Red Dwarf X: Trojan review

Review Pete Dillon-Trenchard 4 Oct 2012 - 21:56

Red Dwarf goes back to its roots and is all the better for it in the opening episode of this new series. Here's Pete's review of Trojan...

This review contains spoilers. Read our spoiler-free review of the episode, here.

10.1 Trojan

Trojan is the first episode of the first full new series of Red Dwarf since Red Dwarf VIII ended in April 1999. As such, it arguably has a bigger job to do than any episode since the sitcom’s conception; not only does it have to establish the status quo for the middle-aged boys from the Dwarf, but all eyes are also going to be on this one for signs that Red Dwarf X can stand up there with its lesser-numbered brothers, and that bringing it back was the right thing to do. 

Perhaps wisely, Trojan wastes no time at all on continuity and forgoes any explanation of where they are, why the ship looks different, and what’s happened to Holly, instead leaping straight into a seemingly classic Red Dwarf setup - four guys in space, flying in the vague direction of home. There’s a mention of Kochanski at one point (2009’s Back to Earth ended with Lister resolving to find her), but even that’s given as part of a throwaway joke rather than a nod towards any ongoing storyline. 

Not that Trojan is continuity-free, mind; a couple of minutes into the episode we’re told that Rimmer has re-sat his astro-navigation exam as part of his ongoing bid to become an officer. Some minutes later, he’s received a distress call from his brother Howard, and Rimmer’s resentment at growing up in his brother’s more talented shadow is brought to the fore.

Whether intentional or otherwise, this is a really canny move from writer Doug Naylor, as both of these were strong recurring story elements during the first few years of ‘classic’ Red Dwarf; having them pop up in the series opener feels like a deliberate message to long-term fans that the show is going back to its roots, with stories based around the characters rather than the contrived plots-of-the-week which marked some of the series’ weaker later episodes. 

Predictably and comfortingly, this Rimmer-centric plot brings with it plenty of classic moments and - most importantly - very funny scenes. From the brilliant ‘hey ho pip and dandy’ exchange with Kryten through to the long-awaited confrontation between Arnold and Howard, Chris Barrie is on top form, running the full range of weasel-ly emotions, and feeling the most Rimmer-like the character has in years.

In fact, this is true of all four of the regulars; whether this is due to the cast being energised by the studio audience, a concerted effort by Naylor and the cast, the addition of long-term fan Andrew Ellard as script editor or some combination of the above, it’s been well over a decade since the characters were written and performed so well.

An early example of this is the moose bunkroom scene near the middle of the episode, which sees all four actors hitting their marks as the joke builds to a superb climax - during the recording of the episode, the mere fact that Cat entered the room when he did was enough to get a huge wave of applause - because these characters feel so familiar, we know what’s coming, and when it does come it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a scene which is easily up there with some of the best in the show’s history. 

And it’s not the only one; Rimmer’s confrontation with Howard, replete with nods to Star Trek but having far too much work of its own to do to waste time engaging in full-on parody, is everything you might expect it to be and more. Guest actor Mark Dexter is excellent as the aforementioned brother, perfectly embodying the condescending Howard and imbuing him with enough of Rimmer’s own characteristics that when he makes his confession to Rimmer it’s believable and even sympathetic - yet Rimmer’s response still makes for a nice moment of triumph over his bullying sibling. This scene is accentuated by some stunning work from composer Howard Goodall, who even manages to slip in a sad version of the Rimmer Song from Series VII’s Blue

Whilst Cat and Kryten both get their fair share of gags in the episode, with Danny John-Jules stealing more than one scene, Lister’s role in proceedings does fall slightly flat in places. Lister’s subplot, involving his attempts to get through to the call centre of an android shopping channel, does have its moments, and the way it ties into the episode’s climax is very neatly done, but it veered into weak observational humour on an oft-tackled subject too frequently for my liking.

Indeed, the comedy in Trojan as a whole does feel a little too broad on occasion - such as the pig racing or the moustache-drawing scene, which sorely lacks a pay-off - and there were exchanges, such as the conversation about Rimmer’s self-help book, that seemed to continue a line or two past their natural punchline, but by and large the jokes in this episode really did hit and, as I noted in my spoiler-free review of the episode, the fight to record the series in front of a studio audience was certainly not in vain - the audience laughter really helps get the timing on many of the jokes just right.

Praise must also go to the set and costume designers on the series. The standing sets aboard the Dwarf evoke a classic series feel whilst also being something completely new, as do the costumes of the Dwarfers themselves; all four are instantly recognisable as the old characters, but with changes befitting their increasing age.

There has already been some debate about the new Kryten costume, but Kryten’s look has always been evolving - the Kryten of series three and the Kryten of series eight look very different from one another, and this is the next step in that evolution; it’s different, but not enough to detract from the character.

As previously noted, the new super-detailed model of Red Dwarf is very impressive, and the design of the sleek and sexy (but battered) SS Trojan contrasts it well and matches the slightly Trek-y feel of the ship’s bridge. These shots are used understandably sparingly, but it really helps to add a sense of scale to proceedings, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what other visual treats Red Dwarf X has in store. 

Trojan is a relatively intimate plot from a show which seemingly knows - and is comfortable with - its limitations and is all the better for it. Filled with solid character-driven gags and an enthusiastic cast who seem a good ten years younger than they actually are, it’s a very strong start to the new run. Roll on next week!

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I did enjoy it.. and normally with my hopes up this high for a series, it never meets my expectations like Trojan did. Once again Red Dwarf has evolved.. but it's evolving in the right direction again. Bring it on!

It wasn't exaclty a corker, was it? It started off fairly well, definitely a concerted effort to get the feel of the earliest series back, but I thought the second half was pretty weak. I've always found one of the show's strengths to be the bigger picture i.e. their on-going predicament, but here they really only concentrated on bashing out a half-hearted sitcom episode, I suppose somewhat understandably in order to re-establish the whole thing. I'll still be tuning in for the whole series though.

I'm the opposite. I prefer it when the show concentrates on being a sitcom that happens to be set in space. As such I enjoyed Trojan more than I thought I would.

Better than expected. A very slow start with some weak jokes (not helped by far too much audience laughter for stuff that wasn't really that funny. But when it hit its stride it was good. The moose scene in the middle was particularly good. Not up to the high standards of the early series by any stretch of the imagination, but also, far better than the awful Back to Earth.

My favourite gag was with kryten on the bridge of the trojan: 'so you rebuilt and restored him?', 'no we hosed him down and gave him a hat' - had me in stitches :-)

Great review. I absolutely loved it, I was really hoping it wouldn't dissapoint, and it didn't.
It's a moose!!!

Each episode certainly needs to stand up on its own merits, but the "good old days" of Red Dwarf, that everyone seems to hark back to, dealt quite often with their loneliness and isolation. I didn't exaclty trash the episode, yet a load of people have down-arrowed the comment, presumably for daring to suggest it was anything other than genius. Only one person has actually managed to write a reply though.

I loved it. It was a kickback to the Red Dwarf i fell in love with. Character driven comedy in a Sci-Fi settings. I thought the cast was brilliant and all on song. The Jokes were great. The Sets were awesome! Just how they should be with B Movie design and technology. The Laughter Track returned (thankfully) and the show is the better for it. It feels more a comedy of the people and more like theatre with them there. Also unless my eyes deceived me we got Model work for the Ships.

Red Dwarf X may well turn out to be the last Series of Red Dwarf if the last episode title is anything to go by. Thankfully it seems it will be going out on a high Note if this episode is anything to go by.

It checked every box i would want it to and the Next Episode Preview seemed to be promising the same.

The 'Boys from the Dwarf' are back!!

My favourite series of RD was series 1 which was very much the odd couple in space, obviously it had sci fi concepts thrown in such as dealing with the effects of light speed, aliens/garbage pods etc but at the centre of it all was this very sitcom like structure. In the early series lister and rimmer's relationship was akin to Vivian and Rik from the young ones and the comedy came from the tension. I think the series is still evolving but thats good because relationships do evolve. It was a good episode in all.

On This Ship? lol

Well wrote article. Loved the pilot also. Quiet a "safe" theme for RD, but it's about as daring as I'd go for the first episode. They are doing well to hold the course. There are as many opportunities in outta space, as the writer's imaginations will let them create. Let's hope it's full of good laff's, gags, and all the usual wierdness we all know and love so well...

I'd just like to comment the reviewer on a well thought out and well informed article obviously written very quickly (as the ep was only shown a few hours ago). The only other review I saw was only a quarter as long and half of that was spent insulting red-dwarf viewers!

I felt the episode itself was fantastic. I watched it the first showing and was a little disappointed by the first 5-7 minutes of the ep, but I started to enjoy it a lot more towards the middle and end, and I laughed my head off at a few parts (moose scene was historical). The fact that there were additional characters (not just C, K, R & L) showed that they were trying to make it more like the later series with a couple of guests, which adds to the... erm... I was going to say continuity of the series... but it wouldn't be red dwarf if there weren't a few (MASSIVE) plot holes to laugh at!
I then watched the repeat a few hours later, and when seen in the context of the rest of the episode, the beginning was actually a lot better than I initially thought... it's a shame most people won't watch it multiple times and get that...
OVERALL: BRILLIANT. I'VE ONLY BEEN WAITING 13 YEARS, AND I THINK I'M OKAY WITH THAT!

what has happened to Kryten's head?

I'm interested to see how the entire new series plays out, but in truth, classic 'Red Dwarf' kinda ended when Rob Grant inexplicably walked out after the sixth season in 1993... it's a shame he didn't stay to co-write both the seventh season and maybe a movie, then the 'Dwarf would have ended when it should have when it was still at the top of it's game!

He got it caught in the waste compacter.

Pleasantly surprised. It felt like a weaker entry in one of the classic series, but I still enjoyed it.

Moose!

What a relief, it was actually funny! it wasn't as funny as its best days but it wiped the floor with series VII and smegged all over the "Back to Earth abomination.

The thing that this episode had, and i hope the rest of this series will, is good characterisation. Even if it isn't a laugh riot every scene there is something about the characters which makes it good to see them on screen again. Thats why even if you're watching "Marooned" for the 3625th time and you know the gags off the top of your head. The characters and the actors still make watching it a joy.

I had high hopes and they were pretty much met. I'm a happy dwarfer

Thanks so much Dave. It was excellent! I was expecting something akin to Back To Earth and dissapointing but I toiataly wasn't. I think I was slightly dissapointed but that was probably due to me over hypying my expectations in my mind and expecting too much. But no....not a floor in the whole show for a die hard Dwarfer lie me and many others.

Could it be we simply disagree with u?

Grant could easily have behaved like a grown-up, put aside his differences (which weren't even RD-related) with Naylor, and collaborated on the scripts for both VII and the movie, then when outside factors resolved themselves, Naylor could have overseen both projects without any further input from Grant... and the 'Dwarf could have had the proper and fitting send-off it so richly deserved and be left to posterity.

To me it was too much like a cheap American sitcom. The structure of having a sub plot from the very beginning has never been used from the Red Dwarf team and felt half hearted. It's like that easy writing, one size fits all formula used in Friends or Frasier.

Red Dwarf has always had a dark and sad undertone which even Back to Earth still carried (As bad as the jokes were). This episode didn't have any of that even though it could have easily been carried off through the use of Howard.

It's lost a lot of style too. The pig racing would have been funnier had they not actually shown the picture and just had lots of silly sound effects whilst Lister explains what he's watching (Similar to Season III "the last day" with the female topless boxing). It's trying too hard, with comedy like this the formula of "Less is More" is much for effective as it leaves the images to the imagination of the audience.

I feel this notion also applies to the set design. I've never been a fan of the digitisation and use of CGI in red dwarf because again its trying too hard and pushes the audience away to a distance. It's not down to Earth anymore (No pun intended).

Classic Red Dwarf is all about Dialogue. They talk of times past and future devices and let the audience fill the images in (Examples being Listers wind up about Peterson's homing shoes and Krytens story of a Mechanoid friend who went senile). red Dwarf hasn't possessed this class since series VIII.

I've got to say the re-occuring Joke with the Moose was Very Funny.

The join with starbug approaching the Trojan was Digital but think some of the glimpses of the Dwarf were model work.

I'm so pleased this was good. I'll second "no, we hosed him down and gave him a hat" as line of the night.

What was his reason for leaving? The series took a noticeable down turn when he did.

Great to see Red Dwarf back again on TV, missed it for so many years, so glad that all the original cast are back, especially Craig Charles as I always thought he looked wrong in Corrie (although it would be funny if they incorporated some mention of that into a future storyline plot like maybe an alternative universe where Lister is an actor on a long running soap.)

There was however two faults with this entire storyline I thought and I'm a bit confused by them...

Firstly was Howard Rimmer's death - when he got shot and then died I was like what on earth - there was a major flaw there - Howard Rimmer was a hologram, like Arnold. Hologram's are dead people that are being simulated by the computer system, so being just a hologram - how could he die again as he was just a simulation not the real person.

Then the other thing was that I thought Lister was supposed to be the only remaining human and yet there was the humans on the Shopping Centre advert, and also before Sim Crawford went crazy and shot up the entire crew of Howard's ship weren't there humans on board that one too?

I thought one thing that was clever was the tribute at the end to Jo Howard, I presume out of all of Rimmers brothers I guess Howard Rimmer was picked to turn up in this episode due to his name being the same as her surname, or was that just a fluke, it seems to obvious to be a random fluke.

Given that I have a piece of the original Red Dwarf model framed and hanging on my wall, I don't think it's using the original model :) not like I'm a fan or anything.

P.S. very disappointed with Back to Earth but loved this! Back to the original roots of the show was a smart move.

"Ur IQ is smaller than the salad bar in a scottish supermarket" - One of my fav lines of the episode. Welcome back Red Dwarf. All is forgiven. OWWWWWWWWW! OOOO YEEEEAAAAAH! The Cat is back!

I think the humans on the shopping channel were droids.
Also, I am pretty sure there was an episode ages ago that discussed the new merits of the holograms having 'hard light' and if they get what would be a fatal injury to a human they would psychologically get the same injury and therefore die.
Although I may have dreamed that! Someone with more knowledge than me will set us right I am sure.

Moose thing was funny but the setup was a bit weak.
Technically it wasn't a lateral thinking puzzle. For a lateral thinking puzzle all the information has to be provided, albeit in a convoluted manner. Moose could have been, cat or possum or child!
This is a lateral thinking puzzle:
A cowboy rides into town on Wednesday. He leaves 3 days later on Wednesday. How is this possible?
Answers below ;)

Robert lewellyn got fat lol

Spoken like a true Dwarfer and not an easily impressed sitcom lover. You'll like my comments above.

i thought it was a success, really funny, the kryten joke was a cracker but why oh why did no one mention that the cat was being played by jackie stallone?

His horse was called Wenesday...

Wednesday is the name of his horse.

Piece of piss.

Loved this ep. Unlike RD VII, VIII and B2E, I feel like I'll watch this series again and again.

It was really called Susan

Well actually, the CGI was there due to the BBC's policy in 1997 regarding use of models. I can't remember what it was but I think the model department had been out-sourced and it was basically impossible to do model shots.

Horse is called Wednesday
What do I win

I thought it was fantastic and laughed frequently. Some nice nods to the shows history and Cat pretty much stole the show for me. Did anyone else think the production budget must have gone through the roof? I was knocked out by how good it looked for a 'Dave' show......

Although holograms are made of light, they still do have a small physical presence.

It is a small device called a 'light bee'. It is what generates the hologram.

It was this that was damaged when Howard was shot.

I really really enjoyed the first episode. After getting used to the ageing characters I found myself laughing at the jokes and getting excited about the next episode. Lets just forget the 'back to earth' thing shall we lol...that was not good!! This looks much better, original writers back together and crew falling back into roll!

Was he Swedish?

...and you have to respect his life choices.

Well it was OK (which is probably better than most expected). My biggest annoyance was continuity.

Now I know RD has never really cared about continuity but at least some things should be held together. Lister is the last human but they in this episode it is suggested that Howard Rimmer's crew only died a couple of days earlier. Also, the Lister on hold story also suggests other life in the universe which was always minimal.

The core of this series was the lonliness and isolation of the crew but that was ignored last night.

Ah so It's actually cheaper for them to use the CGI? Its funny how things like that work now.

Yeah I did also think the same about the fact Lister was the last human, and he even makes mention to it in this series about being the last human, and yet Harold mentions his crew have only recently been shot dead.

Plus there is a shopping channel which he is trying to order from but being put on hold and then transferred to the complaints dept who also put him on hold, well if he is the last human, other than droids who is actually going to deal with his complaint?

I suppose that really does add to the comedy element of him being so insistant that he is so resilient to hang up without realising there is no-one there who can help him anyway other than just a bunch of recordings and droids.

They got back to the old format , it was not a laugh a minute ,but was funny and look forward to next episode. great to see it back on TV

Great stuff

Firstly all comedy is subjective, just because you didn't like it doesn't make it weak, just weak in your opinion. IMHO I thought it was great, I laughed the whole way through, I sincerely hope the rest of the season is as good.

Loneliness and isolation are a good starting point but some of the best ever episodes IMHO have nothing to do with that, Confidence and Paranoia, Queeg, Parallel Universe, Dimension Jump, Quarantine all great all have nothing to do with Loneliness, in fact Series 7 focused on that a lot and look how that ended up...

Yes I almost wet myself laughing at that! And the Moose stuff, and Rimmers face, and well...all of it really!

It was great. It was very funny, and had all the right bits from all the characters...Moose, Salad bar in a Scotish supermarket etc...and best of all the cast looked fine. I think they all look really well, they dont look too badly aged at all, Cat looks the same, Kryten under the makeup etc looks the same, Rimmer looked amazingly good for 52, do you think its a wig he is wearing? And Lister looked the same too...I laughed my head off at all of it. TAKE THAT BBC!!! Thats for not doing another series years ago! Tight with our money costume drama, soap opera loving liberal smeggers! The only things they do for us Den of Geekers now is Doctor who and Merlin, and I hope this new Merlin is the last series! Looks like next week they address the issue of what happened to Holly and get a new Computer , even worse than Queeg was! Seriously though, it was a great episode, and all the sets, dialogue and comedy fitted right in with early season episodes... I am just going to go along with my own continuity that at the end of the last full series, when Rimmer kicks death in the nuts and runs off and gets back the ship and everyone including him is dead again, then there is back to earth, and now this. The whole of the stuff with Rimmer being a Hologram again is going to be explained in episode six of this new run. Cool Back to the Dwarf, stuff the BBC and role on the next episode and the Blueray boxed set for Christmas!

Well done all. Know it was an easy one but it got point across ;)

The episode was fantastic, but I do feel the need for some continuity, since it was established long ago that they were millions of years into the future and now suddenly Arnold's brother pops up? I think I missed a time-travel episode or two. If they're back in the 'world' again, then how come they're still four guys on a spaceship without any other crew? It used to be that they were trapped together, doing their best job with limited means and Rimmer was there to keep Lister sane, so what's the format now? So they're still heading home then? Or who the smeg cares?

Seems like the Quantum rod dragged Rimmers brother to the present day from the past. The fact the simulant was only just starting to rebel and not like the ones we have seen before suggests she was from the past too. I think more on quantum entanglement will be unveiled later in the series...

You don't seem to know too much about the classic series! But I'll let you off...
Holograms are already seen to die in the episode Stoke me a clipper plus it is established Holograms can have heart attacks and die in Rimmerworld. Watch those episodes.
Those were droids on the shopping channel, not humans.
Howard rimmers ship (and the sim) were dragged from the past by the Quantum rod.
Howard rimmer was presumably picked as Frank RImmer has already been played by Chris Barrie in Time Slides and John is much older as when Arnold was 7 he was already a test pilot.

Answer: "3 days later" is the nick name of the cowboy friend he went to see in the town, he went to see him on wednesday stayed a week and left him the next wednesday

You are wrong about lateral thinking problems having to provide all information. What about the classic about Romeo and Juilet? They were names of goldfish but no mention of goldfish in the question.

Or "3 days" could be the name of the town. He goes there on wednesday and leaves later on wednesday. Lateral thinking problems are always a case of "What am I thinking" the Moose thing is just as valid as your puzzle.

Yeah That was a corker! watched it twice so far!
So glad its back but how old do they look!

There were no humans on the Shopping Centre. It was called All Droid & they were droids.

He has since said he wanted to do other non-RD-related projects, which is strange as one of the first things he did following the split was A RED DWARF NOVEL in 1996! The truth is he and Doug Naylor fell out over a sitcom they were developing called 'The 10%'ers', and that as they say was that, but the Grant/Naylor production company was still contracted to the BBC for two more seasons, hence Naylor continuing with VII and VIII himself.

I actually like VII and VIII, they're nowhere - and I mean NOWHERE - near as bad as some would have you believe, have some classic RD moments in them (Kryten literally blowing his top... twice!), have the utterly adorable Chloe Annett, and the sets/costumes/crew/visual effects team all could have been retained if the BBC had seen sense and greenlit the 'Dwarf movie following the broadcast of VIII in 1999, it wouldn't have cost more than a paltry few million at most and it would still be earning them money today from DVD and Blu-Ray sales alone... and it would have been nice to have the VIII cliffhanger resolved, would have given the 'Dwarf a great finale, and we would have been spared the painful 'Back To Earth' fiasco, alas.

Loved it; maybe not as good as the first six series but certainly seems as tho it could be better than series 7, 8 and 9!

The moose joke was funny, and I loved this line: "Your IQ is smaller than the salad bar in a Scottish supermarket", plus the fact that we're back to the good old format of character driven episodes rather than flashy special effects and nondescript storylines. Can't wait for the next episode.

Isn't it also the fact that with everything being filmed in HD now any FX have to be spot on as HD isn't as forgiving as the old format. It's the same with make-up effects and costumes too. They have to be much more detailed otherwise they come off as being too bland.

Solid start to the new series.

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