VI DVD Reviews: Mags

Sigh. I went into Smiths today, and bought three SF mags. It cost me a grand total of £11.48. Do you think I’m MADE of money? The sacrifices I make for you lot. I deliberately have to leave the DVD mags alone, or I would have no money for a spare change of pants.

So, here follows my review of these reviews. (A bit like this, but with no excuse for doing so. Like, you know, I’m actually involved with Red Dwarf, or anything.) As a few people have been confused, let me make this clear: I AM NOT SAYING THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT ENTITLED TO THIER OPINION. Absolutely not. Of course people are. That’s the point of a review. Reading reviews of Red Dwarf I find extremely pleasurable and interesting. (It’s one thing I want more of on this site – we’ve only really managed it for The End so far.) Just as I’m entitled to my opinion about their reviews. So don’t think that I’m not respecting people’s right to an opinion, just because I’m going off on one in a slightly amusing, if also rather worrying, manner. I’m just saying I think they are wrong. Just as they are entitled to say that they think I’m wrong. And, indeed, you are entitled to think I’m wrong: say so below.

Clear?

We’ll start with the good one, then. dreamwatch, Issue #127:

dreamwatch cover - issue 124Red Dwarf VI
• BBC Worldwide • Region 2 DVD, £19.99 • Web: www.reddwarf.co.uk

The Red Dwarf crew move into Starbug as they chase their missing ship through space. On the way they meet mind-sucking Psirens, a robotic entity, mutant simulants, a shapeshifter (again), a planet full of Rimmers and some familiar faces from the future…

The sixth season of Red Dwarf was the final year both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor worked together on the scripts. Coming off the back of their failed US pilot it could easily have been the point where the show ‘jumped the shark’, but it actually produced some of the pair’s greatest material.

One of the best-constructed episodes of any series is the Emmy Award-winning Gunmen of the Apocalypse, a genre-crossing tale that blends Western and film noir elements with the usual futuristic sci-fi. However, the funniest episode is one that draws on past Red Dwarf series – cleverly tying together the emotion stealing, shapechanging Polymorph (series three), with the characters of Ace Rimmer (series four) and Duane Dibley (series five). Unfortunately, the finale breaks some of the rules laid down in the first season episode Future Echoes – that the timeline can’t be changed – but it’s hard to be constrained by such early writing.

The extras on the disc are a real treat and are too many to mention here fully. Cast episode commentaries are joined by an amusing chat by fans on Gunmen of the Apocalypse. The best features are the cast and crew documentary The Starbuggers – a detailed look at the making of the sixth series – as well as the Smeg Ups comedy mistakes section. However, one real gem is a single 10-minute audio clip from Son of Cliché, a series of radio sketches that went on to form the concept for Red Dwarf.
Matt Chapman

Dreamwatch Verdict: 8
Another great series, continuing to innovate and entertain rather than slipping into cliché.

Good! It’s such a delight for people not to declare Emohawk rubbish and lazy. The point about OOT is interesting, but ultimately rather tenuous, as the reviewer tacitly admits; besides, to quote Doug Naylor: “I find it very, very funny to be quite as inconsistent as we’ve been from beginning.”

Next up, Starburst, Issue #321:

Starburst cover - issue 321Red Dwarf VI
Starring: Craig Charles, Chris Barrie
Director: Andy DeEmmony

Six years in and now tailored for mainstream audiences, Red Dwarf is a tighter, sleeker show. Gone are Holly (Hattie Hayridge) and indeed the titular mining ship itself: stolen by aliens unknown, as the crew attempt to follow in Starbug. Writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor continue to deliver interesting concepts and the humour remains predominantly laddish, but in the tradition of ‘Allo ‘Allo some jokes are starting to get repetitive and there are too many easy costume gags. Red Dwarf is by no means as anarchic as it would like to be, but the return of Ace Rimmer, Duane Dibbley and the Polymorph should keep the fans happy. 3/5

Commentary
There’s riotous banter from the four leads on every episode. Fan winners of a website competition get to talk through Gunmen of the Apocalypse; they attempt to be entertaining and fail spectacularly.

Deleted Scenes
Some 45 minutes of unused material. A large chunk from the final episode Out of Time includes more of the Dwarfers submitting themselves to suspended animation, while the unused alternate ending has them toasting their survival with recycled urine.

Behind the Scenes
The Starbuggers (74 mins) is a story-by-story account of the season, with loads of talking heads, clips and on-set footage. Discover why Rimmer was switched to hard light in Legion, and who’d like to see a Duane Dibbley spin-off.

Other Extras
Raw effects footage (14 mins), an interview with composer Howard Goodall (30 mins), music cues, and Robert Llewellyn revisits the location of Gunmen of the Apocalypse in Return to Laredo (10 mins). 4/5

Red Dwarf VI
Picture 1.33:1 Sound DD 2.0 R1 Cert NR R2 Cert 12 Year 1993 R1 Available March 16 R2 Available February 21 R1 Price $34.98 R2 Price £19.99 R1 Distributor Warner R2 Distributor BBC

Hmmm. “Tailored for mainstream audiences”? Admittedly, Psirens was written to give people a nice jumping-in point, but I don’t think the show was in any way diluted or changed to give it mass appeal – it just happened. (If anything, Series 1, with its emphasis less on SF and more on sitcomishness, it more mainstream.) And I’m not sure about the humour being “predominantly laddish”, either; yes, if you want to apply broad labels to things, it has certain elements of that in there (although I never think of the show in such terms) – but predominantly is a bit cocking strong. There’s a million and one jokes in there that are nothing of the kind. (There’s definitely an article in this…)

And, of course, we get the “easy costume gags” criticism again. It’s difficult to know what to make of it; it could either refer to characters changing costume (the future crew on OOT, for instance) – in which case: it’s funny. Or (perhaps more likely) it could refer to Cat’s lines such as “deader than A-line flares with pockets in the knees” – in which case, they’re sometimes funny and sometimes less so. The crucial point here is that the show is so gag heavy (especially Series VI) that even if there is the odd Cat gag about clothes that you don’t find funny, there’s another different joke along in a few seconds. The same could be said about the repetitive jokes (Space Corps Directives, etc) – I find them mostly very funny, but even if you don’t, the show is so packed with new jokes that it seems odd to criticise it.

I also find interesting the slightly patronising comment that “the return of Ace Rimmer, Duane Dibbley and the Polymorph should keep the fans happy” – as quite a few fans really quite dislike it. (They are WRONG, though.) You can’t lump all “fans” of a series together – everyone has different opinions.

Last, and most definitely least, we have TV Zone, Issue #186:

TV Zone cover - issue 186Red Dwarf VI
Released by BBC DVD, £19.99, Reviewed by Paul Spragg

There are signs of wear and tear in Red Dwarf by this point; while the imagination, inventiveness and comedy is certainly still present in spades (most notably in Gunmen of the Apocalypse), it’s starting to feed on past glories (the recurring Space Corps Directives jokes, Ace Rimmer, Duane Dibbley) and with the upgrading of the effects some of its charm is lost. It’s not a bad season, but the bang it ends with in Out of Time feels more like a whimper.

Extras-wise, the usual impressive selection is here. A comprehensive 74-minute overview features the cast and crew talking about Season Six and there are cast commentaries on every episode, plus a fan one on Gunmen which sadly ends up more like a trivia-spouting competition.

The deleted scenes feature a few scattered good gags and a lot of very sensibly cut material, and the Smeg Ups are very funny although probably seen before by those who bought the videos of them years back. Howard Goodall is given half an hour to discuss his work on the music for the show, but he’s a little long-winded and dull in places, there are isolated music cues, a ‘Sick’ featurette detailing crew illnesses, the usual model shots run-through, and some brief behind the scenes footage that is an interesting curiosity but nothing to write home about. A fun little addition is a clip from radio series Son of Cliché featuring Dave Hollins, Space Cadet, which demonstrates Grant and Naylor’s knack for the ridiculous and love of the genre. A mixed bag, then, much like the season itself, but certainly enough bonus material to keep anyone happy. 7/10

Right. For a start, it seems odd to say that a show is still has “imagination, inventiveness and comedy”… and then criticise it for “feeding on past glories”. It’s either still sufficiently inventive and funny enough for you, or it isn’t. And again, we have the old criticism of the Space Corps Directives jokes. Is anyone aware of what a running joke is?

I’ve always found the criticism for bring back Duane and Ace for Emohawk slightly odd. For a start, it’s incredibly clever to have three sequels in one. It’s also an extremely funny episode. And does anyone criticise Deep Space Nine for bringing back characters week after week? It’s not lazy or “feeding on past glories” at all – that only happens if there is nothing new at all in the episode, which is quite clearly not the case – in fact, most if it is new, even the Ace, Duane, and Polymorph stuff. It’s also got some of the funniest stuff in the series in it. “He left me on my wedding night…”

And, of course, we get the old “with the upgrading of the effects some of its charm is lost”. Bollocks. Red Dwarf’s effects were never about the charm of being rubbish; because in general, they weren’t rubbish. And even if they were, why would having great effects on a show reduce its charm in any way? Series VI’s effects are some of the best the series has ever had – and the show is all the better for it.

As for “the bang it ends with in Out of Time seems more like a whimper” – in what way? Justify yourself…

The criticisms of the bonus material are odd; nothing that really annoys me, but it seems to rather underrate the material. To use a phrase like “the usual model shots run-through” manages to belittle a fascinating extra. Howard Goodall isn’t boring; he’s fascinating. It’s just nice that the Smeg Ups are on there. And I love nearly all the deleted scenes; and even if you don’t, they’re still interesting. Just a strange way of looking at an excellent set of bonus material; but if you’re not fascinated, you’re not fascinated, I suppose.

I now alert you to my disclaimer at the top of this article. You may disagree with me… NOW:

31 Responses to VI DVD Reviews: Mags

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  1. John uses “SF” instead of “sci-fi” now. My life is complete.

    Now, to teach you the importance of italic tags.

  2. Stop trying to take over the world, you evil American.

  3. If you get a chance to flick through Hotdog next time you’re in a newsagent’s, it’s my former tute partner that wrote the review there. It’s a teeny tiny review, but she basically says it’s possibly the best series of all, and that the extras are great, especially Return to Laredo. She gives it four stars for the series, and four for the extras.

  4. I can totally see where the criticisms of VI come from, and a lot of them are well justified, especially after the greatness of V. For me, VI is the first series where wrong steps were made. There’s a great progression from I-V with series V definitely being the pinnacle, perfectly balancing story/gags/sci-fi. But VI seems to try too hard, especially with the gags.

    Most of the episodes seem rushed and almost slapped together, and it’s way more noticable than on previous series. And it’s much more sitcomy, which was further developed in VII and VIII and one main reason why I…dislike them (The problem with VII was that the gags weren’t up to the standard of VI). I think Gunmen is the only classic of the series, and what a fucking great episode it is.

    On the other eps story and sci-fi are sacrificed for gags and (YES) the first tentative steps onto a downhill slope with the re-utilization (my new word of the day) of Duane and Ace and the polymorph concept (I don’t reckon tying them together is ‘clever’ like the review says, more like…desperate!). This is DEFINITELY the first series that Rob and Doug ran out of ideas, which is proved with Emohawk and Out Of Time and the re-utilization of Kryten head gags and space corps directives (I love the gags but they ARE repetitive, there’s no denying it!). The minute you start playing to fans is the minute you lose creativity (Star Wars is a great example of this). Oh why do I have to shit on this series? Bring on VII…….

  5. performingmonkey – you’re totally right.

    Series VI is my 6th favourite series – just before VII and VIII. For EXACTLY the reasons you state.

  6. > And it’s much more sitcomy, which was further developed in VII and VIII and one main reason why I…dislike them

    See, I’ve always loved the sitcom element of Dwarf. It’s probably why I love VI so much – the cockpit scenes in particular are like a demented action sitcom. (Not that I don’t love the SF elements as well.)

    > (The problem with VII was that the gags weren’t up to the standard of VI).

    Agreed.

    > This is DEFINITELY the first series that Rob and Doug ran out of ideas, which is proved with Emohawk and Out Of Time

    I can understand Emohawk, but not agree with it… but Out Of Time?

    > and the re-utilization of Kryten head gags and space corps directives (I love the gags but they ARE repetitive, there’s no denying it!)

    They’re runnning jokes! It’s partly the repetitiveness that makes it funny!

    Besides, VI is so gag heavy that you’re not losing any new jokes.

    I’ve just never understood the criticism of bringing back Duane, Ace and the Polymorph. Partly because it’s *funny* (well, to me, anyway…), and partly as I said – other sitcoms bring back characters week after week after week. Surely Red Dwarf is allowed to do it occasionally as well? And even though they’ve all been brought back, the story and jokes are still new.

    The general audience hysteria *should* have been chopped out, though.

    (And I still think the three-in-one sequel is clever. If they’d brought each idea back and used it for three different episodes, I might be slightly worried. As it is, to bring them all together I think *is* clever.)

    Also, Emohawk has the best line of the entire series in: “I have got hair like yours. Just not on my head.”

    VI is probably my favourite series. It’s been hovering around the top for a while, but just owning it on DVD has made me realise how much I adore it. I suppose that must seem as odd to some people (not you two) as I think their loving of VIII is…

  7. I think I’d be able to accept bringing back Duane and Ace more if they weren’t used AGAIN in later series. I know Duane isn’t REALLY used again but the sight of the Dibley’s in VIII would have been a little more welcome if we hadn’t seen him since Back To Reality. And I much prefer the use of Ace in VII. I think the main reason I rate VI low is that Rob and Doug had been so original up to this point.

    > Also, Emohawk has the best line of the entire series in: “I have got hair like yours. Just not on my head.”

    I think VI has some of the best one-liners in all of Dwarf. But some of them are just gags for gags sake.

    > I can understand Emohawk, but not agree with it… but Out Of Time?

    OK not really Out Of Time. I meant that it was such a rushed episode because the ideas just weren’t there in time (cast reading autocue), and the use of an alternate crew again is a LITTLE bit lazy. The ending’s pretty good, but now I wish they’d used the urine-recyc ending. then we wouldn’t have had to suffer the…unspeakableness of the opening to VII.

  8. I am starting to think that the mags are starting to make judgements upon a very well thought out and creative series that beat a lot of the mainstream progs. But i think the general reviews have been good to us.

  9. I can appreciate everybody’s points – VI was never a big favourite of mine a few years ago – but as for the ending of OOT – can anyone remember the impact that had when it was first shown all those years ago? My god, it was like, ‘fuck. What now?’
    Leave it the fuck alone, I like it, and that’s what counts.

  10. VI has got to be one of my favorites. Partly because the end credits Goodall piece for Gunmen is one of my favorite things ever.

  11. Gunmen is definitely in the top 3 episodes. So much crammed into a single episode and it’s structured so magnificently well.

  12. “as for the ending of OOT – can anyone remember the impact that had when it was first shown all those years ago? My god, it was like, ‘fuck. What now?'”

    Not for me. The Red Dwarf ship was destroyed in the first few minutes of Quarantine, and starbug suffered a fatal-but-not-really explosion in Back to Reality. So the end of OOT was business as usual. In fact if it really meant death they wouldn’t have used a cliffhanger because of the implication that a new series or special was to follow – in other words it suggested at least another hour which couldn’t have happened without the crew being alive.

    Actually I remember seeing that explosion and thinking that there could not be a “getting out of this” scenario – it would always be a paradox resolving everything suddenly and everyone just popping back like the end of the Inquisitor or Time Slides, or a hallucination bubble stopping and everyone just “coming to” like the end of Back to Reality. So the excitement was in experiencing the moments before the cliffhanger, not in how I felt it would be resolved.

  13. I’m a big fan of VI. I don’t mind the Space Corps Directives at all. Not only are some of them genuinely funny jokes, but the REAL comedy is that Rimmer never learns to stop quoting them. Every time it’s just another attempt to demonstrate his superior command of mission directives the explodes in his face. So I suppose the real running gag is Rimmer making a fool of himself. And surely THAT’s not repetitive…that’s character development.

    When I list my favorite few series of Dwarf I always pick V, II and IV in that order…mainly because when you pick a favorite you look at things other than “laughs per minute.” You look at innovation…story-telling…emotional charge…various other aspects that come together to create a genuine work of art.

    VI may not be as innovative, may not have the best stories (in fairness, VII has fantastic stories, and yet is commonly rated the worst of the entire VIII) and (excepting the end of OOT) very little genuine emotional impact.

    BUT it’s still a great comedy. It’s a well-patterned half-hour six times over, full of laughs, great character gags, and moments of pure joy.

    Actually, thinking about it, the real laugh is that all of these reviews complain about repetition, but come series VII the show would see the greatest changes of all (major cast changes, presentation style, plot structuring) and people would be positively HOWLING for “more of the same” that we had in the first 6 series.

  14. “but come series VII the show would see the greatest changes of all (major cast changes, presentation style, plot structuring) and people would be positively HOWLING for “more of the same” that we had in the first 6 series.”

    I don’t think people were howling for more of the same at all. I wasn’t. I was really excited by the prospect of bringing back the RD ship and crew – I thought it had great potential, it was just handled really badly.

  15. Also, regarding series VII, I had no problem in principle with major cast changes, but I thought bringing Kochanski on board as a main crew member was a mistake. This is because it crushed one of the main story arcs prevailing throughout the series to date, not that Lister was the last human alive, but that his dream (of having Kochanski at last) was brought to life, and then nothing became of it. Suddenly the naivety of his idealised version of Kochanski was made apparent, and the disappointment for me was that the writers didn’t seem to know what this meant. They just flushed the whole trajectory of that story arc down the pan.

  16. “people would be positively HOWLING for “more of the same” that we had in the first 6 series.”

    If it was a choice between more of the same or bad changes, then I’d take more of the same. Some of the best ideas in RD have come from Doug (like making Kryten a regular character). Which really makes me wonder why VII and VIII were so lackluster.

  17. Well maybe Rob was better at believable science fiction ideas or something like that. And maybe they required each other to get the jokes good.

  18. I don’t believe any good comedy can be written single handedly.

  19. Not a Men Behaving Badly fan, either?

  20. I think Flibble’s comment is a bit broad and presumptious. My feeling is that in the case of Grant and Naylor they worked well together and series VII and VIII are below-par. We all benefit from having people to share ideas, experience and skills with, it’s healthier than always being on our own. Perhaps the Grant/Naylor relationship is like the Lennon/McCartney one. The songs they wrote solo were never as good as their work together.

  21. > If it was a choice between more of the same or bad changes, then I’d take more of the same.

    Good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    Consider my words eaten.

  22. Phil – Austin’s response wasn’t the only one you got. Why not reply to somebody else instead? Some perfectly good comments have been made on this thread.

  23. > Some perfectly good comments have been made on this thread.

    Oh, certainly. And I appreciate all that’s been said. But his comment, I thought, made the best argument against what I had said and figured I’d underscore it.

    Regardless, it is interesting to see what everybody has to say, whether or not I have anything to say in response.

  24. Phil – your words were, as always, delicious.

  25. This may not be the best place to mention this, but I’d like to claim spotting the obscurest RD-related article ever: Danny John-Jules on page 11 of the 24 Feb-2 March edition of Community Care magazine.

  26. I may have to soon steal that from you when I use the words ‘Red Dwarf’ in a feature on nanotechnology for some random obscure silicon magazine my client (who does nano-stuff) can get into.

  27. Doug had always written with Rob, then all of a sudden he wasn’t anymore. This was bound to upset things. Rob and Doug always had the other to tell them whether an idea was shit or not. While we don’t properly know why they split, their differing ideas for VII must have been part of the reason. Doug obviously wanted to move towards doing a Dwarf movie and also reach the 52 episode mark. I reckon this ambition was a major part of the lack of quality in VII and VIII. Take away two episodes from each series and they already look better. Put VII in front of a studio audience and it would also have been better…….don’t want to rant about VII and VIII, this isn’t the place.

  28. “Their differing ideas for VII must have been part of the reason. Doug obviously wanted to move towards doing a Dwarf movie and also reach the 52 episode mark”

    This isn’t exactly true. Doug strongely suggests (in his forward to the series VIII script book) that he was persuaded into doing VII and VIII by Charles Armitage after Rob left. In fact, I think writing for VII begun while Craig was still in jail.

    Other than that, I even think that VII and VIII were contractual obligations.

  29. Damned if I’d spend ?11.48 on magazines merely to be told I failed ‘spectacularly’ when my wife tells me for free…

  30. I haven’t even heard it yet (seeing as I don’t have the DVD, and all), but you cannot possibly be as bad as all that, Cpt-D.

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