The boys from the Dwarf are back, and things are still as chaotic as before the four-man crew. Well, the one man, one hologram, one evolved cat, one sanitation mechanoid crew anyway.
The first episode in the latest series, Twentica, is a time travel/alternative history story. Lister (Craig Charles), Rimmer (Chris Barrie), The Cat (Danny John-Jules) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) are on Starbug when they come across 4 of 27 (Kevin Eldon), a form of Simulant called an “Expenoid” who is holding another version of Rimmer hostage. They promise to return him in return for something called the Casket of Kronos, which is currently holding up the crew’s pool table.
They agree to trade, but then the re-released Rimmer tells them that the Expenoids are using the Casket of Kronos to travel back in time to change the past. They give chase, where several things go wrong. Because they were behind, several years have gone by between their rival and those of their foes. Also, some kind of electronic pulse knocks out Starbug’s controls and de-actives Rimmer and Kryten. After getting them working again – in the case of Kryten, but attaching jump leads to his red and black electrode nipples – they venture forth into what is the USA in 1952. The Expenoids have managed to change history by enforcing prohibition, but instead of banning alcohol, they banned technology, so humans cannot create anything to defeat them. The crew have to think of a way to defeat the Expenoids in this technology-starved environment, which leads them to a speakeasy where white-coated people are having a good time practising illegal science.
This opening episode is great fun, mixing visual humour with more cultural gags. One of the best recurring gags is the fact the Dwarf crew are perfectly willing to point out that the Expenoids’s plans are incredibly clichéd, while 4 of 27 is happy to wallow in those clichés. The jokes are also great, ranging from stuff about the formula for calculating density, to Kryten, “couldn’t be more fried if he was a Mars bar living in Scotland”. We also got see Danny John-Jules doing some great tap dancing.
One other thing worth pointing out is that in comparison to all the recent sitcom rivals, especially those by the BBC’s as part of its Sitcom Season, Dave’s Red Dwarf revival is one of the few that is justifiable. This is mainly because when the last episode aired on the BBC, as part of Series VIII back in 1999, the series never officially concluded. The last things to be seen were captions saying: “The End”, followed by, “The smeg it is”. The Beeb missed a trick in not bringing back the series and letting Dave do so, meaning that the Beeb has been giving us revivals of sitcoms that ended perfectly well and should have been left alone. Many of these new episodes are superior to the last few episodes the BBC broadcast, so Dave are certainly up on the deal.
It has been a strong start to the series and hopefully the rest of Series XI will continue in the same vein.
Red Dwarf XI is on Dave at 21.00 on Thursdays.