Holly Hunting

We take a closer look at the pixels of Red Dwarf's oddball computer.

Holly was in love once. A Sinclair ZX81. She was cheap, stupid, and she wouldn't load - well, not for him, anyway.

Holly Hunting

Of all the main Red Dwarf characters, Holly is arguably the one we know least about. We know Kryten was created by Professor Mamet for Divadroid International - but who built Holly, the tenth-generation AI hologrammic computer? We know about Rimmer's years of service in the Space Corps, the failed exams, the parental disappointment, the gazpacho soup - but how long has Holly been in active service?

Was he created specifically for Red Dwarf, built to order, or installed on the ship after it was already active? He can survive remotely, sustaining e-life even after the ship has been nano-adjusted to a planetoid, so it's not unreasonable to think that he could have been created separately from the ship that came to house him.

Holly Hunting

And if that's possible, could it be that Holly, like Kryten, is a production-line piece of software? Like Kryten, Holly could have hundreds of motherboard-based relatives. Other ship's computers who have their own personalities, but share a family resemblance.

Anyone else noticed the similarity between our own computer-senile floating head and that of Gordon, AI computer aboard the Scott Fitzgerald? Sure he was eleventh-generation and allegedly had an higher IQ... but his 'how d'you switch this off then?' sounds awfully familiar.

Ah yes - computer senility. Holly's been in deep space for a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time. Longer than it takes for a British cricket team to score in double-figures. Three million years in space put Holly way beyond his warranty and left him, by his own admission, a little peculiar. And if it hadn't been for the companionship of his singing potato collection, who knows what might have happened.

Holly's famous IQ of 6,000 has been repeatedly called into question - not least because, when selecting a hologram, he had 1,168 people to choose from... and he chose Rimmer.

Most damning of all is his decision to fly in one direction for three million years. He piloted Red Dwarf, filled with a dangerous level of radiation, out of the solar system for the protection of mankind. But couldn't he have parked just beyond Pluto? Why keep going?

Current theory suggests that he just... forgot to stop.

But Holly invented the Holly Hop Drive, right? So he can't be all dumb. Which would be fine, if he'd been planning to build a drive for dimension-hopping. After all, it's a drive Ace Rimmer's Space Corps boffin buddies had themselves laboured over. Absolutely, it is a remarkable invention and, if that's what he'd been trying to build, we'd all have clapped politely and told our friends.

But Holly had planned to create a drive that travelled through space. It was supposed to get the crew back to Earth, not into some freaky parallel universe where the creator of Mickey Mouse was Wendy Disney, where Jeremy Greer had written The Male Eunuch, and where US president Betty Clinton couldn't keep her hands off young intern Mark Lewinski.

Holly's Hop Drive may have transported the boys to a new dimension of reality - but it could just have easily been the galaxy's most over-hyped microwave oven.

Still, Holly has always tried to better himself. His diverse cultural interests include music - where his new sound, 'Hol Rock', was based on the decimalisation of music and included new notes H and J - and cartography. The A-Z of the Universe he was building, complete with post offices and little steeples, could have become the definitive reference work... if it weren't for the fact that he was three million years away from anyone who might be interested.

He also reads. Over three million years he managed to read every book ever written by anyone ever. The worst book in history, he maintains, is 80's footballer Kevin Keegan's 'Football - It's a Funny Old Game'. Though it may be that he missed a few Jeffrey Archers along the way.

Of course, he has become most associated with 'The Junior Encyclopaedia of Space', the only reference book on the topic he could find that had pictures. But as this nugget of information was revealed to us by Queeg - Holly's practical-joke alter-ego - it's unlikely to be reliable information.

Holly Hunting

That said, Holly and Queeg shared a number of similarities, including a love of games. Their climactic chess match featured just one of the games Holly enjoys playing. While his suggestions of Cluedo, Poker, Drafts, Subbuteo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, and Noughts and Crosses were all rejected, there's no doubt that he knew how to play them. (Though quite how he managed Subbuteo without a thumb and forefinger of his own is hard to say.) And don't forget that he's mastered the art of nose-only charades.

Indeed, Holly is sometimes a very confident character - though this may cover a deeper paranoia. For all his dim bravado, Holly has at times shown himself to be worryingly concerned about his image. Why else would he create a digital toupee for meeting new people?

And, when love-lorn, why else would he give himself a head sex-change operation?

Holly Hunting

Looking identical to Hilly, his parallel universe female counterpart, the female Holly took over where the male version left off. She was still unable to cope with even the simplest of technical matters - those five black holes on the scanner-scope turned out to be grit, the DNA machine under her control turned out to be best suited at creating rampaging monsters from innocuous Indian food, and it was only after the self-destruct countdown had reached zero that she revealed the ship's utter lack of a self-destruct bomb.

Depressed that she never had a mum, Holly nevertheless seemed less fretful than before. Great piles of words might drop from her 'Voice Recognition Unicycle' and killer simulants might start defrosting in the sleeping quarters, but our Holly is unphased. These are mistakes any deranged, half-witted computer could have made.

Indeed, Holly can still get it right sometimes. Taking out the despair squid with limpet mines created enough fried calamari to feed the whole of Italy - all while influencing a hallucinating Kryten to activate mood stabilising gas, thus save the crew from suicide.

With her abilities finally proved, Holly must have been a bit miffed when the crew took off in Starbug and promptly forgot where they'd parked Red Dwarf. Cut off from her crew, Holly and the ship were taken over by the nanobots of Kryten's self-repair system. Her core programme was fixed, once again rendering Holly male, and just a few hundred years later he was rescued.

When last seen, Holly was hidden in the ships' computer system, avoiding detection by the super-smart, egg-headed Holly now running Red Dwarf. He is Lister's ally on the inside, forever formulating new get-out plans and advising on critical situations... and commenting on the quality of Queens Park Rangers' performance at away games.

Holly Hunting

Best of all, the changes he's been through seem to have restored Holly's confidence in his own appearance. At one time willing to wear a wig that made him look like a game show host, Holly now wears his baldness with pride.

After all - it does mean he can do a damn fine moon impression.

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