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Red Dwarf XII Episode 3 Review:Timewave

Timewave opens with The Boys from the Dwarf standing around on a moon that Rimmer catchily names Planet Rimmer, which is full of an incredibly valuable gas. The boys scarper when a wibbly, wobbly swirly thing heads towards them. Aboard Starbug they are hit by what Kryten describes as a Timewave, which can wash objects backwards and forwards through time. They are unscathed, but a large spaceship has been swept millions of years into the future, and is now headed straight for, you guessed it… Planet Rimmer. The boys get on board the ship to warn the crew, but find things tough going, as criticism has been outlawed. Simply put, having Rimmer around is a major liability.

Timewave is a difficult episode to write about for a critic, simply because the central premise is about the positive and negative value of criticism. One can imagine that this is a subject that Doug Naylor, Red Dwarf’s writer and director, has chewed over in the past. Do you listen to critics and adjust your work accordingly, or do you believe in the value of your singular vision, and ignore, or become indignant at, any disparagement that comes your way? Tough question.

Like many latter-day episodes, Timewave feels at once fresh and familiar. The Cat hits Rimmer with a barrage of insults throughout, mostly suggesting that Rimmer be left behind or blasted into deep space for the good of everyone. Of course, we’ve heard this stuff before, but Danny John-Jules seems to be having the time of his life these days, with bigger parts and more lines, and his timing is so perfect that the material never feels tired.

Having the boys go on-board a craft that requires them to modify their behaviour is also, it must be said, becoming an over-used Red Dwarf plot device. See Justice, Series IV and the wonderful riff on that episode, Samsara, from Series XI. Nonetheless, the inside of the ship itself, full of godawful swirling decoration, and rubbish pieces of art, is like nothing so far on Red Dwarf, and that’s not to mention the characters, who, having never been criticised, have allowed their self-expression to fly unfettered, and so look like a bunch of day release mental patients at a fancy-dress party. Some may find all of this a tad irritating, but of course, that’s the point.

The idea of criticism as a crime is then fully mined for comic potential, which culminates in a hilarious scene where the posse are locked up with a man in Hannibal Lector style restraints, only to discover that his heinous crime was to “tut,” once too often. It’s a brilliant scene, played to perfection, with special mention going to Joe Sims, who plays the tutting psycho.

Timewave is not the cream-of-the-crop so far, but it’s another fun episode, with an especially novel and deceptively thoughtful idea at its heart. Hopefully the Crit-Cops won’t be coming after me.

3.5/ 5