Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Review: Red Dwarf: Back To Earth (Revisited)

Coronation Street does not, in fact, play part in my
metaphysical theory. It does help it, though.
See here for my previous look at this story.

Red Dwarf - Series Nine - Back To Earth
Written 29/9/12

Metaphysics, eh? I spoke about this in a really boring way a month or so ago, but re-watching Back To Earth in preparation for Red Dwarf X has allowed me to realise that for once, Doug Naylor has written something that is both incredibly clever and incredibly frightening in a million different ways. At a glance, the scenario created by Back To Earth is just played for laughs, and ends up being a throw-back to universally loved episode Back To Reality from back in Series V. But at its heart, what Naylor has created is something rather profound and, within the confines of the story itself, astonishing in its scale.
     So the Dwarfers believe, due to a run in with a female Despair Squid (who thus uses hallucinogenic happiness ink because girls are soft and such and suchlike yawn yawn), that they have entered our reality, in which they are fictional characters in a Red Dwarf TV Show. Their "real" world is of course subtley different to ours in a number of telling ways; London appears as it does in Blade Runner, the Creator is played by Richard O'Callaghan instead of the erstwhile Doug Naylor, and for some reason both Kochanski and Chloe Arnett exist at the same time. The end of the episode sees them kill their Creator, and find out that this was something that he had scripted; the typewriter of their Creator can be used to control the world, but ultimately there is another typewriter somewhere else controlling that. Here lies the key to their brilliance.
    We may say that the Dwarfers don't exist, and so there's no point in arguing about metaphysics. But with the Quantum Multiverse, they do exist, somewhere, and it's a world that does have a Creator. Essentially, we live in a Godless Universe in which our imaginations allow us to inadvertantly control the paths of other, similar universes. In other words, anyone who has ever written fiction, or imagined a hypothetical scenario, is a deity to another Universe. The Dwarfers weren't being controlled by "The Creator," but they are, ironically, controlled by another creator, Doug Naylor, who has set this whole thing up.
It's almost as confusing as that poster...
     This explains so much, and it seems obvious when you think about it. Back To Earth pushes against both the Fourth Wall and against the differences between the Watsonian (the in-story) and the Doylian (the out-of-story). Those subtle differences between our reality and their "reality" reveal not the shoddyness of the script but instead the fact that Naylor is specifying that while this resembles our reality, it is in fact yet another layer of metaphysical existence. The back of the DVD cover being similar but not the same, the existence of Series IX and X in 2009, the head of the Red Dwarf fan club being called Redge Wharf - these aren't just jokes, my friend, they're genius. When the despair squid arrives, it makes Rimmer fear for his life - which is obviously an indication that the squid focused their shared hallucination on Lister, which begs the question, why? Well, we now know the answer. Because Lister is the Main Character.
     Or at least that's how I rationalised it. Metaphysical buggery aside, Back To Earth does feel like a poor imitation of all those things that came before, but I admire it for trying to do something incredibly interesting and for, in the end, inspiring Dave to commission a brand new series of Dwarf which, at the time of publishing, is due to start tomorrow. My best hopes for Red Dwarf X and my thanks to Red Dwarf, Back To Earth.


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