Created by: Rob Grant, Doug Naylor
Cast: Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewelyn, Danny John-Jules
Synopsis: It is many years after the events of Season VIII, it is just the four guys on Red Dwarf once again, and Rimmer is once again a hologram. Kochanski has disappeared, presumed dead. An alien squid is inhabiting the Red Dwarf water supply, but proves to be the tool to travel to an alternate dimension. In 2009 Earth, Red Dwarf is just a TV show featuring all the characters we know and love….
I had been pre-warned that this season was not up to par with what had gone before prior to having started it. A three-part mini-series, it is certainly a short season, which was assembled long after the other seasons were completed, and the ages of the main cast are showing. Whilst I would agree that this season is never as hilarious as a backwards time planet, an Ace Rimmer, or a Mr. Flibble, it is not overall a bad season either. It suffers most from comparison than from anything else.
The first of these three episodes is by far the most boring, the entire episode being one huge piece of exposition. To a certain degree, it also feels like a re-introduction to the characters, in a ploy to perhaps drag in a new audience as well. In addition, there is an introduction of a new character (Sophie Winkleman), who provides little more to the humour than an attractive aside who briefly causes some discomfort to Rimmer. She is in many ways Austin Powers’ Basil Exposition whom provides them with the means of entering “our” world.
Things do get better though with the second and third episodes. The fish out of water element is played very well, as well as the philosophical underpinnings of existence. That old question of are we all real, or merely the figments of someone else’s imagination is a clear philosophical underpinnings. No attempt is made either to hide the fact that another sci-fi touchstone for this series is of courser Blade Runner, with some scenes being stolen directly from this source, and the Blade Runner connection even being told to the audience as Kryten reads the back of the DVD cover for the DVD covering this specific Back to Earth series.
Indeed, it is how they homage Blade Runner that creates some of the funniest scenes in the whole mini-series. As the boys go in search of their creator, in a search for more life, we do not get a Roy Batty style monologue on the nature of existence, but a complete cock-up of Red Dwarf proportions. That said, anyone who has not seen Blade Runner (shame on you!) may miss a vast majority of the humour in these segments as they are heavily referential, and it is in mimicking specific scenes that the beauty of the comedy here unfolds.
So there is a lot positive to be said for Back to Earth. What is missing however, is the formula that made the other seasons so popular. It is much funnier seeing the team battle outlandish creatures and physical phenomena in a sci-fi setting than it is seeing them bumbling around Earth. It is a pleasant diversion from the norm, but not enough to sustain three episodes. So I can completely understand how reactions to this season were mixed at best.
3 stars out of 5
Back to Earth Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pJHr9GJ7iU]