The boys from the Dwarf are back in this ambitious, enjoyable opener to the long-running sci-fi comedy’s eleventh season.
‘Twentica’ sees the gang travel back in time to an alternative version of 1950s America, in which technology – including mechanoid Kryten and hologram Rimmer – has been outlawed by time-hopping Simulants wanting to control the human race.
The tech ban means we get a setting reminiscent of the prohibition era, with scientists meeting in speakeasy-style clubs where flapper girls in lab coats ask the clientele “do you want to grab a drink first or go somewhere quiet and discuss relativity?”
If 2012’s Series X most closely resembled Series I, with the crew very rarely leaving the confines of the ship, Twentica is more along the lines of high-concept, action-packed episodes like ‘Back to Reality’ from V and ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse’ from VI. It’s clear from the outset that this new season is firing on all cylinders and has more budget behind it than its predecessor did.
Although ‘Twentica’ is certainly a plot-driven rather than character-driven episode, it’s a real ensemble adventure which gives every character a chance to shine.
One of my complaints about X would be that Danny John-Jules was underused, but this isn’t the case in ‘Twentica’ and, judging from the synopses of XI’s upcoming episodes, we will hopefully be seeing a lot more of the Cat this time around.
As for the gags, they come thick and fast and are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Red Dwarf. There are lines from Lister like “Kryten couldn’t be more fried if he was a Mars bar living in Scotland”, the Cat being willing to sacrifice Rimmer at any given opportunity, references to time travel storylines being clichéd, and one of the best descriptions of Kryten’s head that the show has ever seen.
There’s also an appearance from veteran comic actor Kevin Eldon as a villainous Simulant, in what seems a pretty one-dimensional part until a great moment of weakness near the end.
‘Twentica’ sets up Red Dwarf XI as a different beast from the rather low-key previous season. Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing will depend on your opinion of previous Dwarf.
It’s obvious though that the beloved cast is on top form and creator Doug Naylor still has plenty of ideas up his sleeves almost 30 years after the show began.
Available now on UKTV Play and airs at 9pm on Thursday 22 September 2016 on Dave.
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