Red Dwarf is probably one of the most entertaining TV shows ever made. It's a hybrid of sci-fi and comedy that, when it works, works perfectly. The four core characters - Lister, the last human in the universe, Rimmer, a hologram of his worst enemy, Kryten, a cross between C3P0 and Data, and The Cat, a super-evolved humanoid feline - are very strongly written and played by a great cast. The show is not perfect, as the small budget often shows and The Cat, and Rimmer in some cases, are often given lines that they simply wouldn't come out with just so they have something to say. Apart from this, though, the show is of a very high quality and very unique.
Series I and II were very cheap - everything was cotton or plastic - and focussed on the sitcom aspects and character development. It was with Season III, and the introduction of Kryten as a regular, that Red Dwarf began to achieve it's potential. Suddenly there was more sci-fi and adventure in the episodes, with spaceships, bazookoids (mini-bazookas), shape-shifting, emotion-stealing aliens, and a cool guitar version of the theme tune.
Series IV was even better, and Series V even better than that. The show became just as much sci-fi as it was comedy, very cool indeed and tackled some imaginative premises with more skill than Star Trek: TNG in many cases. Finally, Season VI was absolutely superb, with the best production values the show had ever seen, and the funniest, most exciting storylines. Plus the fact that Red Dwarf itself, the spaceship, wasn't even in Season VI, which made it exceptionally cool. Every single episode was excellent, with the highlight proberbaly being 'Gunmen of the Apocalypse' wherein the crew entered a virtual reality version of the wild west. Series VI ended with five minutes of pure drama and a stunning cliffhanger- you'd be hard pressed to find a more exciting climax on TV. With Series VII, except for the great first episode 'Tikka to Ride', the show faltered. Rimmer left along with one of the two script-writers, which half-crippled the show. Whereas there used to be constant laughs throughout previously, with Season VII there were a few laughs an episode. Rimmer returned with Series VIII, but then Red Dwarf became a total farce with no real sci-fi and everything played for cheap laughs. It became a plotless string of lame sketches and was simply not funny. The characters became caracatures. The show became a complete mockery of the blend of sci-fi/comedy it had achieved previously. Let's hope the forthcoming feature film, with both writers at the helm, can bring back some of the old magic the show had.
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