Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 1: "Trojan"

Airdate: 8 October, 2012

Synopsis: The scouters aboard Red Dwarf pick up a derelict ship, the Trojan. Despite the derelict being unworthy of flight, this ship fascinates the crew, who are still stuck on a ship “slower than the speed of dark”. After Rimmer fiddles around with a quantum rod, the Trojan comes in close contact with the Columbus III. The hologram on that ship is Howard Rimmer. Yes. Rimmer’s brother. Already dejected from failing the Astro-Navs again, Rimmer’s resentment fills up his hard drive, causing him to suffer a crash. After being cleared of some of the “malware”, he realizes he has two options- fess up to his failures, or lie to his brother.

No prizes for guessing what he chooses.

Review (SPOILER-ISH): One of the central tenants of Rimmer’s character has always been the conflict between the guy and his family. It’s strongly implied that, as much as he uses them as a crutch for his aloof and insensitive behavior, that his strained relationship really did mess his psyche up. His father physically abused him, mentally abused him, his brothers tortured him beyond typical “brotherly” fights, and his mother was aloof to the whole situation, sleeping around to avoid the situation. Bringing Rimmer’s supposedly more successful brother to the center of an episode- the premiere of the first “regular” Red Dwarf episode in 13 years, mind you- was, in hindsight, a bit of a daring maneuver. Does it work?

Mostly.

Being that Red Dwarf has traditionally made Rimmer the center of an eccentric ensemble, it’s no surprise that he gets the first episode out. They had no choice- if they had focused on, say, Cat, enough viewers might have been alienated to put the franchise in danger. In some regards, the writers had no choice but to play it safe. Yet, again, they also took the risk to introduce us to Rimmer’s brother, Howard. That was cool of them.

This episode drops a damn huge revelation on us concerning Howard, however. Let’s just say that he never really was the person he was hyped up to be. Yet, he also manages to do something that would take a lot of chutzpah for anyone- especially Rimmer- to do. What we see is the impact Rimmer’s poor childhood had again, through Howard. His life was a lie- what makes you think Rimmer’s other brothers were failures themselves? Did Rimmer’s parents lie to him in a failed attempt to motivate Rimmer to succeed? Or were they too selfish about their own failures, that they would lie to their own son? It’s a pretty interesting twist.

Rimmer’s character, yet again, has to be reset somewhat, just to give a feel to potential new viewers. As such, as awful as we saw Howard in previous episodes (and as awful as Rimmer said he was here), we saw Rimmer return the favor. Granted, it blows up in Rimmer’s face, but Rimmer still pulled a cruel maneuver. In fact, in my first ever edition of “Not Another Top X List”, I placed Rimmer’s betrayal of his brother at #1. Yet, if what we know about Howard is true… he totally deserved it.

The big problem with the episode lies with Lister and his stupid call center plot. Really, there was little humor to mine from it. Granted, I loved Kryten freaking out at the call center operator. However, it also forces him to act way out of character in order to resolve the plot (here’s a hint- it deals with jumping at the risk of getting hit with phasers.)

After two series of slapdash/nonexistent comedy and a series that tried too hard to be a postmodern drama, the comedy here is back to form. It’s not really too hysterical- there’s not too much character comedy here- but I’ll take this far over “Beyond a Joke” any day of the week. Favorites of mine include the “Trojan moving gag”, the “orange glow paint” joke, Rimmer’s interactions with Trojan, and Rimmer trying to revise for his test.

So, was “Trojan” worth the wait? I’m willing to say so. It’s probably not too much of a masterpiece (the call center was pretty stupid, for one), but it serves its purpose- bring Red Dwarf back to its roots. Driving the point home, the episode was given a generally positive reception after three series of divisive-to-scathing reviews. That’s just how pleased the fans were.

Welcome back, Red Dwarf. Nice to review episodes of you again.

Tidbits

  • I forgot to mention- the acting in this episode is pretty damn good. Strangely enough, compared to the first 8 series, Craig Charles did give off a bit more of a “dramatic”, toned down vibe to Lister’s character. Granted, Charles does play Lloyd Mullaney in Corrie. Oh, and Lister is at least in his mid-40s (physically).
  • Like always, the Cat makes pretty much everything funny. Danny John-Jules just has that midas touch.
  • The question is- will I review Series XI when it comes out? If I’m still doing this blog (which I probably will), then the answer is a resounding yes.
  • Again, very pleased to see that the models for the ship are back. CGI? Who needs CGI?
Favorite Scene: Going to have to go with Rimmer, post resentment-removal. Lots of character comedy there.
Least Favorite Scene: Three words. Call. Center. Plot.
Score: 7.5
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