Red Dwarf Review: Series I Wrap Up

Having finished my review of Red Dwarf I, I may as well give a glance at the first series as a whole.

For starters, the show feels like it is missing something, especially if you watch an episode from Series III on. The pacing just feels off. The show is still funny, but it feels less full. The sets feel depressing, with ocean grey/military grey being the color of choice.

And the first three episodes were pretty weak. “Balance of Power” is the worst episode of the Grant/Naylor Era by far, because of the weak amount of humor. However, it does give some development to the arc as a whole. “Future Echoes” itself is pretty weak on the humor, but it does add in the Sci-Fi elements. “The End”, however, was pretty funny, and a good intro to the franchise.

The show really takes off with “Waiting for God”, one of the most underrated episodes ever. The character development is sublime, the take on religion is hilarious, and it feels like a Red Dwarf episode. “Confidence and Paranoia” gives us a great performance by Craig Ferguson of “Late Late Show” fame, even if the plot is a bit thin. And “Me2”, being the episode which showed Red Dwarf clearing orbit, gives us a deep look in the disturbed psyche of Arnold J Rimmer.

The interaction between Lister and Rimmer does get a tad bit old, but it is still very funny to see these complete opposites be trapped for the rest of eternity. The cat, being the most selfish character in existence, is always hilarious. You have to love Holly’s deadpan humor!

Ultimately, despite being weak in some spots, Red Dwarf I is a good indicator that this show was going somewhere.

Average series score: 7

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Red Dwarf Review: Series 1, Episode 6: "Me2"

Airdate: 21 March 1988

Two Rimmers. This can only end hilariously badly.

Synopsis: That familiar face in the last episode? Merely a second Rimmer. Rimmer 1 and Rimmer 2 move out into their own room. However, Lister finds that Rimmer left a tape of his own death. Apparently, his last words were “Gazpacho Soup”. Lister goes on an investigation to wonder why. While the Rimmers seem to get on at first, tensions rise between them, and the two are in a constant state of argument. Eventually, Lister demands one of the two erased, and the original Rimmer loses out. Rimmer goes in with his military uniform, and explains to Lister the trauma behind Gazpacho Soup, saying that it led to humiliation after he thought that Gazpacho soup was served hot. Meanwhile, Rimmer 2 is erased.

Review: THIS is the moment when Red Dwarf got really good. The previous two episodes were good, but this really brings into life Rimmer’s pathetic life. It makes him sympathetic, despite being a smeghead. Rimmer’s internal conflict with himself consumes him, makes him more likable. However, the story takes great pains to still say that, for as likable as he may be now, he’s still a total smeghead. And is it wrong to say that Rimmer’s death was hilarious? Granted, the acting was sublime, and Holly went with his warning announcement (“There’s an emergency going on… it’s still going on.). We also have Holly’s NorWebb joke, the Cat acting as vain and flamboyant as ever, and Lister acting like a classic slob. And the ending. Dear god, the ending.

Minor plot hole, though! In previous episodes, it is explained that Holly can only support one hologram. But, we see two holograms working fine (Who knows, maybe power was cut off to a part of the ship that the gang never use.) Just bugs me a bit.

Favorite Scene: Again, Rimmer’s death.

Score: 9

Red Dwarf Review: Series 1, Episode 5: Confidence and Paranoia

Airdate: 14 March 1988

“Now, how can I beat Jimmy Fallon’s replacement?”

Synopsis (SPOILERS): Lister snoops through Kochanski’s quarters, which have not been decontaminated yet. He winds up falling ill. The pneumonia he contracts is a mutated strain and, while delirious, he has hallucinations which become solid—fish rain in his sleeping quarters, the Mayor of Warsaw from 1546 catches fire, and two guests materialize in the drive room. These guests are Lister’s Confidence, a tall, tanned, flashily-dressed game show host type who calls Lister “the King”, and Lister’s Paranoia, a stooped, pallid, black suit-clad little man who often sides with Rimmer.

Despite Rimmer’s warnings that the two guests are symptoms of Lister’s disease and therefore dangerous, Lister begins spending a lot of time with his Confidence, who helps him figure out where Rimmer has hidden Kochanski’s hologram disc: in the solar panels outside their sleeping quarters. Rimmer is proven correct, however, when Confidence murders Paranoia and pressures Lister to perform suicidal acts of over-confidence, namely removing his helmet during the spacewalk. To prove that “Oxygen is for losers!” Confidence removes his own helmet. Three guesses and no prizes as to what happens next. Lister, having successfully retrieved the disc, nervously rehearses his first words to Kochanski. When he switches on the program, however, we meet a copy of a familiar face….

Review: This episode is another underrated one, although not as much as “Waiting for God”.

There is a lot to admire about this episode, of course. Personally, I believe that Craig Ferguson is a comedic genius. Every line that he delivers here is hysterical. We learn how obsessed with Kochanski Lister is, willing to get sick just to get to her. Every line feels more natural than it did in “Balance of Power”. The Cat also has the desire to claim everything as his own, and yet again, proves himself to be a selfish wacko who seems not to care about the well-being of everybody else. We also see that Rimmer seems to care for Lister’s well being… sort of. Maybe.

Paranoia depresses me, though, and not exactly in a good way. Also, was Confidence’s American Accent really necessary? I feel that Ferguson’s natural Scottish accent would work well, also. And again, this episode is (outside of anything with Confidence) a bit dry.
 
Favorite Scene: The Cat plays with his food. Just comedic gold! Also, “Oxygen is for losers!”

Score: 7

Red Dwarf Review: Series 1, Episode 4, "Waiting for God"

Airdate: 7 March 1988

“And on the 7th day, the cats said ‘We’re going to go to Fuchal, the Promised Land, and make hot dogs and donuts!’ God saw, and said ‘Why did I create the Earth again?'”

Plot:  An Unidentified Object is brought aboard the ship. Rimmer believes that it is the capsule of an alien race, and convinces himself that this alien species can give Rimmer a new body. After a closer inspection, Lister discovers that the capsule is actually nothing more than a jettisoned Red Dwarf garbage pod. Meanwhile, Lister learns more about the Cat people’s god, “Cloister the Stupid” who was “frozen in time” to save the cat race. Lister informs the openly skeptical Cat that he is their God, only to subsequently become depressed when he learns that the entire Cat race destroyed itself in holy wars over minor details (like whether the hats on the shop should have been red or blue: Lister states that they should have been green) of ‘Fuchal’- the Cat heaven, really based on Lister’s plans to open a hot dog and doughnut shop on Fiji-, and that they lived their lives according to five sacred laws (of which Lister himself has broken four). 

Later, the Cat, who is known to go “investigating”, goes off on one of his excursions, and Lister follows him, deep into the cargo hold. There Lister discovers an old blind cat priest, the only one of their race left other than Cat, who is dying and proclaims that he has lost his faith, feeling that he has wasted his life following Cloister. Lister shows up and convinces the priist that he has led an admirable life and has served Cloister well, and as such will reach ‘Fuchal’.  The Cat Priest joyously exclaims that this is the happiest day of his life….. and promptly dies. Back in the observation room, the quarantine period for the pod is over. Lister opens the pod and pulls out a decaying chicken carcass. Rimmer eventually figures out the truth. “It’s a smeggin garbage pod!”

Review: I am amazed at how underrated this episode is. It was ranked as the worst episode of series I in the recent Silver Survey Poll on the Ganymede and Titan site. What a shame. This episode gives great character development to the Cat, showing just how insanely selfish he is, and helps flesh out the race of the Cats in hilarious detail. The subplot involving the garbage pod is classic Rimmer, showing how neurotic and insane he is. And Lister is his old slobbish self, which is wonderfully funny. Most of the jokes connect. Oh, and the captain’s remarks about Lister and Rimmer? Hilarious.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of Talkie Toaster, although he gets much funnier in a series IV episode. And the pacing does seem a bit slower then later RD episodes, although this is a blanket criticism for Series I and II.

Overall, this is a fantastic episode.

Favorite Scene: The meeting with the Cat Priest. It helps showcase how much of a selfish idiot the Cat is. Second place is a tie, and it goes to Rimmer’s realization about the garbage pod and the Captain’s remarks.

Side note: Remember when Lister took the chef’s exam last episode? He actually failed.

Score: 8

Red Dwarf Review: Series I, Episode 3: "Balance of Power"

Airdate: 29 February 1988

Plot: Lister and Rimmer are at odds again : Rimmer wants everything to be perfect, while Lister just wants to slack off. It gets to the point where Rimmer even holds Lister’s beloved cigarettes hostage, with the Cat (who is promised fish) as an executor. Lister reminisces about the good old days, where he would slob around with his friends. He wants to get his old desire, officer Kristine Kochanski back, even as a hologram. Lister then desires to take the chef’s exam, as Lister would be able to outrank Rimmer and switch off his hologram. Rimmer winds up corrupting himself so that he now looks like Kochanski. Lister sees the danger behind the fog, and everything goes back to normal.

Review: This episode is pretty dull. I blame the BBC for this, as they wanted a more sitcom-based episode. Based on the “smegzine” poll and the recent Silver Survey, not many people liked the direction. Still, I give them credit for introducing Kochanski, and trying to show how strong the antagonism between the two is.

The humor is actually decent at times, though. My favorite joke? Today’s fish is trout a’la creme. The joke is a lot like a Family Guy styled gag, except, y’know, funny. Simply because it does not go on for THREE MINUTES (I’m looking at you, Conway Twitty). Also, the scenes with “Kochanski” are pretty funny.

Favorite Quote/Scene: The entire fish sequence. Any time. Every time.

Score: 6.5 (Come on, “FISH!”)

Red Dwarf Review: Series 1, Episode 2: "Future Echoes"

Airdate: February 22nd, 1988

Plot: Lister wants to crash in Stasis with the Cat (who wants to take all of his suits) for the next three million years. While Lister is shaving in preparation, the light barrier is broken. Soon, scenes from the future start showing up. Lister becomes paranoid about his own health, seeing himself die. Lister takes every opportunity possible to not die. Rimmer tries to convince him that his attempts to avert death are not possible, but Lister rebuffs him. Naturally, Lister’s fears are alleviated by information from Holly. In fact, the ending of this episode actually connects to another episode later in the show.

Review: It introduces the sci-fi aspects of the show, showcasing that, unlike Star Trek, most of the SciFi will be played for pure comedy. The acting and the use of editing techniques also help. Also, the episode uses some foreshadowing that will be used at the end of series II, establishing Red Dwarf‘s use of continuity (although future episodes will show a weaker sense of continuity).

What brings this episode down is simple: the Humour seems to be pretty weak, compared to the previous episode, which had stronger humor. Also, there seems to be little character development, outside of the end of the episode.

Favorite Quote: Clock stop, six forty-seven. Not a bad little time for the mile. Pity I was only doing the three hundred meters.
                    –Rimmer, upon completing his exercise routine. 

Score: 7

Red Dwarf Review: Series 1, Episode 1, "The End"

Airdate: 15 February, 1988

 

Lister: (Singing) To Ganymede and Titan, yessir, I’ve been around.
Rimmer: Lister, have you ever been hit over the head with a welding mallet?

And thus, one of the greatest television series ever made kicked off it’s first series!

Synopsis: It’s an average day upon the mining ship Red Dwarf. Dave Lister is hanging around just doing his job at 12% capacity. Arnold Rimmer is making sure that he passes his astro-navigation exams and accelerate in his dream to become a space officer. A member of the ship dies, and is brought back as a hologram.  Lister wants to go out with officer Kristine Kochanski. And Lister has a pregnant cat that he smuggled aboard. Lister has a plan: get Kochanski, have tons of kittens, and buy a plot of land on Fiji.

There is a problem, however. According to Jupiter Mining Crew rules, animals can not be brought on board the ship, due to fear of disease. Lister is given two options: he can surrender the cat and have it cut up and analyzed (which is rejected by Lister when he realizes that the cat had nothing to gain from that), or be placed inside Stasis and sink 18 months pay down the toilet. He saves the cat and gets frozen, passing Rimmer (who fainted during his test) along the way.

He gets out of stasis after what to him feels like seconds, but in reality, was 3 million years. Bit longer than Lister thought it was going to be, huh? Well, as it turns out, Rimmer failed to repair the drive plate properly, causing the crew to get a huge dose of radiation poisoning and, well, die. Holly, the erratic ship computer, had to keep him in stasis until the radiation reached a safe background level.

He winds up aided by two people. First off is Rimmer, revived as a hologram, who immediately begins acting like a total jerk to Lister. The second is the Cat, who is basically the evolved version of Lister’s kittens. They begin their three million year journey home.

Review: What a way to kick off the series. It introduces the power trio of the show, the style of comedy that will be used in the first two series of the series, and the colour scheme. The characters develop from the first minute in, from their tragic flaws (Dave’s slobbishness and Rimmer’s neuroticism). And do we have to mention: “everybody’s dead, Dave!”

It’s definitely aged over the years. The sets have definitely aged (you can feel the 1980s), and some of the humour just is a bit weak. Then again, it takes a few episodes to get a show into a groove, so I’ll give that up to “first-episode jitters”.

Favorite Moment: “With respect, sir, what’s in it for the cat?”
-Lister, upon realizing that his cat is going to be dissected if he hands it over.

Now, as for scoring, I will do a system of 1-10. Yes, I know, it’s been done before. But sometimes, cliches are good. Here are what the scores represent.

10- Only given to the best episode of the series. Virtually flawless, or at the very least, any flaws are overshadowed by the pure awesome of the episode.
9- VERY minor flaws. Otherwise, practically perfect in every way. Expect to laugh constantly, or be amazed
8- Great, but does have a few flaws which could be addressed. Laugh riot all of the way, or actually gets your attention and feelings all of the way.
7- Good, but improvement can be used. Keeps you entertained for 30-odd minutes.
6- It’s definitely alright. Not a laugh riot, but you can laugh with and appreciate several scenes.
5: Watchable, but not truly enjoyable. Definitely mediocre. This is the lowest possible passing grade for this blog.
4: Not good. A few chuckles and thumbs-up here or there, but otherwise just meh. At this point, the episode fails.
3: Bad. A few redeeming qualities, but overall bad. Might be able to get a chuckle out there, or appreciate it’s badness, but it’s still bad.
2: Quite Bad. At best, you may smile at a scene, but you will just be sitting back and bored to death.
1: Very bad. This is just boring. Nothing smile-worthy. Just time that is completely wasted.
z: This is given to an episode that is so bad, it’s good.You might laugh your head off at how comically terrible it is.
0: This is only given to the worst episode of the series. This is not “so bad it’s good”. This is so bad, it goes back around to being bad, and revels in it. You actually feel this while watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjCjgjk9n0o

Score: 7. Overall, good opener to a great series.