Twenty-eight years after its first series, Red Dwarf is back. And not just back on TV screens, but back to being pretty smegging good. Yes, the Dwarf navigated some difficult years – and most fans thought it would never make a proper comeback – but after the surprise success of 2012’s series X, Red Dwarf returns to Dave for another full season, with another filmed back-to-back and due to air in 2017.
Due to some kind of parallel dimension time paradox, we’ve managed to catch the first three episodes of the new series already. Here’s what we know about the smegger so far.
It's got proper science fiction ideas
Laughs have always come first, but some of best Red Dwarf episodes are rooted in solid sci-fi concepts – “future echoes”, the frighteningly accurate immersive video game Better Than Life, and the parallel dimension that gave us Ace Rimmer. This series’ opening episode Twentica continues that trend by transporting the Dwarfers to an alternative version of the US where technology is banned – a genuinely intriguing premise whether you live on a spaceship 3 million years into the future or in the modern world. Honestly, imagine how far you'd get without your smartphone before having a mini breakdown.
Plus a bit of morality
As far back as the first season, Red Dwarf was exploring moral conundrums and the nature of humanity just as much as deep space. Lister discovered he was the cat people’s god, while Kryten has repeatedly tried to understand what it means to be human (he even turned human once, then got an erection while leafing through an electrical appliance catalogue). There are more moral questions in the new series second episode “Samsara”, as the crew finds out that karma can be a total smeg head.
There are still unanswered questions
Red Dwarf is the master of setting up cliffhangers that aren’t properly resolved. And with timelines and events not entirely clear between series VIII-XI, there are details still up in the air: how did Kochanski die? Is this the original hologram version of Rimmer from series I-VII? Is it one from another dimension entirely? Or a hologram version of the second Rimmer who was resurrected with the crew in VIII? Phew. Of course, if you think about it for too long your brains are likely to short circuit. It’s best to follow the Dwafers’ golden rule of never letting continuity get in the way of a good story.
Electronic lifeforms can – and do – get old
Rimmer, despite being made entirely of light, has been aging at the same rate as a living human for years now (and looks to be wearing a holo-hairpiece too). Now poor old Kryten seems to have caught whatever computer virus is causing this malfunction. He must be the only mechanoid in science fiction history to have developed a middle age paunch.
It was only supposed to return as sketches
Speaking at a Q&A ahead of the new series, showrunner Doug Naylor and the cast revealed that a Red Dwarf return wasn’t originally on the cards – instead, digital channel Dave wanted to film some sketches of the cast introducing repeats of the old episodes. Eventually, Naylor managed to talk Dave up to doing brand new episodes, which became 2009’s Back to Earth specials, then series X, XI and the upcoming series XII. Kryten actor Robert Llewelyn was particularly pleased about doing full episodes, saying [in Kryten voice], “Four hours in make up for a fucking sketch?”
It’s like a Red Dwarf “greatest smegs”
A cynic might say they’re rehashing ideas, but it’s more a case that Naylor and the Red Dwarf team knows what the shows does best – and what the fans love about it. The new episodes are crammed with nods and homages to “classic Dwarf” and the whole thing feels like a mish-mash of Dwarf’s best years, from the sets, gags, and Rimmer/Lister bunk banter – while smartly steering away from the tosh of the later seasons. The boyz from the Dwarf are back indeed.
Red Dwarf XI is on Dave Thursday 22nd September at 9pm