When Red Dwarf VI (1993) aired the show was at its peak both creatively and in its popularity. Unfortunately there was a 3-year hiatus before this 7th series finally arrived in 1997. The delay probably contributed to many changes that appeared in Red Dwarf VII.
Writer/creators Doug Naylor and Rob Grant split up their long running partnership. Grant left the show to write novels while Naylor continued writing Red Dwarf VII alone although he did use several other writers to help out.
Chris Barrie (who by that time had his own popular TV series The Brittas Empire) only agreed to appear in two full episodes of Red Dwarf VII.
The live audience was abandoned and instead Red Dwarf VII was produced using more filmized methods including greater use of four-walled sets, location shooting and single camera techniques.
Chloe Annett's Kristine Kochanski was added as a regular character to fill the gap left by Chris Barrie's departing Rimmer.
The length of the series was increased to 8 episodes. The following is a break down of those episodes.
1. Tikka To Ride - The crew travel back in time and are involved in JFK's assasination. Its a pretty good episode and a promising start to the season.
2. Stoke Me A Clipper - Ace Rimmer returns in an attempt to convince Arnold Rimmer to leave Red Dwarf. This was Chris Barrie's last proper appearance in Series VII.
3. Ouroboros - Lister, Cat and Kryten find a doorway that leads to another dimension. A clever episode that has plenty of back story and introduces Chloe Annett's Kristine Kochanski.
4. Duct Soup - Kochanski attempts to adjust to her new crew while they are stuck crawling through ventilation ducts. A little bit of a dull episode but it has some nice moments between Lister and Kochanski.
5. Blue - Lister is missing Rimmer and and fantasizes about his return. One of the funnier episodes. Chris Barrie returns for a cameo appearance in which he kisses Lister and sings the Rimmer song.
6. Beyond a Joke - A rogue simulant attacks and the crew encounter Kryten's brother Abel. Not a particulary good episode. Robert Llewellyn does his best in dual roles as Kryten and Abel.
7. Epideme - Lister is infected with a deadly virus and loses an arm trying to cure himself. Some funny lines but the idea of a talking virus is a little stretched.
8. Nanarchy - Kryten's nanobots are used to rebuild Lister's arm and then the long lost ship Red Dwarf. A decent finale and its great to have the missing ship finally back with its computer Holly (Norman Lovett).
Overall Red Dwarf VII was a fairly decent series but not in the same league as the previous ones. There were just two many problems to overcome. Rob Grant's departure left a big gap in the writing while Chris Barrie's Rimmer (arguably the shows funniest character) is missing for most of the episodes. The lack of a studio audience was strange too.
Red Dwarf returned in better form for series 8.