Worst to Best
Red Dwarf
Season X

Season X aired on the satellite channel Dave in 2012, the first full season of the programme in over thirteen years...


by
THE ANORAK
NOVEMBER 2018


The BluRay release of the series can be ordered online from Amazon. In the meantime, please join me in celebrating Red Dwarf's 30th anniversary as I rank the last season yet to be covered on this site...

6 Lemons

Season X is the best of the Dave seasons, even if it doesn't really contain a single stand out episode. The reason for this is that, although the characterisation is tired, the jokes are leaden and, yes, Kryten's mask in Season X is seriously off, there's a kind of earnest, well-meaning intent behind it all. Whereas the two follow-up seasons could be obnoxious on occasion, or just plain bad, Season X is happy to coast along on a level of goodwill, presenting six episodes that are "not great, but not as bad as expected".
     The series was always a young person's show, with Craig Charles still in his 20s when the series was last genuinely good. Here Charles is in his late forties, surrounded by older cast members making use of wigs, indulging in a "Red Dwarf meets Jesus" plot that's more Chelmsford 123 rather than anything actually amusing. But, while it fails to really raise more than the odd smile, and certain sections veer towards painfully unfunny, Season X Red Dwarf scrapes mediocrity due to the fact that it's essentially harmless.

5 Trojan

Watching the Dave seasons on Blu-Ray makes you appreciate how much effort has been put in. Unfortunately without Rob Grant in the co-writer's chair, Doug Naylor does tend to go for reliable, short-hand devices for his comedy, and the number of "instant reverses" in this one do get wearying.
     Rather like watching a Bob Monkhouse stand up routine, the feeds are so heavily laboured and obvious that even the slowest of viewers would see the pay offs coming, and there's an over reliance on gurning, Chris Barrie often playing Gordon Brittas more than Rimmer in some of the Dave episodes. But, as the season opener, this one contained a few smiles, and did, at least, prove that a semi-dignified comeback series was possible, even after so long away from screens...

4 Dear Dave

There's an odd moment at the start of Dear Dave where Lister cries with Kryten over the end of the human race. But it's not real tears, it's the kind of tears you could only do if you were a self-aware two-dimensional character in a sitcom. While the crew of Red Dwarf aren't quite at the level of guest characters in an episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, the Dave episodes do see them written uncomfortably broadly, with none of the nuance that they once possessed. That's not to suggest that Red Dwarf was ever particularly deep or meaningful but that, in the first couple of seasons at least, there was an attempt to draw real people in unreal situations. Sadly, the Dave comebacks are like the yearly publishing of the Beano annual in terms of characterisation.
      The episode was reputedly written in just six days to replace scrapped episodes with higher budgets, and is very much a "bottle episode". This can perhaps be most clearly seen with Cat, who doesn't appear in the episode until over 12 minutes in. (Those really into anal trivia might note that his appearance in this episode runs no longer than 6'23 minutes). Yet it also occurs with the presence of Lister opening a letter from the past revealing he was a potential father. It's actually a fairly decent idea for a quickee plot, though introduced far too late into the episode - over halfway through - for it to really pay off.
      Instead the episode meanders around with more of Rimmer-as-prat shenanigans, the aforementioned Kryten scene, and the odd sight of Lister flirting with vending machines. Even this idea has some merit, exploring the mental state of a man clearly suffering from depression. However, whereas previous years would have given Lister dialogue that indicated he really meant it - most notably season three's Timeslides - here it's just presented as something flippant and without true meaning, followed by three too-crass resolutions in a row. Despite all these criticisms, Dear Dave perhaps shows the most potential from season X... it's an episode that, forced by lack of time and money, does what Red Dwarf always did best: focussed on the characters. It's just a shame they're no longer relatable people, and they don't have anything to say to one another.


3 The Beginning

Red Dwarf X was screened in the order it was filmed, with Trojan recorded in December 2011 and The Beginning shot on 27th January 2012. The Beginning is odd in that it gives us some backstory for Rimmer, but perhaps changes things we knew about his past. This is the problem with introducing "character" to the series, of course... it risks contradicting what came before. Though as the century of Lister's birth has changed throughout the show, it perhaps shouldn't be an undue concern.
      This said, the Dave episodes of Red Dwarf are so aware of their past that this episode ends with Rimmer deliberately quoting The End - the title of this episode a clear reference to it, of course - so it's clear that it's aimed at long-term fans. This does make it confusing when the script contradicts what came before, with Lister making a particularly unamusing joke about Rimmer's last words before his death... when Rimmer's actual last words were so memorable and significant in Me2. And, it has to be said, long term viewers may be distracted by a different actor for Rimmer's dad, a necessity given that the highly memorable John Abineri had died in June 2000.
      Developed from elements of the unmade film script of 2000, The Beginning is quite a nice way to end the season, as, while by some way the least amusing episode of the six, it does give us a recognisable Rimmer in places, instead of the prat version he's been playing the rest of the time. As a final episode this may also have worked better... but it sees Rimmer finally rid himself of his neuroses, only with the full knowledge that he'll have to grow them all back in time for another season.
      Finally, look for a post-credits sequence which teases an unseen ending to the events of season eight, only for Rimmer to be interrupted...

2 Fathers and Suns

One of the fundamental problems with Red Dwarf is that, by its very nature, it has nowhere to go. Lister's plan to get back to Earth and settle down can never come to fruition otherwise it means the series would end, but the longer the programme goes on, the more pointless its lead character seems. Fathers and Suns is a commendable attempt to bring back some characterisation to Lister, even if the "Lister is his own father" stuff from Ouroboros is one of the most unfortunate plot developments of the post-Grant era.
      While Dave celebrates Father's Day - without a thought given to his first two children, the twins - there's a plot involving a computer than can predict whatever the crew are going to say or do next (along with 90% of the audience) and a curious subplot involving the question of "Chinese Whispers" being racist. Putting aside any discussion over a Caucasian actor (Kerry Shale) voicing "Taiwan Tony", what's most curious about this is that it's the first time that racism has been introduced into the Red Dwarf universe. Although Lister's skin colour has been referenced on very rare occasions (in Justice he ponders over whether he could pass for Indian) the concept of racism has never really come up before.
      Red Dwarf is an odd programme, in that it's a story of a white man in some form of authority, continually running down and telling a mixed race man that he's lazy, filthy and worthless. That this is never seen as anything other than the hatred of two individuals with no racial element involved is a testament to the writing of the series... by introducing the concept of racism into the far future, it does raise questions that probably weren't meant to be asked, in what is a very inconsequential subplot, there to fill time.

1 Entangled

One of the positives of the Dave episodes has been that, now Craig Charles' and Chris Barries' working relationship is on much better terms than it was c. 1989-1993, the Lister-Rimmer relationship has been restored to the central focus of the series. Kryten and the Cat were only ever backdrops/support to the shows' central premise, but behind-the-scenes conflicts forced the creation of the unlikely "Red Dwarf Posse." Lister's baiting of Rimmer in the opening scene is amusing, though surely Lister wouldn't be so cruel as to mock Rimmer for wiping out the crew? It's an example of the characterisation taking a back seat to jokes, something symptomatic of the show from 1992 on.
      Speaking of Kryten and the Cat, then they become "quantum entangled", which lends the episode its title. What this basically entails is the two of them saying the same lines simultaneously, which is a curious thing to pass as comedy for a viewership older than a Crackerjack audience. One particularly notable thing is that John-Jules, once a highlight of many episodes, now seems to have forgotten how to play the role in full, delivering every single line in the Cat's higher register, rather than just the occasional one. It does make it a more wearing character than before, not helped by his wig being even more distracting than Kryten's mask.
      Kochanski gets referenced for the third time in the season, and a point of trivia is that she's stated as being 31. Five years later (M-Corp) Lister would reveal himself to have reached his 50th birthday, so those who feel uncomfortable with a 15+ age gap may get dismayed here. (It's worth noting that this is also a creation of the series only: Charles is a couple of years younger than original Kochanski Clare Grogan, and the replacement version, referred to here, was played by a Chloe Annett who is only seven years younger).
      The resolution to a fairly rewarding albeit convoluted plot sees the crew bringing on board a professor who has been turned into a chimpanzee. As regulations regarding the time an actor can spend playing a chimp dictated that they couldn't do this for long (yes, really) a new ending had to be hastily rewritten with an underwhelming Sydney Stevenson as a professor who always gets everything wrong. That her name turns out to spell irony (of sorts) is ludicrous, and the "whatever I say, it's the opposite, because I'm always wrong" plot development is, once again, pure Crackerjack stuff. These scenes with Sydney Stevenson do seem "off" in atmosphere, though this is probably due to them being filmed without a studio audience as they were late rewrites.
      But, despite it all, this is one of the better efforts from the tenth season, a not-terrible but still quite mediocre effort. If this episode were ranked alongside the 36 Grant-Naylor episodes, it would clearly be in the bottom five... but ranked among the 37 post-Grant episodes and it's a top ten entry, showing the genuine gulf in class in a show that's rewardingly giving it a go, but well past its prime...