So, over the last few weeks I re-watched the original 8 seasons of Red Dwarf. I have to agree with the consensus that the first two seasons are the best. My reasoning, like that of most others, is that these episodes depended almost completely upon writing and acting, with very few special effects, aliens, robots or other such things. The scenes that depict Lister pining for the old days when the crew were alive add a realistic, emotional aspect to the consant bickerings between him and Rimmer. The only real downside to this era is the occasional totally predictable sitcom-style joke, plus an episode where the crew meet opposite versions of themselves (including a dog equivalent for The Cat).
Kryten joins the cast in series III, which also kickstarts the 5 season era of adventures. No longer content with snarky bickerings, the crew are now almost constantly confronted by monsters, simulants, genetically-engineered life forms, etc. Kryten’s addition also moves much of the emphasis away from the Lister/Rimmer battles and creates more of an ensemble dynamic. On the one hand, I have affection for Kryten having grown up to an extent on Red Dwarf. On the other hand, I think his ongoing presence is more negative than positive. The one area in which this period is superior to the first two series/seasons is the portrayal of The Cat. I really, really enjoy what an awful creature he is, reveling in the misfortunes of others with snappy, even if predictable, one-liners.
Finally, we reach Series VIII. I must have had the blinders on in the past because I have to agree with Ryan, this season is just fucking painful. There are some episodes that have plots that are just fine, but these are almost always ruined by stupid-ass jokes that run way too long. Sticking out for me is a horrible moment when the cast disguise themselves as the Dibley family using conveniently-acquired buckteeth and mopheads. The poorly disguised assholes then walk in choreographed fashion while some mod music plays, all shown in slow-motion. Ugh.
The End. -kicknz