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Red Dwarf Series III DVD

The crew of this wandering starship are still headed nowhere fast—and often heading there backward

*Red Dwarf Series III DVD
*Starring Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Dules, Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge
*Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
*Directed by Ed Bye
*Warner Home Video
*Two-disc set
*MSRP: $34.98

By Adam-Troy Castro

T hings have changed for the wandering starship Red Dwarf, lost in space 3 million years after the deaths of all but one member of its hapless crew. Somehow, the gray sets have acquired a more colorful paint job, and the ship's computer Holly has become a woman (Hayridge).

Our Pick: B+

The second-season cliffhanger involved the pregnancy of Dave Lister (Charles), technician third class on the lost starship. The effectiveness of this cliffhanger did not translate to an equally effective season-three opener, so that entire storyline was jettisoned and resolved via a long opening text crawl in the Star Wars tradition, which scrolls far too quickly for anybody but a speed reader or somebody with DVD speed controls to read.

No longer pregnant, Lister is still the sole human still alive aboard Red Dwarf, though he still endures the company of the insufferable hologram Arnold Rimmer (Barrie), the self-absorbed feline Cat (John-Jules) and the latest arrival, the obsequious, ever-so-helpful android Kryten (Llewellyn).

Lister, now showing some of the psychological effects of his isolation—although it's hard to tell; he was somewhat loopy to begin with—is now suffering from weight gain, erotic fantasies involving Wilma Flintstone, and depression. Even so, he is better off than Cat, who discovers the dangers involved in using the sandbox on planets where time runs backward.

A gray space comedy gets a little color

The six-episode series three of the BBC's SF spoof shows the benefits of its recent makeover. Though the budget remains very low, the increased color palate opens up the comedy and gives the characters more to do; the addition of Kryten creates more possibilities for character interaction; and the increasing intelligence of Cat, who in his first appearances barely seemed to notice anything that didn't involve food or clothing, makes that character more than the one-trick pony he once was. Best of all, writers Grant and Naylor, whose commentary in the first season set includes off-putting (and probably facetious) remarks to the effect that they tried to avoid actual science fiction whenever possible, here show the smarts and good sense to indulge in just that.

Hence we have episodes like "Bodyswap," in which the holographic Rimmer bargains for two weeks as custodian of Lister's body, ostensibly to diet and exercise the overweight crewman back to health, but actually to selfishly indulge in all the sensual pleasures he's been denied for 3 million years; and "Timeslides," in which the invention of time travel gives Rimmer a chance to reverse the disasters that have ruined his life. All the episodes feature funny, and often hilarious, dialogue, with the awfulness of Rimmer's personality being a major highlight.

The season's best episode, "Backwards," takes the crew to a universe where time runs in reverse, and where women who eat eclairs like pigs are even more off-putting as the reconstituted pastries emerge unmasticated after open-mouthed chewing. This episode has the season's best philosophical rant, with Rimmer providing persuasive argument that the Backward Universe is a better place to live: with World War II, in particular, emerging as one of the most beneficial periods in mankind's history.

Bonus features include funny cast commentary, sections from the Red Dwarf audio books, the usual deleted scenes and "smeg ups," trailers, a photo gallery and the episode "Backwards," shown in reverse order so that backward dialogue can be understood and events like the big bar tidy-up can be viewed in light of our own universe's causality.

The woman whose gaping mouth emits the unchewed eclair in "Backwards" is not improved in "Forwards," when we get to see what she looked like eating it. — Adam-Troy

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