In Defense of Timewave

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    Renegade Rob

    So I’ve had a couple weeks of distance from Timewave, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t hate Timewave quite as much as everyone else seems to. Some of that I think is down to my charitability and chirpy optimism; as someone who enjoys entertainment and the creative process, I’m usually inclined to give out more points for good things than deduct for bad things. To paraphrase Steven Moffat: “There are a million ways to miss a target but only a few ways to hit a target. Also, don’t blink or whatever.”

    So maybe I’m disqualifying myself by admitting upfront that, like the 11th Doctor in the Van Gogh episode, I can firmly separate something’s pile of good things from its bad things. It’s why I like Phantom Menace more than Force Awakens: while Force Awakens sustains a safe B-quality througout, Phantom Menace fluctuates wildly from A to F, and I respect that more and will take the A-stuff any day (Qui-Gon, Maul, world-building) because I’m able to separate it from the Jar Jar shit.

    So when during the Timewave Dwarfcast, I think it was Ian who asked for someone to give the other side’s perspective, of seeing Timewave in a more positive light, I did a little introspection and analysis and figured I might as well be the devil’s advocate. So without further ado, this is my attempted defense (yes, American spelling. Defence sounds like de-fence, but removing fences sounds like the opposite of defending something) of Timewave…

    First thing’s first: Timewave is not a great episode of Red Dwarf. I’m the self-appointed defender of this episode, and even I’m not going to pretend that it is. The bad stuff has been well-documented by this website and others: the writing being off, repetitive Cat jokes, dodgy lines, uncomfortable Ziggy implications. I’m not going to refute any of those problems because I can’t. What I can do is point out the things about it that I enjoyed, sometimes just tiny things in the margins, that prevent this episode from falling into the Series VIII black hole of “so nihilistically bad that I skip from VII to IX and don’t even acknowledge it’s existence.” So here’s the pile of points and good things in no particular order:

    1) Johnny Vegas – Maybe he’s a little underutilized, but in isolation he gives a really funny performance, injecting his own brand of humor to a show that can probably use some fresh alternative creative energy every once in a while.

    2) The Diner Set – I’m not saying any good scenes take place here, but it’s a really cool set. With a guy dressed as a raspberry in the background.

    3) The Draining Scene – With the notable exception of “spit on a wrist” this scene wasn’t that bad. The inner critic was actually really cool, a great performance by Barrie, and it’s actually pretty neat how they foil him by pointing out that Rimmer looks foolish anyway. There’s the divine Space Cops directive gag as well. I think it’s a better climax scene than Siliconia (what, you can’t take out 10 more seconds of pointless mop battling to better explain the update station?). An all-time great climax? Perhaps not, but it goes a long way towards partially salvaging the episode by just being kind of decent.

    4) A Sense of Fun – I enjoy Red Dwarf largely for its wit, characters, tight plotting, and imaginative exploration of concepts. But that’s not the only way to enjoy an episode of Red Dwarf. I watched this with a good friend of mine, a fellow RD fan, and he absolutely loved it. Is it because he has bad taste? Well actually, yes. Because he’s not a snob who digests things with a critical eye; he just really enjoys silly, random humor: The Eric Andre Show, South Park, Filthy Frank, etc. So this episode was up his alley. He laughed out loud at the flute guy, the titties line, even Ziggy. He’s not the kind of guy who gets offended at things, so none of the major gripes we all have even phased him. Now is he the target RD should aim for week to week? Hells no. Was he laughing for the wrong reasons? Probably. But it reminds me that not everyone who watches and enjoys RD is coming from a place of critical fan-site-forum-level analysis. Some people are just bro’s who like to kick back with a beer and enjoy a 30- minute television show. I don’t think RD should always try and lower itself to my friend’s broader sense of humor (and indeed episodes like Quarantine and Meltdown are sublime in balancing the silly and the sophisticated) but I don’t mind throwing him one isolated episode once in a while where such silliness is part of the concept itself.

    5) Tutting – That was an admittedly funny bit. Good gag, good guest performance.

    6) Creative Experimentation – Before XII premiered, the recurring theme from the set reports was that, even more than XI, XII was “out there.” And so far, that’s proven true. Building off the momentum from XI, I’d say XII is not only a better, sharper series, but it’s bolder and more confident. It takes more risks. Now of those risks so far, 4 out of 5 paid off. This one didn’t. But these things aren’t in a vacuum. I’ll take Love and Monsters any day if it eventually leads to Blink, and I’ll take Timewave any day if that same energy also gives us Cured, Siliconia, Mechocracy, and M-Corp. Something has to give somewhere, and thankfully it seems Timewave took the bullet as the shit episode, perhaps siphoning that potential shit from the other episodes. (My understanding of shit-mechanics may be flawed). This episode but off way more than it could probably chew with its concept, and probably should have stuck with one approach instead of a generalized scattershot exploration of the criticism concept, but somewhere in the DNA of this episode is a respectable level of ambition.

    7) Structure – For all this episode’s faults, it at least has the feel of a 3-act RD episode structurally. Unlike VIII, which, for all its cringey smeg-awfulness, didn’t even have the good manners to be coherently structured. For better or worse RD episodes have a rhyme scheme to them, and this episode kept to it. A crappy haiku still gets points for actually still being a haiku.

    8) Meta-Commentary – I’m positive this wasn’t intentional, but an episode about the flaws of a society where everything is crap with gaudy colors becomes itself a crappy episode with gaudy colors. I will forever remember this episode as “The Pink Stupid One.” But since that’s how the society is regarded as in-episode, it makes the stupid pink pill a little easier to swallow. This isn’t Series VIII where the entire series was offensive and ill-conceived, but just a single episode where a certain small percentage of that offensive ill-conception was actually the point.

    So that’s my list. I’ll end this overly long think-piece with a quote:

    “There is skill to it. More importantly, it has to be joyful, effortless, fun. TV defeats its own purpose when it’s pushing an agenda, or trying to defeat other TV or being proud or ashamed of itself for existing. It’s TV; it’s comfort. It’s a friend you’ve known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you, and it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day or phone in a day, and it needs to be okay for it to get on a boat with Levar Burton and never come back. Because eventually, it all will.”
    -Abed from the Community series finale.

    Red Dwarf is at its heart a fun show, and yes, Timewave represents a bad/phoned-in day to be sure, but as the bad/phoned-in episode of a batch, I found it largely tolerable. Renegade Rob out.



    > Because he’s not a snob who digests things with a critical eye

    Wait, are you criticizing us?



    Renegade Rob

    I was criticizing myself more than anything else. I’m my own inner critic.


    Ben Saunders

    There is no possible defense of Timewave, delete this post now.

    [I’ll read it in a minute]


    Ian Symes

    G&T Admin

    Thank you for answering my plea! I agree with some but not all of your plus points, but I think you’re right that some people will consider the plus points to be the key, and for others it’s the minus points. I try and approach things from the former perspective, but sometimes the minus points are *so* bad that there needs to be an absolute fuckton of plus points to compensate for it. Timewave still falls well short by this metric, for me, but I do appreciate your perspective on what those plus points may be.


    Renegade Rob

    Agreed. I think on some level, shows and movies do have an “objective” or largely consensus-level of plus and minus aspects, which can be listed and categorized, but in the end it comes down to one’s subjective model of how many points they give for positives and deduct for negatives.


    Ben Saunders

    I balk at “objective”, but “consensus level”, maybe. 99 out of 100 people can laugh at something, but that doesn’t mean the one person who didn’t is “wrong” for not finding it funny. They just didn’t find it funny. Of corse nothing is ever 99/100. Or 100/100.


    Renegade Rob

    You’re right about objective, but I stand by “consensus-level.” I think subjectivity is the primary factor but I think on a mechanical level a work of entertainment can be systematically flawed on its own terms, independent of peoples’ enjoyment.


    Dollar Pound

    i always thought vegas would make a good lister. no-one else. except cc obviously. the first i knew about vegas being in red dwarf was the tv broadcast. he is cool


    Dollar Pound

    the spaceship/station of the week can’t always be dank steampunk or squeaky clean star trek



    Point (8) is what I’ll remember the episode for, and what makes its existence slightly worthwhile. Doug Naylor (& co.) made an episode about why constructive criticism is so important that ends up being the Pete Part 2 of the modern era and really hammers that message home. Would it be stronger if they’d realised at some point and left us with a parting message that gives a knowing wink to that admission? Or would that just spoil the incompetence?

    I don’t know if anyone’s actually insisting that it was intentionally, ironically bad. There’s only things like the dodgy greenscreen, the dodgy attitudes, “Planet Rimmer?” channelling “we’re finished!” and Cat’s tedious Rimmer bullying that could qualify. If they were going for Worst Episode Ever, it’d need a lot more smegs, more curry references and a pointlessly expensive CGI event. Though maybe Doug’s so secluded from criticism that he doesn’t know what people don’t like? (I recently saw someone on YouTube claim ‘Pete the dinosaur’ is the best episode, so it must be confusing).


    International Debris

    I still prefer Timewave to anything in VIII because, some exceptionally dodgy aspects and poor creative choices aside, it has quite a lot of good jokes in it.


    Renegade Rob

    I don’t think anything in Timewave was intentionally bad, but I think a lot of its badness and stupidity was a function of its concept of things being bad and stupid. This was a “letting its hair down” episode and I think the silly loosey-goosey tone the episode was going for interfered with the quality-control instincts that would usually kick in for any other episode.

    And yes, I do think it’s better than anything in VIII, even though they clearly share a lot of the same DNA. But in my mind the only things elevating it above VIII are the sporadic decent lines, and the plus points mentioned above. No one thing makes it better than VIII; its only elevated slightly by little things across the board.


    Ben Saunders

    I’d rather marathon VIII than watch Timewave once



    that’s ridiculous


    Pete Part Three

    It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    If you didn’t want to eat either apple or oranges ever again.



    > If you didn’t want to eat either apple or oranges ever again.

    Not if they are pink, no.



    I don’t hate Timewave either – it has critical flaws but it would have been really easy to fix with the time available for one further script pass and some small adjustment in design and rehearsal.

    Siliconia and Twentica fail because they have a high level of structural, narrative and production incoherence, Samsara fails because it’s fatally underpowered across the board. Timewave fails purely because it’s not really finished, and I leave it wanting to fix it rather than dismiss it.


    Chris Stokes

    It isn’t worse than EVERYTHING in VIII but it is worse than SOME of the things in VIII. I finally rewatched Timewave after putting it off the other day and I didn’t like it any more than before. It’s bottom 5 Dwarf for me, and not everything in VIII is alongside it there.


    Ben Saunders

    This just in: I asked my parents what they thought of Timewave, and they said it was alright. I told them I laughed when Johnny Vegas was on the screen but elsewhere thought it was the worst Red Dwarf they’d ever done. I didn’t get much of a reaction.

    My mum laughed when explaining the concept to my dad to remind him what episode it was, so she clearly thought it was funny.

    I’m applying for a divorce from my parents as we speak.



    Best thing about Timewave was the intro music to the Dwarf Cast.



    -personally, I thought it started well but fell apart. all that stuff with the jumpcuts and all the actor’s names- that was great. then it all went crap and unfunny and I fell asleep.

    -but sir, those were the opening titles before the main program.



    ^ my thoughts on TimeWave.


    Stabbim the Skutter

    I didn’t like it on my first viewing, but on re-watching it with a friend I found myself quite entertained. It’s not the best Red Dwarf episode, but none of it really offends me and a lot of it is quite funny. Apart from “spit-on-a-wrist”, obviously.

    On the Dwarfcast, Cat’s random outburst was seen as out of character, but I feel like it was perfectly Catlike. Him forgetting he wasn’t allowed to criticise felt very similar to me to the bit in Beyond a Joke where he forgets he’s in GELF costume and starts speaking English.

    I don’t think there’s anything offensive about Ziggy and his mannerisms and attire, nor do I think there was any negative intention there. In fact, speaking as a slightly camp, dreadful artist with horrific fashion sense, I feel like I’d behave the same way if placed in his situation.


    Ian Symes

    G&T Admin

    On the Dwarfcast, Cat’s random outburst was seen as out of character, but I feel like it was perfectly Catlike. Him forgetting he wasn’t allowed to criticise felt very similar to me to the bit in Beyond a Joke where he forgets he’s in GELF costume and starts speaking English.

    It wasn’t the fact he had the outburst that was out of character, it was the language he used.



    > I don’t hate Timewave either – it has critical flaws but it would have been really easy to fix with the time available for one further script pass and some small adjustment in design and rehearsal.

    This is the thing. There’s the bones of something a lot better there. I don’t think it would take a particularly skilled writer to give it another pass and create something a lot better off the back of what Doug has already provided. That’s not really a punt at Doug – he still would have done most of the hard work to get the script to where it was.



    I like Timewave, although there are bits that irk me (i.e. droopy tittie, St Trembles, etc.)

    The hate that has been generated, well, I can see why, but I still think (probably not intentionally) that the final result is a marvellous Meta. So many hate it, for so many different reasons: It’s throwing criticism into the masses and people dislike it because their own preconceptions colour what’s actually being presented to them.

    Myself included: would the droopy titties line irked me so much if it was droopy-ass testies?

    I think in this episode, Doug saw the potential to test boundaries and put them in… and left the majority out criticising.

    And, I expect, we will be for many years to come.


    Pete Part Three

    >I’m applying for a divorce from my parents as we speak.

    The only things I can recall my Mum liking in Red Dwarf are Lister asking for Dom Perignon ’54 in a pint in Better Than Life and Rimmer as the peace-nik in Polymorph. (barring the CLITORIS).

    She likes Benidorm (I’ve never seen an episode) so she may have liked the bit with Vegas. I assume my Dad’s been making her watch the new series.

    I’m afraid to ask, actually.



    My mum isn’t a fan but tends to watch new episodes with my sister when they’re on. I watched Cured with them both and she laughed a lot.

    I often find it so hard to just enjoy a lot of new Red Dwarf first time round as I overanalyse every line so I find it interesting to see how non-fans react.



    whenever my mum watches new Red Dwarf, she either falls asleep or complains they’re “trying too hard”.

    my dad laughed quite a lot at M-Corp though



    The only episode I remember my mum uncharacteristically sitting down to watch was Back in the Red part 1 on first broadcast. The only thing she laughed at in 30 minutes was Hollister spraying air freshener when he stepped out of the bathroom.



    Anyone who calls “spit on the wrist” the worst Red Dwarf joke ever has clearly forgotten about the Dibbley skutters or “It’s a theory, right, that you only tell your relatives.”

    Not that I want to defend a gag that’s labored as hell, but the latter half of Back in the Red alone has plenty that can run circles around it in being inexplicably poor choices for a deeply talented professional comedy writer to make.



    It’s clearly worse than both of those examples, though.


    Renegade Rob

    Jokes in Red Dwarf worse than “spit on a wrist”:

    1. The Blue Midget Dance
    2. Kryten making everyone pull down their pants on the toilet
    3. Rimmer molesting everyone with the virus
    4. The extended Talia scene with Rimmer
    5. Rimmer being happy/unmoved about Howard’s holo-death
    6. You are the sunshine of my life ooooh
    7. The Dwarfers gawking at a naked Irene E and delaying getting her clothes

    I think that might be it, actually. Because damn, spit on the wrist is down there.


    International Debris

    The entire Reservoir Dogs / Dibbley Skutters sequence is worse than spit on a wrist. Rock albums is on par. Rimmer having a bigger penis in the mirror universe is on par. Blue Midget Dance is possibly worse. Theory you tell your relatives is probably on par. Denis the Donut Boy is worse. Rimmer’s Shakespearian come-on is worse.

    Although most of these are just badly conceived jokes or moments, rather than a potentially good joke totally ruined by an inexplicably terrible play on words.



    My mum laughed at ‘fistrulated teeth disorder’ from Rimmerworld and she didn’t appear to hate Fathers & Suns.


    Pete Part Three

    >2. Kryten making everyone pull down their pants on the toilet

    I’d actually forgotten this ever happened. Fucking hell.



    It’s clearly worse than both of those examples, though.

    Dibbley skutters doesn’t even make logical sense in the context of a plot that doesn’t even take place in reality. It’s offensively stupid, and both follows AND leads into other offensively stupid nonsense moments that go on for quite a while.

    At least “spit on the wrist” is just a single bad line within Timewave’s otherwise best scene. It’s atrocious, but by time you’re annoyed it’s already over.



    It’s over, but my toes are still curling. Other absolute clunkers are Kryten painting his foot with nail varnish, Nostrilomo, and the ground controller thinking Cat’s name is “reality sucks”. Purely as a joke, I really think “spit on the wrist” is worst of all, though. Before that I’d probably have said the “Sister” Talia mix up, but even that doesn’t seem quite as laboured and cringeworthy somehow.

    My mam’s favourite bit of Red Dwarf is “Souper”.



    I love Kryten painting his foot.


    Pete Part Three

    Kryten’s hand inflating is down there. The fuck was the point of that?

    In fact, anything with “naked” Kryen is awful. Including that shit deleted scene from Marooned.



    “Naked” Kryten is just flesh coloured Kryten. That means that his whole attire is just a layer of metallic silver/grey paint. That’s just ridiculous. They could have at least removed some of his “casing”.


    Renegade Rob

    Maybe if Kryten had spit on his wrist, his inflated hand wouldn’t have flown away.


    International Debris

    The only good joke in the doctor/Kryten scene is when he fills the vase with flowers. Nothing else about that scene is funny, or makes sense.
    “Here is a robot we have never encountered before. Let’s send it to a doctor for a checkup.”



    sending Kryten to the doctor’s for a checkup would be like going down to the garage and getting an MOT done on yourself, it’s just ridiculous and illogical


    Renegade Rob

    They’re flummoxed by this robot from the future but have the technology to reset him to factory settings? Wait… No, I can’t let myself get pulled into the Series VIII flaws whirlpool again. Abort! Abort!


    International Debris

    Ah, they’re in VR during that, so it almost works.


    Dollar Pound

    Dollar Pound




    The thing about things like the Blue Midget Dance, Reality Sucks, or even the Dibbley Skutters is that with them the show was at least trying to be fun.

    Timewave is just no fun at all.


    Ben Saunders

    8 year old me loved the Blue Midget dance. 8 year old me has declined to comment on Timewave.


    International Debris

    “Come back Mr. Sucks!” is a great line.

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