Not Another Top (X) List: Ranking the Series of Red Dwarf (So Far)

Hello, and welcome to…

NOT ANOTHER TOP (X) LIST!
Last time, we took a look at the 8 worst episodes in the history of Red Dwarf, plus one that surpassed the 8 so far in badness that it ranked under the eight (know what I’m saying?) Since I expect the last list to debut on Christmas, I have decided to bridge the “bad” with the “good” by ranking every series of Red Dwarf so far, from worst to best. I think the start of the list is pretty predictable- it’s the rest of the series that might throw a curveball or two.

In addition, I have decided to add the “worst episode” and “best episode” from the season. Here’s the deal- the best episode from the best season might not (not necessarily “won’t”) make it to #1 on the “top episodes” list. Likewise, a “best episode” from a lower-ranked series might make it to #1 on the “top episodes list”.

Oh, and none of the DVD covers featured here belong to me.

Enough stalling… let’s begin!

10. Series VIII

 

  • The Verdict: Was it going to be any other series? With only two episodes to get over a 5-score, and one of those being part of a wretched story, this series statistically is the worst of Red Dwarf. Even if you disregard my scores, this series has everything at it’s worst- the humor is awful, characterisation is scattershot at best, the plots are stupid, the special effects are trash, etc. etc. The only redeeming quality from this series is that it put the series over the top for syndication deals. If only the BBC knew that home release of TV shows would become commonplace in the 2000s… we might not have had this trash.
  • Worst Episode: “Krytie TV”, the worst episode in Red Dwarf history. The fact that the master copy of this exists, and yet there are 100 episodes of Doctor Who missing and feared lost for eternity, is close to unforgivable. (Stupid price of tape in the 60s.)
  • Best Episode: “Cassandra”, the only watchable stand-alone story from VIII. Don’t buy the VIII DVD- just buy this one episode on iTunes. Your sanity (and wallet) will thank you.
9. Series VII

 

  • The Verdict: Series VIII’s slightly more respectable sibling. Slightly. This was the first one done by Naylor alone. I admire VII’s attempts at focusing on the dramatic aspect of the show, which was a decent risk. Sadly, what made the drama in the previous six series work was a) it didn’t replace the comedy (the good comedy, at least), and b) there were characters to care about. Rimmer was sent away, replaced with the tragically miswritten Kochanski, and Lister and Kryten were reduced to lows in their characters. The good news is that, from the next-highest ranked series on, we are dealing with “good” series.
  • Worst Episode: “Barely A Joke” – uh, I mean, “Beyond A Joke”… no, “Barely a Joke” worked well enough. Actually, “Barely an Editing Budget” could work as well.
  • Best Episode: “Epideme”, the episode with the lowest amount of the problems that plagued Series VII. Not perfect by a longshot, but still manages to come the closest to Naylor’s goal for the series.
8. Series XI/”Back to Earth”
  • The Verdict: Yeah, it’s just a 3-part movie. I’ll just link the review of the movie, say “it was alright”, and move on.
  • Worst Episode: “Back to Earth: Part II”
  • Best Episode: “Back to Earth: Part III”
7. Series X
  • The Verdict: You have to admire that, even without those circumstances, there was very little to hate about this series- nitpick at worst. It really felt like they took the standout elements from all of the series, for good and for bad, and put them together into this series that actually seemed to satisfy almost everybody. It also contained the first “awesome” Red Dwarf episodes in 19 years. If there’s any problem, it’s that this series hasn’t really settled into the mindset of what I think of when I hear the words “Red Dwarf episode”. That’s why it’s ranked lower than VI… albeit just lower.
  • The Worst: “Dear Dave”. This is what you get when you produce an episode of TV within a week.
  • The Best: “The Beginning”. Even if this isn’t the last series, I think this episode could serve as a decent end to the show. It’ll be in my own canon if XI is awful.
6. Series VI

 

  • The Verdict: In hindsight, I think I might have been a bit harsh on Series VI. After all, the plot twist introduced was pretty damn cool, it really shook up the Status Quo of Red Dwarf, and we got to see a bit more from characters that were once reduced to joke fodder (read, Cat). Still, Series VI gets a relatively low position, mainly because it relied a bit too much on Mad-Libs style plotting, it had a botched “three-in-one” sequel, and it contained the one episode of the first 36 to fail. Alright, from here on, I stop complaining. This series is definitely a loveable one, if you don’t mind the difference in plot and (to a small extent) tone.
  • Worst Episode: “Rimmerworld”, e.g. the one episode of the first 36 to get a failing score.
  • Best Episode“Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, the only Red Dwarf episode to win an Emmy Award. Yes. An Emmy.
5. Series I

 

  • The Verdict: If you are writing a TV show, you better hope to whatever you believe in that your first season/series it’s weaker than at least a few other seasons/series- otherwise, you have a problem. Thankfully, Grant/Naylor hit the happy medium- producing a show that, while outclassed by at least four other series, was still pretty damn good. Sure, the show seems a bit “dry”, taking on a more “Odd Couple” feel compared to the rest of the show, and the acting/characters do seem a tiny bit off compared to the other series. It’s also aged. A lot. Yet, this series also brought us plenty of hints as to what was to come- the tragicomedy of Rimmer slowly being peeled away, Lister’s character slowly being refined beyond the “lad” he was in the first minutes, and the exploration of the world, albeit just a little bit.
  • The Worst: “Balance of Power”. Granted, my opinion on this episode has warmed compared to when I first reviewed it almost two years ago. Still, I never got why fandom gave it such high marks.
  • The Best: “Me2”. In my opinion, the first classic Red Dwarf episode. Rimmer development, ahoy!
4. Series IV

 

  • The Verdict: This series had a little bit for everybody: an episode about Holly, an episode that focused on Kryten (two, in fact), an episode focused on Red Dwarf, an episode that deviated from the format of the series, Rimmer development, Lister development, awesome Cat lines, excellent visuals and acting, and some of the better plots in the history of the show. Of special note goes to “Dimension Jump”, considered part of the “Red Dwarf trinity”, an episode that focused on Arnold facing his antithesis… Ace Rimmer, test pilot in the Space Corps. What a guy.
  • Worst Episode: “Camille”. It’s good, but it’s a bit less good than the rest. I’ll just say “cute” and move on.
  • Best Episode: “Dimension Jump”- the one with Ace. What a guy. Would’ve been tied with “White Hole”, if they focused more on Holly.
3. Series II

 

  • The Verdict: This was the first series of Red Dwarf I watched, and loved it. It’s similarities to Series I means that it has a bit of the “awkwardness” that I had- the dated effects and somewhat slow pacing. Those are easily balanced out by the exemplary character development- the demons that battle Rimmer are finally exposed, Lister’s heart of gold is polished even further, Holly gets an episode to really show the man behind the goofball computer, etc. Plots also expand beyond the ship itself for the first time, exploring more sci-fi elements more often such as time travel and parallel universes. Truly the first great Red Dwarf series.
  • Worst Episode: “Parallel Universe”. Still funny, but the sexual politics have just aged a bit too awkwardly. Not even “Tongue Tied” can save it this time around.
  • Best Episode: “Better Than Life”. This episode made me fall in love with Red Dwarf, being the epitome of tragicomedy, as well as sending up concepts that other TV shows took dead seriously.
2. Series V

 

  • The Verdict: On one hand, Series V did contain two awkward steps in “Terrorform” and “Demons and Angels”, neither of which did much for me, and may have foreshadowed later weaknesses in the show. However, the other episodes more than make up for those two episodes, the rest of these episodes being some of the greatest TV I ever saw. Rimmer is as fleshed out as he ever was or will be, given episodes that both portray him as lonely and bonkers. The madness of the adventures reaches new heights, with each one putting the crew in genuine danger. The last episode of this series is a massive shocker, with almost every fan declaring it one of the best episodes in the history of the show.
  • Worst Episode: “Terrorform”. Talk about beating the obvious in our heads!
  • Best Episode: “Back to Reality”. I make no bones about it- this episode should be in a sci-fi hall of fame… if one exists.
1. Series III

 

  • The Verdict: Surprised? I’ll explain. There are so many reasons why I picked III as my favorite series. The comedy? Fantastic. The plots? Beautiful. The tragedy? Tragically awesome. The visuals? Pretty damn good. Kryten is finally fleshed out, the Cat starts to get some development, Lister and Rimmer’s relationship is awesomely constructed, Hattie Hayridge’s spin on Holly is just as awesome as Norman Lovett’s take, etc. But still, why this series? Simply put, it’s the series that finally made Red Dwarf a giant in British TV history, and in sci-fi history. It changed the game- the show evolved from it’s “bottle” elements to a more “epic”, comic mood, while managing to make episodes that could work in either series. Without this series, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the epics that came later on, such as “Back to Reality” or “Dimension Jump”, and the characters that came with them. The end result is a series that, at damn near every moment, is just fun to watch. This might just be my favorite series/season of TV- it’s up there with Gravity Falls season 1, or The Simpsons Season 5. Simply put? Best. Red Dwarf Series. Ever.
  • Worst Episode: “Backwards”, but only because the backwards world logic is a bit off. Still, the comedy more than makes up for the slips in logic in this episode. If this is the worst episode from this series… there is little to complain about
  • Best Episode: “Marooned”. This is the original focus of the show- Lister and Rimmer’s bunk-mate troubles- at it’s finest, delving into the psyches of both characters so fantastically, and in a way that’s both tragic and hilarious.
I’m taking next Thursday as a “buffer period”, mainly because I have finals. So, on Christmas Day, we have our list of the greats- the ones that put Red Dwarf into the lists of greatest comedies of all time, and the greatest sci-fi shows of all time.
It’s the Best Episodes of Red Dwarf… so far.
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