Now I’m not sure how broad the appeal of Red Dwarf was outside the UK during its original run, but comedy is comedy right? Actually, probably not. Some things don’t translate well overseas. That said, I’ve always been pretty proud of British humour. Whether it’s a sit-com, stand-up, sketch show or something else, I’ve felt we’ve always held our own – sometimes even led the way – on the world stage when it comes to making people laugh.
If you want a crash course in British comedy there’s the Carry On films, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Red Dwarf obviously and loads more. In modern times I’ve found Gavin & Stacey and the Inbetweeners total classics – and Misfits was very good too. Anyway, I’m going off the point. Back to the boys from the Dwarf!
From a quick browse of Wikipedia I couldn’t believe the first two series originally aired in 1988. That aside, like many fans I imagine, I feel the programme didn’t get going until series III in 1989, running through to series VI in 1993. For me, series VII and VIII felt forced, like the magic had been lost. There was a special mini-series (IX) in 2009 that felt as if the chemistry we all used to know and love had begun to come back. I assume that’s why a tenth was green-lit.
In all honesty this new series crept up on me. I’d heard a rumour a while back but completely forgotten about it until I saw an ad on the tube a few days ago. I’m glad I caught this first episode. I genuinely think they did a really good job. Check out the official trailer.
It’s noticeable that the actors have aged considerably (no offence guys!) from how we remember them. That said, I really think they still click. It’s often really hard to try and recapture the magic of something. Especially a science-fiction sit-com that can seem dated. Let’s face it though, part of the charm of Red Dwarf were the shoddy sets, dodgy special effects and low budget. It had a rough and ready quality. You felt at home with these characters.
The danger, of which I’m sure the cast and crew were aware, was trying to resist some sort of HD, Blu-ray style upgrade. Think Jar Jar Binks, that’s what we wanted to avoid. I think this was achieved incredibly well. Aside from a few little modern touches, the sets looked just like I remember them. The effects pleasingly awful (the resentment drain eyes!) – remember, it’s part of the charm.
In terms of performance from the main characters. Again, I think they pretty much picked up from their best work in the early 1990s. Craig Charles (Lister), who has probably been the most consistently working actor in that time, seemed to slip effortlessly back into his role. So too, did Cat (Danny John Jules) – he still had the moves and brilliant mannerisms. I think Chris Barrie (Rimmer) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) were almost there, but just a little offbeat. It might take them an episode or two to find their feet. These are minor points though.
It probably helped no end that the script was strong. The jokes and storyline were the right tone: the phone order hotline, psychopathic simulant, and the moose examination question – vintage Red Dwarf.
Following this episode I have to say I’m pretty excited now about the new series. It’s like an unexpected present. It’s not your birthday or a special occasion, but someone rocks up and gives you a present anyway. Lovely.
Let’s finish with the moose joke I mentioned earlier. To set the scene, Lister, Cat and Kryten are reading a handbook about Sweden and moose safety. Rimmer is not in the room. Later in the episode Rimmer is studying for an exam and having a tough time with the questions. Now watch this scene, great stuff.