REVIEW: Red Dwarf – The Promised Land (2020)

“Season 13” of the long-running TV series

While watching Season one episode four of Red Dwarf aka “Waiting for God”, I forgot that I STILL had not watched the latest feature-length special (considered “season 13”) that was released around the time the global Covid-19 pandemic started raging. This episode is noteworthy because it is a direct sequel to that aforementioned episode, continuing one of the few dangling plot threads from the show’s early years – whatever happened to Cat’s people? You know, the ones that thought of Dave Lister as a god named “Cloister”, and waged a holy war due to minor disagreements between church doctrines? We knew that one of the two arks crashed into an asteroid, but the other presumably survived. That question was answered here, finally.

“The posse meet three cat clerics who worship Lister as their God. Lister vows to help them as they’re being hunted by Rodon, the ruthless feral cat leader who has vowed to wipe out all cats who worship anyone but him.”

Much like 2009’s Back to Earth, The Promised Land is somewhat more serious than a typical episode of the show and somewhat takes an idea from an existing sci-fi property and runs with it. While Back to Earth was an homage to Blade Runner, I couldn’t help but see this as an homage to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in some ways. Thankfully, one thing that this series does right is keeping the humor in place, because there are some side splitting site gags here, mostly involving the antagonist feral cats as lead by King Rodon (Ray Fearon).

Simple jokes like having all of the doors on the Cat ship being huge pet doors, or having Rodon maniacally attack a huge scratching post to relax was hilarious. As a cat owner, the detail in the jokes was spot on, such as having him lay on his bed knocking cat toys on the floor gave me many a flashback to my own cat doing similar things. This is not to mention that Fearon is doing all of this whilst playing the whole thing as serious as possible.

We also see the triumphant return of Holly as played by Norman Lovett in this film. Lovett has been an on again and off again feature in the show, finally burying the hatchet with series showrunner Doug Naylor after some sort of prolonged backstage issues dating back to some eighteen years ago. After leaving before series three, Lovett returned in the seventh series as a guest star and the eighth as a regular. Many felt he would never fully come back to the show after a brief cameo in series twelve, but here we are – Holly is back and better than ever.

The rest of the guest cast is pretty fun, with the majority of the new characters being the members of the Feral Cats. The three most prominent guest stars other than Rodon are Tom Bennett as Brother Sol, Mandeep Dhillon as Sister Luna, and Lucy Pearman as Sister Peanut, all clerics that worship the almighty “Cloister”. Also noteworthy is Al Roberts as Count Ludo, Rodon’s sycophantic lackey.

Going back and returning to a storyline from 1988 shows that this show is definitely for the fans, and the love and care put in to make it something special is evident. Most shows constantly try to reinvent the rules of the show, usually alienating the fans, Red Dwarf is so successful still because it has stopped doing that. They had their fair share of blunders in the past when trying to change the show around, but you can tell Naylor has learned.

I was skeptical of the 90 minute format at first, as I felt Back to Earth was somewhat uneven, but The Promised Land is a definite testament to the strength of the concept. Here’s hoping they get more of these out sooner than later, and I have no doubt there will be more. Craig Charles (Lister) has even been quoted when discussing the show saying “There’s life in the old dog yet”. He was also quotes in the Metro saying “We were supposed to do the other one by now but obviously Covid put paid to all of that but as soon as we can, we want to just do these 90-minute formats now so the feature-length formats because it was so well-received.”

Overall, this was awesome, and some of the best Red Dwarf in a few years. I say that knowing that it’s compared to three largely solid seasons since the show returned in 2009. I loved the Feral cats, and the additional lore explaining some plot holes from the earlier episodes was cool. The action was solid, the special effects were great, and the jokes were absolutely hilarious. I would recommend watching the 1988 episode before you do this one, although it’s not 100% necessary. Just like how the Wrath of Khan stands on it’s own despite being a sequel to a Star Trek TV episode, you can enjoy this just the same. I can’t wait for more, and hope it comes quickly!

For more Red Dwarf reviews and ancient news articles I did on here, click HERE.

Here is a special sneak peak of the first five minutes as well:

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