I wronged you.
Back in your heyday I was proud to be a Red Dwarf geek. I watched religiously. I used the word “smeg”. And I wore your T-shorts with unironic pride. Smoke Me A Kipper I’ll Be Back For Breakfast was the one I was most proud of.
But during series 7 things went awry. The writing duo split due to artistic differences. Chris Barrie left meaning that Arnold Rimmer – always the lynchpin of the show for me – disappeared. I felt you lost your way. And because of that I never gave series 8 a chance. I was too quick to spot faults or take you to task over some comedic departure. And as for the 3-part special a couple of years ago... I got as far as recording Back To Earth but never watched it. I caught a glimpse of the middle episode and it all seemed too wrong. It all seemed too lazy and obvious. A storyline that treated the viewer with contempt. Like Bobby appearing in the shower in Dallas. And the cast looked old and haggard. They looked like the residents of a nursing home dressed up in Dizzee Rascal’s cast-offs. Even Kryten had a paunch. I stopped recording and hit delete.
Red Dwarf was dead to me.
The nerd dream was over.
But this year, in an effort to teach our eldest boy about comedy and the joy of the classic British sitcom, we started working our way through the various boxed sets that I own. I had the complete Red Dwarf – minus the final 3-parter – and thought that the early ones at least exemplified all that was great and good about a classic British underdog sitcom.
To my surprise series 7, when we got to it, wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. And as for series 8... well spin my nipple nuts and ship me off to Alaska... series 8 was rather good. Considerably fine in places.
I’d misjudged the show. I can see now that, at the time, I’d become too precious about it. Too unyielding in my expectations. Sure Rimmer was a loss in series 7 but the Kochanski storylines added a bit of depth. And everybody’s return in series 8, although originally seen as a cop out, actually worked. Rimmer and Lister sharing a prison cell actually returned the show to what it had always been about. Banter. Dialogue. Not special effects and huge studio sets. Just the cut and thrust of insult and counter-insult.
Why did I not see this at the time?
I took a chance and bought the final 3-parter. We all watched it with baited breath.
Sure, the crew all looked old and haggard. But that kind of worked. They’d aged and mellowed. The script reflected this. And bugger me if Craig Charles, as Lister, didn’t even actually do some proper acting in a few of the scenes. Tears and wobbly upper lip and everything. And the Blade Runner pastiche worked too. The homage elevated the story and gave it some drive and purpose. A fitting final curtain call as curtain calls for sci-fi sitcoms go.
For those of you who are scorning this post... just take an honest look at yourselves. I bet a fair few of you were there in the early years. Watching. Laughing. Red Dwarf was our sitcom. It was our show. Sure we outgrew it, moved on, no longer thought it was nerd-cool enough. But for a time we had a bond.
All I’m saying is, it might be worth giving it a second go. A review.
If I still had my Smoke Me A Kipper T-shirt I’d be wearing it again today. And though the pride might be a bit self-conscious it would, nevertheless, still be there.
I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose, drinking fresh mango juice...