“…poor review. Although not, I suspect, as irritating as the SFX one will be next issue.” Well done me:

Some classic moments, but the dodginess is creeping in…

1992 Dirs:
Grant Naylor, Juliet May
Starring: Craig Charles, Chris Barrie
Cert: 12 Running time: 180 mins
RRP: £19.99 (£24.99 for limited edition box set with Starbug toy)
Released: OUT NOW!
Dave Golder

Season Five of the Dwarf boasts episodes, characters and scenes that have become part of the show’s folklore: Mr. Flibble, The King Of The Potato People, the luck virus, Duane Dibley, Chris Barrie in bondage garb… It also features the episode voted the best ever by fans, “Back To Reality,” in which we’re lead to believe the past five seasosn have all been a VR game.

But by this point the show was beginning to lose its edge and focus. Writers Grant and Naylor seem to be operating on a gags-per-minute quotient, with ill-judged slapstick and comedy insults regularly filling in for real wit. Slapdash direction doesn’t help; the editing is often a slave to effects work, which ruins the comic timing. There are plenty of great SF ideas, but rarely enough time to follow them through. The characters suffer accordingly, resorting to catchphrases and stereotypes for cheap laughs.

The show could still make you laugh, but it rarely made you care any more. (Three Stars)

DVD Extras: A superb selection. Cast commentaries for all episodes (though Craig Charles is missing through illness), superb documentaries, outtakes, a blooper reel and two Easter Eggs (one of which leads to a bizarre animated interview with Grant, Naylor and director Ed Bye). Even the trailers are excellent: one set show the BBC2 idents from a Red Dwarf evening in which the BBC2 logo cops off with a skutter. Best of all, there’s an in-depth look at the making of the pilot for the US version of Red Dwarf, with clips. It looks intriguingly awful, and the UK cast are admirably open about how disgruntled they were. (Five Stars)

Jane Leeves played Holly in the US pilot mere weeks before being cast as Daphne in Frasier. Grant and Naylor, both Mancunians, reckon that she was studying their accents when she worked with them.

Oh dear. In SFX’s last review, they used the fact that people pull silly faces in the show to criticise it. Here, we get a complaint about slapstick. The real telltale sign is the phrase “filling in for real wit”. As we all know, silly faces and stupid physical action have NO PLACE IN COMEDY. We demand clever wordy jokes all the time, as we’re superior to such childishness. Right kids? (Besides, there’s not even that much slapstick in the series…)

As for there being too many “comedy insults” – firstly, the clue as to why they’re there is in the name. Secondly, there’s no more of them in Series V than in previous series. This is the odd thing about this review; I can’t see any deterioration in the quality of the show for this series. If anything, it’s an improvement on IV. How can you like previous series of the show, but feel that it goes downhill with this series? I genuinely don’t understand, with the quality of episodes here. It’s more understandable if you just never liked the show. The same applies to the accusations about the characters – they don’t seem any more catchphrasey or stereotyped than previous series. As for “cheap jokes” – cheap jokes? As opposed to more expensive jokes, perhaps? Jokes are either good or not – cheap doesn’t come into it, and means nothing.

The mention about the dodgy editing/direction is odd. Yes, there are instances of both; things that spring to mind are: the crash of Starbug through the cargo bay doors in D&A (rather oddly edited, with a bizarre slow-motion juddery spinning Starbug shot, and an oddly-timed cut to another piece of stock footage at the end too); the same episode’s sped-up shot of Lister sitting up; and the shot in Quarantine with the door burning down whilst Kryten stands there completely frozen. Nonetheless, compared to the three hours running time, these moments are few and far between – they certainly don’t affect the show in any major way at all.

As for the accusation that there isn’t enough time to follow through the great SF ideas – all I can say to that is that I’m glad the shows are so full-to-bursting with ideas, and they don’t over-stretch them. Come on – do you really think Terrorform would work better as a two-parter? I believe that kind of thing would have made the show “lose its edge and focus” – not the tightly-scripted collection of eps here.

All topped off with a flipped version of this picture, with the caption “Cheap comedy clobber, cheap sets. Yep, ’tis the Dwarf.” Being both sneery and inaccurate, there.

Oh, and it’s THREE easter eggs. This error invalidates the whole review, clearly. (No stars)

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