Write text here…
Remember how the Klingons looked like dudes with bushy eyebrows and brown makeup in the original Star Trek series? Now, think about how they turned up in the films and later TV shows completely altered to have forehead ridges and other changes without any explanation. Detail oriented fans must have had a collective aneurysm that day, as one was lead to believe that fans were supposed to think “just pretend they always looked like this”. Fans made all sorts of theories on these discrepancies, books were written, and the producers had to FINALLY take care of the canonical issues in an episode of Star Trek Enterprise. Red Dwarf is different though; it isn’t one of those shows that always attempts to “clean up” instances of bad continuity between episodes, in fact it pretty much revels in it. In fact, there have been some real champion-level shenanigans placed into episodes. Take the Series VII episode “Ouroboros”, where the writers employ a brain killing paradox wherein Lister is revealed to be his own biological father. The episode we are looking at today can be seen as a sequel of sorts to that episode, as we see Lister struggle with the relationship between himself and his father. Confused yet? Good!
The episode opens with Lister filling out a Father’s day card for himself causing Rimmer great annoyance. It seems that every year he gets totally hammered on cheap booze and writes himself the card, this way he forgets what he wrote. Rimmer, in one of his few profound moments, asks why Lister should even like his father, considering he left him abandoned in a pub with only a rattle and a cardboard box. Lister is visibly shaken by this and feels that his son hasn’t lived up to his expectations. After talking with the ship’s medi-bot, a holographic projection of a doctor, he is given the advice to employ “tough love” on his son.
There are two side plots in the episode, one that is pretty major and one that really isn’t. Getting the small one out of the way first, we have the crew pondering whether the game “Chinese whispers” (called “telephone” here in the U.S.) is racist because it assumes Chinese people can’t spread rumors well. This plot was funny, but completely non-essential to the main storyline. The main secondary plot involved Rimmer and Kryten installing a new computer system to replace Holly. Pree, the new system, is so powerful that it can predict what the crew is going to do. The programming is so good that when asked to fix a number of problems, Pree anticipates that Rimmer would make errors in ordering repairs, and so wreaks havoc on the corridors as he would have unwittingly ordered her to. This escalates as Lister gets drunk and resigns thus rendering their mission “go back to Earth” obsolete - Pree decides to destroy the ship instead.
The part where Lister resigns was awesome, as it was beautifully written despite the fact that it was literally Craig Charles talking to himself. Taking the “tough love” approach to heart, daddy Lister leaves a video for himself. When he watches it he realizes that he is disgusted with his own behavior – he is lazy and has no motivation. Lister orders himself to take responsibility and enroll in classes on the ship to move up in rank, and to get a tooth pulled that he was been putting off. Lister blows “his dad” off only to find a second message that escalates the situation, then a third, and a fourth. It seems that drunk Lister knew he would not do what he asked and took charge by punishing him via throwing his prized guitar outside and other punishments. Lister replies with “ You don’t understand me, and I hate you”, pretty hilarious if you ask me.
The jokes were pretty awesome in this episode. While I grew tired of the running “Chinese Whispers” gag, the payoff was pretty good in the end. My favorite gag was easily Rimmer asking Lister “what’s that whining sound?”(referring to a noise the ship was making), with Lister replying “it’s you, you’re talking!” I was worried that the joke style would be more like seasons VII and VIII, where they relied too much on fart humor and randomness, but this is classic Red Dwarf at its best. I think the small budget and the need for more “talky” episodes because of that lent well to the style of this episode being more “old school”.
My only quibble was possibly the characterization of Pree, seeing as there was a similar episode way back in series two involving a back-up computer called “Queeg”. While he wasn’t as harsh as Pree, and was actually just a prank by Holly to make the crew appreciate him, the similarity is there. I guess I should mention that Pree was played by Rebecca Blackstone, a lesser known American actress who seems to be doing some voice work lately. Not only is she “easy on the eyes”, but she does a good job of being cold and robotic in the role. The only other guest actor was “Medi-bot” as portrayed by Kerry Shale. Known for voice work and some minor roles in film and television, he is an actor that I’ve seen before but haven’t seen enough of.
So there we have it, another solid episode from the cast and crew. One would have thought that would be a little “ring rust” on everyone getting back into the swing of things, but nothing like that seemed evident here. Seeing all these computerized talking heads around the ship like Medibot and Pree made me realize how much I miss the character of Holly, and wish Norman Lovett would bury the hatchet with Doug Naylor and come back. Hell, I’d enjoy a return by Hattie Hayridge even though she only briefly did the role. So there we have it, one of the more complex Red Dwarf episodes – the kind I love!
I bought this Blu-Ray on Amazon, maybe you should as well!
And if you do, use these links, as you are helping this site!
- Red Dwarf X: Trojan (2013) (anamericanviewofbritishsciencefiction.com)
- Watch Red Dwarf 1988 movie online. Full length. Download Red Dwarf 1988 movie. (non1compulsorywatch.wordpress.com)
- News Roundup (24/03/13) (gazpacho-soup.com)
- Review of “Red Dwarf” (ivanidris.net)
- News Roundup (05/05/13) (gazpacho-soup.com)
- Wales Comic Con (dorgris.wordpress.com)
- News Roundup (28/04/13) (gazpacho-soup.com)
- Colony – Rob Grant (dwjjones.wordpress.com)
Sometimes I look through my search terms on this blog’s dashboard for clues as to what I should be writing about. While I see utterly terrifying things like “Sophie Aldred latex bodysuit” or “Alexandra Roach Nude” in there occasionally, one that I see quite a lot for some reason is “Do Americans like Red Dwarf?” Well sir or madam, I am very much an American and I LOVE Red Dwarf. The problem with Red Dwarf is that it never really got the big marketing blitz that other UK shows like Downton Abbey or Doctor Who have received. It has fans, but they are fans of a niche show, that many watch on public broadcasting channels or the odd DVD. This is very similar to how Doctor Who used to be over here.
I recall dressing up as the Tom Baker Doctor (it’s in my about page) one Halloween and getting puzzled stares as to who I was supposed to be, Harry Potter was the likely candidate apparently. This was after the 2005 series of Doctor Who launched but “normal people” hadn’t heard of it before, nor did they care as it sounded weird to them. There was even this guy dressed up as Xander from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (a.k.a normal clothes as a costume) giving me crap because my chosen fandom wasn’t as popular as his. I’d love to see his un-costumed face now! Red Dwarf needs a moment like the one fans got when BBC America started airing Doctor Who and actually pushing it, it needs those non-fans to realize it even exists. Until then it’s going to be sort of niche, but it can be the fan’s little secret. Well, that was vaguely on-topic, but you are probably here assuming this is a review of Trojan and not a long-winded anecdote about annoying people making me mad; so here is my review.
While I really enjoyed 2009’s Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, It wasn’t as strong comedy-wise as older seasons, a big problem for what is primarily a comedy show. It looked amazing, had a better story, and was far more dramatic than any previous Red Dwarf season, but something was missing. It could have been the lack of a live audience, the contemporary setting on Earth, or any multitude of reasons; all I knew was that if it came back, I didn’t want another series like it. And here we are sitting in 2013, and I have Red Dwarf X on Blu-Ray sitting on my desk! I know I’m late to the party, as this came out ages ago, but I decided to wait until I could get ahold of the home video release to do reviews, that way I could talk about special features and the like. Some were worried that watching four middle-aged men crack jokes on each other would somehow not make a great show, but nearly twenty seasons of Top Gear can attest to the power of that very set up. Well, minus one guy, unless we count the Stig, he’s sort of like Kryten I guess!
The very first episode back starts with a bang, as we see a bit of Arnold Rimmer’s past, something that we only hear about in previous seasons. We know a lot about Lister’s past failings, dreams, and ambitions, but Rimmer has never really been fleshed out as much. The crew has apparently come closer to human civilization than ever before, as they somehow pick up a transmission from a “home shopping” type channel called The All Droid Mail Order shopping Network. Lister is apparently one of those people that gets hooked on such things, and gets in a seemingly never-ending phone queue for a device called a “stir Master”. The joke here is that Lister is literally on hold for nearly the rest of the entire episode, but his desire to save time stirring tea is immense.
While this is going on, the crew comes across a derelict, and somewhat better equipped, ship called the SS Trojan. Rimmer fiddles around with the ships control rod (which looks like a baby lightsaber) and inadvertently summons a ship carrying a holographic representation of Rimmer’s brother, Howard Rimmer. Arnold does what any brother would do when faced with the impending death of a sibling: he puts off helping so that he can pass his astro-navigation test and become an officer. He wants to do this to show off to Howard, and make him jealous. Once he fails once again, he goes the other direction dressing the Dwarfers like rejects from a Star Trek movie, and pretending to be the crew of the Trojan.
I really enjoyed this section of the episode, because Rimmer trumps his crew up so much to a ridiculous degree despite having ZERO ability to actually use the ship, much less give a simple tour of it. Rimmer insists in talking in a goofy “captain voice” as he smugly belittles his brother and hits on Howard’s crewmate, an android named Sim Crawford. Arnold introduces his “crew” by giving everyone stupid backstories and false names: Kryten becomes “under-privileged” flight coordinator Kryten Krytinski, The Cat is Navigation officer Gerald Hampton, and Lister is made out to be a “Touch T” telepath named David Listerton-Smythe. Despite obvious holes in this plot Howard doesn’t see through it at all. After Crawford reveals that she is, in fact, the villain of the piece and the reason Howard’s crew all died, Howard sacrifices himself to save Arnold, and reveals his secret. He is actually just a lowly vending machine technician and lied about the whole thing to look important. The Space Corps computer system realizes this and posthumously promotes Howard to an officer, and proposes renaming the Red Dwarf the “SS Howard Rimmer” making Arnold VERY jealous.
The first thing that really blew me away in Trojan, was how good the sets looked. Everything is “updated” but not in the same “white rooms and lense flares” way that we got in the recent Star Trek films. There are better computer screens and better lighting, but it still looks like ‘Dwarf. The detail here is amazing, once can really tell that they got a superb set designer that knows how to dress a set for HD in Michael Ralph. Little things like the raised textures on the walls are low key, almost unnoticeable on first viewing, but really make the scenes. I also love the fact that miniatures were used for ship and other exterior shots. I’m not an anti-computer generated effects guy, but let’s face it – Red Dwarf is made on a tight budget, why blow money on CGI? Shows like Hyperdrive fell into that trap of using cheap, unnecessary CGI and I feel that it really hurt certain episodes. It was like realizing that a spaceship on Blakes 7 was actually a hairdryer, except imagine that hairdryer blurry and unfinished! Unless you can make good effects on the cheap, stay with miniatures – they look better!
There really isn’t much of a guest cast to speak of here. Aside from the “The All Droid Mail Order shopping Network” personalities, you really only have two extra cast members. First off is Howard Rimmer as portrayed by Mark Dexter. Dexter is best known for roles in crime dramas like Law and Order UK, Ripper Street and Crusoe, but I was unfamiliar with him as I do not watch those sorts of programs. He was really good here as Arnold’s older brother; one could really imagine him giving out “wedgies” and making Arnold miserable. They chose someone that has similar mannerisms and a look that screams “RIMMER!” Our other guest was Sim Crawford, played by Susan Earl. I was only familiar with Earl from her role in Reggie Perrin, playing a nurse-like character named Sue, and I only remembered that when I checked IMDB. While a good actress, she had her voice changed and such to that of a more robotic nature, so it is hard to pin her down. She does make a pretty funny face at the end, and it made me laugh, so she’s okay in my book.
I mentioned the two of my favorite gags up there, but there really were so many to choose from. I feel that this series sort of pushed jokes too far after Doug Naylor became the sole captain at the helm. Series seven and especially eight were funny, but suffered from jokes that seemed strained at times; everything has balanced out here. All of the main actors take turns stealing scenes from each other, and even small things like the way The Cat walks into a room are made hilarious for some reason. I will say that the dynamic of just four guys works the best for me; I don’t mind Kochanski, but the show is better without her as a character. After being away for so long, you’d imagine that the boys would have trouble “clicking” into place, but that isn’t the case. Right out of the gate, the chemistry is there.
I try not to be one of those fans that clings to any particular “era” of this series as being the ultimate iteration of Red Dwarf, but I do have a distinct liking to series 4-6. One of the real reasons that I enjoyed this episode so much is that it felt right at home in one of those seasons. There is always room for improvement, but this was a solid kick-off to what I hope is a new era in Red Dwarf, it’s been far too long that these guys have been off our screens, hopefully they don’t go away this time. Keep checking back this week, as I plan to review ALL six episodes in the next few days!
If you would like to purchase Red Dwarf X, please check Amazon:
- Let’s Get Out There and Tweet It: Dimension Jump XVII – Sunday (gazpacho-soup.com)
- News Roundup (05/05/13) (gazpacho-soup.com)
- News Roundup (28/04/13) (gazpacho-soup.com)
- Wales Comic Con (dorgris.wordpress.com)
- Colony – Rob Grant (dwjjones.wordpress.com)
- CONVENTION REVIEW: Wales Comic-Con (geeksyndicate.co.uk)
- New life for an old watch – Red Dwarf style! (clickclicksnapsnap.wordpress.com)
- Starting Red Dwarf’s Floor Plan (reddwarfgame.com)
This fall is going to be a great time for fans of UK-based science fiction. Not only are we going to have six episodes of Doctor Who just after the Olympics, but there is a new Season of Red Dwarf on the way as well! Since there still is a ton of time left, I figured that I could easily pass it by looking back at some older episodes of Red Dwarf, sort of like a countdown to the new ones. So, without further ado, my review of the pilot episode from the far off time of 1988 – “The End”
When I first watched Red Dwarf, I immediately fell in love with it. My (now) wife had actually seen it on a PBS affiliate, and at the time I was oblivious to it aside from a passing mention. I wasn’t really into my full “anglo-phile” mindset at the time, and didn’t really seek out older shows yet. That all changed in 2004 when I got Netflix and started renting old Doctor Who episodes and Red Dwarf. I loved the idea of a science fiction sitcom, although very few of these cross-genre mergers were any good. Shows like Homeboys from Outer Space and Small Wonder put a bad taste in my mouth, but I was willing to try something new. I was immediately sucked in by this incredibly powerful and somewhat intense introduction:
I actually wish they’d bring a version of this introduction back. I like the more jazzed up one and all, but this is a nice palette cleanser for the hilarity about to ensue. I know some would say that “it doesn’t fit the show”, but I still love it, and that’s all that matters to me.
From the very beginning of the first episode we learn the dynamic between the two main characters –Lister and Rimmer inside and out. Lister is the lowest ranking guy on the ship, and a total slacker. His main goal is to simply collect a paycheck until he can retire to Fiji and start a farm. He’s all about having fun, and has no interest in his work. To foil this, his direct superior Rimmer (the second lowest ranking guy on the ship) is a self-righteous know-it-all with a severe inferiority complex. He always strives to become an officer on Red Dwarf, but ruins his chances with his manic nature, poor people skills, and sheer arrogance. This “odd couple” motif has been done countless times, but rarely is it done in such a humorous way as we see it here.
The thing that truly stands out with this show is the characters themselves. We might be used to seeing the exploits of all the highest ranking officers on serious shows such as Star Trek, but imagine an entire program consisting of “red shirts”. And not just plain “red shirts” but the ones that aren’t even cool enough to go on away missions and get their faces eaten by aliens. Focusing on characters that are destined to fight, screw around, and do nothing of any real importance whilst trying to get back to Earth basically writes itself. We see other characters in the beginning like Captain Hollister, but they won’t matter for too long, as they all die within minutes of the opening credits.
This is where the show gets fun. Lister gets in trouble for smuggling a pregnant cat named Frankenstein into his sleeping quarters on the ship. This is against regulation, and he is sentenced to stasis – a choice he made rather than giving up his pet. Lister’s job was to work on food replicators, and ironically, one messed up royally while he was unable to fix it. Rimmer tried to fix it, but Rimmer is Rimmer, and he messes it up even more. The entire ship went through a huge dose of nuclear radiation – killing everyone on board except Lister and Frankenstein, who was safe in the cargo bay. Three million years later, Holly (the ship’s computer system) informs Dave of some shocking news:
“They’re Dead, Dave….Everybody is dead, Dave.”
To fill this cast out, Lister is joined by other rejects, we have a holographic version of Rimmer, the person that the ships computer feels was Lister’s closest friend, a human-like creature that evolved from his stow-away cat simply named “The Cat”, and the ship’s computer itself, driven mad for the last few million years. Credits roll, and that’s why we kick off history folks! If you haven’t seen this show, and don’t mind special effects that are 2 decades old, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Currently you can watch it for free on Amazon Instant Video, if you happen to have an Amazon Prime subscription, or you can rent it on Netflix. The episodes used to be available on Netflix streaming, but they let the videos lapse for some reason.
Join me soon, for a look at episode 2!
The Boys are back…
Red Dwarf is one of those shows that you are either going to love or hate. If you like your sci-fi bleak and dark like the fad seems to be these days, you may not like Red Dwarf as it pokes fun at itself at every turn. Much Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, Red Dwarf likes to be as self-referential as possible and generally mock other sci-fi tropes. Things like unnecessarily complex time travel situations, parallel universes, and genetically engineered monsters are all par for the course. When I had heard that we would see more Red Dwarf after such a long hiatus, I was ecstatic as I have been a huge fan of the show for quite a while. But was ten years too long to wait?
When we last left the crew of the mighty mining vessel Red Dwarf, things weren’t going so well. Rimmer was about to die, and the rest of the crew was stuck in a parallel universe as the titular ship smoldered to a crisp. With an unresolved cliffhanger like that, pretty much anything would be hard to follow up, especially after such a large break. The producers and Writers of Red Dwarf came up with something ingenious and in tone with the show, by having a “missing season” thus, not actually resolving anything at all. Many questions persist at the beginning of Back to Earth like: Why did Ace Rimmer go back to the Dwarf, and re-join the crew as Arnold Rimmer? What Happened to Kochanski? I guess we’ll never know, and that makes me chuckle. With a show that had a main character turn out to be his own father and other such shenanigans, what more would I expect.
New Tension emerges between Sophie Winkleman‘s new science officer character and Rimmer
The story of Back to Earth takes place some nine years after we last left the crew. Everyone is back aside from two notable exceptions. Holly, the deranged ship computer (played by Norman Lovett or Hattie Hayridge respectively) has gone out of commission after Dave Lister, the show’s main character, left a bath running for nine years which fried Holly’s electronics. Kristine Kochanski, the shows on-again and off-again love interest for Dave is dead, and Dave has matured from the experience.
After a run-in with a sea monster that had stowed away in the ship’s water supply, a hologram other than Rimmer appears claiming that Rimmer has put the crew’s lives in danger for the last time, and his holographic life is to be decommissioned. She also decides that Lister needs to find a mate, and orchestrates a dimensional jump to take Lister Back to Earth. Earth is not all it is bargained for, as the crew finds out that they are from a parallel dimension and are in fact, characters in a TV show called Red Dwarf.
On a storyline basis, Back to earth is a really good aside from a large stylistic change. Rather than the joke a minute tone of older seasons, there are a few somber moments where Lister is on the brink of sadness due to his diminished status as a fictional character. Aside from the drama, we also see home old-school sci-fi action, in the guise of homage to the film Blade Runner. A few scenes were either directly or indirectly based on scenes from the popular Harrison Ford film, all the way down to costuming. While these stylistic changes seem a bit in contrast to the show’s normal format, but work in the context of this special.
Carbug is definitely a silly addition, here’s hoping it stays on, if more episodes are made.
On the technical side, Red dwarf has never looked so good. While shot on a shoe-string budget, the show has never had such well utilized computer generated effects, and other touches, and a lot of that has to do with the new HD camera that the crew used during the filming. During the making of segment at the end of the disk, we were shown how a few shots were done using this new camera system, and it was truly awesome.
All In all, Back to earth was a good episode, but I would recommend it as a feature length viewing session. Split up into three parts, the story structure seems to front loaded with jokes and padded in the middle with drama. As a movie, which is what I believe the original intention to be, this series really shines, and may usher in a complete re-birth of the show if rumors hold any water.
Here is a trailer, that shows a bit of the Blade Runner parody:
My Score: 4.5/5
- Red Dwarf X: In Stellar Form (geeksdreamgirl.com)
- Doctor Who vs. Red Dwarf (goashem.wordpress.com)
- Red Dwarf X: The Beginning Review (theconsultingdetectivesblog.wordpress.com)
- Red Dwarf: Series X- Episode 2: Fathers and Suns- My thoughts (spoilers!) (lonelygod91.wordpress.com)
- Red Dwarf X: DVD Review (gazpacho-soup.com)
- Red Dwarf: Series X- Episode 3: Lemons- My thoughts (spoilers!) (lonelygod91.wordpress.com)
- Red Dwarf X: Lemons Review (theconsultingdetectivesblog.wordpress.com)
- Breaking: Red Dwarf’s “science” actually had a little thought put into it (io9.com)
- Red Dwarf X (UK Comedy TV series) review (couchgeek.com)
- Red Dwarf: Dear Dave review (theconsultingdetectivesblog.wordpress.com)