Red Dwarf Series I (1987) (6 episodes)
I'd seen most of the Red Dwarf episodes before, but I wasn't sure exactly which ones I'd missed so a few weeks ago I got it into my head to watch them all in order. In case you don't know, it's a low-budget britcom about the last human alive on a space ship three million years in the future. In the first season, there's three other main characters: Cat, a descendant of Lister's cat; Rimmer, a hologram of his dead bunk mate; and Holly, the ship's senile computer. The humor in these early episodes relies for the most part on the "odd couple" dynamic between Rimmer and Lister. It's kind of fun. The theme song is great. Craig Ferguson guest stars in one episode. I don't know what else to say.
Red Dwarf Series II (1988) (6 episodes)
Similar to the first series. Here's an interesting thing: In the episode "Kryten", the "Mc" has been removed from Rimmer's line "they've got less meat on them than a Chicken McNugget". "Better Than Life" spoofs the mermaid problem. The series finale has an excellent cliffhangerish ending. My favorite: "Thanks for the Memory" about love and loss and fake memories.
Red Dwarf Series III (1989) (6 episodes)
The third series changes the status quo. There's a new cast member (Kryten returns, played by a new actor), Holly's had a sex change, everyone has new clothes and there's more and better fx. Still, my favorite of the season, "Marooned", is all about character and dialogue. Another episode, "Timeslides" has a bit part by Ruby Wax and one of Rimmer's all-time best lines: "It's my duty. My duty as a complete and utter bastard."
Red Dwarf Series IV (1991) (6 episodes)
Red Dwarf always played fast and loose with continuity (and Rimmer's status as a hologram is rarely treated in a consistent way), but here's where it started getting obvious. Now Lister is from the 23rd century - it was the 21st in the first couple of series - and he used to date Kochanski, whereas previously it was established that he spoke a total of 173 words (or something) to her. But I guess it doesn't matter. All in all, this is not a very good season, with one major exception. "Dimension Jump", which introduces Ace Rimmer, is one of the all-time great episodes, and even a little poignant. "Meltdown", another Rimmer-centric ep, is a bit fun too.
Red Dwarf Series V (1992) (6 episodes)
Om average, better than IV. Continues exploiting Rimmer's inner demons in "Holoship" and "Terrorform". "Quarantine" is fun. Standout episode: "Back to Reality". I've always been a sucker for "it was all a lie and nothing is real" twists (at least when it's handled with more finesse than in say, the Matrix movies). That one guest stars Lenny Von Dohlen who was in Twin Peaks, including Fire Walk With Me (which I have yet to review, even though I saw it awhile ago).
Red Dwarf Series VI (1993) (6 episodes)
Once again, the basic setup of the show is changed. The ship has been stolen, thus no Holly, and in the episode "Legion" Rimmer's light projector is converted to "hard light drive" through a deus ex machina. There's a surprising amount of running jokes (mostly Rimmer misquoting Space Corps Directives, since he was given the book by Kryten in "Quarantine"). The Cat has always been boring, but this season I started to wish he'd die or quit or something. Even the guest appearances (in "Emohawk") of Ace Rimmer (everybody's favorite character) from "Dimension Jump" and Duane Dibbley from "Back to Reality", seems a bit cheap. But there's one excellent episode: "Rimmerworld". Chinese worry balls! The series finale has the show's first genuine cliffhanger ending: an explosion and the words "To Be Continued".
Red Dwarf Series VII (1997) (8 episodes)
Four years later, the show returns, minus a studio audience and writer/producer Rob Grant (half of the Grant Naylor team) but with original director Ed Bye back. It's noticably less witty, the humor more forced. A prologue, explaining what happened after the explosion, is both unsatisfying and predictable, and what's worse, unfunny. "Tikka to Ride" is mostly horrible. How did they travel in space (to Dallas) with the time drive? It was firmly established in the last episode that they couldn't. And if they now have that capability, why don't they use it to return home to Earth? Ep 2, "Stoke Me a Clipper" has a lot of Ace Rimmer so it can't be all bad. But it continues the season 7 tradition of really huge plot holes: why were all those dead Rimmers in "our" dimension? Ep 3 retcons Lister's birth to the 22th century (rather than the 21st or 23rd) and replaces the departed Rimmer with a parallel dimension version of Kochanski, played by another actress than before. She's an inadequate substitute for Rimmer, and the episode has an idiotic "twist" towards the end. Ep 4 has lots of talking and very little humor (it suffers in comparison with season 3's "Marooned"). Lister's dream in ep 5 is great, as is the Rimmer song, but it's not enough. If there weren't so few episodes left, I'd have stopped watching here.
Red Dwarf Series VIII (1999) (8 episodes)
Again, there is a massive upset of the status quo. A huge deus ex machina in the form of nanobots has resurrected the ship and the entire crew, including pre-hologram Rimmer. I was skeptical at first - the premise is basically "fun in prison" - but for some reason it makes me laugh more than the other series. It's just so willfully stupid and clever and derivative and unique at the same time. And the cliffhanger ending, showing (finally!) Rimmer's encounter with the Grip Reaper, is satisfying. I think a lot of people would say that this is where Red Dwarf firmly jumped the shark, but I'd argue that actually happened six series before, so I don't care. If there's ever a ninth series, I'll watch it.
Oh, by the way, here's the Michael Keaton rating:
(Yes, I watched 52 episodes of something I only consider okay. What's it to you?
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Red Dwarf Series I (1987) (6 episodes)