Ganymede & Titan

SFX IV Review

SFX. Issue #115. March 2004. A rather nice picture of Eliza Dushku on the cover. Erect nipples. Yum. Sorry. Go to page 86. Review. As follows:

Red Dwarf
SEASON FOUR
A fourth outing of the cult science fiction sitcom only boys seem to like...
DVD RELEASE
1991 Dirs: Ed Bye, Paul Jackson
Starring: A scouser and his mates
Cert: TBC Running time: 180 mins
RRP: £19.99 Released: OUT NOW!
Reviewer: Steve O'Brien
The original template for Red Dwarf was actually - and hold onto your seat here - Steptoe and Son in space. What a different a budget gives you. The first two series were battleship-backdropped duologues mostly, better for comedy fans, worse for science fiction fans. But with a budget came bigger special effects, more ambitious SF plots, more characters and gradually everything that made the show a good comedy faded away leaving in its place a bloody good science fiction show.
That was Red Dwarf's fundamental problem. It was frequently a better SF show than it was a comedy. Its plots easily out-did Doctor Who and Blake's Seven for pure SF inventiveness but it was often too muggy and smuggy to really charm as a comedy.
The one good development in season three was the addition of Kryten and it's in season four he comes comfortably into his own, particularly in the episode "DNA" where the ever-brilliant Robert Llewellyn gets to perform sans make-up as Kryten becomes human. "Camille", in which all the crew get their perfect mate, is also very good, and Ace Rimmer's debut in "Dimension Jump" is great, if only because you wish he could crop up a little more often.
Look, if you're a fan, you'll buy it and if you're not you won't. But look at the Nation�s Favourite Sitcom top ten. It�s nowhere to be seen, is it...? (3 stars)
DVD Extras: A typically packed affair. The commentary features the entire cast and it's interesting to hear the real life interaction between them. There's a superlative Making Of documentary which is admirably frank (such as when Danny John-Jules was given a stern ticking off by visiting director - and alternative comedy pioneer - Paul Jackson, whom the cast were terrified of), some "Smeg Ups", 20 minutes of deleted scenes, raw fx footage, a couple of featurettes (with one odd one featuring Ainsley Harriot). (5 stars)
Chris Barrie actually knew writers Doug Naylor and Rob Grant through The Jasper Carrott Show and also worked with them on a show called Son Of Cliché. It was they who asked Barrie to audition for Red Dwarf.

OK: the good bits first. The praise of the extras is quite correct, particuarly singling out the documentary (which I much prefer to All Change, for some reason). The stuff about Robert Llewellyn coming into his own in the series is also well made; he has some great bits in III, but was essentially still working out the character, and struggles at times. ("Blue midget is TAINTED WITH AN ANNOYING VOICE FOR KRYTEN.") In IV he nails it right away, and is consistantly brilliant. And the point about the SF elements of Dwarf being important is also good; and often forgotten by some people who think that those elements of the show are just spoofs. (Certainly there is a parodic element in Dwarf, as evidenced by D.N.A., but this really isn't the general rule.) And full marks for giving Paul Jackson a director's credit.

However, the linking argument to this: that as the SF elements increased, "everything that made the show a good comedy faded away", is SILLY. Yes, it all faded away, apart from the fucking wonderful characterisation, situations, and erm, JOKES. (I'd list them here, but seriously: watch any one minute of the series and you'll bloody spot them.) I also think wishing Ace would crop up a bit more often is a bit silly too; he was in three episodes, and frankly that's all that was needed. I mean, which Rimmer is funnier on a long-term basis, and which one is it easier to care about? They could have done more with the Ace character, but the time was better spent elsewhere. Dimension Jump is great, but really, it doesn't deserve a status far above all the other IV eps.

And: "too muggy and smuggy to really charm as a comedy"? Certainly, there are characters that are smug, but that's where some of the best comedy of the show comes from; and if they mean the show, I certainly get no feeling in Dwarf that the writers are screaming "LOOK! AREN'T WE CLEVER!" And as for the mugging; I'm sorry, but I just don't see anything wrong with someone pulling funny faces in a comedy show. Seeing as it's, well, funny. Look at most other great comedy shows; there's the requisite amount of face-pulling. It's a GOOD THING, dammit. Indeed, combining the two: Rimmer's smug expression just prior to being told he's guilty in Justice is just fucking hilarious.

The byline of "the cult science fiction sitcom only boys seem to like" rankles as well; it would appear to ignore the rather large contingent of female Dwarf fans. And why single out Dwarf, anyway? BREAKING NEWS: A SF show has a larger male audience than female. MORE ON THIS SHOCKER AS WE HAVE IT. Yeah, yeah, I know: it's a joke. But it doesn't really make that much sense, does it? Even my jokes work better than that.

Believe it or not, though, even I think everyone is entitled to an opinion. EVEN IF IT'S WRONG. But the bit that I find really amusing is in the last paragraph of the review of the main feature. For a start: Nation's Favourite Sitcom, eh? If you can't even be bothered getting the name of the show right, it's not a good sign. But more importantly: is he really saying that any sitcom that wasn't in the Top Ten isn't really that great? I mean, this is wrong for precisely 567 different reasons. Amongst which are: the fact that the voting is skewed in favour of more mainstream stuff (and in masses of other ways, too), the fact that there is obviously more than 10 (or even 50) sitcoms that are "fucking brilliant", the fact that Dwarf entered the chart at 18 anyway, ahead of fucking tons of acknowledged classics... The argument is clearly ridiculous, and I really don't understand what the reviewer was trying to do.

But then, which is worse: slagging off Dwarf, or breaking UK COPYRIGHT LAW yet again? We're great.


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