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Atlanta SF Calendar

Institutional Member of SFWA

All original content is 

© John C. Snider  

unless otherwise indicated.

No duplication without

 express written permission.

DVD Review: Red Dwarf Series III & IV

Available February 3, 2004

Starring Chris Barrie, Craig Charles,

Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn

& Hattie Hayridge

Created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Produced by BBC Video

12 episodes, approx. 30 minutes each
Retail Price $69.98

ISBN: B0000WN104

 

Review by John C. Snider © 2004

 

With two brief seasons under its belt in the late 1980s, BBC's sci-fi comedy satire Red Dwarf had already established a cultishly faithful following.  Fans couldn't get enough of the series set three million years in the future on a long-forgotten mining vessel, crewed only by Dave Lister (Craig Charles), the last human being; Rimmer (Chris Barrie), an obnoxious holographic duplicate of Lister's deceased bunkie; Cat (Danny John-Jules), the highly-evolved great-great-to-the-nth-degree grandson of Lister's long-dead cat, and Holly (Norman Lovett), the ship's AI who appears as a face on their computer screens.

 

Series III kicks off with some jolting - and unexplained - crew changes.  Lovett's Holly is replaced by Hattie Hayridge (who appeared in the Series II episode "Parallel Universe" as Holly's feminine doppleganger Hilly).  A new cast regular is added with Robert Llewellyn as Kryten, the insecure android rescued way back in the Series II opener.  Kryten was originally played by David Ross in that one episode and promptly forgotten - until now.

 

Confused?  You should be - but it's not as bad as it sounds.  Hayridge delivers Holly's lines in the same deadpan monotone perfected by Lovett, and Llewellyn's Kryten is a welcome addition to the cast, humorously contrasted with the other personalities and opening up new comedic avenues.  And let's face it; while Craig Charles does an excellent job as the lovable (yet chronically unambitious) Dave Lister, the show's true comedic vortex is Chris Barrie.  If ever an actor was born for a role, Barrie was born to play the ridiculously overconfident and inescapably incompetent Arnold Rimmer.  Barrie's comic timing and delivery are perfect, especially when considering some of the convoluted dialog he's saddled with!

 

Although the special effects and sets are still appropriately cheesy, they are much improved in Series III.  There's even a new shuttlepod (the Starbug 1).

 

Series III contains six new episodes, the best of them being "Backwards", in which the crew are sucked through a "timehole" and end up on an alternative Earth where everything runs in reverse!  Cars drive backwards, all the writing reads from right to left, and effect hilariously precedes cause in all sorts of otherwise commonplace situations.  Admittedly, this episode is inconsistent in its treatment of the backwards principles, but even the inconsistencies are part of the fun!

 

Series IV continues with no cast changes and more hilarious hijinks.  One of the best episodes is "Dimension Jump", with Barrie doing double-duty as the usual Rimmer and as "Ace" Rimmer, a super-successful, super-competent test pilot from another dimension.  The series nearly takes a serious turn in the finale - "Meltdown" - as the crew encounter a planet where "waxdroids" (android duplicates of famous historical figures) are locked in the classic battle of good versus evil.

 

The DVD extras (as was generally the case with Series I and II) are fairly lacking and disappointing.  The best extra is the confusingly titled "Built to Last", which is a very good episode-by-episode behind-the-scenes documentary covering Series IV.  There are optional audio commentaries from all the main cast members on several episodes; some mildly funny but repetitive "Smeg Ups" (bloopers); missing scenes; etc.

 

But...extras, schmextras!  Even if all you got were the episodes, Red Dwarf: Series III and IV are still worth the retail price!  This is a classic series and one of the funniest sci-fi shows ever produced.

 

Red Dwarf: Series III and Red Dwarf: Series IV are available from Amazon.com.  They're even available as a specially priced 2-pack!

    

Links

Doug Naylor - Interview with the co-creator of Red Dwarf!

Red Dwarf: Series I - Review

Red Dwarf: Series II - Review

Red Dwarf - Official Site

 

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