If I were Holly, I would head to Earth, inform authorities of the accident and allow rescuers to extract the "jail" and let Lister out. His actions seem very bad: isolating Lister from loved ones and friends (outside Red Dwarf of course) will be depressing and the devices will have aged too much to be trusted.

Why did Holly do what he did?

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    It's possible Holly just wanted to see what sort of creatures would evolve from the ship's cat. – Royal Canadian Bandit Aug 20 '15 at 21:37
  • As hard as it is to come up with a rational explanation, it's even harder to come up with one that's funny. – Beta Aug 21 '15 at 4:00

In the first book, Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor, Holly tells Dave this:

Part 2, Chapt. One:

‘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.

  • Is there a reason authorities did not try to rescue Lister? Did they presume everybody dead? – Jesvin Jose Aug 20 '15 at 13:59
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    It's never brought up in the books, AFAIK. Considering that Lister only survived by a fluke accident, it would have been safe for the authorities to assume that everyone had died. – Joe L. Aug 20 '15 at 14:13
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    For all we know Holly notified Jupiter Mining Corp authorities of Lister's situation, but they decided that rescue attempts would be far too hazardous (or expensive), especially since Lister was not in immediate danger. – Tom Harrington Aug 27 '15 at 17:04

In Red Dwarf it is safe to assume that every plot point is poking fun at at least one other idea. In this case there are two that quickly come to mind. The first is Asimov's laws of robotics. Holly's actions minimize danger in a logically consistent but emotionally disturbing way that lacks empathy and human judgment. This can be further seen by the next major act which is to 'protect' Lister's sanity by activating Rimmer as a hologram. The other is regulatory safety. Since I am more familiar with OSHA regulations than the more appropriate british equivalents (although I believe they are both inspired by similar mindsets), I will use OSHA as an example. Attempting to rescue someone from a dangerous situation is always more dangerous than working in a dangerous situation, so you are required to have rescue plans in place in certain situations such as confined space or hazardous atmosphere. These plans are seldom effective when needed as the people who know how to safely plan or do a rescue are also effective at preventing the need for one. The crew of the Red Dwarf is however an exemplar of a much more common situation, lip service and incompetent dogged adherence to the rules resulting in 'safety' rules leading to unsafe situations. Given that this is what led up to the initial disaster, Holly probably just assumed more of the same was probable (of which there is plenty of real world examples).

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    This may be true, but it doesn't explain why Holly kept going in a straight line instead of simply leaving the system and then parking the Red Dwarf in interstellar space. – Valorum Aug 20 '15 at 18:13
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    @Richard it sort of does: the regulations are probably not designed with a many-million year contamination on a fully-functioning ship with no crew danger on a ship with an effectively unlimited range. You could imagine them being written "move away, until some conditions are met"; and none of the conditions being met: none of (range, rescue risk/danger to crew, end of radioactive danger) limits would be met until millions of years passed. – Yakk Aug 20 '15 at 19:19

As to why Holly kept going, I think the following might be relevant:

Initially having an intelligence quotient (IQ) of 6,000, Holly becomes very strange after Red Dwarf has drifted through deep space for three million years. An early demonstration is his tendency to completely speak his mind, as when he points out the age difference between Dave Lister and the pile of dust that was Kochanski, admitting that he no longer had any social mores and that he'd gone a "bit perculiar". (RD: The End) One of Holly's odd activities alone was the invention of Hol Rock, a form of decimalized music with two extra notes that Holly invented, "H" and "J".(RD: Kryten) He also has a collection of singing potatoes to keep himself sane. (RD: Queeg)

This is relevant, because it is plausible that this senility affected his (it's?) ability to turn around; a plausible plan may have been to fly out for 1.5 million years, then turn around and head back, arriving back at earth just as the radiation returned to normal levels. –

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    Two things; 1) Please make sure you tag any content copied from other sites and 2) How does his senility bear on the question asked? – Valorum Aug 20 '15 at 21:11
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    Thanks for tagging appropriately, I will do so in future. This is relevant, because it is plausible that this senility affected his (it's?) ability to turn around; a plausible plan may have been to fly out for 1.5 million years, then turn around and head back, arriving back at earth just as the radiation returned to normal levels. – AMADANON Inc. Aug 20 '15 at 22:09
  • Certainly a possibility. One without foundation unfortunately. – Valorum Aug 20 '15 at 22:18
  • Pointing out that after 3mil years he's senile doesn't answer the question. "He had a different plan, but went mad while carrying it out" is an interesting answer, but you only put in in a comment! – Shane Oct 24 '16 at 16:34
  • Good point - I have now added it to my answer. – AMADANON Inc. Oct 24 '16 at 22:41

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