Red Dwarf X, Episode 1: Spoiler-Free Review
Apologies to the non-diehard fans out there but this is all going to get a bit complicated, so if you want to skip to the end, I’m going to write “Red Dwarf is back, and better than it’s been in 20 years. Watch it. You absolutely must watch it.”
Everyone else, follow me. There’s never been a perfect episode of Red Dwarf, because every huge gain was offset by an equally upsetting loss: Robert Llewellyn arrived, Norman Lovett left. Norman Lovett came back for the series VII finale, but Rob Grant had gone. The dream team was never assembled, by which I mean there was never an episode with Kryten in, Kochanski out, a Norman Lovett Holly and both Grant and Naylor on the script. At one point even Chris Barrie’s Rimmer left.
The closest we ever got was perhaps series III where everything was in place apart from the unfortunate replacement of Lovett’s Holly with Hattie Hayridge’s. However, praise be to the comedy gods! Slaughter a fatted virgin, and sacrifice a thousand fair calves, because Series X looks like it might be close!
And smeggin’ hell! We never thought we’d get here: Robert Llewellyn sat literally on the scrap heap, Chris Barrie was churning out documentaries about engines, and Craig Charles suffered great indignity, appearing on Coronation Street. Rob Grant had left the show, the Back to Earth mini-series was underwhelming, and the film had been postponed and finally cancelled.
But what a comeback! The script could not have been better had Ace Rimmer himself penned it over his morning kippers, the action is back where it belongs in front of a studio audience, and it’s been a long time since I last saw a sight quite so glorious as Danny John-Jules and Chris Barrie, straight faces straining, waiting an age to deliver their next lines over waves of utterly helpless laughter. There’s an excellent cameo from Mark Dexter, Danny John-Jules’ Cat is the best I’ve ever seen it, and if Lister’s subplot seems a bit pedestrian, it’s more than offset by Chris Barrie pulling off a Rowan Atkinson gag, dare I say it, better than the great man himself.
Having Red Dwarf back is what I imagine it’s like welcoming a wayward son back from his first term at a good university: sure, he looks a bit different, but thank God he’s out of that druggy phase. And remember that awful girl? In fact, there were two weren’t there? Anyway, he’s back! Or rather: Red Dwarf is back, and better than it’s been in 20 years. Watch it. You absolutely must watch it.