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Every ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘Futurama’ similarity, ranked from least to most mind-blowing

From episode plots to cancellations, there's a lot.

Images via BBC and Fox.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi comedies, you’ve probably at least heard of Red Dwarf, the British sitcom with a cult following, and Futurama, the animated series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. However, if you’re a fan of both shows, have you ever noticed how incredibly similar they are? We did. 

Red Dwarf centers on Craig Charles’ Dave Lister, a worker on the titular mining spaceship. After a radiation leak happens while he is in suspended animation, he is forced to only emerge when the computer deems it is safe to do so, three million years in the future. By then, the rest of the crew is dead and he is the last known human in the universe. 

Futurama, on the other hand, focuses on Billy West’s Phillip J. Fry, a pizza delivery boy in New York City. During one delivery on New Year’s Eve 1999, he is sent to a mysterious scientific research facility where he is accidentally locked into a pod and cryogenically frozen. When he emerges, it is 1,000 years in the future. Fry struggles to adjust to life in the year 2999 due to everyone he ever knew being long dead. 

As you can tell, there are already a lot of similarities to be found in each show’s basic description, beyond just each of the main characters going by their last names. However, we’ll break down all of those and so much more in our comprehensive list. With that, let’s take a look at and explain every similarity between Red Dwarf and Futurama, from least to most mind-blowing.

5. The main characters are considered slobs and below average, played up for laughs

Red Dwarf Futurama Lister and Fry being slobs
Images via BBC and Fox.

Like Mike Judge’s underrated comedy Idiocracy, both Lister and Fry are considered subpar specimens when it comes to representing the people they came from. This is often the source of the humor in both Red Dwarf and Futurama since strange alien species must assume the slobbish creatures must represent the paragon of humanity (in Lister’s case) or 20th-century life (in Fry’s case). 

4. Both shows feature a will-they/won’t-they romance with characters who would make a far-fetched couple

Red Dwarf Futurama romances
Images via BBC and Fox.

Both Red Dwarf and Futurama feature will-they/won’t-they romances more frustrating than if Cheers did a crossover episode with Friends in which Sam Malone went on a date with Rachel while she was on a break from Ross. Plenty of shows feature these types of romances but what makes them similar here is the simple fact that the couples in question seem so far-fetched due to sci-fi-type plot devices.

For instance, in Red Dwarf, Lister is in love with Kristine Kochanski. However, in reality, it more resembled unrequited love, with Kochanski dying in the radiation leak before he could ask her out. Though Lister would meet an alternative dimension version of Kochanski, who was still alive, in the future, the pair ultimately never did cinch the would-be romantic bond between them. 

Futurama’s case had quite the opposite outcome. For years, it seemed unlikely Fry would ever be able to impress the warrior-like Leela. Besides, since she was a Cyclops and he was a human, maybe they wouldn’t be compatible. Making their union seem more unlikely was the fact that Leela also dated Zapp Branigan, on again and off again, for years. Fry would engage in all kinds of schemes to impress Leela too, such as becoming the host to parasitic worms that boosted his intelligence at one point. Miraculously, the unlikely couple did wind up together in the end.

3. Both shows repeatedly stayed canceled for years on end, only for another network to revive them

Red Dwarf Futurama canceled
Images via BBC and Fox.

While Futurama originally aired on Fox and Red Dwarf debuted on BBC Two, both shows eventually got to the point where their respective networks chose not to renew them. Meanwhile, each show gained a cult following, thanks in part to syndication on other TV channels, such as Red Dwarf airing on some PBS stations in the U.S. and Futurama being made a regular part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up.

Since then, each show has received multiple revivals, with the latest being Red Dwarf’s TV movie The Promised Land airing on BBC’s Dave network in 2020, and Futurama enjoying an 8th season on the streaming service Hulu in 2023.

2. Both protagonists get frozen in a chamber and wake up in the far-flung future

Red Dwarf Futurama Stasis
Images via BBC and Fox.

In both Red Dwarf and Futurama, the main character gets frozen in a chamber of some sort only to awaken in the far-flung future. The way each pod works is slightly different, with the Red Dwarf technology being called “Stasis” and amounting to an enclosed space through which time does not pass. Futurama’s chamber takes on the more traditional route of cryogenics, in which the body is frozen at extremely low temperatures. While Fry awakens 1,000 years in the future, Lister awakens 3 million years after 2077.

In each case, the main characters effectively must face the reality that all of their loved ones are now dead. However, it’s not all a loss as Fry is able to locate his great-nephew, Professor Farnsworth, and Lister has a hologram version of his old bunkmate, Arnold Rimmer, for company.

1. Lister and Fry are their own ancestors

Red Dwarf Futurama Fry and Lister
Images via BBC and Fox.

In Futurama, Fry is his own grandfather thanks to the Back to the Future-type shenanigans that happen in season 3 episode 19, “Roswell That Ends Well.” This all happens when Fry inadvertently sleeps with his own grandmother, Mildred, in the past, not knowing who she was at the time. 

In Red Dwarf, Lister is his own father thanks to a series of interdimensional events in season 7 episode 3, “Ouroboros.” This comes about slightly differently than in the Futurama episode but does still involve a bit of time travel. You see, Lister had contributed to the fertilization of the vitro tube of an alternative dimension version of his deceased crush, Kristine Kochanski. Lister would later come to realize that the baby born from the fertilization was himself since he was found abandoned in a box marked “ouroboros” in a bar when he was a baby. The episode ends with Lister delivering the box of himself to the bar, back in time, and telling the infant this was the unbreakable cycle that ensured humanity would never go extinct. 

Danny Peterson
About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'