Red Dwarf XI, Episode One | TV review by Steve Bennett

Red Dwarf XI, Episode One

Note: This review is from 2016

TV review by Steve Bennett

Note: This review contains some spoilers.

The characters are already more than three million years into the future, so there’s no surprise that in just the four years since their last outing, there’s been very little change to the last surviving members of the mining ship Red Dwarf.

However, broadcaster Dave has injected some more money into their second series (and Red Dwarf’s 11th overall) for extra sets, so writer Doug Naylor is not constrained by the claustrophobic setting of the last run. But otherwise all is as it was, which will delight fans. 

Opening episode Twentica is a high-concept idea in which the quartet try to thwart the plans  Borg-like creatures called Simulants who go  back in time to change the present 

’That’s a bit old hat, isn’t it? How many times have we seen that before?’ notes Lister knowingly, before being told by Kryten that their foes are ‘cold-hearted psychopaths who will have no hesitation to use hackneyed old cliches if it suits their purpose’. So that’s the elephant in the Starbug taken care of. 

Leader of this Simulan unit is 4 of 27, a typically disquieting performance by Kevin Eldon whose stern nature doesn’t mean he can’t mock the identical nature of all his fellow beings: ‘I am 4 of 27,’ he says, outraged at the suggestion he is not as good as his word. ‘Who do you think I am? 3 of 63?’

It’s one of several nods to satire in the episode, which – after an unexceptional opening scene on the Starbug bridge – is mostly set in an alternative Prohibition-era America where it’s not alcohol that’s illegal, but technology. And what could be more satirical than a universe where science is banned, given the growing anti-intellectualism of this ‘post-expert’ 21st-century society.  But Naylor puts adventure over message every time, and this is a typical high-spirited romp.

The best scenes take place in a speakeasy where illicit ‘white-coats’ peddle their contraband: science. Professor Baldwin, going under the name Harmony de Gauthier (comedian Lucie Pohl),  purrs seductively: ’Wanna see me do the double slit test? l’ll wear a tweed suit and sensible shoes if that revs your engine.’ It’s a clever reversal.

As always with Dwarf, the jokes are a mix of the smart and the dumb, with quips about quantum mechanics tempered with daft jokes about Kryten’s nipple attachments of banter aimed at the uptight Rimmer. Odds are, you already know if you like the Dwarf brand of humour or not, and this is unlikely to change minds either way, but the pace of the narrative keeps things interesting.

Our foursome’s escapades are neatly concluded with unlikely plot resolution – and the reacquisition of the Casket Of Chornos – a time-travelling device previously used to prop up the crews’s pool table – opening the way for more time-skipping adventures in the, erm, future.

• Red Dwarf: Twentica is available online now here and will air on Dave next Thursday  at 9pm. 

Review date: 15 Sep 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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