Planet of the Dead Dwarf

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Doctor Who, Reviews, TV/Film

So, Doctor Who and Red Dwarf on our screens over the Easter weekend. Something to look forward to, eh? Only, well…

Doctor Who — Planet of the Dead

I think Russell T. Davies has made the correct decision to step down from Doctor Who at the end of these specials, as his vision of Doctor Who is starting to look somewhat stale. Firstly, you’ve got these new aliens, which look a bit like people, only with heads like flies.

Yes, they are vaguely insectoid, only otherwise completely humanoid in appearance, with four limbs and no wings. Not quite as bad as the Myrka from the original run, which was basically a pantomime horse painted green to look like a sea monster, but with about the same thought as to the creature’s biology.

Next you have the bus. Now the bus was damaged in transit, which necessitated some script changes [the rest of this contains some minor spoilers, so if you've not seen 'em, you may not wish to read on]. These were presumably the ‘clamps’ used at the end to transport them home again. These were a bit shit — after all, if they were still fully functional, why couldn’t the fly-people have used them to power their ship? However, I don’t wish to be too critical of this: obviously they had to come up with something to compensate for the fact that the bus was knackered. It was still a plot weakness, but one that I feel would be a little unfair to blame on the writers.

The big red bus motif was in itself quite interesting, although the sole ‘gentleman thief’ (or in this case ‘lady thief’) has been done to death somewhat. It’s a bit Entrapment, a bit Tomb Raider, a bit not particularly original

And then we come to the monsters. I can only presume that the writers had seen the film Pitch Black, as the aliens were like this, only they came out in the day time. It was a “romp”, fair enough, but it was a patchwork romp, made out of different bits of other films and programmes.

Certainly not great. Other Doctor Who ‘romps’ — the Unicorn and the Wasp for example — have been funnier, and they have been more original. It was just a tired rehash. Although it’s fair to say that Michelle Ryan looked fairly slinky in that outfit, and was [nods to @stephenlang] certainly an improvement on the likes of Bonnie Langford.

So I’ve not been that impressed with the last few Doctor Whos. And yet I’m still looking forward to The Waters of Mars, although somewhat less so now that I understand it features Ood Sigma…

Red Dwarf — Back To Earth

And then there’s Red Dwarf, where the dwarfers make it back to earth at last. Or do they?

Well, by half-way through the second episode, I no longer cared. Part of the problem with Red Dwarf was that the original run went on too long, leading to various problems. First was the re-introduction of Kochanski in series VII, which didn’t work (particularly seeing as this was supposed to be the love of Lister’s life and he didn’t seem to notice that Clare Grogan had been replaced by ChloĆ« Annett). Next was the return of the original Red Dwarf, complete with crew, in series VIII, which worked to a point, but relegated the ‘Dwarfers’ to a minor command role which limited their scope for adventure somewhat.

This meant that to start ‘Back to Earth’, you had to scrape away a lot of that crap — Kochanski was now dead, for example, and start again. You also had a more significant problem. The cast had suddenly got older. Okay, for them it probably wasn’t that sudden: I’m sure that the actors have aged at the same rate as the rest of us since 1999, only as ten years had passed since we’d last seen the dwarfers, they were obviously a bit wrinklier than remembered.

And then there’s the whole self-referential “realising that they are fictional”, and meeting up with Craig Charles playing whoever-the-hell-it-is in Coronation Street. What in the name of blue fuck was going on here? Is it actually possible to jump the shark in a way that is any bigger than this?

There’s the whole squid thing. As soon as I saw squid, I thought of the Despair Squid from Back to Reality and was somewhat surprised that the dwarfers didn’t make more of a reference to it. Of course, this is because them not realising that it could be similar was essential to the plot. Not that calling it a ‘plot’ helps in any way.

There were some was a redeeming decent moments — the way in which Rimmer deals with the hologram Katerina Bartikovsky who is set on replacing and deleting him may seem throwaway, but therein lies the beauty of it.

But other than Chris Barrie’s facial mugging as Arnold Rimmer, and the rapport/dialogue between the dwarfers, there really wasn’t much else to say about it.

Doug Naylor has stated in an interview with Dave that he would like to make another series, but that “we would have to wait and see” how good or bad the reaction to “Back to Earth” was.Wikipedia: Red Dwarf

Well Doug, if you want my opinion, it’s time to call it a day, unless you can somehow un-write series VII and VIII, and the 3 ’special’ episodes. The dwarfers have become a joke, and not in a good way.

As a long-time Red Dwarf and Doctor Who fan, I have to admit to great disappointment in the two of them over the Easter weekend (which in turn is disappointing). I expected better. I know the writers are capable of better. Maybe it’s time for them to turn to new subject material.

In a way, this is maybe why Blackadder, Father Ted and Fawlty Towers are so highly thought of: they all went out on a high, before anything started to get stale. This leads me to have conflicting thoughts over The IT Crowd: I want to see more of it, but I don’t want to see it go the way of so many other comedies which petered out badly in the end…

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1 Comment to Planet of the Dead Dwarf

  1. Holly says:

    April 14th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I was also disappointed with Red Dwarf, and felt throughout as though I’d missed something. They could have done so much more with the storyline.

    With respect to The IT Crowd, I would love to see another series. However, I didn’t find the third series as funny as the first two…

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