Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII Wrap Up

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Once upon a time, there was a show called Red Dwarf. Initially thought of by newcomers as a show about a bum trapped in space, it slowly established itself as something more. The interactions between the characters gave us some of the best development of each and every one. Even characters used more for outright comedy got some depth to them, while never truly losing some level of their identity. The plots conceived focused on the characters while also being inventive. The humor struck a perfect balance between character comedy, lowbrow comedy (including slapstick), and highbrow comedy, all while not violating the development of the characters. It juggled comedy, drama, adventure, and sci-fi perfectly. It was the best show out there.

Then the show fell in quality in its seventh series. Can’t fault it too much: production had been stilted for a long time, and there were some cast dynamic issues.

Season 8 then came, and proceeded to take every minor flaw that the show had in the past- awkward sexual politics, somewhat strange continuity, weaker special effects, and the occasional flattening of character- multiplied their frequency by a solid hundred, and cranked it up to irritating levels. The end result? If the Ganymede and Titan Silver Survey is to be believed, Series VIII is considered the worst series in the history of Red Dwarf. On average, Series VIII episodes got 2637 points- the lowest number, and trailing far behind the “classics”.

What exactly was the problem with this series, though? Well, let’s delve into the problems listed above, plus more, in my favorite list method… BULLET POINTS:

  • It sent the original premise of Red Dwarf packing: This is probably the biggest error with this series. When Series VI made something of a shakeup by taking away the small rouge one, it at least kept the character dynamic and the mere premise of the show at least somewhat intact. The show was about a bunch of idiots commanding a spaceship with little contact. This series jettisons that suddenly, in favor of a damn prison sitcom in space!
  • The expertly crafted character development was, for the most part, jettisoned. OK, time for some bullet points within bullet points!
    • Rimmer has some level of excuse: he was resurrected, yet not in a form that kept his development over the previous few series. As such, he’s back to being an ambitious loser and a jackass. However, he never really developed beyond this. He acts like a self-centered smeghead from moment one, and it doesn’t let up until the last few minutes- far too late.
    • Lister was really just a puppet. His character really shifts with the wind to what the producers think will suit the plot.
    • Kochanski… well, she had virtually no development. They just made a bunch of “women” jokes.
    • Kryten actually is treated decently: I sorta preferred whatever character was here compared to Series VII. Not saying much, though: he lost all ability to communicate with humans.
    • Maybe it’s the acting slipping, or the poor material, but the Cat no longer has a sense of “coolness” to his behavior. He just comes off as annoying.
  • Worthless Side Characters: OK, Hollister was decent (maybe it’s Mac McDonald’s acting), but did we really need Kill Crazy? Again, Red Dwarf’s appeal was a bunch of idiots being some of the last representatives from Earth (and the Cat). Now, we just have a poor comedy with side characters messing about and doing nothing.
  • The well-balanced humor was, well, thrown off balance… and unfunny: With a lack of focus on character, most of the jokes can be summed up in three words: “overt sexual humor”. Now, Red Dwarf has always made jokes about sex, but they were normally in the context of their sex lives, giving us a bit of insight into their characters. Now, most of these jokes are “haha, men are perverts”, amongst others. The rest of the comedy is slapstick and other vulgar humor. Again, both of these have been done before, but they were balanced out with character comedy, instead of just being there.
  • Subtlety is also tossed: Compare Kryten’s upset at the fact that he’s about to die in “The Last Day” to, well, anytime he gets upset in this series. It’s quieter in the former, yet it also has something more of an impact.
  • Special effects went down the toilet: Let’s put it this way: the BBC should apologize for its fascination with bad CGI in the 90s.
  • Callbacks to far better episodes without knowing the gag’s raison d’etre: The Dibbley Family. Does anybody remember what Dibbley represented? Here’s a hint: Cat shouldn’t be the first to go to the idea!
  • Krytie TV: This sexist, pathetic tedium is probably the worst half hour in the history of the show. The only reason why it didn’t get the 0 is because I don’t blame it for killing the franchise as much as…
  • Pete: I’ll just steal part of a quote from Ganymede and Titan’s Silver Survey:
    • “What more can be said about this shambles? It is categorically and undeniably the worst episode of Red Dwarf – rooted to the bottom of the list, and miles away from its nearest rival. If Derby County’s 2007-08 Premier League campaign was an episode of a science-fiction sit-com, this would be it.” 
What about good things? Things that this series didn’t smeg up? Well, for all few of those, we need some BULLET POINTS!
  • Cassandra: Good episode. Not awesome, but good enough, especially compared to the worst episodes of this wreck of a series.
  • No more overt comedy-drama: Sure, there’s no good comedy, but there’s very little bad drama.
  • Chris Barrie’s back: He puts in a decent performance- although, again, there’s little subtlety. I blame the writing.
  • It got the show into syndication: The last 16 episodes may have largely been subpar, but this series put Red Dwarf over the top. The show could now be shipped as a syndication package: one episode per week would last an entire year.
Now, the prevailing question: who deserves the blame for this trainwreck? Who’s feet should be held to the fire?
I place the blame on the following… yet again, using bullet points:
  • Doug Naylor: He supposedly created the series; he should know how to write for the characters and for the show in general. Hell, a small part of me thinks that while Doug came up with the idea, Rob Grant did the “grunt work”, so to speak. Another part of me thinks that Doug needed that quality check from Rob. Either way, the balance is non-existent. I just think Doug saw the big fat cheque given to him and said: “I’ll see what I can do”.
  • Paul Alexander: In two years, his writing went from merely mediocre to outright horrid. “Krytie TV” and “Pete”, anybody? What happened, man?
  • The BBC: They had to squeeze the syndication money out, eh? While this did ensure Red Dwarf’s presence for years to come (see above), did the BBC ever enforce quality control? Did anybody say “hey, can you make these episodes less bad?”

This is sad. This is a series I would never show to my own worst enemy. It’s one of the worst groups of episodes in the history of British TV. As good as “Cassandra” is, it is little solace for the utter stupidity that is Red Dwarf VIII.

With the exception of “Cassandra” (maybe), I will never watch one second of this series again. In a fairer world, this series would have been struck down from canon or written off as a dream. In a far fairer world, this series would’ve been made, but would’ve been radically different… and so much better.

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Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 5: "Only The Good"

Airdate: 8 April, 1999

Synopsis: Don’t care anymore. I just want to see this series end.

Oh, alright. A micro-organism makes it’s way aboard Red Dwarf, thanks to a refugee from a derelict. Said microorganism destroys ships. For some strange reason, Rimmer goes into an alternate universe to try and find the cure for the micro-organism.

The crew are also on probation. A misunderstanding between Kryten and Lister gets Lister and Rimmer’s probation in jeopardy. Oh, and Death gets involved.

Review: It’s the last episode of the series (thank smeg), and for ten years, it was the last Red Dwarf episode ever made. And, yet again, it ends on something of a cliffhanger. What is it with Doug Naylor and cliffhangers?

This episode had a ton of potential for a finale: what if Rimmer was the captain of a ship? How would he run it? We sort of saw that during the first six series, where he was technically the most senior officer on the ship (despite being a dead second technician). However, there, he was balanced by the more rational Kryten and the more humanist Lister. We also saw him take some level of total control in “Meltdown”, where he becomes the leader of “Arnie’s Army” and leads them to a brutal pyrrhic victory.

Seeing Rimmer in control of a mining ship, even in an alternate universe story, might have been decent. Seeing the crewmembers in reversed roles might have been good. It had so much potential.

But not like this.

The big problem was that there was far too much material in this episode. Let’s go through the plot: Rimmer wants to be captain, he and the vending machine have a feud, Kryten gets confused about Kochanski’s “time of the month”, he pulls a prank on Lister after realising the misinformation he got, Lister and Rimmer have to drink pure alcohol, have to get hospitalised, try and escape, discover a deadly virus, go back to warn the crew they tried to escape from, get left behind, and try and find a cure for the virus… which involves going into the mirror universe.

It’s bad. I’m not sure what’s worse: “Krytie TV” for being a useless episode with no merit, or “Only the Good” for flushing it’s potential down the toilet.

This episode seems to confirm what we have long feared: this series was never about character. Lister, again, used to have some level of respect, and a strong moral center. Here? He tricks Kryten into holding a party for Kochanski’s “time of the month”. Nevermind the horrid minute or so that follows: it is the lowest Lister ever sinks. I could imagine Lister pulling a trick of that caliber on Rimmer, but on Kochanski?

All of the characters have been stripped to milk out another vulgar joke or utter slapstick… and yet we’re supposed to feel for Rimmer at the end of the episode. At that point, I was just glad that the series was almost done.

I used to care about this show. I used to care about the characters. When the crew faced death in “Out of Time”, I wanted Rimmer to make the ultimate sacrifice. We spent six series building him up. Now, I could care less. I felt for Lister in “Timeslides” because we still knew that he was a decent, if flawed, man trapped in a bad situation. Now, he’s so inconsistent, that I don’t care when he’s left behind to be eaten by a virus. I was genuinely scared for Holly when he was in a massive chess battle, or she only had seconds to live. Now, he can go with the ship. (No wonder why Norman Lovett quit).

I used to care. The characters didn’t revolve around the plot: the plot revolved around the characters. It was fantastic. It was the reason why I consider Red Dwarf one of my favorite TV shows ever. The same claims against this show could be used against other franchises well past their prime, like The Simpsons. At least Red Dwarf was put out of its misery for a few years.

Sure, the final minute is pretty stupid, but give it some level of credit. It sums up the series in a nutshell: it was a massive kneeing to the fanbase.

At least I can finally say… Series VIII is done.

Tidbits:

  • It gets bumped up a point for euthanizing this train-wreck of a series.
  • Another point is bumped up for displaying traces of a decent plot.
  • Even the acting seems to be off in this episode. Everything is exaggerated. It’s hurt the Cat, for one: he just comes off as irritating in his attempts to get into the hospital.
  • Oh, and Death? Played by Ed Bye, the director.

Favorite Scene: Let’s put it this way…

Least Favorite Scene: Kryten celebrating Kochanski’s biology. That is the worst Red Dwarf joke ever. It’s sexist, lowbrow, and just pointless.

Score: 3.

…wait a second…..

…my god…

…it’s over.

IT’S OVER!!! I NEVER HAVE TO WATCH THIS DISASTER OF A SERIES EVER AGAIN!

Red Dwarf Review: "Pete" (Series VIII, Story 4)

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Airdate: 25 March, 1999 (Part I), 1 April, 1999 (Part II).

Synopsis: Lister and Rimmer finally drive Hollister up the wall one too many times, including pulling a prank on Warden Ackerman and slipping a drug into the juice of a basketball team led by Hollister to hinder their performance in a game against the convicts. (Yes, there’s a basketball scene in Red Dwarf, why do you ask?) After their punishment in Spud Duty makes Hollister bald, the two are put in “the hole”, where they meet a professor with a bird. Meanwhile, the Canaries discover a time wand on one of the derelicts. The two paths meet, and the professors bird turns into… a T-rex. “Hilarity” ensues.

Review: I think I’ve mentioned this episode in passing once or twice. It’s often brought up as the nadir of Red Dwarf. As “Back to Reality” is considered the zenith, this is the bottom of the barrel. In both of the surveys launched by the Ganymede and Titan website, Part II of “Pete” ranked dead last in the polls: the 2013 survey put Part 1 just ahead of Part 2, while the 2008 survey put it a few spots ahead. The question is this: does either episode deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten?

Well, yes, sort of. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 3: "Krytie TV"

Airdate: 18 March, 1999

This is what money does to you, guys. You become involved in the stupidest TV ever made. Damn you, BBC!
Synopsis: When Kill Crazy (amongst the other males in prison) finds out that Kryten has to shower with the women, he is reprogrammed by the prisoners. He goes from a pro-feminist who refuses to exploit his fellow prisoners to a nasty media mogul, who’s lowbrow comedy and programming (under the name Krytie TV) make him wealthy… thanks to beer cans.
Review: …what the hell was that?

This episode is one of the saddest episodes of Red Dwarf ever made… and not in a good way. A solid 90% of the positives that this episode has are nullified due to the pathetic writing. Simply put, as much as “Cassandra” felt like a classic Red Dwarf episode, this feels like nothing of the sort. It feels like I threw on a bad American sitcom.

Remember when Red Dwarf used to have complex characters that I cared for? No, I don’t either. This episode dismisses the development that every character has had the past six, seven seasons to make everybody either sexist, perverted, a jackass in some other form, or some combination of the three. Lister used to have honor and some respect for his friends, and while he lusted after Kochanski, he used to try and do it in something of a respectful manner. He also used to have something of a moral center. Here, the mere thought of Kryten in the women’s showers is considered attractive to him, and he keeps looking at the video of the shower for three hours, barely trying to move out of the room. Why does he want to move out of the room? It’s not because Kochanski and the rest of the women are being violated, no. It’s because it will smeg up his appeal. And as we learn later, it’s an appeal that only deals with his own self-desires. When did Lister become such a selfish git? (Oh, yeah, “Tikka to Ride”).

I know Kryten is something of a neat freak, but come on. He’s not totally gullible… he should’ve known something was amiss with the trash. Nope. Instead, Kryten puts the trash away, and gets knocked out and reprogrammed by… maybe (see below) Kill Crazy! Yup, Kill Crazy, the character who just wanted to shoot stuff up, now knows how to reprogramme a mechanoid (maybe). Could it be character development? It would if we had cared about the character from day one… but read the “Tidbits” below on why I doubt that. Oh, and he loses all desire to shoot stuff. He’s just as much of a perv as the rest of the cast with a Y chromosome (except for Ackerman).

Back to Kryten, how the hell did he become a corrupt executive thanks to beer cans?

Sure, Kochanski gets a scene where she’s livid over the fact that her privacy being violated. But that’s it: she only gets one worthwhile scene. She only gets mentioned twice: once, she’s seen painting her toes with Kryten (who is painting his entire foot), and second, she’s mentioned having gotten over Lister (and, I guess, putting the invasion of her privacy) to date some schmuck who we don’t care about. A part of me is willing to forgive this lack of Kochanski, as Chloe Annett got sick during filming. Still, it’s pretty insulting to make an episode on peeping toms and not have a lot of representation from the “offended” gender.

Rimmer is tragically left in the dust, just there to aid Lister and get knocked down by the now self-centred Scouse. Yet, I don’t feel anything for this character. All of his development, even the one in the previous episode, was erased, and he’s back to being underdeveloped. He shows no defining character traits in this episode other than being a pervert.

TL;DR: the men are all perverts, or motivated by their perversion. Women are left in the dust. Both sides are hampered by sexism!

The humor? Barring a couple of chuckles, it’s all lowbrow, frat humor. I will admit to chuckling at the first “bunk scene” with Lister and Rimmer (post, anyone), and the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” is a bit funny (although I’ll explain later why I may not have found it as comic as others might have), but the rest of the episode’s comedy can be summed up as “men are perverts, Kryten’s a horrible mechanoid, and there are some visual puns.”

Plot? Shifts around too many times to count. So, Kryten’s humiliated because he has to shower with the women because he considers himself more of a man. Instead of appealing and trying to get switched into the men’s bunks, he continues on his merry way until Kill Crazy reprogrammes him and turns him into a Pay-Per-View mogul who films in the showers, amongst other things. Oh, Lister has an appeal, is too perverted to actively care about Kochanski, gets upset about Kochanski walking off, and winds up getting “Krytered”.

There has been quite a bit of debate on the internet on what the worst episode of Red Dwarf is. The most common answer seems to be our next story, “Pete”- specifically, the second part. At that rate, “Pete” must drive me close to the brink of insanity to be worse than “Krytie TV”. It’s staved off the 0 score on an interim basis. If “Pete” is better, “Krytie TV” will get the honor of the first 0 score. Not even a few chuckles can wash out the utter degradation of character, lack of coherent plot, and what feels like sexism against both sides of the coin.

Tidbits:

  • If the Red Dwarf Wiki is correct, this episode is actually said to have replaced an episode that would’ve had the Canaries discover a derelict ship where a sexual magnetism virus is in full effect… to the point where that’s how the crew aboard that ship died. It would’ve ended with Lister trying to kill Rimmer for trying to make love to Kochanski. Apparently, Naylor thought it would’ve been too inappropriate… so instead, this borderline (if not outright) sexist schlock was put on the air.
  • The official Red Dwarf website notes, in an “interview” with Kill Crazy, that Kill Crazy didn’t program Kryten: instead, it was a prisoner that we never saw. I’m a bit skeptical: how are we sure that he’s not lying through his teeth? It feels a bit cop-out-ish.
  • So, yeah, Kryten apparently makes his money off of beer cans. And not just money: his armor is gold, for one. Either it’s “faux-gold”, there’s scarce amounts of beer on ship, or the prisoners have a drinking problem.
  • Second question: HOW THE HELL ARE PRISONERS GIVEN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?
  • Third, why didn’t any officer stop the exploitation? Hell, where are the officers? All we get is Ackerman flipping out about the lack of his glass eye.
  • Now, about the B-movie parody. While I otherwise found it funny, I find it hypocritical that Naylor is blasting B-movies for stupid plots and poor special effects, when “Pete” is judged to have both a poor plot and poor special effects. (And no, I’m not buying into the “it’s a parody of a B-movie” camp.)
Favorite Scene: Uh, the credits? OK, the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” was alright.
Least Favorite Joke: Too much competition.

Score: 1… for now. This episode is on a pseudo-probation. 

Update 9 November 2014: Actually, giving it a score would give it too much dignity. I won’t give it the 0, but only because that would justify it as an episode of Red Dwarf.

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 2: "Cassandra"

Airdate: 11 March, 1999

“The rest of the series will be held in low light by the fandom, except for “Pete Part Two”… which will cause people to contemplate canceling their TV license.”

Synopsis: Lister gets the crew to sign up for the Canaries, thinking that the Canaries are the prison choir. To their disappointment, they’re the prisoners that get sent on the most dangerous missions, the assumption being that they will die. Whilst on the mission, they come across a sentient computer, Cassandra, who can predict the future. She’s especially good at predicting the deaths of the crewmembers, saying that they will die within 1 hour, with the exception of Rimmer (“YES”), who will be dead in 20 minutes.

Review: One would think that the pathetic excuse of a series premiere would signal that the rest of the series was just a massive time sink. Actually, that’s only partially true.

In fact, this episode was good… almost great, in fact!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no such thing as pure perfectionism. In my review of “Back to Reality”, I never said that the episode was flawless. I said it came very close, but I also said that I don’t believe in pure perfection. This episode basically takes a look at that viewpoint and asks: is that correct? After all, Cassandra has the ability to predict the future with a 100% success rate. She’s able to predict the demise of the crew… sort of. As the episode goes on, we find out that the Canaries are pawns in Cassandra’s game… possibly. Her screwy (in a good way) wording of the scenario helps confuse the crew, driving Rimmer mad. It’s pretty damn interesting, with the twists and turns keeping the viewer sucked in. It almost feels like I watched an episode from Series IV… almost.

You see, while this episode is good, the very best episodes of Red Dwarf had just a few more complexities that added to character. For example, “Thanks for the Memory”, despite its lack of a “traditional” antagonist like Cassandra, helped develop the relationship between Lister and Rimmer, as well as their characters, in such a strong fashion. This episode, while good, is still somewhat more shallow than what would be done in Series II or III. But hey, small victories.

Despite more of a focus on plot, there is still quite a bit of good character comedy and development. Putting Rimmer with what was essentially his replacement was a strange maneuver, but it worked. This also added a second layer to the new Rimmer’s character, albeit one that’s more subjective: did Rimmer intentionally break the pipes whilst stuck with Kochanski? If so, he’s a perverted jerkass who deserved to be harpooned. If he didn’t… he’s still a pervert, but he’s not completely depraved. I did like how Lister reacts to the truth about Cassandra. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good reflection on his character: he might not be too bright, but his moral center is strong.

Really, the biggest problems with this episode come in act 1. Holly has officially been derailed from just senile and a tad bit loopy to a total idiot. Sure, 200 years alone will do that to a computer, but still. It was better when we saw him have some sense of depth. Oh, and he gets nothing to do anymore. Sure, I should be used to that (the computer wasn’t in Series VI and most of VII), but still. If you’re only going to make him an idiot, why bring him back? There’s also Kill Crazy, who, while getting a few funny lines here and there, will (if I can recall) become one of the most annoying characters in Red Dwarf history.

Humour is alright, for the most part. The damn “canary choir” joke, though… Remember when the Cat, Lister, and Rimmer could make singing funny, and when Doug Naylor could time it perfectly? Remember that?

Even with this episode’s faults, it’s hard to fathom another episode in this series that will match it. It actually feels like a classic episode. While it might not be as fantastically constructed as, say, “Quarantine” and “Polymorph”, it’s still a damn good episode.

Tidbits:

  • Need I say that the acting is still top notch? Even in poor episodes that I’ve reviewed, I have not seen any of the actors put out a wrong foot.
  • Technically, this episode was premiered on 7 March 1999, NOT 11 March. The reason? KTEH-TV, a PBS affiliate in San Jose, chose to send the entire series out on that date. (For those unaware, PBS is sort of like the BBC. However, program schedules are far less centralized: thus, affiliates have more control over timeslots and airdates for non-news programs). However, I am going with the BBC Two broadcast dates.
  • If you know Greek mythology…. this episode becomes more brilliant.
Favorite Scene: The scene where Lister confronts Cassandra. It’s three minutes of television perfection.
Least Favorite Scene: Lister, Kochanski, Cat, Rimmer, and Kryten should never form a choir group. Ever.
Score: 7.75.

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.

Tidbits:

  • 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.
Score:
  • Part 1: 5.5
  • Part 2: 3
  • Part 3: 1.5
  • Overall: 3.3

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII Preview

Well, we’re here. Series VIII. The last of the 51 episodes commissioned by BBC Two. To steal a line from Russell Wilson, it’s been a long road, getting from “The End” to here.

Now, Series VII had received a lukewarm reception amongst fans, many of whom (including yours truly) deriding it for shaking up the formula in a manner that replaced an interesting character with a bland, static character; replacing the beautiful models with low-quality CGI; mishandled almost every character; and, maybe most damning of all, syphoned the depth out of the show in favour of stock sci-fi plots and sitcom humour.

So, how was Doug Naylor to appease fans after such a radical change? ANOTHER RADICAL CHANGE!

First off, a combination of the love of his work on Series VII and sudden emptiness in his schedule (The Brittas Empire had been cancelled) convinced Chris Barrie to reprise his role as Rimmer full-time. A hole in the cast dynamic had been filled… seemingly, at least.

Doug Naylor seemed to have tired of the “Starbug putzes around in space” storyline of the past two series, and desired to bring the “small rouge one” back. Yet, he also had been watching Series I-III for the remaster (side note: stick to the originals). For some reason, he wanted to elaborate on the conflict between Rimmer, Lister, and Captain Hollister. So, it was decided to make it so that the core four (plus Kochanski) were no longer alone.

To facilitate this, Red Dwarf was essentially turned into a prison comedy, allowing Rimmer and Lister to interact with the Captain and others.

Yet, the actors that played Petersen, Selby, and Chen were not available on a regular basis. All of them had become successful and couldn’t fit the show into their schedule. Ultimately, new characters had to be created, such as Kill Crazy (played by Jake Wood) and Warden Ackerman (played by Gavin McTavish).

Strangely enough, a combination of an eight-episode series plus a low budget meant that two stories had to be stretched out. “Back in the Red”, originally an hour-long two parter, was transformed into a 90-minute three-parter. “Pete” (originally titled “Captain’s Office”) was also transformed into a two-parter, changing from an episode dominated by Lister and Rimmer’s troubles with Captain Hollister into one where the crew have to fight… a dinosaur.

The end of the series was actually devised to be used in case the series wasn’t renewed. The crew would’ve wound up back at Earth, wrecked up the place, and traded insurance details with the few remaining people to restore damage. It was going to be epic… until Doug Naylor took a look at the budget.

Thus, another finale had to be devised, which had four, count em, four endings planned. The one they went with was actually whipped up at the last minute.

Ultimately, this series proved to be controversial, much like VI and VII were. It’s worth noting that, over the course of the series, half of the viewing audience left. “Back in the Red” premiered with 8.05 million viewers. By “Only the Good”, only 4.24 million were still tuned in.

Initial reception was relatively positive, claiming that the show had “returned to form” with the return to more comic strips and Red Dwarf. Now? Well, fan site Ganymede and Titan did a survey in 2013 to commemerate the 25th anniversary of the first ever Red Dwarf episode. The bottom 5 episodes? All from Series VIII.

Overall, Series VIII took a beating in the poll, ranking as the worst series overall. Unlike VI, which shook it’s initial controversial reception to become relatively beloved, and VII, which always seemed to be derided, VIII has gone from being a relatively beloved series to one that is considered the death kneel for Red Dwarf.

So, what else is there left to lose? May as well dive in.

Oh, one thing: this series has two multi-parters. I have decided that it would be best if I reviewed every storyline, rather than every episode. I’ll still give the episodes separate grades and note the difference between the parts, but it will allow for the reviews to have more of a “flow”. Also, it might be a while between reviews.

Anyway, like always, EPISODE RUNDOWN!

  • Back in the Red: Yup, the crew are back in Red Dwarf… and risk jail for stealing a spacecraft and transporting stowaways on board ship. Lister has to get through to a resurrected Rimmer to help the crew escape. However, the resurrected Rimmer has none of the knowledge and development of the previous Rimmer; he’s still pompous and egotistical. One thing leads to another, and the whole of the crew are trapped in a series of unfortunate events that land them in jail… but for reasons not related to the shuttle crash.
  • Cassandra: The crew, now jailed, are signed up to join the “Canaries”, who go into dangerous situations, as they are expendable. While on a “canary” mission, the crew meet Cassandra, who can predict the future… and the deaths of the crew.
  • Krytie TV: Kryten, upset that his physical construction has placed him in the female quarters, is knocked out by several unsavoury prisoners and reprogrammed to start his own TV service, just so the unsavoury prisoners can get video of the women’s quarters. With his new programming, Kryten becomes a ruthless media mogul.
  • Pete: Lister and Rimmer have driven Hollister spare one too many times. After an incident involving medicines, spuds, and hair loss, the two are placed with a psycho with a bird. Meanwhile, the Canaries come across a device that can transform people. The two combine… and create a dinosaur.
  • Only the Good: A ship-eating microbe is brought onboard. As you could guess, the microbe begins to eat the ship. A shortage of escape pods means that the prisoners are left for dead. Rimmer, however, realises that he could try and find the cure for the microbe.
…I have a bad feeling about this. Eh, may as well dive in.