Honestly, I never thought that Red Dwarf, the award-winning British sci-fi sitcom, would ever have lasted this long. Ever since it debuted in 1988, the comedy about four men trapped on a spaceship three-million years in the future has gained legions of fans around the world. In the late 90s, you could have pronounced the show dead and canceled, but thanks to those loyal fans, we are getting a new series of adventures every few years.
If you’re not familiar with this BritCom, it all began with Dave Lister, a low-grade technician on the Jupiter Mining Corporation spaceship Red Dwarf. Dave is the personification of the bachelor slob much to the annoyance of his neurotic bunkmate, Arnold Rimmer. One day Dave reveals he has smuggled a cat on board. When he refuses to hand the cat over to the Captain, Lister is placed in ‘time stasis’ until the ship returned to Earth. When he is released from his imprisonment, Lister discovers that everyone on the ship is dead. To make matters worse, he finds that he is nowhere near Earth because the ship’s computer froze him in time for three million years while Red Dwarf drifted away into the void of interstellar space.
Lister didn’t have to worry about being alone though, his bunkmate Rimmer got a second chance at life when Holly, the ship’s wisecracking computer brought him back as a hologram. Rimmer can’t touch anything, but he can engage in his favorite hobby of driving Lister out of his mind. There is also an animal alive on the ship and they call him the Cat. A direct descendant of Lister’s cat from three million years ago, Cat is the product of an evolution that changed the ordinary housecat into a bipedal humanoid with a fierce fashion sense and so much vanity that his favorite hobby is declaring himself the sexiest being in the universe. In the second series, the Dwarf crew gained a fourth member, Kryten the service droid. Throughout the years, this robot built to be a slave has learned to break his programming and become an independent and valued member of the crew who tends to serve as the voice of reason when things get dangerous.
Over the years, the Red Dwarf crew have been on some crazy adventures, and the eleventh series keeps the proven formula going.
Episode 1 – Twentica
While cruising around in Starbug, which is Red Dwarf’s small scouting ship, the crew is contacted by a group of Expanoids, evil cyborgs who have sworn to destroy everything human. They want to make a trade: a hostage the Expanoids have kidnapped for something called the Casket of Chronos. When it turns out that the hostage is none other than Rimmer, whom the Expanoids have kidnapped in the future and returned to this point in time. The trade is made, Rimmer is safe and the Expanoids have their little tin box. The problem is that the Casket of Chronos will help the Expanoids time travel so they can change the past. Luckily, the crew is able to slip through the time hole before it closes and they land on Earth in the year 1952.
The problem is that the Expanoids have ruled the Earth since the 1920s and have banned every form of technology. With no way for humanity to defend themselves, the invading cyborgs have enslaved them. The crew is told about an underground science club when they are given a strange device by a dying man. No one in the club is sure how the device works but they seem to think it will trigger an EMP that will destroy the Expanoids once and for all. But how to get it to work? In this version of reality, all the people who would have been the greatest scientific minds such as Einstein and Edison are now hopeless back-alley drunks. So they find someone they think is Albert Einstein and take him back to the club. Turns out he’s not Einstein, but a man who calls himself Bob the Bum. The Expanoids raid the club, which is quickly disguised as a jazz club. While the cops along with the Expanoids are shaking down the club, Bob the Bum figures out how to get the EMP device to work. The device as it is can take out one cyborg at a time, but the signal can be amplified worldwide. Not only would this kill every Expanoid on the planets, but Kryten and Rimmer as well. So they run as fast as they can back to Starbug and haul themselves off the planet before the EMP signal goes off. The bad guys are defeated and everything returns to normal.
Throughout the years, Red Dwarf has done a few historical themed stories. Twentica isn’t the best historical episode, that distinction goes back to series 8 where we learn what really happened when JFK was assassinated, but a good start to a season of one of my favorite shows that I never thought would return. The humor is still as good as it was back in the show’s heyday. This episode even drops a casual joke about string theory. Which tells me that if UK television can casually make jokes like that while fully expecting the audience to ‘get it,’ I think here in the USA, we might need to step up our game.
If you haven’t watched Red Dwarf yet, and you live in the United States, you’re going to need a subscription to BritBox which is found on Amazon. The people of the UK get to watch it on a network named Dave, a channel owned by BBC Worldwide. Odd name for a TV network, but I’m not going to make fun since they essentially brought Red Dwarf back from the dead to the joy of fans worldwide. And over the next two weeks, I will be reviewing multiple episodes at once. Since it’s a standard British sit-com, that means there are only six episodes. So stay tuned and get ready for more spaced out laughs.