Why didn't the vessel Red Dwarf degrade and decay during Lister's 3,000,000 years in stasis? Aside from some meteor strikes, the vessel seems to be intact. Only the bodies of the dead crew and the IQ of Holly appear to have been affected by the passing of time. I considered the service "scutters", but wouldn't time have ravaged them as well as their resources, therefore their ability to replace and repair 3 million years' worth of worn and damaged equipment?

  • 3
    Holly seems to show the effects of 3 million years of damage...
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 22:01
  • 3
    To say nothing of the cat....
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 23:00
  • It's made of Scifinium
    – komodosp
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 11:04

6 Answers 6


Well, realistically speaking, the show shouldn't have happened at all, since the ship would have deteriorated to the point of losing functionality. Three million years is a really really long time. The scutters would have started to fail after a while, and even if they could repair each other as well as the ship, the ship and its systems would have run out of power, fuel, and spare parts long before 3,000,000 years had gone by. Not to mention that all the food we see the crew eating would have spoiled before even 1,000 years had passed, even under ideal circumstances (I doubt the ship had enormous stasis fields serving as larders, since it wasn't expecting such a long voyage).

But of course, we're not supposed to analyze this realistically. We're supposed to take it for granted that the ship and its contents remained in good condition after all that time (except Holly's mind of course), almost as if the whole ship went into stasis. I don't mind, personally; it's a fun premise even if it wouldn't work in reality, at least not as depicted. I'm happy to see them run with the idea and they did it well.

One small thing I think they could have done better, though, was: in the pilot, they could have been more creative with the piles of crew member remains, scattering them slightly. As it was, they were obviously just poured there--it would have been better if they had shaken them around a little so it actually looked a bit like a body had lain in place for that length of time.

  • 11
    I thought the implication of the piles of dust was instant disintegration from the drive plate failure, not slow decay. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 7:59
  • 4
    @peyre I know this was almost two months ago but I have to ask. How could even piles (which could have been tidied up by scutters) suspend your suspension of disbelief on a (fantastic) show with a laugh track?
    – kaine
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 18:42
  • 7
    Likewise, sorry this is a but old - but I've always figured the tidiness of the piles to be an intentional joke.
    – user1103
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 23:58
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    It wouldn't have run out of power or fuel because it's powered by a hydrogen ramjet, at least according to one of the novels. (And there is some funny stuff on the front of the ship model that's probably supposed to be the hydrogen scoop.)
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 14:44
  • 2
    @peyre well, the fuel for fusion is hydrogen, so I guess you'd need to take a lot of hydrogen fuel along with you. Unless of course your ship happened to have some kind of built-in way to collect hydrogen as it travelled through space. Hmm... (The point of a Bussard ramjet is that the hydrogen is used for both fuel and reaction mass.)
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 4:43

It is safe to assume that a ship the size of the Red Dwarf had more than just a couple of scutters.

Most likely the ship started with a fairly large complement of scutters and possibly other service and repair units, and the ones we see may be the few remaining operational after 3 million years of automated repair units repairing each other as well as the ship.

  • 3
    It does rather beg the question why they would need people to repair the chicken soup vending machines though Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 11:40
  • 10
    @BenWilliams Scutters don't eat chicken soup, so they wouldn't notice a problem Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 21:15
  • 3
    I imagine the scutters were too valuable a resource to be wasted on chicken soup machine repair and maintenance
    – komodosp
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 0:39
  • 32
    "The only reason they don't give this job to the scuttters is that they have a better union than us."
    – kaine
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 17:33

Anyone ever consider the possibility that Holly LIED about how much time had passed? We know the computer has gone a bit 'wonky' over time; it is not unreasonable to suppose that it had to shut down for various reasons - extensive maintainance, self-protection from radiation and other space hazards, interference from the Cat-people - and in the process completely lost track of time (reliable clocks having ceased functioning in the interim). Holly has NO IDEA what year it actually is, any more than he has any idea of where they are in relation to Earth. His choice of 'three million years' is less a function of actual time passed, and more a function of keeping Lister sane (if everyone is 'long dead', then psychologically, the longer the better - 'three million' is too large to be entirely 'real' to Lister, so it is easier to handle).

Given how fast technology progresses, nothing I remember from the show suggests that more than about 5,000 to 10,000 years need actually have passed.

Just a thought.

  • 8
    The evolution and history of the Cat people would suggest that more than 10,000 years had gone by; if anything it suggests that more than 3 million years have passed, since it took us more than 10 million years Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 18:06
  • 3
    The ship seems to be equipped with all sorts of wonderful toys, it's possible there was something down in the hold that drastically accelerated Cat evolution (targeting it at the human form at the same time, if you care about that sort of detail). A machine that evolves cats into humans in one generation is... frankly more plausible than some of what we've seen.
    – user36551
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 0:10
  • Naah, it's just that those ships are sturdy. Designed to last.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 6:42
  • In Krysis, Kryten turns 2,976,000, so Lister was probably in stasis for at least 2.97 million years.
    – J.G.
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 18:27

Also wanted to point out that the explanation into the radiation leak is mentioned in Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers as follows:

‘So, what happened?’ Holly told him about the cadmium II radiation leak; how the crew had been wiped out within seconds; how he’d headed the ship pell-mell out of the solar system, to avoid spreading nuclear contamination; and how he’d had to keep Lister in stasis until the radiation had reached a safe background level. ‘So … How long did you keep me in stasis?’ ‘Three million years,’ said Holly, as casually as he could.

The radiation that was blasting around Red Dwarf (providing of course it was a Cadmium-113 leak, has a half life of 7.7 x 10^15 years so maybe there is some scope for an answer to your question here.


Most decay comes from oxydisation (rust) assuming the Red Dwarf is built out of non-oxydising materials then the only sources of decay would be wear and damage. With no crew the ship would have been inactive, save for the hold where the cats lived. Scooping up the occasional asteroid would have provided plenty of material for the skutters to keep things going.

  • 1
    There's a lot more to decay than just rust. Anything flexible (e.g. seals) will get brittle; ion migration in anything subject to electrical current; vacuum welding; metal fatigue; embrittlement/erosion of anything exposed to cosmic rays for millions of years...
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 11:48

The ship is in the vacuum of space. Besides debris and wear-and-tear from objects flying by, it wouldn't wear or decay that much. Holly would have automatically gathered asteroids for fuel and necessary upkeep. All the machines on Red Dwarf could keep repairing it until there only a few scutters left.

  • As long as there are moving parts (like ventilation systems, or scutters) there will be abrasion. There's an atmosphere, there will be oxidation. The hull of the ship has been exposed to millions of years of cosmic ray bombardment. There are a lot of sources of "wear."
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 18:08

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