At face value this sounds like a standard style Red Dwarf tale: an escape pod and message leads to a crashed ship, the eponymous Samsara, in which the crew get split up and find themselves in mortal danger. So far, so jolly fine.
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!
Unusually for Red Dwarf there is more going on here: a secondary tale, and not a straight humorous narrative this time but rather one with some pathos in the shape of a doomed romance. This secondary tale adds information piecemeal to the story, helping to make sense of the main thrust while also enriching it. The romance, doomed or otherwise, isn’t played for laughs here: Maggie Service and Dan Tetsell’s dysfunctional couple aren’t particular likeable even if their forbidden love is portrayed somewhat sympathetically. Instead it gives a bittersweet counterbalance to the usual hi-jinks from the Red Dwarf boys. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but hats off to the team for trying something a little different. Bold, even.
That’s not to say the episode isn’t without moments that will please fans of the show. It has echoes to the classic episode Justice, with the Samsara using a Karma drive as a means of keeping the ships crew well behaved and functional on long trips. Good behaviour being rewarded and negative punished leads to a crew striving to be on best behavious at all times. Which is fine until you add humanity to the mix.
The jokes are good this week with some great banter between the regulars, Kryton and Rimmer’s time together being particularly endearing. They may not get along but their needling of each other is much less caustic than in previous series. There were also several laugh out loud moments and the skeleton orgy is a personal favourite (yes, that’s what I said!). It’s shaping up to be a good series for Red Dwarf: bring on next week!