The Observation Dome appeared in two episodes of Series II, as an alternative location to the sleeping quarters, for a serious emotional talk between Rimmer and Lister. Because it was the set for poignancy and pathos, the appearances of the Observation Dome was also mostly accompanied by sad music.
An updated Observation Dome served a similar function in one scene of Back to Earth / Series IX, dubbed the Memorial Dome.
The first dome was on the top of the ship and was a platform, accessed via a porthole hatchway and a spiral staircase, and covered by a clear spherical orb. It was mounted on the top of Red Dwarf's outer hull.
It was painted the same shade of red as the rest of the ship's exterior, with "Observation Dome" painted on it in large, white letters. Like most of Red Dwarf, it was also labelled in Esperanto; it's Esperanto name was "Observad Kupola".
Rimmer liked to come up here to be alone with his thoughts. When he had received a letter in a post pod informing him of his father's death, Rimmer couldn't sleep and climbed to the top of the lighthouse-like structure to think. Lister joined him to talk about his adopted father's death. The two traded stories about their families, until the Cat interrupted them, entering the Observation Dome shouting that he was hungry. Lister asked the Cat to be quiet, saying that Rimmer's dad has died. Cat says he'd prefer chicken. ("Better Than Life")
After Rimmer discovered that his memories of ex-girlfriend Lise Yates had been copied from Lister's mind, causing him depression, Rimmer again tried to seek solitude in the dome. Lister found him there and tried to explain and apologize, believing that he had been doing him a favor by letting him experience romance. However Rimmer, also experiencing heartbreak, demanded the memories of Lise Yates be removed from his mind. ("Thanks for the Memory")
Red Dwarf Remastered
When the first three series were remastered in the late 1990s, the exterior of the Observation Dome was updated with a new CGI model, in accordance with the rest of Red Dwarf.
The Red Dwarf Remastered version of the Observation Dome was seemingly less exposed (being a "half bubble" resting on a squat column, instead of a "full bubble" on a long, thin plinth), although it was seemingly larger than the original.
The interior set (the central column, airlock and staircase) remains largely the same as in the original, although extra effects were added as Lister and Rimmer talk. These include a much more starry sky, and passing planetoids, nebulae and shooting stars in the background, outside the bubble.
A different Dome was seen in Back to Earth / Series IX, presumably created when the ship was rebuilt and upgraded by the nanobots in Back in the Red. Other Observation Domes are seen along the side of the hull also.
This Observation Dome was mounted to the ship's starboard side, instead of at the top, and was entered through a doorway, and walking down a short walkway. A memorial stone was placed at the end, surrounded by photographs and flowers.
It used as a memorial garden for dead crewmembers. After the disappearance of Kristine Kochanski, Lister went to read one of Kris' favorite books, a literature classic (Sense and Sensibility), which a tearful Lister finds impossible to read. He is interrupted by the Cat, who has had an unusual experience in the Water Tank.
Behind the scenes
- The Memorial Garden was a real set, although of course the exterior into outer space was computer generated. The hatchway in the background was also added digitally, and the walkway leading down through the Dome was also made to appear longer through CGI. (The Making of Back to Earth)
- Lister's actor Craig Charles was not acting so much in the Memorial Dome scene, since he began crying for real when he saw the photographs laid out on the Memorial Stone. (The Making of Back to Earth)
- The identities of the individuals in the three photographs at the base of the Memorial Stone are as follows: