Honestly, you wait a whole week for the next bit of Red Dwarf XII news, and then three come along at once. And they’re three pretty substantial ones too, each of which could probably have carried the traditional Friday lunchtime news slot on its own. A more specific TX date! The traditional four-shot publicity photo! The series synopsis! The first two of these were initially covered in a single tweet:
— Red Dwarf (@RedDwarfHQ) August 18, 2017
Yes, it looks like we’ll be waiting slightly later than anticipated for Series XII, but that’s our own fault – there was never any official indication that the schedule would closely match that of XI, that was just a widely held assumption. Instead, it looks like it’s still six weeks away at the very very least – it’s not clear whether the Smegtober date refers to the Dave broadcast, the (presumably a week early) UKTV Play premiere, or both. I don’t think it’s likely to be too late into the month, simply because the publicity machine has been in gear for a good few weeks already, and there’s only so many weekly updates you can do.
Meanwhile, following on from a few variations on the norm, we now have our more conventional publicity shot of the main cast, which will presumably be used as the default image for posters, merchandise, DVD covers and whatnot. The above tweet premiered the image in animated form, but today’s TOS update gives us a closer look:
The first thing you notice is the background – instead of the more traditional spacescape, which was perhaps becoming a little tired, we’re afforded a good nosy round the rejigged bunkroom, as glimpsed briefly at the end of Twentica and in the Series XI documentary. The bunks themselves really are very different; as well as the addition of prominent numbers, the big blue lights have been removed in favour of a generous lick of orange paint. While there’s still a fair deal of the trademark XI blue in the overall image, the glimpses we’ve seen so far suggest that XII might have a slightly warmer colour palette than its stablemate.
As for the cast themselves, they obviously don’t look hugely different from the series that was shot just a few weeks earlier. That said, it can’t escape one’s attention that Craig looks slightly older and dare I say chubbier than he does from most angles, but at least this is the first XII photo where you can tell that it’s definitely him. Kryten thankfully looks like Kryten, which isn’t always guaranteed, Chris Barrie is doing a Chris Barrie face, and the Cat has got a lovely gold and black shiny suit. It’s a good photo.
Last but by no means least, perhaps the most exciting of today’s updates is the series synopsis. We’ll presumably get the episode-by-episode breakdown at some point in the next few weeks, but this is the main blurb that we can expect to see pasted all over the internet between now and October, and then adapted for the back of the DVD and Bluray. It starts with the standard biographical information:
Red Dwarf XII is the twelfth series of the legendary comedy, once again written and directed by Doug Naylor and following last year’s series XI, voted “Best Comedy of the Year” and “Best Returning Comedy” by British Comedy Guide. The original cast of Chris Barrie (Rimmer), Craig Charles (Lister), Danny John-Jules (Cat) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) are back for six brand new episodes recorded in front of a live studio audience at Pinewood Studios.
We were a bit sneery about those British Comedy Guide Awards at the time, and were called on it by various people on Twitter, but it is nice to be able to include recent recognition for the show in the publicity. For the record, I reckon that while it’s easier to win a poll on the internet when you’ve got a large and dedicated fanbase to mobilise, that doesn’t necessary detract from the achievement – after all, the fanbase is there for a reason.
Anyway, the synopsis continues with a series of plot teasers, and the TOS article actively encourages us to try and match these to the episode titles, so let’s attempt to do that:
For the very first time, the rest of the crew discover just how it feels to be Kryten when they’re arrested by the Mechanoid Intergalactic Liberation Front.
Well, this is The One Where Everyone’s Kryten, but we’re still not quite sure whether it’s Siliconia or Mechocracy that will forever be referred to by this unofficial title. This is the first proper confirmation that the previously teased “MILF” idea is indeed part of the same episode as the Krytenification, and we’re pleased that the synopsis didn’t feel the need to spell out the acronym joke.
The Dwarfers come across a ship where criticism is illegal
No idea which episode this will be, but we hope the entire thing is a thinly-veiled dig at pricks like us.
and a space station where the crew have developed a cure for evil.
Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure this is Cured. In fact, it’s the one episode of XII that I saw recorded, and believe me, Here No Evil would have been a much better title.
When all the machines on Red Dwarf go on strike Rimmer and Kryten hold a Presidential election,
Ooh. I must admit, this has set alarm bells ringing, simply because this episode will have been recorded in early 2016, back when David Cameron was Prime Minister and the US election could have been between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Since then we’ve had the Brexit vote, President Trump, Theresa May’s failed snap election and Nazis marching through the streets of America. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with Red Dwarf tackling politics, but virtually every development in the last two years has rendered all previous satire wildly out-of-date overnight. I worry about how such a storyline will stand up in what is a very different landscape to the one in which it was written, but I hope that I’m reading too much into it.
while The Cat faces an identity crisis like never before when he discovers he needs glasses.
Well, that’s a lot less heavy duty. Like much of the synopsis, it’s actually near impossible to nail this down to one of those six episode titles, so perhaps this will be a smaller comedic subplot, and not the basis of an entire episode.
Lister discovers a simple update of the ship’s latest software could be a matter of life or death.
Ah, this brings back memories of a proposed plot arc from Series X, whereby each episode would deal with the implications of a different ship upgrade – this eventually manifested itself with a bit of a through-thread from Trojan to Entangled, but was largely dropped and forgotten about when the last two episodes were radically changed mid-production. Again, this could be any ep, but it sounds like the software update could be the catalyst for a much bigger plot.
Finally, Rimmer decides to leave Red Dwarf in search of a parallel universe where he isn’t such a massive loser.
This sounds like Skipper, given that Rimmer is attempting to skip between dimensions, and that it could potentially invoke the same concepts that gave us Ace Rimmer. There has been speculation in the last week that the big man himself could be involved, but I think it’s more likely that we’ll meet a different parallel version of Rimmer, perhaps one who’s a navigation officer who never moved out of his original bunkroom or changed uniforms.
With regards to which episodes are which, we’re still largely in the dark – Timewave, M-Corp and one of Siliconia and Mechocracy are still unaccounted for. There are seven individual plot strands mentioned in that second paragraph, so they can’t all be separate episodes; at least two of these bits belong together. There is still much more speculation to take place in the now-slightly-increased-amount-of weeks to come.
Additional. Earlier today, several eagle-eyed readers noticed that a version of this synopsis had been published by various US-based news sites, such as Deadline, following the news that the series has been picked up by Britbox. We were waiting to see what the TOS update was before we covered it, and it turns out that the two versions of the synopsis are quite different. There certainly seems to be more detail about a couple of the episodes in the non-TOS version, so click through if you want to, but note that our spoiler policy specifies that “details revealed via Dave, Grant Naylor or Baby Cow can and will be discussed openly”, and technically this hasn’t been revealed by one of them.