in Review

The Return of Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

One of the great British comedies of the 80s and 90s, Red Dwarf was a landmark Sci-Fi/Comedy lasting eight seasons from 1988 to 1999. Garnering high ratings in it’s heyday, a strong cult fan base and even an international emmy in 1994, the cast of Red Dwarf recently reunited for a three-part reunion episode entitled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth penned by co-creator Doug Naylor and aired on British television last month.

The original series aired here in the states on PBS and I used to love watching this off-the-wall comedy growing up. So when I heard the cast was reuniting for a new special I was pretty excited but wondered, when will I get to see it? The three-part episode aired in the U.K. from April 10th to April 12th but there’s been no announcements as to whether PBS will ever air this on our side of the pond, or if we’ll get a DVD release anytime soon. With that news I decided to just screw waiting and check it out online.

Before I tell you all about it, how about I fill you in on the show’s premise? The show is set sometime in the future aboard the “Red Dwarf” a six mile long mining spaceship. Technician Dave Lister is the lowest ranking officer aboard the ship and after a leak of Cadmium II find himself to be the lone survivor due to his imprisonment in a stasis booth (which kept him alive in suspended animation.) Lister then awakes to find that almost three million years have passed and that he has become the last of the human race. Now accompanied by a hologram of his former neurotic bunk mate Arnold Rimmer (The second-lowest ranking officer on Red Dwarf), a smooth talking humanoid who evolved from Lister’s cat named “The Cat” and a loyal mechanoid named Kryten, these four misfits roam the galaxy going from zany excursion to zany excursion.

This latest installment, set nine years after the last series, finds the crew still adrift in space and putting up with each other’s nonsense. Then through a series of odd occurrences including a giant squid and a female hologram, the crew finds themselves transported back to the year 2009… Only to find that they are characters in a TV show called “Red Dwarf”.

Now I initially thought this whole idea sounded like a really stupid setup.You know how like the Fat Albert kid’s broke out of “TV world” in that atrocious Fat Albert movie? Luckily the special was actually pretty darn funny. The crew spends most of their time seeking their creator and begging for more life, which I guess translates into more episodes. This leads to hilarious bits such as Lister suggesting “Well what about a spinoff where Kryten travels back in time every week and I’m his sidekick?” or Rimmer saying he’d be great for a sitcom. Not to mention you get all the hilarious observations that characters from the future would make. One of my favorite scenes would have to be when Lister is looking at some DVDs asking “What are these?” and Kryten explains that they’re DVDs and because people kept losing them, they switched to the more practical use of VHS tapes “They’re just easier to hold on to.”

There’s a few jokes in Back to Earth that are just kind of “ehh whatever” and some convoluted plot twists but for the most part it’s the same great show I remember. Regarding the future of the show, Doug Naylor has stated that there might be an outside chance of a new series depending on reaction to Back to Earth. If you ask me that would be a great move as the show hasn’t lost it’s spark. If you’ve never seen the show, I highly recommend checking it out, it’s fun for any sci-fi or comedy fan.


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