More than 24 years after it first hit the airwaves of a perplexed BBC and delighted jaded science-fiction comedy viewers near and far, Red Dwarf made a triumphant return to television in the final quarter of 2012 — only this time, under the compassionate guidance of Dave TV (no, not the fictitious David Lee Roth network from the mid '80s). Previously, the Boys from the Dwarf had made a minor comeback with a three-part special in 2009, subtitled Back to Earth, which took place nine years after Series VIII — which concluded with a cliffhanger many hoped would be resolved — as well as well after what would have been Series X had the series kept running full-time.
Red Dwarf did not run full-time, of course (it never did from the get-go), so fans knew well enough to take what they could get and not complain (well, the fanboys probably did, but we won't go into that). And then, out of the blue, Red Dwarf X appeared — presumably stretching the sci-fi/comedy continuum out of shape still further than before in a completely deliberate manner. Well, that, or writer/producer/director Doug Naylor wisely realized that his performers weren't getting any younger after all these years, which more than likely made the joke of the still non-existent Series IX even funnier to him. In fact, for those of you who absolutely must know what happened at the conclusion of Series VIII, it's briefly allured to here — in a subtly hilarious manner that only a show like Red Dwarf could pull off.
Anyway, mysteriously unexplained past exploits aside, not much has changed for the crew of the Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel, the Red Dwarf. They're still a good three-million years from Earth, with third-class technician Dave Lister (Craig Charles) still leading the race as the last (known) man alive in a cold, unforgiving void inhabited by primarily by insane manmade life forms and malfunctioning mechanics. Arnold Judas Rimmer (Chris Barrie) is still dead — though serving as the highest ranking crewmember (second-class technician) via the ship's hard-light hologram. And he's still annoying, too.
The Cat (Danny John-Jules), a humanoid creature who evolved from Lister's pregnant cat in the three-million years the latter was in suspended animation following a lethal radiation leak (thanks to Rimmer's incompetence), is just as big of an idiot as before. Meanwhile the service mechanoid Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) continues to fill the "Spock" function — undoubtedly the Dwarf's smartest individual, he, too, is full of faults like his human/hologram/humanoid shipmates. As with Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, the ship's computer, Holly, is nowhere to be seen or heard — nor is the character of Lister's girlfriend from an alternate universe, Kochanski, which is just as well since she never really brought much to the show in most viewers' eyes. [Another missing component from the original series is co-creator Rob Grant, who departed from the show after Series VI in 1993 and has not been associate with the programme since.]
To the uninitiated, Red Dwarf X will make about as much sense as everything I just told you probably did. The continuing saga (or smega, to joke with the fans) begins with "Trojan," where our anti-heroes discovering a highly-advanced Earth ship that enables them to make contact with another ship — which, coincidentally, is commanded by Rimmer's own brother, Howard (Mark Dexter), who everyone assumed died three-million years ago with the rest of humanity. In "Fathers & Suns," a new computer (Rebecca Blackstone, DmC: Devil May Cry) threatens to destroy all life aboard ship as Dave struggles with being his own father (really, newbies, really).
"Lemons" takes a trip back to some of the surprisingly non-controversial philosophical jokes the series has frequently pulled out of its hat, with the Boys accidentally transplanted to Earth in the year 23AD — wherein they meet (and subsequently corrupt) a gentle fellow by the name of Jesus. Cat and Kryten, two characters who have never really had a ceremoniously imaginative onscreen relationship, finally get the chance to see eye-to-eye in "Entangled," when a quantum entanglement results in them doing everything in unison. Meanwhile, Lister loses Rimmer to a group of revolting GELFs (Genetically Engineered Life Forms), which results in a trip to a long-forgotten, secret scientific facility to relieve Lister of a potentially sex-altering predicament.
In "Dear Dave" (a title which must have a dual purpose), Lister's imaginary love life takes a turn for the worse when his attempts at keeping up to speed by flirting with the vending machines gets him into more trouble than anyone might have expected to happen. Things get further complicated when he receives a (three-million-year-old) letter from an ex-girlfriend who may or may not have bore the labor of their love to fruition (that's the nicest way I can say that and still be disgusting about it, people!). Finally, Red Dwarf X concludes with "The Beginning" (a take on the very first episode from 1988, "The End"), where Rimmer learns some devastating news about his deceased father — just in time for a group of deadly Simulants to come-a-ridin' in to blow everybody up, to whit the crew's salvation lies in Rimmer himself (oh, and a pencil sharpener and two forks).
Being an impatient fan of the series with a multiregional Blu-ray player, I picked up the Region B Blu-ray that hit UK shelves in November 2012. Surprisingly, Red Dwarf X didn't take long at all to land in the US via a Region A release that, I'm 99% certain, is exactly the same as its British-issued counterpart. Of course, I'm not complaining: both 2-Disc sets boast a transfer that — considering the show started out being shot on BBC video — looks truly incredible. The colors, contrast, black levels, and detail are all so impressive here are unbelievable. Sadly, one thing that never dawned upon me about viewing Red Dwarf in High-Def came to horrid life for me as I watched this: the sight of Craig Charles' teeth in stunning 1080p. Oh, my. Yup, it's that clean and clear!
Accompanying the episodes is a thoroughly-pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that — like the previous full series — is a vast improvement, as well as awe-inspiring to anyone who has been with the programme from the start. Optional English (SHD) subtitles are included.
Disc 2 of Red Dwarf X is devoted entirely to special features, and begins with an amazing two-hour documentary about the creation of Red Dwarf X, entitled We're Smegged. If you're a fan, turn off your phone and sit back for this one -- you owe it to yourself. Following in its footsteps are a good half-an-hour's worth of deleted scenes (with optional audio commentary by Doug Naylor), and — that which you all are hoping would be included — a collection of Smeg Ups (outtakes), wherein you learn the men who have been bringing these iconic cult characters to life for the better part of two-and-a-half decades have not lost their ability to make themselves laughs as well as others.
And so, here we are, 61 episodes of Red Dwarf later. I must say it's been an enjoyable ride throughout — and I'm glad Doug Naylor and his actors have managed to keep it all afloat despite numerous setbacks, the occasional bit of bad behavior from one of his stars, those rather weak stories in the late '90s, the addition of the Kochanski character, and a feature-length movie that never came to realization (reportedly, some portions of that abandoned project wound up in Red Dwarf X). They have prevailed. And, according to word around the rumor mill, Doug Naylor is writing an eleventh series. Could it be that Red Dwarf is here to stay — well, sort of — once more? I can only smeggin' hope. As for the missing ninth series, I proudly say "Series IX? We don't need no stinkin' Series IX!" I vote we move on — and by "on," I mean "back."
Oh, forget the approving speech that cites the show's determined spirit and longevity. The bottom line is that Red Dwarf is back — and this BBC Home Video release comes as highly recommended as the rest of the series itself.