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The Good Dwarf Guide: Series III




The change in series III compared to the previous series is nothing short of startling. Grant Naylor got involved with production here, and the difference is very plain: characters, plot, costumes and sets are all different.

The most immediately noticeable difference is in the plot: the first episode starts with a Star Wars-type written explanation scrolling past at light speed which essentially says forget everything thatís gone before, itís a whole new ball game. Jim, Bexley et al are as if they had never been, and the scrolling finishes with a reference to "the same generation - nearly", which implies that the events of series III onwards take place in a slightly different universe from that of the previous series. This has been referred to, sometimes by Grant Naylor themselves, as the Universal Explanation, and who am I to quibble with it?

As well as the major plot shift, there are also some important character changes in this series. The most profound character change occurs with Rimmer: itís as if the character has been completely reinvented. Gone is the broad comedy approach: Chris Barrie throttles back on many of the physical markers (the bouncing on the heels, the stiff posture, the crossed arms, the perpetual smirk) he had used for the previous two series. Rimmerís still a smeghead, but his obnoxiousness is toned way down and the character emerges as much more subtle than before. Rimmerís character grows darker as a result of this reinvention. At times, he now seems almost an okay sort of guy, but Grant Naylor never allow us to labour under this misapprehension for long: just when you almost like Rimmer, they hit you between the eyes with the realisation that he really is a bastard. That realisation is more disturbing now than before, because of the way youíre seduced at times into thinking heís not too bad. Many of the jokes involving Rimmer in this series are initially hilarious but leave a very bitter aftertaste.

This series doesnít have an enormous amount in the way of character development for Lister. The series sees the last of his agonising about his predicament, and heís much more technologically competent than the clueless dolt he was in previous series - as is Rimmer.

The Catís role changes quite markedly in this series: the feline set-piece behaviours are dropped, never to return. The only remnants, and the defining features of the Catís character, are his selfishness, vanity and stupidity. The Catís role suffers in this series with the introduction of Kryten, and he seems pretty much peripheral to the action a lot of the time.

Kryten returns in this series, becoming a permanent member of the core cast. Heís played by Robert Llewellyn with a curious but very effective Canadian accent and a new makeup and costume from that used for the earlier (shudder) Kryten. Heís in full-on servile mode in this series, so is relatively less interesting than he later becomes, but he nevertheless develops by "The Last Day" into a very important member of the cast.

Relationships between the cast are somewhat different in this series than in other series. Rimmer and Lister almost get on all right at times, and the antagonism between Rimmer and Kryten that develops in the next series isnít present here.

Sets and costumes undergo a major overhaul in this series. The appointment of Howard Burden as costume designer started a run of brilliant costumes. And the opening credits are remixed, with an upbeat version of the closing tune backing a montage of shots from the series. Light years better.

Overall, the seriesís pretty damned good: it contains four brilliant episodes ("Marooned", "Polymorph", "Timeslides", "The Last Day"), one okay one ("Backwards") and a clunker ("Bodyswap"). This ainít bad going by anyoneís standards.



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UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

UK: buy video at Amazon   UK: buy video at Sendit   US: buy video at Amazon

  Series III DVD

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  Series III & IV DVD Pack

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  Just The Shows (Series I-IV DVD)

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  Complete Remastered Series I-III (Video)

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BACKWARDS

SYNOPSIS: Rimmer takes Kryten for his driving test in Starbug, and they go through a time hole, ending up on Earth, but in the future where the universe is contracting and time is therefore running backwards. Rimmer and Kryten get a job as the Sensational Reverse Brothers, a novelty act. Lister and the Cat follow them through the time hole: they think they are in Bulgaria, but eventually work out whatís going on. Rimmer and Kryten want to stay, but have to leave due to their causing a barroom brawl, or tidy as it is in this universe.

COMMENT: This is a popular episode. Except with me. It has some great moments, but I find that the one-joke premise gets old very quickly. The plotís full of logistical inconsistencies, such as.....well, it makes my brain hurt to think about it, but take it from me, theyíre there.

Mixed in with the comedy, thereís another yank on the heartstrings as Rimmer and Kryten declare that they want to stay in this universe. The sadness of their usual lives is underlined, and this is magnified by the fact that this Rimmer is easier to like than the old one. This is the "new Rimmer" with a vengeance. The first scenes show him conducting the driving test completely deadpan, and in fact the characteristic smirk is almost completely absent in this episode. Apart from the cowardice he shows in the brawl, heís much closer to a normal human life form here than ever before.

The antagonism that marks the later relationship between Rimmer and Kryten is uncharacteristically absent at this stage: they even want to stay on the backward planet together as the Sensational Reverse Brothers.

Robert Llewellyn seems a little tentative as Kryten at this stage: the voice and mannerisms are fabulous from the word go, but the humour of the character takes a little time to settle in. The mask is more elongated here than later: Llewellyn has said Kryten is better looking than he is, and heís right, but itís not as evident here.

This episode marks the changeover in Holly from Norman Lovett to Hattie Hayridge. Hayridge plays Holly even more deadpan than Lovett, which you wouldnít think was possible.

The location stuff in this episode is a welcome change of scene, and even the interior of the Dwarf looks much spiffier. Theyíve got rid of those hideously uncomfortable looking bunks in favour of a much brighter looking set.

THE BEST BIT: No, not the barroom tidy. Yawn. The driving test is a comic gem, and I canít leave out the Cat coming out of the bushes.

THE WORST BIT: The backwards stuff that goes on and on and on. Yeah, we get the idea! Can we move on?

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "Fasten your belt." "Hey, I do not need fashion tips from you!"

ADDITIONAL:

Merchandise on the starboard bow: We see the now famous Red Dwarf logo at the start of this episode. The logo was quickly plastered over everything in sight and hawked mercilessly to hapless fans. Hey, itís SF, what else is new?

All change: Rimmerís costume in this series is much more flattering than in the past two series, although he does look vaguely like an iridescent dentist. There are elements of Captain Scarlet around the boots, and the hat is a direct steal. Rimmer loses the hat later on, and a good thing too, as he looks more of an idiot in it than necessary. Rimmer also gets a snazzy new H.

Lister also gets a costume change, ending up in funky if slightly smeggy leathers. Way cool, dude.

Next stop panto: Chris Barrie gets to do a cool stunt on a wire, but the effectiveness is undercut by the following scene which looks as if it utilises a toy out of a cornflake packet.

Starbug is go: We see Starbug for the first time here, and it obviously owes a huge debt to its Supermarionation ancestors - that white lettering and that particular shade of green are hauntingly familiar......

Encore: Tony Hawks, who played the Guide in "Better Than Life", appears again here as the compère in the pub.

To boldly go where everyoneís gone before: Some well-known Star Trek concepts appear in this one - Lister refers to engaging Starbugís cloak, and the scene where the crew are getting in and out of Starbug seemingly in thin air borrows heavily from a similar scene in the movie "Star Trek IV: The Return Home".

Thatís the last time we shop at Honest Bobís Pre-Loved Spacecraft: Kryten says thereís something wrong with Starbugís gearbox, which is the same problem Lister was having with the Blue Midget in "Thanks For The Memory".

Doug digs: This episode marks the first of a series of references to poor old Doug McClure, whom Grant Naylor seem to have it in for with a vengeance. The jibes return as a running gag in series VI.

SMEG UPS:


MAROONED

SYNOPSIS: The crew are forced to evacuate when Holly identifies a field of five black holes. Lister and Rimmer crash-land Starbug and are forced to wait it out with dwindling fuel and supplies until the others can find them. They burn everything combustible until the only things that are left are Listerís guitar and Rimmerís precious camphorwood chest, a gift from his father, and his toy soldiers. Rimmer believes that Lister has thrown his guitar on the fire, and not to be outdone in nobility, tosses on his soldiers. However, the cordial relationship between them is back to square one when Rimmer discovers that what Lister has actually burned is a guitar shape cut from his camphorwood chest.

COMMENT: Although the Cat and Kryten appear in this episode, itís really a two-hander. A situation with two people talking in one small set for most of an episode could be boring. It ainít. Itís superb throughout.

Rimmer and Lister manage some meaningful dialogue without being constantly at daggers drawn, and Rimmer is actually concerned about Listerís plight. We also get a glimpse of what Rimmer would have been like in different circumstances: when he thinks Listerís sacrificed his guitar for him, he becomes almost human. Rimmerís desire to sacrifice his soldiers in return shows that he does have the capacity to rise about his smeghood, given the encouragement of thinking someone cares about him. This is a foreshadowing of the playing out of this idea in "Terrorform", when Rimmer blossoms into a nice guy before our very eyes at the idea that the crew really does like him. Rimmer would genuinely like to be a better person - itís just his own personality that keeps tripping him up. This is probably why Rimmer keeps our interest, as if he was just a cardboard petty tyrant heíd rapidly become dead boring.

But before we get too carried away with feeling all warm and fuzzy, we also get to see here unveiled yet another unlovely aspect of Rimmerís character - his tightfistedness - and his unpleasant military obsession is also expanded on.

Listerís character here also shows depths beyond that of the standard-issue Good Guy he might have been in the hands of lesser writers: heís human enough to pull off the guitar trick, but moral enough to feel remorse when he finds out what the trunk meant to Rimmer.

Thereís some excellent model work in this episode, with the particularly impressive scene being Starbugís crash landing. The economy sized box of Daz and the fan are going full bore, to great effect.

THE BEST BIT: The pot noodle, and the Chief Eunuch. Itís a miracle that the actors got through the speech with straight faces.

THE WORST BIT: No real weak spots here, except maybe Krytenís characterisation - Robert Llewellyn still hadnít really got on top of it.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: The classic line of the series: "Are you saying Iíve got a big bum?" "Big? Itís like two badly parked Volkswagens."

ADDITIONAL:

Donít touch that dial: Whatís Rimmer, the hologram, doing operating that radio? Not to mention smelling the camphorwood. And to cap it off, he tells Lister heís had a look through the first aid kit (and the skutters arenít on board to help him).

The hours are better, and thereís no marching: Rimmerís immortal line about being Alexander the Greatís chief eunuch is a send-up of General George Pattenís belief that he was one of old Alexís foot-soldiers in a previous incarnation.

Oh yeah, her: After the attention paid to Yvonne McGruder in the last series, itís disappointing to see that all tossed out of the window here in favour of a routine story about Rimmer losing his virginity at seventeen with a girl called Sandra he met at cadet school. Incidentally, that Bentley thing has got to be an in-joke: Chris Barrie is apparently a classic car nut, with a coupla Bentleys and an E-type. Well, we know what they say about E-types....

SMEG UPS:


POLYMORPH

SYNOPSIS: A genetically engineered life form, or GELF, gets aboard the Red Dwarf and feeds on the crewís negative emotions: Listerís fear, the Catís vanity, Krytenís guilt and Rimmerís anger. Lister turns into Mad Max on steroids, the Cat is totally drained of self-esteem, Kryten cares only about his own welfare and Rimmer becomes a right-on social worker. The crew manage to kill the polymorph through a skilful mix of stupidity and luck.

COMMENT: Yeah, itís brilliant. It has everything: (simulated) sex, alternate characters, an eight foot high slavering monster and a cute little fluffy bunny rabbit. This episode is of course famous for containing the scene Red Dwarf fans voted the best: Kryten extracting Listerís boxers. Itís not my favourite, but Iíll admit itís good, although itís Rimmerís "Youíll bonk anything, wonít you, Lister?" that cracks me up.

The idea fuelling this episode is a particularly interesting one, and Grant Naylor extract the maximum mileage from the concept. We get all those very cute changes of form in the beginning, the idea of a being that drains emotions, the alternate characters, and the monster itself, all as part of the package. Thereís some great special effects work here, what with the quick-change polymorph, the bigger version of the polymorph and the heat-seeking ammunition, and some nice costume and makeup work with the alternate characters.

Everyone has a way cool time playing their alternates, with Craig Charles particularly impressive as the homicidal psycho. Chris Barrie is perfect as the politically correct wimp, but heís so good that heís almost too irritating to be funny. Jesus, more deeply psychological stuff from Rimmerís past: this time, a well Freudian bit about his mother. Poor bastard. (I canít believe I said that.)

This is a great episode for the Cat: his drunken bum routine is hysterical, and he also has a brilliant scene dodging the heat-seeking ammo.

In this episode Krytenís character starts to takes shape, as we discover that his defining emotion is guilt.

THE BEST BIT: Iím in the minority here, but the best bit for me was Listerís psychotic turn and the Cat as a drunken bum: Lister in particular is killingly funny. Chris Barrie is perfect as the politically correct wimp, but Iíve worked with too many of those morons to find it funny: I just wanted to nut him.

THE WORST BIT: Listerís gross-out sequence at the beginning with the medical equipment. Blech.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "This isnít a meal, this is an autopsy!"

"Well, I canít say Iím surprised. Youíll bonk anything, wonít you, Lister?"

"Rimmer Directive: never tangle with anything thatís got more teeth than the entire Osmond family."

ADDITIONAL:

Make it so: The Space Corps Directive cited by Kryten seems to draw rather heavily on Star Trekís mission statement. Iím surprised the words "boldly go" didnít come into it somewhere. This is the first Space Corp Directive ever - they become a running gag later on, particularly in series VI.

And they call it puppy love: Grant Naylor were obviously frightened by an Osmond record when they were children, as Rimmerís reference to the Osmonds in his Directive is the second of two in Red Dwarf (Holly refers to little Jimmy Osmond being one of the inexplicable mysteries of the universe in a previous series).

SMEG UPS:


BODYSWAP

SYNOPSIS: A deranged skutter rewires the ship, leading to Lister setting off the autodestruct sequence while getting a milkshake and Toffee Crispy from the snack dispenser. Disaster is averted, but in the process the crew discover that itís possible to transfer a mind from a hologrammatic personality disk into a body. Lister is concerned about his lack of fitness, and agrees to lend Rimmer his body for two weeks for Rimmer to get it fit. Rimmer welshes on the deal, enjoying slobbing up large so much that when Lister reclaims his body, Rimmer takes it again by stealth and heads for the hills in Starbug. Lister manages to get his body back, and Rimmer then steals the Catís body.

COMMENT: This one doesn't work for me at all. I think itís a salutary lesson on what crap Red Dwarf would have been if the parts had been differently cast. Itís not so much that the actors do a poor job of taking each otherís roles (Chris Barrie is particularly competent at this, surprise surprise, and Danny John-Jules is also impressive in his brief scene as Rimmer), but theyíre just so wrong itís unsettling. Given that Barrie auditioned originally for the part of Lister, it certainly gives you pause for thought. The swapped dialogue is not convincing on any level, which adds to the feeling of unreality: more attention paid to getting the looping right would have helped this, although I donít know why they didnít just let Barrie do Listerís voice anyway, as he would have been able to reproduce it perfectly. To add to the woes of this ep, the plotís just plain stupid: no-one in their right minds would swallow Listerís agreeing to give Rimmer, weasel extraordinaire, his body. The whole thing seems strangely lacklustre.

THE BEST BIT: The Cat dropping Listerís mind into his cup.

THE WORST BIT: Just about all the body swap stuff, and especially the excruciatingly unfunny scene with the mashed potato.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "The whole shipís a gigantic booby trap." "No poker, then?"

ADDITIONAL:

Invasion of the smeghead snatchers: The portrayal of Rimmer in the first scene is mindboggling: heís crisp, heís efficient, he knows what heís doing, he has the situation firmly under control. For a moment, youíd swear he was Ace. I was looking round the set for a pod.

Big boy: Chris Barrie in leathers? Dunno why this looks so odd, but it does. I think itís that hat. (Now, I suppose, someoneís going to write to me and tell me heís a well-known habitué of leather bars.)

I know that voice: Why is it that when the characters are bodyswapped, they take their own voices with them? The voices should logically be the ones associated with the body, both for living beings, whose vocal cords produce an individual sound, and for holograms, whose voices match the physical projection (c.f. Kochanskiís voice in "Balance of Power".)


TIMESLIDES

SYNOPSIS: Lister is depressed about the pointlessness of his life, but cheers up when Kryten discovers mutated photographic fluid which brings to life any photograph. Lister goes back and persuades his younger self to invent the Tension Sheet, and as a result he, the Cat and Kryten disappear, leaving Rimmer alone. Rimmer attempts to change Listerís mind, but on realising what a futile exercise this is goes back to his boarding school and tells his eight-year-old self to invent the Tension Sheet. However, the conversation is overheard by the real inventor of the sheet, and things are therefore put back the way they were - except that for some reason Rimmer when he returns to the Dwarf is no longer a hologram. His exultation is short-lived, however, when he is killed in an explosion in short order.

COMMENT: This is a classic episode - brilliant from start to finish. There just arenít any weak points. The situationís interesting, and thereís some wonderful interaction not just within the core cast but also between the core cast and the guest characters. Robert Addie as Listerís butler is a gem, and young Lister, played by Craig Charlesí brother, is well endearing, in a smeggy kind of way.

Itís another pathos-laden episode for Rimmer - you canít help but feel sorry for the little boy he was, and his death just when heís finally got a body once again is hard to laugh at. Rimmer must be one of the saddest characters ever invented, and the fact that itís in the guise of comedy makes the writing all the more brilliant. Rimmerís definitely still a smeghead - his desire to yank Lister back to the Dwarf so he wonít be lonely is proof of that - but heís still getting on with Lister a lot better these days than before.

THE BEST BIT: Very tough call, but Listerís conversation with his younger self and Krytenís air guitar are way up there.

THE WORST BIT: Rimmerís death. Too sad by half.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "I wanna meet girls! I wanna make love!" "Well, Junior Anglerís the best youíre gonna get out of me, buddy!"

"Look at that collar! You could go hang gliding!"

"Itís my duty - my duty as a complete and utter bastard."

"He always used to come bottom in geography. He thought a glacier was a bloke who fixed windows."

ADDITIONAL:

Coming down the runway now: The Cat always looks superb, but his outfit in this ep, a delicious confection of gold and black with a truly gorgeous hat, deserves special mention.

Keep him away from the guitar: Thatís Craig Charles singing the "Cash" song.

Itís who you know: Ruby Wax, who appears as Blaize Falconburger, is married to director/producer Ed Bye.

Argh!: These time-travel episodes invariably create brain-squeezing paradoxes. Gritting our teeth and girding our loins, we plunge bravely in.....

Why is it that the millionaire Lister doesnít remember meeting Rimmer in the pub when Lister was 17? Given that Rimmer was a fan of "Om", youíd have thought the meeting would have been etched indelibly onto Listerís mind.

Why, once the timelines have changed and Lister becomes the Tension Sheet millionaire, are Rimmer and Holly able to remember Lister and the Cat, who have never existed on Red Dwarf?

Why, when Kryten arrives in the pub, does he have to access his databanks to find out what it is, when in "Backwards" he spent several weeks in a pub performing as part of the Sensational Reverse Brothers?

He must have snapped back: In "Better Than Life", Rimmer says his brother Frank was 6í5" at the age of 11, due to their fatherís unpleasant little habit of stretching his sons on the rack. We know that Lister is considerably shorter than this, since he is much shorter than Kryten, who is 6í ("White Hole"), but the disparity between the heights when Lister is in the photo of Frank is not enough for Frank to be as tall as he supposedly is. In fact, isnít that Chris Barrie playing Frank? Itís certainly his voice.

That was before the facelift: The photos of Kryten at the birthday party were obviously taken prior to his boarding Red Dwarf, so we should see the other Kryten.

Philosophical thought for the day: Given the general stupidity level of the human race, itís astonishing that nobody has after seeing this episode actually marketed the Tension Sheet and become a squillionaire.

SMEG UPS:


THE LAST DAY

SYNOPSIS: A communiqué arrives from Diva-Droid International, informing Krytenís owners that he has reached the end of his programmed lifespan and has twenty-four hours to pack himself away. Kryten is unperturbed by this, as he knows he will be going to silicon heaven. The guys throw him a party, and the morning after discover Krytenís replacement is fast approaching with orders to kill Kryten. The new androidís sanity chip has worn out during its long journey, but Kryten manages to render the homicidal mechanoid inoperative by telling it thereís no such place as silicon heaven - with lie mode engaged.

COMMENT: This is another classic episode, with terrific performances all around and one brilliant set piece after another. The silicon heaven stuff ("Where would all the calculators go?") is a hilarious and not-so-subtle jab both at religion and at the attitude of the old-fashioned "servant classes". To rub salt into the wound, Rimmerís Seventh Day Advent Hoppists story is a biting satire on fundamentalism. Is this television as a medium for social commentary or what?

This a great episode for Kryten, and marks the last time we see him in full servile mode. It shows the beginning of his questioning what heís been taught which paves the way for the full evolution of his character in the next series.

THE BEST BIT: Virtually impossible to name any one bit here. If you twisted my arm, Iíd be forced to plump for Rimmer telling Lister heís probably the product of incest.

The whole birthday party scene is superb.

THE WORST BIT: Ummmmmmm......

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE: "For is it not written in the electronic bible: ĎThe iron shall lie down with the lampí?"

"You would gamble your safety for a mere android? Is this the human value you call....friendship?" "Donít give me this Star Trek crap. Itís too early in the morning."

ADDITIONAL:

The cheekbones arenít as sculptured: Robert Llewellyn gets a chance to come out from behind the latex here as (brace yourself) Jim Reaper. Ouch!

Mrs Bridges would never approve: After a serving mechanoid named Kryten, we get a replacement called Hudzen. Just in case anybodyís asleep, this is a reference to the butler in "Upstairs, Downstairs".

Barrie Does Android: Another eerily perfect imitation from Chris Barrie, this time of Kryten. This man is either superlatively talented or a polymorph.

I donít do mornings: The music playing just before the boys come round from their night of debauchery is "Morning Mood", from "Peer Gynt". Cute, huh?

Some assembly required: Is it just me, or does the completed Marilyn Monroe android have a distinct look of Margaret Thatcher?

Pucker up: We get another unnerving glimpse into Rimmerís past with his French kiss story. This is hysterically funny, but as usual with Rimmer it has a very dark side. So Uncle Frank was sleeping with his mother, eh? Coming on the heels of the incest story, you have to wonder what side of the family Uncle Frank came from.

Letís see, part A goes into slot B....: In this episode, Lister is unable to decommission Krytenís shutdown switch, despite having completely rebuilt him a few episodes ago.

Computer illiterate: Jim Reaper refers to Krytenís "inbuilt shutdown chip", but Kryten and Lister call it the "shutdown disk".

When I said I couldnít lie, I was lying: Kryten lies to Hudzen about silicon heaven, yet in "Camille", which follows, Lister has to sweat bullets to break Krytenís non-lie programming.



Reviews By Gavrielle Homepage Stephen Donaldson's Gap Series Review Stephen Donaldson's Mysteries Review Red Dwarf Episode Guide by Gavrielle Perry Reviews By Gavrielle Links Contact Gavrielle