Red Dwarf : Red Dwarf fans

Red Dwarf fans

One thing I have noticed reading some of the posts on here, is that there seem to be two categories of Red Dwarf fans. The first see it as a comedy show in a sci-fi setting. The other sees it as a sci-fi show that also happens to be quite funny.

I myself happen to be in the latter category.

"Attempted murder? It's not like he killed someone!"

Re: Red Dwarf fans

It's to the show's credit that it can be considered either way. Its longevity this long would be unlikely if it didn't have inventive concepts and set/costume/model shot/sound designers that gave it a more polished, or at least different, feel with each series or two. Particularly series 5 saw a big concentration on atmospheric mood and, earlier on, they made the show more 'rock and roll' than it had been by the guitar played theme tune.

Indeed, for me, it's some of the arguably not amongst the funniest but visually interesting episodes eg Twentica, Gunmen of the Apocalypse, that give the impression of connecting Red Dwarf to a larger world than itself, one not necessarily scifi but one of Hollywood film noir and westerns.

The scifi aspect comes in several forms in Red Dwarf. Technically, even non scifi episode plots like trying to pass an exam effortlessly achieve a scifi angle merely by being set on a spaceship. And even in such plots there'll always be numerous references to their scifi situation eg '3 million years in deep space', 'asteroid belts', 'space core directives', the skutters, a ship's computer.

Then there are the heavily scifi plots eg Demons and Angels but even they have historical precedent. Rimmer dressed up as a punkish dominatrix is a concept familiar from not just The Rocky Horror Show / Julian Clary but also, in a milder form, British pantomime . Men dressing as women in entertainment goes back to Shakespeare at least.

Then there are homages / pastiches where scifi staple or cliche is part of the joke (at the same time as often being broadly satisfying in a horror scifi way) eg Red Dwarf's take on the likes of Alien with Polymorph. Even those episodes have very original content ( or combine ideas from other sources) eg Rimmer's Commitee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society joke.

Grant and Naylor's previous TV heritage was comedy rather than scifi and it was often the same shows as Chris Barrie's trajectory - political / current affairs comedy eg Spitting Image, Carrot's Lib.
Red Dwarf was, it seems, essentially a complete break from that. The show's never strongly implied political leanings although the episode 'Out of Time' suggests a dislike of decadence.

They originally called the show 'Steptoe and Son in space on acid' and they did downplay the scifi to the BBC, even though the unusual concept of the Cat would suggest they didn't downplay it very much.

I do think that the show's always been far more than just a mismatched couple stuck together. The scifi aspect is, in some ways, the eternal red herring in Red Dwarf, with the quest for Lister to get back to Earth its McGuffin. The concepts are ways to bond the characters, expose their strengths or weaknesses. Some might argue that Kryten's the mum Lister never had. Lister tries to protect Kryten. In doing so, Lister differs from Rimmer who's a full blown cynic, and from Cat who's actually kind of Rimmer-like in looking out for number one. They're all orphans and if they weren't so sarcastic with each other, the reality of their relative tragedies would seep in.

But this is just one of many interpretations of the chemistry / dynamics of the group. I think that the constant finding out new information about their histories and how they respond to new enemies and strange scifi concepts has kept things fresh. At the end of the day, they're all tragic figures in need of constant stimulation in order not to lose the meaning in their life. Most British comedies are too and Red Dwarf's scifiness just has more potential to paper over the cracks AND provide 'geek cred' if the jokes in an episode didn't seem massively strong compared to some episodes.

Not knowing for sure what the format / shape / visual style of a particular episode / series will be has helped made it last, makes it feel like a long running drama / saga.

But going back to your original point, the scifi's one reason why people have found Red Dwarf such a comfortable world for, for want of a better word 'geeks', to enjoy. Geeks are far from humourless or lacking in enjoyment of some action and Red Dwarf created a community on screen and in real life.

Re: Red Dwarf fans

Definitely a comedy show in a sci-fi setting, for me. I think a lot of the charm is that Red Dwarf never takes itself seriously with regards to the sci-fi aspect... it's certainly no Star Trek when is comes to inventing science, gadgets and offering explanations for cosmic events. The sets are passable 3-wall studios facing a live audience which were obviously built on a budget from chipboard, and the modelling – later CGI – has always been "wobbly", especially when if comes to getting perspectives right, yet there's a quaint feel to it which I appreciate, it's as if the producers are saying "you're not meant to take it seriously" through the effects. Even now, watching the recent Dave seasons in 2016, the show hasn't completely lost its 80s/90s feel and doesn't feel as dated as it might. There have certainly been plenty of visual changes, set redesigns and no care for continuity along the way, which a show primarily focused on sci-fi would not do so much or as obviously, whereas a comedy can get away with it much easier and fans tend to be more forgiving of retcons and the bunkroom set especially vastly changing shape, size and colour every year. When Star Trek: TNG changed the bridge set between seasons one and two they virtually overhauled it, making it more accessible for filming, changed the colour tones, made it more rounded, yet the result is much more subtle compared to each Red Dwarf overhaul. Star Trek can get away with claiming that starship bridges are modular and can be upgraded at any spacedock, whereas in Red Dwarf we simply have to accept the new completely look and move on. That's part of the comedy to me, but it also keeps it fresh. Red Dwarf is more character-driven than anything, the sci-fi and episode plots come second to the interactions between the crew.

I've heard that series 1-3 were remastered and like the original Star Trek they tried changing many older model shots to CGI. I haven't seen these remastered episodes but personally, I don't see the need. It looks nice in Star Trek because it blends in with later series' but Red Dwarf is unique to itself and doesn't need "fixing". I prefer the short and fat model of the Red Dwarf ship to the larger CGI designs, also. Good comedy shouldn't need "updating" for modern audiences, even if it is a sci-fi based show. I mean, can you imagine them trying to remaster "Lost in Space" with CGI effects? All that happens is fans get annoyed, like so many did with all George Lucas' tweaks and re-tweaks to the Star Wars films over the years... few of which bother me, but I can understand some of the frustration. But he is trying to make serious sci-fi, if it were comedy I'd see less need for it.

Re: Red Dwarf fans

[...]Red Dwarf never takes itself seriously with regards to the sci-fi aspect
While you’ve made some great points, I’d have to disagree with you on this.

I think the Sci-Fi in Red Dwarf is the one thing that is treated seriously within the show (well, the concepts are, at least). Much like Futurama would do later, Red Dwarf used genuine scientific theories and concepts in its plots, then explored these with its characters and scenarios to generate the comedy.

Artificial intelligence, time dilation, the Big Crunch theory, parallel universes, wormholes, white holes, and almost every imaginable theory of time travel and its effects (causal loops, causality, paradoxes etc.) have all been explored in Red Dwarf, and all using real-world scientific theories and ideas. To this regard, Red Dwarf took its Sci-Fi just as seriously as Star Trek did.

Then, on the more philosophical side, episodes like Confidence and Paranoia, Legion, Rimmerworld, Terrorform, and Back to Reality, delivered the kind of introspective science fiction ideas that all the best Star Trek episodes have.

It’s also telling that Star Trek and Red Dwarf have several episodes sharing remarkably similar stories and concepts (Camille, Better than Life, Demons & Angels, Thanks for the Memory, - just of the top of my head. There’s no doubt many more)

In fact, it’s difficult to watch some new Sci Fi films, or documentaries, these days without uttering “it’s a bit like that episode of Red Dwarf...”
No doubt Star Trek fans having been saying the same for years also.