Why 'New' Red Dwarf Doesn't Work (for me)

Discussion in 'RED DWARF UNIVERSE' started by OurJud, May 20, 2016.

  1. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    Whenever I near the end of a Red Dwarf run (I usually end the run at series 7 before starting over from the beginning again) I find myself analysing the show and why I dislike the new Red Dwarf so much.

    I've come to many a conclusion / theory over the last couple of years, but my analysis this time round is that NRD doesn't take itself seriously enough. We so often here the opinion that something takes itself too seriously used as a criticism, but the adage can just as easily be turned on its head and be equally true.

    When Red Dwarf started, you could see and feel its sci-fi roots. It's true to say the industrial-looking grey sets were mainly down to finances (or lack of) but they worked, and while the show was always intended to be a comedy, many of the scenes and set-pieces were played dead straight, with a genuine interest in creating tension and stirring emotions.

    But look at the show now. It's a pantomime, a parody of itself. The writers and actors play it solely for laughs, and the saddest part of all this is that they're laughing at themselves and the whole Red Dwarf ethos.
     
  2. Seb

    Seb Captain Staff Member

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    I'm sorry, but I can't get on board with the idea of criticising a sitcom for playing things for laughs.
     
  3. talkie3000

    talkie3000 Deck Sergeant

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    i do agree to a certain extent, i mean because the fan reception of S7,S8 and BTE has been kinda meh compared to 1-6 doug and the cast were clearly trying hard to return to its glory days and occasionally they try abit to hard and miss the mark or just over step it.
     
  4. Callisto252

    Callisto252 Supply Officer

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    While I don't completely agree, I can see where you're coming from. There has been a tendency in recent years towards 'big acting' (not my words, the words of Steve Coogan describing series 2 of 'I'm Alan Partridge'). Series VIII was the worst offender, but yes there were elements of this in X.

    Thinking about it though, even series I and II had a few of these slightly unsubtle moments - for example the scene with Petersen's arm, the Captain Paxo bit, Rimmer shouting a lot. In fact when I watch these series, much as I adore them, I am aware that I'm watching an audience sitcom. When I watch III - VI the audience seems to disappear, I think mainly because of their more action-packed style but also because the acting is so underplayed. OK, so I'm not talking about the shrinking boxers scene here! But in general Cat stops making his 'Aaaoow' entries, Rimmer stops shouting and becomes wonderfully sarcastic, and Craig Charles totally inhabits the character of Lister (and improves his acting overall). Series VII, I can kind of appreciate now precisely because it had a more serious tone (I'm sure the lack of audience played a part here), but I think the balance had swung too far away from the comedy. Can't be bothered to go into the pantomime which was series VIII, and BTE I view as an experimental anomaly. Much as I enjoyed series X, there are moments that do make me cringe a little, mainly due to the delivery of the lines rather than the lines themselves. And I'm constantly aware of the audience.

    Having said that, I'm massively optimistic about XI and XII. I think improved lighting and a faster pace will make it feel less sitcommy again, and having seen a couple of the sets, I'm sure the ship will feel more fully realised this time, less obviously shot in a studio. Ironic really, when for the first time I'll absolutely know it was shot in a studio!
     
  5. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    That's an incredibly lazy argument, Seb. I make it perfectly clear in my post that RD is, above anything else, a comedy, and not once do I suggest humour isn't (or shouldn't be) the main drive of the show.

    My point is that the actors look embarrassed - like they're all painfully aware the show's not quite 'working' like it used to - and because of this the whole thing has become a farce and a parody of itself.

    I don't know how many people believe this to be the case, but I can say with absolute honesty, that in my opinion, not once did Series X resemble the glory days of RD in any way shape or form.

    Must admit this gives me a whiff of encouragement, but where are you getting this info from regarding better lighting and a faster pace?
     
  6. Callisto252

    Callisto252 Supply Officer

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    At the recording I went to the lighting certainly helped in giving a III-VI vibe, making the sets look more dynamic and interesting (and to me, more convincingly like the actual Red Dwarf). Although the episode I saw was ship-based it was much faster paced than anything in X, particularly in the pre-recorded scenes (well obviously the studio scenes seemed slower, I'm sure the edit will change that). And I felt that the performances were a notch up as well, with some more nuanced acting in places. There were also a couple of moments played for laughs which could perhaps come out a little broad, but they were the funniest bits!! This was my first experience of a recording, so I'm aware that my judgement may have been skewed by the excitement of actually being there, but I kept laughing at these moments all the way home in the car. I'm still smiling now as I write this! So all in all I'm extremely excited about the new series.
     
  7. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    Did you get any sense from the recording that the writers were making any attempt to hark back to the drama and more serious stuff of previous?
     
  8. Bluey

    Bluey Science Officer

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    I certainly understand and agree about the acting. It's much more hammy from season 7 onwards. You can see it as early as Tikka to Ride - compare Robert's subtle reaction in Gunmen when he put his eyes back in and sees the simulant on board Starbug to the sadly over the top reaction in Tikka when he notices that they're in the Texas Book Depository. The difference is striking. I've just watched DNA from season 4, and the difference between the acting in that and in the recent season 8 episode I saw (Pete) is remarkable. The acting in DNA is natural, subtle and impressive. In Pete it's become posturing, exaggerated and self-concious.

    Perhaps the actors are to blame to a degree, but it's just part of a wider post-6 problem with the characterisation. Doug doesn't write the characters as well as he and Rob did in the classic era, and the script lends itself to much more hammy acting. The classic era scripts never required Craig to gurn into the camera doing an 83 year old man impression as in Back in the Red, for Chris to do extra long Rimmer Salutes or for Robert to be completely out of character like in the scene with the psychiatric counsellor.
     
  9. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    I find myself wondering in such cases, why a writer can't just look back over a series at its prime and observe why it worked so well, and then use it as the template for the new stuff. Instead, Naylor seems adamant he's going to make Red Dwarf as different as possible from the series at its best.

    I don't get it.

    However, I can in no way agree with your comments about series 7. Series 7 is, for me (and in spite of Barrie's absence), a real and genuine return to form. Series 7 feels like series 1 and 2 more so than any other, and is probably my third favourite series of the lot.

    As for Kryten's reaction to noticing the Box Depository writing on the box, it had to be that over-the-top in order to work as a gag. There could have been more subtle ways, I suppose, but the OTT 'double-take' was the obvious choice.
     
  10. Callisto252

    Callisto252 Supply Officer

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    I guess it's all about balance. OTT moments are OK if they are offset with more subtle, straight moments.

    Partly. It was a funny, fast and at times complicated episode (there were some bits that I really wanted to see again to get my head around) and this doesn't leave a lot of room for pathos. Yet towards the end, the pace slowed and there was a visual image that left me genuinely emotional. Can't say any more than that, apart from don't give up on Red Dwarf yet!
     
  11. Bluey

    Bluey Science Officer

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    After initially hating season 7, I've come to love it on its own terms as something very different but with its own particular charm and feel. That said, I'm not blind to the fact that the show's decline begins here - as I've said elsewhere in a review of Stoke me a Clipper, I'm convinced that the bit where Ace Rimmer jumps out of the plane and uses the crocodile as a surfboard is Red Dwarf's jump the shark moment. The characterisation goes off terribly in this season. Kryten in particular appears to be a completely different character with his whiny jealousy of Kochanski, and Lister starts to become un-Lister-like.

    I also have to say that I've never in my life before seen someone state that season 7 is a return to form.
     
  12. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    Well I must confess it's nice to be encouraged rather than simply dismissed because I criticise new Red Dwarf. Not that I've run into much of that to be fair, but so often die-hard fans flatly refuse to listen to anyone who isn't singing the praises of their favourite show/person/whatever.

    I suppose it depends on what each individual wants from the show, doesn't it? All I can say is that series 7 is, in my opinion, probably the most accomplished series of them all, technically speaking. Performances, sets, storylines, effects... they're all at their best in this series.
     
  13. Stephen

    Stephen Console Officer

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    Whilst I do like some of the later series of red dwarf it did start to suffer after Rob Grant left. They just fed off each other and were a compliment to each other's writing.
     
  14. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 Deck Sergeant

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    I can see where you're coming from to a certain degree. I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoyed RDX myself and personally I think you're being far too harsh on it, I also didn't think that RDVII was anywhere near that great (I loathed Kryten's new high-pitched whiny persona once Kochanski got into the series for one example) and to me that was the start of Red Dwarf entering a sort of experimental phase which brought us its increasingly weakest offerings of VII, VIII and BtE in order as it strayed from the style that was Red Dwarf at its best which was III-VI IMO. I can't honestly say that I thought the writing was particularly fantastic either and VII brought my least favourite aspect of the Red Dwarf crew's backstory with Ouroborous.

    But then I also consider I and II to be Red Dwarf getting into its stride and IMO a return to form would mean a return to those Series III-VI days.

    Why not? IMO Red Dwarf playing things for laughs brought us some of its weakest moments, like Series VIII's basketball match or the cringingly awful typewriter scene in BtE. For another comparison I guess, compare the campy Simulants from The Beginning which whilst I thought it was a good episode overall, just don't seem anywhere near as threatening or dangerous as the Simulants from Gunmen/Rimmerworld but I'd still rate the humour in those episodes at least as highly if not more than The Beginning. You don't have to play things for laughs for them to still be funny and sometimes playing it for laughs means you end up with immature slapstick instead.
     
  15. djmcbell

    djmcbell Supply Officer

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    You know, if we're counting Back To Earth as three episodes, then once RDXII has finished airing there will be one more "Doug-era" episode than there will be "Rob-and-Doug-era" episodes.

    Anyway, I can kinda see your point. It's not really the characters for me, it's the storylines. They do sometimes feel a bit overly-wacky. Look at Entangled, which did mostly work for me, but the introduction of Irene and the ERRA place (a wacky lady, who worked at a place which does wacky research), and the bit where the crew have to input the wrong code for the groinal exploder thing... just didn't really sit that well with me. That was definitely something straight out of RD7.

    I'm not saying that "Nu" Red Dwarf is bad, far from it (and I'll get onto my very brief thoughts on what I've seen of RDXII in a minute). Trojan was brilliant, but if they could have gotten rid of the "Lister on the phone" sub-plot and used it to flesh out the main one a bit more that would've been great. Fathers & Suns, whilst not really my favourite episode, definitely conjured Dwarf of old by not really having much in the way of extra, unneeded plot (just get rid of the medi-bot and we're fine). Lemons - hmm... maybe make Jesus act more seriously when he gets back? And again, have Rimmer say "he's Jesus, it's not like he needs it" when they have to move his penis out of the way. Entangled - some pretty good stuff, mixed with some bad. Strangely, Dear Dave is mostly pretty good in my opinion, if a bit lacking. The Beginning too.

    I am sad to say that, from my *very* limited exposure, this partially continues into RDXII. The vast, vast majority of the episode I saw was very, very good. What will become the first 10 minutes of the episode is definitely my favourite Dwarf since Tikka To Ride, and it's easy to see that the close quarters of Starbug, something I'd say was lacking in the "Doug-era" (whilst RD7 took place on Starbug, it was instead a massive Starbug), exists to focus the crew on one objective - especially in this case (the Starbug scene was excellent). The middle 10 minutes were great too but what will probably become the final 10 minutes though felt... well, felt just like the disarming of the groinal exploder again. I can rationalise WHY, in-universe, it could be done like that, but it just felt a bit "hey, let's do this comedy bit with a bit of convenience thrown in".

    But as I say, in RDX there is still some great stuff, and the same with the reports from RDXI and RDXII (and in my opinion too - as I say, the episode as a whole was great, but it was just a shame about THAT bit). Heck, even BTE is pretty good if you take it for what it is - an experiment to see if Red Dwarf is still viable (and had Dave had their way, it probably wouldn't have been as good as it is).

    Red Dwarf has done some "wacky" things before back in series 1-6. The shrinking underpants. Ace and Dwayne's reappearance. Cat behind the bush in Backwards. Wacky things which aren't really necessary, but they're funny (shrinking underpants, behind the bush) and used as a one-off joke. Ace and Dwayne - well, most people dislike that.

    Red Dwarf is still good, as I say. It does have some good things. In RDX, there are still loads of great bits (Lister betting - and losing - Rimmer, Pree's "botched" repairs, Lister's conversation with himself, Cat and Kryten in synch, "how about we look out of the window", the weapons check). Doug just needs to tweak the balance.
     
  16. Callisto252

    Callisto252 Supply Officer

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    I have to say I really admire Doug Naylor. It must be incredibly difficult to write a sitcom alone and I do think that Series X, while clearly not perfect, holds up well four years on. And now he's written a further twelve episodes! I think we have to accept that they're not going to be 100% brilliant all the time. But hey, there are lines/moments in the classic era which don't quite work for me either.
     
  17. talkie3000

    talkie3000 Deck Sergeant

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    The concept of ERRA reminded me of something out of the novels which i sorta liked but the way it was handled wasn't all that great and took away from the funny concept of the groinal exploder
     
  18. OurJud

    OurJud Deck Sergeant

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    Well I've long suspected and am now quite certain that what I want from RD is very different to most fans. My favourite series are 1 and 2 (and unpopular opinion), I love S7 (an even more unpopular opinion) and after initially hating it, I'd now go so far as to say BtE is infinitely better than X and nowhere near the mess I initially thought. This is mainly down to the 'filmic' style of episodes 2 and 3, and the fact that a lot of it is played straight (Lister's chat with Kochanski where his eyes fill up, and the subsequent silent car journey with that beautifully haunting music are brilliant).

    I think we all want different things from RD, but my desires for the show put me very much in the minority.
     
  19. Callisto252

    Callisto252 Supply Officer

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    I'm interested, did you enjoy series VII when it was first broadcast? I have to admit I stopped watching part way through as it no longer felt like the same show to me. I remember the disappointment I felt at the resolution of that cliffhanger - 3 years worth of anticipation, and it was just casually dismissed in the first couple of minutes. So I got off on the wrong foot with VII from the start! Watching it again now though, and in light of the subsequent series (singular!), I do find much to appreciate, if not quite love.

    I'm certain the order you first watch Red Dwarf affects your view of it - if I had seen I and II before III, I bet I wouldn't have liked the changes in III either (FWIW my favourite series are II and V).
     
  20. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 Deck Sergeant

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    I think you're probably right here. I watched III-VI when they aired and then saw I&II when they first came out on VHS, I&II are at least visually very noticeably different and it definitely took a while to get used to a male Holly.

    That said (And I'm aware that your question was for Billy rather than myself), I personally enjoyed VII when it first came out although I also agree that the cliffhanger resolution was very disappointing, especially when it became clear some time later that they actually had a far better ending written and filmed but decided to go with the Tikka to Ride opener instead. I also felt that it was definitely a weaker series in comparison to VI though.
     

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