This is monumentous. A pivotal moment in Dwarf‘s history. I’m still in shock.This is it, people.

Yep, SFX have done a non-annoying review of VII!

Well, non-annoying to me, anyway. I’m sure people who love VII will find plenty to get irritated about:

SFX Cover - Christmas 2005RED DWARF SEASON SEVEN
The point where it really went downhill.

2005 • 12 • 240 mins • £22.99 • OUT NOW!
Director: Ed Bye
Starring: Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Chloë Annett
2/5 stars | Extras: 5/5 stars

Rob Grant’s gone. Chris Barrie’s set to follow mid-season. Both needed replacing and, unfortunately, neither replacements really worked. Lovely though Chloë Annett is, her Kochanski can’t fill Rimmer’s shoes, while the replacement writers brought in on four of the season’s eight episodes just couldn’t capture the spark that Rob and Doug had while working together. You still laugh, but it’s more that “polite bemusement” laugh than the hearty chortling of the earlier seasons. There are still moments of genius – you’ve got to love the Rimmer song in all its horrible glory – but all in all season seven is just a shadow of what Red Dwarf used to be.

DVD Extras: Worth buying for the extras alone! As well as the usual exceptional mix, this also comes with a handful of really special things. First there’s “Identity Within”, a “lost” Cat-centric episode that was scripted but never shot, and eventually replaced by “Duct Soup”; over storyboards, Chris Barrie shows off his impressionist skills by providing all the voices.

There are also two winning fan films from the competition run on the official Red Dwarf website: the first chronicles Grant Naylor’s endless struggle to secure funding for a Red Dwarf film (and it’s got Mr. Flibble in it too!), while the second uses some brilliant little puppets and a body part (we’re not saying what body part, it’ll ruin the surprise!). Then there’s the “Back from the Dead” documentary (90 mins!). This explores each episode of this season individually, as well as giving an overview of the series as a whole, through interviews with the cast and crew. There are cast commentaries on all the episodes, some of which have extended and remastered options, and lastly, there are two “Dave Hollins: Space Cadet” radio sketches. Phew! Leah Holmes

(i) Kryten’s tank in “Beyond a Joke” is the same tank that was used in GoldenEye. It prompted complaints from residents because the explosion it created was loud enough to set off nearby car alarms!

I mean, you know, I could pick at it (I think you’ll find it wasn’t the tank that caused the exposion, but rather, erm, LOTS OF EXPLOSIVES), but all in all I think that’s a fair summing up of the series and extras. I’m sure you’ll let me know if you think otherwise. I do find it amusing that most of the extras aren’t mentioned (to be fair, they point out that they aren’t listing them all), and what is listed still deserves a “Phew!”…

This seems a good as place to any to report on something on TOS we missed last week – released on Wednesday was an SFX Monster Special, with the Polymorph featuring at Number 13. Excellent stuff. And, of course, it’s easy to forget how ground breaking the episode was for a BBC sitcom back in 1989 when we’ve all watched it TEN THOUSAND TIMES.

Sadly, the example SFX sets was not taken into consideration over at DVD Next. Oh. Try sorting your website out before launching a mag, next time chaps. That’s the least of this magazine’s worries, though:

Red Dwarf VII
Smoke me a kipper…

After a ridiculously long wait following the cliff-hanger of series VI the crew returned to the screens alive but without any curry supplies thanks to a time paradox. As they bumble their way through the universe Rimmer departs to take over from Ace, but is soon replaced by Lister’s ex-girlfriend, Kristine Kochanski.

Let’s be honest, after the BBC started to plough a decent amount of money into the budget of Red Dwarf, the series started to go downhill. Its charm always came from the wobbly sets and dodgy effects. Once the effects department got some money to play with everything went a bit stale.


Right, let’s have this AGAIN, then. The evidence, as presented on the DVD itself:

  • “Let’s be honest, after the BBC started to plough a decent amount of money into the budget of Red Dwarf, the series started to go downhill.” – Presumably, this “decent amount” of money was the reason why the model shots went from being 35mm motion control shots, to, erm, 16mm fly-by-wire jobbies? And why a lot of the effects are dodgy, hastily-created CGI? Neither of which look nearly as good as the effects in previous series?
  • “Its charm always came from the wobbly sets” – Name me one wobbly set in Red Dwarf. Go on. This is bollocks of the highest order. Oh, and I think you’ll find its charm came from the brilliant writing, performing, and production.
  • “and dodgy effects” – Whilst you can pick at the odd effect here and there, most of the effects in Red Dwarf are this: bloody great.
  • “Once the effects department got some money to play with everything went a bit stale.” – So, you’re really telling me you didn’t like the series because you thought the blurry 2-D Starbugs were too hi-tech? Is that really what you’re saying?

It’s just lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy, LAZY journalism – ignoring both what your EYES tell you is happening on the episodes, and also what the documentary tells you about the effects work. There is a reason by GNP spent their own money, not out of the DVD budget, to create new effects for Tikka To Ride, rather than replacing the effects work in, say, Psirens. How can anyone think the effects in VII are anything other than poor compared to previous series? What a load of crypto-fascist bourgeois crap.

Matters weren’t helped by the departure of Rimmer, arguably the best character, in the second episode. The addition of Chloe Annett as Kochanski makes a refreshing change to the show, but most fans would rather have seen the slightly spunkier Clare Grogan reprise her role as she did briefly in the previous series.

I suspect what is happening here is that “most fans” translates to “I”. For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced Clare Grogan returning would have been right for the show. Not that I think Kochanski works very well in VII, but then Doug Naylor more or less agrees in Back from the Dead – he makes some rather interesting comments about how Chloë’s performance was affected by her uncomfortable costume..

While there are still some classic moments contained within these episodes they never reach the heights of the first few series.

Despite the disappointing episodes, the BBC has pulled out all the stops once again for the extras.

Or, more correctly, GNP has pulled out all the stops. Sure, obviously the BBC gave them the budget – but it was the BBC who wanted to rush-release the series on DVD a few years ago, with GNP refusing until they were given the budget to do decent extras for the series. Hey, I may well cocksuck GNP to climax, but they tend to deserve it.

Three episodes are given the optional extended treatment with additional scenes and effects. The so-called ‘lost’ episode is also unveiled for the first time along with a huge amount of deleted footage. All the usual interviews and featurettes are present and enjoyable as ever. Red Dwarf remains one of the few English programmes to get a decent DVD treatment. Even if this series doesn’t impress you’ll still buy it just so the spines match on your shelf – clever marketing at its finest.
Simon Griffin


Disappointing series on yet another fantastic set from the Red Dwarf crew. Frustrating, but still worth a punt.
Show 3/5 stars Extras 4/5 stars

Amen to all that. Which reminds me – why the hell did Regions 1 and 4 get rid of the logo across the spine? Region 4 being particularly strange, seeing as it’s practically the same cover as the R2 release.

I’ve got a couple more mag reviews to do, but I’ll let you recover first. Aren’t I nice?

28 comments on “BREAKING NEWS

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  • The addition of Chloe Annett as Kochanski makes a refreshing change to the show, but most fans would rather have seen the slightly spunkier Clare Grogan reprise her role as she did briefly in the previous series.

    I suspect what is happening here is that “most fans” translates to “I”.

    Maybe, but while it’s by no means unanimous, the majority of people I’ve spoken to about it do actually feel that way. Whether Clare would have been right for that series or not, her version of the character was generally prefered to Chlo?’s, though to Chlo?’s credit, I think that has less to do with the actresses than the way the parts were written. That’s why I have to laugh about the fact that Doug blames Chlo?’s costume for a less-than-steller performance (?!), rather than admiting that the sub-standard writing may have been the real reason her Kochanski was so unpopular. My dislike of her had nothing to do with Chlo?’s acting skills, and everything to do with the character being a whiny, controlling *bint*.

    I find it interesting, too, that in the past they’ve mentioned the decision to go with Chlo? being influenced by her being a professional actress unlike Clare, when they started with a dancer, a poet and a couple of stand-ups, and did damn well with that.

  • That’s why I have to laugh about the fact that Doug blames Chlo?’s costume for a less-than-steller performance (?!), rather than admiting that the sub-standard writing may have been the real reason her Kochanski was so unpopular.

    Whilst I think the costume might have played a part, I do see your point. The writing *was* very poor for her, and was written whiny before any costume problems.

    But I just don’t like Clare Grogan in the part. She was rubbish in The End, not that great in Balance Of Power (and truly appalling in the deleted scenes), and just about adequate in Stasis Leak. And pretty unconvincing in Psirens (“Get out the belt while you can!” being particuarly badly-delivered).

    I think they *did* need to recast.

  • I agree with both of you to a certain extent: If Kochanski was going to come back as a bit part in VII, the role should have been Grogan’s by default due to her previous appearances in I,II and VI.

    However, as Kochankski was actually brought back as a regular, it needed to be recast if for no other reason than Lister and Grogan never worked together as a couple, and I mean never. I am very fond of Series I and II, but Grogan as a lost love for Lister? Give me a break! Lise Yates and Lister would have made for a much more realistic couple; at least they semmed to have some chemistry together from the little we see..

    Sadly however, I can never help feeling that the Kochanski character simply should not have existed in VII at all and considering the crap dialogue and lousy characterization she had to contend with, Annett did a (barely) servicable job.

  • I don’t think Lister and the earlier incarnation of Kochanski had enough interaction to fairly judge chemistry; if nothing else, the first version was much more a type I could imagine Lister falling for, and it’s not like Lister and the later version had any better chemistry, at least in my opinion. That said, as much as I liked Clare in the part, I can see where her skills perhaps wouldn’t have been strong enough to carry a larger role, and I would gladly have accepted a recast had the character been written differently.

    Of course, I too would have been just as happy if Kochanski wasn’t brought back at all; if they wanted to fill the gap left by Rimmer’s departure, they could always have brought Holly back, and that would have satisfied the female part of the equation as well (though admitedly, probably not to movie mogal standards, not having a body or a romantic connection to one of the crew).

  • In an ideal world, Kochanski wouldn’t have been brought back at all – but movie people and Chris Barrie’s temporary departure saw to that. Having said that, I’m not sure bringing Holly back earlier would have helped – both him/her and Cat are bit parts at best. How many stories can you do with just Lister and Kryten?

    I still think the character could have worked, if written and played differently. Like, as I say ad nauseum, in Last Human. But the heart of the show has always been Rimmer, and it’s just nigh on impossible to imagine the show working wirhout him.

  • About Kochanski entering the series, I tried to post a review on amazon a while ago but for some reason it hasn’t gone online. Fuckers. Some of you might recognise some of my sentiments – I have posted the gist of them here before. Here it is (my apologies that cutting and pasting has conflated the text into one paragraph):

    I’m sure people can decide for themselves whether or not to buy this – those reviews giving this set five stars (sometimes posting the same review again and again to bump up the overall star-rating no doubt) and begging the casual viewer to “just buy it anyway” aren’t helping anybody.
    From my point of view, Dwarf had two important factors running right from the start that kept it afloat: the first was that the crew had earth as their ultimate destination; the second was that Lister had the dream of one particular, unattainable woman to keep him going. The first factor meant that their adventures were not simply a pointless list of events that could go on forever; the second that Lister’s loneliness in deep space was amplified, and even when it was never made explicit we could always identify a kind of yearning for something that he could never have. The all-male crew was not essential to maintain this tension, but the absence of his idealised woman meant that there was always a distant hope, along with the return to earth, in the aimlessness of Lister’s life.
    Series VII cast both of these aside casually, and I don’t think the writers really realised what they were doing when they gave the crew a time machine that could travel in space (contradicting the limitations of the device that had been established in series VI) for the sake of one episode, and when they replaced Rimmer not with some arbitrary character (or leaving him unreplaced for a while in order to reestablish the differences between increasingly alike characters) but with KOCHANSKI HERSELF. How was Lister supposed to react? It was like he was given the Holy Grail and told to just get on with it. And having such a versatile time machine meant that there were no longer any limitations on what they could do or where they could go – there was no reason for them to remain stuck together in the middle of nowhere millions of years in the future if they hated each other’s company so much. So for me, series VII is when Red Dwarf lost its soul, and this is what matters; it’s less significant that at the same time the jokes became all the more tired and formulaic and that the characters became one-dimensional reinventions of their former selves. It’s just a shame that they do.
    Boosting this DVD set are extraordinary extras which I’m sure will be considered by many to be worth the price alone. I just think that in spite of a couple of nice episodes and a few scenes here and there the extras surround a rotten core and I’d recommend newcomers visit earlier DVD sets first. Series VII is the start of a more puerile Dwarf that sadly grows by series VIII into a kind of pantomime gurning and silly running around. There’s much more intelligence in earlier Dwarf – philosophical, scientific and mythical references that give some depth to the humour and characters. But more importantly there are restrictions on the crew that legitimise their position as loners in deep space. By series VII the team are apparently frittering away time together, and as a bored viewer I wonder why I should grant them the indulgence.

  • I still think the character [of Kochanski] could have worked, if written and played differently. Like, as I say ad nauseum, in Last Human.

    Absolutely. Ever since I read that, I’ve always thought what a shame it was that Kochanski wasn’t written like that in the show. And it actually proves my point about not having issues with the actress but the part, since I always imagine Chlo?, not Clare, when reading the books.

    You make a good point about Rimmer, too, in that he is a crucial element of the Red Dwarf formula; I can pretty much understand why they felt it necessary to write Kochanski such that she mirrored his traits, although she was simply no replacement, and for all it was lacking, Series 8 was much improved by his return.

    And that was another thing that was so great about the book as opposed to the show, in that there was more interesting contrast and interplay between Rimmer and Kochanski. On the show itself, Kochanski was merely a more capable but just as neurotic female version of Rimmer, albeit with her neuroses slightly downplayed once he returned.

  • I liked that Chloe joined the series because I was 14 (or maybe 13) and wanted to fuck her. Many years later I still have the mentality of a 14-year-old (so I’m told, on a regular basis) and I still want to fuck her.

  • Well isn’t that nice…

    Regarding Kochanski in last human, I normally picture her as Chloe but with the cheeky type of humour that Clare had. I didn’t like the recast simply because with the change in her characters portrayal from the admittedly few times we had seen Clare in the role, there was nothing except the name to imply they were meant to be the same character.

  • Clare wouldn’t have been a good choice to go with in the 7th series. She wasnt too bad in some appearances, but christ she was shit in most!!!

    And the Chloe saga, hhhhhmmmmmmm, she’s alright i suppose. Nothin to shout about in the acting department, but boy does she make up for it in others!

  • Guys, get the Christmas Radiotimes for Russell T. Davies 2 pages, an incredible pic of the Christmas Invasion bad guy, special effects info and interviews with David Tennant and Billie Piper.

    Also, I agree with the above point mostly.

  • Amusingly, the piccy used in the SFX Monsters special is the one with the Polymorph on bluescreen (or CSO, as its called at the Beeb) – but SFX have stuck a load of fake flames in the background instead.

    They also appear to think that in the boxer shorts scene, Kryten is attempting to suck Lister’s shorts off with his vac hose. So, they’ve managed to misinterpret the most famous scene in Dwarf history, and in a way that nobody else has ever done, ever. Well done SFX!

  • > bluescreen (or CSO, as its called at the Beeb)

    CSO, or Colour Seperation Overlay, is the name of the technique. Blue screen just refers to the thing that the actors/props are in front of, which can obviously be one of several colours.

    I used CSO on a production that I vision-mixed recently. It’s cool as fuck.

  • Yes, true. I was using the term bluescreen as a laymans term. (It’s often green these days, isn’t it – especially in film, but in TV as well?)

    I *think* CSO is still mostly a term used at the Beeb these days (and possibly on training courses, if you’re using it as well). Elsewhere it’s chromakey, or possibly other names. I may not be as up-to-date on this as you, though.

  • You say CSO, I say chromakey, let’s call the whole thing off. Both terms are in general use. It’s referred to as ‘chromakey’ on the desk at the studio at uni, and as it’s a Grass Valley Group desk, and they’re the market leaders, I’d suggest ‘chromakey’ was more widely used, but people will understand what you mean by either.

  • With regards to the colour thing, I’m not really sure what advantages one colour has over another. I suppose it can come down to things as mundane as what colour clothes your characters are wearing. Andrew, do you know any better?

  • There’s a specific reason for green screens being used more these days than blue ones but I can’t remember exactly what it is. I heard somewhere that it’s easier somehow to isolate a certain shade of green than a certain shade of blue. Apparently it was that shift as much as upgrades in computer technology that got rid of the horrible fuzzy edges in chromakey.

    Right, I’m fucking well going to the Knightmare site now. There’s a lovely late-eighties real media clip of the making of that programme there demonstrating the wonder of chromakey. Plus Knightmare was ace and I want to watch the cartoon introduction again.

  • There’s a great feature on the Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters DVD about the very early chromakey they used on the show.

    The worst ever chromakey shot, in anything ever, is Cat walking towards Blue Midget in Kryten.

  • I think the isolatability argument was truer for a while than it may be now – these days you can shoot your subject against a brick wall and, so long as it’s static, you can tell the machine that the wall is ‘background’ and to remove it, isolating your subject.

    (Fiddlier than flat colour, yes, but do-able, and oft-used these days for ads and promos to put footage of people from old movies into new backgrounds. Still, clean colour is preferable for the amunt of fine-tuning it does away with.)

    I think there are reflection issues with blue – it tends to create a stronger, more visible reflection on skin, making the key that bit tougher to keep clean.

    Also, there’s more blue in skin-tone than green. (I know, I know, that’s a little contrdictory – green has blue in it. But it’s all about what the computer sees.)

    Despite being told not to – naughty man – when we shot Justin Judd’s DVD interview for VI, he turned up in a blue shirt. Tight on time, we couldn’t erect a greenscreen, so pulled a black backcloth around instead. Which keyed just fine, after slight adjustment for his eyes.

    (Had it not, we’d have cut out around him and put starscape in the available gaps, but happily that never had to be done.)

    BTW, anyone seen Kong yet? I liked the movie a great deal, but the compositing was just AWFUL. There are times when you can actually SEE the blue edges around Naomi Watt’s agreeable form!

  • Ah, you’ve hit on yet another of my bugbears there.

    I *hate* the way people criticise Dwarf’s effects when they’re bloody good – and say that they aren’t as good at the latest Hollywood blockbusters. When a lot of Hollywood films have some really bad effects, and their budgets are in a completely different league, where there’s no excuse.

    Take the balcony stuff in the first Spider-man film. That’s awfully composited. And yet the same people who slag off Dwarf’s effects will praise Spider-man’s. Even if you think Dwarf’s effects are rubbish (which they aren’t) – which is more understandable?

    And yes, that Cat/Blue Midget shot in Kryten is awful. They should have just had the plain model shot in and got rid of Cat’s squeal on the soundtrack if they couldn’t do better than that. (How is it done on the Re-mastered version, BTW? I’ve not seen it in ages…)

  • The other thing is that blue is generally one of those colours that electronics aren’t very keen on, for some reason or another. Presumably it’s to do with its limited wavelength.

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