You'll never hear such melancholy lyrics sung as cheerfully as in the Red Dwarf theme song. Like so much about the programme, it's something quite sad and lonely yet produced in such a way that it comes across as almost joyous.
And that's the thing about Red Dwarf; for all the jokes, the smegs, and the silliness, the story it tells is as dark as it comes. A normal man is flung into the far future where loneliness and desperation are as much his companions as a humanoid cat and a hologram of his superior officer. Much of the sometimes very silly, often very clever, humour comes from playing in this dark space, exploring the things the Boys From The Dwarf do to stay sane, and how their enforced camaraderie has somehow grown stronger than true friendship.
Still holding the record for the longest-running and highest-rated comedy on BBC2, 21 years after the last new episode aired on that channel, and recently having a revival on Dave, Red Dwarf has barely a weak episode amongst its thirteen seasons. That's going to make ranking them difficult but Space Core Directive 451 says we have to smeggin' try.
14. Back To Earth
The concept of Back To Earth is interesting - a female version of (clue is in the title) Back To Reality's despair squid has captured them and is inducing hallucinations filled with joyous events that keep them occupied while it prepares to feed on them. The execution of the story is another matter entirely.
Dave, a UK channel that mostly airs reruns, had commissioned more Red Dwarf after ten years of the show being off the air. Finding them having to work around the actors' other commitments (notably Craig Charles was filming Coronation Street at the time, and several actors from that appear as themselves in Back To Earth), the story brought the boys from the Dwarf to our Earth. Faced with the idea that they were fictional characters here, they came across their own actors as well as fan club oddities such as the Starbug car.
There's a lot to like about Back To Earth, and some of the clever continuity and science fiction that Red Dwarf is known for. It's just a shame that it never really feels like the show until the third episode.