Easter Specials - Doctor Who, Red Dwarf

Category: , , By Rev/Views

I'm still stuck in the mire which is convincing BT to remove the Broadband Tag from my phone line so I can have Internet access at home. I've had to speak to OfCom and dig around quite a bit, but all my attempts to contact BT Wholesale via e-mail have been ignored so far, I'm going try phoning them on Monday and I'm basically not going to stop until I get to speak to someone who can get this sorted out, because it's frankly ridiculous.

Anyway, the main reason for writing this is I wanted to take a few moments to look at the two sci-fi Easter specials which aired last weekend. First up is Britain's favourite time traveller.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead:

Overall I wasn't that impressed with Planet of the Dead, these specials are the final moments with RTD and David Tennant, they should be something amazing and spectacular. But overall PotD was exceptionally lackluster and rather uninspired. Now, it's not that it was bad, it wasn't, it's just that it should be something more than it was. These specials should be just that, special.

Instead the entire thing was rather humdrum, it could have been just another episode in any of the David Tennant run. There wasn't anything remarkable about it, no classic or iconic villains, no really big moments. Just a lot of average plotting with a few fun references (especially Tennant's Donna Noble impersonation and references).

Now there were a few nice touches, Michelle Ryan was competent and likable in this, as was Lee Evans' performance - even if his accent was atrocious, it sounded like mangled Welsh when he remembered to use it. Likewise the scenes shot in the desert were fantastic and more than made up for the utter horror of the flying bus. Ugh..

Still, it was an enjoyable time spent in front of the TV, it didn't offend or upset or even engage me particularly, which is honestly a bit of a shame. Because I adore David Tennant's Doctor and I'm going to miss him when he's gone, but stories like this are just wasted on his talent. He's capable of so much more than Planet of the Dead gave him.

Red Dwarf:

It's no secret how much I enjoy the cult classic Red Dwarf, it's also no secret just how apprehensive I was when I saw the trailers for the special. Every single one of them made it look like this three part story was going to be a giant pile of suck. I went into this fully expecting to be disappointed and vowing never to watch it again.

And if you'd asked me by the end of the first and second parts I would have said how disappointed I was with it. By that point I was almost miserable with how confusing, weak and terrible the storyline was. It felt like Red Dwarf had completely lost the plot and moved away from what it was. I was left in two minds by that stage, either the Back to Earth title was a reference to Back to Reality and this would turn out to be fictional or Red Dwarf had become a huge steamer on the pavement of Television. I was tending towards the first of the two options due to the overly obvious Cat origami foreshadowing, but I was still very nervous about the last part.

Fortunately the entire thing did turn out to be a big spin on the Despair Squid from series five, and once I'd watched the third part and taken the whole thing together it felt quite different. It wasn't the greatest Red Dwarf ever, but it was a lot better than I feared.

What was good about it? Well first of all it would be a crime to not acknowledge just how much Craig Charles has grown as an actor, the two strongest scenes in the special both came from his performances - the remembrance garden being the first and his goodbye to virtual Kochanski being the other. The sets were gorgeous and some of the scenes were brilliant.

What was bad? The total lack of Holly really hurt the show, there's not much more I can write about that if I'm honest. I missed the senile computer greatly, even a cameo would have done. Also the overall style of the special was a pretty poor construct, I spent the vast majority of this special shaking my head and thinking "No, please don't let this be happening. This is shockingly bad". If your viewer is hating over two thirds of your storyline and wishing they weren't happening because they're totally non-cannon in style, then you've screwed up.

I also missed Chloe Annet, yeah - I know I'm in a minority on this front, so I won't go into it in too much detail. Except to say I like her portrayal of Kochanski a lot.

Taken as a whole the special wasn't awful, but it sailed very close to being so and even on the re watch it isn't funny. Hyperdrive is funnier than the Red Dwarf special was, and that's not saying a lot. So as much as I do miss Red Dwarf, I think it's time to put the entire thing to rest and just look back on the best years (Series 3 to 6) with fondness.


2 comments so far.

  1. MediumRob 17 April 2009 at 10:29
    Haven't watched Doctor Who yet. Honest.

    Thought the first part of Red Dwarf was awful, but I liked the second two parts, although maybe a little heavy handed on the continuous Blade Runner refs.

    I also thought, given how good Back To Reality was as a possible finale until it was revealed it was all the Despair Squid, that given a chance to do the same thing and have a proper finale, they shouldn't have ended up with... a Despair Squid.
  2. Rev/Views 17 April 2009 at 12:42
    Yeah, the whole affair felt like a poor echo of the fifth season episode. While Back to Reality was one of the finest moments Red Dwarf produced I'm not sure Back to Earth hasn't cheapened the whole thing somewhat...

    I wasn't so bothered about the Blade Runner references, in part because I've only watched Blade Runner the once. But I do agree the references (at least the ones I noticed) were exceptionally heavy handed in their delivery. Plus I wasn't convinced they were relevant to the story being told..

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