Daredevil – First Impressions

Daredevil-9If you’ve been listening to Those Aren’t Biscuits, you’ll have heard Jon and I talking about Netflix’s new Daredevil series on the last episode. I’ve finally got around to watching the show and it’s definitely a slick production. I’m only two episodes in, but I’m really impressed. Marvel’s first attempt at a series set in the MCU was, for me, a bit of a disaster. Agents of SHIELD lost me only a few episodes in, while Daredevil banked enough in the pilot alone that I know I’m sticking with it to the end of the season.

So what do I like? Well, firstly this is a tightly constructed bit of drama. It’s heavily character driven, and at least in the pilot, focuses as much on Murdock as a lawyer as it does on his role as Daredevil. It reminds me of my love for Season One of Lois and Clark in its commitment to procedural drama, throwing the more colourful elements in for added flavour and not relying on them. It also does a great job exploring Daredevil’s origins through flashbacks that fit well into the main show. The casting is strong. It might lack the star appeal of the movies, but nobody lets the side down.

It’s still early days, but so far this is a really strong series that is better than any adaptions for TV than I’ve seen in a really long time. The only down side, so to speak, is that this is definitely not a family show. That can be a strength as the show is really exploring some adult plots, and it can be hard to find good entertainment that is adult-centric these days, but it might leave behind any younger Avengers fans in your household. It’s currently exclusive to Netflix but you can view the entire first season right now if you just want to put down the cash for a month or take out a free trial. I really recommend it.

Nostalgia Special: Crime Traveller

My callback to Bugs last week has sent me on a real 90s TV nostalgia kick. It wasn’t long before I got to Crime Traveller. If you were outside the UK or had a phobia of awesome TV shows in the 90s, you may have missed this. I absolutely loved this show, and if you’re a fan of Sci-Fi Drama then you will probably love it too. The show explored the adventures of detective Slade and forensics expert Holly who solve crimes using the hodgepodge Time Machine hidden in a London flat. Written by the great Anthony Horowitz, Crime Traveller featured a strict version of time travel in which the travellers could never change history or control exactly how far back they would travel. The show explored paradoxes and cause and effect, while telling a pretty good crime yarn at the same time. The show was too good to be cancelled, but got lost in the mix during a staff reshuffle at the BBC, and never got recommissioned. The show will never see a second series, but the single season we do have is pure gold.

British Nostalgia Time: BUGS

If, like me, you were a square-eyed British TV addict child in the 90s then you might remember this show. BBC Drama in the 90s was pretty ambitious, and while it didn’t have the budget that it does now, I still think BUGS has aged pretty well.

My Dad used to describe it as a show about computers, written by someone who had never seen a computer, and it does have that early 90s innocence in the way it treats computer technology. The upside is that the plots were often genuinely original and it’s still nice to see a Sci-Fi / Action series set in Britain. To this day, I can’t think of many other shows that are explicitly about bugs, digital terrorism and solving crimes using computers. I still find myself humming the theme tune every now and then. I remember tuning out in later years as they changed the actor playing Ed, and messed about with the basic formula, but back in the day this was one of my favourites.

The 12th Doctor: Predictions

Capaldi With Beard
I’d love to know if Capaldi was cast before or after Moffat saw this photo.

The waiting is over at last. A week ago, the BBC took time out if its busy schedule to announce the the identity of the next Doctor. It was that middle-aged white bloke whose name we all heard days before. This isn’t bad news, but it does throw my predictions out. Of course, it wasn’t a total waste of time. We were also treated to half an hour of very minor celebrities making vague remarks about the show as if they’d never seen it before and were desperately trying to up their profile. And Peter Davison was there briefly. If you want to see how this very special programme was made, the BBC have kindly written up a “Making of…” piece here.  The magic of Television is alive and well!

A new Doctor is an exciting time. The show’s ability to replace its main star has kept it fresh over the last fifty years, and always draws in an audience. Peter Capaldi seems like a good choice for the role. He is older than ten of the eleven previous actors cast in the role, but still has a sense of kinetic energy about him that suits the role. Some have baulked at the thought of an older Doctor, but Matt Smith is only 30 and all his Doctor seems to do these days is mope, sulk and grumble like an old man anyway. How much worse can it get?

It won’t be a complete regeneration for the show though, because showrunner Steven Moffat is still very much on board. I’ve discussed the unique stamp he’s leaving on the show before, but now the next Doctor has been cast, I’m here to give you my very special 12th Doctor predictions.

The 12th Doctor’s Costume:

The Sixth Doctor and TARDIS
“Patchwork quilts are cool.”

The Doctor’s outfit is a pretty important part of the show. Christopher Eccleston might have been one of the best Doctors ever to grace the series, but his understated, practical outfit is not the direction we should be going in. The Doctor’s costume needs to be eye catching, anachronistic and commented upon frequently. Hey, it worked for Colin Baker.

As such an integral part of the show, the Doctor should pick his new clothes in a way that fits Moffat’s storytelling methods. In Series 8, the Doctor will spend a good part of each episode trying to track down an item of clothing belonging to a love interest he hasn’t met yet. Each item of clothing has the name of its owner written in the label, but the handwriting is terrible and the Doctor needs each piece to identify the owner.

The 12th Doctor’s Catchphrase:

TARDIS saying GeronimoCatchphrases are fun. They shot Little Britain to success and who couldn’t use a little more of that fame. They’re also good for knowing which fan letters contain good advice. If the writer signs of with an Allons-y, they’re probably not looking to the future. Geronimo goes straight to the top of the pile. Again, the Doctor should be slightly anachronistic but not so much that it alienates the fans. This probably rules out Simples! and Should’ve gone to Specsavers, but leaves Moffat with a more pacifistic option like Leave ‘im Davros, he’s not worth it.

If Moffat is feeling really original, we might get something like Popped Collars are Nifty!

Challenging Love Interests:

Who didn’t love River Song, eh? Her convoluted time travel plot arc that culminated in a shotgun wedding was just the sort of romance we’ve come to expect from a progressive show like this. That story is pretty much wrapped up now, but there are so many more Time Travel love stories to tell. In Series 8, the Doctor discovers he’s using the TARDIS to secretly date two women at once, neither of which he’s actually met. In a shocking twist, they turn out to be the same person but they’ve forgotten for some reason that isn’t very important.

Finding the Balance between Alien and Human:

Clara and the Doctor
“You can travel with me, but you have to cook and clean too.”

Sure, the Doctor looks human, sounds human and spends a lot of time living with humans, but let’s not forget that he’s actually an ancient aliens with ways different to our own. The best way to do this is to periodically write it into the script, but there are subtler ways. Everyone knows that aliens don’t have manners, every so often giving the Doctor something unnecessarily insensitive should do the trick. Still, if the Doctor was totally unsympathetic, there’d be no reason to watch the show. Bring him down to earth by writing in a few of 21st Century Earth’s social prejudices. Every so often the 12th Doctor will sigh and mutter “Women!” under his breath. That’s a feeling we can all get behind, no matter what planet you’re from!

Murder and Genocide, each more casual than the last:

Genocide Machine cover.
Maybe the Dalek isn’t the villain?

The Eleventh Doctor was a complex figure. On the day he was born, he reminded us that Earth would always be protected. A couple of years later, and he’d retired from protecting the Earth because he’d got another companion stuck somewhere even the TARDIS can’t reach. Sure, he’s been through that a few times before, but after a while it starts to get to you. When he was on the case, The Eleventh Doctor liked to finish things in a big way. The Doctor lives in a dangerous universe, sometimes you need to blow up the entire Cyberman fleet just to get directions, or use subliminal messages to wipe out an entire invasion force, or pilot a homing missile into a spaceship just to kill one sick old man in circumstances that weren’t that urgent.

The 12th Doctor will take this even further, recognising the Doctor’s mistakes of the past and fixing them. Highlights include a return to the events during  Genesis of the Daleks. While Tom Baker ponders over the ethics of obliterating the entire Dalek race, the 12th Doctor yanks the wires from his and and blows them to bits. The big series finale sees a crossover with David Tennant and finally corrects events during The Doctor’s Daughter. While Tennant holds a gun to the head of his Daughter’s killer and says “I never would,” Capaldi arrives finishes the job.

That’s all for now, some of these predictions might seem like a stretch, but like Moffat says. Doctor Who is about surprises!

A Few Thoughts Before The Name of the Doctor. (Or, why I don’t like Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who.)

Christopher Eccleston posing as the Ninth Doctor
He isn’t returning for the 50th Anniversary so I’m putting him here to remind everyone that he’s still the finest Doctor since 2005.

Doctor Who Season 7 comes to a close on Saturday with an episode titled The Name of the Doctor.

This really bugs me. Firstly, we all know it’s going to be a cop out. People seem to have forgotten the beginning of Season 6 (I don’t blame you, I’ve spent a long time trying to forget Season 6 too, but it just won’t go.) Remember Moffat telling us all that the Doctor’s death absolutely wasn’t a cop-out or a cheat? We even had old Canton at the scene to tell us that it was definitely the Doctor and he was definitely dead?

And he wasn’t.

It was a cop-out.

Which is exactly what The Name of the Doctor will be.

Secondly, it’s a totally contrived mystery. Moffat did this  with River Song too. When the character is introduced in Silence in the Library, it’s actually perfectly clear who she is. She is a significant love interest of the Doctor’s that he has yet to meet. I don’t remember anyone ever asking who she was until Moffat started the question in interviews. It’s exactly the same with the Doctor’s name. Yes, we don’t know what it is. Yes, this was supposed to be mysterious back in the sixties, but this whole “Oooh, what could the Doctor’s name be?” is totally irrelevant because, just as with River Song, we might not know the details, but we know who the character is. Or not, since Moffat thinks the sole purpose of the show is to provide surprise. Unfortunately I’m tired of plot arcs and contrived suspense over minor details that have no bearing on the plot or characters.

Thirdly, it’s yet another of Moffat’s ridiculous story twists that attempts to make the Doctor iconic and important. I wouldn’t mind, but Moffat’s arcs have completely overtaken the show now. Standalone episodes are meaningless, every scene is The Doctor’s Final Hour and every cliffhanger is supposed to further illustrate just how significant The Doctor is. Without any good, well written episodes, I feel like I’m constantly hearing just how great the Doctor is but never getting to see it for myself.  To make matters worse, Moffat thinks this whole “The Doctor’s all big headed and fallible” thing is hilarious, so the character is just rude, incompetent and unbelievably selfish now.

The longer Moffat holds the reins of this series, the more obvious it becomes that he just doesn’t understand why it is so loved. He’s taken a show that three years ago had an unbelievably wide audience and made it cheap, sleazy and niche.

(Personally, I’m betting the Doctor’s name is Thedoc Tor.)

Red Dwarf X: Dear Dave – Review

Red Dwarf X Dear DaveWow, I can’t believe that next week will be the last episode of Red Dwarf X. I spoke last week of its ups and downs, but I’m happy to say that this week’s review will be staying firmly in the “ups” department.

Dear Dave is probably my favourite episode of Red Dwarf X so far. I liked its plot, I liked its jokes and I liked it for being true to both the series as a whole and the style of Series X. Dear Dave finds Lister feeling a little bit down because he’s the last human being alive. Things are made worse when he receives some very old mail from an ex-girlfriend who tells him he might have had children. What follows is a clever and warm story that focuses on Lister as a character in much the same way as the also excellent Fathers and Suns. 

What makes Dear Dave work so well is in its strong anchoring to the core values of a single character. Lister’s defining feature is that he’s the ultimate reflection humanity at its most mundane, and its most normal. The show rarely explores the tragedy of his isolation as the last man alive, and Dear Dave doesn’t really dwell on it either, but it does finally explore how that defines him as a person.

Another great strength about this episode, and something that has been working well for the whole series, is consideration of what life on board Red Dwarf is like. In previous episodes this year we’ve seen the installing new AI, getting mail from the on-board computer and been introduced to the rest of the ship’s mechanical inhabitants. This time around the vending machines from Fathers and Suns play more of a part in the story, and it really works. I really liked these vending machines the first time around, and it fits in well with the show. We’ve had talking vending machines before, but giving them personalities a bit more in line with the very popular Talkie Toaster is a winning combination.

I get the feeling that, though the scripts haven’t always been great, the writers have been very good at finding a balance in the setting this year. They understand that the claustrophobic episodes work best, but they still try to show you more of the ship. In fact, I think this is one of the first seasons in which the size of the ship really feels apparent from internal shots. But they’ve also found the balance in the amount of characters and the feeling of an isolated universe. In Series 7 we saw the re-introduction of Kochanski, Series 8 saw the resurrection of the crew, both moves that fundamentally changed the nature of the show. In Series X we finally find a middle ground that works. We have the main cast, and a supporting cast of computers, vending machines, garbage trucks roaming the hallways. We’re also seeing encounters with other races that are more indicative of a giant, empty universe than the Star Trek-esque common encounters of Series 6.

Best of all, the cast seem on top form this week. Dear Dave was a pleasure to watch. We’re certainly back to the high standards of the first two episodes, but it’s also probably the first really standout episode of the series. I liked Fathers and Suns a lot, but I think Dear Dave will be the episode that I remember (like Backwards or Gunmen of the Apocalypse) as an icon of its series.

Red Dwarf X: Entangled – Review

Red Dwarf Crew It’s hard to believe it’s already a month since Red Dwarf returned to our screens. Red Dwarf X is proving to be enjoyable, occasionally disappointing, but generally a worthwhile successor to the show of years gone by. Now we have Entangled, an episode that seems to sum up both the good and bad in a half hour of comedy that feels true to its roots, but never really becomes very funny.

The premise of Entangled is actually pretty good. Lister takes Starbug out to meet some local lifeforms called BEGGs and gets caught up in a game of poker. Unfortunately luck is not on his side and he loses Starbug and, in an attempt to win it back, Rimmer. This is a classic setup that gives the show some of its best moments. The crew attempt to bargain with the BEGGs but things don’t exactly work out. At the same time, Kryten and Cat are suffering from an outbreak of synchronicity, in which they both encounter extraordinary coincidences. This is funny at first but becomes less so as the episode continues until it becomes as much of an annoyance to the audience as the characters themselves.

However, Entangled starts to fall down pretty rapidly from a good opening. In an attempt to remove a device from Lister’s groin intended to do something nasty if he attempts to run away without paying his debts, the crew visit a ground breaking research facility and we reach one plot too many for a half hour show. Almost everything after this point is a waste of time and the episode never really catches up with its promising beginning. It feels a lot like the writers didn’t know where to go with the poker game plot and abandoned it halfway through. It’s a shame, because whatever was likely to have developed from there was bound to be a lot more interesting than the rushed mess that followed. I don’t want to be too down on the show. We’re certainly not in Lemons territory again, but I can’t shake the feeling that the writers were expecting a 45 minute runtime.

For long term fans, part of the annoyance of Entangled is probably going to be the most egregious use of plot recycling so far. For a start, the poker game plot is ripped right out of Emohawk. This wouldn’t be too bad except it’s really not as good as Emohawk. The BEGGs are not that different from the GELF tribe and it would probably work better if they’d just used them again. Worse still is the repackaging of the Luck Virus from series 5 in Kryten and Cat’s coincidence generating quantum entangling. The writers were clearly aiming to hit the same sort of beats, but when the coincidences start solving problems in a way that is poorly explained and (once again) seems to be pulled out of thin air, I must admit that I started to lose a little patience.

Entangled isn’t bad. It’s well written and still feels true to the characters and spirit of the show, but it feels sort of lazy. It’s not just the rehashing of old ideas that hurts it, but the general lack of effort gone into pacing and plot structure. The show has always been a sitcom and the jokes absolutely have to come before the clever sci-fi concepts, but there also needs to be a strong, clear skeleton to build those jokes around. All too quickly Entangled forgets its narrative thread in favour of an ever more ridiculous series of events that become less and less funny as the show goes on and it’s a real shame because each element would probably be interesting AND funny if it weren’t crammed into 30 minutes along with its brethren.

Entangled isn’t the worst episode of Red Dwarf X, but it’s probably the most disappointing because it could, and should, be so much better than it is.

Red Dwarf X: Lemons – Review

Kryten, Rimmer and the Cat in LemonsThis review contains big spoilers. 

Lemons is, I am sad to say, everything I expected Red Dwarf X to be, and everything the first two episodes weren’t. Lemons is a cartoony, clumsy episode that evokes the worst moments of the Back to Earth specials and reeks of trying to be far too clever. Worst of all, Lemons subscribes to that “and after that” school of writing that seems to be ruining all the best shows these days.

Let me sum this up for you.

Lemons opens with the crew discovering a flat pack “rejuvenation shower” that makes the occupant young and healthy, they make some jokes about flat pack furniture while doing a poor job assembling it. The shower sends them back in time to 23 AD by mistake, where they discover they don’t have the means to return. Their only option is to travel to India to find lemons so they can make a battery. And after that they meet Jesus, and after that they take him back to the ship, and after that they perform surgery on Jesus, and after that Jesus gets disillusioned about his future as the messiah and travels back to 23 AD. The first half plays out reasonably naturally, but the second half isn’t a tidy flow of events. Instead one tired development turns up after the other, with little thought as to how, or why, the episode is progressing.

This episode just does not work. The initial gag about a flat pack sci-fi gadget is naff. This kind of 90s observational humour doesn’t suit the show, and the gags have all been done to death. On top of that, the basic premise is so poor. Kryten tells the crew that the rejuvenation shower rewinds your genes, but he says nothing about it sending your genes back in time. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky, but even if you’re happy to accept that the machine has gone wrong and is sending people back in time, why Britain in 23AD? I’m not questioning the scientific accuracy so much as the pulled-out-of-our-bottoms quality it all has. It’s an awkward and unfunny opening that doesn’t feel like cause and effect. The shower feels very much like a late addition, any bad gag gadget that could send the crew to 23AD would do.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except the plot that follows isn’t worth the effort. It looks promising when they’re talking about potatoes, lemons and batteries. We are led to think this is where the episode is going, a gag filled romp through the past while they attempt to find a way home, but this is soon forgotten with the introduction of Jesus. From here on it all gets coincidental and stale. Sure, they’re in about the right time period for Jesus, but why is he in India? They say that it’s during the missing years in the Bible when Jesus travelled, but it makes no sense. The sets don’t look much more like India than the middle east, the only reason seems to be the location of the lemons. Sure, the show goes to great lengths to convince you that it’s possible Jesus would be in India at the age of 23, around the same time as lemons, but it all seems so pointless. Why is it set in India? Couldn’t Kryten think of a fruit you could make a battery from that’s native to Jerusalem?

From there it just gets worse. They take Jesus back to the ship and he reads about all the wars Christianity has caused, but it never really goes anywhere and none of the gags are worth the very lengthy setups we’ve had to endure over the course of the show. Couple this with the absolutely feeble pokes at Christianity that could only entertain a very militant atheist. I watched this episode with my partner who was raised an evangelical Christian and is now a happy non-believer. Her response was that it all felt too easy, and wasn’t particularly funny.

Lister shaving in Future EchoesRed Dwarf can be a very funny show. When it’s at its best, it takes a science fiction concept that isn’t funny in itself, and then explores all the humour possible in the situation. This has been a trend from the very early episodes. Take Future Echoes in which the crew witness small snippets of the future that can never be changed. This isn’t a naturally hilarious concept, but the episode is one of the best. Watching Lister trying to stop the cat from breaking his tooth to prove that he can avoid his own death has the comedy and depth that sets the show apart. Most of the very best episodes follow this formula: Backwards, Justice, Back to Reality. Even last week’s Fathers and Suns, takes two basic premises, being your own father and a computer that can predict your behaviour, and then explores the humour in them. In years to come Fathers and Suns will probably be remembered as the standout episode in Red Dwarf X

Lemons isn’t like those great episodes of Red Dwarf. It doesn’t establish a scenario and then try to find the humour in it, it flits from routine to routine, desperately trying to create humour. When you couple this with Ikea jokes and bad religious satire, the effect is just embarrassing  Three episodes in to a series that is already on pretty shaky footing, it’s not what the show needs. What doesn’t help is that the episode has clearly been hacked to pieces in the edit. I don’t know how much longer the original must have been, but there are clear gaps. At one point Rimmer remarks that they need a battery, it is delivered like a joke and the cast even seem to leave a gap for the audience laughter, but we have no frame of reference. Lister discards are battery as unimportant earlier in the episode, but it’s a throwaway line in the middle of a list and isn’t described in the same detail. We’re clearly getting half a joke, and it’s not the only time this happens.

Lemons suffers in the same way the first episodes did. The actors don’t have as strong delivery as they used to, the setups are a little more cartoony than they used to be and the characters all seem a little dumber. There’s a real BBC Three feel that doesn’t help the show much, and everyone, from the cast to costume and set designers, seem to be producing a parody of Red Dwarf rather than the genuine article. However, this has been balanced out by some of the best story outlines in years, some very funny jokes and a real sense that the show is trying its best. Lemons has none of this balance, it just feels rushed, cheap and stupid. Many of the cast and crew have come out and sold this episode as their favourite, if that’s the case then I dread to see what’s yet to come.

Red Dwarf X: Fathers And Suns – Review

Crew of the Red DwarfLast 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.

Red Dwarf X: Trojan – Review

Lister, Rimmer, the Cat and KrytenRed Dwarf has returned!

I’m a big Red Dwarf fan (as you might have guessed when I named it the number one sci-fi sitcom ever made) and so I figured I should share my feelings on Trojan, the first episode of Red Dwarf X.

It has been thirteen years since the last series of Red Dwarf, and as we begin Trojan, it really feels it. The cast look older, the budget seems to be a lot thinner and there’s something about the sets that seems a little contrived.

A lot of the look of Red Dwarf X seems to be manufactured to push our nostalgia buttons. This isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t sit as comfortably as previous years where the show changed it’s visual style every couple of seasons but never seemed out of place. I suppose I would best sum up the effect of returning to the series as “authentic but awkward.” A lot of effort has clearly gone into making a show to looks right, and yet it never seems as comfortable in itself as Series 6, which introduced an entirely new setup to the series and yet felt more natural than ever. Later on in the episode, the crew visit a derelict ship which feels even cheaper and despite being a lot more showy, it lacks the character of sets of the past, seen in episodes like D.N.A or Legion.

These initial impressions carry on to the cast, costumes and even the writing. At first, everything feels a little forced. Similarly to the Back to Earth specials from a couple of years ago, Red Dwarf X returns to the cast of series 3-6. No attempt is made to resolve the cliffhanger of Series 8 which isn’t a bad decision, but it does create a few nitpicky problems for long term fans. Lister refers to himself as the last man alive, something that was certainly true for most of the series but isn’t certain after the end of Series 8. I bring this up, not to be pedantic, but because the show itself seems unclear. While no other humans turn up in the episode, we are introduced to another hologram, serving on another Space Corps ship, who makes no mention of the fact that we are supposedly three million years in the future. While we’re on the subject, why can people touch holograms now? Rimmer’s hard light drive seems to have been adopted across the universe now. While Red Dwarf X returns us to the most familiar cast and setting, it presents us with something of an unknown universe. Maybe this isn’t important to the series, but for fans of the series, it might be a bit distracting.

However, that’s a lot of the bad out of the way pretty quickly. Despite initial awkwardness, which could be as much to do with the 13 year gap as anything else, the show hits its stride after a few scenes and the writing settles down into a nice pace.For example, the episode opens with a routine about traffic accidents in 70s Sweden that involve a moose. It’s a funny joke that gets carried too far, too fast and we’re only a couple of minutes in. The back and forth pangs of pushing too much for “dwarfy” humour. The flip side to this is that when the joke pops up again later in the episode, it is easily one of the funniest, most natural moments of the show. This is a pattern that characterises Trojan.  It’s hit a miss, and gives the impression of a writing team that are trying a little too hard to hit all the right notes, but when it works it’s a joy to watch. The great jokes might not be plentiful, but they’re truer to the best of the series than anything from Series 8 or Back to Earth.

Where the episode really falls down is in plotting. The jokes, and a good dose of nostalgia, are carrying this episode but the main plot involving Rimmer’s brother and a derelict Space Corps vessel feels rushed and choppy. It’s a nice episode to open on, but nostalgia will only take an audience so far, so the plots will have to get stronger in weeks to come.

Red Dwarf X opens in perhaps the best possible way. It meets the audience’s basic requirements for a Red Dwarf episode but it doesn’t get anyone’s hopes up. It is funny and at times it is very clever, but it is never particularly ambitious. When it works, it works well but it is far from a complete return to form. However, it promises that the show still has legs and that it could still go places from here. In this respect, it performs much better than the feeble Back to Earth. It entertained me for half an hour, it made me laugh, and I am looking forward to the next episode. After 13 years, can we ask any more?