Home Forums Ganymede & Titan Forum The avoidable problem with Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

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  • #221072
    One Time
    Participant

    The one thing that kept pulling me out of RD:BTE was the unquestioning resignation of the crew to being characters in a TV sitcom in this dimension.

    It was just incongruent with how Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat would have behaved in that situation. It felt fake. The crew has been whisked to plenty of strange dimensions in the past and their first instinct was always “ok how can we escape this place and get back to our own dimension”.

    In BTE they just immediately resign to the fact that they are TV characters? It didn’t feel like we were watching the RD crew. It felt like watching Craig Charles, Danny John Jules, Chris Barrie and Robert Llewellyn pretend to be Red Dwarf characters because the script told them to. What made that dimension so special to have them grovel and beg for more “life”? The SMEG with this place, let’s get back!

    And the whole Blade Runner (and to a point Coronation St.) thing was ridiculous. Why just copy Bladerunner outright? A real artist would never be as uninspired as to copy something else literally beat for beat, scene for scene. It’s like watching a Batman movie and he suddenly makes webslingers for his wrists and starts swinging from buildings. Imagine the end of a Nolan Batman movie playing out -identical- to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man II, scene for scene, beat for beat. With Batman being a Spider-man. A highschool film student age 16 might have done that, and filmed themselves acting out another movie, to prove something to themselves, but at this level it just looks weird, uninspired and cheap.

    That’s my opinion.

    #221085
    Moonlight
    Participant

    The crew has been whisked to plenty of strange dimensions in the past and their first instinct was always “ok how can we escape this place and get back to our own dimension”.

    In BTE they just immediately resign to the fact that they are TV characters? It didn’t feel like we were watching the RD crew.

    In Back to Reality they immediately resign to the idea that their previous lives were nothing but a VR game. Both the experiences in BtR and BtE were hallucinations induced by the same kind of creature. The entire point of the Despair/Joy Squid’s defense mechanism is throwing predators and prey into a hallucinatory experience that renders them completely defenseless.

    It isn’t a matter of “oh, we’re in a strange alternate universe/place, we gotta get back to Red Dwarf” – as in Backwards – this a matter of a mind-altering hallucinatory experience in which you are convinced that your life up this point was a work of fiction. Especially comparing the more subtle dreams-coming-true experiences in Back to Earth to the over-the-top despair-inducing experiences of Back to Reality, you wouldn’t expect the characters to immediately jump to the conclusion that the same thing is happening. Especially because they identify the creature as a dimension-hopping leviathan, with no idea as to its true nature. Once they actually acquire evidence pointing to it being a drug trip from a despair/joy squid, they are able to piece together what happened and conclude that this is a false reality.

    Unless you’re willing to level the same criticism at Back to Reality, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. It’s certainly not hugely out of character, because it’s 100% in keeping with what we’ve seen from the hallucination caused by the Despair Squid. It makes sense to me.

    And the whole Blade Runner (and to a point Coronation St.) thing was ridiculous. Why just copy Bladerunner outright? A real artist would never be as uninspired as to copy something else literally beat for beat, scene for scene

    I agree the Blade Runner parody aspect is flawed, that much I won’t argue with. But in exactly how it was flawed I feel very differently than you. I would say the flaw is mainly in the sheer amount of Blade Runner nods, making it seem like you’re missing something important if you haven’t seen the film. I feel they actually would have been more effective if less heavily featured. But I would very much insist that calling it “copying” is blatantly unfair, since that implies the entire plot is simply a ripoff of Blade Runner rather than structured as a Blade Runner parody because of the thematic relevance of its plot. Whether or not it was successful is the point of contention, but it’s hardly beat-for-beat, scene-for-scene copying. That’s a huge exaggeration.

    Having seen Blade Runner before BtE can give you a false impression of how important knowing Blade Runner is to following the story, because most of the Blade Runner nods will fly right over the heads of anyone who hasn’t already seen the film. I’d always followed BtE fine before I’d ever seen Blade Runner, and finally seeing the film this year didn’t change my impressions of it in any major way.

    It’s like watching a Batman movie and he suddenly makes webslingers for his wrists and starts swinging from buildings. Imagine the end of a Nolan Batman movie playing out -identical- to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man II, scene for scene, beat for beat. With Batman being a Spider-man.

    I’m sorry, I have to call bullshit on that comparison. Back to Earth was a comedy structured as a Blade Runner parody because it was exploring the same kinds of themes as that movie. You can’t talk as if it was just thrown in there for absolutely no reason and had nothing to do with anything. There’s a VERY clear relation, and it’s a perfectly valid use of parody in principle if not in execution. You have a story about seeking out your creator to plead for more life. In Blade Runner, it was replicants who literally wanted more life, and in Back to Earth it’s our cast wanting more episodes when their show is about to be cancelled. The initial idea for Back to Earth clearly begat the Blade Runner structure because of the thematic similarity, since the core of Back to Earth’s plot already comes from Back to Reality.

    Again, I’m not arguing it worked. That’s up to individual opinion. What I’m arguing is that it’s not a completely random, pointless copying of another film for absolutely no reason. That’s a huge jump to make, and one that I feel very much misses the point.

    A real artist would never be as uninspired as to copy something else literally beat for beat, scene for scene

    Excuse me? “A real artist”? I think dismissing the man as a hack is a little extreme, don’t you think?

    There’s a reason I’m specifically not commenting on how well Back to Earth works as a whole. It’s because your criticisms are delivered at the core ideas of the story, but you’re dismissing them out of hand without taking time to consider why they might make sense, it’s extremely unfair to completely dismiss Doug’s entire creative process as that of a dumb teenager fooling around with a video camera, especially when you don’t seem

    What you’re doing is saying “I don’t like this, so the writer must not have tried”, and I don’t think any fan is in a position to make that assessment, especially not over someone so clearly passionate about his work. Especially not when there’s major reasons for these creative decisions you’re overlooking.

    Don’t get the impression I’m furiously angry, or that I’m trying to pick a fight. I’m not. I just like to be very clear and precise about what I think, and that can get wordy when it’s something I’m passionate about. I love Red Dwarf and I love film-making and I love writing. This is discussing all three of those.

    Personally, I like Back to Earth. It’s flawed, it’s not as funny as it could be, it feels like Doug hasn’t quite recaptured characters like Cat, but for the no-budget rush job it was I feel it was successful in what it set out to do. I enjoy it as dramatic story about characters I love. It brought them back from their cartoonish VIII selves, restored the original setting, and brought the show back to its roots. It’s a bit tonally and stylistically different, but structurally and thematically returning to what Red Dwarf always was before: character-based stories rooted in a strong science fiction premise. I first and foremost expect Red Dwarf to give me a good story about these characters and make me laugh. To me, Back to Earth strongly succeeds in the former if not always in the latter. Same as how I feel about the better entries in VII.

    Goddamn that was long.

    #221089
    Plastic Percy
    Participant

    Is that you, Not John Hoare? Is this me?

    #221098
    One Time
    Participant

    @ KyoSo: Fair enough. I’ll agree to it being similar to BTR. But the first time I was watching it, I didn’t know it was a despair squid induced hallucination. It just felt like a parallel dimension gimmick. In an oh, that’s novel, they’re whisked to a parallel dimension (ours) where they are TV characters kind of way.

    In watching it like that it felt cheap to have them just resign to it. Their reactions just didn’t gel with what I had expected of them having watched RD from way back when. (1990)

    Even in BTR they never begged anyone, they just decided to commit suicide. But fair enough, despair squid is despair squid I guess.

    But being a visual artist and filmmaker myself I have a critical eye unfortunately. Or lets say in terms of film making getting 80% result from 20% effort. Like when I see a closeup of Rimmer in BTE reading a 2008 Top Gear magazine in pristine condition in the year 2978350. I think would have been so much improved by aging that mag by soaking it in lemon juice and glycerine a few days prior to shooting to make it at least look 3 million years old.

    Sure it’s a comedy and not a Hollywood sci-fi movie. We all know that.
    But if you are building immensely detailed sets to facilitate immersion in the production values, why not put the effort in to go all the way?

    As for the Bladerunner thing, I am not dismissing the creators of BTE as a hack. I wouldn’t have watched RD since 1990 if I did not value the work of the artists who create them. I just think they failed in creating BTE. For whatever reason.

    I have seen Bladerunner in the past, I do not want to see it again when I am watching Red Dwarf. To me it seemed that they gave in to a complete lack of artistic inspiration and just copied another film. Yes I understand that there is a relation between seeking your maker in both scripts. But why on Earth would I simply copy another film with the same theme?

    Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is about an old man travelling across the Universe to meet his own maker and ask for more life. Should BTE have had a scene with the crew being chased by a H.R. Giger Xenomorph alien? With the ending of BTE playing out scene for scene as the ending in Prometheus, with the engineer coming out of cryosleep and Kryten losing his head as David did?

    Of course not. That’s just incredibly cheap and uninspired movie making. If I have a narrative to tell and I am an artist, what prevents me from creating my own storyboard instead of copying another?

    #221118
    Wilhelm scream
    Participant

    The main problem with Back To Earth for me is the pacing. It’s 1 episode too long, the jokes drag out and the whole Coronation Street scene is pointless. I did do a fan-edit to fix these things, but it just makes the official version look crap by comparison.

    #221119
    Ben Saunders
    Participant

    It’s a bit presumptuous to ever mention in your argument that “I have a critical eye”, because it implies that other people don’t – specifically, other people on a forum that spends 80% of its time criticising things. Which is absurd.

    #221133
    Lily
    Participant

    As a casual fan, BtE was utterly bewildering and ultimately not very enjoyable. I just didn’t like the basic concept of them being in ‘this’ dimension and found the self-referential stuff like the DVD very uncomfortable viewing. It didn’t help that having a big chunk being filmed in John Lewis screamed of ‘cheap location’ and felt like they didn’t want to write anything that would cost money to produce.

    Likewise, I almost turned off when they went to Corrie. I mean … WHY? Did Craig Charles have something in his contract that he had to plug it? Didn’t have enough time released form Corrie to go do other things properly? It was just bizarre.

    And then we go all blade runnery. I’d seen the film so got the references, but felt cheated by this point. I wanted normal Red Dwarf sit-com, not some strange Blade Runner parody. Sure Dwarf can have its serious moments, but this whole thing felt very dark and more drama than comedy, the jokes were so thin on the ground.

    And then it turns out it’s all down to a joy squid. Wait, what? Joy? Really? How on earth is being taken to a dimension that you’re told you’re a figment of imagination joyous? They had a thoroughly miserable time there. The only ‘joy’ was Lister being tempted to stay with a woman that he knew by any definition wasn’t ‘his’ Kochanski.

    The whole thing felt like it was done by a film student, with a limited budget, wanted to get his mates involved, wanted to pay homage to his favourite film and rushed to find a way to wrap it up.

    #221134
    Ben Saunders
    Participant

    >”It felt like they didn’t want to write anything that would cost money to produce”
    It’s not that they felt like making it as cheaply as possible, they had no budget (I’m sure you know this)
    Same with using Corrie as a location – they got it for free and it allowed the show to actually get made.
    I thought BtE looked rather good, and I enjoyed the drama aspects. Didn’t care much for the joy squid reveal, but it was some nice continuity porn.

    #221142
    Lily
    Participant

    I didn’t know that about the budget as I’m a pretty casual fan. I guess I need to re-watch the doco on the dvd (presuming there’s one? not looked at it in a long while)

    I have nothing against cheap locations in themselves, as long as it’s the story that needs the location, rather than the location leading the story.

    The beach in Better than Life and the field in Meltdown were both clearly cheap locations and looked a bit shit, but I’m willing to overlook that as they made sense for the story. The plot says it’s a beach in paradise so I’m willing to suspend my belief that Rhyll really is paradise.

    But with Corrie it was clearly the other way round. If they got it for free it was “OK, how do I shoehorn this into a space sit-com”. It’s like the big fan room in 7, where they found a cool location and came up with a scene so they could use it, rather than it making any sense. I’m sure they could have filmed in Doug’s kitchen for free too, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to write a huge long scene where the boys decide they need to make a cup of tea and look for the biscuits.

    I guess I just found the whole thing too immersion breaking.

    #221146
    Ben Saunders
    Participant

    There is a docco on the DVD. Unfortunately I think it was very much a case of them needing to use mega cheap locations or being completely unable to make the show. I think they also felt like they had to do a fairly big, important story – waiting a decade for new Dwarf and being hit with an hour and a half of Lister and Rimmer arguing in bunks might have been a little anticlimactic.

    #292895
    Slim
    Participant

    The one thing that kept pulling me out of RD:BTE was the unquestioning resignation of the crew to being characters in a TV sitcom in this dimension.
    It was just incongruent with how Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat would have behaved in that situation. It felt fake. The crew has been whisked to plenty of strange dimensions in the past and their first instinct was always “ok how can we escape this place and get back to our own dimension”.
    In BTE they just immediately resign to the fact that they are TV characters? It didn’t feel like we were watching the RD crew. It felt like watching Craig Charles, Danny John Jules, Chris Barrie and Robert Llewellyn pretend to be Red Dwarf characters because the script told them to.

    Well .. I’ve just watched Back to Earth for the first time since it was first broadcast, and to my great surprise – I liked it. A lot.
    Apologies if extreme necroposting is considered bad form for your first post, by the way.
    Anyway I really disliked it first time around, mostly for the reasons articulated in the first post. What you could have written above was “It felt like watching Craig Charles, Danny John Jules, Chris Barrie and Robert Llewellyn”, and stopped there. That’s exactly what it is. It is massively fourth-wall-nudging; that’s the whole point I think.
    The whole thing is a sly, affectionate wink in the direction of the fans. If you accept it for what it is – a more slow-paced, reflective, subtly nostalgic and wistful one-off 70 minute feature, it works really well. Or at least, it did for me.

    #292900

    It’s a dumb celebration if the show in what they thought was a one off special. The Corrie scene is a bit of a laugh, and utterly ridiculous viewing particularly for UK fans that have grown up knowing that street.

    Sure it’s a bit gimmicky, and yeah it definitely looks like the cast pretending to do Red Dwarf a bit. But it was thrown together practically over night after 9 years. 

    But all in, even with cheap locations, it looks bloody brilliant. Up there with any other Red Dwarf production given the circumstances.

    The Joy Squid take a bit of head twisting to make sense sure. They are basically miserable the whole time. But it thinks it’s giving them what they want. Being on Earth, being people that are looked up to (as TV characters), getting Chloe/Kochanski etc. And it nearly succeeds. Except Lister et al decide ultimately, as with BTL, that reality even if crap will always be preferential. 

    #292901
    Warbodog
    Participant

    I’ve kind of had the opposite trajectory with Back to Earth. I thought it was pretty awkward and unsatisfying, as standard, but I still somehow found metafiction a novelty in 2009 and it was all lightened by the glow of the return and some course correction after VII & VIII. Now that’s all faded, it’s just another weird run to lump in with those, with some funny bits in part 1. Part 2 ended up in my bottom tier with the Petes when we did the poll.

    #292904
    Slim
    Participant

    That’s interesting – I disliked Part 1 all over again when I watched it, but Part 2 drew me in. I think the first part is especially jarring because it’s set on Red Dwarf, the same environment and circumstances as the first few series, but without anything like the same energy.

    But when I saw the Red Dwarf DVD cover in the shop, the guy behind the counter who’s a fan, the kids on the bus who recognise Lister, that’s when I saw it for what it really is – a big, affectionate, one-off novelty. The whole point of it, I think, is to exist outside the usual Red Dwarf universe.

    It’s almost like an elaborate Comic Relief skit. Rik Mayall would never break character as Alan B’Stard to channel his Young Ones persona in The New Statesman, but in the Comic Relief sketch, he does. A Dalek would never audition for Eurovision in Doctor Who.. etc.

    So although obviously it’s a properly produced, 70 minute feature rather than a quick sketch, I think the same principle applies. Breaking the rules for a bit of fun for the fans.

    #292905
    Moonlight
    Participant

    I am not rereading that novel length post I wrote when I was 21, that’s for damn sure.

    #292906
    Moonlight
    Participant

    Oh, and I maintain that Parts 2 and 3 are markedly more interesting and engaging than Part 1. I have a pet theory that the only reason Part 1 did better in the poll is because it was on the ship since based on its actual content I don’t see any good reason to rank it higher.

    Part 3 is definitely the best of the trio.

    #292907
    Dave
    Participant

    Part 1 still has the residual boost of being the big return after years away, I think. There’s an attempt to just be Classic Dwarf (and banish the memory of VIII) and there are also a couple of touching moments like Lister at the memorial.

    #292908

    Part 1 is my least favourite for almost those exact reasons – it’s an attempt to just be Classic Dwarf, and it fails so utterly miserably that I find it almost unwatchable. It gets better as it goes along, with some genuinely funny bits and decent drama in part 3.

    #292909
    Moonlight
    Participant

    Aside from the good emotional stuff, Part 3 works for me because it’s aggressively surreal.

    #292911
    Flap Jack
    Participant

    Yeah, I find it difficult to understand why people would judge Part 1 as the best Back to Earth episode. Part 1 is all set up, it’s very slow, and it’s where the absence of studio audience reactions feels at its most awkward. Parts 2 and 3 are where the actual main meat of the story happens.

    In the CC, I gave Part 1 a 4 – the same as Stasis Leak, Ouroboros, Beyond a Joke, and Cassandra – and I gave Parts 2 and 3 a 6 – the same as Balance of Power, Better Than Life, Backwards, Demons & Angels, Duct Soup, Epideme, Cured, and Siliconia. These are of course the objectively correct scores.

    But I guess if you just hate the premise that Back to Earth is going for, then Part 1 wins by default because it’s before that premise actively kicks in.

    #292912
    Dave
    Participant

    In the CC, I gave Part 1 a 4 – the same as Stasis Leak

    #292913
    Flap Jack
    Participant

    I know, I know, I could have scored Stasis Leak less than a 4, but that would be too harsh. I wasn’t going to give into peer pressure by marking it down unnecessarily.

    #292915
    Jenuall
    Participant

    #292918
    Warbodog
    Participant

    I rated part 3 the best, but I was tickled by the obvious sitcom gag of Kryten announcing how relaxed he was in part 1, and some Rimmer lines felt satisfyingly in character for the first time in ages.

    #292930
    Formica
    Participant

    I think the guy running the shop should’ve told them about how there’s an appliance brand called Smeg and they even make a red toaster

    #292937
    Ian Symes
    Keymaster

    Back To Earth is not good Red Dwarf, but it’s a good comedy-drama about Red Dwarf.

    #292941

    Damn, that’s deep.

    #292945
    Flap Jack
    Participant

    Back To Earth is not good Red Dwarf, but it’s a good comedy-drama about Red Dwarf.

    Out of the Red is surely going for the same angle, and I think it will surpass Back to Earth.

    In terms of the amount of time between it and the last episode of Red Dwarf before it, I mean.

    #292949
    Ben Paddon
    Participant

    I still love Back to Earth, but refuse to watch it in episodic format. It’s Director’s Cut or nuffin’ for me.

    #292954
    Moonlight
    Participant

    I haven’t watched the episodic version in years but I still anticipate some of the little bits that were cut out of Part 1 to tighten it.

    #292955

    Yeah I never watch it in episodic format. Why would you ever? Imagine watching episode one annd not episode 2

     Part of why some polls will have weird results will just be people listing them in order. 

    #292956
    Dave
    Participant

    I always watch it episode by episode! I like seeing it as originally broadcast and don’t like missing bits out, even if it is a tighter edit.

    #292957
    Flap Jack
    Participant

    I pause halfway through each of the Dave episodes to watch several period-accurate adverts, and get a mate to come round whenever I watch so he can read fake continuity announcements over the credits.

    #292958
    Dave
    Participant

    I always wait a full four years between watching the cliffhanger at the end of Out Of Time and starting Tikka.

    #292959
    Warbodog
    Participant

    The poll was based on the individual episodes, so I haven’t had a reason to rewatch it any other way. It’s not the kind of thing I’d be engaged with enough to complete in one sitting, like I can with The Promised Land, so it’d end up randomly divided anyway and negate the point.

    #292961
    Formica
    Participant

    The poll was based on the individual episodes

    This was my only recent rewatch where I went in episodes, otherwise I usually go for Director’s Cut.

    #292963

    Yeah, I’ve only watched it episodically three times: on broadcast, with the cast commentary, and for the Pearl Poll.

    #292969
    Jonathan Capps
    Keymaster

    In this house we watch things as broadcast.

    #292970

    Do you wait a day between episodes?

    #292984
    Jonathan Capps
    Keymaster

    Yes.

    #292985

    #292986
    Slim
    Participant

    I watched the 70 minute version that’s presently on the iPlayer, but I watched it in three daily chunks. I guessed where the joins were. I started a Red Dwarf-athon on January 1st, one episode per day.

    I hadn’t watched most of them since the ’90s.

    #292990
    Formica
    Participant

    I guessed where the joins were.

    What were your guesses?

    #293114
    Slim
    Participant

    What were your guesses?

    I took the point at which they were sucked into the portal to be the end of the first episode, though I watched the subsequent minute or two. And I took the point at which they rocked up at Coronation Street to be the end of the second.

    #293115
    Moonlight
    Participant

    The first episode ends before the portal opens.

    #293124
    Jenuall
    Participant

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