Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oooh, you make me tongue tied....

The Red Dwarf retrospective continues...Series 2


“I was only away two minutes!”

“I think I’m rebelling”

“We are not on the pull”

All three sum up the arrival of Series two and the changes it brought perfectly. The first series had put the show out there, but it needed more viewers to move forward.

So they smartened things up. And did it quickly. Now that the big fly-bys which drained the budget before were in the can, someone splashed out on something other than grey paint, and they actually got off the ship a few times. The whole limited scope of the show expanded. Now they weren’t just the remnants of humanity stuck on a ship which was their whole world. And this opened up new script ideas which, whilst keeping the distinctive Dwarf flavour, were more accessible to viewers.

It went even further – now they were guys who could fly the smaller ships, understood the ship, seemed more comfortable with the situation. It was as if they too had had a few months to become used to the situation. Rimmer, as hinted at the end of the first series, had mellowed a little, Lister had grown used to him, Cat had become part of the group rather than a loner who turned up occasionally, and this was all important, as it gave us a better dynamic between the characters.

Rimmer was more like the hanger-on you couldn’t shake than someone who would never be part of the group. You could understand better why he didn’t just move out anyway, or why Lister didn’t, or why Cat didn’t just stay away from them both most of the time. Unlike most sitcoms, there was real character development here.
The biggest change born of this second batch of stories wouldn’t really become apparent until the next series when Rob Llewellyn arrived, but that too would widen up opportunities, first with new jokes, then with more exposition options. But here we had a very different version of Kryten from David Ross, not that that was a bad thing. As a launchpad for the character’s later glory the pottering English butler worked – we got to see just how driven by his programming he originally was.

The best moment for most people is the whole reveal of the skeletons to the pottering droyd (“who’s dead?” “They are!”) but for me, it’s the dog’s milk conversation between Holly and Dave. So deadpan from Lovett, great reaction from Craig Charles, it’s just simple yet hilarious. (Lasts longer than any other type of milk, dog’s milk” “Why’s that?” “No bugger’ll drink it”)

An undisputed classic.

Better than life

“You’re my favourite all time fascist dictator”

“I write to inform you your father is dad”

Not just off the ship, but out of the studio. From the banality of Rimmer’s “Walrus polishing kit” speech to the ridiculousness of the reverse mermaid, this episode is unadulterated fun. Wish fulfilment all around, from the arrival of word from home which, to them, is just a few months past, to the game itself. Unless you’re Rimmer, obviously.

In a way this came closer to a traditional sit-com – they were off the ship and there were more than the four of them (Tony Hawks particularly making his first on-screen cameo). But at the same time, the ideas – particularly Cat’s ideas of perfection – we so distinctly different that the show kept it’s unique touch intact.

But of course, Rimmer’s mind has to ruin things for everyone, and the way it swings from bliss to agony is quick but brilliant to watch. Anyone would think from this that he was the first bipolar sitcom character!

Best moment: The mail. The Outland Revenue demand is worked well, but the letter from Rimmer’s mother tops it.

Thanks for the memory

“Do you know how many times in my entire life I’ve made love?”

It’s the anniversary of Rimmer’s death, and some great OTT drunk acting from everyone. If anything, this is one episode the “Remastered” version improved when it added the Blue Midget legs. The only one, though.

The whole idea of inserting memories was excellent – although a bit simple. Maybe that was to explain how Lister mastered it, maybe it was to explain why it was such a botched job. Rimmer’s complete change was almost another aspect of his aping of Charles, but was truly outshone by the best part of the episode.

Best moment: Rimmer’s drunken admission and the sandwich scene is possibly only topped by the reaction the next morning.

Stasis Leak

“I’m the Rimmer from the double double future. I’m the Rimmer who’s with the Lister who married Kochanski. Now from hereon in, things get a little bit complicated.”

“I don’t take orders from poultry”

Dear god, this is my favourite episode bar none. As much as I loved “Kryten”, this was so much more. From the simple concept (a way to get to the past and save someone) to the even simpler way they have to explain it to Cat, to the cameos of Mac MacDonald, Claire Grogan and Paul Williams as returning members of the original crew (which could almost leave you wondering which one would be added to the cast), everything was handled so well.

It’s an episode full of great moments. Rimmer reporting his hallucinogenic experiences after a magic mushroom breakfast, the captain in a chicken suit for a reason only given to explain WHY he was in the suit (“Captain Paxo”!), Hawks again, Cat experiencing women for the first time, the destination of the status leak, but despite the topical theatre reference (and I love Ray Cooney, so I don’t agree...) the real payoff is the last third of the episode, when we just get so many Rimmers and Listers running around that your head just screams at you.

Best moment: That final scene. That future Rimmer line. That last line.


"April may june july and august fool!"

"6? Do me a lemon – that’s a poor IQ for a glass of water!"

You’d have a redundant back-up of a key system, wouldn’t you. Especially when the key system only provides an early warning when the event has actually happened! And certainly if they’ve only got a single digit IQ! Charles Augins was excellent as the aforementioned back-up, especially as he was actually a choreographer by trade.

Neutral in delivery, but at the same time such an evil jobsworth you realise that maybe having guys who won’t stick to the rules as the last vestiges of humanity is the best way to go after all. I mean, Todhunter would have gone insane by now through actually TRYING to run the ship – you’ve seen Silent Running!

Chris Barrie gets another run at his excellently accurate cast impressions, plus (especially if you have seen the deleted scenes) further stretching of his vocal talents. The scene in the Holgraphic projection suite when he apes everyone else in the room in turn is amongst the best moments of the pre-“rock-themed” years.

Admittedly, they do repeat Holly’s idea of running an April Fools joke irrespective of the date, but when it’s this good, it’s just too got a chance to ignore.

Best moment: “Or is it the yellow one...Yes, it the yellow one”

Parallel Universe

“I remember betting you I could climb the walls of the nightclub using only my lips”

“Would you like a worm-do?”

“I’m going to be an uncle!”

Could this show actually get a distinct ending? The possibility that they can get home, or as Rimmer says, could it be that they “haven’t actually moved a Smegging inch”?

As the last episode of the series (and in many ways the end of the original Red Dwarf), the possibility of things finishing is a TV staple. Or at least, it was until the American TV trend of confirming a new season of a show half way through the last one. And Norman Lovett’s swansong is full of sign-offs. The skutters hardly appear again after this show until the 8th series, we wrap up the mystery of where the twins come from (although not, strangely, the question of how Bexley comes back to be blown up as seen by Rimmer), Lovett’s replacement appears in the world most public audition as he steps aside, Rimmer gets a new perspective on his letching, the “submarine” bunk-room is seen for the last time.

The female takes on the cast are so well envisioned, particularly the future “Brigadier Winifred Bambera” as Deb Lister. Sure the science is so “pony” (as DJJ is wont to say in the commentaries) as to be ridiculous, but the idea of a ship so similar but so different is realised here much better than in the later “Demons and Angels”.

Sure, this is the end of an era, and overshadowed by some of the episodes in the same show, but it’s still a great way to go, especially for the totally unexpected opening.

Best moment: Tongue tied...just Tongue tied.

God these take a while to write – I’ll try and slim these down and do the 3rd series at some point...

1 comment:

  1. You do realise I actually own the Tongue Tied CD single... oh yeah, be jealous :)