As has been the case since Series III in 1989, the first episode of a new series brings us a new title sequence, which in turn brings with it several tantalising glimpses of future adventures. Some of them are already familiar to us from the various trailers. Others fall into context when you’re armed with frame advance and a list of synopses. The most exciting ones are the ones that could from anywhere, and there’s a fair few of those. By our reckoning, there are 29 individual shots (plus a title card) in the 35-second sequence, all of which are analysed and annotated below.
Uniquely for a full series in which Red Dwarf features, the eponymous ship does not feature in the opening shot (Series VIII’s opening shot was inside the ship, rather than a shot of it, admittedly). This shot comes from the climax of Twentica, as Lister pilots Starbug away from Harmony’s EMP. And a short while later, we see the shot that comes second in the title sequence:
Ah, so there’s the small rouge one – it didn’t take long, and it’s quite nice that she shares the spotlight with her sister ship. Despite its brief cameos in X, the new model and permanent cockpit set suggest XI will see a long-awaited return for Starbug as a main setting, for the first time since 1997. The opening episode bears this out, as does its prominence in the title sequence. Meanwhile, as noted above, we’ve seen this particular shot in Twentica, but it’s one of those establishers that could well be repeated throughout the next series or two.
Next up, a shot of Lister, bazookoid aimed, storming through a gloomy, red-tinted location. We saw similar shots in the trailers – he’s about to be shot at by the monster who’s borrowed from Doctor Who. Not sure yet which episode this is from.
We saw this shot in the trailer too, but not this one:
Given that it shows Rimmer alone at his Starbug station, it could well come from the same sequence as the “three life signs” confusion in the main trailer. Perhaps this reaction is caused by the realisation that he drunkenly confessed to only having had sex once, or perhaps he’s realised that the title credits for the four main actors will still be inexplicably controversial, despite this being their third consecutive appearance.
Next up, a nice long shot of Kryten smugly dancing in his Krysis get-up, while the Cat joins in and Lister looks mildly disgusted. Bearing in mind what usually happens whenever Kryten does something unusually quirky, I confidently predict that this episode will split Red Dwarf fandom firmly into one of those two reactions.
Next up, a shot that we first saw in the shorter TV trailer, and has now turned up as expected in Twentica. As has…
…this model shot of Starbug crashing. Seems like there’s a lot of Twentica so far, doesn’t there? The ratio does calm down a little later on.
This is something new. Lister in a white parka, on a location which looks different to any that we’ve seen before (even if it’s the same actual location in real life, the lighting and costumes are different), firing a gun at…
…The Cat, in a pink velour tracksuit. The bullets make him explode in a burst of green goo, a process that we’ve captured at the exact midway point. What on Io is going on here, then? I mean, it’s probably not the actual Cat actually dying, but it’s certainly intriguing. He turns up again in this outfit later on in the sequence. Note that this quick shot is the only time in the titles where an actor’s credit is used over footage that doesn’t feature them; it was much more common in Series X.
Next, there’s a quick shot of Kryten preparing to operate on The Cat, while the others watch on. This is presumably from Give and Take – after Lister’s kidneys have been stolen, necessitating Cat to donate his – and it quickly cuts to…
…a wide of the same sequence, as Kryten accidentally fires a laser off in the direction of Rimmer and Lister.
This is followed up by a quick shot of Kryten punching Lister in the face. I think it’s possible to figure out which episode this is from, but only if you’ve read some slightly-too-spoilery press reports, so I’ll leave it for now.
Then another familiar shot, from both the trailer and Twentica, of Rimmer being kidnapped by The Actor Kevin Eldon.
Cat and Lister seemingly being shot in the back is also from the trailer…
…whereas this somewhat suggestive shot of a proud, erect spaceship penetrating the moist ocean first showed up in the trailer-for-the-trailer.
And Danny is illustrated with this shot of him peering through the hatch of the Lady Be Good Club. That’s the last shot from Twentica, so hopefully this analysis will be a bit more interesting from now on…
Ooh, that’s more like it. A rubber-gloved Lister wrestling a sopping wet pineapple. This shot has been mentioned a few times over the last couple of days by people who think they’ve figured out what it is, but as they’ve pieced it together using spoilery information, I can’t speculate too much. The truth is possibly out there if you want to dig for it, but at this stage, you’re probably better off waiting, rather than spoiling the surprise for yourself.
Next, the Cat having a little spinny dance, as he fetches something from a serving hatch in the kitchenette area of the sleeping quarters. Check out their new white goods. There then follows three shots that we’ve seen in trailers, but which can’t be placed into any particular episodes…
…the last of which concludes the on-screen credits. Next, possibly the best shot of the sequence:
It’s a quartet of Rimmers! When Howard Goodall tweeted those words nearly a year ago, we joked that it might be an actual barbershop quartet. We didn’t think it actually would be. This is surely from Officer Rimmer, as the synopsis tells us that he uses bio-printing to fill an officers’ club with versions of himself. Note that these printed Rimmers don’t have an H on their heads, which might clear up the confusion over whether or not Rimmer’s wearing an H in the above shot of him being bathed in blue light.
Next, a shot from the trailer, as Lister, Kryten and Cat go searching for life signs.
A bit of business with The Cat and Lister peering at each other through glowsticks. They’re not Lanstrom’s viruses again, are they? Not clear which episode this is from, but Cat is wearing the strangely-patterned suit that he’s wearing in the main promo shot.
Another clip from the trailer, of an exploding bell jar, before the final new shot of the sequence:
It’s a very angry Cat, in his pink trackie from earlier and very messy hair, firing two handguns. There’s an awful lot of guns in this series, aren’t there? Maybe he’s angry at Lister for making him explode into a green gloopy mess, and he hasn’t had time to get his hair done before seeking bloody vengeance.
There’s one final location shot, with debris falling around the cast, as seen in the trailer, before the hero shot:
Starbug fleeing from an exploding space station, providing a visually similar image to the climax of Series X’s title sequence, before dissolving to a stylised starscape as the logo flies onto screen, a la Series III and IV:
It really is so similar to the title cards from those two series that it has to be deliberate. The logo is a lot sharper and bolder these days, and of course it’s accompanied by the series number, which flickers into life to the sound of static interference. This then (in Twentica at least) dissolves into the first shot of the episode proper, and the temptation is to rewind and watch it all again.
This is undoubtedly the finest title sequence in the Dave era to date, benefiting as it does from a wider range of locations and situations to draw from. Last time round, almost everything was either in the sleeping quarters or a Red Dwarf corridor, but the broader range of locations and more distinctive lighting contained within XI allows for a far more varied title sequence, and as such it feels like an incredible amount is packed in to a short running time.
Another difference from last time is that the majority of the visually impressive ended up coming from one episode, The Beginning. Obviously, that could also turn out to be the case this time, but it doesn’t feel likely – the variations in clothing and settings seem to suggest that the clips are gathered from an even spread of the six episodes.
So that’s the impression that this introduction gives – we’re in for a series of thrills and shocks, where each episode is distinct and equally impressive. Even if that ends up being the wrong impression, bravo to the title sequence for doing its job perfectly.