After taking huge steps towards rediscovering its groove in Series X, the boys from the Dwarf are back for another run that is mostly another step in the right direction, and on this basis we’re definitely looking forward to XII. It’s a bit wobbly and somewhat inconsistent, but there are some great ideas here, and the chemistry between the cast is as wonderful as ever.
Much like X, the high points come when Naylor pushes the guys to take a good hard look at themselves. Take the hilarious ‘Samsara,’ for example, as they come across a ship that rewards or punishes the crew based on their selfishness and bad behaviour – which is obviously terrible news. There’s also some great material mined from Lister’s relationship with Cat: in ‘Give And Take,’ the selfish semi-human needs to be convinced to give his old bud a kidney, while the long-running question of Cat’s virginity is finally (pretty much) answered in the excellent series finale ‘Can Of Worms’, which also features the series’ best sight gag.
The execution doesn’t always match the concept, however. Series opener ‘Twentica’ has one or two great jokes (and a welcome Kevin Eldon cameo), but too much doesn’t land and it feels like a wasted opportunity. Similarly, ‘Krysis’, in which Kryten hits the halfway point in his lifespan and launches into his mid-life crisis, is very watchable, but never quite gets the laughs you’d expect. That being said, watching what happens when Rimmer is promoted to officer and decides to bio-print more of himself to fill his new Officers’ Club in ‘Officer Rimmer’ is exactly as hilarious as we had hoped.
It’s also worth noting that Naylor takes us through pretty much every Red Dwarf sub-genre, with some classic SF, some horror and plenty of classic close-quarters sitcom goodness. There are Starbug crashes, murderous droids, vengeful lifts and conversations about Lister’s toenails.
And through all of it, Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn are fantastic. This may not be back at truly classic Red Dwarf standard, but it’s a lot of fun.