After a four-year hiatus, the boys from the Dwarf are back for an eleventh series, the third created by UK TV channel Dave. While series nine might be best forgotten about, Red Dwarf X gave long term fans gleaming hope for the future of the beloved sci-fi sitcom. Now back once more, and promising a return to the good old days of the show, can XI deliver the goods?
Creator: Doug Naylor
Staring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn
Run Time: 28 Minutes
I like to think of Red Dwarf as the love-child of Star Trek and Blackadder, an infusion of two of my favourite things, science fiction and good old witty British comedy, it’s what has had me hooked on the show for more than two decades. The story of the last human alive being an inept, lazy, nobody with only his pet cat’s humanoid descendant, a senile android and the hologram of his despised bunkmate to keep him company, it’s brought me laughs throughout most of my life.
Like most shows, it’s not perfect, you definitely have to throw the concept of continuity out the window, for one. It’s also had it’s fair share of misses over the years – the infamous ‘Back To Earth’ series nine being one of the most memorable. Yet when the show got it just right, very few could top Red Dwarf, and some of the best episodes the show created really pushed the boundaries of science fiction mixed with comedy in the silliest of ways. Backwards, White Hole, Tikka to Ride, three great examples of how real-world scientific theory was turned into 30 minutes of hilarity.
Now back on the air, Red Dwarf XI is desperately looking to recapture some of that magic and if the first episode is anything to go by, you smegheads are in for a treat.
The series premiere, ‘Twentica’, sees the Dwarfers thrown back in time once more after running into a crew of ‘Expanoids’, a group of simulants who take Moore’s Law to new levels having been programmed to improve on their own hardware. With the power of time-travel, they head into the past to take out the human race. Following in their trusty Starbug, the crew must use their knowledge of the future and a guy named ‘Bob the bum’ to save humanity – it’s a great sci-fi set-up before the laughs have even truly get going.
As the crew navigate their way through an alternative 1950’s America where technology is prohibited, it’s clear from the off that the four main cast members are back on top form. Bouncing the brilliantly scripted one-liners back and forth with ease, the highlight has to be Chris Barrie’s Rimmer who, after a shaky series 9 and 10, seems much more at ease returning as the hopeless senior technician we’ve all come to know and love him for. Let’s not take anything away from Craig Charles’ Lister, the Liverpudlian’s funny bone appears unfettered by his recent years in TV soap land.
Robert Llewellyn has always been the most consistent of the cast, in my opinion, bringing the science to life in such a way that not only Lister and Rimmer can understand, but also the rest of us. The closest thing to a disappointment in the episode from the cast was the Kat, through no fault of anyone, he just seemed underused having only a couple of decent digs at Rimmer and a brilliant little tap-dancing routine.
The supporting cast in this time-travel adventure do a fantastic job for the most part, and while the Expanoids don’t quite measure up to the menacing awesomeness which was Legion, they adequately provide a strong enough antagonist element to keep the story moving. It’s the group of underground scientists who steal the show, though. Imagine the US alcohol prohibition but with technology, underground clubs filled with gadget geeks and engineers replacing drunks, it somehow works so well – especially in the Red Dwarf universe.
The genius scriptwriting is at it’s best with a tirade of sexual innuendos under the guise of scientific theories, it’s a masterpiece of British wit. Helped further by a couple of funny physical gags, Einstein’s a drunk who pushes around a pram filled with string, he’s got a theory about it apparently.
The single disappointment in the episode was the anti-climax to the story, there’s something building up throughout the episode that never amounts to anything sadly and you’ll find yourself wanting more from the episode’s conclusion.
Outside of the cast, much of Red Dwarf’s charm has always come from the low-budget, early Doctor Who style special effects and despite a quantum leap in technology since the show’s inception, the latest series remains true to its origin – OK so maybe they’ve updated the technology a little, added some CGI here and there, but the original low-budget models have definitely left their mark on modern Dwarf..
Overall, I came away from the episode pleased with the result, Red Dwarf is truly back and if the premiere is the standard by which the whole series follows then long-term fans of the show are in for a treat. It takes a few minutes to get the momentum going, but with a solid science fiction based story, the original cast on top form and a very intelligent and funny script, there’s life in the old dog yet.
Red Dwarf XI is due to begin broadcasting on UK TV channel Dave on September 22 at 9pm.