Red Dwarf X: The Beginning review

Review Pete Dillon-Trenchard 8 Nov 2012 - 21:30

Pete waves a fond goodbye to Red Dwarf X, which closes on a dramatic and emotional episode. Here's his review of The Beginning...

This review contains spoilers.

10.6 The Beginning

And with this final episode of Red Dwarf’s tenth series, a billion-piece jigsaw suddenly falls into beautiful place. Last week’s episode, Dear Dave, was a plot-light, self-contained piece that used only the regular sets and very little of the budget. And within the first few seconds of this episode, as we get a beautiful shot of Io Polytechnic, we start to see exactly where that show’s budget went. 

The flashback to Rimmer’s education is an unusual start to an unusual episode, and one that immediately lends it extra scope. Philip Labey and Simon Treves are very convincing in their roles as young Rimmer and Rimmer’s father respectively, and it’s a fun teaser which leaves you wondering exactly how it’s going to tie into the rest of the episode. 

Back aboard Red Dwarf, we open not with Lister but - in a change to the now-established format - with Rimmer, and an unwelcome visitor... Richard O’Callaghan plays Hogey, the Simulant who immediately endears himself with his manic obsession with duels across time and space. 

There have been many criticisms amongst fans of the fact that Red Dwarf X seems to take place in a much more populated universe than previous series, and the presence of Hogey - combined with his pre-existing relationship with the crew, all of whom are wonderful in their weary dismissal - is unlikely to change this. However, he’s an instantly memorable creation, and even with his short appearance here he quickly establishes himself as the honorary fifth/sixth/seventh Dwarfer (delete according to personal preference); in the likely event of another series, he has to be near the top of the queue for a return guest appearance. 

Hogey is really just the jumping off point for the main story, which sees the Dwarfers attacked by a Simulant Death Ship, led by the charismatic Dominator. Red Dwarf X’s guest cast has been almost universally strong, with only Kerry Shale’s performances in Fathers and Suns giving any cause for concern, but they’ve saved the best for last with Gary Cady, who comes across as marvelously sinister, petulant and unhinged all at the same time; the scene with the sword is one of many comedic highlights in the episode. 

Doug Naylor has revealed that this episode was adapted from the script for the currently-abandoned Red Dwarf: The Movie, and it shows; while Red Dwarf X has been pretty firmly in sitcom mode for much of the series, this instalment sees it head for a more dramatic, emotional and action-packed tone which should satisfy some of this series’ critics. 

Fortunately, the fact that the crew are in the same place for most of the episode means there are also plenty of laughs, and perhaps the biggest of these comes with the brief (and interrupted) discussion of the events of the end of series eight. It will probably come as a disappointment to some, as it’s been heavily implied by several people involved with the show that this episode would reveal all about the events of Only the Good..., but as long as you’re not too desperate to find out what happened, it’s a solid woofer. And if you are bothered by it, try to remember the old Mystery Science Theatre 3000 credo: ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax’. 

This should probably also apply to the issue of which Rimmer we’re seeing, given that he refers to both his death in series one and the events of series eight... Official site webmaster and fellow DoG contributor Seb Patrick has suggested that he’s an amalgam of the two, and it seems like as good an explanation as any; as with the gap between series two and three, several things clearly happened between series eight and ten that aren’t particularly important for understanding the stories they’re now trying to tell. 

Whichever version of Rimmer it is, it seems like a very odd move placing him in charge of military strategy. I understand that Rimmer has the fascination with military history, but in the past it’s always been the sort of thing they’d sit down and figure out as a group. It’s one of a few slightly out-of-character moments in the episode, such as Kryten’s reaction to the hole in the ship, or Cat’s insightfulness. That said, the latter is a rare and tender moment for the two characters in the show who have perhaps the least in common. 

As the episode reaches its climax, it very much becomes Rimmer’s story. The revelation about his father is a surprising moment (Not just for the parodying of Star Wars), and although perhaps slightly diminished by the fact that Trojan contained a similar revelation, for long-term fans it’s one with a big impact. Rimmer’s burst of sudden self-confidence is a really satisfying punch-the-air moment, as is his echoing of Lister’s final line from the very first episode. 

The episode’s title suggests that this is the birth of a whole new Arnold J Rimmer; I suspect this definitely won’t be the case in the event of a Red Dwarf XI, or at least that the change won’t be too drastic. It’s pleasing that the character at least had this one moment of unbridled bravery though, after a last-minute edit took it away from him in series six. 

There’s no possible way I could review this episode without discussing Bill Pearson’s model work. If this was a cut-down version, or at least a chunk of, a movie script, then Pearson absolutely made it feel like one. From the stunning Death Ship and Annihilators to the incredible asteroid belt sequences, Pearson can’t be praised enough for easily some of the best effects the show has ever boasted. Likewise, composer Howard Goodall pulled out all of the stops to make the last ten minutes feel every bit as tense and action-packed as they would have been on the page. 

At the time of writing, there is no official word on the commissioning of a Red Dwarf XI; I suspect a lot will rely on DVD and Blu-Ray sales. If The Beginning is to be the last-ever episode, then it’s a wholly fitting last hurrah, and a decent note to end the show on (Doug Naylor has clearly learnt his lesson about cliffhanger endings). 

I hope it’s not the end, though; whilst Red Dwarf X has had its critics, and not everything they’ve tried has been successful, the fact remains that they clearly have tried, and have produced six episodes of something which is a lot more deserving of the budget and airtime than much of the UK’s current sitcom output. 

There are many good reasons why Red Dwarf will probably never be able to quite recapture the magic it once had. But with the framework they’ve now got in place, the lessons they will have learned from this run, and actors and writers who are clearly both passionate and reinvigorated by the series, I’d really like to see just how close they can come.

Read Pete's review of the previous episode, Dear Dave, here.

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Very good episode, I thought the CGI was pretty rubbish actually but very very funny and it follows the pattern of seasons 7 & 8, great episodes at the start and end of series and less good middle episodes but the quality of the series is many times better than 7, 8, or BTE. Roll on Red Dwarf XI!

If there's any justice in the world the question of series 11 should be answered very simply: The End? The Smeg It Is! Great job by all concerned and props to Dave for taking the risk to bring it back.

Pretty good, certainly better than a lot of the rest of this series. The sword joke was funny, but it's a shame they then had to explain it verbally at length too. I don't think they needed to do the series 8 finale joke again after the credits either. The missiles flying through the ship was a bit pants but a good story overall. I've pre-ordered the DVD, I hope it sells well enough for more.

I don't understand the confusion about which Rimmer this is. Rimmer died in the radiation leak, and at the start of series 8 was resurrected by the nanobots. He died at the end of series 8 with the rest of the crew, and between 8 and BTE was brought back as a hologram by Holly. Over the years the Dwarfers have told him all about their adventures, and what happened to the original Rimmer. Nothing in this series suggests any different. Whether its Rimmer from series 1 to 7 or 8 onwards, both started out as the same person, wiped out in the radiation leak.

Time for a bit of a post-script to my review... The preview copy I watched didn't have the post-credits scene on it (or any credits at all). Whilst I have mixed feelings in that the "Slime's coming home" final line was so appropriate to end the show on, I thought it was a lovely little coda; teasing for the fans and, more importantly, a great return for Hogey. The 'Hogey for XI' campaign starts here!

We never SAW the resurrected Rimmer die at the end of Series 8. If you recall, he literally kneed Death in the groin and fled. As for what happened after, who knows? Maybe he somehow (by a "total fluke" as suggested by the Cat in tonight's episode) managed to save the ship, maybe the original "Ace" Rimmer returned in the nick of time as was originally planned... there's only one man who knows for sure, so let's hope one day he'll be nice enough to tell us!

Is it just me or doesn't anyone get it? Half the reason why Red Dwarf was funny was that it was done on a shoe string . It was refreshing and loads didn't tie up but that was half the point. It's not bloody Star Wars. It laughs at itself. We all know things don't exactly line up with their lives and past etc but that's the fun. It's not a multi million pound American extravaganza it's a tongue in cheek British and very funny series. Stop trying to find fault and just laugh at the faults eh.

You're kidding, right? The CGI - not to mention production design and cinematography - was simply STUNNING on this series... it's the scripts, direction, and the fact it seems to just not quite have that old magic anymore is my problem with both BTE and X.

I respectfully disagree about VII and VIII, I think Dog Naylor deserves enormous credit for continuing after Rob Grant's petty departure, and in my estimation, he did pretty darn well, both those series' have both absolutely classic RD moments and episodes.

Regardless of how I feel about the new series, the general consensus here seems to be on the positive side, which certainly bodes well for DVD and Blu-Ray sales, and by extension, the commission of series XI... for which I would recommend one change; bring back Ed Bye as director!

Should have written DOUG Naylor not the unfortunate typo I did write, I wasn't insulting Mr Naylor, 'twas a genuine typing error on my part, sorry all...

Lister, Kryten, Cat, and Kochanski jumped into the alternate universe, leaving the resurrected Rimmer (#2) the sole person on board a disintegrating 'Dwarf ship... maybe he survived, maybe he didn't, we simply don't know!

The Rimmer in BTE and X is the alternate universe Rimmer (#3) who presumably died with the rest of the alternate universe crew following the radiation leak, and was subsequently brought back as a hologram again... no complicated or convoluted explanations needed nor necessary!

Then I saw that post-credits coda on X, and my perfectly-worked-out explanation went up in smoke, thanks Doug :-P...

I cant believe anyone is actually griping about this series. It has been literally a blessing to have something I loved from my past brought back to life and not suck absolute testis. The series started well (which no one really expected based on BTE) and closed strong. I'll happily buy both the dvd and blue ray if it means they might make some more. What on TV today is as good as red dwarf?.. seriously tell me, I'll check it out

Series 8 was like being stabbed in the balls. As was the last episode of the very uneven series 10. I'm not sure if it's possible to care about Rimmer's character now he's variously been dead/ Ace Rimmer/ resurrected by microscopic robots /killed again. The whole thing seems increasingly like Hitchhiker's Guide, and I'm content to leave it to people who like that.

Loved this new series from start to finish. Obviously the magic of the early seasons would be hard to duplicate, vigor of youth and all that. However, there hasnt been many tricks missed with Series X and the return to the sitcom format has been a revelation. Still as belly laugh funny as ever. Heres hoping for a series XI. Lets hear it.... BOYS FROM THE DWARF!

This final episode was a bit light on laughs (for me) but Rimmers 'redemption' was quite satisfying - although I'm not sure how this could work going forward as his neuroses and self-doubt are so ingrained into our perception of the character.

Overall though - I really enjoyed RD X - it surpassed my expectations and I hope we get to see more. From a personal and selfish standpoint, I would love to see a season long story arc rather than just stand alone episodes.

Agreed - r.e props for Dave. Wonder if we could convince them to resurrect League of Gentlemen.......:)

Regarding Arnold Judas Rimmer and his death and resirection - The original Rimmer was killed by the radiation leak that wiped out the rest of the Red Dwarf crew uttering the immortal line " Gazpacho soup". However in season 3 after some time travelling shenanigans with the mutated photos the time line was altered and he was living and breathing up until he was blown up at the end of that episode. As a result I think it is safe to say that the cause of this Rimmers death was explosion although I'm sure he would still remember the original death.

The Rimmer in season 8 was still alive at the end of the season final. Is it possible that the radiation leak that killed Rimmer X is not the one that wiped out the crew in season 1 but instead happened some time after season 8 or possibly was a result of what was done to stop the metal eating virus?? This would explain why Lister didn't mention Gazpacho soup in this episode which I'm sure he would of if it applied to this Rimmer.

It is also worth noting that Rimmer X has a hard light drive which is tech that Red Dwarf did not have. Original Rimmer left with the hard light drive when he became Ace.

Over all the whole of Season 10 was way better than I expected it to be. That said, there were moments of patchiness, a couple of bits that felt more like they'd come from the Boosh and stuff that didn't work.
After how stupid the show got towards the end of its run on the BBC I was half dreading this return and it's been a nice surprise to see everything pared back down to the core elements and an attempt to recreate the feel of the first 6 series.
There was no outstanding episode or moment, if I was new to the show I'd go 'meh it's ok' but as a once-huge fan of the show it was great to see it go back to its roots.
A season XI? I'd be cautious, but then I was when they announced X.




The reason I think the whole Rimmer redemption thing worked so well was that it didn't seem to change his character that much at all - e.g. his admission that his speech about fear "needs a bit of work" and his threats to write a formal letter of complaint to the simulants as they threaten to destroy them... even though he finally got to execute a plan perfectly, he was still distinctly the same old smeg-head we know and love - which is why I think the writing was particularly great in this episode!

Good point about the hard light drive. I never thought of that :D

Although it's never explicitly stated, I think there are enough hints to conclude fairly safely that this is the original Rimmer. There's no need for us to be beaten over the head with exposition just to confirm that :D

Your're quite right, of course. However, there is something about this series that feels a bit detached from what went before, despite the numerous references to past events. They'd always link stuff between series somehow, no matter how flimsy or comedic (they did it in this series too with the series 8 finale joke). I think it's partly in the way the interior suddenly looks so different. They've done that many times before, of course, but with a little justification such as moving to the officers quarters. They seem to have turned that giant ship's control room into the starbug cockpit now. In series 8, whatever people may think of it (I actually liked it, certainly more than 7), there was a distinct return to the original series (with the bunk conversations etc, and they even replicated the old set in episode 1, and got Chen & Selby in, and of course the captain). This series similarly refers back the older series in characterisation at least (particularly the cat), but it all looks and feels like a different ship. almost a reboot. It feels nuts to talk about continuity in Red Dwarf, but somehow it does matter in a weird sort of way. I'm rambling now, I'm really sorry.

The CGI was superficially good but it was so *obviously* CG, the best CGI is the FX that you can't tell whether it is a practical or CG effect. Generally I thought the whole season was good. As for 7 & 8 in S7 the first and last 2 episodes were good but the other 5 were atrocious. Season 8 was better but the 2 & 3 part stories were far too long and the Krytens obsession over Dumb Blonde was unfunny & annoying the second time let alone the 89th.

Breaking Bad.

Though it does seem that every hologram they encounter after the HLD is introduced has one: Ace Rimmer, Alternate Lister, Howard Rimmer, even that science officer from BTE (though yep that wasn't real)


The Walking Dead

Boardwalk Empire

None of the above. The Thick of It was as good as, and actually much better than, Red Dwarf, but that's finished.

i tired all of those and got the furthest with Dexter (upto season 5 i think) - but for whatever reason I couldn't care less about any of them now. Red Dwarf somehow sunk hooks into my brain that leaves me still wanting more 15 years later. Archer I havent tried...

Game of Thrones

I have not posted before because I have been (more than) a bit disappointed by Red Dwarf X. I honestly worried that the magic was lost forever.

Until this last episode, which REALLY did feel like a proper Red Dwarf episode with an added older/wiser/wearier twist! I honestly felt like I was watching a genuinely decent episode. There was whiff of Radio 4 humour mixed in, which fitted so well (the Dominator and staff). I actually laughed, unforced and repeatedly! I wasn't embarrassed to be seen watching it!

Not the best Red Dwarf episode ever made, but certainly in the top 25%. The CGI stuff was very nice, but the story and acting was what made it work. I hope that we get a series XI based on this kind of performance.

Come on Dave, they've nearly got the formula right, give us another series. Who needs the BBC? Boyz from the Dwarf!

The final episode was the best of the whole series for me. In the previous weeks, there was good and there was not-so-good. I had to get useed to the characters looking older, especially in closer shots, whilst not behaving older. Sometimes the comedy hit the mark, and sometimes it narrowly missed it. Possibly I now perceive the original set of series through rose-tinted glasses, only remembering the iconic, anarchic and hysterical humour - a bit like considering Dad's Army and only remembering "Vat iss your name?" "Don't tell him Pike!" HOWEVER - everything came together in the final Small Rouge One. It was a wonderful character-driven story and the humour was intense and brilliant, as were the effects. I loved it. Perfectimundo!

Say what you will, but I think this was a devastatingly good episode. Worthy of series IV or V IMHO.

I had really low expectations for this series, but really enjoyed the whole thing. Hit the series 3/4 sweet spot of ideas and really good jokes.

It was great, more please.

I've been a fan from the very beginning. This show, for whatever stupid reason, was very important to me when I was growing up. As I got older and it got worse, I assumed that I must have been kind of desperate for entertainment, that I'd only really liked it so that I could talk about it with my friends and then, when I left those friends behind, so that I could remember them.

But this series has been legitimately good. Maybe not ground-breakingly genius-level good, but it's made me remember what it was that I saw in this show and these characters that made me love it so much. And I wasn't deluded or wrong to love it. And that's a gift.

I'm surprised no-one has suggested that Joss Whedon direct the next series, it seems to be the only train of thought for some commentators on here.


Peep Show

BTE & RDX should not be measured against the older series of RD instead we should compare it to some of the diabolical smeg that claims its comedy. In 2012 this has been been one of the funniest sitcoms on the box. I love RD, I grew up watching it & the dwarfers were a huge part of my life while I grew up & I think that Dave and the RD cast & crew have done an amazing job of taking an old classic and bringing it into 2012. If your one of these viewers who complains that its not as good as the original series. It never will be, its not original. Instead its a peice of comfort TV, a little like the Simpsons. You know what to expect but its still funny & still manages to surprise you. If viewers want original TV then grab a pen/Laptop/ tablet/ smartphone/slate & stone & write something Original. My message to Dave, RD11 2013. Do it or be smegged.

Well done Dave and the RD cast and crew.

Marc Redsell

Adventure Time

Luke. While there was some CGI (the wibbly gun effects, etc, which I still thought was very good) most of what you saw was model work. Red Dwarf is a model. (A cut down version of the movie ship in fact.) Blue Midget and the Simulant ships, all models. (Okay, the missiles were probably CG too.) So if you disliked it, then you disliked actual physical effects. Which is fair enough, although I thought the models were mostly pretty spectacular.

The bit where Blue Midget zipped out of the explosion did look a bit dodgy though.

"The CGI stuff was very nice"
Hold me back people. Hold me back...

Thanks for the kind words about me and my crews' work. It was a pleasure (as usual - hectic!) to be on the show.
Keep up the Good Work!
All the Best, Bill


I would love more Red Dwarf...I loved this series, and this final episode was its highlight. The thing about it that I loved was the incorporation of the crew's aging: having seen so many duels across time and space, they're getting on and it's getting old. It would be great for them to continue to play with the ideas of aging, especially with the character of The Cat, who, as now an older cat, should start getting incredibly lazy incredibly fast.

I disagree, I believe the Rimmer now in series X is the original Rimmer who went off to be Ace Rimmer. There are references in this series and especially in Back To Earth that suggest this is the case. In an interview, Doug Naylor also strongly hints that original Rimmer is back. There are references to series 8 and series 1 so it seems this Rimmer is a culmination of both Rimmers.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Come on, someone had to say it. XD

As regards Rimmer, my view is that this is original Rimmer (who went off to be Ace). VIII had the rest of the cast in a new dimension, and Ace Rimmer is the main dimension travelling character within the show... As such he stumbled into the alternate dimension just in time to save the rest of the crew, leaving series VIII Rimmer to die aboard Red Dwarf... It's always been my view

I thought it was just a typical season-ender: more mawkish than the previous, with a more epic feel. Man, I've been watching too much of the 2005->present reboot of "Doctor Who" and the shlock stuck...

Now it make sense; series 8 finale's conclusion, the deeper story... it did feel a little rushed and I wanted more from it (and I still rate it 10/10)... had the movie gone through, I probably would have loved it, but it's impossible to say.

Loved Rimmer's revelation (so much better than WHO's attempt to borrow from the Star Wars franchise), as was his being the hero for once. It really was nice to see a guy being the butt of so many jokes getting to be more, and saving the day.

I wish this finale was given at least 45 minutes, especially if the progenitor of this ep came from a feature-length film...

The only "it sucks" episode is "Dear Dave" and I gave it a 6/10...

Great. Now I'm imagining a bunch of Red Dwarf episodes where they're all naked, with lots of dong shots... and their doing things to vending machines now takes on a less comedic meaning... oh well. Isn't Game of Thrones merely porn with a cliched sci-fi backdrop and questionable acting (apart from the sex scenes where you know they're all faking it, but that didn't stop me from buying the set on blu-ray anyhow...)

And kudos to Doug Naylor, who did resort to formula but 1-upped himself so many times with so many brilliant twists and turns. RDX is easily the most consistently best since series 5, even if some stories rely on dross that came out in later series. (And, true, a progenitor episode that creates an idea may be lame, but moving forward with it can make a classic. Oroborous was rubbish but Fathers and Suns is a classic. and RD isn't alone - TNG had Data and Yar getting busy in one of TNG's worst-ever episodes, but later episodes referred to that scene with a bizarre form of dignity that only respects and elevates it (e.g. "The Measure of a Man", "Legacy"), perplexing but true...

The fab galactic four recaptured the spirit very nicely. Even in the worst episode, "Dear Dave", there are some great exchanges between characters.

The rendering of the CGI looked cheap at times, but the overall layout of ships, angles, conceptual detail, etc, sold it for me. And it's the storytelling that trumps f/x quality. Best example: Star trek TOS. The remastered version has cheap-looking CGI, yet the fine details put into the newly rendered scenes went the extra mile and sold it. Asteroids breaking when hitting a ship hull, being surrounded by both Romulan and Klingon ships, and a slew of so many scenes that would hijack this thread... CGI in of itself isn't bad by default. How it's used makes or breaks it.

RD7 and 8 were more experimental in nature and it didn't always work. Doug Naylor had some of it right, but something felt missing. BtE felt too regurgitated, even if the cast and f/x were sublime. With RD X, everything feels right again.

No way!!!
The missiles definitely were CG; the metallic look came across too reflective.

I'm floored that the Blue Midget and Simulant ships were all models. Impressive. RD looked too much like CGI, but if it is modelwork then I'm wholly impressed by the motion control cameras used for some of the shots. RD did look photogenic (unlike the Trojan), but the camera angles seemed "too big". But HUGE kudos then... RD keeping fairly true to its modelwork roots when most shows would tart up the CGI all the way to Silicon Valley and back.

I wish Series 8's finale was 2 parts, and the atrocious "Pete" was 1-part (or never made). "Back in the Red" was too long...

Agreed, thank you!

And, comparing it to the last couple years of "The Big Bang Theory", I'd much rather rewatch BtE and RDX again. And VII and VIII again - they weren't perfect, but they were better...

Yup. The mojo is back

Series XI may not be as good.

Or it might be better.

It can end on a high note or they can take another risk.

I'd rather have the risk.

Bad CGI/SFX does not affect a show for me - hell I would never be a classic series DW and Blakes 7 fan if it did - but just feel that Red Dwarf should not be about action and SFX it should be about character and with such a small budget the production team should be concentrating on the script and top quality actors rather than cheap, unrealistic and unnecessary SFX.

No offense, kiko, but people are going to judge this series based on
its own merits, not on whether it gives you personally a nostalgic
feeling. Nobody knows you. You're an anonymous guy on the internet.
So nobody is going to say "This was a great series. It gives an
anonymous guy on the internet a good feeling about his childhood." Do
you see how silly and self absorbed that is?

As for
your other argument (there are no current shows better), let's assume
that that's correct. That still doesn't make it a good show
necessarily, if all the other ones are awful (as you seem to be
implying). You forget that current shows not only have to compete with
other current shows, they also have to compete with older shows on DVD
that people might watch instead of tuning in to something current.

I just watched this episode today. I was worried it would end up being a self-indulgent borefest like the Back to Earth mini-series, but it really feels like they got it right this time. It wasn't as good as classic Dwarf, but like the Futurama revival, it's close enough. The humor's still quirky and inventive, the jokes came at a fast clip, and there's still great chemistry between the lead cast members.

Really good point Hippy. I would say though that 'rose tinted glasses' is a bit harsh (on yourself perhaps). My own feeling is that, although quality shows weren't always 100% quality, they still HAD it in the first place to be lost, so to speak. You just know quality when you see it, which is perhaps why we get internet discussions like this - keeping the flame alive.

You can count shows like that on one hand (or maybe one and a half). I'll forgo the list...

I loved series 10 and have never known a show to be 'resurrected' so wonderfully. Perhaps Red Dwarf stands alone in that sense? Fools and Horses never re-found its magic and most other shows seemed to quit while they were ahead.

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