Red Dwarf X
Studio: BBC Warner
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 173 mins
Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080i High Definition
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Review Date: February 2, 2013
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Apart from pain. And maybe humiliation and obviously death. And failure. But apart from fear, pain and humiliation, failure and the unknown and death we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Who’s with me?”
Over the course of eight series, comprised six episodes per series, multifarious science-fiction concepts and tales are explored through the misadventures of the crew, which added Kryton (Robert Llewellyn), a service Mechanoid, in the third series. Red Dwarf became something of a cult classic though its popularity on British televisions means that it did not achieve its cult status by way of obscurity. Rather, legions of dedicated fans, now from around the world, fell in love with the sardonic wit, the drenching sarcasm, and the frequently the clever plotting. In recent years, repeats of the show on a television station in the United Kingdom called Dave (after Red Dwarf’s lead character) clearly demonstrated the lingering appetite for the misfortunes of this crew. In 1999, after a ten-year hiatus, the crew of the Red Dwarf returned to the small screen in Back to Earth. This outing received only middling reviews and reaction from fans though ratings were quite strong. Produced as a telemovie the story found the crew making its way back home to earth only to find their lives were fiction, and actors (resembling them precisely), had been playing them on TV. The material was reasonably good though it sacrificed its typical barrage of laughs for a bigger production and, in one of those rare cases, spent too much time on story and concept and not enough on the ingredients that made the show a favorite – the crew bickering in front of an engaged audience.
The series that began humbly, filmed in front of a live audience, spent the latter end of its initial eight series run distracted by trying to tell larger stories and forwent the small, compact stories that favored the acidic interactions between the characters over almost everything else. Upon its return to its episodic format, Red Dwarf X rectifies all of creative distractions. It is a wonderful return to form.
Doug Naylor took over the reins of the show a number of years ago and for series X served as writer, director, and producer. An exhausting set of duties, especially with expectations running high (even if the budget and timetable did not equal those expectations). Six episodes, filmed in front of an appreciative audience, find all four members of the crew back in the saddle. Craig Charles and Chris Barrie wear the years since the show’s launch a little more in their respective roles of Dave Lister and Rimmer. Danny John-Jules does not appear to have aged much at all as Cat, and the rubber-faced actor, Robert Llewllyn, is behind enough prosthetics to hide any trace of aging though a tad more rotund now. Together they fill the ramshackle rooms and halls of the Red Dwarf as if not a day has gone by – slipping with ease into their familiar casts and bantering playfully and scathingly as ever before.
Each of the episodes is well written and riddled with the hilarious verbal-sparring and occasional self-loathing that gave this series a long life. Chris Barrie’s Rimmer has always been the kind of man who ranked below the boot-scrapings one finds on the bottom rung of a ladder, and he has always played it with the perfect amount of unearned pride and weasel-like cowardice. Craig Charles’ Lister is the everyman slob, a blending of rough with tough but not enough smarts to propel either of those traits beyond hindrances. The Cat, a relatively one-note character, has fortunately avoided being over used throughout the years. Actor Danny John-Jules polishes the unaware and sharply dressed feline comfortably every time he is asked to scoot in or out of a scene, often dancing with his own thoughts and preening the laughs within a scene with a drive-by quality. Finally, Robert Llewellyn’s Kryton has long-been a fan favorite because of the actors imbuing of the android with ample amounts of pomp, awkwardness and pettiness (such as his from obsessions with dusting and ironing) and he continues that here without missing a beat.
For these new episodes, the crew contends with the long-existing paradox of Lister being his own Dad, Rimmer’s distress at never achieving office status, the unexpected outcomes of quantum entanglement, and a messianic encounter that will give everyone pause. Classic Dwarf material
2: Fathers and Suns
5: Dear Dave
Red Dwarf is presented in superb looking 1080p framed at 1.78:1 – matching is broadcast ratio in the UK (and in Canada, New Zealand and Australia). A razor sharp image with bold, bright colors fills the screen from scene to scene. Blacks are solid too. Flesh tones are rich and even the studio lighting does not seem harsh in any way – even during the episode Lemons where the crew find themselves back in time, in the early Anno Domini years where they encounter a young man who may very well be Jesus.
Red Dwarf has never been an aurally stand-out show. The music in the opening, the various external visual effects shots (which are the finest they have ever been here), along with audience guffaws and applause make up the bulk of the action outside of the front channels where the dialogue take precedence. The 5.1 DTS-HD track allow for the audio to be cleaner, crisper than the DVD editions of the previous series’ – besides Back to Earth – and that counts for something
(Available on disc 2)
We’re Smegged – HD (1:22:00): This ‘exclusive feature-length documentary’ is a terrific piece chronicling the return of the series to television sets. Interviews with the cast and crew are in-depth and rewarding.
Deleted Scenes – HD (30:00): Optional writer commentary is available on the numerous deleted scenes that run for almost 30 minutes
Smeg Ups – HD (13:00): Very funny outtakes reel
Red Dwarf’s resurrection due to the popularity of its reruns on a television station named after the character of Dave lister is a great story unto itself. That this tenth series found its way back to the tight-spaced sparring that set it aside from other shows through the years is a dream come true for fans. Not everyone was as won over as this reviewer was. However, those few rough edges here and there aside – clearly the result of a rushed production schedule – Red Dwarf X is a delightfully strong season.
A majority of high praise from fans, solid ratings, and what seems like an unquenchable desire to see the Dwarfer’s continue their exploits, all bode well for the cast and crew returning for an eleventh series. Bring it on!
Overall (Not an average)