Red Dwarf X: Wrap Up

Well, that, my friends, is a series!

Red Dwarf X, the first “real” Red Dwarf series since 1999, is finally finished. So, after all this speculation, after all the waiting, how did this series turn out?

Admittedly, not too bad. Continue reading

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Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 6: "The Beginning"

Airdate: 8 November, 2012

Synopsis: In the year 2200-ish, at IO Tech, Rimmer’s teacher, Mr. Rimmer, uses Rimmer as a guinea pig to make him unsure of his decisions through life… as punishment for being late to class.

Three million years later, a rogue droid named Hogey wants apparently another duel across time and space with the Dwarfers. They aren’t even fazed. Making matters stranger this time around is that Hogey stole a map of the various black holes through the universe from a Simulant Death Ship. Said simulants weren’t too pleased, and begin attacking Red Dwarf. The crew escape in Blue Midget, where they fear death. Rimmer, in particular, fears death so much he brings a holo-lamp that his father gave him to play the day he became an officer. With his father on his mind, he is unable to concentrate on a plan of action. Thus, he decides to take the ultimate dive, and play the holo-lamp early, proving that he doesn’t care about his father’s opinion anymore. There, Rimmer’s father reveals something stunning about Rimmer’s lineage.

Review (SPOILERS): There are three absolutes in life: death, taxes, and Red Dwarf episodes being constructed as “last episodes ever”.

Ever since Series V’s epic “Back to Reality”, every series of Red Dwarf (bar VII) ended with an episode ambiguous to the future of the series. Ironically, the even numbered series since V have ended with Rimmer called upon to save the ship. “Out of Time” was an epic ending for Rimmer. “Only the Good”, eh, not so much.

Thankfully, this is quite the improvement over “Only the Good”, by giving us actual character development for Rimmer. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 5: "Dear Dave"

Airdate: 1 November, 2012

Synopsis: Lister’s having one of those days where he mopes around about being the last human alive. To interrupt his sadness, he realizes that two vending machines are fighting for his affections. Making matters worse? He gets a letter from the past, telling him that he may have sired a kid. Meanwhile, Rimmer is threatened with demotion by the ship’s on-board computer (not Holly, sadly) for failure to perform duties, putting him on par with Lister. He realizes that he’ll be able to avoid being put on equal footing if he can convince the computer that Lister’s nuts, thus giving him an excuse as to why he didn’t perform.

Review: Let’s get this off the bat – this is the weakest episode of Red Dwarf X. The reason? It seems like they wanted to siphon elements from Series I and II, yet forgot what made those series… quirky in the first place.

Here’s the deal- Lister has been the victim of both cheating accusations from vending machines, while realizing that his ex-girlfriend cheated on him, yet he still might have sired the kid inside of her. Remove the vending machines for a second. That is as stock a sitcom plot as you can possibly get. Engaging? Not in the slightest.

What’s worse is that the “remembering the ex-girlfriend” plot was used in Series II’s “Thanks for the Memory”. “TFTM” is one of my all-time favorite Red Dwarf episodes, because it gave some insight into the characters of Lister and Rimmer, the tragedies the two faced. That, and we actually saw Lister’s former girlfriend, giving us an emotional connection. It’s brilliant. Seeing elements of that episode used in a stock sitcom plot? Tragic.

That’s just the largest of the ways this episode apes from the earlier series. Let’s have a list!

  • Rimmer tries to maintain his position of power over Lister? Inverse of “Balance of Power”.
  • Post arrives alerting a character of bad news? “Better Than Life”. (Oh, and also “The Last Day”.)
  • Lister moping over the fact that he’s the last human alive? “Timeslides”.
  • Rimmer has no idea about women? “Parallel Universe”.
  • Lister mistaken for robosexual by Rimmer? “Polymorph”.
  • Lister needs to know about his children? “Ouroboros”. Yes, that failure of an episode.
    • Lister realizes that he might have a child? Again, “Parallel Universe”.
  • Ambiguous ending? “Out of Time”.
What made those episodes work was the soul, the creativity in those plots. Even “Ouroboros”, as bad as it was, was at least an attempt to shake up the status quo. It failed miserably, but still. There, they tried. This episode? Doug could’ve removed the vending machine, and shipped it as a spec script for Two and a Half Men. Nobody would’ve noticed the smegging difference.
Is there anything good I can say about this episode? Well, the gags worked, for the most part. They petered out by the time Lister takes one of the vending machines around the corner. Still, even the chrades scene was decent. While it did give off some Series VII vibes, it at least was funny. Curse thee, giant worms!
What a shame. After a solid, if not overly spectacular, first four episodes, we get this mediocre mess. I’ll pass it, if only because this episode didn’t really infuriate me as much as “Krytie TV” and “Pete” did. That, and it actually made me laugh more than thrice. Oh, and it was made in a week, pretty much, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tidbits:
  • Speaking of Series VII, this episode was a replacement for a two-parter that would’ve seen Kochanski re-enter the picture. Ah, at least “The Beginning” looks promising.
  • The toilet paper joke? Damn, that ran on just a bit too long.
  • Oh, and one more positive? The acting is pretty damn good. I still question the french accent used for one of the vending machines. Why?
Favorite Scene: The chrades scene. Like a Series VII gag, but better.
Least Favorite Scene: The mail scene. Too similar to “Better Than Life”.
Score: 5.5

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 4: "Entangled"

Airdate: 25 October, 2012

SYMBOLISM!

Synopsis: Kryten and Cat wind up in sync due to an experiment with the quantum rod. The two are full of coincidence, say the same thing at the same time, etc. Lister, meanwhile, winds up on the wrong end of a poker game against Biologically Engineered Genetic Gobblers, losing both Starbug and Rimmer. Making matters worse? A bomb is attached to Lister’s pelvis. If he doesn’t turn over Rimmer within 24 hours, or tries to tamper with the bomb, he gets blown to bits… thus ending Rimmer’s life, as Lister’s lack of existence terminates Rimmer’s runtime. (We can also presume that the bomb could do decent damage to the ship, putting the lives of Kryten and Cat in jeopardy.)

With little hope, Lister has to go down and renegotiate a poker game. However, the Cat mentions that Lister has a tendency to choke. Thus, the BEGG’s choke to death. Literally. They eat power cords and choke on them. Kryten and Cat, thankfully, are able to use their newfound power to find the maker of the ship, a chimp who was once a forgetful scientist named Professor Edgington (Sydney Stevenson).

Review: It’s often said that “Pete” and “Back in the Red” are the worst ever Red Dwarf episodes. One of the (many) complaints against the episodes is that they had too much material for the originally planned timeslot (one for “Pete” and two for “Back in the Red”), so they were extended to an extra episode. Now, though, this gave them two much time, so they had to add tons of filler. Thus, we got the claymation crew, a wretched Kryten story, and tons and tons and tons of Rimmer and Lister walking into the damn captain’s office.

This episode shows that singular episodes with tons of material, while a bit rushed, can actually work… that is, if you pump in tons and tons of comedy, as well as a very quirky theme. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 3: "Lemons"

Airdate: 18 October, 2012

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“Oh, Jesus!” “Yes?”

Synopsis: The crew of Red Dwarf manage to acquire a Swedish rejuvenation shower. Being the Red Dwarf crew, they assemble it… haphazardly, to say the least. End result? They wind up in Britain in the year 23AD. The remote that can transport them back? Lister tossed the battery, thinking it was used up. Rimmer suggests making a potato battery to power the remote.

Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any potatoes and won’t get them until the 16th century.

Rimmer’s backup plan- lemons.

Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any lemons, either. They won’t get those until the 14th century.

Cat: He’s getting closer!

The nearest lemon source is India… 4000 miles away. At a local lemon market, they manage to procure lemons. Whilst talking about how primitive 23AD is, they manage to attract the attention of a certain fellow. He calls himself Jesus.

Review: No matter what your thoughts on Christianity (or organized religion) might be, it’s pretty much a fact that The Bible is the most quoted and referenced book/anthology in the history of modern media. It’s influence extended beyond typical media, and has created numerous tropes- forbidden fruit, the Judas archetype, the house divided, etc. Name a trope, it probably originated in The Bible.

Red Dwarf has routinely referenced the book, both via jokes and as plots. Rimmer’s middle name? Judas. The religion of Mr. Rimmer? Based on a misprint in 1 Cor 13. “The Last Day”? Total send up to the idea of puritanism and the afterlife. Red Dwarf, when dealing with religion, leans heavily to the “atheist” side of the spectrum- bashing organized religion as a means of controlling the masses, as seen in “The Last Day”. (Robert Llewellyn is a self-described atheist.) The show also seemed to encourage people, however, to not use their “one life” and completely waste it- “The Inquisitor” was proof of this, with the titular character erasing those whose lives were spent totally slobbing around, unlike Lister.

Most of the brutal critiques of religion were done in the vein of “silicon heaven”- the afterlife for robots.  So, how could Red Dwarf take on the figurehead of arguably the largest religious belief in the West?

Amazingly, he’s treated pretty well, and yet they were still able to write a damn good script surrounding the character. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 2: "Fathers and Suns"

Airdate: 11 October, 2012

 

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AHHH!!! DATA DOCTOR FLASHBACKS! GET EM OFF! GET EM OFF!

Synopsis: Every year, Lister sends a Fathers Day card to himself, then proceeds to get wasted so that, when he sees the card on Fathers Day, he has no recollection on what he put in it. With Rimmer telling Lister that he’s a pathetic father, and with the help of the Medi-Bot, Lister decides to give himself tough love. Meanwhile, Rimmer and Kryten install a new computer, Pree. Compared to Holly, Pree has extreme intelligence, yet with a twist: her mission is entirely tied to the crew, such as repair standards and final destinations. This proves problematic when, in Lister’s act of tough love to himself, he resigns his position on the ship.

 

Oh, and Kryten is also wondering… is a table game that he played with various vending machines the night before offensive?

Review: This was a bit of a strange episode to organize my thoughts about. While the episode had a plot (two, even) that could’ve fit solidly in the first two series, the end result felt a bit more awkward than it should have been. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 1: "Trojan"

Airdate: 8 October, 2012

Synopsis: The scouters aboard Red Dwarf pick up a derelict ship, the Trojan. Despite the derelict being unworthy of flight, this ship fascinates the crew, who are still stuck on a ship “slower than the speed of dark”. After Rimmer fiddles around with a quantum rod, the Trojan comes in close contact with the Columbus III. The hologram on that ship is Howard Rimmer. Yes. Rimmer’s brother. Already dejected from failing the Astro-Navs again, Rimmer’s resentment fills up his hard drive, causing him to suffer a crash. After being cleared of some of the “malware”, he realizes he has two options- fess up to his failures, or lie to his brother.

No prizes for guessing what he chooses.

Review (SPOILER-ISH): One of the central tenants of Rimmer’s character has always been the conflict between the guy and his family. It’s strongly implied that, as much as he uses them as a crutch for his aloof and insensitive behavior, that his strained relationship really did mess his psyche up. His father physically abused him, mentally abused him, his brothers tortured him beyond typical “brotherly” fights, and his mother was aloof to the whole situation, sleeping around to avoid the situation. Bringing Rimmer’s supposedly more successful brother to the center of an episode- the premiere of the first “regular” Red Dwarf episode in 13 years, mind you- was, in hindsight, a bit of a daring maneuver. Does it work?

Mostly. Continue reading

Red Dwarf X Preview

No matter what the critical response to Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was, the ratings were deemed to be extraordinary. Gaining the highest ever ratings for the Dave network, speculation was rampant and immediate concerning a tenth series. The first word came out in June 2010, when the actors stated that more Red Dwarf would be made. However, nothing was confirmed then. It wasn’t until April 2011 when UKTV finally confirmed that Red Dwarf would be back for a full series.

The reaction was cautiously optimistic. TV series have been revived before due to strong interest. Doctor Who was brought back in March 2005, Family Guy was brought back two months later, Futurama was revived twice, etc. However, the quality of these revivals has been debated time and time again. While Doctor Who came back to rave reviews for it’s more character-focused plots, Family Guy and (to a lesser extent) Futurama got a more lukewarm reaction, accused of lacking the magic the original seasons had, or going in a more crass direction. On top of that, the past three installments of Red Dwarf have been blasted as being far weaker compared to the original six series. (You saw me getting more frustrated with the show as we ended the eighth series!)

So, would Red Dwarf get the same critique as other shows? Or would it be a return to form?

Well, before we dive in, let’s just see how the production went. This will be quick, because the fact of the matter is that it all depended on the budget… which was, yet again, barely there. Doug Naylor had to fight just to get a studio audience. Once the sets were dismantled, any extra scene had to be shot in front of a green screen- any episode containing these were aired to a studio audience, not taped like the other episodes.

However, this series did go “back to basics”. The Red Dwarf models were brought back (thank smeg), the sets gained vibrant colors again, Howard Goodall was brought back to do the music, Howard Burden was back to do the costumes… it really felt like the show was being returned to the “tried and true”. Granted, budget limitations constrained the episodes. Ambitious projects such as “Back to Reality”, “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, and “Dimension Jump”? Not done this time around. This was more like Series II- back to basics.

So, what was the end result? Was the show back to form? Or was it proof that Red Dwarf should’ve ended with Rimmer blowing the Time Drive out of the sky?

Well, here’s the episodes!

  • Trojan: Rimmer gets an SOS call from a ship… where his brother is the ship’s hologram. He realizes that he needs to beat his brother at his own game, and pass the astro-nav exam… the one that he failed several times.
  • Fathers and Suns: Lister decides to help himself on Fathers Day, by trying to be a better father to himself. Makes sense. Oh, and Rimmer installs a new computer, Pree.
  • Lemons: After a time-travel incident involving flat-pack furniture, the gang are sent back to 23AD England. They have to travel to India to get some potatoes to get a battery to go back to Red Dwarf.
  • Entangled: A game of poker goes deadly when Lister loses Rimmer. He is given 24 hours to turn over Rimmer, or have a bomb that’s attached to his pelvis blown up. Oh, and Kryten and Cat become quantum entangled.
  • Dear Dave: Lister gets in a love triangle with an old girlfriend and two snack dispensers.
  • The Beginning: Simulants finally begin playing war games with the Dwarfers. This seems like the end for the gang… even Rimmer, who never accomplished any of his goals.