The enD

\ Summary | Highlights | Review | Commentary highlights | Fanbase opinions /
(reviewed September 2009)


It's typical life aboard Red Dwarf for Dave Lister and Arnold Rimmer; Lister continues to slob about while Rimmer aspires to complete the astro-navigation exam. Rimmer fails the exam once again, while Lister is discovered to have been smuggling a cat named Frankenstein in his quarters, and is sent into eighteen months of stasis as punishment; but when he exits, Holly, the ship's computer, delivers some bad news: the entire crew died of a radiation leak (later revealed to have been caused by Rimmer), and three million years have passed so the radiation could reach a safe level.

In the meantime, Frankenstein had been safely in the hold and breeding for all that time, culminating in a cat-like hominid who is dubbed - of course, the Cat - and the story of Lister and Frankenstein had been treated as a biblical story by the cat people. Despite that, they still have one goal in mind - get back to Earth!


LISTER: Sir, just suppose... suppose if I had a cat, what would you do with Frankenstein?
HOLLISTER: I would send it down to the medical bay and have it cut up and run tests on it.
LISTER: Would you put it back together when you're finished?
HOLLISTER: Lister, the cat would be dead.
LISTER: With respect, sir, what's in it for the cat?


A functional and entertaining first episode. The laughs aren't as frequent as in later series, and admittedly, probably not as much as other series 1 episodes, but given the fact it's got to set the scene for the rest of the series, it still generates some good chuckles. For a first episode, its got a lot on its plate to start with - it's got to establish the simple fact that it's a sci-fi comedy to a casual audience, a combination that would certainly be pretty far-out then.

It has to then explain a variety of sci-fi concepts that would be completely foreign to most casual comedy audiences, but explain them quickly and simply, as it's still got to work in some comedy and storyline into its half-hour runtime.

And amidst the laughs, the drama and the infodumping, it's got to establish the four main characters well enough that we look forward to watching them for several more series; limited casts are a given in TV shows, but when everyone is dead and civilisation may easily have gone extinct, it kind of limits the potential for special guests, doesn't it?

As a first episode, it's got more to demonstrate than just basic character interaction; it has to clarify such alien concepts as holograms, stasis and, uh, how felines can turn into hominids if you leave them long enough, I guess. Someone unfamiliar with those are bound to be thankful for the explanations, since without them they'd essentially be in the dark about how the series' setting is crafted in the first place, but to a sci-fi dweeb like myself, the infodumping is kind of obvious and just plain dull.

Todhunter's explanation of stasis is probably the most bothersome. Captain Hollister at least has potentially-unfamiliar crew members to explain holograms to; all Todhunter's got to work with is Lister, who clearly doesn't give a damn, and the joke afterwards isn't strong enough to negate the obvious vibe of 'science lesson time!'

The second series would improve greatly on its technobabble, presenting a device with an advanced purpose in a simplistic idiot-proof manner (the Holly Hop Drive) or merely using basic terminology to explain it ("What is it?" "It's a hole back into the past." "Oh, a magic door! Well, why didn't you say?").

I'm particularly intrigued with how... simplistic, for lack of a better term, Lister is portrayed early on. Sure, he's a self-proclaimed bum with friends straight from the bottom of the scum barrel, but unlike later on where he seems to lose all ambition in his life (besides stumbling into wacky alien adventures with his chums, of course), Lister talks frequently about his quaint five year plan here, which involves somehow getting hitched with Kochanski, moving to Fiji and starting up a farm and living an easy, carefree life from then on.

The ending song would reference it long, long after that subplot was abandoned, but I always found it to be a cute contrast with Rimmer, who had ambitions far beyond what he could probably ever achieve. Of course, considering the chances of realistically meeting Kochanski again were effectively nil after this series, I think that stripped a bit of Lister's character and forced him to get new goals for later series, such as making Kryten more human. Still, fun while it lasted.

Obviously with Lister getting the main focus in this episode, the others aren't developed quite as well, but Rimmer gets an excellent introduction that essentially puts his entire attitude in a nutshell, and his first act of assholery being cheating in a test is a great way to show it. For some reason I love how he has pens on his sleeve during the exam.

Holly only gets a few opportunities to generate chortles, but given this episode is all about setup, he gets more opportunities afterwards. The Cat, likewise, gets a rather forced introduction but his appearance brings about a great little twist, of the evolution of Lister's cat's offspring and their treating the events of Lister and Frankenstein as a religion.

It's one of my favourite plots in Red Dwarf, and the idea that Lister, the ambition-less guy that he is, ends up being treated as a god despite his complaints always amuses me. It's a pity the plot didn't last terribly long, being taken care of in only a few episodes, but the potential was great, I felt, and the idea of a colony of cats once living in the ship's hold was something I thought could have been explored further.

As a first episode, I particularly liked how it set up a lot of concepts that would be explored further in subsequent episodes; other episodes in series 1 would do the same, but not every idea was explored, sadly. Still, a strong, fully functional episode.

Commentary highlightS

CRAIG: Y'know, this is the first time I'd ever acted and it kind of, ahem, shows.
DANNY: The very first line got a laugh, isn't that something.
CHRIS: We must've rehearsed this a hundred times or something. Yet it still looks fresh.
CRAIG: I was so nervous, I mean, this was in front of a live studio audience--
NORMAN: But the audience were like estate agents, weren't they? They probably didn't know know anything about it...
CRAIG: Remember we used to gets lots of people from Barclays and put them in the audience? Big groups of bankers.

[during George's funeral]
DANNY: It's Mac.
NORMAN: What a skinny boy.
DANNY: He really is, like, too skinny to...
CHRIS: He didn't run past the salad bars in those days, did he?
CRAIG: He looks positively anorexic to the way he is now, doesn't he?
DANNY: "Totally anorexic!"
[during the dinner hall scene]
NORMAN: Oh, he's put on weight since that first scene.
DANNY: [laughter] Is that a belt?
CRAIG: At the BBC canteen!
[Captain Hollister's dust remains are discovered]
CHRIS: Haven't they got the size of Mac's...?
DANNY: That's right! Haha, Captain Hollister should've been a bucketload!
CRAIG: [laughter] Oh, my god!
DANNY: That was Norman that said that!
CHRIS: I wonder when Mac gets to watch this!
DANNY: I just realised, his lovely daughters that've come to the convention will be going, "how dare they?"

CHRIS: Now, this set - the greyness of this set - is hailed by someone as being the best ever.
DANNY: Was it military grey or ocean grey; battleship grey or... wasn't there a big conversation at one time with the set designer about the grey?
CRAIG: There was!
DANNY: Wasn't there a big argument about whether it was ocean grey or different grey?
CRAIG: Mmm. My memories of the first series are kind of in black and white, and it's 'cause there's so little colour on the set.

Fanbase opinionS

Although not considered one of the best episodes, general consensus appears to say that The End is a decent-enough episode, if just for the simple fact that it spawned the friggin' series. The comparatively weak jokes are frequently mentioned as a flaw, rendering the atmosphere rather flat, but most folk praise it for making a superb start to the series and defining Lister and Rimmer perfectly to the fresh audience. A poll on a Japanese fansite rates it as the third-best of this series.