Happy 30th, Red Dwarf!

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It was Monday, February 15th, 1988 in the UK.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain, enjoying her third term with a 100-seat majority. Australian actress Kylie Minogue was on top of the Singles Charts with her Stock/Aitken/Waterman disco classic “I Should Be So Lucky”. Tracey Ullman had crossed the Atlantic and was the front of her own sketch show on the fledgling FOX network. Liverpool had not lost a match in the First Division yet.

That evening, many a Briton decided to sit down in front of their television. At 9:00 that evening, five million people decided to tune in to this new show on BBC Two, advertised as such.

And that, my friends, is how Red Dwarf blasted into the world. Continue reading

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Red Dwarf Review: Series XII Wrap-Up

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Well, here we are. The end of another series of Red Dwarf. Now, there are three questions to ask…

  1. Was it good?
  2. Will there be another series?
  3. Should there be another series?

Series XII of Red Dwarf was the fourth series commissioned by Dave, bringing the number of episodes to 21. Combine that with Series VII and VIII, this means that there are 37 episodes written without Rob Grant – one more than the number of episodes written in part by Rob Grant. Yes, you read that correctly – the post-Grant era is officially longer than the Grant/Naylor era.

Yay? Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Skipper” (Series XII, Episode 6)

Red Dwarf Skipper Rat

As you know, I’m not one for long farewell speeches, but I have written this…

see ya! – Rimmer, sending himself off to other hells.

Airdate: 16 November 2017
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: The Red Dwarf encounters an anomaly that plays with the dimensional theory of reality. For every decision the crew make, the alternative plays out in front of them. Of course, this turns out to be tied to Kryten’s attempts to repair a Quantum Skipper, allowing for somebody to hop dimensions. Rimmer takes ahold of this, in one attempt to find a universe where he’s not a failure.

Review:

Well, here we are. The end – not just of the series, but possibly of Red Dwarf. Sure, there have been murmurs about a Series XIII, but nothing’s guaranteed at this point. There is a very real chance that this review could be the very last review of a Red Dwarf episode on this blog (barring any future rewatches).

Five years, I’ve been doing this blog – the first review (a dreadful one, in hindsight) was that of “The End”. (What a way to start off, eh?) To give you some perspective, back then, I didn’t know who Steve Bannon was. (I still barely know who he is.) The only year without a Red Dwarf review was 2015, and that was because there was no more Red Dwarf TV to review. The possibility of 2019 being the second year without Red Dwarf… it’s actually a little moving, the more I think about it.

What’s probably stirring these feelings up is that, when you get down to it, “Skipper” does feel like Red Dwarf‘s parting salvo, just in case Dave decide to call it quits. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “M-Corp” (Series XII, Episode 5)

Red Dwarf M-Corp

“Welcome to M-Corp – a pay-per life, virtual integrated environment. Most people who come stay forever!” – M-Corp representative. What a soothing thing to learn!

Airdate: November 9th, 2017

Written By: Doug Naylor

Plot: An update to the Red Dwarf‘s software reveals that the ship – in fact, the whole of the JMC – have been purchased out by M-Corp, a mega-corporation that has also brought out the whole of Earth. They inject a virus into Lister that eliminates his ability to see anything not made or employed by M-Corp – read, the Posse. Desperate for any contact with his friends, he decides to enter the M-Corp’s core, which is the poor man’s “Better Than Life”… and much like that game, almost kills him through his id.

Review:

On February 15, 1988, at 9:00 PM GMT, BBC Two debut a brand new science fiction series. Entitled Red Dwarf, it revolved around two polar-opposite bunkmates – the fastidious and acerbic and incompetent Rimmer, and the warm-hearted yet lazy Lister – aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf. They were the bottom of the rung, much to Lister’s contentment and Rimmer’s contempt. Within 30 minutes, Rimmer made it so that they were the last men standing – Lister’s warm-heart towards his cat kept him alive in stasis, while Rimmer’s incompetence wiped everybody else out and damned him to an eternity with Lister as a hologram. A fitting fate, in hindsight.

Anyway, Red Dwarf has changed through the years – Series II showcased a shift to more expansive settings, Series III-V showcased a shift to an ensemble Star Trek parody, Series VI took on a more action-based route, VII was closer to dramedy, VIII was a prison comedy (results may vary), Series IX was basically The Movie, X-XI were closer to III-V, and XII is more of a social commentary than anything – ironically following somewhat in Star Trek‘s footsteps.

In fact, XII has been peculiar as it has made the Red Dwarf universe a little less lonely. Sure, the crew have faced many other characters before (the Enlightenment, the Simulants, the GELFS), but what always stood out through most of the series is just how despairing the scenario for the crew is. Earth is three million years away, and any returns have been in part through time travel (be it 1988 Nodnol or 1924 America). Series XII, meanwhile, has brought us Telford’s base, the Mechanoid Liberationists, and unfortunately for me, the Enconium. Lacking in those episodes is the aura of loneliness and despair that had once made its way through the earlier series of Red Dwarf.

In some ways, that’s not a bad thing – shows evolve, more so today compared to 1988. But it does make you wonder if there’s still a point to the series, if maybe the show’s transmission is running dry. Well, “M-Corp” does go quite a way to try and restore that sense of despair, all while mixing in that sense of social commentary present in Series XII – and this time, going more pointed than the show has ever gone before. The result is an episode that I can safely say is the best of the series, and possibly a contender for the best of the Dave era.

Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Mechocracy” (Series XII, Episode 4)

Red Dwarf Mechocracy

“They’ve sunk as low as us!” “That disgusts me!” – Rimmer and the Cat, talking about the ironies of politics.

Airdate2 November, 2017
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: A false alarm leads to a near-evacuation of the ship… one that does not involve the snack dispensers. After the fault is resolved, the machines through the entire ship declare a massive strike, feeling that they are permanently underrepresented. To resolve this (read: get their power back), they agree to run for a general election. Rimmer and Kryten, recently at odds, run against each other… and everything descends into a smear campaign.

Review:

Back in July of 2017, I raised a question in my review of the Steven Universe episode “Political Power”. It was a rather simple question, but one that bore asking and bears repeating as we settle into 2018. Why did this man, pictured here…

PIZZA HUT? REALLY, PRESIDENT TRUMP?

…get elected President of the United States? The answer, I concluded, was that besides the turmoil present in 2010s America and an impressively subpar alternative, Donald Trump was able to market himself effectively to a segment of the electorate that was livid, whether they lost their jobs, had their wages stagnate since the 80s/90s, or in a few cases, were merely bigots. Much as I personally think he’s a charlatan, rather incompetent, a complete and utter nutjob, and an all-around jerkass, Trump’s victory speaks to the art of political statecraft when it comes to campaigning.

Still, such a comically unprecedented election result (we elected the guy from The Apprentice, people) was ripe for analysis, whether it be slavish praise from FOX News, unceasing horror from MSNBC, or even this particular Red Dwarf episode, “Mechocracy” – where Rimmer and Kryten host a presidential election. For vending machines. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Timewave” (Series XII, Episode 3)

Merry Christmas, and welcome to the climax of our Christmas Spectacular Thing! And it is a climax this year, as we get ready to delve into one of the most critiqued Red Dwarf episodes of the Dave era, “Timewave!”

Red Dwarf Timewave

“Suggest you engage “skedaddle” mode!” – Kryten. Hey, we were warned!

Airdate: 26 October, 2017

Written By: Doug Naylor

Plot: The crew try and come to the rescue of the SS Enconium, a ship that is floating towards the titular timewave. Simple enough, right? Well, on the Enconium, criticism is illegal, punishable by a lengthy jail sentence. Thus, the crew are incompetent, dress like performance artists, and are smug morons.

Review:

I am of the opinion that Red Dwarf’s Dave era has been quite a success so far. Sure, the episodes haven’t really reached the quality peaks of Series III-V (although they have come somewhat close on occasion), but honestly, I don’t expect another “Back to Reality” or “Dimension Jump”. And I’m weirdly cool with that.

Besides, for the most part, the episodes have been funny, our characters have been relatable (in contrast to VIII), the drama and comedy are mixed appropriately (contrast to VII), and the story construction has largely remained good. Nothing mind-blowing, like the aforementioned “Back to Reality” or “The Inquisitor”, but for the most part, the show has produced a consistently enjoyable output since returning from the decade-long hiatus.

Unfortunately, the further you go, the higher your chance of slipping up and misfiring. Which is what brings us to Series XII’s third episode, “Timewave”. In the interest of not burying the lede… it’s a bad episode.

How bad is it? The more I think about it, the less I have to wonder “is it watchable” and the more I have to question “is it a contender for the worst Red Dwarf episode ever?” Oh, yes. As far as I’m concerned, this episode could give “Duct Soup”, “Beyond A Joke”, “Back in the Red”, “Pete”, and even freaking “Krytie TV” a run for their money in the disaster department.

The beautiful irony here, in an episode that I consider a disaster on as many levels as possible? This episode’s big topic is “criticism”. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Siliconia” (Series XII, Episode 2)

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“When you say “recalibrate”, what exactly does that entail? It’s just I’ve got a health condition that allows me to skip anything that involves torture.”  – Rimmer, bringing in the rather radical argument

Airdate: 19 October 2017
Written By:
 Doug Naylor
Plot: While reluctantly retrieving Lister’s guitar from the depths of space, Starbug and the crew are kidnapped by a Mechanoid liberation front, “rescuing” Kryten and arresting the trio. Accusing the trio of enslaving Kryten, the front proceeds to enslave them, all while trying to “convert” Kryten.

Review:

(Warning: This review deals with topics that are “poignant”, often sensitive. Any parts of the review that might give off a sense of insensitivity are completely unintentional. I reject extremism in all forms, there are issues in our society that need to be questioned and fixed, etc. That said…)

Red Dwarf is a show about a spaceship populated with odd men out.

Lister is the last survivor of the ship’s manifest, lucking out because he was punished in Stasis. Rimmer is the second lowest-ranked technician, being revived solely because of the number of conversations between him and Lister. Cat is the last survivor of his species, as well as probably the least traditionally “masculine” of the group and the largest source of comic relief. And last but not least, Kryten is the only non-humanoid of the quartet. In effect, he is a minority on board the ship.

Now, this is where reviewing Red Dwarf gets interesting. Consider the fact that our characters are not what many of us would call “elites”. Lister is a proud working-class slob whose moments of moral integrity are balanced out by a desire to live a simple life, Rimmer aspires to climb up to the middle class (and fails at doing so on a consistent basis), Kryten is a servant trying to break his programming, and Cat, well, doesn’t give a damn where he is as long as he has his clothes and others admiring him.

I bring this economic schism in the grand scheme of Red Dwarf up today, because this episode tries to go in a somewhat more political direction with Kryten’s character, tying him and the Dwarfers in with a liberation movement for mechanoids. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Cured” (Series XII, Episode 1)

 

A scene from the Red Dwarf episode
…this is less weird in context, guys.

“Selfie!” – Adolf Hitler. Um…

Airdate: 12 October 2017
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: While looking for new thrusters for Starbug, the Red Dwarf crew come across a base operated by America dedicated to curing evil. Stored there is Professor Telford, who seems to have dedicated his life to rescuing the world’s most infamous and insidious figures – Hitler, Stalin, Messilina, and Vlad the Impaler.

Review:

Well, feels like nothing changed, right?

As I mentioned in my preview, Series XI and XII were written and filmed in one go. This could’ve proven a dual-edged sword – the chances of burnout and a decline in quality go hand-in-hand with a general drive for a more consistent series, visually and in terms of script. In this regard, Series XII’s first episode – “Cured” – doesn’t feel too much different from Series XI’s first episode, “Twentica”.

Indeed, the two debuts are vaguely similar – using a science fiction trope, mixing the presence of America inside of it, and combining that with a bit of social commentary. Last time it was prohibition and the underground market. This time, it raises the question of whether evil is innate or a learned behavior.

So does it answer that question well? Or, at least, does it make me laugh? Continue reading

Red Dwarf XII Release Date Stateside

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Worth noting ahead of time that Red Dwarf XII is due to be released on physical formats on November 21st.

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I bring this up because Red Dwarf XI was formally released to streaming services on November 8th, 2016 – the same day the DVD/Blu-Ray came out.

Now, I am aware that XII is somewhat different in one regard – streaming services. The series was released on BritBox as the episodes aired in the UK. Unfortunately, I did not subscribe to said streaming service, not because I’m not excited for the new series (I SO AM), but because for me, one streaming service is quite enough for me right now. (It’s going to cost about the same for two months of BritBox compared to buying the entire series and having it in perpetuity.)

Also, I put it off because I wanted to make a dent in my Steven Universe and Simpsons reviews. (And I had to do stuff for school and all that.) Make of that what you will.

Putting it simply, new Red Dwarf reviews will debut on this blog in December – in effect, a Christmas Spectacular Thing. Bookmark, subscribe, follow, yadda, yadda, yadda.