The latest episode of the sci-fi sitcom is a treat for fans of the original series, as well as dealing with what appears to be a major development in Series XI – the increasing prominence of The Cat (Danny John-Jules) as a major character.
The Red Dwarf crew pick up an escape pod from a ship called the SS Samsara, but before the people inside the pod can be rescued, they are vaporised into piles of dust. The crew thus decide to investigate the Samsara to see what it was that made it crash land on an ocean moon, with Lister (Craig Charles) partnering with Cat, and Rimmer (Chris Barrie) with Kryten (Robert Llewellyn).
A series of flashbacks reveal that the people in the escape pod, Col. Green (Dan Tetsell) and Prof. Barker (Maggie Service), were having an affair, but it was going badly due to the ship having a “karma field”. This is similar to something that featured in the original series: the “justice field”, originally in Series IV, in which criminals were placed in an area where it was impossible to commit any act of injustice – i.e. if you try to commit arson, it was you the caught on fire. The “karma field” has both a setting which punishes bad people, but also a setting which awards the good. However, the ship’s field appears to be backwards, as is evidenced when Lister and Cat are trapped together, with Lister being punished for a good deed by having to spend time with the idiotic moggy.
As a fan of the original sitcom, it was nice to see the current series referencing something from so far back, but to also put a new spin on it by having the system also rewarding – a system which gets exploited. The best parts however were two-hander scenes. One occurs at the beginning with Lister and Rimmer playing “Mine-opoly”, with Rimmer constantly bemused by the fact he rolls the same bad throw over and over again. The other is when Lister is trapped with Cat, and Cat tries to talk about his favourite inventor, when in fact he gets the stories of Archimedes and Newton completely mixed up and incorrect.
This is the first of a number of episodes in which Cat, traditionally the character that is most overlooked in Red Dwarf, begins to grow more. The next episode sees him having to do something which is completely against is selfish nature, and later episodes also see him being given more major roles.
Red Dwarf XI is on Dave at 21.00 on Thursday nights.