Home Forums Ganymede & Titan Forum Eleven for XI: The Top 11 Ways Red Dwarf Can Improve for Series XI

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    Renegade Rob
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    I came up with this wishlist after Series X, but now that XI has formally been announced, I thought I’d put this up. I smegging loved Series X, and felt that it recaptured much (if certainly not all) of the series’ past magic. But Series X did have its share of kinks, so I thought I’d make this general Top-11 wishlist for the next two series. I think of it as just a constructive response to a great series, but others might see it as an obsessive twat telling a genius veteran like Doug Naylor how to write. Both interpretations are valid:

    #11. Kryten Should Stick to Saying ‘Sir’ Only Once Per Sentence

    Series X Kryten was easily the best version of the character since VI, and it was interesting to watch him in servile mode and interacting with the characters in a series that on occasion strongly resembles Series I & II. During those seasons, Rimmer and Lister were just screwing around on the ship, pretty much sans Kryten, and even in Series III, Robert Llewellyn hadn’t fully settled into the role of Kryten, so the fully-settled Llewellyn Kryten in a I-II context was both warmly familiar and refreshingly new.

    That being said, Kryten needs to cool it with the ‘sirs.’ I get that it’s a performance thing and that it’s a placeholder word like ‘um…’ but all the same, one sir per sentence. It’s a nitpick but it’s the one thing about Kryten that was hard to ignore. Easy fix.

    #10. Explanations Should Be A Little More Fleshed Out

    On the whole, X nailed the sci-fi elements. The quantum rod was an imaginative idea, and having a predictive computer led to some great comedy dialogue. But there were a couple moments in X where the sci-fi was a little fuzzy but could have been easily elaborated on. Now I get that Red Dwarf is just a comedy sci-fi show, but on some level it’s still kind of ‘hard’ sci-fi. It’s certainly not Doctor Who where any old technobabble can be pulled out of nowhere to do anything, like say, have Catherine Tate be half Time-Lord and embarrassingly cause an army of Daleks to spin around. Ugh. I hate that scene so fucking much. Anyways, part of what makes Red Dwarf so great is that it, in its own way, has RULES. There were moments in X where the sci-fi was softer than it should be: How did the Rejuvenation Shower lead to time travel? How did Cat saying ‘choke’ lead the BEGG’s to choke? Were Howard and Sim Crawford really pulled into the future? Now these ideas did work, but some better explanations would benefit these concepts exponentially, especially since they’re crucial to the plot. Especially the quantum choking with the BEGGS. Quantum theory is NUTS, and I think I really get what Doug was going for there, but it would have been fun to explain and delve into a little more what was going on there scientifically. Series X showed some gaps and nebulousness when it came to explaining what the smeg was going on, forcing the viewer to connect dots, which never really happened in the classic series, where explanations were more comprehensive. Again, another nitpick and easy fix.

    #9. The Dwarfers Actually Need to Give a Crap When People Die

    This was an actual problem with Series X. The Dwarfers, by and large… OUR Dwarfers, are highly flawed but are essentially decent people. Except maybe, sometimes Cat. Rimmer and Lister, though, underneath all their bullshit, are full human beings. But their reactions (or lack thereof) to Howard and Irene’s demises were COLD AS FUCKING ICE. I mean what the hell.

    Rimmer was reunited with his own brother, whom he had been separated from for years, but took the opportunity to taunt Howard as he was literally dying. What? This is the same Rimmer who was extremely upset upon hearing news of his father’s death after he already knew that everyone he knew was already dead. Now he’s literally face to face with his brother and revels in his death? Even for Rimmer, that’s low. And Lister. Don’t get me started on Lister. As funny as the “Have you got a pen?” punchline was in the moment, you still can’t help but think, “Jesus!” A woman just died, and Lister’s kind of like “That sucks.” A whole other person just died. Also, one of the last remaining humans in the universe, but that’s neither here nor there. Even if she was a robot, she would have been a good robot. Red Dwarf’s always been dark, but the characters’ coldness was out of character. Now balancing dark humor with comedy is a tricky thing, and I think these are just instances of mining comedy from dark humor at the expense of character. It happens. But these moments fall too far outside the leeway point. It’s not that they’re in bad taste (though they probably are), it’s that they’re not true to the characters. This is the kind of crap you’d get from Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny, where the protagonists are truly horrible people. The Dwarfers, for all their flaws, are not this. The Dwarfers are human beings, and all we ask for is a little follow-through. Kill off whoever you want, but the Dwarfers should at least be irked. They’re misfits, not psychopaths. You know when the Inquisitor killed the alternate crew? Lister said “Oh my God!” and sadly remarked on how he got Rimmer and the Cat? That’s all we’re looking for. Just a little humanity.

    #8. When In Doubt, Err on the Side of Simplicity

    If you look at the three arguably least well-received episodes of X, Fathers & Suns, Entangled, and Dear Dave, they all have one thing in common: narratively, they’re a little all over the place. (Perhaps that’s a little too unkind to Fathers & Suns, which I freaking loved, but that’s neither here nor there. They’re all good episodes, but clearly Trojan, Lemons, and the Beginning are objectively better). I think a big factor is that those three episodes are narratively and structurally all over the place. Look at almost any episode from the classic series and you realize that there’s usually only an A plot, and if there is a B plot, it will connect directly with the A plot by the end. Red Dwarf isn’t the Big Bang Theory where Leonard and Penny do their bullshit, Sheldon does his bullshit across the hall, and across town Howard and Bernadette do their bullshit. Even when the Dwarfers are just fucking around in the bunkroom, conceptually, it’s all pretty cohesive and streamlined. Everything relates to the central plot or concept. There’s actual deep shit and/or cool concepts being explored. The classic series was efficient and economical in its storytelling, and X by and large was as well. But even though Fathers & Suns was mostly great, the Taiwan Tony C-plot was really extraneous; I wasn’t that irked by the accent thing or even the joke behind the whole plot, which was fine, but the problem was the opportunity cost. Every second with Taiwan Tony or Chinese whispers was a second not with Pree or Double Lister. Red Dwarf is best when it picks one (or maybe two concepts) and efficiently uses its runtime to draw those concepts out and elaborate on them. It’s not an ADHD network sitcom that shifts between Plot A and Plot D and Plot C and hopes nobody notices that there isn’t really a story going on. Series X mostly wasn’t that, thankfully, but it started to lean in that direction slightly. Red Dwarf is a deep, rich show of substance, and that substance comes from the way it efficiently handles it uses its time to expound on its characters and concepts where more inferior shows bounce around more without purpose. There are a lot of modern sitcoms out there with that bad habit, and I humbly hope that Red Dwarf sticks with its Dwarfiness instead and keeps its plots tighter.

    #7. The Universe Needs To Be A Little More Serious

    Red Dwarf is, at the end of the day, a sitcom, so it makes sense that that the things and people the protagonists encounter are funny… except Red Dwarf is a strange bird. The wonderful universe it originally set out for itself from day one suggests that while Rimmer, Lister, the Cat, and Holly are funny characters (or at least funny when stuck in a ship together), the rest of the universe is serious and bleak. Remember Hollister in the early days? His scenes in I-II were funny, not necessarily because he himself as a character was funny (chicken suit notwithstanding), but because he became funny when Lister and Rimmer’s shenanigans bounced off him. Consider his meeting with Lister in The End, and even the cutting-of-the-cake scene. He’s a mostly serious, competent character who would work well in a sitcom, or equally well in a more serious sci-fi show. Many of the Dwarfers’ most iconic villains weren’t silly in their own right…. The Inquisitor, most of the Simulants, the Despair Squid, the Psirens, hell… even the holo-virus wasn’t necessarily hilarious until it infected Rimmer of all people. Otherwise these could easily all serve as serious villains on serious shows. The Inquisitor making people be judged by themselves is actually a pretty heavy concept. But when that’s applied to Rimmer and the Cat…. comedy gold. Human-hunting simulants aren’t necessarily funny on their own… but trying to trick them with an eye stuck on your upside-down chin as you claim you’re a different species… comedy gold. The point is, whatever humor occurs in an episode is generated in some way from the wacky characteristics and actions of the Dwarfers themselves. They don’t live in a Mel Brooks Spaceballs universe, a cartoon, farcical outer space where every little thing is independently goofy. The Dwarfers make their own funny, and it’s distracting when external characters are independently goofy.

    Of course, again, there’s some leeway, since the world can be a funny place, and the Red Dwarf crew don’t own being wacky. In many ways, they’re not even that special. So perhaps you can have Caligula and Elvis, you can have Hudzen 10, you can maybe, MAYBE even have Ace Rimmer as he appears in VII, crocodile-surfing and sky-writing (it was an alternate universe, after all). What I’m saying is, it’s important to make sure the level of silliness external to the Dwarfers remains at least kind of consistent with the universe as a whole; and indeed, arguably most of the Dwarfers’ most epic and well-loved adventures are those where the villain is serious and/or the Dwarfers generate their own problems. That was one of the problems of VIII. The was no reason for all of the resurrected crew to be that farcically silly (no matter how admittedly good Mac McDonald himself was in VIII); part of the charm of the Dwarfers is that they bring the wacky in an otherwise predominantly bleak, indifferent, and neutral universe.

    So after all that tot, we finally bring the discussion back to X, which, mostly is actually fine. Howard and Sim Crawford reach the right level of plausibly funny without going overboard. However, that stupid gurn when the holograms short out from resentment… that did not fit in the Red Dwarf universe whatsoever, to the point where it was distracting. The idea of the resentment crash is great, but should have been represented in a slightly more serious way. Now, all the goofy programs and vending machines on Red Dwarf… most of that has been part of Red Dwarf since the beginning. Talking toasters, talking toilets… the vending machines are fine because they’re still in the bubble of consistency (Taiwan Tony is really on the edge, though his existence isn’t entirely implausible). Hell, even the Medi-Bot is almost forgivable. (Not only have I met people like the Medi-Bot, I’ve met doctors like the Medi-Bot.) Is he overly wacky? Yes, but he might not inconsistent considering historically the number of other crazy AI Red Dwarf’s had on board. (Besides, I’d take 100 Medi-Bots over one Blaize Falconburger any day). Now, Lemons often danced the line in terms of acceptable external wackiness. Jesus, while mostly excellent, really approached the threshold with lines like “oh bugger” and him threatening to punch Lister’s teeth out. Yes, it not “the” Jesus, and while everything he said, particularly in the final act, was damn funny, he approached being a little too Mel Brooks/Monty Python-y, in a manner inconsistent with the Dwarf universe. Irene Edgington may have danced the line too but falls within the leeway zone, even if only just, if for no other reason than she doesn’t stick around long enough for her implausibility to dominate. Hogey the Roguey, too, approaches the line, but is compelling enough and consistent enough with what we’ve seen before to pass scrutiny; and arguably, he’s kind of an honorary Dwarfer, so falls comfortably within their bubble of wacky.

    And then we come to the Simulants in The Beginning. I god damn loved these guys, and every moment they were on screen was a joyous triumph (yes, even the ‘sycophant’ scene, which the political science major in me loves almost as much as the hari-kari scene). That hari-kari scene is perhaps not just the best scene in X, but belongs in the Dwarf pantheon along with other classic scenes. However… while I was laughing my ass off, the little nitpicking dickhead inside me was getting concerned. Why? Because perhaps I was laughing at these scenes for the wrong reasons. Sure the Simulants were freaking hilarious, but in a Spaceballs/Monty Python kind of way, not in a Red Dwarf kind of way; it’s hard to picture the Dominator and Chancellor from The Beginning existing in the same universe as The End. Indeed, it kind of feels like I’m watching a different show; that kind of scene with none of the main characters has rarely been done before in Red Dwarf. The Simulants are overtly wacky all on their own, far more so than the Simulants of old. And yet they work. Is this okay? Do they fall within the acceptable level of external wackiness along the same lines as Hudzen 10 and Caligula, or is their excessive wackiness and inconsistency with prior Simulants forgivable because of the humor factor? Do laughs win out at all costs?

    Now I’d reckon that against all odds, these Simulants pass scrutiny, but only because they fall under the exception that they were freaking god damn hilarious; anything short of that, and they’d fail, and risk being the Simulant “who doesn’t get invited to birthday parties” of VII. I’ll admit, I’m a weird guy; I can’t measure how good I think something is by how much I laugh at it. I can laugh my ass off at something a lot but not really enjoy it, like a bad episode of South Park, or Saturday Night Live. So I can’t accept the argument that “If it’s funny, then it works and all is forgiven, period.” Because if something is funny, but not the right kind of funny, I may well not really enjoy it. Thankfully, I did enjoy these Simulants. They worked. I hope, though, that while these Simulants did work, they won’t lead to a trend of increased external wackiness. The point is, the bleak neutrality of the Red Dwarf universe should be kept in mind with regards to whatever the Dwarfers encounter on their adventures in XI, and when in doubt, erring on the side of less independent wackiness may well actually enhance the humor and the narrative.

    #6. A Little More Internal Consistency Would Go A Long Way

    Of the several things I really liked about Dear Dave, the main one was the return to the theme of Lister’s loneliness in deep space, as the last member of his species, without a mate or any other kind of true human kinship. Early episodes like Balance of Power and Timeslides covered this well, but once the show started really getting into more adventures, Lister had less time to mope and instead had to fight for his life. Then Kochanski happened. Then the crew got resurrected… Back to Earth finally allowed things to circle back, and now with Dear Dave we finally get another episode dedicated to one of the core themes of the entire show. Lister has no other human company, and especially no more female human company, and that’s a sad fate indeed….

    Oh wait, except there was that human woman walking around only one freaking episode ago. Remember her? Lister didn’t seem to make a big deal then. It’s just something that’s impossible to clear from one’s mind when watching Dear Dave, the fact that the thing Lister’s pining for was right in front of him just moments previously, when he wasn’t really affected by it. And yeah, I get that Entangled and Dear Dave had production problems and last-minute rewrites, so there wasn’t exactly time to smooth out the continuity. And if I were being super, duper charitable, I could argue that Lister’s depression in Dear Dave was brought on by Irene’s death in Entangled (thus also addressing my earlier jadedness gripe). Those are perfectly legitimate counterpoints. But those don’t detract from my general point here, which is that if nothing else, XI should at the very least have a solid continuity between the episodes in its own series, and especially between two adjacent episodes.

    #5. Be Careful With the Prologues and Codas of Episodes

    The opening and closing scenes were a hallmark of the early Dwarf episodes, which the mostly-domestic X seems to be more or less based on. Several classic episodes start with the Dwarfers goofing off early in the first act, before the sci-fi smeg enters the ring: the faffing about with cooking and home movies in Polymorph, Lister watching the romance movie in Confidence & Paranoia, the table golf in Timeslides… those are all great openings and great setups for the plots that follow. It’s important though to make sure that these have sufficient connection, if not narratively then at least thematically, with the action that follows, or else they just slow things down. And for the most part, X gets away with most of its prologues, since they set up the action to follow. Fathers & Suns, Trojan, even Entangled have pretty good and relevant opening scenes. However, Lemons is the main culprit for the least adequate prologues. The ‘soy sauce’ and Shakespeare double-prologue scenes take up the majority of the first act, and their connections to the main story just don’t justify the length of time they occupy. Maybe the ‘soy sauce’ scene is justified, since the spleen payoff later was actually superb. And if it had just gone from that scene to the Rejuv Shower, that actually would have been really good. But the Shakespeare running gag though is a drawback. There is something there, I’ll give you that. The skullet line was funny, but the expressions being said later on to Rimmer’s annoyance… however potentially funny that idea was, the question is, did the Shakespeare expressions used later on justify the large amount of time the Shakespeare scene in the drive room occupied? I would say no. Now Lemons is one of the best episodes of X, and even that Drive Room scene has some great quips. But the episode almost started to grind to a halt before the main action even started. So if an episode’s going to have a prologue scene or two, fine, but the time they take up should be correlative to the narrative and/or thematic relevance they’ll have later on.

    And even codas, the ending scenes, are a trickier beast, namely because when Red Dwarf has done these in the past, it has only done so with varying degrees of success. And that’s not to say X isn’t entitled to forge its own personality and do something new, building onto what’s come before. Besides, codas are only usually very brief so typically they aren’t that dangerous or problematic. But the reality is, even the classic series couldn’t consistently nail down the type of coda where time passes after the climax to the point where the gang can get re-settled for the status-quo-restoring coda scene. That doesn’t mean those types of codas should be completely discouraged, but the codas in X kind of felt like a by-numbers aspect that had to be there for the classic vibe, and my point is, they kind of don’t. Overall, prologues and codas are fine, but only to the extent to which they setup or conclude the main action; otherwise, they run the risk of diluting the episode. Though Series X was mostly alright on these fronts, a tweak or two in these regards will make XI that much tighter and more narratively efficient.

    #4. Bring On the Bunkroom

    Okay, so you have the bunkroom! Fan-smegging-tastic! I can’t even describe how thrilled I’ve been about that. It looks just beautiful, and it sets itself apart as part of a new era while simultaneously paying tribute to the Dwarf of old. Stellar. I couldn’t be happier. And, the new bunkroom was well-used! Most of the scenes (or at least most of the best scenes) of the series took place here. The “A Moose!” scene, the Double Lister scene, “He Hath Risen!,” the Charades scene, all those wonderful events and more happened here, and hell, it was even under attack, (a rare mixture of the bunkroom setting and the action-adventure aspects of Dwarf)! And the gang hung out here a lot, at a rate not seen since at least III & IV. This is all great, and I’m happy and proud that Series X has done all this.

    So as a typically unthankful fan, I feel obligated to request MORE BUNKROOM! MOAR!!!! (Please). Now by that I don’t mean more time of the episode in the bunkroom, but more of the classic ‘bunkroom scenes’ that were a hallmark of early Dwarf. Sure in X, they hung out in the bunkroom a lot, but the room was more of a general lounge for all the Dwarfers to come, go, and spend time in than it was a setting for the Lister-Rimmer dynamic (not that it wasn’t both in the earlier series, but it used to be both, is my point). Hell, the actual bunks were only used I think twice in the whole series, but those were general scenes (both very good scenes mind you), not ever really a forum for classic-style Rimmer-Lister dialogues. Dear Dave was really only it when it came to Rimmer-Lister heart-to-hearts, unless you count the start of the ‘lateral thinking question’ scene. Hell, I’m afraid to say that even Series VIII had more bunkroom scenes than X ever did. And they were in a jail cell then; now they’re actually back in a legit bunkroom! (Where are they now on the ship btw? Not the officers block, I’m sure. Their current residence looks simultaneously nicer and shittier than their original quarters, in the most glorious way.)

    Dear Dave had some great Rimmer-Lister dialogue exchanges, and there were even more excellent exchanges in the deleted scenes (the “getting lost in the womb” conversation was a highlight). So more of that, please! X gave us episodes that delved in to Rimmer’s psyche and personal problems (Trojan/The Beginning) and Lister’s as well (Fathers & Suns/Dear Dave), and those aspects are extremely appreciated. I really enjoyed them a hell of a lot and am thrilled that Dwarf is once again throwing that kind of character humor our way. But just overlapping those psychological Rimmer and Lister aspects a bit (as I-III, and even sometimes IV, beautifully did) and making the bunkroom be used more as Rimmer & Lister’s actual bedroom and forum for philosophical and personal discussions, would put XI over the top and into the status of “really, really freaking awesome…. no, like really.”

    #3. Turn Up the Rimmer Quotient But Turn Down the Broadness

    If I could point to one aspect of the Red Dwarf narrative that’s made me fall in love with the show the most, it’s Rimmer. He’s, by quite a margin, the most interesting character in the show overall, the most complex, and the source of most of the humor. Everyone else is great too, but the writing for Rimmer, and Chris Barrie’s performance over the years, has been the jewel in the show’s crown. Hell, many of the best episodes of the show are those centered around Rimmer. Put simply: Rimmer is the best part of the show…

    …except in Series X. Now Rimmer, both in the writing and the acting, was very good this series. But maybe it’s just because of the passage of time, but the huge lead Rimmer had in being the best character on the show is almost non-existent this series. He’s more or less on equal footing with the others. Moreover, it might well even be Lister or Cat who overtake him as the best character in X, simply because they were both just so good this series. (Kryten’s really great too, but the nature of his character was never going to make him #1 material. Though he does make a good go at it in VI…) So, what’s the problem with Rimmer? Honestly, I’m not sure. He’s lost a little of the magic he once had, and I’m not in a position to know what percent of that is the writing and what percent of that is Chris Barrie’s performance. But it seems like Rimmer in Series X is almost now merely Rimmer-by-numbers. Pompous? Check. Fails exams? Check. Family baggage? Check. All of those are well-used in X and are decent seeds for a good character, and even Rimmer-by-numbers is pretty funny a lot of the time. But Rimmer is so much more than that. One of my problems with Rimmerworld was its really broad analysis of Rimmer as a cartoon character, as if his weasily-ness was in the core of his essence and not the result of a complex upbringing and inability to channel skills (that likely do exist within him somewhere) to rise in rank, succeed romantically, and meet his ambitions, as well as the self-loathing and anguish that come with that. (The Beginning does get a lot of that right, though, but I’ll get to that in a bit…)

    The main issue with Rimmer this series, I think, was just an overall broader depiction of him, both in the writing and the acting. Him complaining atop the captain’s chair on the Trojan was a good speech introducing his character but was just done maybe a little too cartoonishly when a little more anguish would have worked better (The same goes for the ‘hey ho pip and dandy’ scene.) Want proof? Look no further than Holoship, where Rimmer encounters a variation on almost the exact same problems. Taking an exam, rising in rank, aspiring to be higher. But his despair at his failures on that front give the comedy his energy. He’s legitimately suffering in Holoship, and it’s not overplayed at all (“Sorry, I’m busy Wednesday, I’m killing myself.”) True, his complaints in Trojan were more general outbursts of dissatisfaction and the situations in those episodes were very different, of course. And Trojan is still legitimately a good episode; I’m not really knocking what Rimmer says and does in it. I’m just over-examining how Rimmer is saying and doing things. As far as characterization goes, Rimmer in X is hitting only mostly triples, which, while very good, were previously and historically home runs on a constant basis.

    Now I’m not ignoring everything good about Rimmer in X. It’s no coincidence that Trojan and The Beginning were two of the best episodes of the series. Rimmer’s resentment, the lateral thinking question, dealing with Howard, all good stuff. And The Beginning really is Rimmer’s chance to shine, and when given the opportunity, Rimmer really does. Chris Barrie is great “Right, you’re on report!” and the writing for Rimmer is back. (In fact, it may well just be the writing for Rimmer that’s the problem in X, because when given the calibre of writing of The Beginning, Chris Barrie does a sublime job, as he also does with the delivery of lines like “How long, you mad Goth bastard?!” earlier in the series.) But for the rest of X, Rimmer is only very good, not great. Apart from the resentment gurn in Trojan and the over-repetition of “Or was it the system?” in Entangled, Rimmer definitely isn’t problematic or anything. He’s always an asset. Rimmer’s never, ever been bad at all really. (He was far and away the most enjoyable aspect of VIII, for instance). And I acknowledge the fact that Rimmer’s been played broadly before in the classic series, and that not every episode is a Rimmer episode. But Rimmer-based episodes just dominate (and they mostly do in X), and Rimmer is always a fountain of comedy even in episodes not focused on him; in X, he’s a just little overbroad and unsubtle in both the writing and acting and thus doesn’t bring 100% on these fronts, even if he is bringing 80-90% a lot of the time. And while not every episode’s going to be Thanks for the Memory II: Return of the Holoship and require the true, sincere, subtle Rimmer pathos and anguish, the fact remains that the less broadly Rimmer is depicted, the better he and any given episode will be. So if and when XI occurs, Rimmer should be just that much more humanized and fleshed out. He’s actually really great in The Beginning, so if nothing else, let that be the template…

    (Though seriously, Thanks for the Memory II: Return of the Holoship would be a killer episode for XI. Just saying. I look forward to receiving credit in the documentary.)

    #2. Channel the Classic Series Without Echoing It Directly

    Okay, this one’s really kind of unfair, I admit that. X is endeavoring to recapture the magic of the classic series, and here I am as an ungrateful fan saying “Aaaaaah stop! You’re recapturing it too much!” But the truth is, there were noticeable points in Series X that were direct echoes of specific events and exchanges from the old series, and it was distracting. The “practice rectum” conversation overtly draws from both the kebab scenes in Polymorph and the golf scene in Timeslides. Lister ‘humping’ the vending machine, with Rimmer catching him, is a direct echo of the boxer shorts gag from Polymorph, (though in my mind the vending machine scene is better set-up, less contrived, and more thematically relevant to its respective episode). Now sometimes, this direct echoing can be a good thing. The “don’t think about it scene” between Lister and Cat directly channels the ‘pit bull scene’ in Nanarchy, but builds on that scene and is vastly superior to it. So it does swing both ways. And even the other scenes listed above are decent in isolation. But when you reach a point where a gag overlaps too much with an old gag done before, no matter how funny it is in isolation, it severely injures the effectiveness of the gag. It just does. Now, that being said, I really laughed at all the jokes I just listed, so an injured gag surely isn’t a dead gag.

    And I will say this. Recapturing the classic essence of a show is an inexact science, and if having a few gags overlap is the price to be paid for a series that seeks to mostly have its own identity while channeling and homaging the best aspects of the classic years, then it’s a price I’ll gladly pay. And it does seem like a large part of X’s identity is in fact a unique patchwork of the classic series, which is a very interesting and worthy endeavor, and one that I think mostly succeeds. The Drive Room of X simultaneously channels the Drive Room of Series I, the Science Rooms of II-V, and the cockpit of VI-VII, all while presenting a new and unique location (spiral staircase, hells yeah!). That right there tells you so much about X and its style. So when attempting a style that simultaneously forges a new identity and tries new things, while also re-establishing the formats and characterizations of old, there’s room for slight missteps, which are mostly forgivable. Strive to far too the past, you get a “practice-rectum” scene that almost shamelessly over-channels Series III. But if you experiment too much, you get the problematic Chinese Whispers subplot. The endeavor is tricky, but highly admirable, laudable, and encouraged, and I’m willing to grant a great degree of leeway, especially because each of the echoing scenes was pretty good, even with the distractingly apparent channeling of old gags. It’s just important that XI is careful; even X was mostly careful, but this was just something big and noticeable that should easily be tweakable for XI.

    And now we’ve almost reached the end! So now, the #1 thing XI could do to improve over X is….

    #1. Increase The Conflict Between the Dwarfers

    It’s clear that one of the major aims of Series X was to hit the marks set by the classic series, and indeed, the vibes of II-IV are heavily present, (with a dash of I and VI, though not a lot of V for some reason). And X does hit most of these marks. Characters returned mostly to their classic, iconic settings? Check. Return of the bunkroom and domestic setting? Check. Return of a ship to go exploring? Check. The list of classic standards goes on, and X arguably meets most of them, even if only just. But there are some standards X doesn’t meet.

    If there’s one aspect of Series X that separates it from the classic series and prevents it from reaching the highs of those glory days, it’s the absence of conflict and animosity between the Dwarfers themselves. It’s just a fact that the Rimmer, Lister, Cat, and Kryten are extremely chummy in X, likely moreso than they’ve ever been before. And really, that makes loads and loads of sense. After many years together, the gang have grown closer together. Rimmer, the cause of most of the antagonism, has especially grown, a fact best demonstrated in Stoke Me a Clipper, where not only does he have to grow a pair to become Ace, but the affection he and Lister have for each other becomes especially apparent. It’s what gave rise to the admittedly clever development in VIII of bringing back a new version of Rimmer, a snidey one without all that development. And being in prison probably brought the Dwarfers together even more. But it’s clear that the Rimmer of BTE and X at least is related to the original version, likely even the original version having come back home because he missed the other Dwarfers so much (then, pretending to be mortally wounded, tricks the nano-Rimmer into taking his place as Ace before revealing that he’s fine and resuming normal life as Rimmer. Seriously, that would be awesome. But now I’m getting distracted).

    Over the years, the Dwarfers, who have long been at each other’s throats, have grown to not just tolerate each other, but actively like each other. Look no further for proof than Trojan, where Kryten, Lister, and Cat voluntarily help Rimmer put on a charade to help him impress his brother. Later on, the conversation about the Church of Judas may have included a few japes at Rimmer’s expense, but it was an earnest conversation between the four about Rimmer’s personal history. Rimmer and Lister open mail together much more amicably than they did in Better Than Life (“Yes I am over 18 although my I.Q. isn’t.”). And The Beginning… man oh man was that episode a display of Dwarfer kinship. Even if reluctantly, the gang respected Rimmer enough to ask him for a battle plan, and proudly carried out Rimmer’s plan as a united front (though I do wonder what would have happened if the missiles had collided with each other inside the Midget). These guys, whether they’d admit it or not, are proper mates. And in many ways, that’s a very good thing, especially if you’re invested in the emotional well-being and development of these characters. I sure am, and to see them stop fighting (they are “dueled out” after all) and just live amicably together as a group, is kind of heartwarming.

    But therein lies the rub. Because a great amount of the humor from the classic series was generated from the animosity between the Dwarfers and the insults that resulted. Remember episodes like Balance of Power, Stasis Leak, Bodyswap, Meltdown, and Quarantine, where Rimmer was legit the villain of the episode?! That would never happen with the modern version of Rimmer (unless he got a holo-virus, or a chewed-on light bee… okay, shut up). Remember all the insults against Lister’s ignorance, sloppiness, lack of ambition, and awful guitar playing? What made Cat potentially the MVP of Series X was the fact that out of anyone else, he wasn’t above being a dick and insulting the other Dwarfers (“Your mom was really smart!”), though even he was a little restrained. That’s not to say that the Dwarfers made zero jokes and insults at each other’s expense. But when, for instance, Lister in Trojan points to Cat and says “he only has three” thoughts a day, or when Rimmer says to Cat in Lemons, “Enjoy this moment. You’re no longer the dumb one,” … those are insults alright, but they’re playful and still kind of friendly. (Even so, those sorts of lines, when they appeared in X, were very welcome and appreciated, and the friendly, playful insults are kind of a new dynamic that I kind of really like.)

    But the chumminess and lack of antagonism are still a barrier. Now, if it’s decided that, ‘You know what, this is a new, modern era of Red Dwarf, we’re moving forward into new territory, character development will remain intact, and the gang will continue to be amicable because that’s the point the characters are at,” I totally and completely respect and admire that. But that closes a major door, and that door is the sharp character humor made at the characters’ expense that made Red Dwarf so awesome to begin with. I’m not suggesting forcing conflicts or contorting characters and narratives to make the peaceful modern Dwarfers hate each other again. Maybe all that’s needed is friendly competition; hell, Rimmer and Lister’s quests in Stasis Leak to get their designated persons into the one spare stasis booth were in a way kind of friendly competition. Maybe any kind of friendly competition can get the insult juices flowing again (Choux pastries, anyone?).

    I remember laughing hysterically the first time I saw White Hole, when Kryten explained that turning Rimmer off with low power would make him effectively dead, to which Cat exclaimed, “Hey! Things are looking up already!” And then Rimmer exclaimed to Kryten, “No chance, you metal bastard.” And then the Dwarfers proceeded to have an argument centered around the fact that Rimmer selfishly was endangering the others by refusing to switch off, with Rimmer calling Captain Oates a prat, remarking that he himself would have killed Scott. Just that one conversation contains so many insults and examples of dark comedy, and is just steeped in animosity… and it’s a classic. I really liked Series X, but it just didn’t have that kind of dynamic. The characters are too grown up now. X recaptured most, but not all of the classic elements, and for it to complete the journey, Rimmer needs to be selfish, resentful, and snidey to a greater degree than he is now, and needs to clash with Lister such that the sparks fly as they once did long ago. Lister, despite being actually fantastic this series, needs to be a tad less tolerant of Rimmer and more willing to throw insults Rimmer’s way (he does get a few good ones in X, though). The Cat was just really, really great this series; but you used to always be able to rely on him to generate piercing one-liners against Rimmer (and even Lister & Kryten), and while he did that a good deal this series (“…who goes by the name of YOU!”), the Cat insult factor has a lot of room to increase.

    But at the end of the day, though, the degree of animosity is a highly creative decision, with pros and cons in either direction. I myself love the friendly dynamic the Dwarfers have, on both emotional and narrative levels; what I’m saying, though, is that perhaps they’re just a little too amicable. Then again, the gang was sort of chummy all the back in Better Than Life, Thanks for the Memory, and even the end of Me2. So what the hell do I know? I suppose there’s every reason to believe that the animosity and/or insult factors can plausibly be jacked up at any moment, and I’d recommend that XI do that, even if just a little bit.

    So there you have it. My recommendations for the Top 11 things Series XI can do to improve from Series X. I really hope this list isn’t taken as the arrogant and petulant ravings of an ungrateful fan who thinks he knows more about writing and story structure and characterization than someone who’s being doing it since before the beginning of his very existence. Let’s be clear here: I god damn loved Series X. I ate it up. More importantly, though, I god damn loved what X was trying to be, and what it represented. Series X is a freaking godsend on multiple levels. But it’s rough around the edges, and that’s undeniable. But you know what? So was Series I. And the show shook off most of its flaws for Series II. So just think of any item on my list as the equivalent of “the sets are too gray,” easily fixable with a yellow inflatable banana decoration. Series X is the first legit series of Red Dwarf in a long time, and things are gonna be rusty, and all this list is doing is making recommendations for things the show can shake off for XI, just like Series I shook off flaws for Series II.

    That being said, I actually find X the most similar to Series III on several levels. Mainly, if you look at the change of the show as a linear progression from the Series I domestic bunkroom setting, set 100% on Red Dwarf, then adding more and more adventure until you get to the action-adventure setting of VI, set 0% on Red Dwarf, Series X matches up mostly with III, especially when you look at its ratio of domesticity to adventures. And let’s be fair: though III is seen by many as a peak season… it had its problems. Performances were off or just too silly (Blaize Falconburger), some stories’ sci-fi elements were under-explained (Backwards, Timeslides), and there was a lot of external silliness (Polymorph)… III was similarly rough around the edges, and moreover a lot of its problems were very similar to X’s perceived problems (Medi-Bot, Rejuv shower, narrative awkwardness, etc.). But then III became IV. And IV freaking ruled and fixed almost all those issues. And let’s be honest here: IV is just III with its crap together. If the change from X to XI is even half as positive as the change from III to IV (or even from I to II), then we’re in for something truly special, far moreso than X. All this list is doing is presenting a suggested roadmap to get there, from a fan who watches this show way too much.

    Special mention has to be given, too, to The Beginning, a special episode in a lot of ways. Of all Series X’s aspects I listed above that could be improved upon, The Beginning addresses basically all of them and gets almost all of those aspects right. Subtler, more human characterization for Rimmer? Check. Explanation of the sci-fi concept at play? Check (molecular destabilizer). Efficient plotting, no saggy prologue or coda, and no scene wasted? Check. A simple, memorable plot? Check. The bunkroom actually feeling like Rimmer & Lister’s bedroom and serving as a setting for contemplative, meaningful conversation? Check. The Dwarfers getting in some good japes at Rimmer’s expense? Check. The Beginning succeeds at basically all of these levels, to the point where it feels strangely detached from the rest of Series X. But it’s a familiar kind of detachment, and I realized that it reminded me of how separate Me2 felt from the rest of Series I. That episode basically fixed a lot of Series I’s flaws (meandering narrative, etc.) and paved the way for the glory days of Series II. It’s been said that Me2 is effectively Series 1.5, and serves as a quality bridge between Series I and Series II. In that same vein, I fondly hope that The Beginning is effectively Series 10.5, and serves as a quality bridge between Series X and Series XI (if and when there is a Series XI). If the next series can continue The Beginning’s trends of characterization, action, imagination, mythology, simple and efficient plotting, sharp humor, strong performances, focused personal storytelling, strong continuity, and meaningful contemplation, then we’ll be in for a real treat for Series XI… a real treat indeed.

    (If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you’re Doug Naylor, you’re a genius, and sorry I spent the last 100 paragraphs picking your show apart, you’re amazing, keep doing what you’re doing. Also, have you guys watched that show Other Space? It’s kind of Dwarf-y.)

    #211531
    Pete Part Three
    Participant

    I agree with about 90% of this and I rarely agree with anything, so well done.

    #211532
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Holy crap. That means a ton coming from you. Thanks!

    #211533

    Pretty much completely agree with the analysis of X (although not some elements of I-VIII) – while I was able to get past most of the slightly rough-around-the-edges elements, I do find myself wishing for less focus on unnecessary B & C-plots – something the early series never felt the need to do – and fewer direct references to previous episodes (no more post pods!) when watching the series.

    #211534
    si
    Participant

    I’d pick on a couple of points contained in there, and contradict myself while I do.

    Rimmer: I’d agree with the Rimmer-by-numbers thing. It sometimes feels like it’s grabbing bits of the classic series and putting it in because we know it worked. But sometimes, reusing great ideas of old kind of negates any character development. We know Rimmer’s anal, but his “You’re on report, m’laddio” in The Beginning sounds like a classic catchphrase crowbarred in. See, I’m contradicting myself – old stuff’ crowbarred in, but still raises a laugh. Don’t mind me, just thinking out loud.

    Another thing is The Cat. Over the years, he got stupid(er), especially in series VI and VII, and to a slightly lesser extent in VIII. It was a bit better in X, and his dimwittedness is the cause of one of my favourite jokes of the series, as he wonders in the background with the map, in Trojan.
    But he needs to be cooler. Cat in IV and V is *cool* and a little smarter. In X, he’s got the look, the style, but I don’t think the coolest Cat would be photocopying his arse, or playing the string game, which he hasn’t done (as far as I can recollect) since series I.

    Anyway. Ramble over.

    #211539
    Phil
    Participant

    My only complaint is that you didn’t submit this to my website. :(

    Great read.

    #211540
    Ben Paddon
    Participant

    I’m on board with most of these suggestions, especially making the universe a little more serious. Series VIII kind of started this trend of rendering stuff slightly too silly – I fucking hate that “Dennis the Donut Boy” gag – and it kind of takes away from the premise, IMO. Compare how well the simulant in “Quarantine” was played in comparison with the simulant in “Trojan”.. though I actually don’t mind the comedy simulant in “The Beginning”.

    #211541
    Phil
    Participant

    > I fucking hate that “Dennis the Donut Boy” gag

    There’s plenty to hate in that series, but that might be the only joke that’s so lousy it actually makes me angry when I remember it exists.

    #211545
    Ridley
    Participant

    I’d like space to feel less populated again.

    #211547
    Ian Symes
    Keymaster

    Compare how well the simulant in “Quarantine” was played in comparison with the simulant in “Trojan”

    I would do, if there was a simulant in Quarantine.

    #211548
    MANI506
    Participant

    A real Mickey Mouse operation.

    #211549
    MANI506
    Participant

    The Dennis The Donut Boy line might be my second favourite joke in VIII after Git Central.

    #211550

    One of my favourite DVD features is the full-length Back in the Red, because it allows me to watch VIII without reference to Dennis the Donut Boy, a gag which shits on almost every pre-accident scene in the first two series, without even having the decency of being funny whilst doing it.

    #211551
    John Hoare
    Participant

    One of my favourite DVD features is the full-length Back in the Red

    You may enjoy the final part of my Xtended Revisited series being published tomorrow, then.

    Or you may want to go and run into the road instead.

    #211552
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    – #11. Kryten Should Stick to Saying ‘Sir’ Only Once Per Sentence

    Didn’t notice this will probably be counting now next time I five the series a watch. I agree it’s a kryten cliche’ if it has been overdone.

    -#10. Explanations Should Be A Little More Fleshed Out

    -How did the Rejuvenation Shower lead to time travel?

    It’s designed to take a body’s cells back in time. It was built wrong therefore it took the crew outside to the woods behind the studio. erm no I mean it took them back across space time to earth 2000ish years ago. Yeah I felt when watching “That’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it” which is weird that I didn’t feel that when the Quantum Rod did something equally similar two episodes early. Maybe they should have had the cat accidentally use the rod in the shower?

    – How did Cat saying ‘choke’ lead the BEGG’s to choke?

    It didn’t LEAD cus the events are grouped by meaning and are coincidental not causal. You might think that’s bollocks, but its consistent with the theories mentioned of SYNCHRONICITY, and Arthur Koestler’s book which features. Parapsychology is criticised and debunked a lot so that doesn’t make it a concept easy to believe in when used in a sci fi setting in a unique way like how doug has written it. But I don’t think it’s a plot hole that it isn’t explained as “the cat did that with his mind” cus that would be cause and effect, and the point of synchronicity is two non linked events being grouped by meaning.

    – Were Howard and Sim Crawford really pulled into the future?

    I think so personally. He could have had krytens line as “The Rod must have pulled them through time.” maybe.

    – #9. The Dwarfers Actually Need to Give a Crap When People Die
    -Their reactions (or lack thereof) to Howard and Irene’s demises were COLD AS FUCKING ICE.

    #8. When In Doubt, Err on the Side of Simplicity

    If you look at the three arguably least well-received episodes of X, Fathers & Suns, Entangled, and Dear Dave, they all have one thing in common: narratively, they’re a little all over the place. (Perhaps that’s a little too unkind to Fathers & Suns, which I freaking loved, but that’s neither here nor there. They’re all good episodes, but clearly Trojan, Lemons, and the Beginning are objectively better). I think a big factor is that those three episodes are narratively and structurally all over the place. Look at almost any episode from the classic series and you realize that there’s usually only an A plot, and if there is a B plot, it will connect directly with the A plot by the end. Red Dwarf isn’t the Big Bang Theory where Leonard and Penny do their bullshit, Sheldon does his bullshit across the hall, and across town Howard and Bernadette do their bullshit. Even when the Dwarfers are just fucking around in the bunkroom, conceptually, it’s all pretty cohesive and streamlined. Everything relates to the central plot or concept. There’s actual deep shit and/or cool concepts being explored. The classic series was efficient and economical in its storytelling, and X by and large was as well. But even though Fathers & Suns was mostly great, the Taiwan Tony C-plot was really extraneous; I wasn’t that irked by the accent thing or even the joke behind the whole plot, which was fine, but the problem was the opportunity cost. Every second with Taiwan Tony or Chinese whispers was a second not with Pree or Double Lister. Red Dwarf is best when it picks one (or maybe two concepts) and efficiently uses its runtime to draw those concepts out and elaborate on them. It’s not an ADHD network sitcom that shifts between Plot A and Plot D and Plot C and hopes nobody notices that there isn’t really a story going on. Series X mostly wasn’t that, thankfully, but it started to lean in that direction slightly. Red Dwarf is a deep, rich show of substance, and that substance comes from the way it efficiently handles it uses its time to expound on its characters and concepts where more inferior shows bounce around more without purpose. There are a lot of modern sitcoms out there with that bad habit, and I humbly hope that Red Dwarf sticks with its Dwarfiness instead and keeps its plots tighter.

    #7. The Universe Needs To Be A Little More Serious

    Red Dwarf is, at the end of the day, a sitcom, so it makes sense that that the things and people the protagonists encounter are funny… except Red Dwarf is a strange bird. The wonderful universe it originally set out for itself from day one suggests that while Rimmer, Lister, the Cat, and Holly are funny characters (or at least funny when stuck in a ship together), the rest of the universe is serious and bleak. Remember Hollister in the early days? His scenes in I-II were funny, not necessarily because he himself as a character was funny (chicken suit notwithstanding), but because he became funny when Lister and Rimmer’s shenanigans bounced off him. Consider his meeting with Lister in The End, and even the cutting-of-the-cake scene. He’s a mostly serious, competent character who would work well in a sitcom, or equally well in a more serious sci-fi show. Many of the Dwarfers’ most iconic villains weren’t silly in their own right…. The Inquisitor, most of the Simulants, the Despair Squid, the Psirens, hell… even the holo-virus wasn’t necessarily hilarious until it infected Rimmer of all people. Otherwise these could easily all serve as serious villains on serious shows. The Inquisitor making people be judged by themselves is actually a pretty heavy concept. But when that’s applied to Rimmer and the Cat…. comedy gold. Human-hunting simulants aren’t necessarily funny on their own… but trying to trick them with an eye stuck on your upside-down chin as you claim you’re a different species… comedy gold. The point is, whatever humor occurs in an episode is generated in some way from the wacky characteristics and actions of the Dwarfers themselves. They don’t live in a Mel Brooks Spaceballs universe, a cartoon, farcical outer space where every little thing is independently goofy. The Dwarfers make their own funny, and it’s distracting when external characters are independently goofy.

    Of course, again, there’s some leeway, since the world can be a funny place, and the Red Dwarf crew don’t own being wacky. In many ways, they’re not even that special. So perhaps you can have Caligula and Elvis, you can have Hudzen 10, you can maybe, MAYBE even have Ace Rimmer as he appears in VII, crocodile-surfing and sky-writing (it was an alternate universe, after all). What I’m saying is, it’s important to make sure the level of silliness external to the Dwarfers remains at least kind of consistent with the universe as a whole; and indeed, arguably most of the Dwarfers’ most epic and well-loved adventures are those where the villain is serious and/or the Dwarfers generate their own problems. That was one of the problems of VIII. The was no reason for all of the resurrected crew to be that farcically silly (no matter how admittedly good Mac McDonald himself was in VIII); part of the charm of the Dwarfers is that they bring the wacky in an otherwise predominantly bleak, indifferent, and neutral universe.

    So after all that tot, we finally bring the discussion back to X, which, mostly is actually fine. Howard and Sim Crawford reach the right level of plausibly funny without going overboard. However, that stupid gurn when the holograms short out from resentment… that did not fit in the Red Dwarf universe whatsoever, to the point where it was distracting. The idea of the resentment crash is great, but should have been represented in a slightly more serious way. Now, all the goofy programs and vending machines on Red Dwarf… most of that has been part of Red Dwarf since the beginning. Talking toasters, talking toilets… the vending machines are fine because they’re still in the bubble of consistency (Taiwan Tony is really on the edge, though his existence isn’t entirely implausible). Hell, even the Medi-Bot is almost forgivable. (Not only have I met people like the Medi-Bot, I’ve met doctors like the Medi-Bot.) Is he overly wacky? Yes, but he might not inconsistent considering historically the number of other crazy AI Red Dwarf’s had on board. (Besides, I’d take 100 Medi-Bots over one Blaize Falconburger any day). Now, Lemons often danced the line in terms of acceptable external wackiness. Jesus, while mostly excellent, really approached the threshold with lines like “oh bugger” and him threatening to punch Lister’s teeth out. Yes, it not “the” Jesus, and while everything he said, particularly in the final act, was damn funny, he approached being a little too Mel Brooks/Monty Python-y, in a manner inconsistent with the Dwarf universe. Irene Edgington may have danced the line too but falls within the leeway zone, even if only just, if for no other reason than she doesn’t stick around long enough for her implausibility to dominate. Hogey the Roguey, too, approaches the line, but is compelling enough and consistent enough with what we’ve seen before to pass scrutiny; and arguably, he’s kind of an honorary Dwarfer, so falls comfortably within their bubble of wacky.

    And then we come to the Simulants in The Beginning. I god damn loved these guys, and every moment they were on screen was a joyous triumph (yes, even the ‘sycophant’ scene, which the political science major in me loves almost as much as the hari-kari scene). That hari-kari scene is perhaps not just the best scene in X, but belongs in the Dwarf pantheon along with other classic scenes. However… while I was laughing my ass off, the little nitpicking dickhead inside me was getting concerned. Why? Because perhaps I was laughing at these scenes for the wrong reasons. Sure the Simulants were freaking hilarious, but in a Spaceballs/Monty Python kind of way, not in a Red Dwarf kind of way; it’s hard to picture the Dominator and Chancellor from The Beginning existing in the same universe as The End. Indeed, it kind of feels like I’m watching a different show; that kind of scene with none of the main characters has rarely been done before in Red Dwarf. The Simulants are overtly wacky all on their own, far more so than the Simulants of old. And yet they work. Is this okay? Do they fall within the acceptable level of external wackiness along the same lines as Hudzen 10 and Caligula, or is their excessive wackiness and inconsistency with prior Simulants forgivable because of the humor factor? Do laughs win out at all costs?

    Now I’d reckon that against all odds, these Simulants pass scrutiny, but only because they fall under the exception that they were freaking god damn hilarious; anything short of that, and they’d fail, and risk being the Simulant “who doesn’t get invited to birthday parties” of VII. I’ll admit, I’m a weird guy; I can’t measure how good I think something is by how much I laugh at it. I can laugh my ass off at something a lot but not really enjoy it, like a bad episode of South Park, or Saturday Night Live. So I can’t accept the argument that “If it’s funny, then it works and all is forgiven, period.” Because if something is funny, but not the right kind of funny, I may well not really enjoy it. Thankfully, I did enjoy these Simulants. They worked. I hope, though, that while these Simulants did work, they won’t lead to a trend of increased external wackiness. The point is, the bleak neutrality of the Red Dwarf universe should be kept in mind with regards to whatever the Dwarfers encounter on their adventures in XI, and when in doubt, erring on the side of less independent wackiness may well actually enhance the humor and the narrative.

    #6. A Little More Internal Consistency Would Go A Long Way

    Of the several things I really liked about Dear Dave, the main one was the return to the theme of Lister’s loneliness in deep space, as the last member of his species, without a mate or any other kind of true human kinship. Early episodes like Balance of Power and Timeslides covered this well, but once the show started really getting into more adventures, Lister had less time to mope and instead had to fight for his life. Then Kochanski happened. Then the crew got resurrected… Back to Earth finally allowed things to circle back, and now with Dear Dave we finally get another episode dedicated to one of the core themes of the entire show. Lister has no other human company, and especially no more female human company, and that’s a sad fate indeed….

    Oh wait, except there was that human woman walking around only one freaking episode ago. Remember her? Lister didn’t seem to make a big deal then. It’s just something that’s impossible to clear from one’s mind when watching Dear Dave, the fact that the thing Lister’s pining for was right in front of him just moments previously, when he wasn’t really affected by it. And yeah, I get that Entangled and Dear Dave had production problems and last-minute rewrites, so there wasn’t exactly time to smooth out the continuity. And if I were being super, duper charitable, I could argue that Lister’s depression in Dear Dave was brought on by Irene’s death in Entangled (thus also addressing my earlier jadedness gripe). Those are perfectly legitimate counterpoints. But those don’t detract from my general point here, which is that if nothing else, XI should at the very least have a solid continuity between the episodes in its own series, and especially between two adjacent episodes.

    #5. Be Careful With the Prologues and Codas of Episodes

    The opening and closing scenes were a hallmark of the early Dwarf episodes, which the mostly-domestic X seems to be more or less based on. Several classic episodes start with the Dwarfers goofing off early in the first act, before the sci-fi smeg enters the ring: the faffing about with cooking and home movies in Polymorph, Lister watching the romance movie in Confidence & Paranoia, the table golf in Timeslides… those are all great openings and great setups for the plots that follow. It’s important though to make sure that these have sufficient connection, if not narratively then at least thematically, with the action that follows, or else they just slow things down. And for the most part, X gets away with most of its prologues, since they set up the action to follow. Fathers & Suns, Trojan, even Entangled have pretty good and relevant opening scenes. However, Lemons is the main culprit for the least adequate prologues. The ‘soy sauce’ and Shakespeare double-prologue scenes take up the majority of the first act, and their connections to the main story just don’t justify the length of time they occupy. Maybe the ‘soy sauce’ scene is justified, since the spleen payoff later was actually superb. And if it had just gone from that scene to the Rejuv Shower, that actually would have been really good. But the Shakespeare running gag though is a drawback. There is something there, I’ll give you that. The skullet line was funny, but the expressions being said later on to Rimmer’s annoyance… however potentially funny that idea was, the question is, did the Shakespeare expressions used later on justify the large amount of time the Shakespeare scene in the drive room occupied? I would say no. Now Lemons is one of the best episodes of X, and even that Drive Room scene has some great quips. But the episode almost started to grind to a halt before the main action even started. So if an episode’s going to have a prologue scene or two, fine, but the time they take up should be correlative to the narrative and/or thematic relevance they’ll have later on.

    And even codas, the ending scenes, are a trickier beast, namely because when Red Dwarf has done these in the past, it has only done so with varying degrees of success. And that’s not to say X isn’t entitled to forge its own personality and do something new, building onto what’s come before. Besides, codas are only usually very brief so typically they aren’t that dangerous or problematic. But the reality is, even the classic series couldn’t consistently nail down the type of coda where time passes after the climax to the point where the gang can get re-settled for the status-quo-restoring coda scene. That doesn’t mean those types of codas should be completely discouraged, but the codas in X kind of felt like a by-numbers aspect that had to be there for the classic vibe, and my point is, they kind of don’t. Overall, prologues and codas are fine, but only to the extent to which they setup or conclude the main action; otherwise, they run the risk of diluting the episode. Though Series X was mostly alright on these fronts, a tweak or two in these regards will make XI that much tighter and more narratively efficient.

    #4. Bring On the Bunkroom

    Okay, so you have the bunkroom! Fan-smegging-tastic! I can’t even describe how thrilled I’ve been about that. It looks just beautiful, and it sets itself apart as part of a new era while simultaneously paying tribute to the Dwarf of old. Stellar. I couldn’t be happier. And, the new bunkroom was well-used! Most of the scenes (or at least most of the best scenes) of the series took place here. The “A Moose!” scene, the Double Lister scene, “He Hath Risen!,” the Charades scene, all those wonderful events and more happened here, and hell, it was even under attack, (a rare mixture of the bunkroom setting and the action-adventure aspects of Dwarf)! And the gang hung out here a lot, at a rate not seen since at least III & IV. This is all great, and I’m happy and proud that Series X has done all this.

    So as a typically unthankful fan, I feel obligated to request MORE BUNKROOM! MOAR!!!! (Please). Now by that I don’t mean more time of the episode in the bunkroom, but more of the classic ‘bunkroom scenes’ that were a hallmark of early Dwarf. Sure in X, they hung out in the bunkroom a lot, but the room was more of a general lounge for all the Dwarfers to come, go, and spend time in than it was a setting for the Lister-Rimmer dynamic (not that it wasn’t both in the earlier series, but it used to be both, is my point). Hell, the actual bunks were only used I think twice in the whole series, but those were general scenes (both very good scenes mind you), not ever really a forum for classic-style Rimmer-Lister dialogues. Dear Dave was really only it when it came to Rimmer-Lister heart-to-hearts, unless you count the start of the ‘lateral thinking question’ scene. Hell, I’m afraid to say that even Series VIII had more bunkroom scenes than X ever did. And they were in a jail cell then; now they’re actually back in a legit bunkroom! (Where are they now on the ship btw? Not the officers block, I’m sure. Their current residence looks simultaneously nicer and shittier than their original quarters, in the most glorious way.)

    Dear Dave had some great Rimmer-Lister dialogue exchanges, and there were even more excellent exchanges in the deleted scenes (the “getting lost in the womb” conversation was a highlight). So more of that, please! X gave us episodes that delved in to Rimmer’s psyche and personal problems (Trojan/The Beginning) and Lister’s as well (Fathers & Suns/Dear Dave), and those aspects are extremely appreciated. I really enjoyed them a hell of a lot and am thrilled that Dwarf is once again throwing that kind of character humor our way. But just overlapping those psychological Rimmer and Lister aspects a bit (as I-III, and even sometimes IV, beautifully did) and making the bunkroom be used more as Rimmer & Lister’s actual bedroom and forum for philosophical and personal discussions, would put XI over the top and into the status of “really, really freaking awesome…. no, like really.”

    #3. Turn Up the Rimmer Quotient But Turn Down the Broadness

    If I could point to one aspect of the Red Dwarf narrative that’s made me fall in love with the show the most, it’s Rimmer. He’s, by quite a margin, the most interesting character in the show overall, the most complex, and the source of most of the humor. Everyone else is great too, but the writing for Rimmer, and Chris Barrie’s performance over the years, has been the jewel in the show’s crown. Hell, many of the best episodes of the show are those centered around Rimmer. Put simply: Rimmer is the best part of the show…

    …except in Series X. Now Rimmer, both in the writing and the acting, was very good this series. But maybe it’s just because of the passage of time, but the huge lead Rimmer had in being the best character on the show is almost non-existent this series. He’s more or less on equal footing with the others. Moreover, it might well even be Lister or Cat who overtake him as the best character in X, simply because they were both just so good this series. (Kryten’s really great too, but the nature of his character was never going to make him #1 material. Though he does make a good go at it in VI…) So, what’s the problem with Rimmer? Honestly, I’m not sure. He’s lost a little of the magic he once had, and I’m not in a position to know what percent of that is the writing and what percent of that is Chris Barrie’s performance. But it seems like Rimmer in Series X is almost now merely Rimmer-by-numbers. Pompous? Check. Fails exams? Check. Family baggage? Check. All of those are well-used in X and are decent seeds for a good character, and even Rimmer-by-numbers is pretty funny a lot of the time. But Rimmer is so much more than that. One of my problems with Rimmerworld was its really broad analysis of Rimmer as a cartoon character, as if his weasily-ness was in the core of his essence and not the result of a complex upbringing and inability to channel skills (that likely do exist within him somewhere) to rise in rank, succeed romantically, and meet his ambitions, as well as the self-loathing and anguish that come with that. (The Beginning does get a lot of that right, though, but I’ll get to that in a bit…)

    The main issue with Rimmer this series, I think, was just an overall broader depiction of him, both in the writing and the acting. Him complaining atop the captain’s chair on the Trojan was a good speech introducing his character but was just done maybe a little too cartoonishly when a little more anguish would have worked better (The same goes for the ‘hey ho pip and dandy’ scene.) Want proof? Look no further than Holoship, where Rimmer encounters a variation on almost the exact same problems. Taking an exam, rising in rank, aspiring to be higher. But his despair at his failures on that front give the comedy his energy. He’s legitimately suffering in Holoship, and it’s not overplayed at all (“Sorry, I’m busy Wednesday, I’m killing myself.”) True, his complaints in Trojan were more general outbursts of dissatisfaction and the situations in those episodes were very different, of course. And Trojan is still legitimately a good episode; I’m not really knocking what Rimmer says and does in it. I’m just over-examining how Rimmer is saying and doing things. As far as characterization goes, Rimmer in X is hitting only mostly triples, which, while very good, were previously and historically home runs on a constant basis.

    Now I’m not ignoring everything good about Rimmer in X. It’s no coincidence that Trojan and The Beginning were two of the best episodes of the series. Rimmer’s resentment, the lateral thinking question, dealing with Howard, all good stuff. And The Beginning really is Rimmer’s chance to shine, and when given the opportunity, Rimmer really does. Chris Barrie is great “Right, you’re on report!” and the writing for Rimmer is back. (In fact, it may well just be the writing for Rimmer that’s the problem in X, because when given the calibre of writing of The Beginning, Chris Barrie does a sublime job, as he also does with the delivery of lines like “How long, you mad Goth bastard?!” earlier in the series.) But for the rest of X, Rimmer is only very good, not great. Apart from the resentment gurn in Trojan and the over-repetition of “Or was it the system?” in Entangled, Rimmer definitely isn’t problematic or anything. He’s always an asset. Rimmer’s never, ever been bad at all really. (He was far and away the most enjoyable aspect of VIII, for instance). And I acknowledge the fact that Rimmer’s been played broadly before in the classic series, and that not every episode is a Rimmer episode. But Rimmer-based episodes just dominate (and they mostly do in X), and Rimmer is always a fountain of comedy even in episodes not focused on him; in X, he’s a just little overbroad and unsubtle in both the writing and acting and thus doesn’t bring 100% on these fronts, even if he is bringing 80-90% a lot of the time. And while not every episode’s going to be Thanks for the Memory II: Return of the Holoship and require the true, sincere, subtle Rimmer pathos and anguish, the fact remains that the less broadly Rimmer is depicted, the better he and any given episode will be. So if and when XI occurs, Rimmer should be just that much more humanized and fleshed out. He’s actually really great in The Beginning, so if nothing else, let that be the template…

    (Though seriously, Thanks for the Memory II: Return of the Holoship would be a killer episode for XI. Just saying. I look forward to receiving credit in the documentary.)

    #2. Channel the Classic Series Without Echoing It Directly

    Okay, this one’s really kind of unfair, I admit that. X is endeavoring to recapture the magic of the classic series, and here I am as an ungrateful fan saying “Aaaaaah stop! You’re recapturing it too much!” But the truth is, there were noticeable points in Series X that were direct echoes of specific events and exchanges from the old series, and it was distracting. The “practice rectum” conversation overtly draws from both the kebab scenes in Polymorph and the golf scene in Timeslides. Lister ‘humping’ the vending machine, with Rimmer catching him, is a direct echo of the boxer shorts gag from Polymorph, (though in my mind the vending machine scene is better set-up, less contrived, and more thematically relevant to its respective episode). Now sometimes, this direct echoing can be a good thing. The “don’t think about it scene” between Lister and Cat directly channels the ‘pit bull scene’ in Nanarchy, but builds on that scene and is vastly superior to it. So it does swing both ways. And even the other scenes listed above are decent in isolation. But when you reach a point where a gag overlaps too much with an old gag done before, no matter how funny it is in isolation, it severely injures the effectiveness of the gag. It just does. Now, that being said, I really laughed at all the jokes I just listed, so an injured gag surely isn’t a dead gag.

    And I will say this. Recapturing the classic essence of a show is an inexact science, and if having a few gags overlap is the price to be paid for a series that seeks to mostly have its own identity while channeling and homaging the best aspects of the classic years, then it’s a price I’ll gladly pay. And it does seem like a large part of X’s identity is in fact a unique patchwork of the classic series, which is a very interesting and worthy endeavor, and one that I think mostly succeeds. The Drive Room of X simultaneously channels the Drive Room of Series I, the Science Rooms of II-V, and the cockpit of VI-VII, all while presenting a new and unique location (spiral staircase, hells yeah!). That right there tells you so much about X and its style. So when attempting a style that simultaneously forges a new identity and tries new things, while also re-establishing the formats and characterizations of old, there’s room for slight missteps, which are mostly forgivable. Strive to far too the past, you get a “practice-rectum” scene that almost shamelessly over-channels Series III. But if you experiment too much, you get the problematic Chinese Whispers subplot. The endeavor is tricky, but highly admirable, laudable, and encouraged, and I’m willing to grant a great degree of leeway, especially because each of the echoing scenes was pretty good, even with the distractingly apparent channeling of old gags. It’s just important that XI is careful; even X was mostly careful, but this was just something big and noticeable that should easily be tweakable for XI.

    And now we’ve almost reached the end! So now, the #1 thing XI could do to improve over X is….

    #1. Increase The Conflict Between the Dwarfers

    It’s clear that one of the major aims of Series X was to hit the marks set by the classic series, and indeed, the vibes of II-IV are heavily present, (with a dash of I and VI, though not a lot of V for some reason). And X does hit most of these marks. Characters returned mostly to their classic, iconic settings? Check. Return of the bunkroom and domestic setting? Check. Return of a ship to go exploring? Check. The list of classic standards goes on, and X arguably meets most of them, even if only just. But there are some standards X doesn’t meet.

    If there’s one aspect of Series X that separates it from the classic series and prevents it from reaching the highs of those glory days, it’s the absence of conflict and animosity between the Dwarfers themselves. It’s just a fact that the Rimmer, Lister, Cat, and Kryten are extremely chummy in X, likely moreso than they’ve ever been before. And really, that makes loads and loads of sense. After many years together, the gang have grown closer together. Rimmer, the cause of most of the antagonism, has especially grown, a fact best demonstrated in Stoke Me a Clipper, where not only does he have to grow a pair to become Ace, but the affection he and Lister have for each other becomes especially apparent. It’s what gave rise to the admittedly clever development in VIII of bringing back a new version of Rimmer, a snidey one without all that development. And being in prison probably brought the Dwarfers together even more. But it’s clear that the Rimmer of BTE and X at least is related to the original version, likely even the original version having come back home because he missed the other Dwarfers so much (then, pretending to be mortally wounded, tricks the nano-Rimmer into taking his place as Ace before revealing that he’s fine and resuming normal life as Rimmer. Seriously, that would be awesome. But now I’m getting distracted).

    Over the years, the Dwarfers, who have long been at each other’s throats, have grown to not just tolerate each other, but actively like each other. Look no further for proof than Trojan, where Kryten, Lister, and Cat voluntarily help Rimmer put on a charade to help him impress his brother. Later on, the conversation about the Church of Judas may have included a few japes at Rimmer’s expense, but it was an earnest conversation between the four about Rimmer’s personal history. Rimmer and Lister open mail together much more amicably than they did in Better Than Life (“Yes I am over 18 although my I.Q. isn’t.”). And The Beginning… man oh man was that episode a display of Dwarfer kinship. Even if reluctantly, the gang respected Rimmer enough to ask him for a battle plan, and proudly carried out Rimmer’s plan as a united front (though I do wonder what would have happened if the missiles had collided with each other inside the Midget). These guys, whether they’d admit it or not, are proper mates. And in many ways, that’s a very good thing, especially if you’re invested in the emotional well-being and development of these characters. I sure am, and to see them stop fighting (they are “dueled out” after all) and just live amicably together as a group, is kind of heartwarming.

    But therein lies the rub. Because a great amount of the humor from the classic series was generated from the animosity between the Dwarfers and the insults that resulted. Remember episodes like Balance of Power, Stasis Leak, Bodyswap, Meltdown, and Quarantine, where Rimmer was legit the villain of the episode?! That would never happen with the modern version of Rimmer (unless he got a holo-virus, or a chewed-on light bee… okay, shut up). Remember all the insults against Lister’s ignorance, sloppiness, lack of ambition, and awful guitar playing? What made Cat potentially the MVP of Series X was the fact that out of anyone else, he wasn’t above being a dick and insulting the other Dwarfers (“Your mom was really smart!”), though even he was a little restrained. That’s not to say that the Dwarfers made zero jokes and insults at each other’s expense. But when, for instance, Lister in Trojan points to Cat and says “he only has three” thoughts a day, or when Rimmer says to Cat in Lemons, “Enjoy this moment. You’re no longer the dumb one,” … those are insults alright, but they’re playful and still kind of friendly. (Even so, those sorts of lines, when they appeared in X, were very welcome and appreciated, and the friendly, playful insults are kind of a new dynamic that I kind of really like.)

    But the chumminess and lack of antagonism are still a barrier. Now, if it’s decided that, ‘You know what, this is a new, modern era of Red Dwarf, we’re moving forward into new territory, character development will remain intact, and the gang will continue to be amicable because that’s the point the characters are at,” I totally and completely respect and admire that. But that closes a major door, and that door is the sharp character humor made at the characters’ expense that made Red Dwarf so awesome to begin with. I’m not suggesting forcing conflicts or contorting characters and narratives to make the peaceful modern Dwarfers hate each other again. Maybe all that’s needed is friendly competition; hell, Rimmer and Lister’s quests in Stasis Leak to get their designated persons into the one spare stasis booth were in a way kind of friendly competition. Maybe any kind of friendly competition can get the insult juices flowing again (Choux pastries, anyone?).

    I remember laughing hysterically the first time I saw White Hole, when Kryten explained that turning Rimmer off with low power would make him effectively dead, to which Cat exclaimed, “Hey! Things are looking up already!” And then Rimmer exclaimed to Kryten, “No chance, you metal bastard.” And then the Dwarfers proceeded to have an argument centered around the fact that Rimmer selfishly was endangering the others by refusing to switch off, with Rimmer calling Captain Oates a prat, remarking that he himself would have killed Scott. Just that one conversation contains so many insults and examples of dark comedy, and is just steeped in animosity… and it’s a classic. I really liked Series X, but it just didn’t have that kind of dynamic. The characters are too grown up now. X recaptured most, but not all of the classic elements, and for it to complete the journey, Rimmer needs to be selfish, resentful, and snidey to a greater degree than he is now, and needs to clash with Lister such that the sparks fly as they once did long ago. Lister, despite being actually fantastic this series, needs to be a tad less tolerant of Rimmer and more willing to throw insults Rimmer’s way (he does get a few good ones in X, though). The Cat was just really, really great this series; but you used to always be able to rely on him to generate piercing one-liners against Rimmer (and even Lister & Kryten), and while he did that a good deal this series (“…who goes by the name of YOU!”), the Cat insult factor has a lot of room to increase.

    But at the end of the day, though, the degree of animosity is a highly creative decision, with pros and cons in either direction. I myself love the friendly dynamic the Dwarfers have, on both emotional and narrative levels; what I’m saying, though, is that perhaps they’re just a little too amicable. Then again, the gang was sort of chummy all the back in Better Than Life, Thanks for the Memory, and even the end of Me2. So what the hell do I know? I suppose there’s every reason to believe that the animosity and/or insult factors can plausibly be jacked up at any moment, and I’d recommend that XI do that, even if just a little bit.

    So there you have it. My recommendations for the Top 11 things Series XI can do to improve from Series X. I really hope this list isn’t taken as the arrogant and petulant ravings of an ungrateful fan who thinks he knows more about writing and story structure and characterization than someone who’s being doing it since before the beginning of his very existence. Let’s be clear here: I god damn loved Series X. I ate it up. More importantly, though, I god damn loved what X was trying to be, and what it represented. Series X is a freaking godsend on multiple levels. But it’s rough around the edges, and that’s undeniable. But you know what? So was Series I. And the show shook off most of its flaws for Series II. So just think of any item on my list as the equivalent of “the sets are too gray,” easily fixable with a yellow inflatable banana decoration. Series X is the first legit series of Red Dwarf in a long time, and things are gonna be rusty, and all this list is doing is making recommendations for things the show can shake off for XI, just like Series I shook off flaws for Series II.

    That being said, I actually find X the most similar to Series III on several levels. Mainly, if you look at the change of the show as a linear progression from the Series I domestic bunkroom setting, set 100% on Red Dwarf, then adding more and more adventure until you get to the action-adventure setting of VI, set 0% on Red Dwarf, Series X matches up mostly with III, especially when you look at its ratio of domesticity to adventures. And let’s be fair: though III is seen by many as a peak season… it had its problems. Performances were off or just too silly (Blaize Falconburger), some stories’ sci-fi elements were under-explained (Backwards, Timeslides), and there was a lot of external silliness (Polymorph)… III was similarly rough around the edges, and moreover a lot of its problems were very similar to X’s perceived problems (Medi-Bot, Rejuv shower, narrative awkwardness, etc.). But then III became IV. And IV freaking ruled and fixed almost all those issues. And let’s be honest here: IV is just III with its crap together. If the change from X to XI is even half as positive as the change from III to IV (or even from I to II), then we’re in for something truly special, far moreso than X. All this list is doing is presenting a suggested roadmap to get there, from a fan who watches this show way too much.

    Special mention has to be given, too, to The Beginning, a special episode in a lot of ways. Of all Series X’s aspects I listed above that could be improved upon, The Beginning addresses basically all of them and gets almost all of those aspects right. Subtler, more human characterization for Rimmer? Check. Explanation of the sci-fi concept at play? Check (molecular destabilizer). Efficient plotting, no saggy prologue or coda, and no scene wasted? Check. A simple, memorable plot? Check. The bunkroom actually feeling like Rimmer & Lister’s bedroom and serving as a setting for contemplative, meaningful conversation? Check. The Dwarfers getting in some good japes at Rimmer’s expense? Check. The Beginning succeeds at basically all of these levels, to the point where it feels strangely detached from the rest of Series X. But it’s a familiar kind of detachment, and I realized that it reminded me of how separate Me2 felt from the rest of Series I. That episode basically fixed a lot of Series I’s flaws (meandering narrative, etc.) and paved the way for the glory days of Series II. It’s been said that Me2 is effectively Series 1.5, and serves as a quality bridge between Series I and Series II. In that same vein, I fondly hope that The Beginning is effectively Series 10.5, and serves as a quality bridge between Series X and Series XI (if and when there is a Series XI). If the next series can continue The Beginning’s trends of characterization, action, imagination, mythology, simple and efficient plotting, sharp humor, strong performances, focused personal storytelling, strong continuity, and meaningful contemplation, then we’ll be in for a real treat for Series XI… a real treat indeed.

    #211553
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    Apologies for the above post. Half written. The website crashed and the Edit option doesnt seem to work? Please admin delete it.

    #211554
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    – #11. Kryten Should Stick to Saying ‘Sir’ Only Once Per Sentence

    Didn’t notice this will probably be counting now next time I give the series a watch. I agree it’s a kryten cliche’ so it’s better if bobby doesnt add ones beyond the script.

    -#10. Explanations Should Be A Little More Fleshed Out

    -How did the Rejuvenation Shower lead to time travel?

    It’s designed to take a body’s cells back in time. It was built wrong therefore it took the crew outside to the woods behind the studio. erm no I mean it took them back across space time to earth 2000ish years ago. Yeah I felt when watching “That’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it” which is weird that I didn’t feel that when the Quantum Rod did something equally similar two episodes early. Maybe they should have had the cat accidentally use the rod in the shower?

    – How did Cat saying ‘choke’ lead the BEGG’s to choke?

    It didn’t LEAD cus the events are grouped by meaning and are coincidental not causal. You might think that’s bollocks, but its consistent with the theories mentioned of SYNCHRONICITY, and Arthur Koestler’s book which features. Parapsychology is criticised and debunked a lot so that doesn’t make it a concept easy to believe in when used in a sci fi setting in a unique way like how doug has written it. But I don’t think it’s a plot hole that it isn’t explained as “the cat did that with his mind” cus that would be cause and effect, and the point of synchronicity is two non linked events being grouped by meaning.

    – Were Howard and Sim Crawford really pulled into the future?

    I think so personally. He could have had krytens line as “The Rod must have pulled them through time.” maybe.

    – #9. The Dwarfers Actually Need to Give a Crap When People Die
    -Their reactions (or lack thereof) to Howard and Irene’s demises were COLD AS FUCKING ICE.

    Its incredibly cartoon character, Irene. It’s unjustifiable because she isnt a villian. I try to side with the idea that Doug is trying to write a character too topsy turvey “wrong” to live. He does go to the lenght of having her press the button that kills her, so it’s not murder/man slaughter in full, it’s accidental death returning the status quo, but as a punchline we dont spend any time seeing if they would morn her any. Howard i dont give a shit about myself, it’s clearly seeded he hated his brother, and i know people in real life who would quite happily laugh at siblings going, when parental figures you still seek recognition from however cruel they were on a deeper level.

    #8. When In Doubt, Err on the Side of Simplicity

    I think the multiplot thing in part came out of the series being ship bound when it wasnt originally. As shown in were smegged. Ripping out the location scenes resulting in adding third plots into the holes in some scripts. We sort of know 1 to 4 were still filmed as planned shows and 5 and 6 replaced entirely after that decision. 6 is shorterned from the movie script and feels structurally different to some of the others as a result. 5 has multiple plots cus it went in front of cameras half written due to being a replacement. So extra third green screen plot was added to complete. As was extra end plot twist of entangled also due to monkey time!. Lemons kept it’s outside scenes with clever sets so didnt go for three plots. So maybe parts of trojan and fathers and suns were inserted as new second or third plots, and just generally being ship based means one plot cant sustain. Even series one had dual plots in episodes at times.

    #6. A Little More Internal Consistency Would Go A Long Way

    Yes. Thats a good thing. That gets harder to do as your episode count goes up, and i think he found that harder even more when writing episodes last minute up against it. We know 9 of the 12 are written for the next series in advance so maybe this will improve. We also know “The laws of continuity? who gives a smeg” has been the attitude if it makes something else work better has always been the attitude.

    #5. Be Careful With the Prologues and Codas of Episodes
    Didnt bother me in X but there is always room for improvement in that area somewhere in any red dwarf series, i can spot the weaker ones.

    #4. Bring On the Bunkroom

    Yeah. Good points here. Was it something to do with camera set ups??? Cus the blocking went nearly all to table based mid room staging. Or is it that the set doesnt look so good in bunk close up?? Certainly on the green sreen scenes they had to be siting at the table.

    #7. The Universe Needs To Be A Little More Serious
    #3. Turn Up the Rimmer Quotient, But Turn Down the Broadness

    I think there was two massive rimmer episodes and plenty of him elsewhere. The broadness is a worry since 8 though i think this is the biggest win hard to get right but character believability retained in a situation thats funny is what makes most long term fans laugh rather than nit pick.

    #2. Channel the Classic Series Without Echoing It Directly

    Erm. Classic Series? It’s not Dr who. Are you refering to 1 to VI or All BBC series when you say that?

    Again this gets harder the more episodes exsist. But i thing there is tons of repetition. I think half the plot of Trojan is lifted from Beyond a joke and the character changed. Which is a lot worse than newer plots and idea that try and dont quite come off in my book. And yeah the cats golf thing got half laughs only from me cus i was having flashbacks as he explained it to other earlier scenes put together.
    .
    #1. Increase The Conflict Between the Dwarfers

    I think cat and kryten had some small moments of anti rimmerness, Lister certainly had plots rubbing against him, though i can equally point out scenes where cat and kryten helped rimmer that seemed almost out of character. Mainly kryten seems to be his underdog a bit too much now, when he was learning to Rebel in earlier series there was sometimes a bile that isnt here now.

    #211556
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Classic series = I-VI. The original run. Apologies for any confusion on that front. (I actually like VII as its own thing on its own terms, but anything post VI isn’t ‘classic.’ Say what you want about VII, but at least it knows story structure!)

    I still think Rimmer was way too cold regarding Howard’s death, especially as they seemed to have made amends, giving Rimmer a lot of closure with some of his personal demons. Even outside the coldness at Howard’s death, his encounter with Howard and all the revelations that came with it was a big moment for him, and that wasn’t really reflected. See: Better than Life, like when he encounters his father.

    Still think the rejuv shower time travel concept was too nebulous. But a lot of the synchronicity, quantum rod stuff is pretty intuitive. My point was just that in the past, the show didn’t require the viewer to read between the lines as much. That complaint’s not coming from a place of intellectual laziness but just noting a narrative hole.

    As for internal consistency, the show has famously and flagrantly messed around with its own continuity (which I liken to changes made from all their time travel episodes). My point was just that, it’s one thing to change continuity from series to series. It’s another to have consecutive episodes in the same series have potentially contradicting continuity, especially after X did the new and very welcome thing of introducing continuity between episodes, like having the quantum rod and the Holo-lamp show up in multiple episodes.

    #211560
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    Maybe the crew are getting used to death. The crew died (maybe/probably all twice), kochanski reportedly died twice. All of wax world died. Ace died at least once. Lanstrom, Katarina, simulants, beggs, inquisitor, psirens, alternative versions of themselves, They started out celebrating death days with a cake, now they don’t bother. They are long past kicking death in the nuts.

    #211561
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    – My point was just that, it’s one thing to change continuity from series to series. It’s another to have -consecutive episodes in the same series have potentially contradicting continuity, especially after X -did the new and very welcome thing of introducing continuity between episodes, like having the -quantum rod and the Holo-lamp show up in multiple episodes.

    Oh yes and your totally right there I think with your examples. There is in series care in the early script writing, that wasn’t applied to the tight additions of new scenes in late stages. And Doug may even agree based on the way he’s taken these steps to not have production of XI and XII go that way by involving baby cow.

    #211566
    Taiwan Tony
    Participant

    Number 7 for me, please.

    #211569
    Ben Paddon
    Participant

    I would do, if there was a simulant in Quarantine.

    Farts. I was thinking of “Justice”, wasn’t I?

    #211574
    si
    Participant

    I wasn’t going to say anything.

    #211576
    Taiwan Tony
    Participant

    Simulant. Inquisitor. Let’s call the whole thing Dwarf.
    Inquisitor or not, all previous threats to Dwarfers actually felt like threats – they were even lit and shot like threats. There was nothing dramatic (or, for me, funny) about a few rogue actors camping up the lines like they were channelling Constable Goody in the Thin Blue Line.
    Westworld should be the model. Not My Hero.
    I haven’t slept much recently. I think it shows.

    #211589
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    I’ll admit, I definitely prefer my villains/threat/sci-fi concepts to be serious, with the funny Dwarfers bouncing off them, but then a silly villain shows up sometimes and I don’t mind. Caligula, Hudzen 10, Dominator Zlurth… All of those I don’t mind as much as I should. I think, though, those are exceptions to the rule. I’m thinking external seriousness is the way to go, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way. My good friend and fellow fan didn’t agree and loves wackiness in all its forms, and I tried to explain to him why, in the context of Dwarf, he’s scientifically and objectively wrong.

    #211590

    Caligula is fine because he’s only one element of the threat. If the episode was just the Dwarfers vs. Caligula it’d be crap. I’m not sure if Hudzen really counts as a ‘silly’ character entirely, there’s enough genuine threat in his performance for him to seem genuinely off-kilter rather than just camping it up. The Simulants in The Beginning I’ve been unsure of since I watched them. I do enjoy the sycophant scene as it fits the psychotic nature of the character, but the hari-kari one I always found a bit broad.

    #211591
    Dax101
    Participant

    >#10. Explanations Should Be A Little More Fleshed Out

    i personally think they need to be fleshed out and be kept consistent because the Kryten and Cat Entangled logic seemed to be all over the place and i really couldn’t follow it, first it was like they made coincidence happen and then when the BEGGS choked it wasn’t that cat and kryten made it happen it was just that they were aware it was gonna happen… or something like that and that may have been done because doug didn’t want the cat and kryten to be responsible for the deaths but come on be consistent with it

    also them all choking at once without an excuse is kinda over the top and silly

    >#4. Bring On the Bunkroom

    i’d rather have bunkroom scenes that fit naturally rather then just add more bunkroom scenes because they never feel natural and often the quality of the material doesn’t hold up

    personally id take small doses of good quality then large doses of mixed quality

    >#7. The Universe Needs To Be A Little More Serious

    i agree that its always nice to have a good villain in this show, they don’t need to be funny or goofy as it was never an issue for the early shows

    #211592
    Taiwan Tony
    Participant

    I agree with International Debris about Hudzen. He was a genuine cause for alarm. I think the Kung Fu penis joke worked well because of its bizarre incongruity and its ‘rudeness’. (So strong he can do this to his cock!) It wasn’t just a silly joke about a willy. And though Caligula is harder to defend – the bucket of soapy frogs sounded too much like pseudo-Monty Python to my young ears – the Carry On Caligula delivery did, I think, disguise a real menace. Though I might just be saying that… WHO CAN TELL.
    Dominator Zlurth I don’t know anything about. (Was he the hara-kiri one? I thought that was dreadful… I think I posted a comment along these same lines at the time.) Shit name, anyway.

    #211593
    Dax101
    Participant

    What would Improve the show for me

    #1. no more surprise reveals about the characters or their pasts

    We know lister is his own dad, we know rimmers dad isn’t his real dad, we know his brother howard is basically just the same as rimmer, we have some backstory with kryten and Professor Mamet in beyond a joke.

    for me i’d rather just have good stand alone stories that put the characters into interesting situations, i don’t want need anymore dissected backstories

    #2. don’t turn computers and dispensing machines into guest characters

    the way it was done in series 1 was pretty subtle while with 10 it was like doug struggled to write for 4 characters so used it as a way to add more personalities but for me it took away from the atmosphere of lonelyness

    #211595
    Dax101
    Participant

    and when i say computers i mean the medi computer or dental computer

    #211597
    Karnie
    Participant

    Just fix the Kryten Mask…. it’s normal for the others to look older (Even Rimmer, since holograms are programmed with the original’s vitals and such, and who wants a hologram to live forever, anyway?), but Kryten should not look like his face is melting off.

    #211598
    Ridley
    Participant

    Ain’t Kryten physically million of years old at this point?

    #211599
    Ben Paddon
    Participant

    Honesty, I think one of the biggest changes the show can make is to stop framing shots like a sitcom.

    Look at the way series IV-VIII are shot. In particular look at series V, which has some absolutely bloody marvelous shots. A lot of the show isn’t shot like a sitcom. There are close shots, creative camera placement, great lighting choices… these shows look gorgeous.

    X, by comparison, seemed… flat. The process seemed to be “put a camera in front, point it forward, shine a light on it, that’s more or less it.” I know a lot more work goes into it than that, but so much of X looks visually flat.

    #211600
    Taiwan Tony
    Participant

    >I think one of the biggest changes the show can make is to stop framing shots like a sitcom.

    I agree. Doug needs a director. That way he can concentrate on the writing alone. It’s too much for one person to do everything.
    All examples of shows written & directed by one person are not as good as the same shows written by one and directed by another. Even the BEST writers.
    David Renwick’s One Foot in the Grave. The episodes also directed by Renwick are worse.
    David Renwick’s Jonathan Creek. The episodes also directed by Renwick are worse.
    Graham Linehan & Arthur Matthews’s Father Ted. Better than Linehan’s The IT Crowd.
    Ricky Gervais’s Derek. Worse than everything Gervais has ever done in collaboration. In fact, worse than anything ANYONE has ever done, ever.

    There are possible exceptions. But Doug Naylor isn’t Quentin Tarantino. And Jackie Brown probably wouldn’t be improved by a higher gag rate.

    Fucking hell. Poor Doug can’t win… I’m a CUNT.

    #211601
    Pete Part Three
    Participant

    There’s nothing wrong with the direction of Derek. It’s a mockumentary, not Schindler’s List so there’s not much you can do with the directing. What’s wrong with Derek is EVERYTHING ELSE. You can’t polish a turd, and neither can you turn an episode of Derek into anything other than a pile of irredeemable wank.

    I’m also unconvinced that the direction of recent Jonathan Creek had a huge effect on the quality of the episodes. Renwick’s direction actually seems to evoke Sandy Johnson’s from earlier in the run. What’s let that show down in recent years is the writing. You can obviously make the case that, had Renwick concentrated solely on writing and got a director in, the results might be better. That’s fair enough…but it’s also dependent on whether the scripts are still being written when production begins.

    That certainly seems to be the case with Red Dwarf X. The scripts weren’t ready or needed to be completely altered in no time at all. That’s not new though; it seems to have happened on all the later series. I’d say that’s a failing of the production as a whole…but then the finger gets pointed at Doug (again).

    There’s two things here;

    1) Doug’s workload on Dwarf is excessive and he really should be concentrating on writing.
    2) His direction was workman-like. I’d understand if he wants the show directed a certain way…but there’s nothing particularly unique about it. As Ben says, it’s point and shoot.

    Just get Ed back. He’s worth it for the DVD interviews alone.

    #211603
    Taiwan Tony
    Participant

    Ah – so you agree with me. Good. I agree with me, too.

    In addition to that, it’s worth remembering that a director doesn’t just point the actors the right way. A director can take writers to task and make suggestions for improvements. Renwick’s auteur skills were definitely over-stretched. A director could have mentioned, for example, that having Rik Mayall in a wheelchair makes no sense whatsoever.
    Yep, the workload is too high. Ego maniacs the lot of them.

    To be honest I haven’t watched more than 3 episodes of Derek. And nor should anyone. But a director like Sandy Johnson probably would have made it a little less evil to watch. That saccharine eulogy to Gervais’s popularity.
    Some people like it though!

    Can this website start a campaign to get Ed back? And Rob Grant? And make it 1994 again? PLEASE! I’M TOO OLD!

    #211604
    Dax101
    Participant

    I assume Doug wants to direct the show but I’d argue he shouldn’t try and do everything for the same of the show

    #211606
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Perhaps with the sets coming back from X, there’s budget freed up to get another director. I didn’t have that big a problem with X’s direction, since it reminded me of the Series I-II sitcom, but as soon as you guys brought it up, yeah, I do kind of miss the IV-V cinematic style. There were some great direction moments I liked in X to be fair, like the India scenes in Lemons, or the Simulants in The Beginning.

    If there’s only so much extra budget, where would that be better spent? New directors? Guest stars? Sets? Model effects? And am I being a dick by questioning budget distribution? (Spoiler Alert: Yes.)

    #211614
    Moonlight
    Participant

    Series XI will be able to afford not one, but TWO disastrous model shoots before Doug has to step in.

    #211626
    pfm
    Participant

    Stop slagging off Derek you massive fucks! It wasn’t that bad!! It was heartwarming with old people, dogs and Karl Pilkington in a wig (even though he didn’t come back for series 2 after he realised he couldn’t spend another moment with Gervais’ screaming baboon laughter in his face for another 6 weeks) what the eff more do you want??

    I think we should be happy with what we got for X as far as direction goes. Doug was obviously really up against it and to start planning different framing etc. for various scenes probably wasn’t practical. After all, a couple of the episodes only just about came together in the end…

    #211628
    John Hoare
    Participant

    I think we should be happy with what we got for X as far as direction goes. Doug was obviously really up against it and to start planning different framing etc. for various scenes probably wasn’t practical. After all, a couple of the episodes only just about came together in the end…

    You know, I’m really not inclined to cut X any slack on this score.

    This isn’t some fan project. This is a mainstream television series, with a proper budget, which was commissioned for one of the most high profile channels in the country which isn’t an old terrestrial. It was put in a primetime slot. It’s one of Dave’s most high-profile original commissions, if not their *highest* profile original commission. Sure, the producers would have liked a higher budget, but that’s pretty much true of any programme makers anywhere.

    To critique Red Dwarf X without holding it to the very highest standards is patronising to the show, as much as anything. It should be some of the very best television out there. I give it no quarter.

    #211629
    Pete Part Three
    Participant

    Absolutely. It makes a fascinating story on the DVD documentary, but it’s hard to watch without feeling utterly exasperated.

    >After all, a couple of the episodes only just about came together in the end…

    The real problem is that this was obvious to a lot of viewers, long before we knew what happened behind the scenes. It was clear that Entangled and Dear Dave (especially) had been thrown together because the results were disjointed and jarring.

    >Stop slagging off Derek you massive fucks! It wasn’t that bad!!

    It really was. I found it compulsive viewing because it was *that* bad.The mockumentary concept in The Office was used incredibly well. The talking heads give subtext and great character moments. There is no subtext in Derek. Everyone says exactly what they mean and that’s usually “I wish everyone was like Derek” or “I loves old people” or “I’m sad that dog is dead”.

    Heart-warming? Calculated and cynical. Make a mental note every time the show uses sad piano music (or, as previously spoofed in fucking When The Whistle Blows, a Coldplay song!), write that number on a piece of paper, crumple up the piece of paper and throw it at Gervais every time he looks at the camera and gurns. The curious thing is he used exactly the same devices in the original pre-pilot sketch, which he’s now trying to bury, because the objective was “laugh with me at this sorry individual”.

    And Karl? I like Karl. But he was a pretty wooden actor and the ridiculous wig they gave him was Gervais just taking the piss out of his mate having to wear it. No wonder he walked.

    I’m sure it’s better than the Brent movie will be, though.

    #211639
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    >To critique Red Dwarf X without holding it to the very highest standards is patronising to the show, as much as anything. It should be some of the very best television out there. I give it no quarter.

    Totally agree. But that begs the question, what would modern day Red Dwarf as the “best television out there” look like?

    My ten million paragraphs above are about small course corrections based on X’s foibles, but coming at it from the other way, what should Red Dwarf strive to be in this modern age? If Series XI aired, and everyone here went “Oh god, this is the best Dwarf, nay, the best television I have ever seen!,” what would that version of XI look like? Do we all just basically want V again?

    #211640
    Dax101
    Participant

    I don’t want red dwarf V again since that could never happen but I want the show to return to be as good as red dwarf V

    Series 10 felt like it had a couple of writing pains in each episode as well as a coupl of not great decisions on doubts part

    #211641
    Dax101
    Participant

    *dougs part (darn auto spell check)

    #211661
    John Hoare
    Participant

    what should Red Dwarf strive to be in this modern age?

    I find this a really interesting question. To turn it around on its head: is what Red Dwarf was in Series 1 especially relevant to 1988? Was Red Dwarf V intrinsically linked to to 1992? In some ways, production-wise, yes… but I think it’s difficult to argue that the really important stuff is: the stories and the characters.

    Even production-wise, Red Dwarf was so busy making up its own way of doing things in 1992 that it’s perhaps difficult to argue it even looks or feels much else that television was doing. Conversely, its biggest visual cue was still Alien… from 1979!

    I’m always wary of the idea that as time goes on, things *always* develop. My last big sitcom watch was You Rang, M’Lord, from 1988-93. It’s doing clever, funnier, more interesting things than the vast majority of audience sitcom does now. I could go back far further than that, but you get the point. (Lest anyone think I’m fully in rose-tinted-glasses mode, Mom is up there with the finest sitcoms I’ve ever seen. But that’s a discussion for another post.)

    The biggest thing Red Dwarf could do to make the new series relevant for me: stop trading on past glories. I mention in my Lemons review that too many jokes and ideas are like photocopied versions of old episodes. I’d love to see the series move entirely away from that… whilst still feeling Dwarfy.

    And that is, admittedly, a fucking difficult tightrope to walk.

    #211662
    Phil
    Participant

    I’ll review your lemons.

    #211669
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    >The biggest thing Red Dwarf could do to make the new series relevant for me: stop trading on past glories. I mention in my Lemons review that too many jokes and ideas are like photocopied versions of old episodes. I’d love to see the series move entirely away from that… whilst still feeling Dwarfy.
    And that is, admittedly, a fucking difficult tightrope to walk.

    Absolutely. A whole bunch of times in Series X there were jokes that were definitely pale echoes of previous jokes. That’s obviously a thing that should be tempered. However, what I liked about X was that narratively, visually, and structurally, it was an interesting patchwork of the first six series, even within a single episode (the Beginning has a bunkroom scene AND Simulants AND a ship chase AND Cat playing with string). The KINDS of things that would happen in previous series happened in X. And that was fucking great.

    So I guess vague structural echoes are okay but echoing actual previously-done jokes is a no-no. So that’s the line? Now we’re wading into some deep philosophical shit here, but what does it mean to be Dwarfy? Is there a singular definition of this? Is there a Dwarfy ‘essence’ that applies equally to all episodes of the first six series that can be carried forward? Or is it a multi-prong thing?

    #211673
    Slainmonkey
    Participant

    no characters like Taiwan Tony who seem to fall back on the lower brow humour akin to the abominable series VIII

    #211674
    pfm
    Participant

    > I’m sure it’s better than the Brent movie will be, though.

    I don’t know why he’s even doing it tbh. The character, despite not really appearing in that many episodes, has nothing more to give. The more you delve into his life the more depressing it’s gonna get… If it was an Office movie it might be a bit more bearable.

    As for what’s ‘Dwarfy’, much of X actually managed it IMO. Lister’s scene with himself in Fathers & Suns is pure Dwarf, as is Pree herself. There are scenes in Lemons and Entangled that also feel they could easily be from past series’. Entangled would have been my favourite episode from X by a mile (and maybe since VI) if the ending hadn’t been screwed…..

    This cast and this writer can do anything they want and it WILL be ‘Dwarfy’ if they just do it with no fear and if technical issues don’t interfere. They are the two things that most commonly fuck up any creative project. If you’re scared to do something, what you end up with will be half-assed, and if, when you do decide to really go for it, technical shit gets in your way, then…bleh.

    #211675
    Ridley
    Participant

    X did seem to have thing for cartoonish non-English accents: Chinesey, French, Mackem, Scottish, that Hogey one. Italian maybe?

    #211677
    John Hoare
    Participant

    I’ll review your lemons.

    #211678
    John Hoare
    Participant

    no characters like Taiwan Tony who seem to fall back on the lower brow humour akin to the abominable series VIII

    Absolutely nothing wrong with low brow humour at all. Some of my favourite jokes ever are entirely in the gutter.

    It just needs to be done well, rather than badly.

    #211708
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    >It just needs to be done well, rather than badly.

    Definitely true. The problem is, if you’re going to attempt lowbrow humor in a show like Red Dwarf, you have to NAIL it. And what the later series have done often is just swing wildly. If you’re going to swing wildly, do so with a bunkroom scene. Worst case scenario, it’s just 2 people we love chatting and hanging out. Lowbrow humor is a huge risk for a solidly built world like Red Dwarf because if done wrong it derails the narrative and characters and disengages the audience from the story.

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