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Monday, 13 April 2009

Red Dwarf: Back To Earth

Returning to our screens after a decade, Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, the three-part Red Dwarf special shown on satellite channel Dave over the Easter weekend, at first seemed to be a big mistake.

Although benefiting from the lack of an artifical laughter track, the first episode, on Good Friday, was also lacking in actual laughs - but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt as I believed it was just taking its time setting up the story for the next two episodes.

Nine years after the last episode, Lister, Kryten, Cat and Rimmer (Craig Charles, Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules and Chris Barrie, respectively) were being plagued by a strange, giant squid monster in the Red Dwarf's last remaining water tank. Then a hologram of former science officer Katerina Bartikovsky (Sophie Winkleman) popped up and showed them how the squid could be used to travel between dimensions.

And that's when things started to get interesting, surreal and slightly existential as, in the second episode, the Dwarfers were transported to an "alternate" reality - that started off very much like our own - where they discovered they were actually characters in a TV series (called Red Dwarf) that only had a limited number of episodes left to run.

Suddenly, it morphed into a very heavy parody of Blade Runner (with the Dwarfers fates echoing that of Roy Batty and co.), but as though written by Grant Morrison (check out his run on Animal Man and you'll see what I'm getting at) - with a selection of wonderful, witty moments from the Dwarfers in a science-fiction shop full of Red Dwarf merchandise to the gang turning up on Coronation Street and freaking out actor Craig Charles and finally confronting their "creator" and eventually trying to rewrite reality with his typewriter.

The Blade Runner lifts were increasingly unsubtle as the story headed into the third and final episode, and although they might have left any viewers not au fait with Blade Runner a tad bewildered (but, honestly, is there any Red Dwarf fan who isn't at least aware of Blade Runner?), they certainly pandered to my inner geek and reminded me just how good Red Dwarf could be.

Even when the final twist was revealed to be a very traditional - and quite cliched - Red Dwarf take on a strange situation, it was still handled with a style, gravitas and sly humour that we hadn't seen on the show since the days when Doug Naylor was writing with series co-creator Rob Grant.

All initial misgivings were forgotten and I'm now beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, the world might actually be ready for a new season of Red Dwarf (I just hope, if that time comes around, they can come up with some different twists beyond variations on "it was all a dream").

4 comments:

  1. I'm glad that this turned out okay - I'm a big Red Dwarf fan, remember watching the first episode when it first aired way back when, even if the show felt like it lost its way the last few years.

    Now, how to get it over here now that I've moved to the US...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found it somewhat lacking - and surrealy (sp?) weird. There seemed to be a lot of quiet moments which would have benefitted from a musical score or even a laughter track. Okay, but not wonderful.

    it was good to see all the cast back though. They don't seem to have aged a day!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I didn't end up watching the second and third episodes, so I hope they'll be run again. I'm a bit concerned about what you say about the ending though; it occurred to me that everything after the monster attack might have been an illusion (because of the inexplicable second hologram), and that they'd reused the Despair Squid.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'll try not to spoil it for you Kelvin, but the clues come in the shape of the origami animals that Cat keeps making. I believe Dave is running all three episodes back-to-back tonight (Monday).

    Nimbus - Personally, I liked the quiet, weird moments. It added a new level to Red Dwarf that, for this one story, worked. However, should the show come back, I'd hope they returned to the broader, less cerebral humour of the first five or so seasons.

    I missed Holly though!

    ReplyDelete

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