The Man in the Rubber Mask by Robert Llewellyn (Book Review)

The Man in the Rubber Mask: The Inside Smegging Story of Red Dwarf

Now with 43.17% more smeg!


As the title suggests The Man in the Rubber Mask documents Robert Llewellyn’s time portraying the character of Kryten in the phenomenally successful BBC sitcom Red Dwarf. The book was originally published in 1994 but has since been updated to include 43.17% more smeg and republished by Unbound in 2014.

The story begins in 1988 when Robert is approached by Paul Jackson, the executive producer on Red Dwarf about the possibility of “some sort of part in some sort of sitcom”, and after meeting with the production crew he had no idea what he was letting himself in for.

Robert recalls the long arduous hours spent in makeup before filming could even begin and the various trials and tribulations of wearing a latex foam face mask and all over bodysuit, especially on things like his inability to eat lunch while on set.

It was Series 3 of Red Dwarf before Kryten’s character fully entered the show as a regular member of the cast, and Robert’s book provides details and anecdotes of life backstage in the company of Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Hattie Hayridge, the newly recast Holly.

The Man in the Rubber Mask is inherently an autobiography which depicts Robert Llewellyn’s life throughout his Red Dwarf years, all the way from series 3 through to series 10.

Check out this Kryten clip from the season 4 episode Camille:


Favourite Quotes:

“Half a pint of watered-down lager and I’m performing a sad, comedy stripagram on a bar-room table before you can say ‘keep your dignity’.” – Robert Llewellyn on why he doesn’t drink much. (p4)


“It helped me if I went slightly mad.” – Robert Llewellyn on adjusting to wearing the rubber mask. (p86)


The Man In The Rubber Mask provides an Interesting insight into the life of actor and writer Robert Llewellyn, as well as some insider details on the production and filming of all [at that current moment in time] ten series of popular British sitcom Red Dwarf.

Personally, having picked up this book as a huge Red Dwarf fan, hoping for a goosey into the interior of all things Dwarf, I was somewhat disappointed. Robert does of course go into painstaking details of his time ‘under the mask’ as it were, and while all this is indeed interesting I would have expected there to be more humorous anecdotes, stories and backstage banter between the actors. But then maybe my personal expectations were just a little too high.

Although I mostly enjoyed this biography of Robert’s portrayal as Sanitation Droid Kryten, it tended to veer off at times into some uncharted and slightly boring territory that didn’t seem all that necessary.

My biggest peeve however, comes towards the end of the chapter concerning the filming of series 8, when Robert veers off course and begins a tale concerning ‘Black Thursday’ which apparently takes place during the filming of The Rimmer Song (Chapter 10, p260). The Rimmer song actually appeared in series 7 of Red Dwarf, during the episode Blue, which would presumably have been filmed a couple of years previously. Call me tetchy but I’m a stickler for details and this particular continuity error grates on my nerves like nails down a blackboard.

At 4 out of 5 stars I would still recommend The Man in the Rubber Mask for any diehard Dwarfer keen to further develop their knowledge of the show.


See also:

Red Dwarf: Omnibus

Red Dwarf: Backwards

Red Dwarf: Last Human

Red Dwarf: Last Human – Doug Naylor (Book Review)

David Lister, the very last member of the human race is on trial at the Forum of Justice on the Desert Moon of Aranguu 12 for breaching Gelf Law, having been found guilty of crimes against the United Republic of Engineered Life Forms and is sentenced to 18 years in the penal colony known as Cyberia, where he will live out his sentence in his very own cybernetic hell.

Meanwhile, an entirely different David Lister, currently inhabiting the ship to surface mining vessel, Starbug emerges from the Deep Sleep Unit only to discover a mathematical error during a return trip through a black hole, has landed him and his fellow crewmates in an alternate universe.

The mishap occurred while traversing the Omni-zone at the centre of the black hole, which serves as a hub, connecting all possible realities, and instead of emerging into their own timeline they have encountered a dimension in which the entire crew of Starbug has been wiped out, all except Lister, who has gone missing.

Persuaded to remain in the alternate universe in search of his doppelganger, Lister soon discovers that his other self has been wrongly imprisoned in Cyberia for crimes that he hasn’t yet committed and stages a prison break in a righteous bid to free him.

Unfortunately, Lister’s honourable attempt to fight the injustice of his counterpart’s prison sentence has disastrous ramifications, not just for himself or for the entire Red Dwarf crew, but also for the potential survival of the human race.


Favourite Quotes:

“I drink, I smoke, I have curry sauce for breakfast? Raw onions on my cereal? I sound like some barely human, grossed-out slime ball.” – Dave Lister. (p26)


Rimmer: “Step up to red alert.”

Kryten: “Are you absolutely sure, Sir? It will mean changing the bulb.”




Last Human is Doug Naylor’s very first solo Red Dwarf novel, without his writing partner Rob Grant, and his inexperience is glaringly obvious. It is also agonizingly clear that Rob Grant is the comedian and the true ideas-man of the duo, providing the signature jokes that made Red Dwarf one of the very best BBC sitcoms in existence.

Last Human offers up a very difficult to comprehend plot with some impossible to read, let alone pronounce, dialogue and character names, that when coupled with the lack of amusing Red Dwarf satire, results in a dull, almost forgettable novel that only die-hard fans of the TV series could relate to.


I also discovered an error in the text that states that ‘Kryten is a Series 3000 Mechanoid’ on page 48, while page 77 states that he is a ‘Series 4000 Mechanoid’. An irrelevant boop I must confess, however the lack of attention to detail rather grates on my nerves.


Sadly, at 3 out of 5 stars, Last Human is a rather disappointing attempt at a Red Dwarf novel and only for those true fans, loyal to all things ‘Dwarf’.


See also:

Red Dwarf: Omnibus

Backwards by Rob Grant

Red Dwarf: Backwards – Rob Grant (Book Review)

Rob Grant is half of the original gestalt entity known as Grant Naylor, who created the TV sitcom Red Dwarf, as well as co-writing the original two novels: Red Dwarf and Better Than Life, which can be found as one volume under the guise of ‘Red Dwarf: Omnibus’.

Backwards is Rob Grant’s first solo attempt at a Red Dwarf novel and is ‘in his own words’: “a reverse whodunit space opera western dealing definitively with the concept of post-destination”.

The story follows on directly from the events at the end of ‘Better Than Life’; David Lister, the last human being in the universe, is now an old man after being forced to live out his remaining years on a planet composed entirely of garbage due to a time-dilation incident involving a black hole.

When Lister dies, his fellow crew members bury his body on a planet similar to Earth, except time is running in reverse. Soon, he comes back to life and eagerly awaits the day, thirty-six years later, when the crew of the Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel, Red Dwarf will return for him.

Unfortunately, his crewmates consist of: a hologramatic persona of Lister’s deceased bunkmate, Arnold J. Rimmer, a creature that evolved from his pet cat, a sanitation robot with an overactive guilt-chip called Kryten, and Holly, the ship’s senile computer.

If they fail to rescue the only surviving human being from his backwards reality, he will go through puberty in reverse and continue to get younger and younger and younger, eventually culminating in a future far too disturbing to contemplate.


Favourite Quote:

“Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.” – Ace Rimmer. (p99)



While at times the backwards aspects of Rob Grant’s first solo Red Dwarf novel are a little confusing and difficult to wrap your head around, you have to admire the unique plot and sheer guts that it must have taken to publish a book in which a good chunk of the narrative takes place in reverse.


With its short snappy chapters and engaging premise Backwards is undeniably captivating, however it loses a lot of the witty humour that the Grant Naylor duo is famous for, and which made the first two novels so successful.

At 4 out of 5 stars Backwards is a good addition to the Red Dwarf Universe.


See also:

Red Dwarf: Omnibus

Last Human by Doug Naylor

Red Dwarf: Omnibus (Book Review)

Since today is Blue Monday I thought that this weeks’ book review should be something light-hearted and full of comedy so… check out the Red Dwarf Omnibus.

The Red Dwarf Omnibus comprises the first two Red Dwarf novels by Grant Naylor: Red Dwarf and Better Than Life, all in one volume. The two geniuses responsible for creating the Red Dwarf sitcom for the BBC, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, come together once again to co-write these two hilarious sci-fi novels.


Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

While out celebrating his 24th birthday on a Monopoly board pub crawl round London with his friends, something goes terribly wrong for David Lister. Getting completely black out drunk, he wakes up sometime later in a McDonald’s restaurant on the Saturnian Satellite of Mimas, 793 million miles away.

After spending six months trying and failing to save up enough money for the shuttle fare required in order to leave Mimas and return home, Dave decides to join the Jupiter Mining Corporation and get appointed to an Earth bound ship, his destination Red Dwarf.

After just seven months almost the entire crew onboard Red Dwarf is wiped out in a radiation leak. Three million years later, third technician David Lister eventually re-emerges from stasis to find himself the last remaining member of the human race. His only companions: Holly the senile disembodied head of the ships computer system, a hologram simulation of his dead bunkmate Arnold J. Rimmer, a creature that evolved from his pet cat and Kryten, a deranged sanitation mechanoid.



Favourite Quotes:

‘The rubber plant was surprised. If the rubber plant could have spoken, it wouldn’t have said anything. That’s how surprised the rubber plant was.’ – p26


“I am not spending the rest of my life with a man who keeps his underpants on coat hangers.” – Lister on his impending life with Rimmer. p115


“Emergency. There’s an emergency going on. It’s still going on, and it’s an emergency.” – Holly. p151


Rimmer: “They’re all dead.”

Kryten: “My God! I was only away two minutes!”



Red Dwarf: Better Than Life

The crew of the Jupiter Mining Corporation Vessel Red Dwarf have finally returned to Earth, using the duality drive on board the Nova 5. Lister is living in the idyllic town of Bedford Falls and Rimmer, now the third richest man in the world, has everything he has ever dreamed of (almost).

Unfortunately, their new life back on Earth is not real it is just a simulation of their innermost thoughts and desires. For the Red Dwarf crew are actually immersed in the deadly video game Better Than Life.

Despite the knowledge that their lives aren’t real and that their bodies are physically dying back on board the ship, the crew find it almost impossible to give up on their dream existence, at least all but Rimmer, who’s psyche seems to be out to destroy him. Can he convince the others to leave this virtual reality and return home before it’s too late?

Favourite Quote:

Talkie Toaster: “You’re senile.”

Holly: “You what?”

Talkie Toaster: “You’ve got to be. Why would a huge mainframe computer with a fifteen zillion gigabyte capacity and a projected IQ in excess of six thousand, want a novelty talking toaster for companionship, if he wasn’t off his trolley? You’ve gone computer senile, haven’t you?” p339



  • Backword by Grant Naylor
  • The Beer Mat which contains the original idea for Red Dwarf
  • Dave Hollins: Space Cadet – A radio 4 sketch where the idea was first developed
  • Red Dwarf pilot script



At 5 out of 5 stars The Red Dwarf Omnibus is a must have for any self respecting dwarfer to have in their collection. There are far too many notable points within this double novel for me to begin discussing them all here. All I will say, is that you haven’t truly laughed so hard that your sides ache, until you read about how Rimmer’s own subconscious turns his personal paradise into his own unique hell and destroys everyone and everything that he comes into contact with. Not to mention everyone’s favourite chirpy breakfast companion, Talkie Toaster.


See Also:

Backwards by Rob Grant

Last Human by Doug Naylor

The Man In The Rubber Mask by Robert Llewellyn