Well, we’ve reached the end of Red Dwarf V. Considered by fans and critics alike to be the best series of Red Dwarf, it’s pretty hard to disagree.
So I will make a small disagreement.
On one hand, Red Dwarf V was not really that consistent when it came to quality. Red Dwarf III was much more consistent, with not a single episode ranking below a 7.5 score (and only 1 episode reaching that low, the somewhat inconsistent “Timeslides”). Two episodes in Series V ranked below a 7; the somewhat cliche and/or dry “Terrorform” and “Demons and Angels”.
However, the four episodes this season that didn’t receive low scores are among the best episodes of Red Dwarf ever. “Holoship” took a tragic look on the love life of Arnold Rimmer, showing his emotional complexion. “The Inquisitor” gave us a look on the complexities of Lister’s character, and how and why he is considered the hero of the show, no matter who gets top billing. “Quarantine” gives us a deeper look inside just how messed up Rimmer can go, especially under a holo-virus, as well as the overall dynamic between the Boys from the Dwarf. And “Back to Reality”, the best ever Red Dwarf, gave us an idea of what would happen if our main characters had a pivotal part of their characters inverted or nullified.
In terms of character, barring the two duff episodes listed above, this series really showed the zenith of the characters. Rimmer is as complex and rounded as ever, going from a tragically sympathetic figure that was molded by outside circumstances into the character we all know and love, to a deranged egoist who makes you wonder how the Boys from the Dwarf haven’t pulled the plug on his hologram yet. Lister takes the role of the moral and strategic center, as he displays a desire to do good for the common man, only kills in strong situations, and can plan ways to get out of sticky situations. (He still forgets to add parts when reconstructing Kryten). Kryten establishes himself as the smart guy, providing whatever scientific exposition is needed for the day, as well as humor surrounding his knowledge of the Space Corps and technoid concepts.
Even the Cat, who doesn’t get a lot of development in this series, gets full mileage out of every line he gets in the show. He is the plucky comic relief of the crew, so that makes sense. Even then, we are reminded in “Back to Reality” just how shallow the dude is.
The only series that this was bad for was Holly; reduced to little more than a gag character, by the end of the series, Grant Naylor had decided to finally retire the character.
Production wise, this was a darker season… literally. There was stronger use of dark-lit rooms. Even the ship’s beige seemed to take on a darker tone to it. Set development was pretty damn creative; even the clunkers had well-developed visual effects.
Really, elaborating more for this series would be worthless. This series is all but fantastic. Even if you never watched the show before… watch this series. Even if you dislike sci-fi, or are not a fan of Red Dwarf, watch “Back to Reality”. The four episodes that are good in this series are sublime TV. The two that aren’t still had a ton of potential, as well as tons of funny lines.
Still, is this my favorite season? Not really. Series III was much more consistent in its quality. Still, this season was pretty fantastic.