TV review: Red Dwarf XI – Dave (3 stars)

Red Dwarf XI

Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie

The crew (Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules) return for 11th series of the sci-fi sitcom

Resurrecting a much-loved comedy classic is always risky (just ask the BBC after their recent god awful reboots of Are You Being Served and Porridge). Red Dwarf always had a passionate geeky fanbase but drifted in and out of the TV schedules. There was a three-year hiatus as creators Doug Naylor and Rob Grant went their separate ways. Then a ten year gap before it reappeared with the Back to Earth miniseries in 2009. It was terrible. Another three years passed before we finally got a proper Red Dwarf Season X. It wasn't perfect, but it was a step in the right direction.

Another five years, and Red Dwarf is back (with XII already confirmed for 2017). The crew might be older but they're not definitely not wiser (except Cat, Danny John-Jules, who hasn't aged a day). Opening episode 'Twentica' finds them stranded on a planet where tech is illegal, making robot Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) and hologram Rimmer (Chris Barrie) walking violations. In second episode 'Samsara' they become entangled in a 'Karma Drive' under the ocean on a distant moon.

Old fans won't feel short changed. The cast are obviously incredibly comfortable slipping back into their old characters. Apart from a few paunches nothing's changed: Lister (Craig Charles) is still a borderline-alcoholic slob who loves winding up Rimmer, Cat is slick but stupid and Kryten is built to serve. Despite the futuristic setting, Red Dwarf feels old fashioned. The stories are still incredibly clever subversions of sci-fi tropes but the jokes are often clunky. There are some wonderful details like the scientists hustling physics in a prohibition era speakeasy in the first episode or the fun Naylor has with probability in the second. It's just a shame the humour doesn't match the smart scenarios.

Red Dwarf XI starts on Dave, 9pm, Thu 22 Sep.