The final episode of Red Dwarf XI is as funny as it is frustrating.
In ‘Can of Worms’, the crew run into a female felis sapien – i.e. a lady version of Cat. However, Cat’s dream-come-true isn’t all that she appears to be… The gang discover that she’s actually a polymorph (a shapeshifting creature, for any Red Dwarf newbies out there), but only after Cat has slept with her and she’s deposited her eggs inside his body.
Let’s start with the good – namely that this episode offers plenty of big laughs, with every cast member getting their turn.
Robert Llewellyn has really excelled himself as Kryten this season, and in ‘Can of Worms’ he has a great gag involving a screwdriver, as well as some priceless facial expressions in the medibay while he examines Cat’s condition. Other laugh-out-loud highlights include the line “No, Kinder eggs” from Rimmer, Lister’s brain-dead expression in the personality tuck machine, and Cat’s clueless boasting about his evening with the disguised polymorph.
All things considered, ‘Can of Worms’ is a rather unusual episode. Firstly because it’s a Cat-focused episode, which is something we haven’t really had since ‘Waiting For God’ in the very first season! Danny John-Jules might have had a lot more to do this season than in the last few, but he hasn’t served as the focal point of an episode until now.
Secondly, although ‘Can of Worms’ has heaps of funny moments, its story moves at such a pace that it’s easy to get frustrated with it.
Promotion of this episode teased that we would meet a female felis sapien, with whom the Cat would fall in love, and this is what we get… for about five minutes. No sooner has the lady Cat arrived on our screens than she has dated and mated with Cat (off-screen) and died. Similarly, after we discover that the only way to rid Cat of the polymorph eggs is for him to give birth to them, there’s a ten-second pregnancy montage before he’s suddenly in labour.
At the beginning of the episode, we’re introduced to the personality tuck machine, which is capable of altering anyone’s character traits. It then disappears until the final act, when it doesn’t exactly prove to be instrumental to the plot anyway. Hopefully the machine will make a return in the future, as it could easily be the subject of a whole episode itself.
I can’t fault ‘Can of Worms’ for its effort, as it’s chock-full of interesting ideas, but hardly any of them get the time to breathe they deserve. The plot jumps from point to point so quickly that there’s a lack of flow, and I would have preferred to see a smaller number of ideas fleshed out than the huge amount of fast-moving ideas that we get here.
There appears to be no unanimous consensus on which episode of Red Dwarf XI has been the best, which goes to show that a lot of it comes down to personal taste. Some enjoyed the all-out adventure of ‘Twentica’, others loved the much more grounded ‘Samsara’, while my favourite was ‘Give and Take’.
As for considering how Red Dwarf XI stands up compared to previous seasons, I would argue that it’s most similar (in style and in quality) to Season VI. If you bear in mind that this aired all the way back in 1993, that means this year’s run has been possibly the best in over 20 years!
The next season of Red Dwarf has already been filmed and is due to be broadcast at some point next year. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where things go from here.
Available now on UKTV Play and airs at 9pm on Thursday 27 October 2016 on Dave.
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