If you don't remember ever seeing Red Dwarf Series 9, you could be forgiven for thinking you had started to lose the plot. You remember the series 8 finale 'Only The Good', which ended with a cliffhanger involving Red Dwarf being eaten by a corrosive virus and Rimmer kicking Death in the happy sack before fleeing into the disintegrating ship; the others having become trapped in a mirror universe. That was all back in 1999, and we have been waiting patiently ever since wondering if we would ever find out what became of our favourite space bums.
Fast forward to 2012, and an eagerly anticipated tenth series is about to hit our screens. So, what the smeg happened to Red Dwarf Series 9 then? Did the master tapes get sucked into a giant swirly thing in space before it could be aired? Is it simply lost somewhere at the bottom of Lister's laundry basket? Relax, there is a perfectly normal (well, normal for Red Dwarf) explanation as to what happened to the ninth series.
Since that cliffhanger back in 1999, despite rumours of a film being in the pipeline, it slowly began to seem like the show was history and Red Dwarf series 9 was never to be. Then in 2009 a 3 part special called Back To Earth was broadcast on the UK comedy channel Dave, and subsequently released worldwide as one continuous episode on DVD as a 'Directors Cut'.
Since the news of Red Dwarf X being in the making came about, it seems there are those who have come to the assumption that Back To Earth was, in fact, series 9. But since Back To Earth didn't follow on from where series 8 left off, you have to ask yourself how likely this really is. Not only that, but Red Dwarf series 9 is actually mentioned in Back To Earth as being the 'best season ever' by the sc-fi memorabilia sop owner. And earlier, when Lister reads the back of the DVD box for Back To Earth, it says, "Back To Earth takes place after series 10″. This means these events occurred sometime after series 9 and 10. Add to that the fact that Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor has already stated that he doesn't want to make a ninth series of the show, and that a tenth series would "make a lot more sense in the future." OK, lets recap.
Back To Earth essentially saw the crew get sucked through an entirely different swirly thing in space to the one I mentioned earlier, finding themselves back on Earth in the very near future. They discover that in the dimension in which they now find themselves stranded, they are merely characters in a TV show called 'Red Dwarf'. They learn this information whilst browsing through the DVD section of the store they 'jumped' into, and finding the full back catalogue of Red Dwarf DVD's. And it is here, amongst this cinematic journal of all their escapades, that they encounter the DVD for the story they are currently playing out: Back To Earth.
The crew soon discover that Red Dwarf series 9 was regarded as the best ever series of the show, although no further information is given as to what may have transpired throughout that series (apart from Kochanski being sucked through an air-lock). The Dwarfers then go off in search of the writer of Red Dwarf, in the hope they can persuade him to write more episodes. A semi parody of Blade Runner fused with a stroll down the cobbles of Coronation Street quickly ensues, and our anti-heroes learn of their intended fate from their creator. Eventually the crew wake up to discover they have been experiencing a group hallucination caused by a female despair squid, whose defence mechanism works the opposite way to a males and creates a feeling of joy for potential enemies.
So, what does all this mean for Red Dwarf series 9? Well, to play devil's advocate, it can be argued that since most of the events of Back To Earth were actually a hallucination caused by the female despair squid (more like a joy squid), everything that happened during the hallucination can be discounted as not being a Red Dwarf reality. But since Back To Earth did not follow on from series 8, and was not even a full series, I would still argue that it is not series 9. It isn't part of any series, but simply a 3 part/one off special.
Even though it didn't really happen happen (unless it will be was an event that could will have been taken place in the future), mentioning series 9 as being the 'best ever' series of the show in Back To Earth has effectively mythologized that entire series. I would imagine that attempting to write series 9 now, having put it on such a high pedestal that would garner such huge expectations, would be nigh on impossible. My assumption is that the intention was that series 9 will never be written. Unless, of course, that period eventually gets covered with a Red Dwarf movie. Until then, Red Dwarf series 9 is, and will probably always be, nothing but a myth.
More light may well be shed on how the crew were able get out of the bind they found themselves in at the end of 'Only The Good' during the course of Red Dwarf X, and we are told this will actually all be explained in episode 6 of the new series. Although you can never really predict what is going to happen in this show, my guess is that we will be left with even more questions by the time it is over.