The crew of Starbug bid a surprisingly fond farewell
to that smeghead Rimmer and welcome aboard an alternate version
of Lister's ex-girlfriend, Kristine Kochanski (complete with
in-and-out bits). However, as the crew encounter spatial rifts,
vengeful GELFs and Simulants, Kryten's "brother" mechanoid,
an intelligent virus and naughty nanobots, Kris proves to
be almost as neurotic as Rimmer was...
series is widely regarded as Red Dwarf's weakest. I
won't argue with that. There's also a commonly held view that
the main reason why this series is the weakest is the lack
of Chris Barrie's Rimmer, who departs in the second episode,
Stoke Me a Clipper. Here, however, I must disagree.
best episode of the eight in this series is the Rimmer-less
Duct Soup. As well as being a character study on a
par with Series
3's Marooned, it boasts loads of great
lines. There's Kryten's (Robert Llewellyn): "It's because,
ma'am, he can't wait to get the wrapper off and taste the
salty goodness," Lister (Craig Charles) with: "I'm too mature
for this, I'm just gonna sit here and read me comic," and
Cat (Danny John-Jules), trying - and failing - to take Lister's
mind off his claustrophobia: "Boy, is it cramped! Whoo-ee!"
Admittedly, ChloŽ Annett as Kochanski tends to have memorable
one-liners spoken about her (such as Kryten's, "Oh my goodness,
it's Princess Leia!") rather than delivering them herself,
but even she has good character moments, bashing a noisy water
pipe and discussing gay friends with Lister.
second favourite instalment is Ouroboros, the one that
introduces Annett. Though admittedly it also features Barrie,
he is only in a brief flashback. And this flashback demonstrates
why it was actually a good time for Rimmer to move on. As
a character, he had long since grown beyond the cowardly gimboid
he once was. In episodes such as Series
5's Holoship and Series
6's Out of Time he proved to be selfless
and brave, so by the time Stoke Me a Clipper comes
along, he isn't really the inveterate coward he is claimed
to be. The Rimmer we see in the flashback reminds us how much
he has changed: in terms of dialogue, this could have been
a deleted scene from Series
1 or 2.
Evidently writer/executive producer Doug Naylor realised that
the trick was to press the reset button, and when the character
returned in Series 8 it was as a re-creation of his
pre-Series 1 self. Ouroboros also contains a
great central concept and impressive model and CGI effects
(which are much better than some of the dire CG seen elsewhere),
though it is let down by the fact that Annett is clearly still
finding her feet.
general problem with Series 7 is that the emphasis
of the show, which started out as a sci-fi sitcom, veers away
from sitcom towards straight science fiction. In particular,
Tikka to Ride and Stoke Me a Clipper both start
well, respectively offering laughs involving Lister's need
for curry and the return of Ace Rimmer (Chris Barrie), but
then after that they seem to forget to be comedies. Tikka
to Ride morphs into a surprisingly serious time paradox/"what
if JFK had survived" scenario that wouldn't have seemed out
of place in an episode of The Twilight Zone or The
Outer Limits, while Stoke Me a Clipper embarks
upon a Jedi-style training mission. The final plot twist of
Tikka to Ride is a largely pointless contrivance that
doesn't even fit within the laws of time travel established
earlier on in the episode: since the future Starbug
crew were unable to kill their past selves, how come the future
Kennedy (Michael J Shannon) can kill his past self?
the documentary Back From the Dead, which is included
on Disc 3, Craig Charles claims that the aim had been to make
the series more of a comedy drama than a sitcom. However,
if that's the case, then maybe the production team should
have reverted to the show's moody original theme tune, rather
than a title sequence that promises the type of knockabout
fun that fans had come to expect. Series 8 would see
a return to the sitcom format, complete with studio audiences
(which are absent here).
Blue and Beyond a Joke each boast a couple of
classic, attention-grabbing moments. In Blue, they
are that kiss and the unforgettable Munchkin Song at
the end; in Beyond a Joke, they are a couple of explosions.
Unfortunately, in the case of Beyond a Joke, these
moments are pretty much all that the episode has going for
it. The episode also features Don Henderson in a special guest
role as a whispering Simulant, but sadly it's impossible to
tell what he is saying most of the time.
The series concludes with Epideme and Nanarchy,
which, though neither are great, contain elements that should
prove pleasing to fans who have been with the show since the
beginning. Following a gory, zombie-themed beginning (in which
Lister has to snog a hideous monster - again), there's a distinct
Series 1 flavour to Epideme. It is particularly
reminiscent of Confidence and Paranoia, since it deals
with a talking disease. Nanarchy marks a return that
so thrilled me when I first saw it that I won't even say who
or what returns, just in case you don't already know! By this
point in the series' production, Annett had evidently settled
into role (as she had in Duct Soup, which was recorded
last) and delivers some funny lines, including, in Nanarchy:
"Not here, it's too sandy."
As well as the regular half-hour episodes, this three-disc
set also contains the "Xtended" versions of Tikka to Ride,
Ouroboros and Duct Soup. You can also view either
edition of Tikka to Ride with remastered CGI effects.
It's a pity there isn't also a remastered version of Stoke
Me a Clipper, because the light bee sequence at the end
is certainly in need of improvement, particularly when the
light bees are seen, totally out of scale, through Starbug's
In addition, there are more than four hours of special features,
including a couple of competition-winning fan films, raw effects
footage, smeg-ups and over 40 minutes of deleted scenes (not
counting the stuff in the Xtended episodes). The effects footage
and deleted scenes reveal that a crucial difference between
Kochanski's version of the crew and "our" universe's would
have been that her team never lost their version of Red
Dwarf. However it's something of a relief, from a continuity
point-of-view, that this element never made it into the finished
episodes, because it would have been hard to explain why Kochanski
and her version of Cat were still alive, given that the Starbug
crew spent 200 years in deep sleep between Series 5
and 6 owing to their loss of Red Dwarf.
best features of all are the 90-minute documentary Back
From the Dead and a reading of the "lost" episode Identity
Within. Back From the Dead makes riveting viewing,
as the cast and crew discuss the difficult circumstances under
which the seventh series was made. What with the bust-up between
Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and the problems that arose when
model work was completed before principal shooting was scheduled
to finish (which meant that the effects requirements of certain
episodes deviated from the model shots that had actually been
produced), it's amazing that this series made it to the screen
at all. There's also a particularly amusing anecdote from
producer/director Ed Bye, who recalls being confronted by
a fan at a convention - well, it's amusing unless, I suppose,
you happen to be the fan in question!
original script of Identity Within, which was written
but never produced, is performed by Chris Barrie and illustrated
with storyboards by movie artist Neil Maguire. With Barrie's
convincing impersonations of the rest of the cast, this is
as close as you can get to watching a proper episode.
with previous releases, there are audio-only features of isolated
music cues, including material that was recorded but never
used in the finished programmes, and a couple of (not especially
funny) Dave Hollins - Space Cadet sketches from the
Son of Clichť radio show.
Annett joins the cast commentaries for the episodes in which
she stars, though curiously Chris Barrie sticks around during
instalments in which he does not appear. This seems strange,
especially since the actor has little to say about the Rimmer-less
shows. The rest of the male cast continually goad him into
making derogatory remarks about these episodes, which makes
for rather uncomfortable listening.
the wealth of special features, I have a few issues regarding
the way some of them are presented. For instance, if you select
"Play All" on Discs 1 and 2, there's a good chance you'll
fail to notice presence of the Xtended episodes. The Trailers
listing in fact contains only one trailer, plus Robert Llewellyn's
original links for this season's smeg-ups. Wouldn't it have
been more sensible to list these links under the Smeg-Ups
menu, with a choice to "Play All With Intros" or similar?
Finally, you'd expect an extra entitled Music Featurette
to be a featurette about the series' music, wouldn't you?
No such luck: it's a montage of clips set to music.
not without its funny moments, Series VII on DVD is,
more than any other Red Dwarf release, a case of "nice
extras, shame about the episodes".