Ganymede & Titan

Why I Actually Like Series VII...

Rimmer, looking smug. Excellent. Series VII always gets a beating. Why? Well, I don't really know - it's almost as though the peer group has always had a go at it, and therefore we must always do so in the future. But why? I don't know - I rarely watch it, because fans tell me it is so bad. But something must be special about the series that got me hooked on Dwarf in the first place - So I set about watching the entire series from scratch and forgetting all my prejudices.

The first thing you notice is the standard of the production. As this standard was reached on a sitcom budget - this can surely only be a good omen for the movie. However you feel about filmic effects on television, it does help to make the series look good, and everything about the production feels glossy. Except the CGI. CGI is a common complaint for series VII. And you can instantly see why. The toilet flushing link in Tikka to Ride says it all really - everything looks too glassy. The rings on that planet would be rough - in no way like they appear. None of the CGI can even begin to compare to such brilliant model shots as Starbug crashing in Marooned. Just one criticism - you do tend to get the feeling that Doug Naylor would prefer to do something visually impressive rather than construct a minute of witty dialogue.

But the important part is the writing and the comedy. I think the problem a lot of people have with this series is that they don't find it very funny. This is, however, wrong - the series is funny, however the style of comedy is different to previous series, although it is difficult to say exactly how. Lines such as Kryten's "Hold me back" when Kochanski puts the Salad Cream in the cupboard are guaranteed a laugh, however bad the basis of the joke.

The main flaw in the series is the characterisation. The Cat is now a pointless character. Little more than a vehicle for silly one liners and flawed observations, it loses all the brilliance of the early days. Maybe this is a case of the disease that finally eased Holly out - too many main characters - the series always worked best when there were two main characters and two ancillaries.

Losing one of the main characters is always going to be a problem. Stoke me a Clipper was one of the best episodes of the series, with a good plot line, and well played by all. But after here the balance wasn't right - there were too many conflicting story lines - one of Doug's major failings, that Rob Grant manages brilliantly.

Doug Naylor appeared to have some difficulty adapting to Kochanski - the character appeared very confused, although improved in the last two episodes of the series. Many people also do not like the tension between Kryten and Kochanski. I understand people's reasons for this - it is a little over the top, and Kryten, as a mechanoid, should not be acting like this. However, jealousy brings out the worst in everyone, and is it too hard to believe that he would act in this way given the chance? We already know he has broken his programming in many ways, this is only a further extension of that. As to whether it is funny - bits of it were - but overall I liked the concept.

Lister is the remaining main character. His relationship with Kochanski works well, most of the time. He is perhaps a bit more emotional than the Lister we know and love though.

It is interesting to see how the stories change from Series V to Series VII. Series V has sci-fi heavy stories mixed in with clever humour. Series VI has humour mixed with sci-fi where time could be found to bother with it. Series VII continues this trend in the reduction of sci-fi, but this enables proper stories to be told - Duct Soup is an excellent example - as a filler episode written to save money, it combines brilliant storytelling, and a moderate amount of character development, particularly for Kochanski, with a very dull, boring underlying story. Lets face it, some of the best episodes are ones with the dull story line - Marooned, Cassandra, Quarantine etc.

Other episodes do not fare as well. Beyond a Joke for example, simply demonstrates that Robert Llewellyn should never write any more Red Dwarf. It's a pity to say that, as he is a lovely guy, and he plays his part excellently, but unfortunately he failed here. Why? Well, the episode just doesn't work and isn't funny, which is a pity, as all other Kryten based ones have been.

Blue is another episode that doesn't work - mainly because it has absolutely no storyline, and was presumably written around the song, rather than the other way round.

Ouroboros is an interesting one. Designed solely around the need to introduce Kochanski, flesh our her character, and allow some form of status-quo to be maintained at the end of the episode. It does it well, even if some of the concepts are a little far-fetched ("Gelfs, They must have infiltrated non-space!"), but the plot is well paced, well written and clever. Just look again and see how much is actually achieved in that episode.

All in all, Series VII is good - even if it lacks some of the magic of the earlier series. Looking at Series VIII in comparison, it is difficult to see why people think it is better, when the only good episode is Cassandra. Series VII benefited from a filler episode - Series VIII was damaged because of it. Although I like arguing about the technical points of a series as much as the next dedicated fan, the final question is, "Did it make you laugh, did you enjoy watching it?" For most of series VII the answer is yes, and therefore it's wrong to complain too much.

It's still down the bottom in my list of favourite series, which is easily topped by Series V, but it's by no means as bad as some people make it out to be. Series VIII is, but that's another article...