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