Red Dwarf XII: Skipper 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.

For the third time since Red Dwarf‘s revival, I find myself sitting down to review a series finale, and pondering the very nature of what a series finale ought to entail. The Beginning went for an emotional resolution, leaving the characters very much in a place where they can be picked up again, but providing a satisfying full stop to their adventures if the worst came to the worst. Can of Worms didn’t have to do that, and indeed it wasn’t initially designed to be the final episode; it was placed at the end presumably because it was deemed to be one of the strongest, with an attention-grabbing premise to raise expectations.

Skipper aims to tick both of those boxes, and yet in many ways it’s like no Red Dwarf finale that’s been before. While it shares with Back To Reality the threat of a fundamental change to the show’s formula, it packs so many big and varied ideas into its running time that it feels more along the lines of a Doctor Who finale – throwing handfuls of elements from the history of the series together, jumbling them all up and turning everything up to 11. It super-serves the hardcore fans and hooks in the casual and lapsed ones with a much-publicised returning guest star, then hits them all with surprise after surprise when it gets underway.

Such a unique episode of Red Dwarf needs to be tackled in a different way. The story can be split into three distinct stages, both in terms of the progression of the plot and the journey of the main character. So let’s deal with those stages one by one.

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Red Dwarf XII: M-Corp 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.

There’s a moment, very early on in M-Corp, which set my mood for the entire episode. It’s a very small exchange, I’ve got to admit.

KRYTEN: Now, eat up. It’s time for your present.
LISTER: Ah, I don’t need a present, Krytes. I’ve got everything I need.
KRYTEN: Sir. You’ve got nothing.

And with this single joke – with its bleak matter-of-factness – I relaxed. I relaxed in the same way Back to Earth made me tense up, with its tedious ironed sneezes and unearned graveside pathos. Unfairly or not, I’ve had enough problems with post-1993 Dwarf that each episode needs to win me round anew. Many never manage it. Just make me laugh, dammit.

M-Corp not only won me round. It’s my favourite Dave-era episode, by a considerable margin.

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Red Dwarf XII: Mechocracy 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.

Despite drawing on so much from the show’s past, Mechocracy feels like a very different sort of episode. It ends up in a ridiculous place in a way that I might not’ve been so receptive of had this been part of a hypothetical series IX in 2000. But as it happens, this represents the most sheer fun I’ve had watching the show in a while, and a great example of how to fold in references from the show’s past.

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Red Dwarf XII: Timewave 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.

“‘Allo, ‘allo, ‘allo, what’s all this then?”
“Just my Timewave review, officer.”
“I see…a comedian, are we?”
“That’s very kind of you, officer.”
“Smart arse. Lock her up.”

I brought it on myself, I suppose. I did volunteer to take this episode on, even with the sight of Johnny Vegas in a pink helmet. That’s the thing, though; I have enough of a personal investment to avoid assumptions with Red Dwarf, and it’s this goodwill that the show puts to the test each week. Although I get the idea some don’t really believe me, it’s a genuine gut-punch when, as in this case, I finish an episode feeling disappointed and confused.

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Red Dwarf XII: Siliconia 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.

It’s hard to think of an individual Red Dwarf episode that’s had quite so much hype as Siliconia, and for such a sustained period. We’ve known about The One Where Everyone’s Kryten for as long as we’ve known that there’d be a Series XII, it was the subject of the first series’ first publicity shot, and it features one of the run’s highest-profile guest stars. It would be fair to call it long-awaited, both in terms of how long we’ve been aware of the story, and owing to the manner in which many of us first saw it: very late on a weeknight, after a full day of frequent F5-ing. Could it possibly live up to the anticipation?

For a brief moment on Thursday night, I was suddenly struck with the feeling that I was watching something truly incredible. It was funny, it was moving, and it somehow just felt like Red Dwarf should. That had faded slightly by the end, but I was nevertheless shocked to go online and see that the general consensus was far less positive than I’d have predicted. I found myself agreeing with many of the criticisms, but still they didn’t shake the warm, happy feeling the episode gave me. After several repeat viewings and a few days’ thinking time, am I now in a position to make sense of all this? Let’s find out.

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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.

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Red Dwarf XI: The Game – Give & Take Playthrough

A few days ago the ever reliable GameDigits delivered to us a fine Christmas present in the shape of their Give & Take update for Red Dwarf XI: The Game. It has ended up being an incredibly pleasant way to close out a year that’s been stuffed full of Red Dwarf activity and so I have once again recorded my first playthrough of the entire episode, along with my own brand of unfocused and unprofessional commentary.

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Red Dwarf XI: Bluray/DVD Review

Regardless of your opinions on the episodes themselves, the consensus concerning the way Red Dwarf XI has been handled by its various stakeholders seems to be that certain areas have been disappointing. The decision to premiere each episode on UKTV Play was… controversial, shall we say, leaks have been taking place left, right and centre (including the accidental releases of an episode and the DVD extras), the online store has been a heavily-delayed farce, and the rancid cherry on the top came last weekend when we realised what was printed on the back of the very Steelbook I’m about to review.

It seems that Howard Goodall and Ian GameDigits are currently the only ones successfully carrying the torch, at least without getting bits of lighter fluid all down themselves and accidentally causing a series of small fires. It’s getting harder to ignore the cloud that’s gathering over this series, but there’s one area where Red Dwarf has always excelled: DVD/Bluray releases. The original releases of the BBC era remain unmatched by any other comparable show. The Back To Earth and Series X releases had a very different job to do, coming as they did so soon after broadcast, and XI is very much in the same boat. But despite the monumental cock-up affecting one of the three variants, is the content of these shiny discs good enough to distract from the recent shortcomings, and end this chapter of Red Dwarf‘s ongoing story in style?

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Red Dwarf XI: The Game – Samsara Playthrough

Even after Red Dwarf XI has long since been broadcast, the mobile game that first launched alongside Twentica continues to recieve attention, with the first big content update in the shape of the Samsara episode being released last week. I decided to play through the lot and record my thoughts as I went, which might be of questionable worth but at least it’s better than reading any form of news site or social media right now.

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