Why is Meltdown considered unpopular?

Discussion in 'RED DWARF UNIVERSE' started by bedfordfalls, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    I've heard both on commentaries and interviews with Doug that Meltdown is hated by quite a lot of fans. I'm wondering why as its always been a favourite of mine.
    You have the hilarious Rimmer 'risk' stuff (with Chris Barrie's funny facial expressions as he recalls throwing a 6 and a 2 :-) ), the introduciton of the matter paddle as an interesting way for the Dwarfers to get around. The very funny Elvis Presley (complete with theme RD tune!) and the cast's brilliant reactions to various historical figures ("DON'T EYEBALL ME GHANDI!").
    It even has a nice message about the futility of war hidden away in it and good old Tony Hawks!

    Would anyone like to comment on why it is or was so unpopular at the time?
     
  2. Andrew

    Andrew Executive Officer

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    It took a lot of flack at the time, and I guess the cast remember that - the memory sticks even though it's been reappraised as time has gone on.

    As to why it was so disliked...there's a few things. I do think it's one of those episodes that's better the second time. It waits a fair old while to explain that all these whacky historical characters are actually waxdroids, so in the meantime it felt confusing and silly. Not a problem that you have second time round, where you can just kick back and laugh without being hampered by confusion. (Something which also affected Back to Reality, but with that show 'the reveal' was also 'the point' - Meltdown doesn't make a virtue of its mystery.)

    It arguably also doesn't 'feel' like Red Dwarf, with the unusual scene transitions, story choices (they teleport places rather than travel, Rimmer is switched to his light-bee when they've always tried to treat him as 'basically human') and a lot of outdoor locations. The bad quality footage of the monsters is maybe a little more fourth-wall-y than the show would normally do. And the planet's geography is hampered by budget - you never see the exterior of the villains' base, nor any sign of the theme park this was supposed to be. (And why does everything look like 20th century Earth?!)

    Also, Rimmer's 'boring' stuff - the Hammond organ, the Risk stuff - was created in Series IV and it was a bit of a shift. Plus the Risk story kinda telegraphs where it's going, the laughs a little predictable. Which doesn't make the adjustment to Rimmer easier to swallow. (When you get big laugh, it's much easier to accept these shifts and additions.)

    Rightly or wrongly - and it's wrong, clearly - the whole episode can end up feeling like a show created by raiding the costume department for whatever's lying around. The guest characters can seem to come, more or less, off the peg. It's much more 'light entertainment' than any previous Dwarf ep in its execution.

    Still, history has dealt with lot of those initial issues. The changes added in Series IV have been well folded into the body of the show. Fourth wall breaks are seen as part of the fun (no different from the 'guest star' credit for Hitler, or the playing with the end credits - stuff people forgot the show occasionally did since there were no VHS tapes at the time). The style changes are seen as daring and individual, the sillyness justified by the deeper points the script is making.

    Hey, Blade Runner flopped when it came out. These things happen!
     
  3. Madwolf

    Madwolf Catering Officer

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    For me it was that it wasn't set in space and I thought it looked cheap - the inset clip of the dinosaurs and the light from outdoor locations in winter - it didn't feel right. My opinion was reversed however when it came out on DVD. My son wanted to watch "the dinosaur one" - I was busy in the kitchen but could hear the programme loud and clear (benefit of an open plan house) and I realised and appreciated how very funny and poignant it was - I laughed more hearing it than when I'd seen it. I also found it of benefit to listen to a few episodes of series 8 to help me past the visual hurdles I have with that series, to find the comedy as there's some great one liners I'd missed through my prejudice.
     
  4. Baxters_Hooch

    Baxters_Hooch Supply Officer

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    I don't think it's 'hated' by anyone, no RD fan truly hates an episode. Personally I think it's as good as any other, I loved the scene where Lister and Cat materialise inside the chimney!
     
  5. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    I quote Doug Naylor from this very site:

    "Meltdown was absolutely hated. But only by the fans. (Laughs) I didn't understand it. We liked it; I thought that Elvis thing - where they're all running along singing the song - was just so funny. Being there on the day, seeing all these people go to war, I thought it was a really funny idea. I don't get [the reaction] at all."

    That sounds pretty much like people hated it to me.
     
  6. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    Sounds rather like the reaction to a certain 3 parter sitting not a million miles away from me now :-) I was rather amazed to see the vitriolic outpourings of certain "super-fans" over BTE by the end of the second episode. You'd think these people had never seen an episode of Red Dwarf before (although I have to admit I started to get tense that Lister might choose to stay in the hallucinatory world, I was prepared to put my trust in Doug Naylor). That said I can't fathom these people who sit getting angry everytime something unexplained happens, this is science fiction for goodness sake, at least wait until the end of the episode!

    interesting point but I often wonder whether something vital to the show wouldn't have been lost had CGI or flashier sets existed back then. I often hear complaints about Ed's location for "a beach in paradise" for Better Than Life, however what the producers often forget is that the only people who knew that was supposed to be "a beach in paradise" were those reading the script. For me the fact that it all looks a little oddly out of place helps add a wonderfully surreal atmosphere to the "game". We've all seen with Remastered how dodgy CGI looks a thousand times worse than supposedly dodgy models, for me at least I never get the sense of "Oh look their obviously just in Hyde Park/Rhyl, etc" and instead I get more of a "this show has a typical British sci-fi surrealism feel to it". Alot of that comes from the budget or lack of it.

    Disagree with you on that Andrew. We already know Rimmer is obsessed with famous military dictators so Risk seems a perfect game for him to have been into. I thought all the Hammond/telegraph pole stuff fit right in with the anal/banal character I'd come to know over 3 series. I honestly don't and didn't see much of an adjustment, just some fleshing out of other aspects of his character. If we had found out he was into Black Metal music and used to practice Tai-Kwondo it would have been different, but the Risk/Hammond stuff seemed a good fit to me.
     
  7. Andrew

    Andrew Executive Officer

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    You can't disagree - it's a simple fact!

    You may or may not feel that it all fitted in, that's fair enough, that's open for debate - but they were active additions created for that series. New to the show, new dimension to the character. I didn't say it was right or wrong, merely that it was brought in and represented a change from what we'd seen to that point. Which may or may not account for some of the issues people had with Meltdown at the time. (Note also that these aspects didn't stay long - their use in subsequent series was seriously reduced to occasional lip-service.)

    Up to that point, Rimmer was fastidious and anal, but never actively dull, and not shown to be given to 'nerdy' activity (military history and antiquing hardly qualify). Prioritising those aspects several times - and over musical tastes (he PLAYS?!) and trainspotter-ish hobbies - represents the creation of new material.
     
  8. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    Actually Andrew I can and will. If you look at what's being said I'm not arguing with your assertion that the material wasn't newly created, I'm disagreeing with you that it constituted a shift in Rimmer's character. For me and many others it only further confirmed what we already suspected and seemed like a natural thing to reveal and as JMC mentions series 3 had already mentioned Rimmer having military interests and a collection of "toy soldiers".
    I'd be very surprised if the Rimmer being boring stuff was the reason behind the ill feeling towards Meltdown at the time; my girlfriend watching it for the first time the other night commented that she found Rimmer's later devolution into borderline insanity to be far more out of character and compared it to later series of American sitcoms like Friends where characters end up becoming distorted parodies of themselves.
    Maybe it was this shift from laughable-at anal bore to barking madman that people found uncomfortable. Although personally I found Rimmer to be hilarious throughout the episode and didn't find his going mad with power fantasies to be that odd due to the setup at the start. Well scripted I'd say, it certainly beats the hell out of 'mirror universes'!
     
  9. JKD2101

    JKD2101 First Technician

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    I'm not going to go into deep discussion on this but I will say trying to remember that far back to watching it the first time, I think the only thing I felt uncomfortable about was all the poor waxdroids being destroyed at the end ( I was a young lady of 21 at the time and very sensitive) but the way Rimmer behaved seems very Rimmerish to me and I love the Risk part lets face it it just shows what a shallow' hollow life Rimmer had which we all know (ep 2 on BTE I can't say it enough I HATE THAT PART WITH THE KIDS ON THE BUS! HATE IT better now).
     
  10. Andrew

    Andrew Executive Officer

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    Fair enough, then. Call it a dangling modifier problem. I misinterpreted that you disagreed with some rather than all of the statement. My bad.

    Didn't say it was 'The Reason'. Just cited it as a possible contributing factor. Of which there were many. At the time, certainly, there were those who saw this stuff as an addition, just as the character work in series two was as much reinvention as it was expansion. Looking from a present-day perspective, with the characters more locked into the popular culture, people often view these things differently - talk about how the characters were there from day one, despite even the writers saying different. But if we're looking at perceptions in 1991, reactions to series four...well, it's something to factor in.
     
  11. telegramsam

    telegramsam First Technician

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    I dunno about this particular case, but in these kinds of fandoms, you tend to get a few very vocal "big-name fans" and the rest just tend to fall in line with the "accepted" opinion or "conventional fan wisdom" rather than form their own opinion. And as new fandom loud-mouths cycle through, it can change over time. It kind of reminds me of the thing in Doctor Who fandom where for a long time Colin Baker was seen as the worst and biggest disaster that the program ever collided with; in recent years the "accepted" opinion has shifted a bit - sentiments have softened somewhat toward Colin Baker and now it's in vogue to bash Sylvester McCoy as the Worst Thing Ever. Neither have changed one jot though, both were over and done with in the 80's (personally, I'm fond of both of those Doctor Who's, and I also quite like "Meltdown").

    I dunno. People are sheep, basically.
     
  12. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    not sure why you're bringing that up here but for the record I really liked that bit. It's the only bit in back to Earth where we see a character really wrestling with the mental impact of finding out he's "not real" (as opposed to the overly quick acceptance of the situation in Price Smashers). Meanwhile you can read all sorts of gloriously deep stuff into the kids; are they representations of Lister's subconscious trying to fight the hallucination. The fact that its two kids, the exact number Lister always fantasized about having. you can even see them as representations of the fans of Red Dwarf urging Lister not to give up as they "believe in him" and see him as more than just a fictional character. I suppose if the 'creator' can be seen as a projection of Rob Grant ("growing tired" of Red Dwarf) then the 'kids' could be seen as Doug Naylor with his boundless enthusiasm that the show must go on. It's a great scene in my opinion and a great comment on Red Dwarf's potential future.
     
  13. Smegman

    Smegman Third Technician

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    Personally I liked it the Elvis character cracked me up (Thakyou very much)
    The prison cell scene and Rimmers Inspection of the droids were all classic dwarf moments
     
  14. jacksolomonsmith

    jacksolomonsmith First Technician

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    Sorry to go further off topic into BTE anylization but here goes, that scene is great because, it explains Lister's elation at not being real, because he's been locked up in space for years, and as he says, he's not ever felt like anyone wanted anything to work out for him etc, to find out he is a character, who has a channel named after him as far as he's concerned.

    I think meltdown is as the thread title says, "considered" unpopular, because it was once hated, but that's not so much the case anymore.
     
  15. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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    So, with the benefit of hindsight is their anybody who still doesn't like this episode? It certainly seems to have recovered in the poularity stakes in the intervening time. Perhaps those who were once critical have now seen what a really poor RD episode is like and as a result realise they were being overly harsh on a show that, at that point, hadn't hit a flat note.

    I wonder if the introduction of the matter paddle had something to do with it, perhaps their was growing discontent among fans of the first two series that Red Dwarf was moving away from its roots and because the matter paddle was introduced in the final episode they perhaps feared that future series would just be generic Star Trek beaming to a different planet stuff.
     
  16. sanja

    sanja Supply Officer

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    It's not unpopular, some people even says it's their favorite
     
  17. Andrew

    Andrew Executive Officer

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    Well I think that's an over-simplification, since the odd flat note - the odd line, effect or performance beat - is inevitable in a show. Not every single line, effect and performance beat in the first 24 episodes is flawless!

    What is interesting is that Series I hadn't been repeated at this point, and that the ratings for the latter half of that series were very low. So some people only got to see Waiting For God - a very poorly regarded ep - later on, around 1993. (Which is to say 'a really poor RD episode' is subjective, and certainly not always limited to after Meltdown.)

    But fanbases change, and the real challenge would be to talk to specific people. That 'people like it now' doesn't automatically mean the same people. What would be interesting is to find some of the negative fan reviews of the time and see what their authors now think of it.

    Yeah, like I said before, I do think this more 'Trek-y' science plays a part, though I doubt it was about concerns for the future so much as simply 'feeling' that it wasn't quite right. As with switching Rimmer off so wantonly, it's out of kilter with the show's regular tone.

    Mind you, Series IV as a whole was one Rob Grant apparently felt was weaker than usual. Why that is is open to question, but certainly I find II, III and V to be a great deal more vibrant in the writing overall.

    The second point doesn't automatically negate the first, though. I can find you someone who thinks The Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars films, doesn't make the general feeling any less negative. But, as you'll see from the thread, the question is why was it so unpopular at the time. These days it's not regarded the same way as it was when it first appeared and is, quite rightly, seen as a 'mid-level' ep.
     
  18. bedfordfalls

    bedfordfalls Deck Sergeant

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  19. Freeborn

    Freeborn Flight Co-Ordinator

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    Series 4 as a whole has never been high on my list for best dwarf. but watching the dvds back in order(again) i enjoyed it much more before, i mean okay i had been on the marajuana gin but even so.meltdown is defenatly my new fave of series 4, in fact i think a sequal should be made for series 9 in which more wax droids have broken their programing. the dwarfers could team up with thomas edison,che guavara,martin luther king,steptoe and son,Audrey hepburn michael jackson and kurt cobain. All fighting against the evil army of freddy krueger,dracula,wolf man,the candyman and katie price(all posted from the fictional department.:lol:Series 4 as a whole has never been high on my list for best dwarf. but watching the dvds back in order(again) i enjoyed it much more before, i mean okay i had been on the marajuana gin but even so.meltdown is defenatly my new fave of series 4, in fact i think a sequal should be made for series 9 in which more wax droids have broken their programing. the dwarfers could team up with thomas edison,che guavara,martin luther king,steptoe and son,Audrey hepburn michael jackson and kurt cobain. All fighting against the evil army of freddy krueger,dracula,wolf man,the candyman and katie price(all posted from the fictional department.
     
  20. Andrew

    Andrew Executive Officer

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    Freeborn, you need to take care when you post - right now you're pasting in the same text twice (or more) in a single post.

    Remember you can also edit your post if you make a mistake.
     

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