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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Blu-ray)
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Blu-ray)
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // October 6, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted October 16, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:
 
As a fan of the British SF/comedy series Red Dwarf, I was excited when I heard that a new three episode mini-series was going to air.  The show had been cancelled nine years earlier after an impressive eight season run and it was high time to get the crew back together again.  Then I remembered that I never finished watching the original run.  Co-creator Rob Grant had left after season 6 leaving Doug Naylor alone at the helm for the last two seasons and the quality dropped significantly.  As a matter of fact, I never made it through season 7.  But surely with 9 years to think about it Naylor would be able to craft a decent script right?  Unfortunately no.  This miniseries (presented as a "director's cut" 70 minute movie as well as the in) suffers from a done-to-death plot, a poor script with plot holes and, most importantly, an almost total lack of laughs.
 
Early on in his commentary track, writer/director Doug Naylor states that one of the first decisions they had to make when creating this series was whether to wrap up what happened at the end of season eight or not.  He decided to would take too long, so they just push the series nine years into the future, which just happens to be how long it's been off the air.  This was a decision that surely irritated many Red Dwarf fans.  To be fair, he also decided to skip any type of introduction to the characters, their situation, or how they got where they are in order to make sure new viewers were irked too.  So, if you don't know who Lister, Rimmer, and Cat are, just run far away now.
 
In the time since we last saw the show, several things have happened.  Holly, the computer, is no longer able to talk due to a short circuit when the control room was flooded, and Lister's romantic interest Kochanski has died.  The ship's water supply is also running low... they're down to their last tank full.
 
When Cat runs in and informs Lister and Rimmer that he was attacked by a giant tentacle from a creature living in the last vat of water, the crew (minus the cowardly Rimmer) lower themselves into the water in a titanium diving bell only to be attacked be a giant octopus.  (What were they thinking would happen?)  Barely getting out of the tank alive, they discover that a new hologram, one of a female science officer, has been created.  Using the data that she collected from parts of the octopus she's able to create a dimensional transport unit that can send the crew back to Earth so that Lister can find a mate and repopulate the galaxy.
 
The device is constructed but something odd happens when it's activated.  Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten are pulled through a worm hole and end up in (get ready for this) 21th Century Earth!  But not any Earth, the real Earth.  Our planet!  They soon discover that they don't really exist and are only characters in a TV series.  One that is about to show its last episodes in fact.  So they roam around London looking for their creator so they can beg him for more time.  In the process they go to a SF memorabilia store (a real one!  Not a set!  OMG!  WTF!) and run into Craig Charles (the actor who plays Lister) on the set of Coronation Street (a series he's working in currently.)  Even if they find the creator, will he be willing to spare their lives?
 
If you thought the synopsis was comic gold, then you should check out this series.  If, on the other hand, you thought theconcept was stupid, overdone, and grasping at straws, join the crowd.  The fact is I could forgive a lot if the series was funny, but it is not.  I laughed twice during the whole mini-series, and that was two times more than my sons did.  They spend way too much time on the 'we're only characters' gag.  There are a lot of jokes centered on things that happened in the ninth season (it only lasted eight) and there were frequent mentions that the special would be shown on the network Dave (which it was.) 
 
To add insult to injury, Naylor seems to go out of his way to make fun of fans of the show.  At one point the group enters a comic book/pop culture store that carries a lot of Red Dwarf products.  The clerk is an overweight nerd, and it's implied that he has mental problems.  In addition the head of the Red Dwarf fan club has an "H" tattooed on his forehead like Rimmer.  Nice way of biting the hand that feeds you.
 
In the end, this was really disappointing.  The story was dumb, the plot had some pretty big holes, and it just wasn't funny.
 
The Blu-ray Disc:

 
This series arrives on two BD-50 discs in a single-width case.  Disc one has the move and the commentary tracks while the second disc includes the extras.          
 
Video:
 
The 1.78:1 1080i (the resolution it was filmed in) VC-1 encoded image looks pretty good.  Truth to tell the old Red Dwarf series never looked that great so I wasn't expecting a lot but the disc does come through.  The level of detail was much greater than the old show, and the colors and contrast were very good.  The Cat's purple outfit really jumped off the screen.  Blacks were nice and solid as well.  There was a slight amount of banding in a couple of scenes but it was minor.
 
Audio:
 
The DTS HD sounded very good.  The full soundstage was used to great effect and it enhanced the otherwise poor show.  The fight scene with the squid is a good example, the discreet sounds of tentacles hitting the walls came from all speakers and it really put the viewer in the middle of the mayhem.  The range was good and the sub was used to good effect.  A very nice sounding disc.
 
Extras:
 
The first disc includes a HD set-up guide as well as a pair of commentaries.  The first features writer/director Doug Naylor by himself and the second includes the cast:  Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn. 
 
The second disc is devoted to bonus material.  The biggest is The Making of Back to Earth (1080i) which, clocking in at 72-minutes, is actually longer than the feature they are profiling.  It covers all aspects of production and features all of the cast and the important crew members.  It's a good behind the scenes look, but it's was way too long for my tastes.
 
The rest of the bonus items are presented in SD.  These include a gag reel (11 min) which is mildly amusing, 3 deleted scenes with optional commentary that didn't add much to the story, a 20-minute featurette on the special effects (most of which was covered in the longer docu), the cast at the premier, a signing session with the cast, an EPK, some web videos, many TV promos (none of which were funny) and a photo gallery. 
 
Final Thoughts:
 
If you want funny, go watch the early seasons of Red Dwarf.  It's a hilarious show that really has its moments.  I'm just sorry I can't say the same for this latest offering.  It will disappoint fans and newcomers alike with the surprisingly bad plot and total lack of humor.  This is supposed to be a comedy program, but someone forgot to bring the funny.  Skip it.
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