Sunday, August 21, 2016

Red Dwarf VIII Episode 1: "Back in the Red, Part 1"

The Dwarfers are back on the Dwarf and get arrested. It's weird to see the cast in Starbug at the start of this episode, which had been the mainstay of the two previous series, before it's destroyed shortly afterwards. I'm not sure the sequence is necessary, especially since Kochanski appears to have had time, between leaving the medi-bay in "Nanarchy" and walking down to the cockpit in this episode, to change outfits and hairstyles. The whole Starbug sequence sets a precedent for "victory lap comedy" in Series VIII, with a rehash of the "blue alert" and "red alert" gag from "Legion" of two series and many years prior. Holly's "straight up your nose" joke is okay, and the "ratarsed" one raises a smile, but the entire sequence of a tiny Starbug flying around ducts just feels like pointless CGI nonsense. Chen and Selby's cameo is pointless as well.
The problem is that the episode is way too plot-driven, with the efforts of the Dwarfers to prove themselves, find the nanobots and escape while also dealing with the revived crew providing few opportunities for good jokes. The amount of contrivance required to get the characters imprisoned is absurd, particularly because the script has to figure out a way to get Rimmer in with them despite the fact that he wasn't on Starbug when it crashed. It's too much. Notably, the crew of Red Dwarf seem almost totally nonplussed about the fact that they're three million years into deep space with no apparent hope of getting back. Other than Lister and Rimmer, the characters only get brief appearances, in this case Kryten's meeting with the psychiatrist (who sadly isn't "Brannigan" of Series II) and Cat's medical examination. Why would Kryten be interviewed by a psychiatrist anyway? I also think the description of Cat's anatomy is a bit much. Another thing that occurs to me is this: wouldn't Kochanski be held responsible for what happened? She should have got a scene with Hollister or something. Anyway, I think it's obvious that when it came to pass that "Back in the Red" was not going to be a one-hour special opener it should have been rewritten as something else, probably with the characters being imprisoned at the end of the first episode.
These plot and character issues would all be irrelevant if the episode was funny, but it isn't particularly. Mac McDonald's performance is amusing, but I think the opening scene with Lister and Rimmer in the cell is a bit overdone. Is Rimmer's "the world loves a bastard" funny, or perhaps a bit too smug? I also don't mind Holly's joke that Floor 13 was known to anyone who'd seen The Twilight Zone. The only joke that sticks with me, however, despite the fact that I said it was a weak pun in the series overview (and it is), is when Lister is arrested and he's asked "Do you require any form of aid?" He retorts "Yeah, lemonade, and a really large scotch." Maybe it's all in the delivery but that does make me laugh, I must admit.

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