Red Christmas: Mobisode Review featured image

How do the all-new Christmas mobisodes hold up?

Remember those rumours of a Red Dwarf Christmas special, after Red Dwarf VI? I certainly don’t – I wasn’t part of Dwarf fandom back then – but rumours there were, that never came to fruition. Time Hole blames “the triple complications of The 10%ers entering production, Craig’s troubles and Rob Grant’s departure”.

And yet here we are. After years of no new Rob or Doug Dwarf, barring deleted scenes, this year we’ve had the incredible Bodysnatcher – and now we’ve got Red Christmas, a brand new two-part mobisode (each part roughly a minute apiece) from the new Dwarf mobile service – and written by Doug Naylor himself. A full review of the entire mobile service will appear on G&T in the new year- but for now, what is Red Christmas actually like?

Grabs from Red Christmas Part 1As I’ve said before, I’m not really that keen on the animation style of the mobisodes – I don’t like the character designs (they don’t seem to capture the essence of the characters we know and love at all), and the animation style itself doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. But when watching the normal mobisodes, it’s difficult for me to ignore these problems – in essence, you’re watching TV with great production values being turned into something with not very good production values, which seems somewhat of an exercise in pointless (from an artistic point of view at least). Here, however, I was prepared to cut them a little slack – like it or not, this is inevitably going to be a project with budget restrictions, and more importantly, technical ones (the frame rate is obscenely low in order to make them quick to download, and the sound quality is pretty dire too). If the material is great, then I can forgive the limitations of the format.

Unfortunately, the problems start straightaway. Part 1 kicks off with the short ‘Red Dwarf On Your Mobile’ sting, and we get a shot of Red Dwarf, and… erm, Father Christmas and his reindeer turn up. And instantly, it doesn’t feel like Red Dwarf. Santa can exist in terms of being a waxdroid on Waxworld in Meltdown – but not here. Mythical figures just don’t show up for real in the Dwarf universe – there has to be some kind of scientific explanation. (The Psirens are explained as shape-changing GELFs, for instance.) If anything, it should be a mechanoid disguised as Santa – which would be shades of Futurama perhaps, but it’d work.

Each universe has its rules, that aren’t meant to be broken. The Brittas Empire gets away with all kinds of crazy stuff – including killing your lead character, sending him to heaven, and then resurrecting him from the dead – and yet come the sixth series, with creators Fegen and Norris gone, the punchline to the second episode Body Language consists of an alien plant beaming up into space. It just doesn’t fit into the Brittas universe, and smacks of the writers thinking any old crazy shit would work with the show – which just proves they didn’t quite understand it.

Admittedly, follow the rules too closely and you end up with a stagnant and unimaginative show – and the best shows, if done correctly, break the rules to stunning effect, with the format-breakers being some of the most memorable episodes of some shows. But in Red Christmas, it doesn’t seem to be done with any knowledge of what’s being done, or – crucially – for a very good reason, and so it just feels wrong.

And yet it wouldn’t matter if it was funny. Unfortunately, the rest of the first part is a conversation between Rimmer and Kryten, which just… isn’t. Santa breaks in, the sensors warns of an intruder, and Rimmer and Kryten think it’s aliens (Father Christmas, because of the bulbous sack on his back) and demons (the reindeer – because of the hooves), and wonder what to do. And we immediately fall back into the same problem that VIII has – reusing an idea that worked the first time, but extending it until it breaks: “Sir, I’m shaking so much my nipple nuts are practically unscrewing themselves.” To me, it’s just not a funny line – it sounds like a joke, it’s got the structure of a joke, but it just isn’t one.

The other dialogue is passable – but passable doesn’t equal funny, and there’s just not a single line that makes me laugh here. Kryten’s “According to the ‘who’s-just-sneaked-on-board-computer’…” is the best thing on offer, and it doesn’t even crack a smile for me.

Grabs from Red Christmas Part 2Come Part 2, and our intrepid twosome decide to flush the intruder into space. Unfortunately, they soon find out the truth as Father Christmas goes flying past the window, and so… erm, the whole crew play charades with the reindeers. Seriously. With Santa giving advice as he flies past the window again. It’s certainly one of the most bizarre sights I’ve ever seen in anything Dwarf-related, and for that alone perhaps worth watching – but really, this is not the Dwarf universe. It isn’t anywhere in the vicinity. It all makes for rather a contrast with Smeg Ups, where they managed to make the Kryten links work in the Dwarf universe whilst still acknowledging our own – a ridiculously tricky job. Here, they don’t even manage to stay within the confines of the Dwarf universe properly for a couple of minutes!

Yet, if it was funny – truly funny – then I could forgive all that. I could handwave it as a new direction for Dwarf, or something. But it just isn’t. This is a long distance away from the cleverness of Bodysnatcher – and whilst perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two, when the running times are so vastly different, it’s unfortunately irresistable. What I would have liked to have seen is just a dialogue sequence – as Doug himself thought halfway through the production of the famed Blue Midget dance sequence: “Why didn’t I just write some funny dialogue?” I really wish he’d just done that here.

And what makes it all even worse is that I can’t even make out Father Christmas’s screamed last line – the punchline to the entire episode – because of the poor sound quality!

Are there any good points to the episode? Well, it includes the original version of the Red Dwarf ship, which is pleasing (expected now, perhaps, but remember there was a time when it seemed like we’d be stuck with the Remastered ship forever), and Rimmer panicking about aliens is a nice hark back to the Rimmer we know and love. Indeed, Rimmer’s “Excellent” after Kryten’s suggestion to flush the intruder into space is probably the best thing about the entire ‘sode. But beyond that, the whole thing is just faintly embarassing to watch.

(Incidentally, the TOS on-set report tells us that only Chris Barrie and Robert Llewellyn were involved with the mobisode – we can only guess as to why Danny and Craig aren’t involved, but budget issues presumably played a part. Lister does get one line in the final scene though – “Er, an action film” – presumably it’s Chris Barrie doing the voice.)

God knows, I want the mobisodes to work. I want new Dwarf back on our screens at some point, in whatever form as long as it’s good – and if these are a success, then we’re one step nearer. Moreover, this is the first opportunity we’ve had for new, ongoing, in-universe stuff for Dwarf, in whatever form, since 1999 – and I’d love something like that to work. But this is just a nothing – it’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, and it’s just doesn’t work for me in the slightest. Worse still, the fact it’s so short means that no momentum gets going at all.

I will admit to feeling a bit guilty about this review. As a Dwarf fan, I want to see the franchise succeed. I don’t want to put such a downer on it. And I hope that I’m not the only person round here who is going to watch it – it would be unfair for a single review to put everyone off round here, and it’d be nice to get some informed debate going. And I hope there are future all-new mobisodes, as I think there’s real potential to come up with some good stuff. But as for Red Christmas – no sir, I do not like it. And I’m not convinced I’d like any Dwarf where two reindeer pulling a cracker is part of the episode. Just because you can do anything in animation, it doesn’t mean you should.

And the worst thing? That it makes me slightly worried about the kind of new Dwarf that we might get in the future all over again – fears that Bodysnatcher had allayed. I can only hope that it’s the mobisode format that has caused the problems I have with the show… but at best, I can view this as an experiment that failed.

At worst… it’s too hideous to contemplate.

1 star

73 comments on “Red Christmas: Mobisode Review

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  • ?Sir, I?m shaking so much my nipple nuts are practically unscrewing themselves.? To me, it?s just not a funny line – it sounds like a joke, it?s got the structure of a joke, but it just isn?t one.

    I think it’s the “practically”. It’s rather a filler word, and I think it breaks the rhythm of the line.

    That said, those character designs are pretty unpleasant. Pity this one didn’t work out, but it’s a fine review–outlines your problems with the piece pretty clearly.

  • Yeah, Arlene, you’re right; it’s the ‘practically’ that really dooms it. Having watched them myself, they rather remind me of bad fanfic, and the format highlights the problem that John has often pointed out; Red Dwarf doesn’t really work in clip form. Even in gag-heavy VIII, you need more than a minute or so to settle into the action, and I’d be curious to know how someone new to Dwarf would see the mobisodes.

    At least *something* new is being done in the Dwarf world, but I really hope this doesn’t have negative effects on the franchise.

  • [Complete lack of surprise]

    So…Red Dwarf is now aimed at 6 year olds? Brilliant.

    Interesting how, from the screenshots and the lack of Kochanski, this is set circa series V. From the plot it sounds like it could quite easily fit after VIII.

  • Also, while I find the Lister and Cat character designs–in those screencaps, anyway–more bland and uninspired than anything else (is it just me, or does the Cat look slightly feminine in that one shot?), Rimmer looks absolutely hideous and Kryten looks more like the undead than a mechanoid. How could someone think Chris Barrie actually looks like that? The size of his head particularly gives me visions of a Beavis and Butthead and Red Dwarf crossover, and that’s downright frightening.

  • I haven’t seen the mobisode so I can’t comment on the quality of it but the idea of having Santa and his reindeers is unbelievable. I’m honestly struggling to understand how anybody could have contemplated that that would be a good idea.

  • I wondered about Kryten’s black eyes as well; I guess they’re trying to give the perception of depth, and that it doesn’t work that well in that format.

  • I haven’t seen it, but from my point of view bringing in Santa isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    a) it’s a christmas special – think the Simpsons’ Halloween specials.

    b) it’s cartoons now so I’d let them off with a lot more weird stuff. Like… Star Trek – The Animated Adventures.

    The only problem seems to be that it isn’t very funny (although I’d like to judge that myself at some point).

  • > a) it?s a christmas special – think the Simpsons? Halloween specials.

    Personally I would say that those are the weakest episodes of The Simpsons but I’m sure others feel differently. Just because you’re making a Christmas special doesn’t mean that you have to include Santa though as all the Christmas specials that have been on TV this year indicate.

  • I won’t even bother then. I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but this makes me think I’ll be wasting ?3.

  • Having watched them myself, they rather remind me of bad fanfic

    Yes! This is exactly how it feels, unfortunately. I’ve read Dwarf fanfic much better than this, and I’m not even a huge fanfic fan…

  • Interesting how, from the screenshots and the lack of Kochanski, this is set circa series V.

    This is one thing I should have put as one of the positives – it’s a great period to set any new material. Possibly the ideal period.

    It’s just a shame that the potential was frittered away.

  • “Santa can exist in terms of being a waxdroid on Waxworld in Meltdown
    – but not here.”

    That’s you not getting any presents, next year then.

    Good review, I think you cover pretty much every point that I had in reaction to it, when I first watched it, and more. I dont think you should feel guilty about expressing your honest opinion of something as 1 star, given that this website is all about opinions, and you give oportunity to all for counter opinions and you still urge others to try the mobisodes and explain your hopes for them. I dont think you can be fairer than that and still be honest.

    Having watched these Xmas Mobisodes a couple of times now, (partly cus of disbelief, partly because of not hearing santa) I find them, Too short, Too wacky. Perhaps both inherant issues in the format.

    “Each universe has its rules”

    I think it’s being approached as a whole new cartooniverse.

    Now that there is a holiday special best forgotten about, Doug can cross another line off his be like George Lucas list.

  • This direction for Dwarf looks and just feels terrible in all areas. I just can’t bare to see a great Sitcom turned into a petty animation. The drawings aren’t well thought out, the whole style is….wrong. At least give Dwarf some dignity and stop churning out these irreparable cartoons. It’s just money grabbing and not enticing whatsoever. Give me a new Red Dwarf book, then your talking serious new material, not this half pondered toon, which should be thrown into the nearest garbage pod with immediate effect. As for Santa Claus appearing, who in their right mind thought this was a good idea. Even for a christmas show, it’s not original and it makes one cringe, head in hands hoping for it to end.

  • I wasn’t expecting it to be good. I mean, 99% of all mobile content is crap anyway so there wasn’t much chance of these mobisodes being any different (just for the record, I highly doubt there’s anyone on this planet who hates the terms ‘mobisode’ ‘webisode’ ‘TARDISode’ ‘Dwarfisode’ or whatever more than me).

    However, we shouldn’t be too harsh on them because that’s just it, they’re NOT episodes. A decent level of quality control would be frankly wasted on this format. If this were a full animated series then YES we would have the right to complain (especially over the lack of humour). Although it would be very difficult to adapt the show to animation WELL. The whole approach to the series has to change. This mobisode (ugh) would definitely be funnier if we could see the cast performing it as part of a live-action episode. e.g. Robert’s performance as Kryten is way more than just his voice.

    And yeah, what exactly IS Rimmer in these clips?

  • Well Tanya why don’t you try to like it and stop moping on ”oh it’s you” garbage, you don’t even know me so don’t judge. I couldn’t care whether you liked it or not, I was expressing my opinion I don’t want to change yours, I wouldn’t waste my time.

  • TT, I’ve judged you on the only criteria available to me; your posts. You are found wanting.

  • > Tonguetied, I, for one, am always satisfied by the emergence of your little purple head.

    Too bad all it can do when it appears is dribble.

  • lol after looking at the red christmas mobisodes I actually think the animation is alright, from an artistic point of view. I don’t understand the fuss! if anything it’s certainly attracted a few of my friends who weren’t into it before – long live red dwarf!

  • It’s great that it’s attracted some new people to Red Dwarf, but I’m a bit worried that they’ll not like the actual series, as it’s very different, really!

  • Yeah, absolutely, if mobisodes bring in new fans, then that’s excellent. But I wonder how many of them who enjoy Red Christmas would be able to sit through Balance of Power (for example). Or even one of the more manic episodes.

    I don’t know. I’m all for it. And obviously we all come to Dwarf by different routes (plenty of people saw the Remastereds first, plenty of others saw the last series and then went backward), and none of them are wrong. But it’s right to be apprehensive, at least, if only because the style of the humor is different.

    I don’t really have any kind of answer for this…but it’s an interesting topic at least.

  • “plenty of others saw the last series and then went backward”

    I think Series 8 made me a bit backward.

  • ”TT, I?ve judged you on the only criteria available to me; your posts. You are found wanting.” Sounds like you are left wanting my dear, the only critera, hmm seems like you want more to go on. Your a pretty forward girl I must say. And it’s Tonguetied, so please learn to use my full name, none of this lazy abbreviation. Ha, after all I don’t go around calling you TJ.

  • >Sounds like you are left wanting my dear, the only critera, hmm seems like you want more to go on. Your a pretty forward girl I must say. And it?s Tonguetied, so please learn to use my full name, none of this lazy abbreviation. Ha, after all I don?t go around calling you TJ.

    I didn’t think your stock had any further to fall. I was wrong.

  • ”Too bad all it can do when it appears is dribble.” That would win the witty comeback of the year award. Your standards amaze me.

  • “And it?s Tonguetied, so please learn to use my full name, none of this lazy abbreviation.”

    Yes, but it’s NOT your name, is it? Show me a deed poll, or we’ll continue to call you whatever the fuck we want.

  • Seb, why don’t you get a hair cut you little trog. Show me a deed of your name Sebastian. Why should anyone get the right to choose a name on this forum instead of getting other twats like yourself to make up names for us all, well now that wouldn’t be fair would it? As for you Cappers, start writing something genuinely funny instead of your piss poor efforts at humour. Can’t say I’m impressed, you disappoint me Jonathan.

  • Hang on, why are you getting so uptight about what you’re called when you’ve used a name that Cappsy has never been known under, of your own volition? You don’t make any sense, CH.

  • You obviously don’t know the meaning of sarcasm you nit picker. Can’t say I’m surprised.

  • >You don?t make any sense, CH.

    …So you’ve already decided on “Cunty Head”? ‘Cos I thought there was gonna be a poll. (Not that it’s a bad choice, mind you.)

  • Tonguetied, please remove your head and upper extremities from your rectal cavity for long enough to realise the following: Nobody here likes you. You’re a cocky little douche canoe with all of the mental agility of cucumber. You’re a Git. Why not just accept it? You’re not even sharp enough to realise when you’re being mocked until people are more in-your-face about it. Go back up and read Phil’s “little purple head” comment. Let it sink in. In fact you should record a video of yourself reading it – I want to see the expression on your face when the penny finally drops, although I imagine it’ll be in freefall for a long time before it hits the surface.

    You are Git, Git is thy name and Git thou shalt be called.

  • >Seb, why don?t you get a hair cut you little trog.

    Already have done, thanks, that picture’s quite out of date.

    Also, I genuinely don’t care what you call yourself – I’m perfectly familiar with the concept of net handles, although I also think they’re quite outdated in this Facebook/blog-fuelled culture, and unnecessary for anyone whose internet ambitions lie above posting on message boards – but you specifically said “please learn to use my full name”, and I was merely pointing out that since you haven’t TOLD us your full name, you can’t get uptight about it.

  • > Seb, why don?t you get a hair cut you little trog.

    I think it’s damned unfair to victimise a person simply because of their choice of forum picture.

    Which reminds me – Tongetied, do you have permission to use that GNP-copyright image swiped from

  • Heh, my dear fellow Dwarfers, if you think you can even put a dent in my pride then you’ll have to do a lot, and I do mean a lot better that these poor responses. Ganging up on one person, how immature is that, I wonder how old you lot are, you all seem to be foaming at the mouth ha ha. Pathetic, I won’t be trodden on so easily.

  • I was just being a tease, honest that’s all I was doing.

    >you all seem to be foaming at the mouth

    You mean we not meant to drink the fairy liquid! Darn!

    >I wonder how old you lot are

    Are you talking mentally or physically?

  • >Ganging up on one person, how immature is that

    But it’s ever so much fun! And you do keep coming back for more.

    >Pathetic, I won?t be trodden on so easily.

    One time, when I was a younger and more easily irritated lass, I was really, really pissed off at my cousin, ‘cos he was being kind of an asshole. So I punched him in the arm. His immediate response? “That didn’t hurt!” And I smiled quietly to myself.

  • Are we going to continue the ‘new name for TT’ poll? Because I’d like to nominate “Semen Towel”.

  • That’s not YouTube. THIS is YouTube:

    I don’t know quite why I get so much pleasure from this. Maybe it’s seeing my packaging in someone’s hands, as a gift, on their actual Christmas, for real. (That stuff still surprises me.) Or, more likely, it’s the dog going nuts…

  • > That?s not YouTube. THIS is YouTube:

    Ah, I see you’ve played G&Tie/YouTubie before.

  • That website version is better quality than the version downloaded to my phone as well.

    Better picture quality, anyway.

  • It won’t load on the site, for me, even though I’m pretty sure I have the latest Quicktime player that’s available for my OS. Rats…I’d still like to see it for myself.

  • Finally got around to seeing and…well….

    It’s so utterly insignificant and throwaway that it’s not even worth reacting to.

    It’s practically a glorified ring-tone. Might as well review those too.

  • It?s practically a glorified ring-tone. Might as well review those too.

    I keep meaning to get round to reviewing the whole mobile service, but I’ve been a bit short on time recently. Will try to do another binge of article-writing like I did before Christmas soon…

  • Browsed on the mobile site a couple of days ago.
    And saw that the latest mobisode showing there, was called “Skutter Fight”

    Could this mean that Bodysnatcher audio was used or at least a scene from Bodysnatcher has been recreated in the Mobisode universe. If so perhaps this
    is the best use yet of the not much favoured medium. I couldnt down load it as I didnt have enough power in my phone to hang around, so cant judge it’s content.

    Much as my interest has wained in relation to mobisodes, I do wish there was at least a full list of them, as the site just updates and shows me a few, never a complete selection.

  • Yep – there’s an animated adaptation of the ‘skutter fight’ scene from Bodysnatcher available as a mobisode. It’scomer out very nicely indeed – voice and sound FX from Bodysnatcher’s audio incarnation, but obviously without the scene descriptions.

  • >there?s an animated adaptation of the ?skutter fight? scene from Bodysnatcher available as a mobisode.

    Now THAT does sound like a good use of the service. Anyone see it?

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