April 13, 2009

Smeggin' Mondays: Back to Earth

This has been a very eventful weekend for science fiction - not only for the broadcast of Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead (which I'll write about tomorrow), but a special three-part return of Red Dwarf on Dave UK. And given the relative stressfulness of this week, I clearly needed a break.

First, the good news - it's actually much funnier - and more clever - than all of Series 8 combined. There are some flat-out funny lines, and given the premise (an unusual near-existential twist), the smeg is taken out of more, er, "lively" fans of the show.

In short, the premise is this - after defeating a beastie in a water tank on board (don't ask), a second hologram arrives to inform them that Dave Lister's mission is to restart the human race. Through a series of wacky mishaps (and quite frankly, only on television are mishaps 'wacky'), the Dwarfers find themselves in early 21st century earth...as characters on a cult science fiction show.

There are some clever touches - references to a non-existent Series 9 and 10 (so don't go digging through the Amazon bookstore to find them); the cast has aged relatively OK (although you can easily see that it's been slightly over ten years since the last series). Many lines are flat-out funny (including Space Corps Directive 596....or is it 569?). There are some great character moments (especially Craig Charles as Dave Lister), and the plot turns enough that, without spoliing anything, it's a good watch.

Now, for the bad news - some of the special effects don't quite come off (especially the computer generated Red Dwarf ship). And, in addition, Doug Naylor seems to have contracted Russell T. Davies' disease - there's so many references to past episodes and continuity, that I'm unsure whether it was meant to be a joke (about continuity-heavy series) or serious. (Every 15 minutes, a character seems to ask, "Wasn't this like the time we...?"). You would think that, after ten years, Mr. Naylor would want to create an all-in-one, non-continuity-specific mini-masterpiece...but this has the sense that he's gone to the well one time too often.

However, the clever bits far outweigh and outnumber the not-quite-clever ones. So this is, definitely, well worth the time for both the hardcore fan, the casual fan...and for those who want a little "teaser" of what the show's about.

Maybe Mr. Naylor was more clever than we imagined....

No comments: