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Lexx vs. Red Dwarf


(WARNING: this article contains spoilers for both series. do not read unless you saw both!)

since i first saw Lexx like more than 10 years ago i instantly fall in love with it, mainly because of its uniqueness. it needed me some time to get my hands on the third and fourth season, so i could only watch the series in its completness in autumn of last year.
with Red Dwarf i kinda am a late bloomer. it needed me Noah Antwiler briefly recommending the DVD collection to get my attention to it. he only needed to say “sitcom” and “sci-fi” in one sentence and that totally got me. as with Lexx it was the uniqueness of the concept that i could fall in love with, too. i just knew it was going to be great.

so i finally watched Red Dwarf during the past couple of weeks. and it needed me not a long time to recognize quite a few links to my favorite sci-fi series so far. strangely enough, because Red Dwarf came out much earlier than Lexx. and since Lexx did never seem to copy any other sci-fi instance, this new experience had a strange impact to me.
so i watched Red Dwarf, constantly with my attention on the comparison to Lexx. afterwards i have to admit that it mainly could be a lots of accidental occasions that leaded to similarities between the two series, caused by the alike uniqueness of both of them. it’s like the concept of both had no choice as to resemble each other, because they share the same unique basis. but let’s right dig into direct comparisons of things i noticed and see what comes out of it…

main story

both happen to have the same basic storyline of a lonely crew of a handful of different people in a giant spaceship, just flying around space and doing stuff. the final goal of both crews is to find themself a new home. the Lexx crew may have a few minor goals to accomplish, like reviving Kai, and they are not searching for a specific planet most of the time, while the Red Dwarf crew is searching for earth, and nothing else. but occasionally and strange enough both end up on earth at the end of the series.
the absence of a real ‘good and bad’ dualism is clearly noticable. because the main characters are basically driven by their own selfish goals, rather than fighting for the right thing or battling evil. okay, sure this was topic every now and then in both series, when the characters were sorta forced to decide wether choose to act unselfish and save the universe, or something like that. but the main storyline is powered by the will of the crew to do recent things that only themself concern, not thinking about universal goods and bads.


i personally find the main characters astonishing similar to another, when you compare the two series. because they all seem to have an adequate counter-part in the other series. and by this i don’t mean their personality, but more the concept behind the charater itself. see what i mean:

Dave Lister

Stanley H. Tweedle
the outcast
the main protagonists are both a bit simple in their characteristica, but have each a strange unique appeal. what they sure have in common is that both accidently plotted a genocide and have to justify for it, because they feel guilty about it.

Arnold Judas Rimmer

the dead man
that’s a big similarity there! both crews have a dead guy as a member. and that may be everything they have in common, beside they sure look a bit alike, don’t you think?

the cat

Xev / Zev Bellringer
the exotic
on first thought they don’t share that much as characters, but just think of what they both had experienced to become the way they are: because both are sort of hybrid humanoids, not exactly humans at all, but deep inside they’re animals. one a cat, the other part cluster lizard (and later also part plant). oh, and both seem to have a great sense for their own libido, haha!


the robot
at least one robot, or a generally character-less role, who later experience learning how to do emotions, per sci-fi series. that’s like an unspoken rule of creating sci-fi tv series. both Kryten and 790 basically did not have any characteristica, but Kryten got hacked later on order to simulate emotions and 790 had an accident leaving him with possesive obsession of the loving kind. so they both pretty much share the existence of only a few basic human emotions.


the Lexx
the ship
(the Lexx does not have an avatar…)
yeah well, space ships having an own personality isn’t something special, and Holly and Lexx don’t really have much in common. beside being surprisingly dumb and uncommon in personality.

Kristine Kochanski

the occasional char
both characters were technically there right from the beginning, but only became part of the main crew by the end of the series. they appeared every now and then through the seasons. and both were the sexual interest of the main character.


another quite obvious thing is the rather dark appearance of… well, everything!
not only the ship and its interior have a dark and despressive design and lighting. every planet, every other character, the main story flicks – everything is dark and gloomy! it’s like they both try to accept the universe they’re in as the bad and angry and despondence place that it is, and tries to convince the audience about that.

i totally love the insect-like mechanics that are everywhere in Lexx. every ship and technology is at least part insectiod. a hybrid technology far beyond our own. this is not that stretched in Red Dwarf, but every now and then they encounter a planet or ship that at least goes into that direction. AND we have the Starbug 1! a small spaceship resembling a bug. quite like the small passenger ships from Lexx, the moths! the crew uses the moths/Starbug to travel to nearby planets, leaving the mothership behind.
so, flying in an arthropodic little spaceship is something VERY unique, and both series have this in common.

story bits

and now to the real deal: topics that are dealed with in several episodes.
there are so MANY similarities, it’s astonishing. i could write a twenty thousand essay about this, but i will stick to major ones that come into my mind while writing this.
but fact is, i have seen so many parallels between Lexx and Red Dwarf synopses that it’s hard not to think about that this was intentional.

being the last of his kind
Lister is the last human being alive. they occasionally meet another human being, but those all turned out to be from another dimension, or time, or some cruel alien monster in disguise. Rimmer gets revived though, and so are some others, but in the end Lister will stay the last human alive (mh, what about Kris?). alike it’s with Kai from Lexx. he may be already dead, but he is, in fact, the last of the Brunnen-G.

fighting death and facing ones own guilt
there is this concept, based on the classic movie “The Seventh Seal”, which states that you can escape death by beating him in a game. Lexx did this reference quite directly by letting Kai play chess against death, as in the Seventh Seal. Red Dwarf did this not in this direct way, but it’s the same premise. also what both episodes with this happenings have in common is that the characters had to face their own guilt, represented in form of an avatar who looked exactly like them, and convincing them self of their own innocence. a brilliant concept, if you ask me, and of course used in several other series, too, but it has never been that unsubtle as in Lexx and Red Dwarf!

dimensions, time and AR
i don’t think any other sci-fi series had this great focus on other realities, mainly other dimensions and virtual realities. well, maybe Stargate. but dimension jumps have never been that much of a topic as with Lexx and Red Dwarf.
the rules of dimensions were completely different though. and i find strange to say that Lexx did it in a more continuous way, not breaking their own rules as often as Red Dwarf did (jesus, Red Dwarf did not a bit care about logic in physics!). parallel dimensions are a bitch.

Season concepts

i liked that both series changed their concept of how the series was build up. they both did it in other ways, but they had in common that they changed basic story telling elements in form of structure.
Red Dwarf was quite continuous during their first few seasons, but later then sudenly one season the Red Dwarf itself wasn’t once to see or anything. what a strange concept, would you have expected this to happen? and the last season was quite different, too, because suddenly the WHOLE original Red Dwarf crew was alive again, changing the concept of the series once again.
but Lexx did go a few steps beyond that. one season consists of films, the next of the normal series concept of episodic, mostly unrelated episodes, the third suddenly was one long continuous storyline in which the crew themself barely were on the Lexx, and the last season was quite alike the previous, but revived the episodic narrative structure.


i personally find this an important aspect of both series.
the fact that both series tried to be unique and had no real concept of distinguish the dual concept of good and bad or right and wrong, both series ended up being totally unpredictable! you would NEVER know what was about to happen, but you could be sure that it’s far beyond your imagination.
it’s not like with the common sci-fi series that there is no major change during one episode. when a character is, for example, dying, the normal sci-fi series would spend a shitload of broadcasting time building up adequate tension and giving the viewer time to comprehend the event. not with Lexx and Red Dwarf. they sometime go so completely apeshit about their events that it was absolutely possible that even the most uncommon thing would happen. so you never know if a main character would die or not, or something like that. it was all possible, but not predictable, leaving you in a state were you stopped thinking about stuff like that and just eating what was served.
but that was the fun of both series, in my opinion. don’t tell me you did not love the fact that you had no idea about what was going to happen! the surprise behind every plot twist was something that kept your attention alive. i wish every series would go that far, but the creators have to completely seal off their production from the wishes of the fans and only do what they themself think is good.
you can’t just kill one of the main characters from a series, because fans would not approve that. and maybe it was the utterly goofiness of the plot of Red Dwarf and Lexx which made this ignorance storytelling possible. but the production team did not care about the impact changes had and would just go with their own flow instead. how great.

fun facts

– cross-over cameo: did you know that Craig Charles, the actor behind Red Dwarf’s Lister, had a cameo role in Lexx? he played The Warden in one episode.
– cast change: from the third to the fifth season of Red Dwarf Holly was portrayed by another actor, for reasons i personally do not know. Xev from Lexx was also played by two different actors (three, if you count the pre-love slave flashbacks)
– gender bender: Holly changed his sex twice within the series. the Lexx does not have a real sex at all, but it clearly has a male voice – in the original synchro. but did you know that in the german version the Lexx has a female voice? i don’t know why, but it’s funny. escpecially when you think of the episode in which Lexx tells Stan it is in love with him.


well, what do you learn from all this? i don’t really know, but i can tell you what I take from all those facts:
both series sure have a lot in common, and this essay surely does not cover even half of the similarities, but when you think about the probability of those things that happend and were alike, it’s not really surprising at all.
both series took the same direction from the beginning and sure just HAD to come up with similar things. most of the themes and topics which came up in the episodes are classic topics, which come up in like every other sci-fi series, too. plus both series kinda spoofed this themes and made a few not-so-subtle references every now and then. and since both were intentionally over-the-top they sure had to come up with alike premises.
it’s their uniquness that makes both series so adorable and fans like. the idea behind both uniquenesses (what a word!) sure are nearly the same, but the concept was different: Red Dwarf as a sitcom, aiming at sci-fi fans, and Lexx as a more serious one, but with dark humor and aimed at the more older fanboys. and that is what made the real important difference between both, because beside those basic MAJOR difference they sure are undeniable identically.

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last modified: 2010-Nov-29, 0:43:48
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comments (1)

  1. Victor | 2012-Jan-09, 5:55:34 |

    I noticed most of the similarities that you did between Lexx and Red Dwarf. It’s not just you. What you noticed has merit, and you’re not alone in noticing them. I assume that Lexx creator Paul Donovan was directly inspired by Red Dwarf–because he went out of his way to have the actors who played Lister and Holly appear together (as prison wardens) in Episode 3 of Lexx’s Season 4. That HAD to have been an acknowledgement to Red Dwarf.

    Like you, I watched the whole Lexx series first. When I lived in London way back in the early 1990s, I did watch a few Red Dwarf episodes on a sporadic basis. It’s only now, with Red Dwarf recently appearing on Netflix in its entirety, that I’m able to take in Red Dwarf as a complete series and see its many similarities to Lexx.

    I’m always pleased to come across a kindred spirit who has a genuine affection for Lexx, as there are so many strong opinions out there against Lexx–most of which have to do with the less-than-perfect acting, editing, and effects. You, like me it seems, can see through all that and appreciate the unique perspective Lexx provides in the character-driven sci fi genre.

    Perhaps if Lexx had the full funding of a BBC production (rather than the Salter Street shoestring), its acting, episodic writing, and effects would have been more polished and on par (qualitywise) with Red Dwarf.

    One of the chief ways Red Dwarf differs from Lexx is that Lexx doesn’t have a laugh track. I can’t help but wonder if Red Dwarf’s creators weren’t forced (by higher-ups in the production chain) into adding it as device to get the show to fit into the comedy “box.” Absent a laugh track, the dystopian setting comes through much more strongly in Lexx than in Red Dwarf.

    Laugh tracks make a huge difference to a show–both in the viewing and the writing. Imagine what a darker show Golden Girls would have been without a laugh track. To see what I mean, check out the BBC show Him & Her. It has no laugh track (but easily could have). For some reason, absence of laugh tracks seems to keep certain scenes in these sitcoms on my brain, and I end up thinking about them later–and smiling inwardly. This is much more like real life. We don’t going around laughing at our fellow man’s misfortune as it is raining down upon him. Rather, we tend to laugh later–as it is put in the broader context of life.

    Cheers from LA!

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