(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
And so Red Dwarf returns for the tenth series. Yes, ten series in, what, 23 years? That’s gotta be some sort of record.
When we last saw the crew it was in the…well, “not great” is the nicest thing I can say about it…story “Back to Earth”. That particular story had some good moments, but it wasn’t what you might think of as funny, which was a major problem. Fortunately, this episode forgets that storyline entirely and is, thankfully, very funny indeed.
Right from the old-school opening credits, we see that the show is returning to its roots. This continues as we have Lister (Craig Charles), wagering on pig races and trying to order a coffee stirring machine (and waiting on hold for hours to do so), Rimmer (Chris Barrie), trying yet again to pass his officer’s exams and going a tad overboard when he doesn’t, and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), and the Cat (Danny John-Jules), being…well, Kryten and the Cat.
Things really kick into gear when they get a distress call from a ship called the Trojan. When they board, they receive another distress call from a ship captained by Rimmer’s brother, Howard. This causes Rimmer to glitch madly and eventually to freeze up, with color wheels spinning in his eyes. Only a resentment drain saves him from his self-induced malware.
To me that last bit represents everything that’s great about Red Dwarf. The idea that someone like Rimmer is so messed-up that his resentment causes his light-bee to crash is just classic, and really makes this feel a lot like the series was back in its heyday. I also really loved the fact that Howard had indeed joined the Space Corps, as he said, but was in fact a vending machine repairman and not a captain. He eventual reaction goes to show that being screwed-up probably runs in Rimmer’s family.
The ongoing bit with Lister trying desperately to get through to order a coffee stirrer, even to the point of risking his life, was also pretty damn great. Lister’s status as the last human is part of what really made the series in the first few years, and I’m pleased to see them revisiting that idea now.
What didn’t work here? Well, really, nothing. I mean, few comedies these days actually have me laughing out loud, but this one certainly did. I’m pleased to see that the cast all have their old chemistry back and it seems that they are really enjoying what they are doing, unlike in “Back to Earth”, where it felt like everyone was just going through the motions. I must admit, however, it is bit odd seeing Kryten with wrinkles under his eyes, and while I do miss Holly (both versions), and Kochanski, I do feel that the show is, at this point, stronger without them.
If this episode is any indication of what we can look forward to for the rest of the series, I am a very happy person indeed. Red Dwarf is back, and I couldn’t be happier!
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