DwarfCast 102 – Series XII Retrospective Byte Two

Following last week’s celebration of Series XII’s second anniversary, we’re back to celebrate Series XII’s second second anniversary, with what’s possibly the happiest and most overall positive DwarfCast we’ve ever done on the subject of Dave-era Red Dwarf. It’s Byte Two of our series retrospective, with John Hoare, Tanya Jones, Danny Stephenson and Ian Symes returning to ruminate on Mechocracy, M-Corp and Skipper, as well as assessing the series, and indeed the XI and XII production block, as a whole.

Along the way we discuss alternative pronunciations of “Mechocracy”, how episodes of Red Dwarf are in fact cobbled together from CCTV footage, invisible dildos, the logistics of owning planets, why Mr Rat is a fried egg chilli chutney sandwich face, and alternative pronunciations of the word “grimace”. Because this was recorded several months ago, there’s also speculation that Skipper might be the last ever episode of Red Dwarf, which seems increasingly less likely after the events of the last few days, but never mind.

DwarfCast 102 – Series XII Retrospective Byte Two (151MB)

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29 Responses to DwarfCast 102 – Series XII Retrospective Byte Two

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  1. Mechocracy’s my fave of XI-XII. Originally gave me similar rebound relief as Trojan, so I was always very warm to it, and since then it’s the one I’ve most felt like watching again.

    Still not clear on whether Rimmer having “killed himself twice” is a Timeslides reference or post-VIII reference (if they’d said three times, it would’ve cleared things up).

  2. Red Dwarf Raw FX Footage provides nice, irrelevant visuals for audiobooks and podcasts generally. (Sci-fi ‘ships only’ videos too).

  3. Mechocracy’s my fave of XI-XII. Originally gave me similar rebound relief as Trojan, so I was always very warm to it, and since then it’s the one I’ve most felt like watching again.

    Still not clear on whether Rimmer having “killed himself twice” is a Timeslides reference or post-VIII reference (if they’d said three times, it would’ve cleared things up).

    even if you take Rimmer to have died at the end of VIII, he doesn’t actually kill himself does he? in Timeslides he does though, he smashes the boxes of explosives which kill him. so i’d say it’s a Timeslides reference

  4. I wasn’t thinking of Only the Good (I try not to do that), I wondered if it was confirmation that VIII Rimmer ended up killing himself yet again some time after. Referencing the end of a series III episode depicted on screen is probably less obscure than interregnum fan speculation, but I’ll still take it as a hint.

  5. M-Corp could so easily have been a great two-parter. I agree there was definitely more mileage in Lister on his own, and some more Dark Star-esque stuff could have worked very nicely indeed. I think a better callback than that final scene would be Lister sad, sitting alone at a table, followed by a flashback scene just like in Balance of Power. Not a pre-accident flashback, though, but something new with just the four of them.

  6. Mechocracy reminds me of an American sitcom. its a story i could imagine being in something like Friends or the Big Bang Theory. it also reminds me abit of Krytie TV in that respect. its a petty inner satire conflict created between friends.

    i ain’t sure we needed the social commentary for politics in an episode of Red Dwarf though. even Meltdown you could argue had a message about war. but it did not feel as on the point as this one did.

    As for the talk of the Dave era taking its time to feel comfortable referencing the older shows… but isn’t that very much a thing a thing the Dave era has liked to do?

  7. Oh yeah, a Balance of Power-esque flashback with them even just playing poker or whatever would have been great, and would have been a direct reference but a really nice twist on it too. Which is kind of how I feel about the ‘nobody’s dead, Arnold’ and The End-opening scenes: they’re references with no real purpose other than being references. I also dislike the Talkie Toaster list: it could have been so much better if Lister had taken it to ridiculous levels by listing anything even slightly bread-related, rather than it simply being an alternate list.

    I pretty much agree with everything said in the DwarfCast, actually. Mechocracy is a wonderfully low-key story – I’m with John in that it has an element of series 1 to it, probably closest to Balance of Power, but also a touch of 2 with Queeg, in that it’s something that simply disrupts the day-to-day lives of the crew and their relationships with each other on the ship. M-Corp is a wonderful episode, ending aside. The first half of Skipper I think is the best Red Dwarf since VI – and other than Out of Time, probably my favourite since V. It’s absolutely classic Dwarf: a (sort of) sound scientific concept used to be absolutely silly. I agree with John that it’s the first time in the Dave era where every single line feels perfect: the writing is as good as Red Dwarf used to be, and as good as Red Dwarf should be. The second half, once the novelty of first viewing wears off, has a few flaws, but is really a case of if you’re going to do fan-service, you might as well go all out and do something like that. It’d be out of form if the ending weren’t weak, and it’s definitely underwhelming (it really needed a The Beginning style moment), but I can live with it.

    The XI / XII split is in interesting one, because there really does feel like there’s a difference in the storytelling, in that XII just feels a LOT braver. XI definitely feels like it’s trying to channel III-VI in its approach and ideas, while XII feels like Doug really doing wilder things that they’ve never done before.

    If I had to sum up why I think the second half of XII is the best the show has been in the whole Dave era, it’d be that it feels classically Red Dwarf, in that it has the really important elements (a ship-based character episode, a more dramatic, satirical episode, and a big daft sci-fi concept episode) and uses them to actually do new things. We’ve often talked about how this episode or that episode would fit in well with a past series, but in many ways I don’t think they would, because they’d feel too similar to a past one (“another multiple Rimmer story”, “another Polymorph”, “another Justice Drive”). In terms of overall plots and jokes, Mechocracy, M-Corp and Skipper feel like a natural continuation of the show that wasn’t trying to prove its worth, or recapture past glories. It feels like Doug’s just got some really good, funny ideas and applied them to the characters and the ship, and they’ve worked. In that way – some unnecessary fan service scenes aside – they actually feel like they’d fit in with earlier series for me, because they’re surprising and original, and that’s what the show always was. The fact that XII ended on those still gives me real hope for whatever is coming next, because they show that by the end of the run, Doug had become so comfortable with writing again that he was able to do funny, original scripts that feel totally at home with the best of the show.

  8. <

    i ain’t sure we needed the social commentary for politics in an episode of Red Dwarf though. even Meltdown you could argue had a message about war. but it did not feel as on the point as this one did.

    There is much more social commentary in Meltdown than there is in Mechocracy. Meltdown is very an anti-war piece. It shows the advocates for war as crazy, willing to sacrifice anyone, and it has Lister specifically call Rimmer out on this.

    Mechocracy has very little to no actual social commentary on any subject. All it does it mock modern political campaigns and the desire for votes by any means necessary. All actual issues are are side stepped, even the principal reason for the election (machine equality/representation) goes almost completely ignored by the main characters once the election because about beating each other rather than doing what is right.

    I guess you could argue this is a social commentary of sorts on the modern political process, but the show never actually outright says any of that (unlike Meltdown), its only inferred as a viewer because we know what they’re mocking.

  9. There is much more social commentary in Meltdown than there is in Mechocracy. Meltdown is very an anti-war piece. It shows the advocates for war as crazy, willing to sacrifice anyone, and it has Lister specifically call Rimmer out on this.
    Mechocracy has very little to no actual social commentary on any subject. .

    Series 4 had alot of messages. very TNG style messages. whether its about the direction you go in life determines the person you become or don’t change who you are ect ect. but i think with Meltdown, to me at least, the final call out at the end is the moment its explaining its message.

    In the Dwarfcast i notice alot of discussion on how Doug is calling out real-life scenarios and making fun of it, as you would say Twitter. whether its Politics, organizations, class systems, criticism, even religion in Lemons.

    Maybe i am judging the episode unfairly. maybe i am judging the episode more by the last 2-3 series as a formula. i dunno.

  10. Doug definitely seems to be drawing from current life experiences and things going on in the world more than he and Rob used to, if that was something they ever consciously did before.

    There’s a brief look at religion in Waiting for God, but that’s very much a result of the world they set up, with Lister being considered the god of the Cat Race. Then there’s a touch on sexual politics in Parallel Universe. The Last Day could be argued to be a commentary on planned obsolescence, but I’m not even sure if that was a phase that existed in 1989. Meltdown we know about. There isn’t really anything in V through to BTE that I can readily put my figure on.

    Then from X onwards we have, the telephone stuff in Trojan, Lemons hits on religion much more directly than before, plus there’s the stuff with the medi-bot and visiting the dentist in Fathers and Sons, and moving all the money around to pay for stuff in Dear Dave has to be a direct reference to the budgeting of X.

    Krysis is an obvious one, Siliconia and M-Corp both have a pop at tech companies, Timewave needs no explanations and neither does Mechcoracy.

    There’s a much heavier reliance on that sort of stuff now, and much less on the situation their in generating comedy. But then again, it may also be difficult to come up with comedy sci-fi ideas when science and tech have progressed so much in the 25 years since the show was making it all up.

  11. Currently off sick with god-knows-what, and these retrospectives are really cheering me up. When are you doing commentaries for XI and XII?

    On balance, I think XI is better than XII overall. Timewave aside (which is just a bizarre aberration), it ranges from fantastic to very good (I quite enjoyed Siliconia in its own way).

    M-Corp is exactly what I want from Red Dwarf- clever, funny, high-concept.

  12. The entire last half of series III has plots themed around specific critiques of the ailing Thatcher government topical to broadcast. Bodyswap is about the ethics of greed, Timeslides is about the opportunism of Thatcherism, and The Last Day is an at-the-time-topical screed about the government’s destruction of the pensions system between 86-89. They just did all this better in 1989 than they do it now – those episodes work perfectly as stories 30 years on, but were positively Spitting Image-esque at the time.

  13. Yeah, the Dave-era stuff definitely feels like “Red Dwarf does [topic]”, while the classic era was much more “[Topic] is explored as part of a Red Dwarf plot”. Mechocracy isn’t really anything other than an election parody, while Meltdown has so much more going on: the daftness of Waxworld is as much a part of the plot and humour as the anti-war stuff is.

  14. For me, XI distinguishes itself from XII by evoking the old-is-new-again attitude of the recent pop culture reboot trend:

    This series seems to be, while not necessarily doing so by design, channelling older episodes a lot:
    -Twentica felt like Tikka with a mood closer to Back to Reality
    -Samsara did its Justice nod while the choking scene reminded me of the taranshula; the skeletons of Kryten; Cat/Lister’s lead-up to the knighthood was VII’s ugly pitbull and claustrophobia exchanges
    -Give & Take and its stasis leak

    Which I posted before Can of Worms did Polymorph III.

  15. Officer Rimmer has another ‘multiple Rimmers’ plot, Krysis has the Nova 3 and more GELFs.

    But then Mechocracy has Talkie Toaster, M-Corp copies a scene from The End and Skipper is 50% references to old stuff (not to mention the Dimension Skipper is very similar to the tech in Dimension Jump), so XII isn’t exactly immune.

  16. The entire last half of series III has plots themed around specific critiques of the ailing Thatcher government topical to broadcast. Bodyswap is about the ethics of greed, Timeslides is about the opportunism of Thatcherism, and The Last Day is an at-the-time-topical screed about the government’s destruction of the pensions system between 86-89. They just did all this better in 1989 than they do it now – those episodes work perfectly as stories 30 years on, but were positively Spitting Image-esque at the time.

    is this a joke post? i’m not trying to be an asshole or anything, just genuinely unsure if this post was serious or not. i don’t know enough about politics to understand if the comparisons you’re making are accurate, but i can’t really imagine rob and doug writing a red dwarf script with subtle undertones of contemporary social commentary about the government, at least not intentionally.

  17. No, genuine.

    They are, in contemporary context, fairly obvious political satires, written by the showrunners of imperial phase Spitting Image. Bodyswap and Timeslides – which are a kind of thematic pairing about the two main elements of Thatcherism, greed and opportunism – are more explicit, but The Last Day drips with nods and winks to big things that were happening at the time regards major changes that Thatcher brought in to retirement and pensions.

    The whole show as conceived and built in the 1980s is about the class system and the politics of work though. It’s not a stretch that they went in big on Thatcher for a year.

  18. No, genuine.

    They are, in contemporary context, fairly obvious political satires, written by the showrunners of imperial phase Spitting Image. Bodyswap and Timeslides – which are a kind of thematic pairing about the two main elements of Thatcherism, greed and opportunism – are more explicit, but The Last Day drips with nods and winks to big things that were happening at the time regards major changes that Thatcher brought in to retirement and pensions.
    The whole show as conceived and built in the 1980s is about the class system and the politics of work though. It’s not a stretch that they went in big on Thatcher for a year.

    are you sure?

  19. I feel like if that were the case somebody would have mentioned it before

  20. Timeslides is blatant and the most 80s episode there is, The Last Day allegory is interesting and possible, it’s just been usurped by planned obsolescence since. I don’t there’s much depth to Bodyswap beyond a knockabout bodyswap, personally, but good theories.

  21. i feel like if this sort of thing were true, it would have been mentioned on the documentary or something…i’ve never heard anyone claiming series 3 was contemporary social commentary until now.

  22. You’ll notice more allegories in fiction – whether intended, unconscious or just theories – if you learn more about the time they were made and what was annoying liberal creative-type people at the time (what I know about 80s politics and society is mainly from 80s comedies, admittedly). Like in Back to the Future, I didn’t notice as a kid how the 50s is all shiny and optimistic (and nostalgically rose-tinted) while the 80s is all run-down and grim with homeless people, lewd cinemas and terrorists. It was made by people who were sick of the 80s’ shit. Nowadays you have stuff like Stranger Things being nostalgic and rose-tinted about the 80s. There’ll be retro 2010s dramas eventually that see past all the rage and hate we have now to focus on the good stuff from our decade, like…

  23. Red Dwarf, Doctor Who and some of the music I guess

  24. Bad joke, world-weary mode. I’m mainly retro, because there’s more worthwhile stuff to catch up on from all the previous decades than is being put out in any given year, but I like most of the recent things I actually get around to.

  25. The Last Day drips with nods and winks to big things that were happening at the time regards major changes that Thatcher brought in to retirement and pensions

    Plus it’s a bit like Terminator.

  26. Well yeah, in as much as Polymorph plays with deconstructive illustrations of Freud’s structural model, and is also a daft spoof of Alien.

  27. Plus, Lister/Rimmer’s cigar in Bodyswap. Need I say more?

  28. The Polymorph stole Rimmer’s jealousy, not his anger.

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