DwarfCast 85 – Series XI Semi Retrospective Byte One

Yes, DwarfCasts are finally back, following a four month wait between the end of Series XI and a day on which almost all of us could be in the same room. Has this additional thinking time enabled us to process our thoughts on the series enough to provide a coherent and insightful analysis as to where it went right and where it went wrong, or will it be the usual mix of ranting, swearing and giggling? Join Jonathan Capps, John Hoare, Tanya Jones, Danny Stephenson (down the line from our Yorkshire branch) and Ian Symes to find out.

This first part of our look back on Red Dwarf‘s eleventh series covers, predictably, Twentica, Samsara and Give & Take, reassessing these episodes with the benefit of hindsight, repeated viewings, and in the case of John Hoare, not watching on an iPhone from a hospital bed. Topics include how to end an episode, whether or not there’s such a thing as a computer scientist, a proposed spin-off for two peripheral characters, the stupidity of introducing Lister as “Listerano”, the mystery of Ronald Littlewood and how to tell the difference between the acts of fellatio and cunnilingus as depicted by skeletons.

DwarfCast 85 – Series XI Semi Retrospective Byte One (58.6MB)

DwarfCasts will return with Series XI Semi Retrospective Byte Two soon.

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45 Responses to DwarfCast 85 – Series XI Semi Retrospective Byte One

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  1. Hooray! This is mah favourite podcast. I will enjoy now with a sub sandwich and enjoy again later with the drink. Thank U G & T.

  2. In absolute agreement with the Listerano thing. Cannot work out why Doug wrote it.

  3. You completely miss the point on the no name, name, Lister-arano is an Italian gangster name hybrid and the whole prohibition period the episode is riffing in is Mafia related etc.

    The cat doesnt know about the scientist name (see samsara!) he’s just trying to make them sound like mafia you should let in like the movies he has seen.

  4. The problem with the waste disposal is that looks like the photocopier.

    John is spot on with the computer scientist dialogue. “I am a remind the audience”

    John what didnt click with me the first time with Samsara is the speed of the mystery revealed and it’s depth,
    I second guessed myself beyond what the episode is giving me and it felt there was a missing level of complexity in the last ten minutes, cus i knew what they were saying at the end, The pacing is for a slower viewer who needs to be told both a) the karma drive does this and b) oh look this is why it’s doing it’s job backwards.

    On second or third watch etc, mystery of the plot is already known, so it’s more about the jokes and the ideas and hanging with the characters, etc and so the beauty of it as a directed episode etc and it’s best merits come across much better.

  5. My Ronald Littlewood theory – it’s there to establish Snacky has a good memory, as later he has remembered everything about the Stasis Engineer and what he has ever said about stasis experiments. So his ability to cross reference Rimmer against a colleague of millions years ago, shows his photographic memory abilities.

    Also he totally dies at the bottom of the lift shaft at the end of the episode (unseen) his character arch is, a) im a dumb machine b) im a brilliant stasis engineer c) i am a god who can fit nukes in lifts to make them go at light speed (whoops i didnt leave the shaft early enough) Everyone loves Snacky but by episode end he’s out of control ego.

  6. Slightly OT- UKTV Play now bleeps ‘Bollocks’ in Give and Take. I remember it not being bleeped when I first streamed- anyone else getting this?

  7. I imagine the version being streamed now is the pre watershed version as that was the last airing maybe.

  8. Also he totally dies at the bottom of the lift shaft at the end of the episode (unseen)

    Sorry, but the whole Snacky dies at the bottom of the lift shaft thing is bollocks. I just re-watched the end of Give & Take and the lift clearly states that he has been waiting for Rimmer to test the reactor, meaning that Snacky had not just installed it and would have no reason to be in the lift shaft at that time.

    I have also never understood the need some people have for killing him in the first place. The ship is massive and could easily support another rogue AI wandering its halls. Just because Series X insisted on callously killing off almost every one of its guest characters does not mean that XI has to too.

  9. I think the Formica! scene really damages an otherwise pretty strong episode. I think there are a tonne of great moments scattered throughout Samsara:

    Establishing model shops with eerie score.
    The Lister/Rimmer stuff on ship. Chris in particular gives a strong performance
    BING BONG.
    Kryten on “dust”.
    The flashback stuff worked for me, though it’s not perfect. The transitions are really nicely done.
    The Twister scene. Good visual gag and Danny’s delivery really enhances the jokes. It’s nice when Danny doesn’t rely 100% on the loud, whiney Cat delivery.
    Lister and Cat chatting about taking from the Orphan fund. It’s a great little interaction.
    Cat eyes vs monkey arms.
    I like the glowstick lighting. It makes for an interesting visual.
    The discussion around morality and the morality of the karma drive.
    The tangerine line.

  10. The cat/lister history lesson in samsara is funny up to the point it outstays its welcome which for me was when lister took the pain killers because at that point we could and should have moved on to something different but instead lister goes back to questioning the cat about it.

    i ain’t a huge fan of snacky, i don’t have an issue with him per say but the idea of him just seems to be the misunderstanding of the crew thinking he is something he isn’t and in typical doug fashion i feel like the repeated “i’m a snack Dispenser” joke goes on too long.

  11. You completely miss the point on the no name, name, Lister-arano is an Italian gangster name hybrid and the whole prohibition period the episode is riffing in is Mafia related etc.
    The cat doesnt know about the scientist name (see samsara!) he’s just trying to make them sound like mafia you should let in like the movies he has seen.

    Yeah, sorry Danny, I’m going to have to “that’s the joke” you on this one. You say that if Lister just used his own name, they’d have got in more easily – that is literally the point of the gag. The gag is that they come up with a fake name to try and fit in and sound more gangsterish, and it passes no muster. Then it turns out that if they’d just said Lister’s real name, the name he shares with a scientist (which they don’t know at that point), he would have been let in easily.

  12. I think it’s fair though to say that there are a few ideas (Einstein, the gangster names, Ronald Littlewood, the kidneys) in XI that are good but aren’t executed in a clean enough way so they don’t ‘read’ like they should. The Inquisitor, Back In The Red, Entangled and Only The Good all have similar moments where, for various reasons, a good ‘big idea’ trips over its own arse and is rendered in an unclear manner on screen, leaving the viewer to do more work than narrative shorthand should require. It’s a problem unique to very ambitious storytelling, and noble failure is impossible to resent, but it has been quite common in XI.

  13. The cat/lister history lesson in samsara is funny up to the point it outstays its welcome which for me was when lister took the pain killers because at that point we could and should have moved on to something different but instead lister goes back to questioning the cat about it.

    Yeah, I have to agree with this. Granted I seem to like Samsara more than most, but having just watched it again the only changes I would really make would be cutting the Cat/Lister scene at the point Lister takes the pain killers as well as cutting Rimmer’s slavery line as it is redundant. The freed up time could then be used to include a more developed ending.

  14. Also he totally dies at the bottom of the lift shaft at the end of the episode (unseen)

    Sorry, but the whole Snacky dies at the bottom of the lift shaft thing is bollocks. I just re-watched the end of Give & Take and the lift clearly states that he has been waiting for Rimmer to test the reactor, meaning that Snacky had not just installed it and would have no reason to be in the lift shaft at that time.

    I have also never understood the need some people have for killing him in the first place. The ship is massive and could easily support another rogue AI wandering its halls. Just because Series X insisted on callously killing off almost every one of its guest characters does not mean that XI has to too.

    Granted. It’s Head cannon not cannon. You have a point.

    But hey a lift is like a cannon. And it’s nuclear! With Rimmer in it.

    Nuclear part of red dwarf + Rimmer + light speed = Snacky go bang bang stasis warp splat.

    Where ever the F deck he is on the ship he rushes to fix it. Blown out a hole, along with whoever you’ve got hiding out with him in your version of big ship hide and seek games, Hoguey, Kochanski, Kill crazy, Kamelion

  15. I suspect that there might have been an intention to do a ’20s jazz/swing remix of the end credits theme for Twentica, but because it ended up the first episode in the series it would’ve been preferable to establish the norm before they could mess with it.

    This is based on zero real evidence.

    On that note, I really really hope XII remixes the end credits for at least one episode. But then in the modern TV environment I’m not sure if messing with the credits is even an option any more. I’ve been primarily watching TV through physical media and later streaming since 2004, and I’ve kind of forgotten how fucking awful it is to watch broadcast TV with syndication cuts, ads and talking over the credits and (nowadays) fullscreen shows being cropped and/or stretched into 16:9. Because people will straight-up shit themselves if they have to watch a picture that isn’t exactly the same shape as their screen, but they don’t even notice if it’s stretched so horribly circles turn into footballs.

  16. This is based on zero real evidence..

    **Tuts** …and your avatar is Scully! Surely you are a mulder. ;-)

  17. Give and Take, Snacky’s Name dropping.

    I had the pleasure of SERVING one of your crewmates, Flight coordinator Ronald Littlewood.

    Ah thinks Rimmer he’s worked with an officer he must be an important droid,
    Perhaps he fixed old Ronald’s wonky eye.
    Ah thinks kryten he’s served a JMC officer here in the Asclepius suite
    Best guest he must be Asclepius.

    Oh shit asteroids. They all notice the shudder.

    Snacky thinks. Oh i haven’t time now to tell them i SERVED Ronald up a packet
    of warmed through coated spicy peanuts.

  18. **Tuts** …and your avatar is Scully! Surely you are a mulder. ;-)

    Well, I am currently wearing nothing but a red speedo.

  19. This was a very welcome listen. :) I agree that the entirety of XI makes for somewhat…varied and difficult discussion, and it’s hard to work out why! Sadly, the sheer inanity of certain scenes in Samsara (and then later in Can of Worms) is really tipping the XI scales, for me, toward the ‘poor’ side…

    Twentica and Give & Take are pretty enjoyable (even if I wish the science room bed scenes were trimmed ever so slighty for pacing…), but I honestly am preferring X right now, if we’re talking the series as a whole. The Beginning may have an advantage, cause it was partly scripted years beforehand…but there’s nothing in XI that comes close to that episode, or the best parts of Fathers & Suns, Lemons and Trojan. Maybe a bold statement… but this is how I feel after a X, XI back-to-back rewatch.

  20. i don’t get why you like rimmer’s moral relativism speech. rimmer doesn’t believe in moral relativism at all. he believes in slavery – look at his relationship with kryten. he believes in eletism and ‘good breeding’ – he is a classic right wing smeghead. this is really a streetwise hippy lister speech.

    also thanks for explaining the listerano joke by not getting it! i missed this joke but your criticism of it – the idea of taking some needlessly circuitous route when you can just go striaght to it – sounds exactly like the formula to a really funny joke. it’s the formula for ‘or at a pinch we could use the teleporter’ for example.

    the interesting thing is why some jokes just pop and other’s don’t.

  21. Rimmer’s not ALWAYS a stuck-up twat, you’ll notice. It seems possible a lot of it’s an act to make the lecturer hate him slightly less.

  22. Just because Rimmer has certain beliefs doesn’t mean he isn’t inherently aware of how ethics work on a larger scale.

  23. maybe if he’s just being right-wing as an act to appease his father, he doesn’t always have to do that post-the beginning… maybe i just miss the old, harsh rimmer but they can still do officer rimmer so that’s ok…

    if it’s an act, then the old saying applies: be careful what you pretend to be, because you are what you pretend to be…

    generally speaking there is a connection between being aware of how ethics works on a larger scale and left thinking i’d say.

    it’s just of all the people to say *once* we believed in slavery, rimmer seems a poor choice.

  24. G&T Admin

    Another key theme from Samsara is that morality changes over time. Rimmer is from the future, and was brought up on another world; his political and ethical stance doesn’t necessarily fit any of our current labels.

  25. this is conveniant for rob and doug, because they didn’t like that spitting image was a political show. going three million years into space is a way of depolitising things and getting to write something apolitical and postmodern maybe… but i think lister is an sjw art school dropout and rimmer is an alt-righter with stockholm syndromre…

  26. It would definitely sound better coming from Lister’s mouth, but this is the same Rimmer who scoffed at the concept of God but later preached about never disrespecting other people’s religions.

  27. How dare characters ever change.

  28. Lister as an SJW type does not exactly hold up in the “Bent Bob” conversation in Duct Soup either.

  29. doesn’t that conversation stick out as jarringly out of character?

  30. Yes and no – Lister certainly sees himself as progressive, but when push comes to shove his ideals do not always hold up when he is forced to challenge himself. Likewise Rimmer may hold certain views, but his common decency can often win the day, such as at the end of Holoship: “I cannot believe I just said that!” It helps them to be more developed characters, rather than just binary archetypes.

  31. Lister has a lot of very decent views based on solid moral grounding, but he’s also said and done things which could be described as “a bit dodgy”, which having generally lived a “laddish” life, are to be expected.

  32. G&T Admin

    this is conveniant for rob and doug, because they didn’t like that spitting image was a political show

    I would argue this isn’t true – they just didn’t want Spitting Image to be *just* a political show. They wanted the show to expand in scope, but they still saw overt politics as an important part of the mix.

  33. red dwarf is kind of apolitical. that’s why it’s not pat of the clique of its generation. and red dwarf is the show they wanted to make. that’s what made me think that. also the look on doug’s face in one doc or another when contemplating caig charles’ ernest 80s streetpoet act.

  34. Also Red Dwarf is quite political anyway, intentionally or otherwise. At its core the whole show is about the class system, and about work. Plus there are overtly allegorical episodes like Meltdown, Kryten, Out Of Time etc, where the central driving idea is a political one – war, servitude, power corrupting.

    The Last Day seems inspired by exasperation at that final-phase Thatcher government and their raid on retirees/pensioners – in the fictional universe Kryten’s about to be euthanised, but in the real world OAPs were about to be ripped off by an overhaul of the pensions system and the looming introduction of the poll tax. Strip away the Terminator parody and the spaceships and you can see the contemporary politics at the heart of that story, especially coming one week after Timeslides which does its own number on Thatcherism, and two weeks after Bodyswap which is entirely about the psychology of excess.

  35. i think that a basically apolitical show dealing in big bold archetypes and being about stories and characters is the perfect thing to think politically with.

    it leaves you with a lot to think about… like i like how in demons and angels the lows are distinct individuals, but the highs are kind of uniform. is it bad to be an individual? is the west evil? is it about how what we think individualism is?
    or maybe it’s about balance. so that the real ship is good and the two others are different forms of bad?

    i don’t want anyone on the show to make a speech about this or anything, or feel like the show’s got an opinion just more stories, characters and jokes…

    i like your reading of thatcher-era red dwarf

  36. reminded me of this, from a fanfic i wrote a year ago…

    ‘It reminded Burchill of a British TV sci-fi sit-com from her own era: the whole thing was a kind of satire of Thatcherism, set in the far future where your kitchen appliances get into an argument with you like a Philip K DIck book, but people are still obsessed with the minutiae of really specific, British class war – to sort of foreground how we’re so not a classless society.’

  37. Confirmation of my second theory stated about the Ronald Littlewood line. It’s about establishing a misunderstanding of the mention that he “served” someone”.

    Andrew Ellard tweeted : Noteworthy fact: Snacky’s reference to a former colleague of Rimmer’s he had “served” was a set-up to a later call back…Rimmer realises he’d taken “served” as “served under” rather than “served food”; Snacky as crew rather than dispenser.

    With a later line then cut. And Doug tweeted the surname was someone from rob and him went to school with, making no further reference to him as significant.

  38. G&T Admin

    Also Red Dwarf is quite political anyway, intentionally or otherwise. At its core the whole show is about the class system, and about work. Plus there are overtly allegorical episodes like Meltdown, Kryten, Out Of Time etc, where the central driving idea is a political one – war, servitude, power corrupting.

    The Last Day seems inspired by exasperation at that final-phase Thatcher government and their raid on retirees/pensioners – in the fictional universe Kryten’s about to be euthanised, but in the real world OAPs were about to be ripped off by an overhaul of the pensions system and the looming introduction of the poll tax. Strip away the Terminator parody and the spaceships and you can see the contemporary politics at the heart of that story, especially coming one week after Timeslides which does its own number on Thatcherism, and two weeks after Bodyswap which is entirely about the psychology of excess.

    I could not agree with this more.

  39. i like the no-aliens rule because it’s funny and makes good stories. it feels like most the choices in the show are made for those reasons.

    but there’s a way of spinning it politically – the right tends to set things up such that there’s some threat which is totally outside and different. whilst the left sees the trouble as being structural and cutting through everything. eg isis is an alien for the right, but for the left it’s a GELF – the result of the west’s own meddlings come back to bight it.

  40. >the right tends to set things up such that there’s some threat which is totally outside and different. whilst the left sees the trouble as being structural and cutting through everything. eg isis is an alien for the right, but for the left it’s a GELF – the result of the west’s own meddlings come back to bight it.<

    See also Trevor Griffiths' series Bill Brand (1976), which ends with a right-of-centre Jim Callaghan-type assuming office and crushing left dissent. As one character observes:

    "We've had these buggers leading us before, and we'll have 'em again. They're like dry rot; clear 'em out of one area and they creep in somewhere else. But they can't win […] They can't win because reality's not on their side. They think capitalism's like a coat of paint, like a veneer, and underneath is the structure. And it isn't. Capitalism *is* the structure. The reality. It splits us up: sets us against each other in classes and thoughts and lifestyle and aspirations, and all the rest of it. But it breeds resistance. For every worker who goes down the road. Every tenant who's evicted. Every man and woman who's denied the right to be human."

    Says it all, really.

  41. Rewatched most of XI. I honestly have to say Samsara is one of my favorites of the batch. Yeah, I know, that scene in the middle with Cat and Lister drags. But I find the rest of the episode especially strong, particularly the opening scenes and the Karma Drive. And it has the line “About the same odds as being killed by a tangerine”, which had the perfect fucking delivery from Robert.

    Officer Rimmer’s still my favorite. No amount of questionable final minutes can offset how much I like the rest.

    Oddly enough, Twentica’s one of the lesser ones for me. I’m not really sure why, but part of it might be overexposure to it from back when it first aired. I just feel like I’ve watched it more than the rest even though I haven’t. There’s so much I like about the episode so I’m kind of just inclined to think that, as good as it, the rest is just better. OK, not Can of Worms, but I also don’t dislike that episode. I find it entertaining to watch, but in thinking about it I realize how much better it could’ve been.

  42. The tangerine line might be as close as any of the new series have ever come to recapturing ‘classic’ Dwarf.

  43. I’d completely forgotten it, so same here.

    It’s always a joy when I forget a particularly good line and get to reexperience it fresh, especially given how ungodly good I am at memorizing every line of dialogue in my favorite shows.

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