Friday, August 26, 2016

Red Dwarf Series X Overview

Red Dwarf made a welcome return in 2012, and by and large I was happy with the ultimate product. Budgetary limitations obviously worked in the show's favour, with the episodes achieving an "early Dwarf" feel by focusing on the characters. It's a nice-looking series as well, with good costumes for the main cast, nice sets and the high-quality filming making the entire production easy on the eye. Overall, this "back to basics" approach makes Series X evocative, in my opinion, of the show's notionally "classic" era. There's both camaraderie and conflict between the main characters as well as background character arcs for Lister and Rimmer, the latter dealing with his family history and the former trying to make something of himself and looking for Kochanski (who is mentioned in five of the episodes).

Series X has a very "red" look, appropriately enough I suppose for a show called Red Dwarf, and I think the sets and props are utilised well. Cat has some great costumes in this one, and I like Rimmer's uniform; it's a nice "hard light" take on the "classic" Series III to V Rimmer look. I know many people don't like the Series X Kryten costume, but I personally do, and I like the mask as well; it seems to enable a lot of funny expressions. That being said, the bands on his shoulders seem to be out of place and I wonder if they derive from the designers forgetting or not realising what the bands between the shoulders and neck were for on the old costume. Lister's costume overall is fine too, although much like Series VI's undergarment thing I'm not entirely fond of those red long johns he wears in a few episodes. The visual effects in Series X are a welcome return to model work too, with the ships and stations that appear in several episodes looking very believable and reminiscent of the old days. The cut-down version of the Series VIII ship model used to make a new model of the vessel is quite striking too, and I think it's appropriate. One thing I miss a tad is some of the effects work done in "Back to Earth" to give a sense of the vastness of the ship, although these probably weren't within the scope of the series' budget.

There are a few ongoing points in Series X that are a bit confusing. One of these is the concept of the "JMC Onboard Computer", which interacts with the crew in "Trojan" and "Dear Dave". The implication is that it's some kind of backup system which, in the absence of Holly or a similar AI, enforces the strictures of the corporation and facilitates the operation of the ship in accordance with the owners' policy, but this isn't made terribly clear, and at times it really feels as if one of the characters ought to point out, as I assume is meant to be the case, that the computer is enforcing rules and regulations that have presumably been obsolete for millions of years. Another is that, while talking vending machines have been in the show since the first series, this introduces some odd things like garbage robots and medical computers with personalities that never appear elsewhere in the show. I suppose you can just argue that it's a big ship. On the other hand, I like that they still give Starbug a look-in through some model work despite the fact that a Starbug set wasn't available; the Series reminds us that just because they primarily use Blue Midget in this Series, Starbug is still definitely present.

It's worth noting that Series X is a very "back to basics" version of the show, the ship itself only featuring the four main Dwarfers and a few automated services. There are no Skutters and there's no Holly or Kochanski, although the former is mentioned once and the latter mentioned in every episode but the last, as Lister is meant to be looking for her. This is worth discussing slightly further as an alternative to the "Speculation" sections I've done for Series VII and VIII. Supposedly the original plan was that Kochanski was going to be reintroduced in the fifth and sixth episodes of Series X, but the scrapping of the location budget made it impossible to produce the stories that would have done this. It's not clear to me whether scripts existed for this or not, and I wonder in what capacity Doug Naylor intended to reintroduce her: as a regular or just in a guest role? Personally I like Kochanski, mostly because I like the idea of a fifth Dwarfer, and I think there are things that could be done with the character that haven't been done yet, but I feel like the writing would have to be good enough to justify this, and not simply use her as "the woman". I've read that at Dimension Jump (the main Red Dwarf convention) a few years ago Doug Naylor said he wouldn't necessarily bring the character back, so who knows. In any event, given what happened in "Back to Earth", I'm inclined to think that Series X would have been too soon for the character to reappear, an anticlimactic conclusion to a new character arc for Lister. Personally I think a recurring guest role would suit the character more so that, as seemed to be the problem in Series VIII, the script didn't have to find stuff for her to do in episodes in which she didn't feature heavily in the plot. Supposedly they intend to make a couple more series after XII, and if she's not in either of the upcoming ones I think she ought at least to make an appearance in one of those last two hypothetical series.

Focusing on the show as produced, however, while I definitely think some episodes of Series X are stronger than others, and I think some jokes, plots and characters aren't entirely successful, overall I think Series X was a solid follow-up to "Back to Earth" and more or less established that the show could be revived and still be funny, exciting, and feature much-loved characters in familiar and unfamiliar situations. It's probably just a shame it took so long for this to be all figured out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.