Sunday, August 21, 2016

Red Dwarf VIII Episode 3: "Back in the Red, Part 3"

The Cat does a dance and the Dwarfers get put in prison. At this point the show just feels like bad kids' TV with sex jokes in it because of how much material is just silly and whimsical rather than funny. The opening flash forward to the prison seems like even more time-wasting, with Rimmer moaning about his no-longer-potentially-incredible career in a manner which won't really be raised again until "Only the Good..." given that he spends the rest of this series mostly acting like a cheeky chappy getting into scrapes with his good mate Dave Lister. The Blue Midget dance is weird if nothing else; what's the point of it? I think it's a shame, because obviously the crew, the effects people and Danny John-Jules put a lot of effort into it, but I don't think it's successful. It seems like filler and it's way too twee. Note an odd bit early in the episode in which the Cat is talking to the (imaginary) flight controller and the rest of the cast are bizarrely bouncing up and down on their seats in the background as if they don't know they're being filmed.
What's the point of the dance? The CGI is mediocre, as is to be expected from a TV budget and the late Nineties, and it goes for far too long. The interior set of the Blue Midget cockpit seems like a wasted opportunity too, given how little it's used. It's noteworthy that a Children In Need sketch was shot on this set with all five Dwarfers, including hologram Rimmer in his Series VII costume, as shown in the "Overview" article. It's an odd vision of what might have been. Even watching this now I have this inexplicable belief that they're going to escape from Red Dwarf and Series VIII will somehow become radically different to what it was.
The claymation sequence would be funnier if it didn't look so cheap or rely on puns. I dunno what Holly's going on about when he says he created more nanobots to recreate the crew, in order to provide another diversion for Lister. Is that a necessary element of the plot? Why couldn't the original nanobots have done that? Also, Holly says "it's my job to keep Dave sane". No it isn't; that's why he brought Rimmer back. It's just the writing overthinking itself. I'm fairly sure this is the only time in the entire series that they bother to give Holly a role in the plot, only trotting him out occasionally in later episodes to deliver the odd emaciated one-liner.
"Back in the Red" was originally meant to be a one-hour special, and this episode is obviously padding, as they wake up from Artificial Reality twice and spend ages sitting around in a lift trying to convince Rimmer to join them. Why do the writers bother giving Rimmer his "old" personality? May as well have just said that rebuilding Red Dwarf meant the Rimmer hologram got turned back on, but the nanobots built him an organic body or something. I've read some people saying that it was necessary to "reset" Rimmer's personality from scratch because he'd become too heroic by early Series VII, but while I do think that's to an extent justified it would be easy enough to provide some new motivation for further smeg-headedness, perhaps due to them reclaiming Red Dwarf or due to the fact that, with Kochanski around, he's no longer the highest ranking person aboard; Lister points out in "Balance of Power" that Rimmer, despite their situation, still cares about the hierarchy even if no one else does.
Getting back to the episode, the bit in which Rimmer edits the Artificial Reality, interrupting Lister's threat to cut off his bollocks and causing Kryten to inexplicably say "bananas" is kind of funny, I suppose. Two versions of Holly? Was that necessary? Kochanski gets influenced by the sexual magnetism virus again, which is tedious. The only other funny bit I can think of is the way Chris Barrie says "circumcised" to the officer Rimmer is threatening, and when Holly tells Rimmer that they're giving him a chance to screw up his life "in a new and original way", but it's a mercy when this is over and the Dwarfers are thrown in the clink for crimes against comedy.

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