I have often stated that South Park is not only my all-time favourite comedy show, but my all-time favourite show period, but if I were to select one that comes close to topping it, as well as one that I would name my all-time favourite live action show, I would have to select Rob Grant and Doug Naylor‘s soon to be running again sci-fi series Red Dwarf.
When I do some sort of oral presentation in school that involves comedic storytelling and character writing, I usually use Red Dwarf as an example of how ’tis done with perfection. And brilliantly written characters who interact with one another pricelessly isn’t the only aspect that impresses me about this show, but also the wonderfully inventive and smart concepts and ideas. This results in a comedy series with not only great dialogue and characters, but also great storylines. It is safe to call this a win!
So what is the premise here? Well, directed largely by Ed Bye, the show starts off by introducing us to the crew of mining space vessel Red Dwarf. An accident wipes out the entire crew, bar the king of lazy slobs himself, Dave Lister (Craig Charles), who was put in stasis during the disaster as punishment for bringing his pregnant cat on board. The ship’s computer Holly (Norman Lovett), makes sure that Lister won’t go insane from loneliness and therefor creates a hologram simulation of his arrogant bunkmate, Second Technician Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), who in spite of his snide arrogance is a total failure. Being a hologram is alot like being alive again, but without the ability to touch anything. Another addition to the crew is a self-adoring and dim-witted creature simply named Cat (Danny John Jules), a member of a species that evolved from Lister’s cat in the time he was in stasis. That’s 3 million years, by the way. And he’s still not returned his library book.
For a while we follow only these three characters (four if you count their computer), until a service mechanoid named Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) joins the crew and Holly goes through a sex change, becoming played instead by Hattie Hayridge. Their chemistry gets more and more hysterical, their fantastical sci-fi shenanigans get more and more bizarre and Cat’s suits get more and more sexy.
This is what I admire about the show. Grant Naylor (as the duo’s called) managed to think up imaginative science fiction scenarios for these characters to face each week (simulants, GELFs, polymorphs, but hardly any actual aliens; only weird creatures with Earth-origins) whilst simultaneously writing in great jokes and smegging brilliant bickering for them to exchange. It can’t be an easy task to be so creative and so funny at the same time, while still leaving room for unmasking the main characters and how miserable/failed they are. Sure, the show lost its edge somewhat when Rimmer left temporarily and we instead had to settle for Lister’s old flame Kristine Kochanski (Chloë Annett), though it made for a surprisngly dramatic farewell scene, proving that drama is another strongpoint with these writers.
Now to the obligatory ‘favourites’-part of the review, but in the case of Red Dwarf the picks aren’t easy ones. If I had to choose a favourite character it’d probably have to be Kryten, even though they’re all just wonderful, and for my favourite episode I’ll have to go with Polymorph – which is built around a clever concept, has the actors try out alternate versions of their characters for the first time of many more to come, putting their broad talents on display, and it also contains possibly the funniest scene in Red Dwarf history: the ‘shrinking shorts’ scene. Any fan will know what I mean. It’s that one or Quarantine, but again, the choice is difficult.
Red Dwarf is unsurpassed in many aspects and a classic for many reasons. Memorably hilarious characters, not too shabby effects for the time and budget, delightfully bizarre plots, catchy music, wonderful dialogue, magnificently inventive ideas and just an all-around lovable show that holds up to this day. It began as just another BBC series in 1988 and since then, it has become an unforgettable classic to many a science fiction enthusiast.
And tomorrow, it’s back!
It feels really weird, to be honest. It feels weird that it is only a few hours left until a show I’ve loved since I was little (I’ve even read the novels) is back with a brand new season. Do I think Red Dwarf X will capture the spirit of the original show? Do I think it will carry the same essence or simply fall flat in an avalanche of betrayal? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see. What I do know is that I’m looking forward to it and the boys from the Dwarf still have my trust.
Not much else to say now except what the smeg are you still standing around here for? You’ve got an excellent show to catch up on if you haven’t yet. Prepare for some enhanced abdomen strength, induced by laughter and some unforgettable fun in space mixed with the occasional heartbreak and/or moment of realizing something about yourself. To think, as “out there” as it is, that this show about four misfits in deep space can be so very down to Earth.
Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast. (Sorry, I simply had to.)