“Our nomination for JMC Crew Of The Year is starting to look unlikely.” – Lister, summing up the whole of Red Dwarf in a nutshell.
Well, almost four months after its debut in Britain, and two months after it was released stateside, I have completed my look at Red Dwarf XI. Six episodes isn’t a lot when stacked against seasons of the other shows I’ve reviewed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
So, final thoughts on this season?
Simply put, it was rather good.
What Doug Naylor was going for in regards to Series XI was a darker, more dramatic looking series, while still keeping the comedy that is one of Red Dwarf‘s hallmarks. Personally, I liked the style of the sets and settings – it does send up the darker elements of sci-fi without it obscuring the comedy at all. The expanded settings featured also helps differentiate Series XI from the more “ship-based” style of X. (I think Dave splurged a bit more on the budget.)
Following on from that, the overall plots tended to be more daring compared to X. Whereas that series was more focused on sitcom-esque plots, XI took on a more sci-fi tinged route – all while keeping the focus on twisting around (or sending up) genre tropes, as well as character interactions. And it all worked. There was some rustiness when it came to pacing – to the point where I deducted a point off of “Officer Rimmer” because of its haphazard ending – but the writing is definitely tighter compared to X.
On that note, were any of the plots standout? “Give and Take” and “Officer Rimmer, in my opinion, had the most memorable plots – the former for it’s inventive and eccentric science fiction plot; the latter because it revolved around the character involved, showcasing why exactly Rimmer would be a disaster at the top of the chain of command. Even then, the other four episodes had captivating setups and themes. “Twentica” explored the hypocrisy in governments, “Samsara” analyzed the concept of morality and punishment, “Krysis” analyzed the sheer impact of one’s life even when we think our existence is meaningless, and “Can of Worms”… well, maybe it wasn’t as ingeniously themed, but it was a better “Polymorph” sequel than “Emohawk” – make of that what you will.
Character development was also rather steady. Rimmer and Lister were put on the back burner – not that they reverted to earlier personae, but the two of them got less development compared to other characters. The Cat’s insecurities were fleshed out to levels unseen for the character, showcasing that he’s more than just a selfish eccentric. Kryten’s own dissatisfaction and the effects of his rescue by the trio got looked at, and in the process, he was able to realize his own small impact on the world around him, even if it was played for comedy. From that alone, Series XI makes itself stand out a bit, at least in terms of character focus.
I guess that’s most of what I have to say about the series, though. It’s more consistent in terms of quality compared to X – even though it doesn’t have something on par with “Lemons” and “The Beginning” in terms of brilliance, it also lacked the relative weak spots of “Dear Dave”.
Overall, in terms of quality, Red Dwarf XI is a solid entry into the Red Dwarf canon. While not reaching the heights of some of its predecessors, it held rather steady through the six episodes. My opinions will likely shift with time (especially with XII coming out sometime this year), but as it stands, I’d place it somewhere between X and VI – 7th place in my rankings.
- Favorite Episode: “Give and Take”.
- Least Favorite Episode: “Samsara”.
- Average Score (as of Jan. 2017): 7.92