Easter Egg Hunt

A seasonal guide to Red Dwarf's hidden jokes and references.

If we say the words "Easter egg" to you, the first thing you'll probably think of is chocolate. The second thing, however, is likely to be those hidden bits of bonus footage found all over the Red Dwarf DVDs and accessed via all manner of secret bits of remote fiddling.

But even since long before the advent of DVD, the makers of movies, TV shows, video games and other media have been planting secret hidden messages, jokes, references and imagery for intrepid viewers to hunt out and feel smug about themselves for finding. Red Dwarf is no exception - and so, as a treat for this Easter holiday, here are some of our favourites.

Citizen Rimmer

Having been created by two such cinephiles, it's no surprise that Red Dwarf is littered with movie references. From Camille's near shot-for-shot remaking of scenes from Casablanca, to shorter or more subtle nods to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dirty Harry, Robocop and Die Hard 2, there's fun to be had for movie-loving Dwarfers in spotting them all.

One of the better film-referencing gags comes in Series I's Me2. Rimmer's death video, with its shattering snow globe model and close-up on the agonised cry of "Gazpacho Soup!" is an obvious and deliberate mirror of the final moments of Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, as seen at the beginning of the film (below).

So far so clever, but what really makes the scene stand out is the realisation later in the episode that it was all a subconscious piece of foreshadowing. As Rimmer sits down in the cinema alongside Lister and Cat, the film that's about to play is none other than... Citizen Kane. And as he demonstrates a spectacular lack of Orson Welles knowledge - instead confusing it with the pre-movie cartoon - he's apparently blissfully unaware of the link to his own dying moments.

You're a total Gwenlan!

Gareth Gwenlan was a noted TV comedy producer who happened to be Head of BBC Comedy in the early 1980s - and a man who had at one point passed on commissioning Red Dwarf, allegedly because its setting didn't contain a sofa. By way of thanks, Rob and Doug gave him not one but two namechecks in the Series II opener, Kryten. The more obvious was Lister's line of dialogue, turning "Gwenlan" into an insult directed at Kryten - but there's a more subtle one right at the beginning, with the producer of robo-soap Androids having a familiar, if slightly altered, surname.

Of course, this wasn't the first example of the writers using a real person's name - assorted characters in the first series were named after people they'd known at school, most notably Rimmer (an annoying prefect) and Kochanski (the school bully).

Edarit S'ruhtra

Some of Red Dwarf's hidden gags are easy to spot - but others require a little more work. Or at least they used to, in the case of Backwards' reversed dialogue. Back in 1989, it would have been quite difficult for the average viewer to flip around the footage and discover that Arthur Smith's nightclub owner's tirade at Rimmer and Kryten was actually an ad-libbed stream of profanity aimed primarily at the very people who had reversed the footage.

Of course, the game was somewhat given away in later years, firstly by the reversed segment's inclusion on the 1995 Smeg Outs tape, and then courtesy of the Backwards Forwards feature on the Series III DVD (which also revealed the true words spoken by the aggrieved victims of Lister and Cat's acts of bicycle and pie theft). Nevertheless, the precise contents of the rant - which are far too unpleasant to recount in full here - are probably the show's most famous hidden Easter Egg.

Dwarferin' The TARDIS

Red Dwarf's original visual effects team, including Peter Wragg and Mike Tucker, had between them many years of experience working on Doctor Who - and so it was only a matter of time before a mischievous crossover reference would make an appearance. It came in the form of a small model of the TARDIS, planted in the docking bay of Red Dwarf during model shoots for the third series.

Unfortunately, the scene in which the famous time machine would have been spotted - the evacuation sequence at the beginning of Marooned - was actually truncated, so the angle at which the tiny blue box might have been seen never made it to the screen.

And that would have been the end of the story... were it not for the fact that some of that same footage happened to be reused (albeit flipped horizontally from the original) in Series V's Demons and Angels. And so during a similar evacuation, as Starbug hurtles towards the closed bay doors... the TARDIS can be spotted nestling snugly away, almost exactly in the centre of the frame. Does this mean that a crossover between the good Doctor of Gallifrey and Red Dwarf's strictly "no aliens" universe could theoretically be possible? Well, such debates have split entire fandoms in half, so you'll forgive us if we keep quiet on that one.

Born in the USA

It's well documented that when Rob and Doug came back from working on the Red Dwarf USA pilot, they brought back with them a more American-style approach to writing - which manifested itself in the higher gag rate of Series VI. But it's perhaps less well-known that that wasn't the only thing they brought back from their time in the States. Although the majority of the jokes (and certainly most of the better ones) in the two pilots were cribbed from the original series, one joke from the second "promo" pilot actually made its way over in the opposite direction - Cat and Rimmer's "worm skin rug" exchange.

Of course, when including the line in Psirens less than a year after producing the pilot, the writers could have reasonably expected that it would remain their little secret - failing to account for years of bootlegged convention showings and the emergence of online file sharing. Meanwhile, the reuse of the name Captain Tau - originally the name of the US ship's captain, but then given to Anita Dobson's Psiren-created character - was more of an overt in-joke.


Watch closely when Kryten interrupts Lister's AR exploits at the beginning of Gunmen of the Apocalypse, and you might just catch that the private eye-themed game in which he enjoys liaisons with the femme fatale known as Loretta is titled "Gumshoe". A suitably generic name, you might think, considering it's one of a number of slang terms for a PI.

And yet it surely can't be a coincidence that Gumshoe is also the name of a 1971 film - the directorial debut of Stephen Frears - in which Albert Finney plays an ordinary Liverpudlian who, like Lister, has daydreams of being a Philip Marlowe-esque detective. Okay, so he's not an ordinary Liverpudlian who lives on a spaceship, but nevertheless...

They Dwarf Among Us

Intended as a celebration of all things Dwarf, it's no surprise that Back to Earth is stocked to the gills with references and in-jokes - the "eggs" proving somewhat appropriate for a show that was itself broadcast over an Easter weekend. Of course, we've gone over the Blade Runner homages in detail already, and it also goes without saying that the plot of the special is a deliberate sequel to what is still for many fans the show's finest hour, Back to Reality.

Throughout the production of the special, however, there was an intense level of attention to detail from all involved - and this was particularly evident in the on-set touches. An early reference that was especially touching to many viewers was the inclusion of a photo of the late, great Mel Bibby in the ship's Garden of Remembrance. Aside from being a lovely tribute, it's also the first hint of the fourth-wall breaking that would go on to characterise the special.

Elsewhere, the creation of a number of fake DVD cases for the "Price Smashers" scene gave eagle-eyed viewers the chance to catch a reference to one of the show's earliest in-universe fictional creations - as Mugs Murphy appeared on one case, in exactly the same "D-D-Don't Shoot!" design that had once adorned Lister's t-shirts. And that's not all: other covers show the title of two movies referenced in earlier series, in the shape of Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head (Demons & Angels) and Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens (Krytie TV).

Later on in the same store, there's a "bunkroom" area that bears a startling resemblance to Lister and Rimmer's old sleeping quarters - complete with TV screen in the corner showing an image of a certain plant that shares a name with a certain onboard computer.

It was later in episode two, however, that we were treated to a veritable bonanza of blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail - courtesy of the piles of Red Dwarf merchandise that bedecked the comic shop They Walk Among Us. From trading cards to Corgi ship models to the magnificent Kryten model kit by Sevans, it would take the most ardent of collectors to recognise everything - but sadly one item, the lovely "Carbug" die-cast model, was merely a one-off prop created for the special rather than a toy that would ever see mass production...

Those are our favourites... but have we missed yours? Let us know on the Forum, and sharpen your hunting skills with the DVDs!

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