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Red Dwarf: Back to Earth(TV) (2009)
The boys are back, and while they may be older, they’re still none the wiser. The crew discover a dimensionhopping leviathan, but Rimmer is threatened with replacement by the new, improved holograph Katerina. She is determined to guide Lister to his home planet, but no one is prepared for Earth 2009, where the hapless crew face death unless they can track down their creators.
For more about Red Dwarf: Back to Earth and the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray release, see Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Sophie Winkleman
Director: Doug Naylor
» See full cast & crew
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray Review
An anticipated rebirth falls painfully flat...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 5, 2009
Before cable television wormed its way into every bedroom and basement, TV junkies like my teenage self survived on a slim diet of NBC, ABC, and PBS. And it was through snow-hazed public television that we discovered low-budget British gems like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, series that relied on sharp storytelling and memorable characters to overcome their meager production values. It didn't matter what these shows were missing -- believable sets, convincing costumes, the latest special effects wizardry -- it only mattered what they had to offer. Unfortunately, while the Whovian mythos has persevered, having even inspired a still-strong revival and a fantastic, unexpectedly successful spin-off series (Torchwood, a show I can't recommend enough), Red Dwarf has died a cold and lonely death in the icy vacuum of fandom. The promise of a television film briefly lent hope to Dwarfers the world over but, try as it may, Back to Earth fails to reinvigorate the franchise.
A word of caution to any newcomer eying this release: Back to Earth won't appeal to anyone who isn't already familiar with the 1990s Red Dwarf television series. Even though the film opens with a semi-sinister "nine years later" card, the script doesn't provide much context or history for those attempting to find their bearings. However, Red Dwarf enthusiasts will also be left scratching their heads. The performances -- delivered by mainstays Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, and Robert Llewellyn -- are as endearing as they ever were, and the actors' comic stylings are on full display, but the script is sorely lacking. Likewise, the production values have received a welcome boost, but the quaint, low-budget magic of the show has been replaced with shiny, decidedly lackluster CG. The new effects not only artificially date the 2009 production, they make elements like Llewellyn's prosthetics and the gang's ride look positively ridiculous. Granted, several space shots and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it glimpse at a future-London cityscape soften the blow, but the film's aesthetics lack cohesion and, oftentimes, vision.
Back to Earth also commits Cardinal Narrative Sin #1: breaking through the fourth wall to allow its heroes to realize they're actually characters in a television show. Although the payoff to the gag makes the plotline somewhat forgivable, I was left shaking my head in disbelief for the majority of the film. Why not explore the reaches of space? Why not toy with the conventions of your established series? Why not give your beloved characters something more to do than traipse around England questioning existence and reality? Frankly, similar themes have been so exhausted by modern science fiction that the whole thing feels tired and trite. Moreover, the crew's conversations are repetitive and surprisingly dull, and their Earth-bound misadventures reek of handheld-camera improv. In fact, it's exactly what I would expect from a homemade fan film -- the sort of online groan-inducer that finds a group of friends donning shoddy costumes and justifying their cheap sets with a thin plot point -- rather than a legitimate return to a cult-favorite universe with a respectable fanbase. Again, Barrie and his cohorts invest their all into what they're given, they just haven't been given anything of substance.
Ultimately, Back to Earth is a botched reunion that will only entertain those consumed by nostalgia and warm-n-fuzzy memories of late-night PBS marathons. If you've never seen an episode of Red Dwarf, stay far, far away from this boorish expansion of the series proper.
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth features a decent 1080i/VC-1 transfer that, relatively minor shortcomings aside, looks pretty good. Colors are vivid, contrast is strong, and detail sharper is than I expected. Fine textures aren't nearly as crisp as they are on other BBC television releases, but it isn't a distraction. Likewise, black levels occasionally fall short but, for the most part, remain fairly deep throughout. And while skintones bobble between pasty and chalky, rarely warming to the film's various locales, they're stable and consistent from scene to scene. If I have any serious complaint, it's that artifacting and banding sometimes interfere with the image. Neither one becomes a debilitating issue, but they frequently draw attention away from the transfer's merits. Thankfully, other digital anomalies, source noise, and edge enhancement are nowhere to be found. It amounts to an above average presentation sure to surprise viewers like myself who approach the film expecting much worse.
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth includes a DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix) that isn't strong enough to match the vigor of the cast's performances. Dialogue is spotty -- sometimes clean and clear, sometimes thin and pinched -- but prioritization is passable and the track's dynamics are eager to please. Similarly, LFE support is a tad clumsy and oafish at times, but generally injects enough weight into the proceedings to showcase its high definition audio wares. Sadly, rear speaker activity is largely non-existent (save a few action-oriented sequences that take advantage of the full soundfield), pans are slightly stocky, and directionality leaves too much to the imagination. Though I suspect most of the track's inadequacies trace back to the film's limited sound design, it doesn't change the fact that Back to Earth's DTS-HD HR mix provides a somewhat underwhelming experience; one that, after volume matching, sounds too much like its DVD counterpart to earn a higher score.
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 2-disc Blu-ray edition of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth comes loaded with special features. Two audio commentaries, a hefty production documentary, and a series of featurettes, deleted scenes, and other goodies should leave any fan frothing at the mouth. As an added bonus, all of the video content is presented in high definition.
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth is a misfire. Newcomers will be lost, diehards will be disappointed, and apologists will be left with little ammunition. The 2-disc Blu-ray release is better, offering fans a commendable 1080i video transfer, a capable but underwhelming DTS-HD HR audio track, and a wealth of supplemental content (all of which is presented in high definition). If you aren't familiar with Red Dwarf, skip this entire release. However, if you have fond memories of the classic series, pray the merits of this 2-disc set are enough to overshadow the shortcomings of the film itself.
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• Red Dwarf: Back to Earth on Blu-ray - July 1, 2009
BBC Home Entertainment, in conjunction with Warner Home Video, has announced that it will bring 'Red Dwarf: Back to Earth' to Blu-ray on October 6, day-and-date with the DVD. Video will be presented in 1.78:1 1080p video, with a stereo audio track. There is no ...
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