8 Ways Red Dwarf Can Be Saved

By Chris Cummins in Daily Lists, TV
Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:02 am
5) Get Back to Basics
Red Dwarf has always succeeded best when it was about four guys stuck in outer space three million years from Earth. Debate continues to rage about what era of the show was the best. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the series has never been better than in the sixth season, when the Red Dwarf gets stolen and the crew embarked on a mission to recover the craft. It was the first time the series attempted to do a season-long story arc and it was a huge, hilarious success that allowed the characters to shine -- particularly Danny John Jules' Cat, who was able to show off aspects of his personality other than vanity. Red Dwarf VI was such an overwhelming success because it juggled interesting adversaries with serialized stories. It marked the creative peak for the series and as such is a template that any future episodes should draw inspiration from.

4) Focus on the Lister/Rimmer Dynamic
Despite its many flaws, Red Dwarf VIII did get a few things exactly right (especially in "Cassandra," a perfectly executed episode highlighted by masterful timey wimey storytelling that would impress Steven Moffat). Another admirable aspect of the season is its highly publicized "bunk scenes" between Lister and Rimmer that hearken back to the pair's dynamic in the first two seasons. In the Grant Naylor Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers spin-off novel, there's an interesting exploration of how Lister and Rimmer need each other in order to avoid being driven insane. This necessary co-dependence has been swept under the carpet on the show as characters like Kryten and Kochanski were given increased roles. Yet at its core, Red Dwarf has always been about how Lister and Rimmer hate each other but still require the other's presence in order to keep space craziness at bay. Some further exploration of this could result in some truly great new character stories.

3) Get Rid of Kristine Kochanski
There's an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which Gul Dukat remarks to Major Kira about how their being on the same side never felt right. That sentiment echoes how many Red Dwarf fans feel about any possible union between Dave Lister and Kristine Kochanski. In the seventh season, Kochanski (Chlöe Annett, taking over the role from Clare Grogan) was added as a full-time cast member after it was announced that Chris Barrie's role in the series would be limited so that he could pursue other projects. Her forced presence combined with some of the show's worst scripts to date led to a shaky start for the new Kochanski. There were other issues as well. Due to this new Kochanski being from a parallel world, Annett's version of the character was more posh than Grogan's spunky, kind of punk take, resulting in viewers wondering why Lister's dream girl was suddenly an insufferable snob (and this isn't even getting into the nitpicky continuity problems raised by the episode "Stasis Leak" regarding the character's relationship with Lister). Next to his slobbiness, Dave Lister's defining character trait is the isolation that comes from being the last human being alive. To suddenly jettison such a critical aspect of the character was a huge misstep. Unfortunately, the addition of Kochanski also meant that the Cat's screen time was now diminished, thus chucking all of his character development from the previous season out the window (things were even worse for Kryten, who was weirdly transformed into a petty robot who's insanely jealous of the attention Lister gives Kochanski). In the timeline of Back to Earth, Kochanski left Lister and the rest of the Dwarfers behind. Let's hope when the series returns that plot point sticks.

2) Somehow Convince Rob Grant to Return
The difficulty about writing a list like this one is that from a fan's perspective it is easy to sit back and bitch about a show without actually being involved in the complexities of its production. So it's simple to type that Red Dwarf could be saved easily if only co-creator Rob Grant would reunite with Doug Naylor. By doing so ignores the various reasons that the partnership dissolved in the first place. Reasons, I might add, that never have been made especially clear to Red Dwarf fans in the first place. Be it creative differences or personal animosity or whatever, the fact remains that the show just isn't as good without Grant. The pair called their production team Grant Naylor because they considered themselves a gestalt entity. But, as depicted in "Legion," once a key component of that team was removed the magic disintegrated. With time ticking ever onwards, the change of a Grant/Naylor reunion seems increasingly unlikely. Still, I suppose there's always hope, right?

1) Let the Show Die
There's a theory that you sometimes have to destroy something to save it, so perhaps the best possible fate for Red Dwarf is that no more episodes ever get made. It was (mostly) fun while it lasted, and the great installments of the show still far outweigh the poor. From a realistic viewpoint, even if all the aforementioned steps are taken could the show ever be as great as it once was? Probably not. Will Lister ever get to Fiji? Will the Cat ever get laid? Will Kryten ever find contentment outside of doing chores? I suppose we'll never learn the answers to these questions. Well, until the inevitable series reboot that is.

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