Red Dwarf is back with its twelfth series. For those of you who didn’t know, Series XII was filmed back to back with the last series, so unsurprisingly the general high level of quality has been maintained.
The first episode of XII is entitled Cured and sees the Red Dwarf Posse encounter a group of cryogenically frozen psychopaths, including Vlad the Impaler, and Adolf Hitler. Fortunately for our favourite four space losers, the psychopaths were genetically recreated to test a cure for evil. So actually they’re quite nice.
The episode starts with a joke that will appeal to any long-standing Dwarf fan. Starbug, which wasn’t exactly a top of the range space vehicle at the start of the series, is now so dilapidated it needs to have its various circuit boards and display panels systematically kicked and bashed before it will start. In fact, it’s so crapped out it can only turn left. Other excellent jokes include Lister trying to teach the Cat to play poker. A sequence that perfectly pays off at the end of the episode.
Amusing, but in a way that some may find a little broad, are the depictions of the historical psychopaths. Hitler gets all the best bits, played with hilarious camp glee by Ryan Gage, who mixes over-eager grins with Chaplinesque bashful turns of his head. For all of the performers’ brilliance, however, Cured’s comic take on these real people never comes close to the inventive skewering of a similar collection of characters in the classic Series IV episode Meltdown.
Nonetheless, Cured will prove totally satisfying for Dwarf fans for one reason. This may be the first time that Cat’s personality has been fully explored. Cleverly, this is done in a way that perfectly serves the episode’s story arc. Danny John-Jules rises to the occasion as ever, getting the biggest set of laughs during the episode’s denouement. More than any of the show’s other stars, John-Jule’s performance, like his face and physique, has remained unchanged.
Cured may not be the best episode since the series was fully revived. But it’s a solid start, every bit as good as Twentica from Series XI, and will give fans old and new plenty of hope for Red Dwarf’s continued success.
3.5 / 5
Episode 1 of Red Dwarf XII is available now on UKTV Play, October 12th on Dave, and on BritBox in the US.