Is Red Dwarf X ‘Hey Ho Pip and Dandy?’
After a thirteen year hiatus — our old(er) friends aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf continue their travels through space — towards an uncertain destination. Fans have been waiting patiently for series X through abounding rumors over the past several years with fingers crossed. When I heard the news some two years ago that series X was approved, I remained skeptical. However, this evening I had the honor of watching the first two episodes of the new series and I must say it was quite exciting.
Wasting no time we find ourselves once again amongst some classic characters: Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), Dave Lister (Craig Charles), and The Cat (Danny John-Jules). There is a timeless quality to the first episode; one has to wonder if any time has really passed or if it is the nostalgia of being an old fan. Unconcerned with patching continuity, episode one launches immediately into a little tongue and cheek humor and some of the classic banter between Kryten and his good friend Lister. Though some of the jokes early in the episode feel a little underdeveloped (the pig joke for instance), the narrative kicks in and allows the humor to find a home in the character’s flaws and idiosyncrasies, in a typical Red Dwarf fashion. However, some of these jokes are not allowed to bloom, such as the mention of the ‘Sharpied’ Dali mustache, which would have been good for a number of laughs. I would compare the narrative of episode one to taking off in a car from a dead stop and in third gear; it does however get going.
Modern filmmaking has changed the sets and models of the Red Dwarf and its scout ship, but it doesn’t feel all that awkward. In fact, the sets look nice and clean, though modernized in ways, but still has some of the old Red Dwarf charm and grime; like Lister’s bunk bed for instance. Also, the fact that the series is filmed in HD comes as a little shock, but you get used to it. Overall, it is a nice change, but the dimensions of the sets and models will take some getting used to. Everything seems a little bigger, including the budget. I’m sure special effects in future episodes will seem strange as well.
In episode one, we are introduced to the infamous Howard Rimmer (Mark Dexter), who had been mentioned in series past: the brother that our Rimmer was jealous of in his youth. The banter between the two of them reaches a nice crescendo towards the end of the episode and will give you a good chuckle. All of the actors perform well. I especially thought Barrie (Rimmer) and Charles (Lister) were on point. There were also some great moments with Llewellyn (Kryten) and John-Jules (The Cat) as well. Also, the gag about Swedish moose is a total win.
Episode two continues very much in the same manner, but at least we feel a little bit more of continuity as the episode revisits the paradox of Lister being his own father. The gag almost goes on a little too long, but is cut before it becomes a headache. There are some great moments with Red Dwarf’s vending machines and a couple lively moments as Lister tries to escape the ship’s computer. However, this episode is going to leave every true Red Dwarf fan wondering: if this ship’s new computer is not going to fill the gaping hole in the show left by Holly, what will?
Both episodes avoid building much continuity for future episodes, but let’s face it: Red Dwarf never was too much for continuity. For instance, if I was to view the bizarre ending of series nine again, I would be even more confused. However, if there is any time to build a narrative it has to be now, because old fans are not going to carry the show for newer generations. I mean, do we even know where they are going, what they are doing, and more importantly why we should care? Although a little flawed, I can still say that I enjoyed the first two episodes of series X and will be sure to dial in for episode three. I look forward to spending some more time with my estranged friends aboard Red Dwarf — I just hope they let me know where they are going — and what the heck happened to Holly.
Thoughts? Comment below.