If you don’t remember ever seeing Red Dwarf Series 9, you could be forgiven for thinking you had started to lose the plot. You remember the series 8 finale ‘Only The Good’, which ended with a cliffhanger involving Red Dwarf being eaten by a corrosive virus and Rimmer kicking Death in the happy sack before fleeing into the disintegrating ship; the others having become trapped in a mirror universe. That was all back in 1999, and we have been waiting patiently ever since wondering if we would ever find out what became of our favourite space bums.
Fast forward to 2012, and an eagerly anticipated tenth series has just concluded its run. So, what the smeg happened to Red Dwarf Series 9 then? Did the master tapes get sucked into a giant swirly thing in space before it could be aired? Is it simply lost somewhere at the bottom of Lister’s laundry basket? Relax, there is a perfectly normal (well, normal for Red Dwarf) explanation as to what happened to the ninth series.
Since that cliffhanger back in 1999, despite rumours of a film being in the pipeline, it slowly began to seem like the show was history and Red Dwarf series 9 was never to be. Then in 2009 a 3 part special called Back To Earth was broadcast on the UK comedy channel Dave, and subsequently released worldwide as one continuous episode on DVD as a ‘Directors Cut’.
So, Is Back To Earth Actually Series 9 Then?
Since the news of Red Dwarf X being in the making came about, some people have come to the assumption that Back To Earth was, in fact, series 9. But since Back To Earth didn’t follow on from where series 8 left off, you have to ask yourself how likely this really is. Not only that, but Red Dwarf series 9 is actually mentioned in Back To Earth as being the ‘best season ever’ by the sc-fi memorabilia shop owner. And earlier, when Lister reads the back of the DVD box for Back To Earth, it says, “Back To Earth takes place after series 10”. This means these events occurred sometime after series 9 and 10. Add to that the fact that Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor has already stated that he doesn’t want to make a ninth series of the show, and that a tenth series would “make a lot more sense in the future.” OK, lets recap.
Back To Earth essentially saw the crew get sucked through an entirely different swirly thing in space to the one I mentioned earlier, finding themselves back on Earth in the very near future. They discover that in the dimension in which they now find themselves stranded, they are merely characters in a TV show called ‘Red Dwarf’. They learn this information whilst browsing through the DVD section of the store they ‘jumped’ into, and finding the full back catalogue of Red Dwarf DVD’s. And it is here, amongst this cinematic journal of all their escapades, that they encounter the DVD for the story they are currently playing out: Back To Earth.
The crew soon discover that Red Dwarf series 9 was regarded as the best ever series of the show, although no further information is given as to what may have transpired throughout that series (apart from Kochanski being sucked through an air-lock). The Dwarfers then go off in search of the writer of Red Dwarf, in the hope they can persuade him to write more episodes. A semi parody of Blade Runner fused with a stroll down the cobbles of Coronation Street quickly ensues, and our anti-heroes learn of their intended fate from their creator. Eventually the crew wake up to discover they have been experiencing a group hallucination caused by a female despair squid.
Aaah, So It Definitely Isn’t Then, Or Is It?
So, what does all this mean for Red Dwarf series 9? Well, to play devil’s advocate, it can be argued that since most of the events of Back To Earth were actually a hallucination caused by the female despair squid, everything that happened during the hallucination can be discounted as not being a Red Dwarf reality. But since Back To Earth did not follow on from series 8, offer any explanation as to how their situation at the and of ‘Only The Good’ was resolved, and was not even a full series, I would still argue that it is not series 9. It isn’t part of any series, but simply a 3 part/one off special.
Even though it didn’t really happen happen (unless ‘it will be was an event that could will have been taken place in the future’ <A.J.Rimmer, Future Echoes> ), mentioning series 9 as being the ‘best ever’ series of the show in Back To Earth has effectively mythologised it. I would imagine that attempting to write series 9 now, having put it on such a high pedestal that would garner such huge expectations, would be nigh on impossible. I think it is a fair assumption that this was entirely intentional, and that series 9 will never be written. Unless, of course, that period eventually gets covered with a Red Dwarf movie.
So All Our Questions Are Answered In Red Dwarf X Then?
To confuse matters even more, in Red Dwarf X Lister repeatedly refers to the ongoing task of tracking down Kochanski. This would make sense if Back To Earth happened before series 10. Even though it was an hallucination, we are presented with the idea that Kochanski isn’t dead as we learn pre-despair squid events, but that she decided to leave Lister and go it alone. So, in series 10, it would appear that the crew (or at least Lister) are searching for Kochanski who went missing before Back To Earth. Also, learning that Back To Earth happened after series 10 was also part of the hallucination, so maybe these events are pre Red Dwarf X.
Whether or not you choose to see Back To Earth as Red Dwarf Series 9 or not, we are still left with how the closing events of series 8 were concluded. Before Red Dwarf X hit our screens it was leaked that the last episode would finally address the issue of the cliffhanger at the end of ‘Only The Good’. Now that we have seen that episode, entiltled ‘The Beginning’, it is obvious that writer Doug Naylor does enjoy teasing fans. Not content with confusing folk over the existence of series 9, when we are about to hear Rimmer’s tale of how he saved the day, he is cut short by the rest of the crew who happen to have a different take on events anyway. Needless to say, we are left with more questions than answers!
Check out the Red Dwarf merchandise now available, including Blu-Rays and DVDs of all the episodes (except for Red Dwarf series 9 which doesn’t exist, unless you are counting Back To Earth of course), T-shirts, and all manner of shiny things. You may even be able to pick up a Stir Master, and if you do, order one for me too! Use the links below to dimension jump over to Amazon right away: