Wednesday 2 November 2016


Sorry to say I'm very behind on my reviewing. Moving into a new place is a very time-consuming and stressful undertaking, and one I like to do as infrequently as possible, but these last two weeks have been onwards and upwards and so televisual excursions have been reduced. Soon, though, I will find time to finish covering Space Dandy season two, get back onto Trek and return to working for Television Heaven. Now though, I can finish the latest run of Red Dwarf.

This year's series of Red Dwarf has built on the successful approach of Series X, taking elements of the earliest series and rejigging them for a modern approach. Wisely not trying too hard to recreate the classic years, Series XI is retro Red Dwarf – taking the old and making it new. As such, it's been a very fan-pleasing run, but crucially, it's also the funniest series of Red Dwarf for a good long while (probably since series VI, for my dollarpound).

“Can of Worms” goes for broke with this approach, dredging up memories of favourite episodes while examining some, in retrospect, obvious questions about a character who hasn't ever really been in the limelight. This series we've had a strong Rimmer episode and a strong Kryten episode, and to a lesser extent, a Lister-focused episode, but never before have we had a Cat episode. The closest we've got was “Waiting for God” in Series I, and that was really a Lister story.

Finally, Danny John Jules gets to be the focus of an episode, with a script that revolves around the Cat and his mysterious, self-absorbed lifestyle. Of course the Cat, for all his arrogant self-aggrandising, has never been with a woman, and he's only even met about three. It's a very funny, very blokey set-up for an episode.

It's kind of a shame that, after introducing a female Cat person, the episode chucks the concept away. Back in Series VII, Naylor wrote a script called “Identity Within,” which revolved around the Cat's desperate need to have sex, a parody of Star Trek's “Amok Time.” That episode was scrapped due to budget constraints, but it's voiced storyboard has become generally accepted by fans as a “real” story, something this latest episode puts the kibosh on. Series VII would have given us a real Felis sapiens, but Series XI decides to make her a polymorph instead.

Still, it works. It's a brave move, trying to make a (second) sequel to one of the most popular episodes of the programme, but this latest shapeshifter attack hits an excellent balance of grot vs. comedy. The more seasoned spacers have little difficulty dealing with a whole swarm of polymorphs this time round, but there are enough jokes hitting the mark that it still works as a new take on the old monster.

Meanwhile the Cat gets some of his nest moments ever. It's hard to know whether “It still counts!” or “Pipe me!” will go down as his best-remembered lines (disturbingly, the ovipositor thing is an actual fetish). It's also fun to see the suddenly selfless mother Cat, a huge contrast to his usual self, and once again an idea that deserves more exploration than there is time for. Underneath it all, though, we get a glimpse at how lonely the Cat is as a character. There's a lot more that could be done with his character.

That last scene though, that could have been something. Yes, it was funny, but if only it hadn't been a dream. Of course, it would have made nonsense of the episode as a whole, but imagine the continuity arguments the fanboys would have had...

Best line: "No, Kinder eggs! Yes, eggs that hatch!"

Good psycho guide: Four chainsaws

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