Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

As “Trekkie” denotes fandom of ‘Star Trek’, thus “Dwarfer” for ‘Red Dwarf’.

My wife is a Dwarfer. I’m something more than a fairweather fan myself. So excitement was running high chez Agitation on Friday evening as Dave (a fairly laddish cable channel normally specialising in cars ‘n’ gadgets type programming) prepared to air the first new episode in a decade.

In true Lister stylee, we sat down to watch it after partaking of a curry and a few beers. We had speculated as to the content and quality of the new three-parter, and whether the cast would gel quite so naturally after a ten-year hiatus. My take was that the first episode would re-establish character dynamics, the second would contain the comedic highlights and the third would be a wrapping up of things.

Friday’s episode was a tad stilted and awkward to begin with (although this could have been deliberate given the direction the story takes in episode two), but there were enough belly laughs, spiky new character Katerina (Sophie Winkelman) was interesting, and at the end of the day it was just good to see the old team back together.

I must admit that I winced when Saturday’s episode went down the meta-fiction “hey, we’re all made-up characters in a TV show” route: as a plot device, it's hokey and has a tang of desperation about it; plus, it’s been done before (and with varying results) – ‘The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse’ springs to mind. But then the first of a series of rib-tickling set-pieces kicked in and after a few minutes I was laughing too hard to care. A couple of brilliantly conceived ‘Blade Runner’ homages sealed the deal - the boys from the Dwarf were back and I was itching for the last episode.

The final part upped the ante on all things ‘Blade Runner’ (“I want more life, smegger” had me in hysterics), as well as neatly twisting the meta-fiction elements of the story and revealing “Back to Earth” as something of an extended sequel to the classic Series Five episode “Back to Reality”. And the extended skit on Craig Charles’ current tenure in ‘Coronation Street’ was priceless.

Then there was the mysterious reference to the show running for ten seasons (there’s only been eight) which seems to indicate that Doug Naylor has something up his sleeve. Any time you’re ready, sir: a new series is long past due.

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