Space....... The final frontier.... FOR HILARITY! Whoo hoo!!!!! Yay space!!!!!
Sorry, but Red Dwarf tends to make me a bit giddy like a schoolgirl sometimes. It's just the perfect combination of Dr. Who and Monty Python with some heavy similarities to Hitchhiker's Guide. In my opinion, it is the best Britcom ever made. Faulty Towers, you ask? Well, it was funny, but way too annoying for me. You know, like it was painful to watch all that shit happen to Cleese, not humorous. The Young Ones... This one's pretty close to RD quality wise, but there were only like 12 episodes total for Vivian and company, whereas Red Dwarf had over 50. Quantity and quality rule. Father Ted, quite hilarious, but I can't really show it to my friends 'cause it's really Catholic biased in its humour. I showed it to Carl once and had to explain pretty much every joke. Nope, nothing compares to the Dwarf. Sure, RD has a few episodes that aren't up to snuff (like 1/2 of Series VII), but even those low eps are infinitely better than any of the crappy American sitcoms on the tube today. Capice? If you're not prepared to read me verbally sucking Red Dwarf's British dong for a dozen or so paragraphs, just leave this review right now.
The Dwarf has it all: Great characters, great scripts, great situations and a brilliant concept. What be this "genius concept" you ask?... Not "genius", shittard, I said "brilliant". What makes it brilliant is that they kill off the entire crew of the mining spaceship, Red Dwarf, in the opening episode. We start out with several thousand crew members, but we mainly focus on David Lister, Arnold Rimmer, Holly the ship's computer, and Frankenstein, Lister's new pet cat. We meet the love of Lister's life, Kristine Kochanski, Lister and Rimmer's commanding officer, Captain Hollister, and a bunch of Lister's drinking buddies and pals... Unfortunately for all those involved, every living thing on board the 5 mile long ship was killed due to a radiation leak from a damaged drive plate. Well, every living thing except David Lister and his stowaway pregnant cat. See, Lister was placed in suspended animation by Hollister because he smuggled Frankenstein onboard the ship (The Jupiter Mining Corporation has very strict rules and regs on its vessels), and while he was there the radiation leak swept through the Red Dwarf and wiped out the entire crew in seconds (like how I always dream the Democrat and Republican National Committees would get erased at the same time). Holly kept Lister in the suspended animation tube until the radiation had fallen to a level that he could survive in, which only took 3 million years. During this time the ship was still shooting straight ahead through space at light speed, and in the giant city-sized cargo hold Frankenstein's descendents had evolved into bipedal humanoid creatures who only care about dressing nice, looking sharp, and wearing fine clothes.
Lister's, of course, kind of blue about the whole thing (understandably). His dream girl is a pile of dust, all his buddies are long deceased, and Holly has gone mental over the past few thousand millennia with nobody to talk to. But the worst of the worst news is that Holly brings Arnold J. Rimmer back as a hologram in order to keep Lister company and to keep him from going mad himself, despite the fact that Rimmer (his old bunkmate) is the person Lister least wanted brought back (like when I didn't want that exchange asshole student from Spain to be my roommate again sophmore year, and I even wrote on the roommate request sheet "ANYBODY but Israel SantaDomingo! Please GOD, not Izzy!"... So of course the fuckers in charge lumped us together). While Lister's trying to deal with his new lot in life as being the probably last human in the universe, the small crew meets the Cat. Well, technically he's a cat, just three million years evolved from what we know cats to be today. Cat is still a vain creature who cares about nobody else but himself, but he can talk, dance, strut and primp himself better than any human I know. Cat is the last of his species that remained on the Red Dwarf (the rest were either killed in a bloody civil war over the color of the hats that their god [aka Lister] planned to wear for his dream job on Fiji when he quit the Space Corp., or left the ship in search of their god when he never returned to them like he promised to). It's all very deep... Actually, it's not. It's not very deep at all, and that's what I love about it! It's got a lot of smart jokes to go along with the fart jokes (kind of like Frasier mixed with the Kimmel/Corrola Man Show), but it's neither artistic nor juvenile. It's just the right perfect blend of high-lariousness.
Let me take you on a quickie little tour, season by season through all things Dwarfy (each season being only 6-8 episodes long, so this won't take too much time).
Series I (1987)
Everything starts and the shit hits the fan before the end of the first episode. Lister becomes the last known human in the universe, Rimmer's a hologram, Holly's bonkers and the Cat's a klepto who yells "that's mine," and snatches anything he wants. And now they're all forced to live together as they try to get back to whatever's left of Earth.
During the course of these first 6 episodes Lister finds out his future self has twins somehow (with no female aboard), his space-fever causes his paranoia and confidence to take physical form, Rimmer clones his own hologram, and Lister finds out he's the god of the cat people of which the crew's Cat is the last living member on board the ship. All in all, a pretty damn good start. Much better than Cheers' or Night Court's first season (and if you know me at all you'd know that I worship both those shows for the "Entertainment of the Gods" that they truly are... Except for Night Court's final two seasons. They're "Entertainment for the Damned").
Series II (1988)
Lister, Rimmer and the Cat are still stuck aboard the giant ship heading back to whatever's left of their home planet. Rimmer's still a dick, Lister's still lazy and sometimes disgusting, and the Cat's still a cat. Despite a few false alarms, it seems to be proving true that the only intelligent life in the entire universe is from Earth.
During Season II we meet the mechanoid Kryten for the first time, get to play the fantasy ultra-reality game "Better Than Life", travel back in time with the Red Dwarf crew to see their past and future selves, get pushed around by Holly's replacement program, Queeg 500, and watch in horror as Lister's alternate-reality female version gets him preggers. A much stronger season than the first, which is saying a lot
Series III (1989)
The third season of Red Dwarf was a pretty big departure from what we had previously seen, and 90% of the changes were for the best. The sets got bigger and brighter, the costumes got more interesting and personal for the characters, Kryten, the mechanoid, came back, the Dwarfers actually traveled outside of the ship on occasion, Hitler made his first cameo appearance and Holly gave himself a head-sex change and took on the visual form of his female-self from the alternate dimension of the previous season. Really, the only thing that bugged me was the fact that the actor for Holly changed. And that's mostly because the original Holly looked almost exactly like my buddy Angus. That was a hoot!
During Season III we really get to know the mechanoid Kryten inside and out. As the newest crew member we get to see him adjust to life with the Dwarfers as he tries to break his prime directives in order to finally tell Rimmer what a smeghead he truly is. We also watch as the gang visits a backwards Earth (where time flows backwards and you NEVER want to take a shit), meets a military-created shapeshifting alien that feasts on negative emotions (like vanity, fear and guilt), travels back in time through photographs in order to change their predicament in the future, and watch as Rimmer talks Lister into letting him take control of his body for a few weeks in order to get it back into shape for him, but instead adds 20 lbs and almost kills it on several occasions (like an "anti-Jared"). All good times for the Dwarfers and we the viewers.
Series IV (1991)
Red Dwarf was really hitting its stride by the fourth season. It took the strong changes made for the third season and made them even stronger. The gang got out of the claustrophobic main set piece more, met Ace Rimmer, hero of the galaxy (what a guy!), ran into a bunch more "Earth-made" creatures and spaceships, and almost died almost weekly. The writing was even more fast and furious now and the jokes were hitting their mark almost 100% of the time. That's good numbers for a genre where you only have a 50/50 chance of even chuckling at most of the lame shit that we're forced to watch under penalty of boredom.
Season IV introduced us to the previously mentioned "Ace" Rimmer, Hero of all Mankind. Ace is actually just the Arnold J. Rimmer that we already know, but from an alternate reality where he was held back a year in primary school, thereby forcing himself to gain some major self confidence and grow up to be liked by everyone and not such a total asshole. This season we also get to see Kryten become human and take pictures of his pecker, Lister get the space mumps and have his head swell up to disgusting proportions, Holly get her intelligence back and become a super-computer with an IQ of 12,000, but with only a 2 minute lifespan, and we meet the second Hitler of the show's history, this time in the form of an evil waxdroid determined on conquering Pythagoras and Elvis on the planet known as Waxworld. Sergeant Elvis being the second coolest character ever to appear in RD, only behind Ace himself.
Series V (1992)
Although we didn't know it at the time, Season V was the last season aboard the Red Dwarf that we had come to know and love. But I'll get to that later. Season V was probably the best of them all. The comedy was top notch, the plots were very imaginative, and the cast was at its prime. Everything gelled perfectly, and all was right with the world. The episodes "The Inquisitor" and "Quarantine" are the best this (or any comedy) show has ever done, especially with the miniscule resources that they had at their disposal (seriously, their budget for an entire season was like 1/10th of what it costs to make just one episode of Friends... Urgh, that's not something you want to think about for too long).
We meet the incredible Mr. Duane Dibbley in the sixth episode of Season V (a face and name that will pop up again on occasion). We are also introduced to the furious Mr. Flibbles and the time-terrorist, the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor is some whacked out robot who took it upon himself to travel throughout the space of known time in order to weed out the pathetic and useless and replace them with "another sperm" at their own conception. The Red Dwarf crew are his last victims ever. I don't remember a time I laughed any harder than at the shenanigans that went on in this episode. It was just perfect. But, things (perfection especially) were about to change.
Series VI (1993)
For reasons beyond all my fathomable comprehension, the writers actually took away the ship that the show is named after in Season VI. Yes, friends, the Red Dwarf is missing (thought to be stolen by something) as the season opens. It's just Kryten, the Cat, Lister and Rimmer aboard the Starbug minicraft while in pursuit of the hijacked uber-ship. That right there is what ticked me off about VI right from the start; the claustrophobic feel of the whole thing. Instead of having Lister able to wander around a 5-mile long title ship, and take a shuttle over to a guest starring planet or space station, we were cramped into the same tiny quarters with four men (well, one dead man, one Cat, one mechanoid and one man). And Holly was gone too. Was that some kind of contract dispute? Scheduling conflict? What.. The... Fuck?!
There were some great episodes in Season VI, don't get me wrong. It was still a barrel full of ice skating space monkeys, but it just felt... odd. The whole season had such a different feel from previous seasons (even more so than the changes between II and III. But, in the end it was still Red Dwarf (in spirit at least), so it was still good.
Some of the classic moments in this season are when the crew enters Kryten's messed up mindscape and become cowboys in order to kill the computer virus that invaded him and took on the form of old west gunslingers, Rimmer leaves the rest of his comrades high and dry after fleeing potential danger in the only escape pod and then is forced to live on a world filled with nothing but his own clones until help arrives (a few hundred years later), and when the Dwarfers come face to face with their own future (evil, pricky) selves and they're forced to commit suicide in order to not die. It really makes perfect sense in context.
Series VII (1997)
There was a loooooong break between Season VI and VII. And it wasn't for quality control. Now while Season VI had a change in the tone and feel from previous seasons, Season VII just fucked up the whole concept of what was great about Red Dwarf in the first place. First of all, it wasn't filmed before a live studio audience anymore. It was shot on actual film and then only later showed to people for a laugh track. And it just felt like it was canned. You know, like when you watch some old Hanna Barbera crappy cartoon like the Flintstones and there's incomprehensible laughter in order to tell the retarded audience what it should find funny. Mistake number 1. On top of that, Rob Grant (co-creator and co-writer of RD) left the show and Doug Naylor (the other half of everything) was left to do what he could to keep the series running. Doug thought it was for the best to bring other writers in on the show in order to give RD a fresher look and to shit on the hearts of a worldwide fanbase. Mistake number 2. Then, the most unforgivable mistake happened, they allowed Rimmer to leave. Arnold J. Rimmer (aka Chris Barrie) had expressed his displeasure at the scheduling and calendar shoot of Season VI, and only wanted to do half of the 8 episodes of Season VII. They wrote him out in a most sucky way and then brought in a Kristine Kochanski (remember her?) from another dimension in order to fill in the void. Not that Kristine was bad or anything (honestly, it was nice to have a cute female character in the mix), just that she had some enormously smegginly huge shoes to fill.
So, the Dwarfers are still stuck on Starbug throughout Season VII, but by this time I was growing used to their predicament. There were some pretty good episodes this time round, but the "laugh out loud" factor had dropped pretty low what with the eclectic group of new writers and the new style of filming. Other than that though, there were some memorable moments such as when the Dwarfers interfere with President Kennedy's assassination and then have to re-kill him in order to put history back on track, Ace Rimmer shows up again (that there is enough to salvage even the crappiest of seasons), we find out who Lister's father is ala Fry and his grandfather in Futurama, and we finally find out what happened to the mining ship Red Dwarf and Holly. And not just female Holly, but good old original "Angus-y" Holly. Season VII did finally make up for a lot of its subparness by bringing back what the fans truly wanted (even if it was only in the last few minutes of the final episode).
Series VIII (1999)
Back to the basics. Thank Satan for that! Doug Naylor (though still alone) committed to writing pretty much the whole season himself, and it was good. The Red Dwarf was back, along with its entire crew from before the radiation leak that killed them all 3 million + years in the past. Captain Hollinger, the original Rimmer, and even the original Holly (so that gave us two Holly's this season to make up for two seasons with no Holly). Right off the bat though, the Dwarfers are thrown into the brig for crimes against the Space Corps, and then Lister volunteers the whole group for the dangerous missions prison-army known as the "Canaries" thinking it was an easy choir assignment. The humour and laughs were back (as was a live audience), and the world sighed a big sigh of big relief. The only bad thing about Season VIII was that it was the last season of Red Dwarf. Sure, they started planning a movie soon afterwards (which as of this writing still hasn't even started filming some five odd years later), but the movie is supposed to be a retelling of the whole RD phenom, and that just won't make up for us never knowing what happens after Rimmer kicks Death in the jimmy and runs away like a little girl. That blows.
There are so many absolutely fabulous moments in Season VIII that it will be very hard to just pick just a few in order to define the final eight episodes with. There's the time that Rimmer uses the leftover sexual magnetism virus from a previous season and is forced into making sweet sweet love to four of his commanding officers and then forced into shooting his groin up with Novocain in order to stop himself from humping on (in which he tests the effect of the Novocain by repeatedly whacking the shit out of his crotch with a hammer), Archie, Kryten's penis, running free around the brig, and of course the aforementioned Rimmer confronting Death scene. Even though it was such an open-doored ending, it was one hell of a way to end such a fuckingly fantastic show. What a capper.
Back to Earth (2009)
UPDATED ON 04/15/2009
What the goddamn FUCK was that? We waited TEN GODDAMN YEARS for this? Finally, after a full decade of Doug Naylor begging and pleading for some cash to tell the final story of the Red Dwarf and her (once again small) crew, and THIS is how he ends things? The three-part RD special Back to Earth was just a glorified below average filler episode that was low on jokes, void of any real narrative, and just a smegging kick to the crotch of long-time fans of the series. It doesn't end anything, and Dave, Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten don't even make it "back to Earth" (as I'm sure you could've guessed). Basically the whole plot goes a little something like this: It's 9 years later (after the beautiful cliffhanger at the end of series 8) and Kochanski's dead, somehow Rimmer's a hologram again, and Holly's on the fritz and doesn't even make a small appearance. The remaining water supply of the Dwarf is in trouble because of a giant squid in the last water tank that's making the place it's new home. When Lister, Cat, and Kryten try to kill it but end up getting inked by it. Then another hologram appears and claims that she's Rimmer's replacement because he's an incompetent douche who is failing at his main duty of keeping Lister busy and finding him a mate to help propagate the species. She then uses a detached tentacle from the "dimension and time jumping" squid to build a machine that can teleport the gang back to a populated Earth where Lister can live a relatively normal life.
Well, the main crew makes it back to early 21st Century Earth, but finds out that they're really just characters in a TV show and that their show is being cancelled. So then they go off to find their creator in order to get him to keep writing more Red Dwarf. THAT'S RIGHT, the storyline of the 10 years-in-the-making Red Dwarf special is JUST A RIP-OFF OF THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN MOVIE... only not even a fraction as funny. In the end they kill their creator (like in the LoG Movie), but find out that they really aren't back on Earth, but that the giant squid in their water tank was really just a female despair squid that Cat smuggled on board after the events of "Back to Reality" in the 5th Series. So, to sum up, the long awaited final storyline of Red Dwarf just ripped off better movies and several episodes of its earlier series, and in the end NOTHING is finalized, and no questions about Rimmer's body, the new model used for the Red Dwarf, how they escaped Death at the end of Series 8, or ANYTHING else raised in this special are answered. From a longtime Smeghead I must say that this is the first time Naylor REALLY dropped the ball. It's like he was just hoping that this special would be the launching point for a new series instead of focusing all his efforts in order to make the story's last call memorable. Fuck! END OF UPDATE
So there you have it. A pretty short and kinda spoiler free rundown of the totality of all Dwarfiness. Granted, there might eventually be more Series to add to this review, but don't count on it. At least not in our lifetime. Though, to be quite honest, I would give my left pinky finger in order to have them make one more season after the cliffhanger ending of Series VIII, in order to get Lister, the Cat, Rimmer, Kryten and Kochanski back to Earth (maybe even with the original ending that they planned for Series VIII in which the five-some [along with Holly] are the only ones who didn't abandon the Red Dwarf, and they eventually make it back home only to crash through every landmark on the planet and emerge from the destroyed ship in order to exchange insurance information with the few humans left alive. *Sigh*... I guess I'll only be able to view that masterpiece in my mind. Which sucks, 'cause my mind's already pretty crowded and lots of already made up stuff is starting to merge with others. Like my ideal plot for the G.I. Joe Movie [which doesn't even acknowledge "Cobra La"] is starting to merge with my fantasy of banging 10 clones of the Olsen twins (so that's 20 Olsens!) in one fucked up mental mix of a metaphysical mess. Just picturing Sgt. Slaughter assfucking Mary-Kate 7 while Ashley 5 bops him back with a strap-on from the rear shaped like Golobulous is miiiiiighty disgusting.
Ah yes, the Red Dwarf. What a grand, fine ship she be. Though watchin' this show with the nutty crew that she had aboard got me to rememberin' me first post as Captain of me very own first little schooner. I was in charge of ferryin' tourists and such around the touristy parts of the island I was livin' on at the time. Arrrrrrr. 'Twas a bit of a bore, but they tipped well, and they bought me lots of booze after the tour was over at me favorite little shithole dive just a few blocks from the port. Spinner's was no Sea Wench Pub, but she got me plastered almost as well.
Though, it was when this skinny little fag of a first mate came aboard me ship that all hell started to break loose. That fisherman-cap-wearing pansy kept messing with me controls and spillin' his Yoohoo all over the compass... I had to take off me hat and swat the fucker with it all the damn time! But then that one time he insisted that I name the S.S. Minnow after him I was just driven to insanity and I snapped like a human femur being smacked with a tire iron... I sabotaged the radio and the sea-navigational equipment, hired a new and fatter Skipper to take over me boat, and then got a list of customers the tourist trade has never seen the likes of before! A bunch of rich fucks, some starlet whore, some Nobel Prize winning putz and some hot little MidWestern number that I just so happened to get faced and fuck the night before. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Last I heard those morons never came back from their 3 hour tour, but the publicity around their disappearance never really grew beyond some television crew trying to hunt them down for some kinda gay, new reality show.
Okay, Ah get the whole dealy that it was like the future and all, and that that space ship was all goin' outta control and killin' people before that one guy woke up and stuff... But Ah just didn't get the rest of it. Yeah yeah yeah, a future show and gobbledygook. Whatever. Ah'm just sayin' that if you're gonna make a show with technogizmos and robots and such, shouldn't ya have at least one super space whore or somethin' in the cast? Seriously, that's just bad writin'. Y'all just know that the first thing some red-blooded non-gay man would do when he found out he was the last man alive is to somehow get himself a space whore.