Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 1: "Back in the Red"

Airdate: 18 February, 1999 (Part 1) 25 February, 1999 (Part 2), 4 March, 1999 (Part 3)

Synopsis: Starbug crashes into the newly reconstructed Red Dwarf. The crew find out that the nanobots also reconstructed the original crew, and made the ship the way it was intended to be constructed before budget cuts came in. Naturally, Lister and Kochanski are placed under arrest for playing Grand Theft Starbug, as well as hauling two stowaways. Kryten is classified as a woman and put in Kochanski’s bunk, he is forced to be reprogrammed to try and preserve his innocence, and the Cat’s biology baffles the doctors. Lister wants to get the files to try and save the crew. He has to go to Rimmer, recreated… and more of a smeghead than ever before. The deal involves him warming up to Captain Hollister, who might have a trick or two up his sleeve.

Oh, this episode is told in something of a flashback… as Rimmer and Lister are bunking in jail, apparently livid over the fact that something was poured over Rimmer. OK, there goes the ending and any reason to watch.

Review (WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EPISODES… WELL, ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD): People tend to give this episode a bad rap, citing lowbrow humor, poor pacing, scenes that made no sense and were pointless, character was weak, and the quality degraded as the episode went on.

They are right.

Actually, the first part seemed to have the least amount of problems. Hell, it was funnier compared to episodes like “Duct Soup” and “Beyond a Joke”. However, a main problem was that just one too many jokes were either stretched out too far (Kryten at the Psychiatrists office), explained (Lister’s definition of honor, according to Rimmer), or filler. Character wasn’t too bad, though. I sort of understood why Rimmer was more pompous and self-centered, as he was resurrected in his original personality. People complain about the “lemonade and a really large scotch” joke, but I think it fits Lister’s character: even after 6 or so years of development, he’s still skeptical about authority. I was more concerned about Lister being able to leave his quarters with Rimmer despite earlier being forced to wear a bracelet that gives him a shock if he tries to leave. Eh, must’ve been allowed because Rimsie is his superior. Who knows?

My question is how come everybody has their memory from before the accident, yet has no memory of their death? It’s never really given even a real mention (except for in that way-too-long scene with Kryten’s evaluation.)

The second part was a pretty damn steep drop in quality. It basically took the problems that were part of the first part, and made them into the second part. There was the infamous salute scene, Kryten’s physical, Kryten taking Kochanski’s advice too literally (to the point where he takes a bunch of scientists hostage), the elevator gag with the sexual magnetism virus (although I did like the ultimate punchline with that joke), and the moronic Data Doctor.  The “Dibbley Family” also confused me. Why would Cat want to become the man that represents everything the Cat hates right after blasting his “disguise”? Why? And why would the Scutters want to be Dibbleys? It. Makes. No. Sense.

The reveal on Captain Hollister and the psycho-analytic monitoring… I think it could’ve been an interesting twist… if the episode was far better. As it is, it leads to the aforementioned stupid scenes. Why would they think this stuff? It tries to be “Back to Reality”… and fails.

Rimmer also realizing how everything could backfire on him did keep in tune with his character: his actions that once seemed positive impacted him in negative ways. I did find the scene where he tries to reduce the impacts of the “sexual magnetism virus” stupid and pointless.

The third part was solid 92% filler… none of it was funny. It starts with another annoying entry similar to the first part when the entry in the second part was a recap by the Captain. There’s very loose (if any) consistency in this episode.

I tried to make heads of tails of the infamous Blue Midget dance. Apparently, it was the Cat’s ego overtaking his strategy. But why would he do something so monumentally stupid if he was in a “Back to Reality” scenario?

The thing is, “Back to Reality” worked because the twist was reserved until the episode’s climax, where “Jake Bullet” did the one thing Kryten would never do. It’s revealed in the second part of a three-parter. Thus, there’s no reason for us to care through the third part. Here, it’s just an excuse for horrid claymation and more stupid jokes.

I think this three-parter was trying to do some sort of commentary on the corruption and idiocy in the upper ranks. That’s fine. Yet, unlike the first six series, which used to hide that under a veneer of great comedy and character… there’s none of that to discover. This story is boring, stupid, and just a bad way to start the series.

Could it have been better? Maybe. There exists an edit of the episode that trims a good percentage of the filler and the pointless jokes. It would’ve been better if confined to 60 minutes. Instead, it’s 90 minutes of schlock.


  • Actually, this story was supposed to be 60 minutes. However, several aspects of the story overran, and it was extended to 90 minutes. Yes, because we so needed the Claymation crew and the blue midget dance!
  • The CGI is back, and is as awful as ever. Apparently, the guy who does the CGI did it in his own house. Alright.
  • They actually built a model of Red Dwarf. It was too big. What, couldn’t dig up the original model? I know that this ship is said to be larger, but really, is it that big of a difference?
  • Dave Ross was actually hunted down to bring back the reprogrammed Kryten. Robert Llewellyn would wind up doing his own voice. He didn’t even try and imitate Dave Ross.
  • What is with Holly? Remember when he used to be just aged somewhat and senile? He’s gone beyond that into pure idiocy.
Favorite Scene: Rimmer and Lister’s first conversation after Lister gets arrested was quite a bit funny. Also, Norman Lovett still makes even the stupidest jokes funny.
Least Favorite Scene: Part. Three.
  • Part 1: 5.5
  • Part 2: 3
  • Part 3: 1.5
  • Overall: 3.3

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