Comedy Science Fiction: Red Dwarf Did It First!

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Comedy Science Fiction: Red Dwarf Did It First!

Post by sharoma »

The Orville and Rick and Morty are two science fiction comedy shows which present seemingly original ideas. Yet these ideas betray that the authors clearly saw and have been influenced by Red Dwarf. Since Red Dwarf will always be considered 'cult' (despite its immense popularity) and therefore not mainstream, the writers will feel they don't have to name it as an influence. Here are a few plots, themes, ideas or scenarios which have been used in Red Dwarf and crop up later in Rick and Morty or The Orville, the latter of which is just a slick version of Red Dwarf:
  1. Alternate Dimensions / Parallel Universes
    Red Dwarf features this concept from early on in the show, such as S02E06 "Parallel Universe" where women are the 'men' in the society and men bear the children.
  2. Immersive video games
    Red Dwarf S02E02 "Better Than Life" features an immersive video game not entirely dissimilar to the game Roy featured in Rick and Morty S02E02 "Mortynight Run". Red Dwarf revisits this sort of game in S05E06 "Back to Reality".
  3. Humans as zoo animals
    In S01E02 "Future Echoes" Lister remarks that he doesn't care if the dolphins have taken over Earth and people are all in the 'Humanbeingatarium'. In The Orville S01E02 "Command Performance" the technologically advanced Calivon capture and imprison Mercer and Grayson for a new exhibit in a zoo filled with humanoid species from throughout the galaxy. In Rick & Morty S03E08 "Morty's Mind Blowers", Rick tricks NASA employees into rescuing them so they could replace him and Morty in a menagerie.
  4. Domestic pets with higher intelligence
    In S01E02 we find out that the character Cat is a Felis sapiens, descended from the domesticated house cat. In Rick and Morty S01E02 "Lawnmower Dog" the family's pet dog is given human intelligence.
  5. Time travel
    Okay, so this is a bit vague. Red Dwarf discussed and utilised time travel a lot throughout its run. Still, they did it long before Rick and Morty was even conceived.
  6. Ramshackle ships
    Red Dwarf itself is a battered mining ship. During construction it was hit by an asteroid but to save costs the company just built around it. In Series 8 they make references to the Jupiter Mining Corporation having made cutbacks to the ship's features. The 'lo-fi underfunded vibe' in Red Dwarf was influenced by the 1974 film Dark Star, which although not a keeper is definitely worth a watch. It's a very dark film which also features a message from Earth telling the crew that certain funding has been cut and they must make the best of their situation. I also think Grant & Naylor wanted to portray something a lot more realistic than the high tech, highly funded, ultra sheen look of a Star Trek universe vessel. In the Star Trek universe there is no money and everything is brand new or expertly maintained. Nothing is jury-rigged or built from random spare parts because it doesn't have to be. Red Dwarf itself is in a sorry state, even before the accident. The landing craft Blue Midget is heard to give off a painful grinding noise which Lister blames on the gearbox! Starbug is known to be an obsolete vessel with serious flaws in its design. My point is that Rick's space ship which he cobbled together is not an original comedic device in science fiction TV. Nor is a ramshackle vehicle an original comedic device in ordinary TV and film. See my article on this: Shitmobiles in TV.
  7. Justice Field
    In Red Dwarf S04E03 "Justice" the Justice Field prevents unjust actions from taking place. If you try and hurt someone they won't get hurt but you will suffer the consequences. In Rick and Morty S03E05 "The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy" a similar field prevents fatal injuries to anyone within it.
  8. Holograms
    As we all know, Rimmer dies but is brought back to life as a hologram. Holograms are used throughout Rick and Morty in various forms.
  9. Abuse of replicators / vending machines
    Cat somewhat abuses the food service dispenser by ordering endless amounts of fish or chicken dinners, making himself ill in the process. In The Orville S02E11 "Lasting Impressions" Bortus abuses the replicator by ordering 500 cigarettes, causing himself and Klyden to become addicted.
  10. Sarcastic, sardonic computers
    Holly, the Red Dwarf computer, a tenth generation AI with an IQ of 6,000, is extremely sarcastic. In Rick and Morty S02E06 "The Ricks Must Be Crazy", Rick's ship's computer likewise acts very sarcastically towards Summer.
  11. Smart shoes
    In Red Dwarf S02E05 "Queeg" Lister makes a reference to 'Smart shoes' which despite inebriation, can take the owner home. I seem to remember Rick possessing similar shoes, although I could be wrong!
  12. Widescreen displays
    Again, in Red Dwarf S02E05 "Queeg" you can see what appear to be widescreen displays. This isn't something that anyone has copied, more an example of Red Dwarf preempting the future in general, like the 'Smart' shoes listed above.
  13. Alcoholism and Addiction
    A theme of both Red Dwarf and Rick and Morty is their title character's addiction to alcohol. Although this was seen as much less serious problem in the late '80s and early '90s, by the time Rick and Morty premiered it wasn't such a casual throwaway. Rick's addiction is a serious problem that is brought to the fore on more than one occasion. In Red Dwarf S03E04 "Bodyswap", Lister is serious about improving his health by cutting back on booze and cigs. In the latest season of Rick and Morty, Rick has seemingly cut back his drinking too because we don't hear him constantly burping between words.
  14. Mind/body swapping
    In Red Dwarf S03E04 "Bodyswap" Lister and Rimmer swap minds (or bodies, depending on how you look at it). In Rick and Morty S07E02 "The Jerrick Trap" Rick and Jerry do the same thing.
  15. Dream analysis
    In Red Dwarf S02E06 "Parallel Universe" Cat is seen using the dream recorder to look for a dream he had. In S02E03 "Thanks for the Memory" Lister is able to 'go into' Rimmer's dream and insert a memory. In Rick and Morty S01E02 "Lawnmower Dog" Rick is able to go into people's dreams, although the film Inception (2010) is credited with the idea.
  16. Talkie Toaster & Butter Robot
    In Red Dwarf Talkie Toaster appears numerous times. He is self-aware and intelligent enough to judge correctly that Lister cannot sing. He often has an existential crisis about his only role in life being the heating of bread. In Rick and Morty S01E09 "Something Ricked This Way Comes" Rick invents a sentient Butter Robot which has a remarkably similiar outlook on life due to its limited scope of duty.
  17. False readings
    In Red Dwarf S03E02 "Marooned" Holly thinks that there are five black holes nearby, which turn out to be simply 'grit' on the monitor. In Rick and Morty S03E08 "Morty's Mind Blowers" Morty drives Mr. Lunas to suicide due to a 'smudge on the lens'.
  18. False niceties
    In Red Dwarf S04E03 "Terrorform" the crew have to be nice to Rimmer to escape the psi-moon. In Rick & Morty S03E08 "Morty's Mind Blowers", the family have to be nice to Morty so that Voltematron is forced out of his body.
To sum up, if you have an idea for your comedy science fiction show, chances are that Red Dwarf Already Did It!
Robin Sharrock
Posts: 44
Joined: 23 Oct 2023, 21:17

Re: Comedy Science Fiction: Red Dwarf Did It First!

Post by thatalex »

Red Dwarf was wildly innovative and had deep lore too, very well thought-out. Perhaps I should pillage it for tropes!
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