Tongue Tied
Lister redirects here. For other characters called Lister, see Lister (disambiguation)

"I'm an animal! I'm a tasteless, uncouth, tone-deaf, mindless, revolting, randy, blokeish, semi-literate space bum."
- Dave Lister ("Psirens")

Third Technician David Lister (Sr. & Jr.) was the lowest ranking crew member of the Jupiter Mining Corporation spaceship Red Dwarf before the accident which killed the crew.

The founding member of the Boys from the Dwarf, in the pilot episode Lister awakens from three million years in stasis to find that he is the last human alive, but he's not alone.


Early Years

A six-week-old Lister is left in a box under the Aigburth Arms Grav-Pool table, 2155

Due to a causal loop temporal paradox, Dave Lister was born on Starbug, the son of navigation officer Kristine Kochanski and himself. After realizing his true heritage, the adult Lister travelled back in time to leave his baby self under a pool table in the Aigburth Arms pub in Liverpool in the year 2155, thereby completing a predestination paradox to ensure that the human race does not die out. His official birthday was 14 October, yet he celebrated his birthday "most of the time".

Danny John-Jules's nephew, Alexander John-Jules, played Baby Lister. Most sources mistakenly report him as Danny John-Jules's son.

A six-week-old Lister was later found inside a cardboard box marked OUROBOROS, a message he always believed described his parents' inability to name him ("Our Rob or Ross?"), but it is actually the name of a brand of batteries.

Ouroboros is also an ancient symbol that depicts a serpent swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. It symbolizes ideas of cyclicality and primordial unity. This describes the cyclical nature of Lister's own conception.


Lister spent some time at a gloomy Liverpool orphanage where he saved the life of a bunkmate, Squeaky Gibson. Lister was adopted soon after, but his adopted father died when he was six. His mother died soon afterwards. As a result, Lister was raised by his grandmother, a tough as nails, pipe-smoking woman, who head-butted the headmaster when Lister came bottom in French and spoiled him to the point of making him overweight, earning him the nickname "Fat Boy" until he was a teenager. He decided to lose weight after he was shocked to find that the coroner had to go back for more chalk for the outline of his grandmother after she was run over.

Apparently, when he was seven he used to steal cars instead of getting on the bus and often skipped school to go shoplifting. When he was nine, however, he went on the straight and narrow.

Teenage Years

Lister had been sexually active since he was very young, having lost his virginity at the age of twelve to Michelle Fisher in one of the bunkers on the ninth hole of Bootle Municipal Golf Course; "par four, dogleg to the right, in the bunker behind the green". Lister was sexually active as an adolescent, even having a pregnancy scare with his geography teacher, Mrs Arkwright.

A Timeslide of a 17-year-old Lister with his band at the Aigburth Arms
(RD: Timeslides)

When he was seventeen, Lister formed his own band named Smeg and the Heads along with his friends Dobbin and Gazza, which specialized in "sham-glam" and "loudness". Their best song was called "Om", which earned them a few gigs and airtime on hospital radio, which resulted in driving several people out of comas. The young Lister had the tendency of calling everything crypto-fascist if he disliked it, or shady if he approved. After visiting his younger self via time travel, the older Lister was not impressed, though he did later appear to think more kindly of "Om".

Young Lister was played by Emile Charles, Craig Charles's younger brother.

Lister remembers playing pool at the Aigburth Arms
RD: White Hole

Lister was accepted at Art College, but dropped out on his first day when he learned his schedule would include lectures "first thing in the afternoon". He also parked shopping trolleys at a MegaMart for a decade, and left the job "not wanting to tied down to a career".

Lister memorably went out with a girl named Lise Yates, but the relationship ended because he did not want to commit to a relationship, a fact that Lister has since secretly regretted. He also had a relationship with another girl named Hayley Summers, an affair which almost resulted in the conception of Lister's child, although it was eventually revealed that the pregnancy was the product of another man she was sleeping with named Roy, much to Lister's chagrin given that he had previously considered her the only girl he ever cared about who did not dump him.

Aboard Red Dwarf

Lister sings "Lunar City Seven" on Z Shift (Red Dwarf Smegazine)

After a pub crawl around London resulted in him waking up on one of Saturn's moons (Mimas), Lister sought to get back home by stealing hoppers and hiring them out them as taxis to acquire enough DollarPounds to get back to Earth. It was during this time that he first met Arnold Rimmer, who was pretending to be an officer and asking to be taken to a droid brothel. (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers)

Lister with his drinking buddies during the early years on Red Dwarf ("The End")

Lister eventually signed up with the Jupiter Mining Corporation, registration number "RD 52 169", and joined the crew of Red Dwarf as a third technician for the sole reason that it was (eventually) heading back to Earth. He was the lowest ranking crewman on Red Dwarf and spent his time performing tasks on Z Shift deemed too menial for the skutters. His immediate superior officer was Arnold Rimmer, who was also his bunkmate. Among his closest friends aboard Red Dwarf were Olaf Petersen, Selby and Chen. During his tour of duty, Lister met and fell in love with Kristine Kochanski. She became part of his ultimate plan, to buy a farm in Fiji with Kochanski and open a hot dog donut stand.

The nature of Lister and Kochanski's relationship changes from unrequited love in Series I to a short, passionate relationship in later series that was cut short by Kochanski herself.

After being with the JMC for eight months, Lister was imprisoned in a stasis booth because he smuggled a cat aboard from planetary shore leave on Mimas. In the novel, it is explained that he did so deliberately to get put in stasis, thus allowing him to travel back to Earth without experiencing the passage of time. In the television series, Lister got the cat because he was lonely after Kochanski dumped him.

While Lister was in stasis, a release of lethal radiation occurred on board and killed the entire crew. Holly, the ship's computer, kept Lister in stasis for three million years until the radiation levels decreased to a safe background level.

Lister's role on the ship is much less defined than the others, even during the sixth and seventh series where the crew were forced into more official roles to find the missing Red Dwarf. In the early series he was content to be a slob and not do anything on the ship, but, as his life became more turbulent, he became the co-pilot for Starbug, and often was the one to come up with plans for getting out of problems, arguably as an acting captain role, though neither he and Rimmer would never describe him as such. He is often the one to take charge in tense situations and is the most successful in getting the crew out of trouble, though he's also just as capable of getting the crew into trouble.

The Last Human

Dave Lister.jpg

Lister was revived three million years later and found himself the last human in the universe and three million years away from home. In order to keep him sane, Holly activated a hologrammatic simulation of Arnold Rimmer to keep Lister company. Lister also found the last remnant of a race that evolved from his cat, whom he simply named Cat. Through Cat, Lister discovered that during his three million years in stasis, the cats had deified him, naming him Cloister the Stupid. Though originally seeing him as a replacement pet ("and I've still got a cat"), the two eventually become close friends.

After a sexual liaison with his female alter-ego Deb Lister from a female-oriented alternate universe, Lister gave birth to twin sons named Jim and Bexley, named after the Zero-G football player, Jim Bexley Speed. Due to them being born in a different reality to their conception, both of them grew to be eighteen years old within three days, so to make sure they did not die within a fortnight, Lister sent them back to their mother's dimension.

After recovering the mechanoid Kryten from the wreck of the Nova 5, Lister teaches Kryten to think for himself, a process that continues through the series as Lister urges him to break his programming and repeatedly rebuilds him. He also later attempts to renew his relationship with Kochanski when they are joined by a parallel version of her in Series VII, despite the fact that she is in fact his own mother, and Kryten's own paranoia about the pairing meaning that Lister wouldn't care about him anymore. His interactions with Rimmer also develop throughout the series, with the continuing animosity occasionally broken through with moments of empathy and affection, although events such as going through "The Rimmer Experience" continually make it impossible for Lister to count him as a friend.

Throughout the course of the series, Lister often makes references to his increasing maturity, most obviously in the opening of the Series VII episode "Tikka to Ride" as well as in the Series VIII opener "Back in the Red, Part One", where he comments to the resurrected form of Arnold Rimmer that he has become "more mature, more debonair" in the face of his many accomplishments and experiences aboard Red Dwarf. However, in Back to Earth, it is revealed that he had something of a breakdown during the nine-year interval that had since elapsed, slowly losing his faith in himself and resorting to the self-destructive habit of excessive drinking.

Lister's lack of confidence in himself can be traced as far back as the Series I episode "Confidence and Paranoia", where Lister's mental landscape becomes "solid" as a result of a mutated form of pneumonia, resulting in the creation of two men, one representing Lister's Confidence and the other representing his Paranoia, with each battling for supremacy over his mental state. Likewise, in the Series V episode "The Inquisitor" he fails his own inquisition after being judged by himself to have not made the most of his own intelligence, though this was mitigated by Lister coming up with a working plan to defeat The Inquisitor.

He slowly starts to regain his self-confidence after being reminded of his more positive qualities as part of a group hallucination he experienced alongside the rest of the crew, as well as learning from Kryten the truth that Kochanski had merely left in a Blue Midget, disquieted by Lister's binge drinking, rather than being sucked out of an airlock to her death as he had previously claimed in order to spare his feelings.

He builds upon this process in the Series X episode "Fathers and Suns", where he attempts to finally become a proper father to himself. While not always successful, his daddy-discipline does eventually result in Lister taking more responsibility for his own well-being, causing him to enroll in a JMC robotics course and to take better care of his dental health. He still finds himself falling into bouts of depression about his situation, as in "Dear Dave", but attempts to keep himself centred with his goal of finding Kochanksi and eventually making it back to Earth.

However, Lister has tangled with these bouts of depression since Series I, where he is seen sadly reflecting upon the deceased crew in "Balance of Power". Similarly, he ruefully reflects on his lot in life in "Timeslides" and ultimately resorts to temporal manipulation in order to chart a new course for himself. Interestingly, however, he is not shown as overly elated to be with his species once again in Series VIII, though perhaps the inmates of The Tank simply provided too unflattering a vision of humanity.

Future Echoes

171-year-old Lister, as seen in Future Echoes. Note the metal prosthetic arm replete with bottle opener.

Lister as a brain-in-a-jar in an alternate future, Out of Time, Series VI

The future of Lister is uncertain as several glimpses of his future have been seen. He ended up as a brain in a jar that his trademark dreadlocks are attached to.

This outcome was undone when the present crew destroyed their time drive, disallowing the path the future crew had taken up to that point, along with the paradox caused by the erasure of the Inquisitor.

Another future version of Lister appears to be a 181-year-old man who dies while trying to take a bra off with his teeth. In one episode where Lister changed the past, he ended up as a billionaire who died at age ninety-eight when he lost control of the plane he was flying while making love to his fourteenth wife.

These outcomes were presumably undone by Lister and Rimmer's actions.

There is also a future version of Lister where he goes back in time and marries Kochanski ("Stasis Leak").

Since according to "Stasis Leak" the future version of Lister came from five years into the future of the "present" version of Lister, it would place the future Lister somewhere in Series VI. None of the episodes in this series deal with this event, which might mean that the event never happened, at least with the "main" version of Lister. The event could have conceivably happened with an alternate version of Lister from a parallel universe or it might have happened between episodes or between Series VI and Series VII and wasn't shown on screen or mentioned again. It could also be argued that the events have yet to happen or even never happened at all.


Lister is known for being very slobbish and unmotivated. His best shirt supposedly has two curry stains on the front and he never bothers washing his clothes; prior to going into stasis, he saved money by never buying soap or deodorant. He describes himself as a "space bum". He loves spicy Indian foods, especially curry and vindaloo and drinking large amounts of lager (the only thing, as far as he's concerned, that can kill a vindaloo). His other dietary habits are dubious to say the least. His best-known inventions include beer milkshake and a triple fried egg sandwich with chilli sauce and chutney. This last food put Petersen in hospital for a week. His hair is kept in dreadlocks on the back of his head, which he seems to have had for most of his life. He had revolting personal habits, such as biting his toenails, scooping food from the bin to eat it, and growing mould to ridiculous lengths.

Old Lister from Future Echoes has dreadlocks that run the length of his body.

Lister has a tattoo on his right buttock, dedicated to the love of his life: it is a heart with an arrow through it and underneath it has in dripping curry sauce the text I love Vindaloo, and another on his thigh stating that he loves Olaf Petersen that he received whilst drunk.

Lister suffers from claustrophobia, which stems from an incident when a vengeful husband caught him making love to his wife in the stock room of the supermarket where he was employed. The man kidnapped the naked Lister, locked him in a box and threatened to chuck him into a river. Lister begged for mercy and was finally released onto the stage of a local theatre in the nude, in the middle of the Bootle Amateur Players' production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Which was probably the real reason he left that job, not because he "didn't want to get tied to a career."

Lister was warm-hearted and occasionally very introspective, and according to Rimmer, extremely optimistic and naive. However Rimmer's analysis was likely just to mock Lister.

Lister is in many ways complete opposite of Rimmer and the two are constantly at odds with each other. It is presumably this reason that Holly picked Rimmer to come back as a hologram in order to keep Lister sane.

Rimmer was constantly pointing out Lister's stupidity, but in actual fact Lister was quite bright, although he was indisposed to use his intelligence to any great degree. He was capable of piloting a spaceship very well, of operating Red Dwarf and had a knack for mechanical repairs, particularly amateur cybernetics. He was literate, despite Rimmer's claims to the contrary, but he was not a regular reader, except for comic books (Although in a deleted scene in Series 7, Kryten revealed he'd found classic literature hidden under Lister's bed, with a horrified Lister asking Kryten "not to ruin his image"). This intellectual side has also prompted him to make various philosophical reflections, such as when he pondered the drawbacks of the Justice Field erected on Justice World and the dangers of planetary engineering. As a third technician he was the lowest ranked person on Red Dwarf, however this is solely because he joined for a paid trip back home with no intention of advancement. His apparent stupidity in photographing himself with his cat were part of a plan of his to be imprisoned in stasis until he reached Earth, which was the reason why he'd joined the crew in the first place.

Lister believed himself to be an excellent guitarist, but his belief was misplaced, Kryten describing him as a "ten-thumbed, tone-deaf, talentless noise polluter". His companions force him to practice his guitar only outside of the ship in a space suit.

In "Psirens" the crew were able to distinguish a psiren disguised as Lister from the real Lister because the psiren plays guitar like "the ghost of Hendrix" — as Lister believes himself to play.

Lister eventually acknowledged his inability to play the guitar to at least some degree. After losing his arm in an accident, Kryten helped him play guitar again. After hearing the result, he commented. "at least now I'm only half crap" ("Nanarchy").

Lister was also known as 'the king of crap' for purchasing an assorted amount of arguably useless things, including a talking toilet, a talking toaster with artificial intelligence, and two robot goldfish, which he named Lennon and McCartney.

After being revived from stasis, Lister's biggest regret was not achieving his dream life of moving to Fiji and opening his stand. This idea became the cat people's version of Heaven. Even after three million years drifting in space, Lister still held on to this dream, trying to revive Kochanski at any possible opportunity. When Lister meets an alternate universe incarnation of Kochanski, he is given the chance to create a child. When the child is born, he takes it back in time and space to the pool table when he was first discovered. This means that Lister is essentially his own father, and his girlfriend is his mother.

Presumably he is also the father of the various alternate universes' Listers he has seen since most of these other versions would not have had this opportunity. This lends credence to Lister's claim that he is the "definitive version."


Lister was a man of many skills. He has some technical knowledge and is able to repair some machinery. He was also an excellent pilot and pool player. He also had some skill in the kitchen, inventing new dishes such as the beer milkshake, Shami Kebab Diablo, and the triple fried egg, chili, chutney sandwich, (although it was inspired from a book on bacteriological warfare). When studying for the chefs' exam he made a beautiful cake, but fell short as he had been attempting to make roast beef at the time. In "Back to Earth, Part Two" he is also able to read a sign in Chinese, much to his own surprise, but given this was a hallucination whether or not this represents a real ability is questionable.

Lister also had some knowledge of the international language of Esperanto (he was better at it than Rimmer at least in the eight months he was living with him alive and about a year dead and Rimmer had been trying to learn it for longer). As well as Esperanto, he learned how to converse with giant cockroaches while on Garbage World and could speak backwards English while in a backwards universe. According to Epideme, Lister can open beer bottles with his anus.


  • Dave Lister: Rimmer, look, I know it's wrong of me to speak ill of the dead and all that, but you're still a smeghead. (RD: The End)
  • Dave Lister: Get out of town! Your nickname was never Ace! Maybe Ace-hole. (RD: Kryten)
  • Dave Lister: I'll nut the smegger to oblivion! (RD: Polymorph)
  • Dave Lister: His name's Rimmer. Or Smeghead. Or Dinosaur Breath or Molecule Mind. And on a really special occasion when you want to be really mega-polite to him, Kryten, we're talking MEGA-polite, in those exceptional circumstances, you can call him arsehole. (RD: Kryten)

  • Captain Hollister: OK, just one thing before the disco. Holly tells me that he's sensed a non-human lifeform aboard.
  • Dave Lister: Sir, it's Rimmer! (RD: The End)

  • Dave Lister: Sometimes I think it's cruel giving machines a personality. My mate Petersen once brought a pair of shoes with artificial intelligence. Smart Shoes, they were called. It was a neat idea. No matter how blind drunk you were, they would always get you home. Then he got ratted one night in Oslo, and woke up the next morning in Burma. See, the shoes got bored just going from his local to the flat. They wanted to see the world, man, y'know? He had a hell of a job getting rid of them. No matter who he sold them to, they'd show up again the next day! He tried to shut them out, but they just kicked the door down, y'know?
  • Arnold Rimmer: Is this true?
  • Dave Lister: Yeah! Last thing he heard, they'd sort of, erm, robbed a car and drove it into a canal. They couldn't steer, y'see.
  • Arnold Rimmer: Really?!
  • Dave Lister: Yeah. Petersen was really, really blown away by it. He went to see a priest. The priest told him, he said, it was alright, and all that, and the shoes were happy, and they'd gone to heaven. Y'see, it turns out shoes have soles.
  • Arnold Rimmer: What a sad, sad story. Wait a minute. How did they open the car door?

  • Dave Lister: Kryten, I'm gonna teach you how to lie and cheat if it's the last thing I do. I want you to be unpleasant, cruel, and sarcastic. (RD: Camille)

  • Kryten: But you would not profit by it. You would gamble your safety for a mere android? Is this the human value you call 'friendship'?
  • Dave Lister: Don't give me this Star Trek crap. It's too early in the morning. (RD: The Last Day)

  • Dave Lister: Machines do not have souls. Computers and calculators do not have an afterlife. You don't get hairdryers with tiny little wings, sitting on clouds and playing harps! (RD: The Last Day)

  • Dave Lister: Yee-es! I'm a sex beast! (RD: Queeg)

  • Arnold Rimmer: "Oh, come on, Lister, you've dated worse."
  • Dave Lister: "Only due to very poor disco lighting."

  • Arnold Rimmer: "You have altered the entire course of civilisation from the 20th century onwards, you brought the world to the brink of nucleur war, and worst of all-"
  • Dave Lister: "I know, I know, I still haven't had a curry."

Behind the Scenes

  • In the book by Grant Naylor, Lister went on a drunken Monopoly pub crawl around London with his friends to celebrate his 25th birthday, where he got very, very drunk and when he awoke, he was on Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, wearing a lady's pink crimplene hat and a pair of yellow fishing waders, with no money and a passport in the name of "Emily Berkenstein", and a worrying rash. Lister, determined to make enough money to get back home, steals hoppers (the equivalent of taxis on Mimas) but he loses all his money after being attacked by a drug addict, hooked on the drug Bliss. Penniless, Lister signs up for a job on the mining ship Red Dwarf, which was due to make a mining run to the outer Solar System, and then back to Earth. He barely qualifies for a place on the ship, having only one GCSE, which was in Technical Drawing, which he failed. In the book, he deliberately lets Frankenstein be discovered so that he would be placed in stasis, thus getting back to Earth in (subjectively) zero time.
  • According to the deleted scenes on the Series VI DVD, Lister's tattoo was obtained while on planet leave on Ganymede with Petersen, who spiked his cocktail with four-star petrol. When he woke up the next day he had enrolled as a novice monk in a Ganymedian monastery.
  • In the book Better Than Life which explores different adventures than the TV series, Lister eventually discovers Earth, but finds that it is ruled by eight-foot-long cockroaches. He becomes their king and plans to rebuild the planet. The others find him thirty-six years later, after believing Lister was missing for a fortnight due to a time dilation. Later, after Lister dies of a heart attack in a confrontation with a polymorph, his body is taken to the alternative universe where time runs backwards, possibly the dimension in RD: Backwards and is told that he will be rescued in thirty-six years time. Two accounts of what followed, which are inconsistent with each other, are the follow-up books Backwards and The Last Human. The latter also features yet another alternate Lister, this one adopted by a disturbed upper-middle class couple, rather than "our" Lister's adopted parents, and suffering extreme sociopathy as a result. The former tells how he unspent eight years in prison for murder and had a relationship with Kochanski, but backwards.
  • As a result of the episode Ouroboros, where it is revealed Lister is his own father, it is suggested that the Lister and the universe of the series is the original universe of the Red Dwarf multiverse. This is supported by the fact than any other versions of Lister are shown to be incapable of being their own father- such as the Inquisitor-created Lister being killed and Kochanski's Lister being a hologram- making Lister the source for every version of himself.