By now, most of the people who have chosen to watch Twentica ahead of broadcast will have done so, and there’s a hell of a lot to discuss. But there’s a problem. The nature of the online release means that not everyone watches at the same time, and so it’s tricky to give a structure to these discussions that would otherwise be covered by a live DwarfCast. To that end, and to plug the gap before our full written review in a few days’ time, here’s the first edition of our new feature.
Each week, usually on a Friday morning but we’re making an exception for the first one, we’ll summarise what we consider to the five biggest talking points from the episode. We’ll then use your responses to kick off the debate in the forthcoming Live DwarfCast, which will follow the Dave broadcast. Obviously, these are by no means the only talking points – just the things that are in the forefront of our minds after just the solitary viewing. So without further ado, get stuck into these…
Straight into the action
Unlike the vast majority of recent episodes – and in Red Dwarf‘s case, “recent” can mean anything up to nineteen years ago – there is absolutely no pissing about in sight. No scenes at the start showing the status quo on board the ship; just a model shot and then the plot begins to unfold. No unconnected B- or C-plots, or tangential running jokes; just one story, with a beginning, middle and end, which results in both character and situational gags. It’s not unprecedented in the Dave era, but it’s not common either. The pace at which the plot advanced was very reminiscent of the glory days, and there was even a traditional slightly low-key coda.
Bigger? Better? Smeggier?
There’s no denying that in terms of the visuals and production values, there is a palpable gulf between Series X and XI. We knew this would be the case just from the trailers and the set reports, but now that we’ve seen the finished product, just how big is the gulf? Are we talking Series 2 to III levels of improvement? The centrepiece of this episode is has got to be the street set, but there’s also a plethora of model shots to gawp over. No motion controlled Dwarf for the end credits, sadly, but all manner of Starbug flight sequences and crashes, and plenty of physical action on-set too. Add to this the sexy, cinematic lighting and the tight editing, and what do you get out of it?
Jelly, you saaaaaaaay?
On one hand, I can’t believe the actor Kevin Eldon – one of the best comedy performers of all time – has now been in Red Dwarf. On the other hand, I can’t believe it took so long. One of the finest faces in comedy deigning to grace our show with the presence of said face. One of several notable guest stars in the first episode, which also featured the return of Rebecca Blackstone, admittedly in a much smaller role than that of Pree. Also rising from the ensemble were Lucy Pohl as Harmony, David Sterne as “Einstein Bob” (although I preferred the moniker “Bob the Bum”) and Alexis Dubis as 3 of 63. The guest stars in X were great, but on this evidence, is XI on course to top it?
You can’t rewrite history. Not one line!
What are the consequences of this adventure for our crew? They’ve travelled through time and found themselves on a version of Earth… again! It’s becoming somewhat of a habit. Doug addressed why they couldn’t just stay there indefinitely – Kryten and Rimmer would be killed if they didn’t evacuate sharpish – but they do now have Kevin Eldon’s time machine. What’s to stop them using for themselves? And aside from that, what has become of the timeline after the Exponoids’ meddling? They halted all technological developments from the 1920s to the 1950s, and even though Harmony got rid of them by the end of the episode, this alteration to established human history was not undone. In the universe that the Dwarfers inhabit, Albert Einstein was a bum and people were driving steam-powered cars after the Second World War. In fact, if technology was banned, was there even a Second World War?! If so, how did it end? Wow, there are a lot of implications.
Is it shit or is it good?
This is the biggie. All the above factors – the look, the guest cast, the plot, the structure – are all well and good, but this is a comedy, and was it funny? Several different types of gag were on display; the majority emanated from the characters themselves, but we also had a great number of science-based jokes, and the slightly meta thread about the Exponoids speaking in clichés. Where does this episode rank for you? Better than your average X episode? Better than even the best X episodes? Could it even reach the standard of the first six series? Or did the joke about Scotland and deep fried Mars bars offend you so much that you put your foot through your laptop?
All these questions and more will be answered in far too much depth during our Live DwarfCast for Twentica, at 10pm on Thursday 22nd Sme… sorry, September. Keep checking G&T for our full-length written review, and an analysis of the Series XI title sequence, before then.