Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Blu-Ray)
November 11, 2009
This review refers to the Blu-Ray version of the release.
The boys from the Dwarf are back once again. Slightly older, slightly rounder, slightly less hair and slightly less funny, but back nonetheless.
Red Dwarf has been missing from TV screens for far too long and despite the constant rumours of a big screen outing it hasn’t really looked like returning. Despite the absence of a new series, movie or even a cartoon adaptation (hey, they’ve done that for everything else) Red Dwarf has been on cable almost every day on the TV channel Dave.
Dave is the channel that everyone loves to watch because it always shows the classic TV programs that entertain us, such as Top Gear, Mock the Week, QI and of course, Red Dwarf. Dave was called Dave because everyone (and this is a fact) has a friend called Dave… go on, think about it.
Now, while Red Dwarf became one of Dave’s most popular shows, and since the BBC showed no interest in bringing it back, Dave itself decided to commission a new three part episode of the classic Sci-Fi show.
The fans were in raptures.
Red Dwarf was originally a low budget, two man show about Dave Lister (Craig Charles) being stranded in space as the last man in existence. In order to keep him sane, the computer (Holly) brought his best friend/enemy Arnold J Rimmer (Chris Barrie) back to life as a hologram. The two men would spend their days arguing and getting on each other’s nerves as much as possible.
Then the Cat (Danny John-Jules) was introduced as a human/cat hybrid, followed by Kryten (later played by Robert Llewellyn) as the helpful android. As the show progressed the budget became bigger and the scope of the show increased. The series peaked around series 3 or 4 before starting to go downhill and become too self referential, pandering to the demands of the fans who wanted to see recurring characters such as the Cat’s alter ego Dwayne Dibley, and Rimmer’s more heroic counterpart, Ace Rimmer.
Eventually Chris Barrie left altogether, being replaced with Chloë Annett who, while being better to look at than Barrie, wasn’t as much fun on screen. The final series, series 8, reunited all of the cast in what was widely regarded as a great disappointment.
So what about Red Dwarf: Back to Earth? As expected, the magic of the earlier series of the show was never quite recaptured, but it was more enjoyable than the dire series 8. As Craig Charles now plies his trade on Coronation Street, having the Dwarfers shift into our reality and meet actors from Coronation Street was a stroke of genius. There were elements of Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero as Dave Lister came face to face with Craig Charles in the Rovers Return.
However, moments like these were few and far between, especially with the rather thick imagery of Blade Runner being ever present throughout the three parter before delving into movie parody at the conclusion.
As the special features showed, the effects were of great importance to the production, which is sad as the script writing is what always kept Red Dwarf apart from other shows at the time. The biting dialogue between two men who really despised each other is what fans of the show came to love, and this was sadly missing.
Back to Earth also suffered from being shot like a movie, rather than a TV series. This gave the feeling that you weren’t watching an episode of Red Dwarf at all, it was more like a high budget drama or piece of cinema. With too many cinematic shots, close ups and grand camera movements, the chance for the characters to play off each other was lost.
This was a great idea from Dave, and worth it for the scenes on Coronation Street, but next time give the fans what they need, not what they want.