RED DWARF XII.6 – “Skipper” (TV Review)

Dave – 9:00pm – Thursday 16th November 2017

Available to stream NOW on UKTV Play

Created and written by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Written and directed by: Doug Naylor



After “Mechocracy” (reviewed HERE) brought back a blast from the past in the form of a toast-obsessed kitchen appliance and “M-Corp” (reviewed HERE) ended with a middle-aged recreation of Red Dwarf’s first ever scene, Doug Naylor rounds off this critically-and-commercially successful twelfth series of the popular British sci-fi sitcom with some Rick & Morty and Futurama-esque disasters in the multiverse which could very easily be seen as a perfectly nostalgic send-off to the show, were it not for the fact that this Dave-era revival has been such a hit that a series XIII – and possibly even a live show – seems like a shoe-in.

In an opening which evokes memories of series I’s “Waiting for God”, Lister (Craig Charles) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) have pilfered the crew’s three-million-year-old appraisal files from the captain’s office – except Rimmer (Chris Barrie), for once, seems reluctant to have a nose! However, he soon changes his tune at the prospect of reading his own less-than-glowing assessment.

When an anomaly is spotted encroaching on the ship, time starts skipping forward in a succession of quick-cut bicycle gags which play out what the crew DON’T want to do. “When did I just make that? WHY did I just make that?!” questions a suddenly-selfless, helpful and panicked Cat (Danny John-Jules), who takes a little longer than his buds to realise that alternative realities are being played out, opposite to the decisions people make (“My kind of mission: let’s do nothing!”). It’s like “Future Echoes” meets “White Hole”, but with a fresh twist.

It transpires that Kryten’s scientific meddling might be to blame, as he confesses to having been working on a Quantum Skipper device (which he apparently pilfered from a research station they visited last month – could that be from “Cured”, “Timewave”, or an off-screen adventure?) which allows the user to skip through parallel dimensions. Rimmer is immediately enamoured with the prospect of using it, and he spends the entire second half of the episode on a montage of misadventures searching for a version of reality where he is more successful and less Rimmer-y.

While the first half of the episode – including the opening appraisal scene and a twice-raised joke poking fun at Michael Jackson’s increased “weirdness” over the years – could be accused of padding for time, the second half never lets up; it is a riotous and inventive cavalcade of classic callbacks and consummate comedic creativity. A couple of cameos (one teased in the promotion campaign and one a welcome surprise) get whooping rounds of applause from the live studio audience, while a name not uttered since midway through series X makes a return to Lister’s lips – but the punchline averts a happy ending.

Recreations of the old-style ship and costumes from the early BBC days make for some joyous and attentive fan service, while a play on an oft-quoted line from “The End” is so well played. There is also a hilarious visit to a universe where Lister smuggled a rat onboard rather than moggy Frankenstein, and a further use of multiple screen wipes to fill the set with clones of the crew. Rimmer eventually learns to stay put (“Infinite clearly wasn’t enough,”) for which I’m relieved as I look forward to many more visits to OUR version of Red Dwarf, which continues to reinvigorate itself and the 30-minute sitcom format to go from strength-to-strength.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 5 stars

3 thoughts on “RED DWARF XII.6 – “Skipper” (TV Review)

  1. The first half had far too much padding for something which was, essentially, just setting up the main story. More of the episode should have been spent in the alternate universes (which was a very rich concept). I blame this on there being an ad break halfway through, so Doug Naylor probably felt the need to split the episode neatly into two parts with a mini-cliffhanger/teaser before the break.


    • Fair point. The Holly reveal seems purposefully placed for that reason, but ironically, I think this might be the first time Doug has taken the Dave ad breaks into account. Generally, I get the impression he still writes as he would have done for the ad-less BBC/DVD.


  2. Pingback: ZAPPED, 2.6 – “The Henge” (TV Review) | The CR@Bpendium

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