Red Dwarf: Back To Earth Review – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

April 9, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

RED DWARF: BACK TO EARTH, Friday 10th April, Dave, 9.00PM Alert Me

That’s it. I’ve had enough of bloody re-makes, and come backs.

Sorry, Red Dwarf, whilst you were one of the great comedies of my childhood, “Back to Earth” is the straw that has broken this camel’s back. After setting the bar so high for so long, to come back with a distinctly average first episode of the new three-part “special” is gonna cause a serious backlash from fans. It’s a cult show, you have to quit whilst you’re ahead, a la Spaced (Yes, Pegg is still my hero, regardless of How To Lose Friends And Alienate People). Always leave us wanting more.

It’s nine years on and the awesome foursome are down to their last water tank. Kochanski is dead, Kryten is on holiday and the Cat has just been viciously assaulted by a massive testicle (cue the inevitable “he means tentacle” pun) belonging to a dastardly sea monster that is occupying the vessel containing the last of their water supply. The team decide to confront the beast head on, well, all except Rimmer who sits reading a classic car magazine. You may have noticed from the blank tone of this review that I was almost baffled by the lack of a fluid plot,  punchy dialogue or the re-kindling of that old sparkle.

In fact, the only part of the show that actually wowed me was Cat’s amazing pink, shiny, lycra jumpsuit, complete with glittery shoulderpads. Suddenly I can see where Lady Gaga gets her inspiration from. Danny John Jules seems to be the only member of the cast who has not been withered by jealous Father Time and his gnarled walking-stick of wrinkly doom. Catch a glimpse of those nut-cracking buttcheeks and tell me you aren’t impressed. After a decision was made to ditch the canned laughter, the show felt noticeably flat. Cat’s occassional extreme outbursts, (for example “Looking like this, I wouldn’t even get on the cover of Minger Monthly”) only served to reinforce the fact that the script, as a whole, was poor.

After chopping off a tentacle from the Hibernating Space Octopus and getting haphazardly splashed with purple goo, new science officer Katerina beams in from nowhere in an apparently unconnected smushing together of random storylines. In the same way a child thinks merging several different colours of playdough into one amorphous mass is “art”, Doug Naylor seems to think this is a smooth transition in storylines. He would be very, very wrong.

As the team decide to open a portal into another dimension and return to Earth, I am past caring about what happens to them. Even the threat of imminent death fails to bring any drama to the show. I never thought I’d say this, but I hope they all die in this special so the show can’t possibly be ruined any further.

Three words of advice for the future Naylor, leave well alone.

Sally McIlhone

So what do you think oh faithful Dwarfers? Was Sally right? Or is she smeggin’ insane? Should the old programmes of our youth go peacefully into the night? For a hilarious run-down of comebacks of a different kind, make sure to check out our list of  Film and TV’s Ultimate WTF Resurrections – guaranteed to be the only place you can find Harold Bishop, Saw and Lost in the same sentence.

Sally McIlhone says:

im a hairy bitch who fucks other women yes me Sally McIlhone

musicmaker says:

It throught it was rubbish compaired to series 2-6. It was ok but there were anly one or two laughs in there and it was a cheezy storyline. No offence to the writer and the producers but it was … terrible.

Katt says:

Hi! I just wanted to add to all the rants here that I went to Dimention Jump 2003 and the cast of Red Dwarf were saying that they were reading the script for the new Red Dwarf movie which eventually (due to lack of funding I beleive) was turned into three half-hour episodes for DAVE 6 years later! I was disapionted like most people that they spent all of that time and ended up with ‘Back to Earth’ :/

axe of god says:

after many years of loving red dwarf, i was both saddened and sickened at how this supposed “final episode” could have been rendered so bland and lifeless… back to earth has totally killed the magic that made red dwarf such a fine show… finding the producers to beg for more life? WOW… talk about negating the premise… oh well, all good things must pass… and i still can watch the old seasons… i just hope that when i die, i can do it with a bit more dignity than red dwarf… RIP

Kelly says:

Jeez…people have really forgotten what proper comedy is.

Yes,this was not the best Red Dwarf ever but nothing will ever top series 3-6, what with the ‘hardcore’ fans slating every Dwarf related subject that is not series 3-6.

To me,this is the right step into another series and/or – dare i say it – the long awaited movie.
It had just the right amount of charm and humour to make me smile.

Give the cast and crew a break – its been over 10 years since the last series – of course they arent going to be perfect.I have to say though, the acting was on top form but they could have given Rimmer more lines.Chris Barrie just does not get the recognition he deserves – he is wit on legs.

Sam says:

Red Dwarf on the 1990s was the most innfluentail, ground breaking, emmy award wiining shows that brought vareity, vast and complex story lines but was (this being the key factor as it was a comedy show) was unbelievable funny. It was superoir to most comedy shows in a very competitive decade.

Red dwarf back to earth…

Did it have vareity … well yes it did (check)
Did it have a complex and intising storyline… well yes it did (check)
was it funny… Hell NO!

Now dont get me as someone who bashes shows randomly, im really not. I love comedy and sitcoms, bar some sporting occasions i dont watch anything else. I have massive collection of building comedy from vast stand up, to scrubs, to famil guy, even small ones like not going out and IT crowd. But i also have all 8 series of red dwarf and still regard it has my favourite show and best dvd collection of the lot. I have watched red dwarf on numerous times and still will till im odd, because it is that timeless, i just hope back to earth doesnt get lumped with the series of old.

The problem with Back to earth was it was so preoccupied with gettin a good story line and making sure it all made sence that they forgot the humour and simple humour. Having no audience took away whatever comedy there was (which goes to show how effect canned laughter actually is and get angry with anyone who disagrees).

So i was intruiged with what was going to happen or what they were doing with it but i wasnt entertained. Rimmer was very forced and Chris Barrie played it perfectly but was let down with lines. Lister was dull, lifeles and actually had no jokes at all. Kryten who i felt still was brillaint, again the joke swere obvious and very modern and in my opinion there is very few descent comedies nowadays because of the type of humour. Mighty boosh my example here. Amd once again the Kat perfromance was still up to date and of old but liek series 7 and 8 was left in the background.

So no humour ruined the show. If you asked me was it a good drama it would be gettin 9 out of 10. but red dwarf is a sitCOM. which means i give it 2 out of 10. which is sad because like many red dwarf fans i was left with a sence of emptyness after series 8 and wanted more, 10 years is to long, it didnt carry on from series 8, it was to obvious, to to real which made the show unreal and unbelievable which was one of the shows major pluses was the fact it was played realistically before and am seriously annoyed that they still havent ended it. Wasnt that the point. I hope they dont bring back more. Fawlty towers was 12 episodes. Red dwarf was timeless and brillaint and now i just feel that naylor is living out his lost movie aspects. Leave Red dwarf alone

John says:

Back to Earth. 60 minutes of utter crap, that franky sh*tted all over the respect and love we have for Red Dwarf. It was sooo bad, its shocking. The making of these episodes has in fact damaged the show reputation. I hope series 9 never happens, and a movie is never in the works.

Robyn Gall says:

It was REALLY disappointing for a Dwarfer such as myself… However it was really good to see the old cast and crew together again… But that was just about the best thing about the episode…

When I first heard that Red Dwarf was coming back I basically leaped for joy and went into a state of complete quoting and didn’t stop, ’til someone told me it was only going to be written by just Doug Naylor, and Rob Grant was still not going to work on the show with him. The fact that it was just Doug writing ewas very obvious… All the jokes had an air of excellency and pre-emptive humour that just wasn’t completed… And there are many points in the show which I found myself thinking “This one’s gonna be good, this one’s gonna be good… Nope, it flopped.”

It’s just such ashame… I got the DVD’s for my 14th, I have watched every single episode at least 3 times if not more… And I love it! (Yeah, I’m only 15… C:)

I wish they would remake the remakes, but make BOTH Rob Grant and Doug Naylor write them… Otherwise it will just flop again…

GamerWho says:

This was a very good Easter Special. To expect anthing more out of a 24 minute first-part episode is delusional.

Charlotte says:

Wowee! Red Dwarf ROCKS!!!! However, maybe, if the producers are thinking of making any more episodes:


Tee says:

Totally disappointed by this “series”. Like other fan’s I was really excited at the prospect of a return from Red Dwarf. I watched the last few episodes of 8 to get back up to speed…….but what a waste of time.

The conclusion/cliffhanger of 8 was totally overlooked, I was looking forward to some brilliant, funny conclusion to this or explaination but never got it, and that made me hate this from the start…then it went downhill.

All througb the first episode (and in fact all the rest of it) I felt like I had totally missed a series. I’m sure even Dave said something that made me think this was a different series that I expected. Can’t remember exactly what….I think it’s a scene where he picks up a DVD and (i’m sure he referred to it as series 10) but I maybe I wasn’t really listening as I’d stopped even trying to make sense of it all by that point. Just annoyed by the stupid randomness of it all.

Worst of all it didn’t feel funny, (someone described it as being dead without the audience) and I agree. It was totally missing something (like Laughter -even canned may have been better than nothing) and considering RD is meant to be a comedy it’s a HUGE thing to be missing. They made the same mistake with another series (7, I think it was, (from memory).

And what’s with the random appearance of another Hologram with a miracle return to Earth? After that I Totally lost the plot (what plot?) and the will to really watch it. Someone suggested watching without adverts. I doubt that would make it better, but maybe one more try really watch hard to try and follow it. (But almost every other RD you can watch on it’s own without effort as they are so easy to watch and enjoyable). Anyway…..

The highlight for me……

The Carbug, I reeeeeeeeeeeaallly have to get one! 🙂

That’s all

Matt says:

To the gallows—- warning, rant alert.

What the hell was this? I felt like a little kid who had been promised a Playstation for Christmas, only to find a big stinky turd in the box.

I don’t know what I was watching on Dave but it wasn’t Red Dwarf. The plot was poor, drawn out and quite frankly hollow and had me cringing all the way through, it was that awful.

As for funnies I’m not going to deny that having audience laughter in the background doesn’t help bring out the humor because it does. However it only enhances it, there has to be something there to begin with. If they had included the laughter In these show it wouldn’t of helped. The gags were barely pleasant and the only time I laughed was when Rimmer was banging his crouch up against the table in episode 3.

I honestly don’t know what the writer was thinking. It’s a real shame because the actors looked and performed great. The script just sucked, simple as that. Appalling is certainly a word that comes to mind.

I wasn’t inspecting these episodes to be as good as the originals but If your going to bring something like Red Dwarf back you better be dam sure it’s at least average, otherwise it’s just a slap in the face to the fans.

David says:

So, I wasn’t the only one to be disappointed by the RD9 special…? Lets start with the infuriating advert breaks which weren’t delimited by any sort of pause or programme logo, so my thick brain thought that Mitchell and Webb in chicken costumes were some bizarre part of the RD9 plot… Then there is the fact that it was so derivative, reusing lines and bits of plot from previous episodes like they had no fresh ideas. Then there is the 1.5 hour format, which lets face it has been good enough for plenty of hollywood films to introduce plots, characters and then do something watchable with them, yet somehow RD9 plodded along for 1.5 hours without managing very much at all…. There were some classic lines mind you, but a lot of silence in between lines whereas the old RD was bang bang bang line after line of comedy or at least something happening. Almost like they were doing a read-through of their lines rather than the fast paced delivery we got used to in the early series… End rant….

Emily says:

Jesus, people have honestly nothing better to do than complain. I grew up with Red Dwarf and now that I’m 21 I still watch the old episodes over and over again. It was a fantastic show and when I heard there was a remake on the cards I couldn’t wait to see it. The remake wasn’t the most amazing show I’ve ever watched but the the whole Red Dwarf team got back together after years of public demand just to give fans a new experience. Instead of giving off, appreciate that they made this to please their fans.
Surely there’s more to your life than complaining you were “raped” by a TV show.

Andrew says:

aditional: by the sounds of the comments i’ve read that said it wasn’t funny, too many people just don’t know how to laugh for themselves anymore and need to be told to by an audiance laughing in the background… I feel sorry for you i really do

Andrew says:

Whoever wrote this review clearly knows nothign about red dwarf… for starters it was NEVER EVER EVER canned laughter it has ALWAYS been an audience and as for when katrina beams in… thats when the effect of the joy sqid takes place… if your guna review watch it properly… It was good!

Vince says:

Sorry, this was the worst disaster since the new star wars trilogy or Indiana Jones. I agree totally. I love this show, still watch the episodes in order, over and over. I’ve introduced my children to it, and they love the show. But after watching Back to Earth, the writing, editing, filming were horrible. My kids didn’t even recognize the show (yes they knew the characters but it wasn’t the same show). I don’t blame the actors, you can’t make chicken soup from chicken poop. Naylor completely missed the mark.

I’m still waiting, and probably forever, for season 9. The actors are capable, the writing and direction needs to be there. I just thank God I didn’t spend money to see this in a theater, if this was the great waited for movie, I would have walked out.

Gav says:

I think its very unfair to make such dismissive comments about this fantastic show which has been off the air for so long. If nothing else, what this comeback shows is that there is still demand for the show and that the people who are involved are lovingly committed to it and would love to see it reach new heights and possibilities. Let’s face it, guys, they don’t make comedies that even come close to things like Red Dwarf anymore. I would rather see it return then have half the dross we are subjected to these days. As for the episodes themselves, well I think the shame was that that they were not given longer slots, a half-hour slot with two giant commercials in the middle means that the writer has a lot of work to do in a shot space of time. One thing that was certain was that the creators had remained true to themselves and celebrated the work they had begun years ago, as a seasoned fan of the originals I didn’t feel let down at all, I was proud of the decisions that were taken about tone etc you must always have light and shade with comedy, who needs gag after gag all the time in place the audiences journey. Anyway, I hope this could be the sign of more good things to come and bear in mind to that the cast have been apart for many years now, it would take time to build up the sense of ensemble again, and I’m not just talking about feeling comfortable again as old pals do when they get together, or getting lines out confidently; I’m talking about instinctually feeding off atmosphere, emersing oneself, experimenting, raising the bar, pulling together as a real team of actors again, that needs more time, than 3 short episodes after a couple of decades will allow for.

theunderwhelmed says:

Congratulations Doug Naylor, Dave, cast and crew of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth.
I really didn’t think it was possible for something to rape my childhood as much as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
How wrong I was?
This was horrible, just horrible. If the whole tired ‘they realise they’re ficitional characters’ storyline wasn’t bad and unoriginal enough, the twist was even ripped from your own show.
Where do I start. Hideously unfunny, is probably a good place.
When I first saw the adverts I though this could be really good, even after the final few series.
I imagined maybe the mining ship Red Dwarf would actually return to earth, sort of like the end of Hitchhikers film, and there’d be real invention, wit, pathos, maybe some satire, a happy ending.
Nope. Fu Dave. Also, ‘spoofing’ Blade Runner. Sacriligious. I’m beyond words.
Some stuff from the books and first few series really stays with you, it’s that good. Little stuff like Rimmer’s revision charts, but now it’s tainted.
All I need now is for the Stone Roses to reform, or maybe someone could dig up John Lennon’s corpse and enter him for the X Factor.

Ed says:

I think this article pretty much hit the nail on the head. I have always loved Red Dwarf, but it did go down hill after the ‘Grant Naylor’ days were over. Back to Earth simply emphasised the fact that it just doesn’t work as well with 1 writer. As much as it looked impressive, and the odd joke and other bits like Carbug and the Cats diving suit were great, it lacked the main essance that what originally made Red Dwarf a cult classic. The plot was nothing new, the jokes were few and far between and it just didn’t feel like a Red Dwarf episode. I got excited when I read an article before it aired saying that there would be a lot of ‘nostalgia’ for the Red Dwarf fans, but I felt very little (if nothing at all). When Dave played classic episodes afterwards, it felt a bit of a “Here’s how it should be done” moment.

If they commission a 9th series with the previous partnership of writers there might still be hope for a decent comeback. But I doubt that will ever happen.

Myles says:

Im with luke, i really really was looking forward to this and i have to say the first episode was WEAK. At absolute best it was weak.

The second episode had some laughs but it was nothing at all like the power of the previous series.

Episode 3, i heard it had coronation street in it……after watching that i thought “was that it??” the major hyped up RED DWARF VISITS CORONATION STREET TO MEET LISTER turns out to be nothing more than “RED DWARF DRIVES PAST GRANADA STUDIOS” it is that poor that coronation street was almost not even worth mentioning.

i would love it if RD could get its funny bone back, but after watching the last 3 EPs i do think that the show was hit with a death squid, not a happy squid!

Luke Channings says:

I completely agree with you, I have just finished watching the last episode and I have never been more disappointed, when I heard that Red Dwarf was coming back for three more episodes I was really excited, after watching them I feel a little annoyed. Those episodes seemed extremely silly, but not in a funny way, more in an immature kind of a way. Unfortunately I have learned that there can be no more episodes of Red Dwarf ever again, or at least the Red Dwarf I remember.

R.I.P Red Dwarf, although this is 9/10 years too late.

Andy says:

What an idio, try watching the whole 3-parts of the *3 parter* before going on a rant, It like reviewing a film after watching the first 30 mins.

I was worried about the direction of the show after part 1 but by the end of part 3 I thought it was great, proper red dwarf.

Elmo86 says:

I felt a bit underwhelmed by the first episode after waiting so long for a conclusion to “Only The Good…” It’s great seeing the characters back together, but the “full steam ahead” pace of the beginning of series 8 is really missing here, it’s like they know it’s only a three episode run and they’re taking their time. However once I saw parts 2 and 3, I really enjoyed the experience. It’s clear that Dave made a dog’s dinner of spreading it out over three nights, and I hope when it reaches DVD it can be viewed in one big chunk as it was meant to; there were not enough cliffhanger moments to justify the “to be continued…” episode finales. I think all those people who have utterly panned the new episodes will eat their own hats once they view it as a single entity.

I also hope the laugh track is added for the DVD release. The Blade Runner references were class and the surprisingly emotional climax left a lump in my throat. The CGI sets were fantastically gaudy and the addition of Carbug 1 was brilliant. The self-referential sub-plot was a breath of fresh air from the standard monster/crash of the week format we had gotten used to.

The appearance of Kristine Kochanski at the end, her unanswered plot thread, and Kryten’s motives left me wanting more. Call it what you want, but this new Dwarf was an exercise in clever story-telling, bubbling nostalgia and a stepping stone to, hopefully, a new series.

Either its success will drive the cast and crew to do more, or its failure will make them strive to do better. Either way, I loved it.

Kinkaiid says:

Thank you David Blyth, you are very funny, you are also a very angry human being. So those who complain will never amount to or enjoy anything in life? Thanks a lot, by the way I think there’s some medication lying around the house that you forgot to take – better go take it. Sorry, you might not get the point if I don’t write it in capitals, TAKE YOUR PILLS, DAVID!

There, that’s better. Back to earth is not real Red Dwarf, David, and bears no relation to the show that all the people your rant is directed at fell in love with. If you thought it was, what can I say – you are very easily pleased. If we’re arguing about whether or not Red Dwarf has improved since Naylor took creative control, why don’t we ask the public, sorry, the haters, what they think? Fact is, the show has taken a nose dive in quality since Rob Grant left.

I’m sure Naylor still cares about the characters, but he just isn’t funny. Take a look at the majority of these comments and what are they complaining about? The show just isn’t funny anymore, and that is Naylors fault. Who for all his expertise in ‘cerebral character study’ still hasn’t got the scriptwriting nous to bang out a funny script. And since when were the old series not all brilliant character studies? We’re not haters, we’re mourning watching something we love being pissed all over. Naylor needs to be liberated from his creation just as Star Wars should have been taken away from Lucas years ago. I think it’s sweet that you applaud Doug’s ‘mature’ version of Red Dwarf, good luck finding someone else to clap along.

Ross says:

I really liked the whole thing! For me I always enjoyed the episodes with deeper storylines, and for me this three parter was just that. The subtlety of the pain etched on Dave’s face when he came round in the ‘real’ world, and realised hed lost Kochanski again actually brought a tear – I thought it was a brilliant step on from the still sparkling old days. In terms of humour, I found myself laughing the most at the slapstick moments (the cat getting his goggles slapped on by the tentacle had me laughing like a kid) , though I dont think that any of the gags were truly bad – I think we have all come to rely on a laughter track a little too much. Overall I felt it combined Red dwarf history, classic storylines PLUS something extra in the emotional department, AND brought subtle humour in the form of the homage to Blade Runner. REALLY liked the whole thing, REALLY hope theres another series!

David Blyth says:

I surely can’t be the only person who considers Rob Grant appaulingly overrated and Doug the only guy on this show that GAVE a s*it about the characters.

I greatly admired the risk and balls it took to do a sequel to “Back to Reality” that finally forced the visibly aging, self-destructing “sneeze ironing” Lister to grow out of his usual habits that had cost him Kochanski for a second time, giving him a second chance at being responsible and headstrong. It was a broad character study of every facet of Craig Charles personal and professional life, AND, more imporantly, brought the focus back on the “last human”. It is THIS care and attention that ONLY Doug Naylor ever really brought to the characters. Rob Grant’s humour and ideas basicly trapped them in the frame of mind that is best suited to a***holes. Never a bad thing, as I love Grant’s writing and miss his sense of humour even today, but RD needed to mature, and without Rob’s colurful p*ss-take humour, that maturity finally shone under Naylor.

Back to Earth was ten times more ambitious than the Grant Naylor-led seasons four and six, which only had a few things going for them (Ace Rimmer, “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, and “Out of Time”). I loved the Blade Runner references, Rimmer’s reply to being labled “neurotic”, Lister playing God on the typewriter (this was VERY much a Rob Grant moment here), Rimmer gaining some personal freedom killing the Russian “upgrae”..and Kryten for the “little things”.

RD was NEVER going to be the same show it was when it was canned ten years ago and you all should habe prepared yourself for Doug’s style, having went through two seasons with it. You only have yourselfs to blame for the moronic mentality you still have towards Doug’s vision, holding on to a vision he will NEVER satisfy and thankfully, THANKFULLY, chooses NOT to. I applaud him for sticking to his OWN vision.

Rob’s NEVER coming back, so either accept it and grow up, or move on if you don’t like RD without Rob and his sicophantic humour..frankly, I enjoyed RD more WITHOUT him, as it gave Doug Naylor a chance to actually GROW the characters and mature them, where as Rob’s influence basicly kept them in the same static role for six years.

That’s not to take away from Rob, who is a brilliant writer (I recommend “Fat”), but his snarky piss-take humour got too smug for an, at the time, aging series desperatly needing a fresh spin.

Season Seven is awesome (season eight is terrible, just in case you think I’m an “all or nothing” kind of fan who blindly likes everything), “Last Human” is a superior novel to “Backwards”, Naylor is much better at telling a cerebral character study, and Chole never did a bad job as Kochanski at all in ANY scene she ever did for the series. RD will always find a way of remaining RD. Whatever “shark jump” occured is a mental barricade haters conjured up in their own minds to become perpetually negative.

My family adored this, my children are asking questions about Blade Runner and thinking about life and casuality…. and that’s what REALLY matters. People THINKING.

This was REAL Red Dwarf, the EXACT Red Dwarf I laughed at with the novels, the SAME Red Dwarf I’ve followed and enjoyed for years..,..only without a p*ss-taker cluttering up the maturity.

Those who complain…well…simply want to complain and will never enjoy, or amount to, anything in life. The Despair Squid got to them a long time ago and their biased “minds” will never change. They wanted this to fail…thankfully it didnt for the REAL fans.


Classic Dwarf.

Kinkaiid says:

I think the cast did their best with what is, essentially, really bad material – and they knew it too, you could see it in their dead eyes. After watching all three episodes I just feel depressed. That ninety minutes of padded, prententious, unfunniness bears no relation to the Red Dwarf I fondly remember. I’ve got to admit I wasn’t expecting a great deal anyway, series six was the last good one – then Rob Grant left and everything after that was just terrible. But on the strength of this…what would you call it – post-modern Dwarf? I would say it’s had its day, let it die. Either that or bring Rob Grant back into the partnership, Naylor desperately needs someone to bounce his frankly unfunny ideas off of.