Review for Red Dwarf - Series XII
They may have filmed seasons XI and XII of Red Dwarf back to back, but fans still had to wait over a year between broadcasts, which is all fair and proper no doubt. It boggles the mind that Red Dwarf has been on screen (and off) for thirty years now, and it has managed to retain the core cast all that time. I had a lot of fun with season XI, and the expectation is having shot them back to back, the quality will carry on forward to season XII. And at the time of writing, season XIII has been announced to start shooting at the start of 2019 for an end of year broadcast date. Back to waiting again!
3 million years into the future, the mining ship Red Dwarf is still lost in deep, deep space. Its crew comprise Dave Lister, professional bum and last human alive, Cat, an intelligent felinoid evolved from a cat Lister smuggled aboard, Arnold J. Rimmer, hologram of Lister’s annoying dead bunkmate, and Kryten, an ever so slightly deranged sanitation droid.
Six more episodes of Red Dwarf comprise Season XI.
A space station offers the chance to repair Starbug, but it’s a research station with some rather worrying test subjects brought out of stasis by their arrival. Sitting down to tea with Hitler, Stalin, Messalina and Vlad the Impaler would normally cause concern, but apparently they’ve been cured of evil.
They’ve found Lister’s guitar, floating in space. Against all common sense they head out to pick it up, only to be picked up in turn by a ship full of mechanoids, intent on freeing their mechanical brethren from servitude. Kryten is indoctrinated into MILF, while the others get turned into robots and forced to do his chores as a punishment.
A wave of time has resulted in a ship from the past appearing. Alas it’s on a collision course with Rimmer’s favourite moon. It’s only neighbourly to go and warn them of their imminent danger, but the problem is that this is a ship where criticism has been outlawed, and the boys from the Dwarf wind up arrested for pointing out the flaw in the current captaincy.
A crisis tends to reveal unwelcome truths, and when the vending machines learn that there is no seat on a lifeboat for them in the event of trouble, they, and all the machines on Red Dwarf go on strike. They need someone to represent their interests, and so an election is called, with Rimmer standing against Kryten.
They finally get around to updating the software on Red Dwarf, and find that M-Corp bought the Jupiter Mining Corporation. Actually they bought the whole planet lock, stock and barrel, and they own the rights to speech, and thought. Now Dave Lister can only see or hear official M-Corp product. He can’t even see Kryten, Cat or Rimmer anymore. Well, every cloud...
The many worlds theory holds that for every decision made in this universe, there exists another where the opposite choice was made, and given the decisions people make, that’s a lot of universes. Kryten has made a device that lets people jump from universe to universe. For Rimmer, it’s his one chance at finding a reality where he isn’t a total loser.
Red Dwarf gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080i transfer on this disc, encoded at 50Hz. It’s a gorgeous transfer, clear and sharp throughout with strong consistent detail levels. The colours are rich and vibrant, and there are no signs of compression artefacts and the like. The model work and the effects shots all work well in the high definition format, and Red Dwarf comes across as a quality, mid-budget sci-fi show.
You get the audio in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo format with optional English subtitles. The dialogue is clear throughout, which is the important thing. It’s mostly a front focussed affair, with the odd bit of sound effect being thrown around the soundstage a tad, given a little Prologic. The dialogue is clear and all the punchlines get through, which is the important bit.
You get two discs in a Blu-ray Amaray, one on each inner face. The first disc presents the episodes with an animated menu. There are no extras on this disc, certainly no cast commentaries, which are strongly missed.
The extras are on disc 2, beginning with The 28 Years Later Affair, which lasts 55.53, and is an episode by episode making of documentary, with interviews with the cast and crew.
You get 8:06 of deleted scenes, organised by episode, and you get 5:29 of Smeg Ups.
There are a couple of detailed featurettes on cinematography, particularly the lighting of Red Dwarf. The Speed of Dark: Lighting Red Dwarf lasts 17:39, and sees DoP Ed Moore giving a tour of the sets. This is followed by Lighting Red Dwarf – Then and Now which sees Ed Moore in conversation with John Pomfrey, who had that role on the first six series of Red Dwarf. This lasts 23:09.
A Font to the Senses looks at the background text in the show, and lasts 3:52.
A New Model Army takes a look at season 12’s model work for 17:15.
Flying By Wireframe offers the same but with the CGI, and this lasts 5:56.
The art of sound recording is studied in, “In Space They Can Hear You Scream” which lasts 5:27.
Finally The Sands of Stuntbug lasts 5:08, and looks at 3D printing stunt models for action sequences.
For a moment there, I really did feel that Red Dwarf XII hadn’t maintained the consistency from season XI. The first two episodes on this disc aren’t really up to scratch. They really feel like ‘cool ideas’ that couldn’t quite sustain for half an hour of episode, and while there are invariably funny moments within both, and admittedly one of the funniest moments of Series XII is in the first episode, they don’t really feel memorable as complete episodes. But once we get to Timewave, the series is back in its stride again, having fun with zany ideas, getting a few satirical messages into each episode, and really delivering the laughs. We’re back up to the quality of Series XI, and maybe even a little better.
Hitler makes another appearance on Red Dwarf, after Timeslides and Meltdown, and in Cured, his appearance might just be the most striking. After all, he and his fellow psychopaths have been cured of evil for this story and they get to interact with the main characters, much to their chagrin. Cured is entertaining enough, but it all feels like a set up to one gag. Fortunately, the gag works, but the episode lacks depth as a result. Siliconia also appears to have occurred when the cast apparently declared that they should all be mechanoids for an episode, and Doug Naylor delivered their wish. It’s a mechanoid version of Spartacus, with liberated mechs travelling the galaxy freeing their subjugated kin. When they find Kryten, they punish his crewmates by turning them into mechanoids and forcing them to do his work. It’s a fun concept to watch, but it doesn’t really feel fleshed out in the episode.
Things are back on track with Timewave, introducing a ship where the crew have outlawed criticism. There’s something to be said for critics getting off on their own vituperative, although I may be shooting myself in the foot by saying so. There does come a point where the criticism becomes more important than the subject, and that’s when someone should say ‘enough is enough’. But take that to extremes, banning all criticism results in a world of mediocrity, one that is ultimately doomed. It’s an interesting idea that is presented to delightful effect here, with some colourful characters, including a memorable turn from Johnny Vegas. This is followed by Mechocracy, which is what Siliconia could have been. We’re gradually becoming a more AI oriented world, giving up more and more control to machines and automation. There will inevitably come a time when AI is smart enough to take over. The usual vision is one of Terminator, but it turns out that they can have just as devastating effect by simply going on strike. That allows for a political bent to the episode, and with recent years having been one election or referendum after another, the satire is biting, if obvious at times.
The series ends on a high with the final two episodes, with M-Corp the ultimate expression of modern consumerist society, mega-corporations intent on owning as much as they can, dictating what you consume and how you consume it. Most retail experiences for me tend to begin with Amazon, and the way they spread their tentacles into our lives is insidious, providing content as well as goods, and always-on services as well. We willingly let devices like Alexa into our lives, always listening to every word we say, so they can shape the interactive experience to our day to day existence, or maybe the other way around. M-Corp is the ultimate expression of that, with a software upgrade essentially owning Dave Lister. No series of Red Dwarf would be complete without Arnold Rimmer lamenting his lot in life, and in Skipper he gets the chance to put it right. Offered an infinity of universes to choose from, surely one will have a world where his life turned out for the best.
Of late, Red Dwarf has often indulged in nostalgia, not only reusing ideas and plot lines from earlier episodes, but indulging in references and winks to the audience that usually serve to delight (although there is the odd groanworthy one as well). Series XII has some of the best references and reminders, and on more than one occasion takes the opportunity to bring things full circle. The end of M-Corp is a particular delight, and with Rimmer skipping through various Red Dwarfs in the final episode, there’s more than one cameo to revel in.
If they keep on making Red Dwarf as consistently entertaining and current as this series was, especially towards the end, then I’ll keep on buying them. With Series XIII confirmed, it looks like there’s a lot of life left in the concept yet. Just eight more years and Red Dwarf will have beaten Last of the Summer Wine as the world’s longest running sitcom. As long it’s not with an episode where the boys surf down a hillside in a bathtub, I’m looking forward to it!