Monday, April 13, 2009

Red Dwarf but not as I know it...

A brief rant today about TV.

Of course, it being the Easter weekend and all, there were a lot of big things on TV aside from the usual biblical epics and family classics rolled out as a matter of course. However one of those things represented something close to my heart. That thing is Red Dwarf.

I have been a fan of Red Dwarf from around the age of 8, and got into it at the time when series VI was showing. This was a bad point to become a fan, as it was at the time of the split between the writing partnership of Grant Naylor, and as a result the series had already peaked in quality. Still I remained a fan and also having slowly viewed the back catalogue of episodes I remained so, in spite of the two later and rather fan testing series. However this weekend represented another test of my mettle as a fan, as the series was brought back to life again for the first time in 10 years.

Now, I was under no illusion that the stunt was to try and get a new series commissioned but the way the 3 part series turned out was not exactly the answer to my prayers. Firstly whoever made the decision of making this a three-parter rather than a feature length episode is a bloody fool. The saga dragged on too slowly and became frustrating to watch. Also there was a distinct lack of gags in the first two parts. Sure they had a couple of moments of brilliance but they were too fleeting. The third part made up for this with one of the funniest sequences in the hour and a half story, although I would credit this more to the actors rather than the writers. In any case it was too little too late. They could have made a regular half hour episode and that would have filled the laugh quota well enough to feel impressed with the come-back.

Another thing that bothered me was that there was too little exposition as to how the story had progressed from the cliff-hanger of the final episode of the last series (Series VIII). This was smoothed over and ignored, which felt like a slap in the face for someone who had wondered how they would resolve the finale before. I suppose I was relieved that the status quo had been resumed too, but still!

The story also had me sighing with apathy as the characters became aware that they were in a TV series. This ground has been trodden before and not with much funny effect. Most notably the League of Gentlemen tried it a few years ago and that was quite a failure. What made the writers arrogant enough to think they could pull it off here? This also made the show too self referential, and almost seemed to pat itself on the back for being a cult success. Now don’t get me wrong, fans are loyal creatures but if you test them like this you may just push them too far. Also the show became an almost carbon copy of Bladerunner, which could be quickly written over as parody, but when it is copied to this level of detail one has to wonder.

In short the episode showcased no new ideas at all; just a rehash of old ones within the series and outside it too. I have heard people saying the magic is gone with this show, and I have to sadly agree. There were glimmers of hope but for the most part they were too few. The writers and cast had their chance to make us all talk happily about the show again and blew it. They had the tools and the talent and it was all wasted on this. Shameful really.

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