So, I recently finished watching the TV series Red Dwarf. It was fun, but more than that, it fulfilled a need I finally identified this time around. I watched all the seasons of ST:TNG, DS9, Voyager, and now Red Dwarf not only for the entertainment value of the shows but because the ‘company’ of the familiar characters was somehow comforting. It’s very hard right now to go see local friends, and while TV show characters are a pathetic substitute, they’re much better than nothing.
Back to Red Dwarf specifically though, there’s a real undercurrent of horrifying depression in the show. Lister takes everything so cheerfully, but the song that plays through the ending credits really nails it home: ‘I’m all alone, more or less.’ Do you remember being left alone in the house as a child? Do you remember how empty, huge, cavernous it felt with no one else there? At first it was probably exciting, but as the minutes and hours dragged on it grew more oppressive, lonelier, and you likely struggled to find things to do to keep your mind occupied.
Multiply that feeling by a million to see where Lister was. The only human left aboard a massive, empty ship hurtling (virtually unguided given how lousy their AI was) through space, with just a hologram recreation of someone you never liked and a rather aloof felinus-sapiens for company? Later there were a couple of others, sure, but for a long time it was just Rimmer and Cat.
Imagine for a moment that every character other than Lister is a figment of his imagination. There are plenty of reasons why that isn’t likely the case, but it wouldn’t be a surprising reaction to his circumstances.
Thinking upon a situation like that, I have to admit that my younger self was wrong; I wouldn’t be happy living totally alone, no matter how many books I had to read or how many cans of cherry pie filling I had to eat.