ABC2 has reached the point where its repeats of Red Dwarf have reached Back to Earth (a comedic, plot and dramatic lowpoint for the show by any measure) which ostensibly portends to be the tenth series, and there was a whole series of Red Dwarf after Only the Good... that we didn't see.
Surely we must all have wondered what that would be like?
Assuming that the BBC/Doug Naylor/the Sacred Lights of Predeterminism had got their smeg together and a new series brought back at the turn of the millennium, a few things can be deduced. For a start, it would have been six episodes; the eight episode run of the previous two series had been there to get 52 episodes for syndication (the same trap that killed off Blake's 7, let us not forget). Chloe Ashcroft and Norman Lovett would most likely have been in it, and also it would have been their last regular series. Given how cash-strapped and chaotic the production was, there would also have been a real "get out while the going's good" vibe given how increasingly impossible it would have been to keep the show on.
So, Red Dwarf IX would have effectively been the finale series and would have been made with that in mind but also left open-ended for a possible sequel/movie/web animation, etc.
The first episode would, of course, be devoted to resolving the cliffhanger of Only the Good... After the ghastly mess of Ticket to Ride, having the resolution explained in a few lines (or even via Star Wars scrolling caption) would not have been satisfying. The last episode of Series 8 was meant to be part one originally, then was compressed into a single plot before having a cliffhanger ending added. In fact, three cliffhanger endings added. So the plight of the dissolving Red Dwarf and the dying Rimmer had to be explored.
We know that Ace Rimmer was planned to reappear to rescue Nano-Rimmer, so presumably that's what happened. After bollocking the grim reaper, Nano-Rimmer encounters Ace and they flee the dissolving Dwarf in Ace's ship. We can also guess that Ace knows all about cissiumfrakalithiumtrixydoxydixydoxide or whatever it is, annoying Nano-Rimmer quite a lot that the solution was so simple.
Ahah, but with Ace on the scene - plus Kryten's warning in the previous episode that imperfect mirrors lead to the wrong dimensions - we now learn the truth. Nano-Rimmer is in the wrong universe! This version (Betaverse) is nigh-identical to the proper one (Alphaverse) except the microbe destroyed Red Dwarf in two days than two weeks. The Alpha-Lister, Cat, Kryten, Kochanski etc are all still safe and sound waiting for Nano-Rimmer to return. The Beta-crew are now all in the Mirrorverse.
Ace - not really wanting Nano-Rimmer as his companion - dimension-jumps into the Mirrorverse to drop Nano-Rimmer off and what follows is a classic French Farce episode like Back in the Red or Trojan as three separate versions of our characters keep bumping into each other. Imagine the Cat, Kochanski and Lister trying to bluff their way as a Professor, a chav, and Terry Thomas respectively! Oh, the whacky misunderstandings and humerous conclusions. Hilarity is guaranteed!
Eventually, the Alpha-crew return to the Alphaverse with the antitode. Ace presumably goes on his own way, perhaps saying hi to the Alpha-Lister or perhaps choosing not to. Back on Red Dwarf, the microbe is defeated, our heroes are victorious, Rimmer is Captain by default (pre-recorded footage allows us to see Hollister and the rest of the crew watching helplessly as the restored Red Dwarf heads off without them).
Having encountered so many different versions of himself, Rimmer makes peace with the vending machine but this one is just as vindictive as the Betaverse version and he smashes Rimmer down with a coke can as well. The episode ends with a gag... or does it?
2. RIP Smeg Head
The second episode would reveal that a high-velocity cola can to back of the neck can be fatal and for the second time, Rimmer has died to become a hologram. But this Rimmer died as a smug captain and hero, not the underachieving loser of the other one. So hologram Rimmer is very different as we see in Back to Earth: he's a lazy, self-involved slob who, having achieved his career goal, is consumed with his own ego. Not to mention the grand funeral he'd insist his body would get.
The B-plot would no doubt involve the surviving Canaries and prisoners. Would they prefer to stay in the Brig given there's nowhere else to go? Would they head off to colonize a planet? Would there be a revolt? Either way, Jake Wood's hugely-popular Kill Crazy would return as a semi-regular for the rest of the series developing a double-act with the Cat.
3. Identity-Within rewrite
Given it was only abandoned for cost reasons, this Cat-centric episode was prime material to be adapted - saving a lot of time and problems in finding new scripts. The basic tenant would remain the same: a lack of sex is killing the Cat, forcing the crew to try and find a female Cat for him to mate with. There's plenty of material worth exploring - the Cat's fury at being domesticated, the GELF poker game, etc. Kochanski working out the mystery would make more sense, and the GELF village could easily be relocated to some space station or other. At the end of it, the Cat chooses to remain with the crew as a more independant character who gets his own subplots with Kill-Crazy.
4. Polymorph III
Given the looming sense this is the last series, bringing back the Polymorphs for a final showdown would be smart - this time Kryten, Kochanski and Kill-Crazy get their emotions changed rather than just bringing back Dwayne and Ace. This time, we'd encounter a Polymorph so massive and intricate that it turns out not to be a single shape-shifter but an entire planet and community. Rather than the mindless predator, this one would be erudite and even suggest some kind of deal (it could turn into a harem to feed off the Cat's lust, for example) and mutual benefits. Kryten would be the only one to keep his head (if not literally) and save the day. We might even get Hollister et all back and discover they too had fallen to the Polymorph - or, more likely, had a good deal going with it until the Dwarfers arrived and ruined everything.
5. Bye-Bye Kochanski
An over-arcing plotline this year would be Kochanski's increasing concern that Lister's letting himself go. They'd made up at the end of Series 8, so presumably they'd be back together full time now - only for Lister's worst aspects to come out now he now longer had anything to strive for. There was also likely to be an exploration of the fact that Kochanski is stuck in the wrong universe and still pines for her own Lister, Kryten and Cat. (Yes, it seems they forgot that, but Father & Suns remembered the episode).
This episode would show Kochanski reaching the end of the line, and clearly intending to leave. Her friendship with Kryten would be strained to breaking point and the episode would conclude with Kryten revealing she'd been killed in a hideous air-lock accident. (For added realism, the dodgy airlock would have been a major part of the episode). It is all but stated outright that Kochanski has in fact left, searching for the dimensional tear once more, and Kryten is lying about it.
6. The Other End
Having focussed on Rimmer, the Cat, Kochanski and Kryten, the series finale focusses on Lister. There would be plenty of flashbacks to unseen events like Balance of Power or Blue, as he deals with the loss of Kochanski and his own failings. He would in turn struggle to pull himself together, adding emphasis to the idea that she left him for his own good.
The plot would focus on the idea of returning to Earth. A new fuel would be found allowing Red Dwarf to cross the universe and return to the planet. Alas, the breaking speed - not to mention the effort to avoid smashing into the planet leaves Red Dwarf three million years' distant from Earth in the other direction, effectively right back to where it started. By now, Kill-Crazy and the canaries would have been written out for good, leaving just the main cast of Lister, Rimmer, Cat, Kryten and Holly all on their own in deep space.
It would be a bittersweet ending, focussing on the fact the gang are technically safe and sound and happy together, along with the nihilistc observation that after nine series of the show they've achieved absolutely smeg all to show for it. The final shot is Red Dwarf setting off towards Earth yet again, this time at normal speed with just enough hope that the audience doesn't slash its wrists.
Red Dwarf IX is a popular success, but not enough to be renewed. Considered a complete work, it is only five years later that the writers decide to end it for good with a three-part special that's a crude rewrite of Back to Reality, added with countless Blade Runner jokes, no laughter track and a lengthy sequence in Coronation Street. No one's really fussed about it being the finale.
But then, it's all a bloody hallucination anyway!