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New 'Red Dwarf' - Is it better than smeg?

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New 'Red Dwarf' - Is it better than smeg?
Cult Spy was in attendance at the premiere of the brand new Red Dwarf episodes for the Dave channel. It's been a decade since the boys from the Dwarf last graced our screens and hopes were high that the loveable smegheads could recapture the glory days. After all, surely writer Doug Naylor has had plenty of time to construct plenty of decent laughs? Sadly though, an initially humour-free script really lets Lister (Craig Charles), Rimmer (Chris Barrie), Cat (Danny John Jules) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) down in a massive way during the first part. The quality does improve dramatically as the story continues, but one can't help but feel that this whole endeavour fails to live up to the hype.

Red Dwarf: Back To Earth follows on from the last two seasons of its BBC2 days. Not in terms of plot, but through a procession of painful attempts to generate some chuckles from the stale dialogue. The first half hour comes across as a pale imitation of the show, with a mind-numbing extended conversation between Lister and Rimmer failing to capitalise on the sheer joy of seeing these fine actors back together. In particular, the attempts to mine Rimmer's cowardice for gags is embarrassing and woefully repetitive.

Cat's loveably bizarre dress sense, buoyed by the energy of Danny John Jules's performance, does at least manage to keep things just about watchable among this mediocrity. The new character of Katerina, played by Peep Show's Sophie Winkleman, is not milked anywhere near enough for laughter despite the purpose of her presence on board the ship.

As was the case in the last few Red Dwarf episodes, it appears as if too much time was spent planning special effects and plotting as opposed to the bawdy yet witty humour of old. Fortunately, when the crew does make it to Earth - in an intriguingly metaphysical and postmodern way, the scenario manages to finally kickstart the reunion into life. Bearing in mind that this will be the second episode screened on Dave (and the press saw all three instalments edited together), one does wonder how many will bother to tune in after the lacklustre opening gambit.

Those that do will be treated to the highly-touted trip to Coronation Street, which definitely delivers the goods and contains an outrageously funny one-liner from Craig Charles. Kryten has an amusing encounter with a letter box, while Chris Barrie's linguistic skills are used to great effect as Rimmer goes Northern. The experiences of the Dwarfers are also cleverly bound together by a very overt homage to a certain classic science fiction film, which we won't name in case it spoils the fun. Similarly, expect a couple of genuinely surprising plot twists to be thrown into the mix.

Packed with more emotional content than before, and bolstered by a moving performance by Craig Charles as the urine recyc-guzzling last human, Red Dwarf: Back To Earth will hopefully lead on to more adventures from the quartet. The joy of seeing the cast back together is immense, but this good will won't last too long unless some fresh writing blood manages to board Red Dwarf. Doug Naylor on his own simply seems incapable of writing consistently funny dialogue. Otherwise, like the legendary Mr Flibble himself, the viewers will start becoming very angry indeed.


Check back for our full review on Wednesday and share your views!

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