Do we really need another season of Red Dwarf?

Like many of my generation, I was raised on a diet of British comedies. The nutritious sustenance provided by the likes of Bottom, Allo Allo, Blackadder and Spitting
Image formed the ground work for my self deprecating leanings in later life. My favourite on this menu was always Red Dwarf.  The shows quality has wavered significantly over the last decade and i’m wondering do we need to flog that horse any further?

“What is it???”
Beginning in 1988, Red Dwarf was a sitcom set in Space.The plot revolves around David Lister(Craig Charles), a slob who becomes the last human being alive. Lister was
in Stasis when the crew of his mining ship “Red Dwarf” were killed by a radiation leak, so when the on-board computer Holly(Norman Lovett), navigated the ship into
deep space Lister could not be released from stasis until the radiation had reached safe background levels around 3 million years later. After his mental health began to decline
Holly decided to bring back Lister’s bunkmate Rimmer (Chris Barrie) as a hologram to keep him company/sane. The duo are joined by Cat(Danny John Jules) – the ancestor
of Lister’s cat which had evolved into a humanoid form over the course of that time. Eventually they rescue a service-mechanoid called Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) who
joins their crew.

red dwarf crazydiscostu

The show ran for six successful seasons until 1993 when the show took a hiatus. This break was largely due to the dissolving of the creative partnership between Rob
Grant and Doug Naylor, which in part led to the cast undertaking other projects. The season ended on a cliffhanger with a message ‘To be continued’ but fans had to
wait 3 more years before it was resolved. When the show did finally return – it was almost unrecognisable to the fans. The lighting and sets were inconsistently bright
and clean, the show was no longer filmed in front of a live audience, out of character storylines and the writing pushed a comical slapstick narrative. These errors
were tightened up by season 8 but by then the damage was done. Season 7 and 8 tried to recreate the pace of the earlier Seasons but could not match the comedic
success. When the show’s Season 9 proposal was turned down by the BBC, the fans had to wait a further decade before Dave digital channel commissioned a 3 episode run
for their channel.

Back to Earth (affectionately known as the non-series) was heavily meta and set on Earth in 2009. It was not well received by fans but it did however test the waters for Red Dwarf to become a viable commission for Dave, who went on to commision the show for a further 3 seasons.
The recent news that the show would return for a new season has yet to be confirmed by Dave and has been met with a luke warm reception by fans.

red dwarf crazydiscostu by otis frampton

Red Dwarf fans have always been quite vocal in their opinion over the years. I’ve found myself waxing lyrical about the show on many an occasion, and like my older
brothers before me – I have uttered the grumbles of “it used to be better”. The commentary of my older brothers based firmly in the subject of “the show went downhill
when they got a budget” (presumably around Season 3?) and mine in the hiatus period after season 6.

Having watched every outing since – I have experienced a heady mix of excitement which always gives way to crushing disappointment. Most recently Season 12 which
relied heavily on awkwardly shoehorning call backs to season 1. For me season 12 only had one stand out episode ‘Siliconia’ which would not have sat out-of-place
during Season 3 or 4, and further continues to cement Chris Barrie as an absolute national treasure!

The reason the show doesn’t work for me after season 6 was that it was devoid of charm. The show always swaggered with a hefty commentary on humanity itself. The
overall plot was layered with a heavy weight of doom and foreboding – for the most part – the last human being in the universe is marooned on a mining ship in deep
space. To me the show represented a very british reaction to that concept. The hopeless odds met with an attitude of “keep calm and carry on”.

If you really want to keep the franchise pure in your heart go out and get a copy of the books. Based loosely on the adventures of the crew, the stories are woven into
an epic adventure spanning a number of years and galaxies and told in greater more comedic detail. Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers (1989), Better Than Life (1990), The Last Human (1995), Backwards (1996).

Share your opinion in the comments or visit our Amazon affiliate store for Red Dwarf products!

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6 Comments

  1. As a Red Dwarf fan myself, I do agree with the apprehension about a possible renewal. I mean, the Dave run has been pretty good so far with only two “bad” episodes (“Dear Dave” and “Timewave”), and even some post-classic classics (“Lemons”, “M-Corp”). It does, however, feel like the writers are starting to run out of ideas for the universe, what with all the callbacks to Series I and II in Series XII. I’ll keep watching as long as they keep putting out episodes, but I do feel like they should call time. If they do renew it for Series XIII, they should make it clear that it will be the end of Red Dwarf.

    (If you don’t mind, I elaborate somewhat more here: https://reviewnebula.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/red-dwarf-review-series-xii-wrap-up/)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that there have been some good standalone episodes in the mix but the strongest for me was episode 2 of Red Dwarf XII. ‘Siliconia’ just had a really classic Dwarf feel about it and the performances were absolutely stunning! Chris Barrie demonstrates why he is such a powerful voice talent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Was the hiatus between 6 and 7 only three years? It felt a lot longer.. Red Dwarf was fantastic back in its day up until the Hiatus, however series 7 was dire (bar 1 episode, and 1 scene in another – Kryten in a tank). Series 8 was ok, but not as good as 1 to 6. I’d say leave well enough alone. Couldn’t bring myself to watch Back to earth and had no desired to see the latest incarnations, honestly forgot they had had actually done a run on dave. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before I researched and someone had of asked me I would’ve said ten years on hiatus! Weird. Either it’s the Mandela effect or my Red Dwarf-starved brain made it seem like longer. No you’re not missing much after 6 to be fair. 12 had 2 episodes of any worth tops. The rest were dire.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried dipping my toes back into the water with Season 11 (I think it was 11?) and found it unwatchable. The performances were horribly stilted- each actor seemed to be channeling someone doing a bad impression of their earlier work. I can’t even recall any of the plots, but then that applies to pretty much everything from about Series 8 onwards. It’s not just a question of whether the writers (whoever was working on any given series) ran out of ideas, it just looked like the whole Red Dwarf universe had been drained and that moment that fans dread had arrived- the show had run its course.
    Grant and Naylor described the initial pitch as ‘Steptoe and Son in space’, and as other have noted it certainly followed in a very British sitcom tradition. The mismatched people trapped together? Check. The lovable larrikin and the one with ideas above his station? Check. A sense that the universe is fundamentally unfair but you just keep ticking along? Check. Within a couple of series they started to drift toward the new model of ‘monster of the week’ which was amusing enough for a couple of series. I first remember nagging doubts creeping in when it occurred to me that Lister had abandoned his hope of returning to Earth (which was his character’s primary motivation early on, and was at the core of the humour- the ridiculous dream in the face of the sheer hopelessness and isolation of the crew), and yet they seemed to be running into an awful lot of people, creatures, androids and equipment from Earth. That isolation, loneliness, helplessness was an essential undercurrent of the show and it was completely undone when you’re asked to accept that “I’m all alone, more or less” and yet they are apparently surrounded by enough of Earth’s castoffs to start a whole new planet.
    But the worst part of the newer series was that it just looked tired. The mugging of the actors doing their best ‘classic Lister/Cat/Rimmer routine’, the poor line delivery (possibly because we’ve heard pretty much every combination of the repertoire before), the pacing… it really felt more like a regional panto revival of Red Dwarf.
    I used to be amazed when my dad would stop watching a show with the rest of the family because he’d had enough. I always felt that if you are a fan then you stick it out. If you stop watching then it might go away, and you don’t want it to go away. Red Dwarf was one of my penny-drop moments, when I suddenly ‘got it’. I don’t have to keep watching. It’s crap. It should go away.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One more thing- was Back to Earth a straight rip off of the League of Gentleman movie? Fictional creations arrive in the real world and seek out their creators? It’s possible that that plot has been recycled many times but off the top of my head I can only think of 4 examples and Red Dwarf and League of Gentlemen seemed relatively close together (in my admittedly unreliable memory).

    Liked by 1 person

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