Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

There's a very good reason why, here in 2013, the TV sitcom Red Dwarf continues to be so popular: it's because in 1991 they used to make seasons like this one.

I mean in the 20 years since, Red Dwarf has certainly had its moments of brilliance, and indeed whole episodes that are right up there with the best of them, but for my money series five was the last one to fire on all laser cannons throughout, even despite the tiny detail of the ship itself not having any.

From the following year the show would often tout itself as principally a character piece, which I always thought smacked of shame. Whatever else Red Dwarf may be - sitcom, sketch show, satire on modern-day life - for me it has always at its heart been a science fiction.

Well, when this series was broadcast in 1992, science fiction was becoming a bit unpopular at the BBC.

Yet what other TV show in Britain was there that year featuring such finely constructed original science fiction stories? Even Star Trek: The Next Generation had long-since abandoned such a genre in favour of samey human interest tales each week instead, eurghh.

It's often been theorised that one of the reasons why SF became so derided at the Beeb was because it was thought of as quite expensive to make. In this series of Red Dwarf however, despite a sitcom budget, the production standards were second to none. Basically, proving themselves to be a real science fiction, they were still taking their studio-based show about a ship in a vacuum, and using the fuel of their imaginations to turn that to their advantage.

The music, the direction, the surprises, the cleverness... Don't even get me started on quoting bits of dialogue - I'll just wind up copy-and-pasting the scripts for all six episodes here.

Even the miniscule cast. Week after week the regular actors would get called upon to play alternate versions of themselves, slashing costs in a way that most other shows, sci-fi or not, could never even dream of.

In #1 Holoship Chris Barrie plays a different version of Rimmer thanks to illegally using mind-patches to up his IQ.

In #2 The Inquisitor Danny John-Jules and Chris Barrie (again) play versions of Cat and Rimmer respectively who have never known 'our' Lister and Kryten. Even the Inquisitor itself gets played by everyone.

In #3 Terrorform they land on a psi-moon populated entirely by aspects of Rimmer's subconscious, all played (again again) by the versatile Chris Barrie.

In #4 Quarantine Rimmer (played by... yes, him again) is taken over by a holo-virus which transforms him into a megalomaniac who takes the others prisoner.

In #5 Demons and Angels the ship and crew get duplicated twice, resulting in the whole cast playing triple roles, and yes that does include Chris Barrie as three Rimmers.

And finally in #6 Back To Reality they all awaken to learn that for the past four years they have been merely playing a computer game, and each return to their vastly different identity back in the real world. Chris Barrie plays... well, I've lost count now. Most of the rest of the cast do likewise.

Perhaps Chris Barrie as Rimmer might even like to take a turn at writing this review for me?

Rimmer: "I thought it was the worst pile of blubbery school-girl mush I've ever been compelled to endure. I consider it an insult to my backside I was forced to sit here growing carbuncles through such putrid adolescent slush." [Episode #1 Holoship]

Well, I assume he's just been watching the second half of any later season then.


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