Red Dwarf XII: Cured Review

The following article is intended for those watching at UKTV Play pace. Dave viewers be warned that the content and comments could contain spoilers. More info.

Series XII is going to be a weird contradiction. As we’re all aware this series was written and filmed back to back with XI so while it’s reasonable to expect a very similar tone and style to the series we’ve already seen and analysed to death, that’s by no means a guarantee. Production efforts have been made to separate the two in subtle ways with changes to the main sets but what I didn’t consider before sitting down to watch Cured is how this double banking has the potential of making this series strangely unique. While we’re not aware of the writing order of the series, we do know that all of XII was filmed after XI had wrapped and a very short break, which means for the first time in actual decades a new series of Red Dwarf was not starting from scratch. We maybe even have to go as far back as the gap between the first two series to draw a proper parallel for this situation.

So what’s my point? Well, I feel like Cured greatly benefits from this. Confidence and general quality in writing, direction and especially in the performances that has produced an episode that despite some issues felt so comfortable and effortless, especially with the characterisation. If this is how things start to go when this team gets some proper momentum, then it’s a shame XIII and XIV aren’t following closely behind.

First broadcast: 5th October 2017, 9:00am(ish), UKTV Play

Written by: Doug Naylor

Directed by: Doug Naylor

Main Cast:
Chris Barrie (Rimmer)
Craig Charles (Lister)
Danny John-Jules (Cat)
Robert Llewellyn (Kryten)

Guest Cast:
Adrian Lukis (Professor Telford)
Ryan Gage (Hitler)
Chloe Hawkins (Messalina)
Callum Coates (Stalin)
Philippe Spall (Vlad the Impaler)

Synopsis:
The four wretched smegheads reunite for an all-new series, only on Dave. The crew stumble on a science centre where vile historical figures have been ‘cured’ of evil.

Set Report | Let’s Talk About | Live DwarfCast

In the very recent past it’s been no secret that the structuring of episodes have been a little problematic. X often had many, flailing plot strands and while XI rectified this it often left us with odd scenes that felt tacked on and purposeless, or if they were connected it was in a way that did not pay off satisfyingly. With Cured‘s poker scene I immediately thought back to the Mineopoly scene in Samsara and started to worry. They’re both gentle introductions into the episode with a situation that brings out the key characteristics of the characters, and they’re both called back to as part of a rather abrupt ending, but in both cases the poker scene is much, much better. There’s been a lot of talk of the Cat’s portrayal getting too broad, but I don’t see that as an issue here, especially when you have episodes like Can of Worms to compare it against. We’ll see what’s set up here come to greater fruition later on, but even taken on its own the Cat’s interpretation of the rules and blatant attempts to twist them in his favour, as well as being unable to behave in a way that reacts to how others might be viewing him, feels entirely consistent with the character as we know him.

In what will become a little bit of a characteristic of this episode, the plot very quickly lurches into view with the distress call (or ‘SSL’, presumably sent over the https protocol) and before we know it we’re back on Starbug and being treated to a bizarre but amusing startup sequence. How you feel about this will undoubtedly rely on how much disbelief you are comfortable with suspending at this point. I’m pretty relaxed about the fact that this is a process we’ve never, ever seen before and it is so clearly included here as some sort of setup for later. Everything is starting to fall apart and weird quirks are copping up which is something immediately demonstrated with the very funny broken thruster sequence. All together it fits as a nice extra bit of flavour to the setting in general that suits the current tone of the show – everything and everyone is getting a bit older and quirkier, so let’s just get on with it.

Now is as good a time as any to mention the model work in this episode. While we definitely saw our fair share of model ship work last year, it almost seems like things have been stepped up a bit here to the point where we’re seeing whole model sets and environments. It’s not something that’s at all common in the modern era and so it’s really a special thrill seeing Starbug take off from a specially built landing bay and frequent cutaways during the episode to the space station itself, lending more than a little Series V vibe to the proceedings. While in the past the model work can feel like patch work to join up scenes (especially the slapdash ship flybys), here it most certainly feels like an integral part of the structure of the episode and really helps with the sense of place.

Speaking of series V, the opening scenes on the United America space station absolutely scream Quarantine. The atmosphere, the setup and the dialogue all gave me a very warm fuzzy feeling. There’s nothing amazingly funny going on, but this gentle familiar atmosphere coupled with it being part of a brand new episode gave me a certain thrill that strangely enough has been a feeling that’s been relatively rare in the Dave era. Again, the episode kept exuding a confidence – everyone playing their characters well, Doug writing with the confidence he can only have knowing his writing is on form and a production that knows exactly how to make every shot feel like Red Dwarf and reliably give out that famous production value. I’m not going to keep going on about this aspect of the episode as it’s something that’s present all the way through and I swear if I say the word “confidence” one more time I might actually stab myself to death to spare you all.

I did mention that the plot is good, and in general that is definitely true throughout. The central concept of a space station dedicated to curing evil through clones of famous historical psychopaths is great, and definitely good enough to carry it through the issue of being very reminiscent of Meltdown. But, essentially, the premise allows for tonnes of potential for an interesting sci-fi plot but more importantly a load of comedy from the prospect of meeting these ‘good’ versions of historical cunts. On this front, Stalin, Vlad and Messalina are all quite good but obviously the main star of the show here is Ryan Gage’s Hitler.

I find myself, for the first time in my life, pondering the similarities between Hitler and Jesus. James Baxter’s portrayal in Lemons was popular but felt distinctly off for me, and I never got on with the cheeky Mackham style. Of course, this is then explained in a way when it’s revealed he’s not the *actual* Jesus, but if anything that makes things even less satisfying as it seems like a cop-out. It feels like the portrayal of Hitler suffers from an almost identical problem. Gage is incredibly funny, with a range of faces that would make Tim Curry envious, but it’s clear at no point is his job to play a convincing Hitler. Instead he’s far closer to The League of Gentleman’s Herr Lipp than anything else, and it ends up feeling like the cliché  of there being two types of German: angry or camp. So really, my issue isn’t so much that he’s not convincingly Hitler it’s just that the alternative take chosen feels like it it lessens the impact of having the character in the first place, which might’ve been kept if he was played just a *little* closer to the subject. Of course this is all turned into a joke when we find out the truth, but again that does not make for a satisfying plot point.

That all said, the scene up to and including the guitar duet is incredibly enjoyable (the choice of song was marvelous) and there are lines from Hitler that were genuinely very funny with “it’s because I’m Hitler, isn’t it?” being a particular stand out. In fact, it’s a shame there wasn’t more time given over to Lister and Hitler’s budding friendship before the final act started to get in the way. As it stands, Lister is against leaving them all to die once the ultimate peril is revealed, but it doesn’t really come with any weight as it does in, say, Confidence & Paranoia where a bond between Lister and Confidence is far more convincingly built up over a very short period of time. This scene also highlights another missed opportunity which would be to have the Cat and Rimmer both befriend one of the others. If Cat and Messalina had got along better and Rimmer had actually acted like Rimmer and immediately tried to befriend Stalin or Vlad then we would’ve ended up with a much more interesting dilemma where perhaps Kryten is the only one advocating their deaths and the others are all too attached to go along. As it stands, though, it feels like things are being left a little unfinished as everything is rushed towards the finale, especially the incredibly throwaway nature of the crew’s capture and subsequent escape. In the case of Kryten’s situation, even Red Dwarf USA got a good gag out of his disembodied head, but here there was nothing.

What the escape leads to and really starts to be bring to the surface, however, is the Cat’s behaviour. When the crew are about to rescue Rimmer, the Cat is his normal self and advocates for just leaving him in there. Earlier on he was also incredibly insensitive and egotistical with Messalina. None of this particularly sticks out because it’s perfectly standard and consistent behaviour for the Cat, so the reveal that he is a psychopath during the final scene really works as a result, because of *course* he’s a psychopath and his flip flopping between the crew and Professor Telford is arguably the comedic highlight of the episode. The final act with the Cat shooting the Professor in the head without hesitation only causes an issue with me because I don’t really believe the gun would’ve been handed over to him in the first place, but the act itself feels consistent to me, despite how harsh it feels.

So, we’re left with a curious episode, really. The central concept of the episode is strong and while the guest characters didn’t particularly connect that well with me, they still do a good job of bringing in the laughs. Our core cast, while underused in places, are well written and extremely well played in a way that I’ve already suggested could well be due to the fact at this point they’d had so long to get into the rhythm. The problems, then, mainly reside in how the plot progressed and eventually fizzled out into somewhat of a confusing jumble. It took me two goes to fully catch why he’s reprogrammed the droids and this whole reveal still feels weird, but at that point the details weren’t really being given much consideration as things were being quickly being brought to a close. It’s a shame because everything was very close to coming together so nicely, and even the very abrupt punchline ending hit the right note for me.  We’re still not used to senseless death in Red Dwarf but then I have no problem with the Cat behaving in this way, which is more than I can say for some of the similarly sharp endings we’ve had in the past.

TINY TEASER: Gerald The Giraffe (This is from a scene that ended up in Officer Rimmer, so nothing to see here please move along)
ACTUAL SCENE COUNT: 17 (Series total: 17)
ACTUAL SMEG COUNT: 0 (Series total: 0)

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26 Responses to Red Dwarf XII: Cured Review

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  1. Nicely done. :) I really wish I rated it as highly as you do… and yeah there IS lots to like about ‘Cured’! I just feel there are a ton of missed opportunities with gags in the 2nd half. Though it’s far from the worst episode out of XI and XII (so far). I enjoyed it more than Samsara and Can of Worms, without a doubt.

    III is on the UKTV Play atm and, on randomly watching Body Swap, I realised just how restrained the cast are with dialogue delivery in those days. Almost every line in the new series episodes is shouted or generally played too big, which doesn’t automatically make it funnier…

    Anyhow! We’re in the middle of a new series of Red Dwarf!!! These are good and bountiful times indeed. :D

  2. III is on the UKTV Play atm and, on randomly watching Body Swap, I realised just how restrained the cast are with dialogue delivery in those days. Almost every line in the new series episodes is shouted or generally played too big, which doesn’t automatically make it funnier…

    They had a better director in those days.

  3. Kryten’s disembodied head impaled on a mop and bucket was one of the top laughs of the episode, for me. And I enjoyed the thing very much overall so I agree with the rest of the review.

  4. Wish I liked this one more. It corrects so many of the faults of X; and the clunkier moments of XI. Pretty much every thing pays off, even the seemingly static first scene. And yet, I think this is still a draft away from working particularly well.

    All of the guest cast, aside from Hitler, are underwritten and underused. The other “patients” might as well not be there for all they do, and if the script had paid some kind of interest to Telford and his motivation, the “mystery” element might have actually worked. That bit felt kind of by-the- numbers; a hurried conclusion which gets rid of the guest cast, resolves the fact that they’re not human AND presents a threat. The threat of the Simulant in Trojan was similarly rushed, but that episode had a few more things going for it.

    I don’t have much of a problem with Cat’s behaviour in this. It’s a far better episode for him (and me) than Can of Worms. I prefer him callous and shallow, to pathetic and ridiculously stupid.

    This is mid-range Dwarf, and they’re the most puzzling episodes of all to get my head around. I’m used to loving episodes, or having a list of complaints. This one? It’s just a bit… blah. The fuel for a great episode is there, but it never really strikes the match.

    Essentially though, it didn’t make me laugh very much, and the best laughs came courtesy of a guest star, which you can’t say too often. I’m struggling to even remember Rimmer/Chris in this one.

    I kind of get the Lemons comparison, as that was another episode that was simply OK, without ever threatening to be amazing.

    Oh and that duet goes on a verse too long. The idea is funnier than the execution.

  5. Very fair review about a funny and well made red dwarf
    that does unravel a bit when you pull at its many threads.

    I agree with most of what you said, I’m pretty ok with this Hitler
    but I know what you mean about Jesus so far point.

    I too laugh at kryten head impaled on mop funny on a couple of levels better than the others peril and sets up vlads possible involvement and later protesting gags.

  6. > The idea is funnier than the execution.

    I actually think the opposite, oddly…:p on paper it’s utterly insane, but Craig and Ryan manage to sell it so well!

    I still reckon a cool twist would have been Telford being the real Hitler. When he comes back into the room one of them says ‘who are you really?’ and he says ‘hmm you really don’t know??’ and proceeds to shave most of his beard off, leaving just the tache, then he speaks in a German accent. They’d already had the Rimmer dialogue mentioning the conspiracy theory of him surviving, so why not?? Yeah it’s lunacy but it could have worked! Unless it suddenly gets really offensive if you have the real Hitler there…the real Hitler who meets his demise by the Cat shooting him in the face….? Hmm…..

  7. I agree that the execution is funnier than the idea; if you’d told me the new episode of Red Dwarf would feature Lister having a guitar battle/duet with an effeminate Hitler, I would have told you, and Doug Naylor, to fuck off. It at least made me laugh a couple times in the episode.

  8. “UKTV Tweeted a little teaser for Cured earlier, which just casually gives away the ending along the way.
    https://twitter.com/UKTVPlay/status/917796913935564800
    WTF. Unforgivable. Doug really needs to reign those fuck wits in!

    “if you’d told me the new episode of Red Dwarf would feature Lister having a guitar battle/duet with an effeminate Hitler, I would have told you, and Doug Naylor, to fuck off”

    and I would have told you to fuck off for simply not understanding the series at all. But I won’t on this occasion, but consider this a warning.

    only joking?
    or am i?
    only joking?
    or am i?
    joking am i or!

    Changing the subject briefly I was watching Polymorph last night and noticed a few times in the warehouse setting that Robert accidentally uses his own voice for Kryten. Never noticed that before and it was the 5th episode to be recorded which makes it stranger because if it was much earlier you’d more likely to forgive Robert forgetting to put on the Kryten voice. But at the end of the day, do I just need a new television?

  9. By the “idea” of it, I mean within the confines of the story. The preceding scene is Hitler trying to persuade Lister to jam with him, which contains a couple of the best moments in the episode. The following scene dorsn’t really work quite as well. The rendition goes on too long, and I’m not sure the The Happy Wanderer is really a great fit.

  10. ^ A lot of these issues come about because I feel the show needs a better director, then Doug can focus on the writing and production etc. X suffered because he was literally doing everything. Hoping future series will have a new director. Bring back the Series VI director he was cool. I’m afraid the legacy of both these series’ will be the poor pacing and editing at times which is a shame because this is easily Doug’s finest work since VI.

  11. I guess you could have started the show on Starbug and then you would have had more time at the space station and with the story. I’m sure someone could have sweet-talked him out of it, but oh, no, Doug got his own way blundering in with his size 12s…….

  12. “the plot very quickly lurches into view with the distress call (or ‘SSL’, presumably sent over the https protocol)”

    The alarm was because they’d got a “Space Station Located”, not a distress signal.
    (Yes, I’m that kind of annoying nitpicker. It bothered me at the time as it seemed odd to rely on viewers reading the screen to know what the hell an SSL was.)

  13. and I’m not sure the The Happy Wanderer is really a great fit.

    Meanwhile, my dad specifically loved the sequence FOR using The Happy Wanderer. The song choice seems to a love or hate it deal among the internet.

    LIKE SILICONIA.

  14. The original song they tried to get was Africa by Toto,
    A good song, but what the fuck, why that specific song for that specific sequence? The one we ended up with is a lot funnier

  15. I think it was a great choice. It’s an old-time song that Hitler would have liked and Lister is just having fun with it. If they’d have gone with an 80s song there would a been a risk of Craig just looking like a middle-aged bloke trying to relive his glory years.

  16. I dunno, I suppose ‘Africa’ could’ve been funny in the performance. The song they used in the end though is funnier. But imagine if they had sung a Queen song…

  17. I dunno, I suppose ‘Africa’ could’ve been funny in the performance. The song they used in the end though is funnier. But imagine if they had sung a Queen song…

    “Through the sorrow all through our splendor
    Don’t take offence at my INNUENDO”

    Nice Spanish guitar solo with that one

  18. If they’d have gone with an 80s song there would a been a risk of Craig just looking like a middle-aged bloke trying to relive his glory years.

    Which of course makes no sense in the context of the actual show, since Lister is from the 22nd century or somewhere there abouts, but yeah.

  19. To be fair, if commercial radio still exists in 3 million years, it *will* be playing Africa by Toto.

  20. It strikes me as something that Talkie Toaster would probably sing to annoy everyone.

  21. Re: Africa. I reckon the lyric “I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become” might be considered relevant to this episode.

  22. If you were going to pick a song well after Hitler’s time, you might as well have just done Lunar City Seven at that point.

  23. Lister has form for appreciating classical music, playing ‘She’s Out of My Life’ by Michael Jackson in ‘Marooned’.

    He might also have listened to a few of Rimmer’s Motorhead albums.

  24. Is she’s out of my mind a Micheal Jackson song? Craig’s [stellar] performance makes it sound nothing like a Jacko hit

  25. Is she’s out of my mind a Micheal Jackson song?

    No, but She’s Out Of My Life is a Michael Jackson song.

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