Dave – 9pm – Thursday 9th November 2017
Available to stream NOW on UKTV Play
Created by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Written and directed by: Doug Naylor
While a few of the jokes in series XII have riffed on over-familiar tropes from Red Dwarf‘s past (Lister’s dodgy guitar skillz, Cat’s less-than-subtle ribs about rid of Rimmer, Kryten’s love of cleaning), plot-wise, this latest batch of six space adventures for the remaining crew of the JMC’s finest has really upped the ante and pushed the ‘Bug out like never before.
Despite being written and filmed in the same time frame as 2016’s XI, XII has felt bigger, bolder, more confident – and less reliant on what worked in the past. This isn’t to say that “M-Corp” doesn’t reference the sci-fi sitcom’s 30-year history – Cat’s use of hair-styling instruments is the episode’s catalyst; Lister demands Kryten “skip the sirs, get straight to the point”; the conclusion is a recreation of the 1988 pilot’s first ever scene – but like with Talkie Toaster’s cameo in “Mechocracy” (reviewed HERE), these feel less contrived and more cheer-worthy than the cavalcade of callbacks in, say, series VIII.
After Lister experiences a heart scare on his “&!?@#” birthday, an outdated monitoring implant chip persuades the boys from the Dwarf to belatedly install a backlog of onboard automatic updates, which sees the rusty old JMC mining ship get a major rebranding by commercial business monopoly M-Corp (seemingly NOT the Mega-Corp featured in XI. 2 – “Samsara“) whose future-tech replaces all of the JMC’s – by making all ‘illegal’ products invisible.
“I’m praying that’s an electric toothbrush!”
Everything from Leopard lager to Rimmer’s light bee and Kryten’s Diva Droid casing disappears from Lister’s perception, including – for reasons not made completely clear – the Cat… yet Lister’s clothes remain visible. Seeing Lister sleep on an invisible bed before making toast using an invisible toaster, which hovers away when an invisible Cat tries to nab it is joyous. Howard Goodall’s orchestral scoring of this solitary scene is also beautiful; suitably reflective and sombre.
After the ad break, part two expands upon this smartly satirical premise by having a lonely Dave interact with M-Corp’s artificial assistant (Helen Call the Midwife George) in an attempt to improve his life by making purchases. But without any dollar-pounds to his name, Lister is charged in the universe’s most valuable commodity: time. Can his invisible crewmates shut down the updates and reboot Red Dwarf back to factory settings before an aged and acquisition-addicted Lister runs out of ‘currency’?
“M-Corp” is such a fascinating concept and it speeds through all the eventualities of supporting a deceptively devious monopoly to make a whirlwind 30-minutes of TV heaven. The reference-heavy epilogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious (“Oh God – he’s back!!”), as Kryten is forced to reboot Lister using his holographic profile – last updated when he was just 23! I did feel that the resolution to M-Corp’s takeover (an ambivalent agreement to proceed with an action which will knowingly destroy them) was a little too close to Pree’s shutdown in X.2 – “Father’s & Sons”, but otherwise this is another top-quality series XII stunner.
CR@B’s Claw Score: