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Red Dwarf XII Episode 6 Review: Skipper

So here it is, the sixth and final episode of what has been a largely satisfying series of Red Dwarf. And we’re happy to report that Skipper is just as inventively hilarious as the previous five. In fact, it’s almost the high water-mark of the series.

An anomaly – or something weird, in Rimmer-speak – has effected Red Dwarf, so that the opposite of what everyone wants to happen, happens. This leads to some brilliant sight-gags involving the cat, who as always refuses to do anything remotely altruistic, but somehow finds himself smilingly making Lister’s breakfast, then his bed, and finally shining his shoes. The Cat’s stupidity has rarely been used to greater comic effect, particularly as his inability to entirely grasp their predicament fowls up the crews’ attempts to solve the problem again and again. As has been the case throughout this series, Danny John-Jules nails laugh after laugh with his gleefully idiotic energy. This might just be his finest and funniest moment since the Series IV episode, White Hole, and that famous circular “ So, what is it?” scene. (The fans will know what I’m talking about.)

It turns out that all of these weird goings-on are related to Kryten’s new toy, a quantum skipper, that will allow anyone who holds it to skip to another dimension. Faced with the opportunity of living a different version of his life, Rimmer takes the skipper in both hands and skips on out of there.

This is a perfect segue to another quick succession of scenes, that play like comic sketch variations on the Red Dwarf we all know and love. One sequence in particular will please dedicated fans, as it sees the long awaited, and much advertised return of an old favourite. Suffice to say, the senile fella has lost none of his deadpan comic timing.

Writer and director Doug Naylor has allowed nostalgia to play a large part in the latter half of Series XII, to delightful effect it must be said. This sensibility reaches its zenith in Skipper, which revisits the very beginning of Red Dwarf… And I’ll say no more than that. It’s a spine-tingling moment that speaks to Naylor’s love of his creation, and his willingness to find fresh, fun ways of exploring the history of what is now very much his show. For a series that’s now near enough thirty years old, it’s frankly amazing to find that Red Dwarf continues to burst with such loopy, hilarious sci-fi ideas. Yet at the same time it feels pleasingly familiar to those with an in-depth knowledge of the show. In Skipper those elements are in near perfect balance.

Red Dwarf XII is yet another series for fans to revisit again and again, while being more than good enough to recruit a new generation of Dwarfers. It also bodes well for the future of a cult classic, that now feels fully re-born. For true Red Dwarf aficionados, the best days of the show may no longer be in the past.