The crew of Starbug find that Kryten's nanobots have
not only recreated the long-lost mining ship Red Dwarf
but have also resurrected its original crew, including
that smeg-head Rimmer. Unfortunately, none of the resurrected
crew believes their explanation for piloting a Starbug
craft without authorisation, so it looks as though Lister
and his buddies will have to face two years in the holding
area known as the Tank...
is divided over the merits of Red Dwarf's eighth and
(to date) final series. The recreation of the mining vessel's
entire crew - including Captain Hollister (Mac
McDonald), Chen (Paul Bradley) and Selby (David
Gillespie), but not Petersen, presumably because Mark Williams
was busy working on The Fast Show - was not to everybody's
taste. However, I believe that this series is an improvement
7 and that the production team got a number
of important things right.
Most crucially, the studio audience is back. As the actors
themselves acknowledge in the commentaries and documentaries
on both this DVD and the previous one, having live laughter
to react to can make a big difference to the performance in
terms of gauging which jokes work the best and, on a more
basic level, knowing how long a gap should be left in the
dialogue in order to "milk" the comic potential. Such factors
contribute to Rimmer's (Chris Barrie) hilarious elongated
salutes throughout this series.
brings us to the second important development: the return
of Rimmer. Doug Naylor doesn't simply write Rimmer back into
the series. That in itself might not have worked, because
(as I indicated in my review of Series 7) Rimmer had
grown beyond the cowardly, self-centred smeg-head that he
once was. By resurrecting the pre-hologram version of Rimmer,
Naylor ingeniously resets the character to his old self, uttering
lines that could have been written for Series
1 or 2.
These gems include: "You really think you can buy me with
promises of power and glory? You really think... okay,
I'll do it," and: "Like German tourists, the stupid are everywhere,"
both from Back in the Red - Part 1.
resurrection of the old Rimmer allows the return of a third
ingredient: bunk scenes with Rimmer and Lister (Craig Charles),
the likes of which we hadn't seen in several years. Long talky
bits like these make this show more of a sitcom than the comedy-drama
approach of the previous series.
the programme doesn't entirely return to its original format.
It's more like a hybrid of the sitcom-style early shows and
the action-based later ones. The look of the series and its
effects are still distinctly glossy, particularly during the
crash-landing sequence and the Cat's (Danny John-Jules) Blue
Midget dance in the three-part Back in the Red, and
the dinosaur scenes of the two-part Pete.
It's also nice to see the skutters again. (I would add that
Norman Lovett makes intermittent but very funny appearances
as Holly, but he was written in at the end of Series 7,
so his presence isn't really an innovation of Series 8.)
favourite episodes for good all-round laughs are Cassandra
and Krytie TV, followed by Back in the Red for
its truly surprising plot developments. Back in 1999, when
these episodes first aired, I assumed that the resurrection
of the crew was a temporary measure for the sole purpose of
bringing back Rimmer. The closing scenes of Part 3
lure the viewer into just such an assumption. If nothing else,
Back in the Red (which can be viewed as separate episodes
or as a feature-length "Xtended" version) proves that Red
Dwarf could work as a movie.
two-episode Pete (which can also be viewed in one-hour
format) is less successful. Lacking in structure, it plays
like a series of incidents rather than a cohesive plot. This
is partly the result of the story having started out as a
single episode, which over-ran and then had new scenes added
to it (including routines that were originally recorded for
Cassandra) to bulk it out to a two-parter. In fact,
the eponymous Pete has relatively little to do with the first
episode, so perhaps this story shouldn't have been called
Pete at all. A more coherent linking theme is Captain
Hollister's increasing exasperation at Rimmer and Lister's
antics, which gradually drive him, like Inspector Dreyfuss
in the Pink Panther movies, round the bend. Therefore,
a more suitable title for this two-parter might have been
final episode, Only the Good... is let down by last-minute
cuts and rewrites. We spend insufficient time in the mirror
universe that Rimmer explores, while the ending (which is
actually the production team's third attempt to conclude the
episode) owes too much to the climax of the Series
6 episode Out of Time (with Rimmer running
down the collapsing corridors of a devastated ship) and takes
a surreal turn that would have seemed less out of place in
an episode of The Brittas Empire.
original ending to this episode, together with other scenes
that would have lent greater clarity to the narrative, are
included among more than an hour's worth of deleted and alternative
scenes. These also include a wealth of funny stuff, sadly
cut for time, from other episodes, most notably Cassandra.
features include smeg-ups, raw effects footage, storyboards,
galleries (which are painfully slow to navigate), a four-minute
Children in Need sketch featuring a bizarre crew complement
that includes Kochanski (ChloŽ Annett) and a holographic Rimmer,
and the Red Dwarf episode of the always wonderful Comedy
Connections. The customary Dave Hollins sketch is a classic
- it's the one that saw the first use of writers Rob Grant
and Doug Naylor's NorWEB Federation idea, which would later
be recycled as an April Fool's joke played on Lister by Holly
in Series 1's Me2.
audio commentaries are an improvement on those for Series
7, which made for rather disconcerting listening. However,
with so many people (Charles, Barrie, John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn,
Annett, Lovett and McDonald) all chipping in with their thoughts,
few of them get a chance to develop their observations before
they are interrupted by one of the other speakers.
usual, the best feature of all is the making-of documentary,
in this instance the 88-minute The Tank. It is from
this enlightening production that I gleaned my information
about Pete starting out as a single episode and the
alternate endings of Only the Good... It is also revealed
that Back in the Red was originally intended to be
a one-hour special. The documentary ends with Naylor considering
the future of Red Dwarf and the possibility that, if
the movie doesn't emerge from production hell pretty sharpish,
the show might return to TV, either as a number of specials
or as a full series.
I reckon it should. After all, abandoning the prospect of
a movie did Doctor Who no harm at all. I also believe
that what the programme really needs is a longer episode format,
similar to that of later series of Only Fools and Horses.
More recent episodes of Red Dwarf have often been too
packed with ideas to be done full justice in a mere 30 minutes,
and Series 8 is no exception. Imagine a 45-minute Cassandra,
with all its deleted scenes reinstated. Picture a leaner,
more focused 45-minute version of Pete. Envisage a
longer and more comprehensible Only the Good..., with
more time spent in the mirror universe.
8 is not Red Dwarf at its best, but it does show
that there's life in the old Dwarf yet.