This article is about the Red Dwarf character. For the Red Dwarf episode, see RD: Kryten.
Kryten 2X4B 523P, B.S. (Bachelor of Sanitation) is a Series 4000 mechanoid or 'slave 'noid'. He is very humanoid, with the exception of the flat cubic planes visible on his face and head. His brain is synthetic yet also partly organic, based on that of John Warburton.
Once the personal servant of three female crew members of Nova 5, he is now reduced to serving the slobbish Dave Lister, the only surviving human crew member on Red Dwarf. He was also on SS Augustus before Nova 5, but the crew died of old age. After his rescue from Nova 5, Kryten becomes a vital crew member of Red Dwarf, serving as science officer.
A neurotic mechanoid obsessed with cleaning and being a slave to humans, Kryten, with the help of Dave Lister, learns to break many of his programming protocols to become more independent and human-like.
Kryten was built in 2340 ("Back in the Red I") by DivaDroid International, one of a number of Series 4000 models which inluded Able, and based on a design by Professor Mamet. This design was actually intended as a joke on Mamet's buffoon ex-fiancé, the mechanoids being a caricature of his fussiness and pomposity, and with a "Nega-Drive" that when overloaded will cause the mechanoids head to explode. ("Beyond a Joke") Kryten is hard-wired to obey all of Mamet's orders without question, so when a Psiren impersonated Mamet and ordered Kryten to crush himself in a garbage compactor, even though he knew it wasn't actually Mamet he had no choice but to comply. His reply upon emerging, having been compacted into a cube: 'I'm almost annoyed!' ("Psirens")
Kryren had his software installed at Toilet University, earning him the title "Bachelor of Sanitation". ("Epideme") For any potential cooking duties he was also programmed in off-world cuisine and utensils, such as Anti-Matter Chopsticks (which he still struggled to use), Telekinetic Wine, Jovian boogle hoops, and the often-lethal Mercurian boomerang spoon. ("Legion") Kryten first served aboard SS Augustus, but the crew died of old age ("Duct Soup") before Kryten was picked up by Nova 5.
Kryten's full name is Kryten 2X4B 523P, which he does not like, although he knew a droid with the middle name 2Q4B. He was friends with a mechanoid known as Gilbert, but due to computer senility, preferred the name Rameses Niblick the Third, Kerplunk Kerplunk, Whoops Where's My Thribble. Kryten has three spare heads, who he can have conversations with. Two of the heads have Kryten's main personality, with the third suffering droid rot. This head speaks with a Yorkshire accent and is particularly grouchy, especially with Kryten.
Aboard Red Dwarf
Kryten was first discovered as the cleaning mechanoid on Nova 5, which had crashed, killing almost all the crew. The Red Dwarf novels explain that this was because Kryten cleaned the inside of Nova 5 Navicomp with soapy water. Kryten looked after the three survivors for three million years, refusing to admit they had died of old age, until he was rescued by the Red Dwarf. Initially, Arnold Rimmer took advantage of his servility, but Lister persuaded him to rebel against his programming. He took Lister's space-bike and went out to find a planet on which he could grow a garden. ("Kryten")
At the beginning of Series III, Kryten had smashed the bike into an asteroid. Lister rebuilt him, but was unable to recreate him exactly. He did not look identical to his previous self, and spoke with a somewhat different accent.
In the episode "D.N.A.", Kryten briefly became human when the DNA Ship transmogrified his plastic to flesh using the organic components in his synthetic brain; presumably the same genetic material as John Warburton or Jim Reaper. He initially expressed joy at becoming human, but was unimpressed with having no special features, and also the nature of "double polaroids". After an intense argument with his spare heads, Kryten felt terrible about offending his own kind and returned to mechanoid form.
In Series VII, he discovered that he has a "brother" named Able. Kryten originally rejected the wastrel, drug-addicted mechanoid before an act of supreme self-sacrifice convinced him of his brother's worth.
He was briefly returned to factory settings in Series VIII, but his hard-won independence broke through after the crew jogged his memory. When Red Dwarf was re-built with the crew, Kryten was reclassed as a woman due to his lack of male genitalia, that is, his lack of any genitalia: the only mechanoids given genitals were the ones created to work on Italian starships, as it was felt it would be psychologically comforting if the androids could stand around cupping themselves all day like their crewmates. Due to this deficiency, Kryten decided to make a penis called Archie, who runs around like a mouse. Kristine Kochanski commented that Kryten was a real man because "like all men, you have absolutely no control over your penis," thereby making Kryten very proud.
Kryten has possibly the most important roles on Red Dwarf and Starbug. He's chiefly the science officer and assistant navigational officer, as his computerised memory and calculative skills make him more effective at remembering and solving problems than the rest of the crew. He's also the chief catering officer, making the meals for the crew on a daily basis. He acts as a medical officer in times when the crew need medical assistance, but he himself admits that he only has a minor understanding of the medical sciences, though he does improve in his skills as the series progresses, capable of performing much more complex and even life-saving surgeries. However, his most prominent role is as what he was designed for, a sanitation droid, essentially a butler and cleaner, spending most of his time cleaning the ship and providing services to the crew. While he does enjoy doing so, he does resent the fact that the crew sometimes don't take him seriously for his other roles and tend to overwork him.
Due to his unusually shaped head and the fact he is a sanitary droid, he is often mocked by either Rimmer or Cat with names such as Freak Face, Novelty Condom-head, Captain Chloroform ("BodySwap"), Captain Bog-bot, Bog-bot from Hell, Metal Bastard, Butter-pat Head, Plastic Percy, and Commander U-Bend. He also has referred to himself as having a head like an "amusing shaped ice cube".
Having lost his obedience programmes, Kryten has been able to better himself. While he continues to be a sanitation droid, and to enjoy cleaning and serving others, he has also become the science expert among the Dwarfers, often leading missions such as their search for Rimmer on the psi-moon in "Terrorform". The dichotomy between these two aspects of his personality has led to Rimmer nicknaming him "Captain Bog-bot".
Kryten has also extended his emotional range, which has led to him deactivating his shutdown disk (DivaDroid International believes in planned obsolescence), although the crew were then forced into a showdown with his would-be replacement. His greatest ambition is to be human, and to this end he has attempted to learn to lie and insult people (mostly Rimmer), although he has trouble with the words "smeg head"; the best he can manage is "smeeeeeeee heeeeeeeee". He did, however, become human for a few days after a machine changed his genetic structure, but he didn't enjoy the experience as much as he thought he would. While his trouble with saying smeg head wouldn't change many years later he finally does come up with his own nickname for Rimmer, occasionally calling him 'Captain Bollocks' behind his back. His ability to lie varies. He has been able to lie successfully, much to his pride and excitement. Other times his leg left suffers from an involuntary spasm, or he would announce that he is going into "Lie Mode".
Perhaps the most significant element of his personality is guilt. When his ability to feel guilty for his actions is compromised in some way, either when his guilt is drained or his guilt chip is physically removed, he can become careless, rude and even aggressive. This guilt is not necessarily balanced out by a sense of pride in the good work he does - in the episode 'The Inquisitor', he believed his selflessness was purely a matter of programming and therefore he had not led a worthwhile life.
Skills and hobbies
As a cleaning droid, Kryten enjoys such tasks like cleaning, ironing to the extent when he is sent to do the ironing as punishment for escaping The Tank, he considered it a reward, and preparing meals. Due to his data banks, Kryten has a vast knowledge of topics, such as space phenomenon, cleaning, cuisine, history and art. He can understand most, if not all known languages, thanks to his Universal Translator. For unknown reasons he has a reverse mode, which helped him translate reverse English while living on a backwards Earth. To relax, he would watch the mechanoid soap opera Androids. One of Kryten's early ambitions was to grow a garden for the simple pleasure of looking after the things he made live.
While aboard Red Dwarf, Kryten formed relationships with the crew. He bonded closest with Lister, as he was the one who rescued him from Nova 5. He considered him his best friend, who Kryten turned to when looking for advice, breaking his programming etc. Naturally he had a dislike of Rimmer, finding him petty and an imbecile, and desired to call him a "smeg head". He got on well with Cat and with Holly.
Kryten formed an irrational dislike of the new Kristine Kochanski when he first met her, mostly out of a fear that she and Lister would fall in love and abandon him. However he grew to respect her, although not necessarily like her, after she saved Lister's life from the Epideme virus.
- Cat: What? Am I the only sane one here? Why don't we drop the defensive shields?
Kryten: A superlative suggestion, sir, with just two minor flaws. One, we don't have any defensive shields, and two, we don't have any defensive shields. Now I realise that, technically speaking, that's only one flaw but I thought it was such a big one it was worth mentioning twice.
- Kryten: You are a SMEEEEEEE... HEEEEEEEEEEE... (trying to call Rimmer a Smeghead but is programmed not to insult)
- Kryten: My penis must have escaped!
- Lister: Kryten, what have I done man?
Kryten: Well, you've brought the 20th century to the very brink of extinction, sir. Gum?
- Kryten's registration code on Red Dwarf is Additional 001.
- It is possible Kryten was inadvertently responsible for the crash of Nova 5; in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, Nova 5 crashed because Kryten washed the internal parts of the navigation computer; however, this may not be regarded as part of the 'official', canon story, though the situation is mentioned by Dave Lister in the Series VII episode "Ouroboros"
Behind the Scenes
- The name Kryten is a reference to the head butler in the J.M. Barrie play The Admirable Crichton.
- In the character's first appearance, originally only intended as a one-off, Kryten was played by David Ross. However, the popularity of the character meant that Kryten was introduced as a regular in Series III; the intention was to bring Ross back to play the role, but as he was not available at the time, the position was filled by Robert Llewellyn, whose performances as Kryten in series III-X resulted in even greater popularity of the character.
- Kryten's accident was intended to explain the differences between Ross's portrayal of the character and Llewellyn's, as well as Lister needing to help Kryten break his programming all over again. Most noticeably, whereas he previously had an "English butler" voice, similar to C-3PO, he now spoke with what Llewellyn admits to be a bad Canadian accent.
- This character has a niche in science-fiction history: It is believed that this was the first robot/android ever to give a human the finger (the Skutter in "Queeg" giving Rimmer a two-fingered salute).
- Robert Llewellyn writes in his book The Man in the Rubber Mask that before settling on a Canadian accent, he, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor considered Swedish and American.
- Llewellyn was brought to Rob Grant and Doug Naylor's attention through his role in a satirical feminist play called Mammon: Robot Born of Woman.
- The Kryten make-up was a constant source of discomfort for Llewellyn, as the prosthetic rubber mask required him to be in make-up for up to six hours. By Series VII, this had been reduced to two hours and in Back to Earth ninety minutes.
- In their original plan for the series, Grant and Naylor had specified that there would be no aliens and no robots. However, following the success of the first appearance by the Kryten character, Naylor convinced Grant to bring him back.
- Robert Llewellyn was the only British cast member originally invited to participate in the American version of Red Dwarf, though Chris Barrie was, later, also approached to reprise his role of Rimmer as "no American actor could hate themselves" quite so well as the character needed. Barrie declined. In this series, he (Kryten) was owned by the ship's Captain prior to the disaster that wiped out the crew, but suffered an overload when Lister asked him to hide his pet cat and the captain subsequently ordered him to reveal its location, and passed the three million years stuck in a laboratory by reading an EXIT sign until Lister was revived and could repair him.