Red Dwarf X: Dear Dave review

Review Pete Dillon-Trenchard 1 Nov 2012 - 21:30

What happened in this week's episode? Pete's not sure, but he liked it anyway. Here's his review...

Don’t you just love Sunday afternoons? There always seem to be a couple of hours between me getting the things I needed to do with my days off done, and having to deal with the important business of dinner. They’re the few hours that you spend sitting around with your family, or your housemates, feeling like you should be doing something more exciting, but actually quite enjoying the prolonged nothing.

Dear Dave, the latest episode of Red Dwarf, felt a lot like a Sunday afternoon. Whilst I can usually name at least one major thing that happened in an episode (Rimmer meets his brother, the crew install a new computer, they travel back in time and meet Jesus etc), it’s hard to name any major plot points in this one. Lister thought he might be a dad (again) but then found out he wasn’t, Rimmer was almost in trouble with the JMC but then he (presumably) wasn’t, and Cat almost had an important role to play in the episode but then he didn’t.

And yet, this is no bad thing. After all, three million and twenty-odd years makes for a lot of Sunday afternoons, and so it’s almost refreshing to get an episode like this one. It’s made clear from the top of the episode that Lister’s in no mood to go adventuring, as Kryten uses his usual tact and empathy to try and raise him out of the doldrums.

Both actors come out of this one pretty well, with Llewellyn playing a far less grating version of the concerned mechanoid who got his groinal attachments in a twist over the arrival of Kochanski in Series 7, while Craig Charles manages to emote in a way that perhaps Lister didn’t always manage. Say what you like about Coronation Street, but judging by his performances across this run, it’s done wonders for Charles’ confidence and acting ability.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Lister in this episode; Charles also gets to play a romance (of sorts) with Snack Dispenser 34. Isla Ure does a great job bringing the role to life, alternating between sweet and likeable and faintly terrifying and likeable. And although the romance is never reciprocated by Lister, the fact that it’s all played so straight actually turns them into a strangely believable couple. The other corner of the ‘love triangle’, Dispenser 23, is a shorter and less memorable role, but it’s a very funny scene, with Robert Llewellyn in particular making the most of the comic potential of it. It’s the sort of thing that would have been overplayed in later series of ‘classic’ Dwarf, but here it’s pitched just right.

For much of the episode, which once again seems reluctant to allow too many of the main cast on screen together at any given time, Kryten is paired off with Rimmer, who is attempting to convince the JMC on-board computer that he hasn’t been neglecting his duties as an officer. The on-board computer has been used a few times across this run, and it’s at its most jarring here, playing the role of an unseen authority figure to whom Rimmer is suddenly accountable.

This, in addition to the returning of supplies in order to bribe the (also unseen, perhaps mercifully) Medi-Comp, seems to mark a fundamental shift in the premise of the series; no longer is it just four blokes(ish) bumming around the ship and trying to get home. It’s now four sort-of blokes bumming around a ship that can sometimes hold two of the crew accountable for their actions, depending on what sort of a mood it’s in. It’s not necessarily an unwelcome move, but it seems like an unnecessary one that would be best used sparingly in future stories.

It’s over 12 minutes into the episode before Cat shows up this week, although once again he very much steals the show when he does. The charades scene is one of several scenes in the episode that feels like it’s designed to pad it out, but it’s a good one (the areola scene and the other major Cat scene being two of the weaker examples), with a strong payoff. It’s another scene in the Sunday afternoon vein, with Cat outright admitting that he’s dragging out the news to provide himself with some much-needed entertainment.

Cat brings with him the idea that Lister may have a child (other than the three he already knows about, who are perhaps wisely glossed over here), and spends much of the rest of the episode rifling through piles of post to try and find out if he’s the father. The search for the answer could well have been expanded to take up more of the episode, but as it is it’s just a short subplot that allows for some choice exchanges with Rimmer and to a lesser extent the Cat, and has a decent pay-off.

The real climax of the episode, though, belongs to Snack Dispenser 34, and the scene in which Lister literally - but not figuratively - gets his leg over. It’s reminiscent of the famous boxer short scene from Polymorph, which is rightly a fan favourite; it’s early days, but I’d go so far as to say this scene easily rivals that one in terms of quality, simply for the context it has within the episode, with Rimmer, Kryten and 34’s reactions all being spot-on and adding something to the moment.

It’s a classic moment which makes for the high point of a quiet but mostly amusing episode. There’s a few scenes which are too long, and a few - such as the aforementioned Lister/Rimmer dating scene - which are too broad in their humour, but there’s some great jokes to be found in there, and the cast - Craig Charles in particular - are really hitting their stride.

Now let’s all have a nice cup of tea and watch Songs of Praise, Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow before bed.

Follow Pete on Twitter here: @thegeekpdt and visit his website here: www.typeforty.co.uk

Read Pete's review of the last episode, Entangled, here.

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Me two.
It was fairly decent, but that was the least convincing way of trying to get a vending machine back up that I could possibly imagine, even by setting-up-a-gag standards.

Wasn't much of a fan of this episode.

Honestly though, it appears that most of this series has taken a backstep on character development and is focusing on broad gags instead.

I miss the emphasis on each character and how believable they were, especially when they clash together (it gave them such personality). Now it seems too much like a cheesy soulless sitcom. The vending machine scenes were embarrassing to watch, especially considering how forced the ending was.

Hmm, I'm sensing a certain amount of goodwill in the reaction Red Dwarf X. My suggestions is that the new series has been pretty weak, albeit nice to have back on television. Showing series 1-6 immediately afterwards shows up X - the older series have so many more laughs, are much tighter and much better shot. An improvement on 7 and 8, but Red Dwarf X only really works if you're prepared to indulge it. I am - but this new series has hardly been a return to the quality of the first half dozen series.

Weak, weak, WEAK. The only thing this new series has going for it is the sets! The jokes are so VERY predictable and I find myself wondering if they did really shoot it in front of a studio audience as the laughter seems to be all canned. This doesnt really surprise me considering the poor material involved.

"Charles also gets to play a romance (of sorts) with Snack Dispenser 34" - wooooo! I can barely contain my excitement, next they'll be making a rehash of the mailpod episode from season 1... wait...

So far they have about ONE good joke per episode, but even this is utterly killed by them showing the gag in the adverts leading up to the episode!!

When Red Dwarf was made by Grant & Naylor is was good - has nobody figured this out yet!?

Best episode of the series so far. No sci fi, just good old fashioned character comedy.

Cat explaining the excuses in graphic detail. That was classic. This has been a fairly solid effort to the legacy. Beside, I'd much have a sub-par Red Dwarf with occasional bits of gold (Back To Earth), than endure any of the fifty-million reality and talent(less) shows.

I'm really enjoying this series, sure it's not as good as series 1-6 overall but it's stronger than the rest. This episode was okay it just lacked any solid plotting to hold it together.

Nice to hear Chris Barrie's David Coleman impersonation again after all these years....

I have to reluctantly agree. I have to put aside my fanboy nature and take off my rose-tinted glasses and look at it objectively. I LOVE red dwarf but have to say if I was to judge this as a stand alone show, I wouldn't have got through the first 2 episodes. Its great that the show is back and as far as I'm concerned they can make another 10 more series and I wouldn't complain, but short of a few stand out comedic moments (last nights routine of Cat giving the bad news was hilarious), it doesn't live up to previous series and whilst I don't tend to judge a comedy show/movie until I've seen it at least twice, I fear for its future.

I enjoyed this episode but felt there were a couple of jokes missed that would have hit. For example, when the 'french' vending machine rumbles Lister in front of Rimmer and Krtyen and they all walk off, a little throw away line from the vending machine to Kryten of 'Will i see you tonite?" with Kryten responding "not now 23" would have been hilarious. There were a few other beats as well that were missed. All in all tho, a good episode.

I think this series has been a solid addition to the Red Dwarf catalogue. Robert Llewellyn still forgets his lines every episode and looks around for the script sheet, Craig Charles has grown as an actor and is even better than before, Chris Barrie is as excellent as ever, and the Danny is doing as good as ever.

Keeping them on the ship feels so much like the original few seasons, which were by far the best, and not relying on special effects gives the script so much more room.

I have laughed out loud a number of times during each episode, which is more than I can say for most sit-coms these days, and I really hope its successful and they do another one soon! Looking forward to the Bluray in a few weeks :)

wrong

Or alternatively the show could just not be pushing your buttons while it is for an awful lot of other people. Just because a reviewer likes a show doesn't mean they are sugar coating their opinions out of loyalty.

Although I know this means I'll have to turn my Dwarfer badge in at the door, I only remember two kids, Jim and Bexley, but I can't think of the third? Can anyone help?

Also, while I can understand the arguments of those who like / dislike this series, personally every episode has put a smile on my face a few times, admittedly more for nostalgia's sake than any outstanding comedic scenes, although some things have reminded me of 'classic Dwarf'.

Having said that, could even the series' biggest defenders say that this series will attract brand new viewers to the show? I can't see it happening myself, although I would be happy to be proved wrong!

And of course, as soon as I posted this, I remember that Lister is in fact his own son (duh)! Oh well, my other point still stands!

Top marks for your reasoned response there.

I want to like this series but every episode is just a dimmer copy of the original. The only time it 'hit' was Lister talking to Lister in episode 2. The subsequent episodes have been too broad for my taste and feel out of step with the earlier series.

The subtlety and pathos of the early stuff just isn't there, we're never given a reason to care for this incarnation of the crew like we were with episodes like Queeg, Marooned, Better Than Life, Thanks For The Memory, Camille etc

That's absolutely right; we always try to be fair and balanced about it, but ultimately it's guided by our own opinion. Red Dwarf X has had a lot of flaws, and I'd like to think I've pointed them out across the series (Indeed, a commenter a few weeks back chastised me for being too negative! You can't win sometimes ;) ), but all of the episodes have made me laugh in some way or other.

I do think there's a lot of fans out there holding them up to the standards of some really classic Red Dwarf episodes, and finding them wanting; really Red Dwarf X should be treated as its own thing, and if it's entertaining in its own right then it shouldn't get marked down for not being as good as past glories.

That said, I think it's worth pointing out that I've usually seen each episode a few times before I finally review it, so that I catch as much as I can. This has worked both for and against the show - it's meant that things I've given a pass on first glance have fallen apart by the time of the review, and it's also meant things I wasn't sure about first time round have grown on me. Is that the best way of doing it when a lot of readers are coming here after seeing it for the first time? I'm honestly not sure; certainly if anyone has any thoughts I'd be happy to hear them!

I definitely welcome the opinions of you guys on here each week; I like hearing what everyone else thought of It - even if they disagree with me!

Red Dwarf X reminds me a bit of The Simpsons Movie. I think Doug Naylor is trying a bit too hard to recreate the feel of the early series and I think it works against the series. And like many have said I think following it with repeats of the early series does it no favours. They should repeat 7 and 8 and show people that things have at least improved since then. It's not the best series of Red Dwarf but compared to most things on TV these days it's one of the more enjoyable shows around and I'm really glad they brought it back.

I don't think you are taking off your rose-tinted glasses and looking at it objectively. Not much at all. You think the new series isn't as good as the old series because you're comparing the new offering with the old. You may say that is an obvious point, but if so, then clearly, the nostalgia of the past episodes still have their grip on you. "...wouldn't have got through the first 2 episodes", really? there have been future classic moments in this current series, consistent moments too mind, surely Cat's finger-wetting machine scene inspired laughter? That will be deemed a classic moment like the other series's offerings to be sure.

And treating it objectively is nigh-on impossible, more than most sects I know, the Red Dwarf fanbase is the most extremely pedantic, opinionated, diverse, and occasionally completely mad group out there. I think treating it objectively would comprise appreciating it as a new series in its own right. If something like Series 5 came out now, I bet it would be subject of the same criticism X has received, just for being new, being alien, being not what the other series have been. Looking at it as its own edition, I think it is up there with 1-6. Sure, if Rob was back it would be more comforting, but I feel Doug is really starting to nail what 'classic' Dwarf meant, while keeping it fresh for today. Now if only 'true' fans of Red Dwarf would be less reluctant to similarly embrace the old model dressed in new clothes...

UK comedy has not been any good for a few years now and this new season of Red Dwarf is a throwback to the 'good old days' of comedy, I don't really care if it has continuity of previous stories or plots or joke somewhat are not logical... come on this comedy science fiction folks, not bleeding star wars!
Sometimes we want just to see our fav characters in a story, with a few laughs and this season of Red Dwarf has provided that. Perhaps I went in with low expectations of this season but the fact I look forward to the show every week, that I'm disappointed that next week is the last episode and I want more... really I should give credit to everyone involved with this season, I really look forward to tuning in.
I think those who are jaded that this isn't good as previous seasons, this is really a common problem I always hear with shows that have been running for a long time, that it isn't as good as it used to be... yet these people still watch and moan every week to the point it sounds like you are not a fan anymore, if that's the case... why can't you just stop watching and re watch the repeats?
For me this is classic dwarf because not everything has made sense to get a laugh, not everything has made sense in the past either. People these days are way too critical or look for everything to make sense... look just go with it, switch it on every thursday and be prepared to jump aboard Red Dwarf for a 30 minute journey with our fav characters for a few laughs. Stop over analyzing characters, jokes, plots... you might find yourself enjoying this season a lot more.

I think dave made the mistake of showing the previous series of red dwarf in reverse order before this series, which only served to remind everyone how good the first few series were and they would have been much better both comedically and chronologically showing the series in the right order. Ive also read all the books and imo rob grant does the comedy best and doug naylor the epic stories best as is most evident in grants 'backwards' and naylors 'last human'. These two books really emphasise their respective strengths and weaknesses and i love them both but in different ways and reinforces why they worked together so well at the beginning. I find myself watching this new series of red dwarf more out of completion (as in to watch every episode) than out of actually looking forward to it as a tv event (whereas i do look forward to the walking dead for example) and have found the series so far to be interesting and slightly amusing rather than amazing and laugh out loud funny. I think the only time I really laughted last night was when lister was dry humping the vending machine. other than that it was ok. and i think thats my verdict on series X. Its ok. would i like a naylor series XI, yeah probably. if they dont do another one will i be upset. no, not really. If grant and naylor team up again would i like another series, hell yes!

My hope is that this series is just Red Dwarf finding its feet again. It shouldn't really need to, of course, and maybe that should have happened with Back To Earth. Nevertheless, if this series proves that the audience is still there, I think that further, better series will help enrich the weaker ones (to sound all poncy about it for a moment). Whilst Red Dwarf has always changed in style and content across series, I think this time they have made some strange choices in so blatantly reverting back to the original style. The problem is, they seem to have ignored much of the overarching narrative tat took place in between, and the ship looks inexplicably different inside (in previous series changes were explained as shifts to the officers quarters etc), and so it ends up feeling almost like a partial reboot, but just less funny. I'm always optimistic that things can get better though. I'll never understand the people who say "It's dead, let it go now". You can watch it if it's good, ignore if not. I'll be applying that to Star Wars in 2015 too...

Nahhh...It was funny. I still laugh my head off at the show. The snack dispenser was a scream and each time its just Lister and Rimmer on screen alone, I cheer because I know there is going to be a stupidly funny back and forth between them. Rimmer is just superb as a character and he never fails to make me laugh, so much so that I now find myself rooting for him almost as much as I do for Lister. Come on guys...this or X Factor? Its a Red Dwarf all the way, and it cant be just me because the ratings for Dave are brilliant. Its beating almost everything else on in the time slot on the terestrial channels and getting close to the figures that BBC1 are getting with their oh so original "NEW" Thursday night Spooks/Police/James Bond style predictathon Hunted. BBC management is apparently annoyed by this and wish they had picked it up to do another run now. HA HA HA HA to the BBC and its den of corrupt, paedo loving, cover it up and look the other way, gang of over paid twats! Should have brought the Dwarfers back years ago when you had the chance. Its too late now. HAHAHAHAHAH....How do I know this? Googled it and found all sorts of tit bits about it on the internet. The ratings were just slightly under the massive ones they got for Back to Earth on the Easter weekend, so every one is very pleased, and I am sure it will be back for another series on Dave. Everyone is pleased except the BBC!!! A , L , E,.....X, E, I.....S, A, Y, L, E.......whoops wrong series!

This was a great episode. I loved the lazy pacing and threaded arcs. As someone who only watched Series 1-6 a couple of years ago, I think this is clearly as good as the old stuff. Call me impressed.

But it doesn't mean they're not either. The most that people seem to be allowing for is that these new episodes are 'solid'. That's really rather faint praise - and it's coming from people who are Red Dwarf fans.

As I say I'm inclined to look at the new series favourably because of my allegiance to it; I suspect most of us are. But judged in isolation they're hardly the return to form some breathless previews suggested - nor are they of a quality that really stands up in its own right.

IMO when it's hit it's really hit, and when it's missed it's been miles off. I think if people could handle VII and VIII (I couldn't get past them), X will seem like a dream come true. For the rest of us, the series just seems like a very high quality tribute that occasionally scores big.

Your comment is spot on, almost me and my mates thoughts word for word. Watching it almost in hope of former glories, its on and its red dwarf, last one was best so far as actually had a plot more like the earlier series

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