Last week in my review of Trojan, the first episode of Red Dwarf X, that the series opener felt true to the series roots, but did not feel particularly ambitious. The second episode in the series, Fathers and Suns, keeps the authentic Red Dwarf feeling but couples it with a much tighter, riskier plot. It’s a gamble that really works.
The episode is a little busy, with three running plots that don’t come together until the end. The main thread of the episode deals with Lister’s parenting skills. Back in series 7 we learn that Lister is, through a quirk of time travel, his own father. It wasn’t a particularly good episode at the time, coming during an awkward phase for the series, and so the humour wasn’t really explored in full. In Fathers and Suns, we see Lister reacting to the realisation that he hasn’t been the best dad to himself.
At the same time, Kryten and Rimmer attempt to make up for Holly’s loss by installing a new ship computer. Once she is up and running, Pree gets straight to work by predicting her orders before they’ve been given. She does this by syncing her behaviour patterns to the senior officer onboard, Rimmer. This is a great set up that ranks among the show’s best, though it does feel a little drawn from earlier episodes like Queeg and Cassandra. Still, the final episode is very original and great fun.
Finally, there is a running plot about Chinese Whispers that I won’t spoil here, but really ties the whole episode together very nicely.
The jokes find their mark more often this week too. Though, the biggest laughs still come from only a couple of very well written sequences. The highlight of Fathers and Suns is a brilliant sequence in which Lister attempts to give himself some fatherly advice, but just about all of Pree’s dialogue is good for a chuckle.
All in all, this is a very fine episode of Red Dwarf. The new series still feels a little awkward in places. The delivery could be tighter and a few of the longer jokes feel like they’re forced to run for a few punchlines past their best, but on average it’s 30 pretty solid minutes. The script is a lot tighter than last weeks, and the plot never feels rushed or choppy. Instead we have three different scenarios that play out almost independently, with each being thoroughly mined for the best jokes, before they all reunite for a very nice climax at the end. Minor quibbles aside, this episode really feels like it could stand alongside some of the best of the past and if the series keeps up this pace then it will probably be the best since Series 6 when Rob Grant left the show.