Last night saw the premiere screening of Red Dwarf XII episode one, Cured, at the Edinburgh Television Festival. G&T weren’t there, but we received a tweet from someone who was, Gemma Murray, offering to write us a report. We jumped at the chance, and are sincerely grateful to Gemma for furnishing us with this report during her journey home. Pictures are courtesy of Gemma too.
“I met Lister. He was an absolute bellend…”
An opportunity to see a new episode of my favourite show in one of my favourite cities? ‘Rude not to really’, I thought, as I inserted myself into a packed train at King’s Cross. Five hours later, my somewhat naive hope of quietly reading a book with a cup of tea cruelly dashed by the inability of anyone around me to sit still in a seat for more than twenty seconds at a time, I emerged onto Waverley Bridge. Squinting into the glorious-if-completely-unexpected sunshine, I made my way to the Edinburgh Filmhouse. I only got slightly distracted by the shops. And the gin tent in Princes Gardens. Don’t judge me.
Ticket in hand, and reeling from the shock of actually receiving change from a tenner for my G&T, I surveyed the bar in an attempt to identify likely fellow fans amongst the patrons of various other screenings that evening. Despite a plethora of Dwarf T-shirts and people whose faces I vaguely recognise from their Twitter avatars, I remained as socially inadequate as ever (I ran away from Chris Barrie once) and found myself sadly unable to muster the courage to say hello to anyone in person. Hello to you all now though, I hope you had a lovely evening.
The seats were unreserved so I took mine fairy early on, and was rewarded by an excellent spot in the centre of the auditorium (I resisted the urge to engage in Sheldon Cooper-esque acoustic testing). I then spent twenty minutes staring at a rather fetching red velvet curtain and DMing Ian Symes, before the flamboyant arrival at 7.12pm of one Mr Craig Charles. There were some other people with him too, but they could have been anyone…
Craig’s delightful banter continued as Steve North (UKTV General Manager) took the stage to introduce the screening, and even succeeded in getting a word in edgeways (eventually). Steve spoke convincingly about his pride to have been involved with the “new era” of Red Dwarf on UKTV, and promised that the new episodes would be as funny, clever and ridiculous as anything that has preceded them. Personally, I was startled to realise that – counting from the initial inception of Back to Earth– “new” Red Dwarf has been going on for a decade already. Then I realised that the RDX recording I attended (Fathers and Suns) was six years ago despite feeling like yesterday. I am old now. Help.
After thanking the cast, production team, Baby Cow, and Doug for their hard work in making the new series, Steve took his seat with the traditional request to the audience not to release spoilers on social media. Then the curtain parted, the lights went down, and the screening began.
First of all, the episode was shown with the full opening title sequence, which contained some extremely interesting glimpses of the entire series. I am officially rather excited. For some reason I was expecting the season opener to be “Everyone’s Kryten”, so was surprised (and momentarily disappointed) when I realised it was Cured instead. From the information already released, this was definitely the episode I was least excited about, and I am therefore delighted to report that I enjoyed it very much.
My two favourite moments were a BRAND NEW REALLY COOL MUSIC CUE and what to me was a very beautifully-played scene between Lister and one of the guest stars, which effectively strikes the kind of sensitive balance between comedy and drama that is exactly why I love the show so much in the first place. There was much laughter from the audience – one particularly massive woofer earned a round of applause – and a slightly embarrassing moment in which I laughed (at a spot of Kryten/Rimmer dialogue) but no one else did. The plot felt fresh, and the pacing was tight.
Cured is a strong episode, but I do have a few concerns about how it will be received on broadcast, not least whether or not it plays today in quite the way Doug intended it to when it was recorded a year and a half ago. I probably should have asked him that in the Q&A really. It would certainly have made it more interesting. It may be my undeniable old age, but I’m afraid Nick Helm’s swearing-over-substance style of hosting added little to the occasion for me, and – despite professing to be amongst the former group – his cursory questioning style felt dismissive of both the fans and the cast. Moving them on from a question about why Red Dwarf has remained so popular for so long immediately after Craig’s initial quip “because of me, mate!” might have got a big woof, but also left me feeing slightly short-changed of what could have been a more worthwhile discussion than “Kryten masks are hot”, and “Craig and Danny went clubbing a lot during the 90s while Bobby spent hours at a time in makeup”, none of which is exactly new information…
I liked his t-shirt, though
More gratifyingly, however, the Q&A did flesh out some of the generally-known plot points of the forthcoming series a bit more – notably M-Corp and Everyone’s Kryten (that “title” is sticking) – as well as further elaborating on elements of the episode we’d just seen. Doug also spoke about his creative process as a writer, and Craig about the relationship between the cast after thirty years (as well as his extra-curricular exploits with Simon Gregson). I really enjoyed hearing Craig, Robert and Doug talking about the series and each other with such affection (as well as a hefty whack of humour), and whilst nothing concrete was admitted to, I was heartened to hear all three of them refer to “the next series” as something that’s not completely outside the realms of possibility. On the basis of what I saw yesterday evening, further series would be very welcome indeed. In the meantime – having eaten, drank, and shopped my way across the Central Belt of Scotland for most of the last twenty-four hours – I’m heading home to start getting seriously excited about Series XII.