With Red Dwarf Series III out of the way, I might as well reveal that this is my favorite series to watch.
Granted, this is not the series of the highest quality (Series V was better by a thin margin), but this series is still brilliant from one end to the other.
This series managed to redefine what Red Dwarf was. The slow pacing and sitcom-y format of the first two series are both diminished in this series. It feels more like a science-fiction show, albeit with every cliche played for laughs or criticized.
And yet, the character development given to each of the characters is brilliant. This is the first series to reveal that Lister was orphaned at a young age, that Rimmer’s mother was just as off-calibre as his dad, that Kryten is a complete and utter suck-up, that the Cat can fly Starbug, and so much more!
The plots get a lot more interesting compared to series I and II. Backwards, much like it’s episodic predecessor, “Parallel Universe”, analyses the concept of dimensions, except time travel is involved. It’s sort of like a reverse parallel universe. “Marooned” does a BRILLIANT job at the “bottle episode” cliche, with humor and sobering moments all around. “Polymorph” is a brilliant send-up of Alien, with every character bouncing off each other once affected by the polymorph. “Bodyswap” just shows how the writers can make you feel bad for Rimmer one episode, and make you want to kick him the next. “Timeslides” is another interesting take on time travel, with something as common as a darkroom (more common at the time of the episode’s airtime) being used as a life-changing device. And “The Last Day” takes a brilliant look at religion and devotion to beliefs, offending none but sparing nobody.
If there was a defining flaw in this series, it was mainly that Holly was reduced to more of a gag character, in favor of Kryten. Kryten comes into his own within a few episodes, but Holly is still hilarious. (And to answer the question, I have no preference over which Holly is better). Other flaws include screwy logic in the episodes, but then again, Red Dwarf tends to skim the MST3K Mantra.
Overall, a brilliant series that was a sign of things to come.