen form is trapped as a punishment for a minor infraction of the company’s rules. Now she finds that a second Lister is on board – sometimes, at least – and is living in hell. She follows, in secret, after a meeting where he confides that he’s not the Lister from her time but another from the future, and sees his return through the stasis field.
Unwilling to leave him to his fate, and unable to see the Lister from her own time, she steps into the stasis field herself, and finds herself on a dilapidated version of the ship she knows, struggling to think clearly through a blinding headache. Lister is nowhere to be seen, but to her horror, a strange man is approaching down the corridor, handsome and stylish, but screaming wildly and bouncing off the walls. He hasn’t seen her yet but it’s only a matter of time. Does she turn back?
End episode one.
It’s a romance across time, a love story between two people who can’t be together and can’t bear to be apart, with the human drama of Kochanski’s life in the civilised past, where her increasingly erratic behaviour can only be understood by her friends as an unreasonable attachment to a man she surely isn’t able to see any more, and the action drama of a man trapped on a failing spaceship with very little help and danger around every corner.
Romance! Tension! Drama! Space fights with cat people! Light relief and romantic sabotage from the ever-antagonistic Rimmer! Kryten’s hand with an eye on the end of its finger as a recurring character! It’s got it all!
I woke up genuinely looking forward to putting a message on the WhatsApp group to ask if you’d seen the trailer I’d just watched. But you haven’t because it doesn’t exist. And that’s why I woke up feeling sad.