October 8, 2012
I've been having problems writing a column about the show for Comic Related - not because of creative block, but because the writing has tended to be hit-and-miss, and a long hiatus as co-creator Doug Naylor has attempted to bring the show to the big screen....with the original cast. So watching the first episode, "Trojan", of the latest series has brought about mixed feelings.
On the one hand, it feels like traditional Red Dwarf - a typical, studio bound comedy with plenty of science fiction-based humor. The leads all perform amazingly well, and several lines hit home with great laughs. (One of the great strengths of Red Dwarf's sensibility is that it doesn't rely on popular comedy cliches - even familiar situations are written with unique, crackling lines). The script is relatively solid (although it does veer towards a traditional "American" sensibility with its sense of irony). In short, it's a great traditional episode that wouldn't be out of place in the first five series....
....on the other hand, it's hard to watch with the leads being that much older. Thankfully, it avoids what the 2009 Back to Earth series did in past continuity....but there is a slight sense that Naylor's obsession with bringing the show has slightly damaged the show. Had this been created in, say, 2000 or 2001, it would have fit right in place (and after Series 8, a refreshing return to form); now, it can't help but appear steeped in unnecessary nostalgia. The fact that the cast fit so well into their old costumes (with Kryten - the fussy robot - now possessing a pot belly (!)) is a service to their ability to sell this story.
So I'll be watching the rest of the series, and think this is a great return to form. But in hindsight, it seems almost understandable why Rob Grant left at the end of series five - focusing on one sole creative endeavor can often lead to delayed opportunities.
Although it's being shown in England on Dave, for US fans...make sure you get this when it comes out on DVD. You'll be glad you did.