Home Forums Ganymede & Titan Forum BtE: SFX review

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  • #3524
    si
    Participant

    Okay, from The Spoiler Zone of the June issue of SFX (on sale next Wednesday, 6th May), Richard Edwards’ review of Back To Earth. I wouldn’t normally copy an entire piece like this, but what the hell…

    RED DWARF
    BACK TO EARTH

    Writer/director: Doug Naylor

    * * * (out of five)

    In the enforced absence of a Beatles reunion, we’ll have to make do with a comeback for SF comedy’s own Fab Four. Somewhat predictably the Dwarfers aren’t quite as funny as they were in their early ’90s heyday, but even so, their return after ten years is considerably better than the last two series of the show.

    The best thing about Dave’s three-episode resurrection is that the principal quartet still fit their characters like gloves. They may have spent the last decade cropping up in places like scrapyards and Weatherfield rather than outer space, but – aside from time adding a wrinkle or a pound here and there – you could easily believe it was only a couple of years since we last saw them bickering on Starbug.

    The script doesn’t fare quite so well. Red Dwarf always worked best as standalone half-hours, and here the story strains over 90 minutes. It’s decent enough when it’s in proper sci-fi territory, particularly the arrival of ultra-efficient hologram Katerina, and the impressive CG sets. But when the crew makes it’s much vaunted return to 2009 Earth, the attempts at “Hey, we’re really just characters in a TV show” postmodern humour feel like a lazy money-saving exercise, wheeling out crowd-pleasing gags so blatently there might as well be crib cards to remind you to cheer.

    Still, Dave has proved that there’s life in the old dog (and Cat) yet, and the scene is set, both fictionally and in real life, for a new series.

    Not too bad. 3/5 is a pretty fair reflection, I think, although I think saying it ‘strains over 90 minutes’ is a little unfair – especially as, minus adverts, it actually only runs to around 70 mins.
    Still, it could be a lot worse.

    #98367
    TheLeen
    Participant

    wheeling out crowd-pleasing gags so blatently there might as well be crib cards to remind you to cheer.

    What the hell is wrong with pleasing the crowd? And this crowd here was very pleased with the gags.

    #98368
    pfm
    Participant

    If the exchanges in part 1 had been a bit funnier I would have been well up for giving BtE 5/5 overall. As far as what it set out to achieve it definitely got there and delivered in droves, and we can say that before we’ve even seen the complete cut.

    The problems come, of course, when BtE is compared with the ‘early 90s heyday’ as it’s a million miles away from what those series’ were in terms of style and humour. They’re like seperate entities, both exceeding really well in their respective areas. BtE is essentially the closest thing to a movie we’ve got.

    #98369
    Phil
    Participant

    >I think saying it ?strains over 90 minutes? is a little unfair – especially as, minus adverts, it actually only runs to around 70 mins

    I don’t think him rephrasing it as “strains over 70 minutes” would make anyone happier.

    #98371
    Jonathan Capps
    Keymaster

    > I don?t think him rephrasing it as ?strains over 70 minutes? would make anyone happier.

    Yeah, sticking to the ‘facts’ in reviews is well overrated.

    #98372
    si
    Participant

    >compared with the ?early 90s heyday? as it?s a million miles away from what those series? were

    Not to mention nearly twenty years.

    #98373
    Seb Patrick
    Keymaster

    Bear in mind that SFX gave Series VIII… four stars, I think? Obviously, different reviewer, probably entirely different editorial staff, but nevertheless… SFX rated series VIII higher than BTE.

    #98374
    Phil
    Participant

    I stand corrected. “Strains over 70 minutes” would, for factual reasons, make Cappsy happier.

    #98375
    si
    Participant

    When all’s said and done, it all comes down to the fact that people have different opinions. Shocking, I know. I, personally, don’t mind series VIII but… oh, I can’t be doing with this here.

    #98378
    Seb Patrick
    Keymaster

    >I stand corrected. ?Strains over 70 minutes? would, for factual reasons, make Cappsy happier

    Are you telling me that you’ve never read a review whose authority was slightly lessened in your eyes when you realised they hadn’t checked their facts?

    #98381
    Phil
    Participant

    Erm, no…I don’t believe I’ve told anybody that. But I typically don’t imbue reviews with “authority” as they really shouldn’t be consulted for anything beyond somebody’s opinion, by their very nature.

    “Strains over 90 minutes” can be faulted on a technicality, but that doesn’t change the fact that the reviewer felt that it strained. Fill in the correct number if you must, but the opinion came through loud and clear, and that’s what the review is there to express. (And being as this was broadcast in 3 chunks on television, “90 minutes” is arguably understandable. At least, it’s no more inexcusable than describing any given Simpsons episode as “a solid half-hour of television” or something.)

    Reviews exist so that critics can express their opinions. Yes, it’s nice when they do their research. No, they don’t always. Even Ebert–who I respect greatly as a critic–gets things wrong as large as which character delivered a speech, and, at least once that I’ve noticed, which actor was in the film. Boo-boos happen, and I don’t think it’s productive to fault something on a detail of running-time.

    It’s nice to get these facts correct in reviews (and NTS does a great job with this), but reviews really shouldn’t be consulted for facts to begin with.

    #98486
    Dax101
    Participant

    >But when the crew makes it?s much vaunted return to 2009 Earth, the attempts at ?Hey, we?re really just characters in a TV show? postmodern humour feel like a lazy money-saving exercise, wheeling out crowd-pleasing gags so blatently there might as well be crib cards to remind you to cheer

    i have to agree on this, as im sure there are alot more clever plots that could of been set on earth with very lil money needed

    plus alot of stuff in the comic book shop was just so fans would get a thrill from hearing them mention previous episodes

    #98488
    hummingbird
    Participant

    > wheeling out crowd-pleasing gags so blatently

    So he’d prefer gags that didn’t please people, then …?

    > just so fans would get a thrill from hearing them mention previous episodes

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    #98490
    Turk Thrust
    Participant

    > So he?d prefer gags that didn?t please people, then ??

    I think you are intentionally misunderstanding what the phrase `crowd-pleasing` means there.

    #98491
    Dave
    Participant

    >plus alot of stuff in the comic book shop was just so fans would get a thrill from hearing them mention previous episodes

    It’s strange how continuity references often annoy the fans that spot them. When I’d imagine most of the audience is oblivious as to whether they are specific references or just backstory.

    This exchange in Out Of Time, paints a picture for the audience of a past event and only geeks like us are aware that it wasn’t depicted in an episode-
    Lister: “Take Christmas. What did we do Christmas day?”
    Kryten: “Oh, don’t you remember, sir? Christmas day, we were attacked by that pan-dimensional liquid beast from the Mogadon Cluster.”

    Would it have been so bad if had gone something like this-
    Lister: “Take Christmas. What did we do Christmas day?”
    Kryten: “Oh, don’t you remember, sir? Christmas day, we were attacked by Mr Rimmer’s self-loathing beast from that rather unfortunate Psi-Moon.”

    I’m not saying it’s an improvement, in fact I think the phrase “pan-dimensional liquid beast from the Mogadon Cluster.” is a thing of beauty, I’m saying I don’t think it’s obstructive, all the mentions of Timeslides, Hop Drives and Psi-Scans are incidental because the audience isn’t required to know what any of it is because they have no impact on the plot being as they are: “back on Red Dwarf”

    If anything it’s the Meta-References to the Series X, that they won’t know doesn’t exist, that will have excluded the civilian viewer.

    #98492
    Turk Thrust
    Participant

    > It?s strange how continuity references often annoy the fans that spot them. When I?d imagine most of the audience is oblivious as to whether they are specific references or just backstory.

    I think that the example that you gave would have stuck out less. Maybe because it was more recent and maybe because it would have been just 1 throwaway line.

    Much of the stuff in BTE Part 2 was lazy imo and certainly overdone. Not just the Dwarf references but the gag about people who dislike sci-fi was cringeworthy and horribly unsubtle.

    #98494
    hummingbird
    Participant

    > I think you are intentionally misunderstanding what the phrase `crowd-pleasing` means there.

    I understand it to mean reliably popular, appealing to the greatest number of people.
    The reviewer was suggesting that this wasn’t desirable. Why?

    Why would Doug write a script that wouldn’t have appeal across the board?
    Clever, obscure gags are all well and good, but is that really the way to reach a large audience? Particularly an audience that might not have seen the show in a decade, if indeed at all.
    Yes, some of the gags may have been a little obvious, but if they were fun for the old fans and served to introduce a new audience then I fail to see the problem.

    #98495
    Turk Thrust
    Participant

    > Why would Doug write a script that wouldn?t have appeal across the board?
    Clever, obscure gags are all well and good, but is that really the way to reach a large audience?

    I don`t think that`s what the reviewer will have been saying at all really. Dwarf had been successful for 52 eps without having to resort to lazy gags stating, `people who don`t like sci-fi have small penises`. It also had never had to make such constant references about the show itself.

    Now if people liked them then they obviously wouldn`t see a problem but the general feeling from a lot of the reviews that I`ve read is that while the cast and the look of the specials were great, Doug`s writing wasn`t. For the people who feel like that, it obviously is an issue.

    #98501
    ChrisM
    Participant

    Much of the stuff in BTE Part 2 was lazy imo and certainly overdone. Not just the Dwarf references but the gag about people who dislike sci-fi was cringeworthy and horribly unsubtle.

    I don’t think the joke was at the expense of ‘people who dislike sci-fi’. It was at the expense at that particular swaggering goit who disliked sci-fi and felt the need to sneer at it.

    I did find the ammount of back references a big heavy handed though. I like the odd one here and there (like the lads mentioning the polymorph when they had their problem with the Mutton vindaloo beast, or the reference to Future Echoes in Cassandra) but there were 2 or 3 references in this.

    That being said, it might have just seemed that way to me because I’m in the know. BtE wasn’t just new episodes. They form a special, partly intended to be a celebration of Red Dwarf as well as telling a new story.* Taking it in that light the back referencing makes total sense, and really wasn’t that bad anyway.

    I wasn’t over keen on that scene in the comic shop though.

    *And it is a new story despite the skeletal similarity with Back To Reality. The journey taken by Lister is very different in Back To Earth.

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