Monday, April 27, 2009
TV Review: Red Dwarf - Back to Earth
I have a remarkable knack for picking up books that are connected to TV shows in England without knowing there even is a TV show in England. About a decade back I picked up a book called "Red Dwarf". It caught my eye, I read the summary, it looked brilliant, and it was.
Then I found out about the show. The original series ran from 1988 until 1995. Clearly, they planned a 9th season that was never produced. Season 8 ended with Red Dwarf in flames and the crew fleeing through a dimensional port hole to somewhere unknown.
Then, I heard about a three part "Red Dwarf" special airing in England on Easter. It was called "Back to Earth". I finally watched it last Thursday.
If you're planning to watch it you might want to stop reading now. Oh, yes, there will be spoilers.
What me and the "Red Dwarf" fan base were expecting was that they'd sort out the cliff hanger, get the crew back to Earth, and generally give the show closure. That isn't what happened.
Let me step back for a bit. Dave Lister got super drunk on his birthday and found himself on Mars. In an attempt to get back he signs on with the mining ship Red Dwarf heading for Earth. Turns out that the ship is heading for Earth by way of Pluto. Rather than make the trip Lister gets himself arrested by smuggling a cat on board. He releases the cat in the ducts so the people won't kill it. He gets put into a stasis pod where time is frozen for all inside. Shortly thereafter a problem with the engine's reactor puts out a wave of radiation that instantly kills everyone in the habitat section of the ship. The ship hits the gas and tears out of the galaxy at full acceleration to prevent contamination of the Solar System. Three million years later the radiation has died down enough that the ship can finally release Lister from stasis.
Rimmer was Lister's immediate supervisor in the vending machine division of the ship and his roommate. They hated each other. The ship decides that Lister needs company so it brings back Rimmer as a hologram.
Cat (cats don't have names) is a humanoid feline descendant of the cat that Lister released into the ducts. It had found it's way deep in the belly of the ship where the radiation existed, but was pretty heavily shielded by a few hundred decks. Turns out the original cat was pregnant. It had kittens that interbred, mutated, evolved, figured out how to work a can opener, became intelligent, developed religion, fought holy wars, and left the ship in search of their respective gods who were both based on Lister. They left behind a retard and a cripple who had Cat. Cat worries primarily about his clothes, hair, and general appearance. He was the only thing left alive on the ship when Lister woke up.
Kryten is a service droid found on a crashed space ship. Red Dwarf's new crew found a distress signal and responded hoping to find and save the three young ladies that were on that ship. Turns out that they'd all died a couple million years ago and that Kryten had continued cooking, cleaning, and refusing to acknowledge their deaths since that would mean he no longer had duties and what's a service droid with nothing to clean?
To avoid the cliffhanger problem and that of missing cast who couldn't come back, the special picks up two seasons after the show was canceled. Lister's alive again/dead again girlfriend Kristine Kochanski is dead again. Holly, the ship's computer never appears or speaks. The discovery of a dimension hopping squid in the ship's water tanks causes the computer to generate the hologram of another, more useful, dead crew member who can figure out how to use a tentacle from the squid to create a rift that will get the crew back to Earth.
The Earth they reach is modern Earth where they find out about a show called Red Dwarf that documents their adventures. In fact, the crew aren't real. They're created by the guy who made the show. And he's gonna kill them off in the final episode "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth". To preserve their own existence they must find the creator and beg for their life. He refuses and tells them about their own death in a reproduction of a scene from "Blade Runner." Instead, they kill him and use his typewriter to manipulate events.
Soon, they begin to realize that they're not really back on Earth. The squid's natural defenses induce a coma in which someone gets a world that makes them happy.
They had a bigger budget than they had back in the early 90's. The writing was every bit as good as it used to be. Something about the performance, at least in the first episode, was lacking, however. Maybe they just needed to get back in their groove.
I'm afraid I can't recommend buying the DVD. However, you have to go get the books "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" and "Better than Life". The first one retells the story of season one with all the stuff that didn't translate to TV or fit in a half hour episode. I think they're better than the show.
Posted by Ibid at 7:00 AM