Listing Lister

Taking a look at the many versions of our darling Dave - the last human alive. Kind of.

Dude...where's my Tequila?

So you're a scouser in his mid-twenties who spends his spare time drinking, smoking and eating Sugar Puff sandwiches. You work as a vending machine repairman, subordinate to your bunkmate, Arnold Rimmer - the human equivalent of recurring haemorrhoids. Then, three million years later, you find yourself as the last surviving member of the human race - and you never got around to returning that library book.

Dave Lister - dropout. 97 minutes at art college. Ten years of trolley parking at the local Megamart. Humanity's future is in butterfingered hands.

Or is it? Uneducated he may be but Lister had enough knowledge of literature to name his pet cat Frankenstein (maybe that was the library book he never quite got around to returning)...or maybe he just saw one of the movies. Regardless, while Lister's first instinct upon leaving stasis might have been to taste the powdered remains of half the crew, the many faces we've seen of him since suggest that this is a man more than capable of living up to his destiny.

In Stasis

In Future Echoes Lister encountered two versions of himself. The first, aged 171, continued to wear his trademark dreadlocks - albeit now turned a fetching shade of white - and still enjoyed a drink or fifteen, if the bottle-opener attached to his artificial arm is anything to go by.

The second version was the proud father of twin babies - Jim and Bexley. Lister, we later discovered in Parallel Universe, is the mother of these children after he was knocked up by his female self. A typical case of "Wham, bam, thank you mister." The children hit adolescence a worrying three days later, and were left with their 'father' in her parallel dimension to age at a more normal speed.

Give me an epidural!!!

In Confidence and Paranoia, the title characters were born as hallucinations from Lister's brain - they are literally two of his emotions made flesh. As their actions soon make clear, Lister worries about his appearance ("Isn't that a urine stain on the front of your trousers?"), but is also capable of impressive deductions - check out the way he locates the lost hologram disc.

But what Confidence and Paranoia really teaches us is that Lister, without his Paranoia, would be too smegging cocky. Check out his chat-up technique in Camille ("Shall we start now or do you wanna clean your teeth first?"). This guy needs his paranoia - otherwise... well, maybe he'd start to think oxygen was for losers!

Back to the future, and Stasis Leak. A Dave Lister from five years in the future is marrying Kristine Kochanski and honeymooning at The Ganymede Holiday Inn. And he's grown a beard. Yikes. This Lister, it seems, has matured - though no word yet on whether he still uses a spanner to stir his tea. His Rimmer has similarly acquired facial hair, and both of them seem awfully grown up.

Wedded Bliss

Meanwhile, in the present, we have Deb Lister. Female equivalent and father to his children. (You think you're confused? How do you think he feels?) A woman whose idea of seduction is to drink lager until she's able to belch the whole of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Still, you can't deny that it worked in the end...

As with confidence, so with fear, as the crew faced up to the Polymorph. Lister, with his fear drained from his body, comes up with winning strategies such as strapping a nuclear warhead to his head and headbutting the beast into oblivion. While again proving himself to be not the sharpest knife in the drawer, this does show that our last human isn't short of courage or self-sacrifice. His fear keeps him in check - stops him from descending to macho bravado.

Amazingly, despite the hardships of his life, Lister remains true to his class. When, in one timeline, he finally makes his fortune, our Dave is still having his meals flown in from Luigi's Fish 'n' Chip Emporium. It is in the same episode, Timeslides, that we meet a 17 year old Lister - a wannabe singer convinced that anyone who doesn't comprehend his music is a crypto-fascist. So, a little shakey on the politics, but still a man of the people - at least, the people who aren't "too old to receive what we're trying to transmit." He may be in love with a high-ranking officer - and once even gone into a wine bar - but Lister believes in his roots.

Ah yes, Konchanski. The love of Lister's life. In the real world, no question. But in his own mind? As Camille proved, Lister's ideal woman is actually a pretty Scouse lass with her head screwed on and a nice line in sarcasm. And I don't think there's any doubt that this girl could tuck away a few pints before the end of a night - though she'd probably leave the belching songs to Lister.

But what of the Dave Listers that could have been? In Ace Rimmer's original dimension, Lister has acquired the nickname 'Spanners'. (Ace tries to make our Dave 'Skipper', but... well, 'Ace and Skipper' sounded too much like a story about a boy and his bush kangaroo.)

This Lister is an engineer for the Space Corps, and one of the team responsible for a drive that can break the speed of reality. An achiever, then, but still one of the blokes. A guy who greets Ace with a manly hug and still drinks with the lads - albeit now in the officers' mess. He's married to a version of Kochanski and has twin sons, Jim and Bexley. The lucky git probably even has an internet connection that never cuts out.

Another Lister that never got the chance to exist appeared in The Inquisitor. A "sperm that never made it", this Lister was intended to make better use of life's opportunities than the original. It's hard to gauge how successful he was, though. Partly because he seems to have ended up stuck in exactly the same life as the original Lister, and also because the Inquistor killed him after only a couple of scenes...

Without any evil in his soul, without the darkness, it seems Lister would have been a positively monastic man. Demons and Angels shows that, at his best, Lister is not beyond spiritual pursuits. On the other hand, his lower self is a one-eyed, psychotic killing machine with decidedly non-designer stubble and an insatiable lust for "meaningless sex". Given what Lister once got up to on a crate of tinned asparagus, perhaps this last trait isn't that different from the original.

Did you take my toothbrush?

Given these sides to his personality, it's almost a shame that Lister wasn't the one marooned on Terrorform's psi-moon. What would his mind-scape have shown? At its best, perhaps a paradise - his farm on Fiji made real. At its worst, perhaps punishment for anyone who spends their time so idly dreaming of a blissful future while never working to hard to achieve it. Or maybe just a lot more tins of asparagus.

Certainly, Lister's nightmare world might have contained some element of guilt. As Back to Reality proved, Lister could not live with himself if he was responsible for the death of innocent people. As Sebastian Doyle, Lister was head of the Ministry of Alteration - altering people from being alive to being dead, to purify democracy. Not only is he killing people, he's killing those who would disagree with governments and rulers. The working classes. His people.

Sebastian Doyle

One can only imagine the similar agonies of a similar Lister from the future. Encountered in Out of Time, this Lister has been reduced to a brain in a jar. He and his crewmates now experience the best that history has to offer - most of which is in the hands of people who are... a bit dodgy - Hitler, the Goerings, the Hapsbergs, the Borgias. And Louis the Sixteenth, "an idiotic despot who lived in the most obscene luxury while the working classes starved in abject poverty."

Does it sound like our Dave would put up with this? While the future Cat, Rimmer, (unsurprisingly) and Kryten all seem to revel in the luxury, Lister's dialogue is more subdued. Is it possible that this Lister, inanimate and trapped in a glass jar, is being forced to witness a lifestyle he would otherwise despise? And if so - who is responsible for leaving Lister in this state? Could it be he was reduced to a body-less brain by members of his own crew...?

Is is jam? Is it a pickled onion? No, it's Dave's brain!

In a scene cut from series VIII, we would have seen a mirror version of Lister. An officer aboard Red Dwarf, as upper-class and toffy-nosed as they come. Maybe. But still, it seems, a compassionate dude who wouldn't trample over those beneath him. Hell, he's even friends with Rimmer!

Lister's real opinion of himself is never shown better than at the beginning of Psirens, as he wakes after 200 years Deep Sleep with no memory of his own personality. His first instinct may be to trim his fingernails on a desk-top pencil sharpener - mirroring his exit from stasis years before - but otherwise he's none to impressed by his personality as Kryten presents it to him: a randy, blokeish, tone-deaf, semi-literate space bum.

When judging himself, Lister isn't very impressed. No wonder when the Inquisitor put him through the same trial - judged by himself - Lister wound up obliterated from history. Being a totally useless, unwashed space bum makes him prune-able, Holly reminds him.

But, blokeish he is, and likely will always remain. That's our Davey. He still sneaks into the AR suite to play at being a gumshoe, or a cowboy, or medieval knight 'Lister of Smeg' just to get his end away. While he hardly ever urinates on Rimmer from the top of D Deck any more, he's yet to grow up enough to return to the past and marry Kochanski.

But maturity is not outside his grasp. As a hologram in an alternate dimension, Lister developed a sensitive, caring side. He became capable of intelligent conversation and could stay awake for whole minutes after sex. This is a Lister that Kochanski could really love - not just enjoy and then discard for a catering officer.

Perhaps it's knowing what he was capable of that has lead Lister forward. He has become a father for a third time - this time with Kochanski - to a baby that he had to abandon in the past. A baby that would grow up to be... himself.

With this one gesture, Lister has protected the fate of humankind. Not bad for a guy who still bites his toenails.

Where it all began

To discuss the many lives of Dave Lister, go to our forum and kick off a debate with hundreds of Red Dwarf fans worldwide.

You can find data on all the Red Dwarf crew in the Complete Guide.

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