Did we like it?
There were some mirthful echoes from the past, but too much of this three-parter was caught up under the chattering wheels of films – The League of Gentlemen and the self-referenced Bladerunner – and its own history, with too much complicated plot and not enough jokes. On the other hand, there was enough to suggest we’d like to see more episodes.
What was good about it?
• Despite all looking a little older – with Chris Barrie as the hologrammatic Arnold Rimmer the most obvious (and inappropriate) – all four of the crew still had enough quips, insecurities and charm to support a half-hour sitcom – a one-and-a-half hour sitcom was a little too long, though.
• A promising start as Lister ironed his clothes using his own snot as a water substitute simply to annoy Rimmer.
• Rimmer’s exasperated dialogue sporadically emerged. As the leviathan swam towards Lister, Kryten and Cat in the diving bell, they asked the observing Rimmer what it was. He snapped back: “I don’t know – it’s not a commercial airliner with writing on the sides!”
• Rimmer and Kryten whispering conspiratorially out of the corner of their mouths was another resurrected gag that worked.
• One of the best lines explained how in the original series the crew had still been using primitive technology in the far future. Kryten: “DVDs are what people used before they died out and were replaced with what we use now…” Lister: “Videos.”
• The special effects weren’t of the standard of say Doctor Who, but they did have the same feel and style as the old Red Dwarf. Some things were evidently better – the vast CGI interiors to replace the old sets – were impressive, as was the crew being sucked into the wormhole to ‘travel’ back to Earth.
• It’s a shame that the second episode was so weak, because the final episode unveiled the truth of what had actually happened to the Red Dwarf crew (even if it had been used before). The Earth they visited, our Earth, was a hallucination caused by a giant squid and that our reality is just something that was created by the Dwarfers’ delirium and that we will continue to believe our reality is the true one.
What was bad about it?
• The voice over that heralded the show as a “world premiere and exclusive to Dave”. Well, if Dave financed the whole thing, it would have been a little odd had it been shown on Men & Motors first, wouldn’t it?
• The whole plot was purloined from three sources. The first, and least evident, was the way in which the crew discovered they were characters in a TV series and set about finding their creator in order to beg for more life. This had been executed in the League of Gentleman film just as disappointingly – especially when you consider that each series was among the funniest of the past 20 years.
• This was married to the plot that explicitly followed and self-referenced Bladerunner, right down to the enigmatic origami, and included scenes such as the professor in the freezing laboratory, the crew being shot and falling through a shattering window and the creator being killed by one of his creations – although unsurprisingly this was sanitised in that his eyes weren’t gouged into his skull.
• And the third element was the hi-jacking of previous episodes of Red Dwarf. As there was little intent to make these new episodes open to non-fans, this meant that the half-baked rehashes reeked of former glories while invoking little of their humour.
• A case in point was that the whole charade was caused by a female version of the despair squid from series 5’s Back to Reality that induced the crew to imagine they were philosophical inversions of themselves – the Cat, for example, was a buck-toothed nerd.
• This squid instead caused them happiness rather than despair, but whereas in Back to Reality, the disappointment that the whole series may have been a group hallucination of a computer game was tempered by brilliantly funny moments – Rimmer’s hair, Kryten’s newfound self-importance – in Back to Earth, the crew simply trotted round a shopping centre, went on bus journeys or fought off Simon Gregson’s awful acting until they aimlessly reached the office of their creator.
• The middle episode was the only episode that we really didn’t like as the crew wandered about aimlessly making stale jokes about the nature of sci-fi and its fans.