Red Dwarf – Back to Earth Review

I am a big Red Dwarf fan and having recently re-watched the entire 8 series was both eager and apprehensive about this new Dwarf three part mini series which aired on Dave over the Easter weekend.

The first part did do a lot to alleviate my fears, the core team of Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat were all back and just as quippy and pithy as usual.  The episode opens with Lister having spent hours and hours creating an elaborate plan to annoy Rimmer, which is very old school Dwarf, and then the basic storyline is that the Cat is attacked by a squid like monster which is living in the only remaining water tank.  The boys decide it must be removed and launch a diving bell down into the tank – with Rimmer staying back to watch the sonar.  The diving bell is attacked by the squid and Rimmer eventually rescues them and the ink soaked boys emerge from the bell.  Kryten then tells them the monster has disappeared maybe through some sort of dimension jump and a new hologram appears.

The new hologram, Katerina Bartikovsky, tells Rimmer that he hasn’t been doing his job properly and should’ve been helping Lister get home, and that he has 24 hours to put his affairs in order and then will be erased.   She explains that as they have a tentacle from a dimension jumping squid they should be able to manufacture a dimension jump themselves from its DNA.  Which she then proceeds to do, and the episode ends with her shooting out a huge swirly whirly porthole from a ray gun.

I was really pleased with this first part, it feels very old school, the gags are great, it is a little laboured in parts but I didn’t hate it.  The biggest thing that bugged me was the lack of a laughter track, it makes the atmosphere somewhat lacking, and I really found I missed it.

Part two, begins with the new dimension machine saying that the Dwarf universe is invalid and it will take them to the nearest reality.  The action then swings between a television shop with the crew visible on the TV screens and the ship.  Rimmer is sent through the porthole first followed by the rest of the team and they emerge through the TV sets into the shop. They walk through the mall and into a DVD shop and seeing Red Dwarf DVD’s Lister realises that they are in fact not real but fictional characters.  He breaks open the Back To Earth DVD and reads the blurb on the back and discovers they all die in the last episode.  They decide to go looking for their creators – in a Bladerunner style and beg for more life.  First they go to a sci fi shop and find an address for a props maker, they make their way to see him on the bus and two children recognise Lister, they tell him he is cool if disgusting and they don’t believe Kochanski is dead, they think Kryten made that up because he was trying to save his feelings at being dumped. They arrive at the prop maker’s and he gives them an address and the keys to the head of the Red Dwarf Fan club’s car, and they drive to Coronation Street.

This part is far less enjoyable then the first, it isn’t as funny, overall it’s lacking the Dwarfesque affection and humour, though that is here in parts – it’s not enough.  The incidental music is loud and annoying; it’s very much an episode setting up the next episode. The Cat is seen several times leaving small origami type creations as they go along which may become important later.  A couple of good points – Car bug, a modified green Smart car is awesome in it’s crapness, a Star Trek joke in the Sci Fi shop and finally; after Katerina catches up to them, Rimmer questions her on the morality of killing an hologram, she tells him it’s fine and he pushes her in front of a bus.  Fabulous.  The Bladerunner references and homage’s start in earnest this episode with Swallow, the nose maker.  This part watched on its own is rather terrible, but when I re-watched the mini series in one go, it seemed a lot better and not as noticeably bad.

Part Three opens with the crew arriving on Coronation Street and Kryten questioning a post box thinking it’s a droid.  They go into the Kaban to ask for Craig Charles and are told he is in the Rovers.  They talk to Craig who gives them the address of their creator.  There is another Bladerunner homage with a video advert of an Asian girl on the side of a building as the crew travel to the creator’s mansion.  The creator inside the house is loading bullets with the crew’s names into his gun, little robot Rimmer’s bring the crew in.  The creator tells them that he is weary of them and their deaths will be beautiful, we then see the guys running down steps and down a Chinatown street before they are gunned down, falling through glass to the ground.   The action then cuts back to the Creator describing the boy’s deaths, Lister and the Cat steal the gun and Rimmer demands he writes them a happy ending.  The creator types that the gun flies back to him and it does so, then Lister kills him.  Kryten reads the shooting script and realises they have been set up and so Lister burns the script and takes over typewriting duties.  Cat makes another origami figure and mentions that he has been making lots of them, Kryten spots something inside and tells him to blow into it, when he does the shape becomes a squid. They hear footsteps and Cat says it’s Kochanski.

They realise that none of this is real and that the squid must be similar to the despair squid they encountered (in the episode Back to Reality). Lister realises he could stay in the hallucination and be happy with Kochanski; Kryten reveals that she isn’t actually dead and he had in fact lied.  Lister says that this Kochanski loves him and he wants to stay.  The others disappear and wake up on the floor by the diving bell back on Red Dwarf, Kryten points out that they must have developed some immunity from the despair squid.  Kochanski appears to Lister dressed as Rachel from Bladerunner and in a moving scene she asks if he ever dreamed of her and he nods and eyes full of tears tells her he never wanted to wake up.  They are then shown in a car driving down the lane when he suddenly pulls over and says he has to go back and find the real Kochanski and walks away, waking on Red Dwarf.   Kryten tells the guys the squid was a female and therefore gave joy instead of despair, and Lister decides they shall drop her off on an ocean planet.  Kryten says the world they left will continue to exist with people believing they were real and the crew fictional.

And that’s it.  This episode was cracking, beautiful in parts – especially the Chinatown/death scene, it looks gorgeous. Slapstick humour abounded and the episode was very cleverly managed with all of the nods to Bladerunner.  Lister’s tearful moment with Kochanski/Rachel was really moving and I have to say I almost wanted him to stay with her and find some happiness.  The ending was very melancholy, I would have liked some closure, as it isn’t clear if we will ever return to the Dwarf, some sort of ending would have been nice. Oh and that post box joke is such a dud, I was embarrassed.  The boys manc accents in the Kaban had me creased laughing, yes they did chuck/pet/love/sir.

Overall, a good solid run, could have been better, might have been far worse.  It its much better viewed all in one go then as three separate episodes and I really liked the Bladerunner theme.  In the end I still really missed the laughter track and found the incidental music invasive and annoying.  The humour and affection is still there and Craig Charles acting ability has increased dramatically since he was last Dwarfbound.  He really was emotional and tender as well as disgusting and funny.And I *still* fancy Chris Barrie, hubba hubba Smeghead!

GS Reviewer: Stacey

One comment

  1. kerran /

    nice review but u failed to mention the funniest bit in the whole of the 3 episodes. when they leave craig charles in the pub and lister says “im glad im not him the mans a wreck. Pretending to be someone else all day thats know way to make a living. smeg head.” That and the bit with the manc accents in the shop were the only bits that made me laugh. I think u only liked it cus ur a big fan and u feel u need to like it just cus its red dwarf.
    speaking as someone who is not a religious fan and has never seen bladerunner, it was somewhat sub par. and kochanski is still well fit

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