— Holly ("Future Echoes")
Portrayed by Norman Lovett (male incarnation) and Hattie Hayridge (female incarnation), Holly was one of the original Boys from the Dwarf in Series I to Series V, briefly in Series VII, and in Series VIII.
The computer ran Red Dwarf for the three million years after the radiation leak which killed the crew and the ship wandered the Galaxy unmanned, except for the cats evolving on-board. Holly, having gone half-crazed by the aeons of solitude, later brought Dave Lister out of stasis and resurrected Arnold Rimmer as a hologram.
Holly's "Supervision Field" could watch over most of the ship, but didn't extend to some of the cargo bay areas, such as Supply Pipe 28. Holly could however go mobile in the form of a mobile monitor, or be downloaded into a special wrist-watch.
After Red Dwarf was rebuilt by the nanobots in Series VIII, a different Holly ran the ship, with the original, senile version of Holly stored in Lister's watch. As of Back to Earth and Series X, both versions of Holly are currently offline, replaced by the JMC On-Board Computer.
Holly was originally played by Norman Lovett in Series I and II. Following a "head sex change" to look like his parallel universe alter ego Hilly in "Backwards", Holly was played by Hattie Hayridge in Series III to V. Holly does not appear in Series VI, but reappears in the final episode of Series VII as the original male version, played once again by Lovett, which continued into Series VIII.
Holly originally had an I.Q. of 6,000 ("Future Echoes"). Holly's user interface appears on the ship screens as a disembodied human head on a black background, and can also be downloaded into a watch worn by Lister. In Series I his face appears pixelated, but this idea was dropped in Series II. As a male, Holly appears to be approximately 50 years old and has receding brown hair. It appears that Holly can age, or at least simulate ageing, as when the Dwarfers discovered him on a planetoid, he had gone bald. Holly chose his face (that of Norman Lovett) because the face supposedly belonged to "the greatest and most prolific lover who ever lived", to which Arnold Rimmer replied that "he must have worked in the dark a lot." ("Balance of Power").
After meeting his female counterpart, Hilly (Parallel Universe"), he fell so madly in love with her that he had a "computer sex change" and based his new face on hers ("Backwards"). As a female (portrayed by Hattie Hayridge), Holly appears to be approximately 30 years old and has shoulder-length blonde hair and red lipstick.
Before the accident and his decline into senility, Holly was essentially omniscient, programmed with all possible knowledge of the time. He was Red Dwarf's main computer, in charge of all essential systems on the ship. When the accident wiped out the crew, Holly guided the ship out of the solar system and sealed all the locks on the ship, safely protecting Lister's cat and her kittens.
After the last episode of Series V, Red Dwarf was stolen by the nanobots, and the regular characters spent the next two series looking for it on Starbug without Holly. In the last episode of Series VI, they eventually find the planetoid which Kryten's nanites had turned Red Dwarf into. The original, senile version of Holly was found stored in a wristwatch, having yet again spent the last few millennia alone. When caught in Lister's laundry basket, the nanites turned Red Dwarf back into a ship, even improving on its original design, resurrecting the original crew and rebuilding a new version of Holly to run it. This new Holly is presumably like the original, as well as his original IQ. Throughout Series VIII, the regular characters are imprisoned in The Tank, whilst the Rebuilt Holly runs the ship, and the original senile Holly remains in Lister's wristwatch.
Neither version of Holly appears again in Back to Earth, with him stated by Rimmer to be down due to water damage after Lister left a bath running for nine years at some point during the 1999 - 2009 Bridge (although other explanations are the Despair Squid currently inhabiting the water tank, or damage done by the Chameleonic Microbe in the former episode). Rimmer was possibly referring to the nanobot-resurrected Rebuilt Holly who was formerly uploaded to the ship, with the original Holly stored in Lister's watch and they are presumably unable to upload this Holly to the ship (the rebuilt-Holly did not seem like an ally, so it unlikely they would have re-uploaded him; it is possible that the wristwatch with the original Holly is still in the Mirror Universe). The skutters are trying to dry out Holly's databanks, or so says Rimmer to Katerina Bartokovsky in their Despair Squid-induced hallucination, when Bartokovsky asks where the missing ship computer is.
Throughout Series X, Red Dwarf is run by the faceless, silent, non-sentient JMC On-Board Computer that communicates with the crew through skutters and by post. The crew briefly try to replace Holly with another computer called Pree in "Fathers & Suns", placing Holly's future in the show in further question (even though Pree turns out to be a failure). The crew however does mention Holly, with Rimmer saying that he misses Holly's level of cock-ups.
When Rimmer is jumping dimensions using the Quantum Skipper, he discovers a version of Red Dwarf which has not yet undergone a Cadmium II disaster; the crew are still alive, and a much older-looking Holly is still the ship computer. Rimmer engages in a number of conversations with this universe's version of Holly, who appears in his seventies (presumably programmed to age in appearance along with the human crew).
This version of Holly is as computer senile as his prime counterpart; he says that, for a time, he believed himself to be a dancing cabbage, but is "over it now". Rimmer asks if he has been tested, and Holly replies in the affirmative, although he hasn't got a certificate of sanity yet since he didn't realise there are two sides to the exam paper.
Rimmer then has a frustrating conversation with Holly, with Holly constantly stating in this universe "nobody's dead, Arnold!" (in a direct mirror of the pilot episode when Holly repeatedly told Lister that "everybody is dead, Dave!") However, this statement was interrupted when Holly informed Rimmer that there was an imminent radiation leak, advising the crew to run around screaming. After meeting Captain Hollister trapped in an escape pod, Rimmer managed to skip to another dimension before the radiation leak caught up with him.
In a later dimension which Rimmer skipped to saw him essentially acting as the Holly of that version of Red Dwarf, with Rimmer as a disembodied head uploaded to a monitor as the ship computer. However, Rimmer was able to press the button on the Quantum Skipper with his nose, and skip to another reality. ("Skipper", Series XII)
- In Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, following the Cadmium II radiation leak that wiped out (most) of the crew, Holly was forced to pilot Red Dwarf out of the Solar System to avoid spreading the radioactive contamination.
- In Better Than Life, Holly manages to acquire an IQ of 12,368 after a suggestion by Talkie Toaster. However his lifespan is reduced to mere minutes. After learning of Lister's death, he programs the ship to head to a universe where time moves backwards to bring him back to life. He also comes up with a solution to bring Kochanski back at the same time (In Last Human, this procedure restored the normal Kochanski, but in Backwards she is restored as a native of the reverse-time universe).
- In Last Human, Holly is referenced as awaiting the crew in their universe after they become lost in the Omni-zone between universes, but they never explicitly return to their universe in the course of the novel.
- In Backwards, Holly is able to extend his lifespan by operating in the reverse universe for a time, but decides to try and increase his lifespan by reducing his IQ to prolong his life. This leaves him so stupid that he cannot work out his lifespan or IQ, spending a decade brooding about onions before he realizes that the crew have not returned to the ship. Red Dwarf is subsequently invaded by Agonoids, a race of sadistic mechanoids out to torture the last remaining human, who tear out Holly's components, leaving him adrift in an asteroid belt. When the crew return in Starbug and follow the ship's trail, they are forced to salvage some of Holly's components so that they can reactivate him and question him about what happened, despite only being able to acquire ten percent of his parts, exhausting the last of Holly's power and leaving the ship with so little power that they must try to attack the Agonoid-occupied Red Dwarf or die as Starbug runs out of power.
- At the end of the novel, after Rimmer, Kryten, and new ally dimension-hopping Ace Rimmer are also destroyed by the agonoids, Lister and Cat take Ace's dimension-hopping ship Wildfire and travel to another alternate universe where the two of them died some time ago but Rimmer and Kryten are still alive, Lister speculating that Holly will also be alive in this new world.
Holly is the ship's Tenth Generation AI holographic computer. Over the years, Holly became computer senile through millions of years of boredom, and this has had a huge effect on his personality and intellect. What remains of his personality since this incident initially manifests as deadpan, pessimistic, and perpetually bored or apathetic. He is not unintelligent, often being incisive and witty, but is extremely absent-minded and forgetful, prone to forgetting about the basic operation of Red Dwarf in favour of extremely intensive hobbies, such as spending weeks working on practical jokes, reading every novel ever written or developing a full A-Z map of the universe. After an 'ion storm' which occurred at an unspecified time after changing to a female head, Holly's computer senility takes a rapid downward turn, becoming not merely absent-minded and incompetent but actively airheaded and stupid, becoming unable to even count without 'bashing her/his head on the screen'.
Holly still prides himself on the fact he had an IQ of 6,000 (apparently the same IQ as 6,000 PE teachers or 12,000 car park attendants), despite the fact he is computer senile, or as Holly put it, "a bit peculiar". The crew are often unsympathetic of his condition and ridicule him on his senility, however Holly shows that he is smarter than they think he is. He has a love of playing practical jokes on the crew, such as fooling Lister into thinking that "NORWEB Federation" space fighters were after him and wanted £180 billion in arrears for leaving his bathroom light on three million years ago, as well as wanting to arrest him for "Crimes against Humanity" as he had left some German sausages alone in his apartment for three million years and they now covered a large proportion of the Earth's surface. He also allowed Rimmer to believe that an old garbage pod was the remains of an alien just for a laugh.
This love of practical jokes culminated in his generating an alternate personality, "Queeg", and passing him off as the ship's backup computer which was seizing control of the ship. The prank was also Holly's way to teach the crew to "appreciate what [they've] got, because basically, I'm fantastic."
He could also be malicious, although this was often due to Rimmer insulting him for his senility. He once gave Rimmer a ridiculous hairdo, simulated a boil on his neck, and allowed Rimmer to be beaten up by Petersen's arm after it somehow merged onto him. Despite the crew's frustrations with Holly and his senility and japes, they do care about him and were distraught when they thought he would be wiped by Queeg. They were amazed and pleased to see him when they recovered the wrist watch.
Holly was friends with another computer called Gordon, who had an IQ of 8,000 and was an Eleventh Generation AI hologrammatic computer. He and Gordon were playing a long-distance chess game, Holly only received the first move three million years later in the episode "Better Than Life" Series II. Gordon resembled Holly, had the same manner, and he seemed to be at least as senile.
Holly runs most of the Red Dwarf systems, although in several episodes such as "Quarantine", Holly is shown to not have complete control of Red Dwarf, and in Holly's absence in Series VI and VII, a computer is mentioned by the crew, and is seen to control autopilot, possibly a non-AI computer designed as a back-up should Holly go senile or mad (the Series X opener "Trojan" refers to a JMC on-board computer). Among Holly's systems are the service droids known as skutters, which clean, perform engineering tasks, and function as Rimmer's hands since he couldn't touch anything non-holographic until he was converted to "hard light" in second episode of Series VI "Legion".
While on his own for three million years, Holly invented "Hol Rock", where he decimalised music (having ten notes instead of eight — although he admits that this would result in "piano keyboards being the width of a zebra crossing, and women being banned from playing the cello"), and wrote an A-Z guide of the universe. He proclaims that Kevin Keegan wrote the worst book ever ("Football, It's a Funny Old Game"). He is proud of the fact that he can do moon impressions just by lowering his face on the screen. His usual greeting to the crew is "All right dudes".
One of Holly's dislikes is being on a watch, especially on Lister's wrist, and particularly when Lister's hand goes in his pocket. One of the more worrying aspects of Holly's senility is that he has developed a blind spot for the number 7. When he invents the "Holly Hop Drive", he claims that one mistake in his 13 billion calculations and they would be blown up. He then misses the seven in his countdown, possibly the cause of the error that sent them to the parallel universe.
Holly was lost for some time, along with the ship, which had been stolen by Kryten's nanobots. He was found on a planet made of junk from Red Dwarf, having reverted to his male form, and was downloaded into Lister's Holly-watch (see "RD: Nanarchy" and "Prelude to Nanarchy"). When the nanos rebuilt the ship, there were two Hollys: the original, who generally remains in the watch, and a rebuilt version who had not suffered the effects of three million years alone. The non-senile version only appeared in one episode, "Back In the Red, Part III", and was distinguished by having an enormous forehead shaped like an egg to reflect his superior IQ. Despite his other self's intellect, the original Holly was able to remain active on Lister's watch, occasionally trying to help out by offering suggestions for how Lister could shorten his sentence.
Between Series VIII and Back to Earth, Holly was rendered offline due to water damage after Lister flooded his databanks due to him leaving a bath running for nine years without turning it off. Although the crew have attempted to activate a new sentient A.I. to replace him, the resulting computer- Pree- proved to be a failure, prompting them to remain operating with just the silent, faceless, on-board JMC mainframe.
Behind the scenes
- Stand-up comedian Norman Lovett initially took the role of Holly to advance his career, but was perturbed to discover it was just a voice-over role. Lovett then badgered the writers to have his face appear on-screen, which eventually they agreed to, although his face was pixelated in Series I.
- The actor was changed from Norman Lovett to Hattie Hayridge in the beginning of Series III because it was filming in London, and Lovett had moved to Edinburgh, and did not want the long commute, among other reasons. In the making of documentaries, Lovett is often said to be a born-moaner by the rest of the cast and crew, stating that it was difficult to get him back for "RD: Nanarchy" and Series VIII. Hayridge is still a frequent attendee at the Dimension Jump conferences; Lovett not so much.
- The book Better Than Life states that Holly had no belief in Silicon Heaven when he had an I.Q. of 6,000, but as he became computer senile, his belief in it became reaffirmed and it kept him going for the three million years he was alone.
- In the novel universe, Holly ends the novel Better Than Life with less than twenty seconds of run-time after upgrading his IQ to over twelve thousand. He is only briefly referenced in the novel Last Human as waiting for the crew in their universe after they end up in the wrong parallel universe while returning home, but in the novel Backwards, he spends time in the reverse-time universe to increase his run-time, but then lowers his own IQ while trying to increase it even further, to the point that he is too stupid to defend the ship when it is taken over by agonoids while the rest of the crew are trapped in the backwards universe. He is presumably destroyed when the Agonoids tear him out of Red Dwarf and the crew have only enough power to reboot a few of Holly's components for a few moments on Starbug, but the novel ends with Lister and Cat travelling to an alternate universe after their crewmates are killed, the new reality being a timeline where Lister and Cat died in the Better Than Life game and Rimmer, Kryten and (presumably) Holly are still around.
- It was decided by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor to drop Holly following Series V as they felt that her two main traits, stupidity and delivering exposition, had been moved to the Cat and Kryten and as a result her role in the show had already been considerably diminished,
- "Oi. What's happening, dudes?" (RD: Better Than Life)
- "He's dead, Dave. Everybody is dead. Everybody — is — dead — Dave." (RD: The End)
- "I should never have let him out in the first place." (RD: The End)
- "Six? Do me a lemon, that's a poor IQ for a glass of water!" (RD: Queeg)
- "We have enough food to last thirty thousand years, but we've only got one After Eight mint left. And everyone's too polite to take it." (RD: Me)
- "Gordon Bennett, it's lucky he's not a gynaecologist." (RD: Thanks For the Memory)
- "Prawn takes horsie." (RD: Queeg)
- Rimmer: "Why do we have to have you as the ship's computer? We'd be better off with a bucket full of sheep slop running things."
Holly: "If you've got a complaint, just come straight out with it. Don't hide behind innuendo and hyperbole." (RD: Confidence and Paranoia)
- "Emergency, emergency, there is an emergency going on." (RD: Me²)
- "Rude alert! Rude alert! An electrical fire has knocked out my voice recognition unicycle! Many Wurlitzers are missing from my database. Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil. Repeat, this is not a daffodil." (RD: Demons & Angels)
- "Nobody is dead. Nobody — is — dead — Arnold." (RD: Skipper)