TV Review: Red Dwarf XI, Dave, Episode One, Twentica

It’s a big deal that sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf is back. Such a big deal, in fact, that reviewers have been asked not to give away too many spoilers as for the next week the first episode starring Craig Charles, Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules and Chris Barrie is only available as a sneak preview on UKTV’s website before the series starts ‘for real’ on Dave.

So we will just say that the first episode bodes very well for this series (and the next one too as Red Dwarf XII is already planned). From the familiar jaunty theme to Rimmer’s opening salvo, “Gentlemen, crack open a fresh pack of rubber pantaloons we have a problem,” everything seems to be in full working order.

The plot of first episode Twentica finds our hapless heroes crash landing on a planet remarkably similar to earth - except that it is 1952 and prohibition is in force - not the banning of alcohol though, it's the banning of electrical gizmos here - cue toasters being smashed up in the street by cops. 

But all is not as it seems and our intrepid quartet has to go undercover to sort things out. Maybe it was just me but I thought there was a nod to a famous old Star Trek episode at times. There were certainly plenty of knowing references to the fact that back-to-the-future type plots have been done to death, but writer Doug Naylor manages to have his time travel cake and eat it (as long as you don’t scrutinise the internal logic too much - how did they pay for their period suits, for instance?*).

There are lots of things to enjoy here, from the impressive (thought probably v cheap) special effects to Kevin Eldon on superb form as a deadpan alien. The script is peppered with some delicious lines mixing the scientific with the everyday. And you’ll never believe where the jump leads have to be attached to kickstart Kryten when his battery flatlines.

I wish I could say more but that would spoil the fun. Let’s just say it’s good to have these intergalactic reprobates back…

Available on UKTV Play from Sept 15 here and on Dave on Sept 22 at 9pm. 

By the way, I wrote the Official Red Dwarf Companion - you can buy it here for a penny. Worth twice the price. 

*Doug Naylor has been in touch to point out that they broke into the suit store and stole the clothes - I must have been laughing too hard to notice. These writers think of everything...

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