“Well, this is a turn-up, innit? You better boogie on over, and we can sort it out.“
Yes, Norman Lovett is coming back to Red Dwarf for Series XII, due out in the UK on 12 October! I dunno how they got him back, but they did it! From that image alone, he barely looks 18 years older than he did the last time we saw him, way back in Series VIII.
Now, the question (besides what episode he turns up in) remains… how will they use his character?
(Spoilers below the break.)
Holly’s role on the small rouge one has changed through the years, and not really to his/her benefit. The ship’s computer, he started out as what first seemed to be the voice of sanity amongst the three men left aboard three million years into the future. Compared to the slobbish Lister, the vain Cat, and Rimmer, Holly was in control of the ship, explaining his reasoning for reviving Rimmer (of all people) to keep Lister in check, all while trying his damnedest to bring the crew back to Earth as quickly as possible. His idiosyncrasies came from the odd bits of computer senility that popped up from time to time.
Series II was probably the character’s peak. On one hand, his senility seemed to peak, with more jokes centered around the fact that he should not be placed in command of a major starship and should not be doling out advice. (“Instead of the octave, it’s the decative, and I’ve invented two new notes: H and J.”) No sane man would deal with him for more than a minute, hence why he’s stuck with Lister, Rimmer, and the Cat.
Yet, he still had a few cards up his sleeve, best represented in “Queeg”. The crew’s distaste for his (sub par) management of the ship led them to briefly embrace Queeg… until he went full-blown Drill Sergeant on their asses. Wanting his job back, Holly challenged him to a game of chess… and lost. Just as he was being deleted, Queeg made his formal declaration…
“What’s happening, dudes? We are talking jape of the decade… we are talking April, May, June, July, and August fool. Yeah, that’s right! I’m Queeg.”
With that, we got a look at what Holly could be – a master manipulator who proved that he had quite a few tricks up his sleeve. Would there be more tricks? Well…
Norman Lovett didn’t much like the commute from Edinburgh to the Red Dwarf studios, so he was replaced by Hattie Hayridge, who played parallel universe counterpart Hilly. Coincidentally, the show also brought back Kryten for Series III, and he wound up taking over many of Holly’s aspects, from exposition to serving as a relative bastion of sanity amongst the crew. With this change, Holly was further relegated to the background – even an episode that once seemed dedicated to her wound up taken over by the core four. By Series V, most scenes featuring her proved to be of relatively little consequence.
Not to say, though, that she didn’t have her bright moments. I mean, she did buy the Possee extra time in “Terrorform” by keeping the retros fired up. And who could forget “Back To Reality”, where she not only saved the crew from a hallucination-induced collective suicide, but also took out the despair squid causing said hallucinations? “There’s enough fried calamari to feed the whole of Italy.”
What a last stand.
For by this point, Kryten had all but taken over most of Holly’s original character aspects. He was the voice of technical exposition, and his loopiness came from a source of possible evolution – being the superego on a ship full of Ids. He also had the advantage of being able to directly interact with his environment. Strangely enough, Holly’s role as a bastion of sanity was further split between Kryten and Lister – by Series V, he had become the show’s moral center, with episodes such as “The Inquisitor” and “Meltdown” emphasizing that he was a fundamentally decent guy at heart, petty crimes in his youth notwithstanding. Even the Cat became more competent behind the wheel of a spacecraft, despite otherwise being an egocentric goof.
There was no real need for Holly, and so in Series VI, the writers wrote her out… by kicking the Boys from the Dwarf off the ship and onto Starbug.
But you can’t keep an iconic computer down, and Norman Lovett was brought back at the end of Series VII. Holly brought with him the Nanobots who would go on to rebuild the Red Dwarf for Series VIII.
My own personal dislike of Series VIII aside, I did not see anything come of this particular plot development. With the possible exception of “Back in the Red”, Holly was all but reduced to a bit part in Series VIII – to the point where even the other “joke” characters (Kill Crazy) had roughly as many lines in the back half of the series as our favorite computer. The series went on hiatus after Series VIII – despite netting the largest audience thus far, Doug Naylor was gunning for a movie that would never be. (I also think shredding half of its audience over the course of the series kept the BBC from ordering any more Dwarf. Just my personal take.)
Back to Earth was supposed to have Holly in it, but at the last minute, the script was changed. Frustrated, Lovett vowed never to return to the franchise. And for a while, it seemed like that would be the case – to the point where a new computer was temporarily installed in “Fathers and Suns”.
This now changes the game… again.
The big question is this – will Holly’s return be a one-off? Is he back for the series? Will he actually play a major role in episodes for the first time since the Major government, or will he just be a fodder for quick jokes?
Guess we’ll find out this autumn.
Update: The Red Dwarf Facebook seems to imply that it will be a one-off.