And so we begin with the start of series twelve of Red Dwarf and this is an episode that really does feel like a step back into the classic era of the show. While much of series eleven was all over the place though good this one feels like a much better return to form for the show.
The main plot of the episode sees the team find a lab started up during the days of United America, a thinly veiled dig at the United States and the War on Terror where the US became United America after it merged with all countries who signed a global peace treaty before going to war with anyone who didn’t in the name of peace. The lab itself was set up as a way to cure “evil” and successfully treated cretins such as Hitler and Stalin though was unable to cure Rupert Murdoch. Before long the team find that the whole set up is a lie, with the surviving doctor being the real patient and having turned the android staff into terrible copies of evil doers in the process, though the team soon prevail.
Much of the early humour of the episode largely comes from the knowingly ridiculous nature of the situation with particular focus on a “reformed” Hitler who has gone from a vicious genocidal maniac to “Dolfy”, a lovable hipster who just wants to jam on the guitar and “explore himself”. The fun not only comes from his sudden turnaround but the fact he’s unable to completely separate his former personality from his new one, taking selfies with his right arm held out straight up and carrying tea around while doing a half-salute. Just as the set up starts to become stale the episode finds a quite brilliant climax to the gag when it’s unveiled he’s an android with the true villain pointing out that the android looked nothing like the actual Hitler and should’ve been a dead giveaway.
Following this however the episode ends up being stolen quite deservedly by Cat in a final standoff as it’s revealed his cat psyche means psychologically he’s a psychopath with him having no loyalty to those around him and living only out of self-interest. This label itself is little more than confirmation on what we’ve seen from the guy since his first inception all those years ago but how it ends up with him easily switching sides over and over again without a care in the world is put on screen so well, culminating in his betrayal of the villain to demonstrate his “pokey face” skills to Lister, a gag set up all the way at the start of the episode at the Cat’s expense.
While the Cat largely gets his attention the episode does feel like the others take a back seat in the episode, Rimmer in particular, but given how this is only the first episode and the last series managed to give every character their own episode at some point it’s not a dealbreaker at this point. Kryten and Lister do get a couple of moments of good gags of their own, namely with the former finding his “torture” being his head impaled on a mop for all of time while the latter has a good card game scene, but overall they’re in the shadow of their feline friend. One good “posse” gag however is during the setup phase of the episode with the startup of Starbug in a strangely complicated method of bodgery before the revelation it can now only turn left, leading to a stupidly long landing sequence.
Looking at other elements the production team clearly didn’t lose any quality between series with the sets once again of a great standard compared to the old BBC days, making great use of the obviously limited budget they had, that it’s still shocking we don’t see the set fall apart the moment someone touches it. As it’s no doubt come across the script also has a surprising amount of meat to it compared to other episodes in the past, last season’s Samsara feeling a bit stretched in particular, with it still finding the right twists to add in to keep it moving strongly and some surprising self-mockery with the not so accurate casting.
As a starting statement Cured is a good one. While not as imaginative or out there as Twentica from last season it’s a solid first outing that is very funny and enjoyable.