Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 5: "Dimension Jump"

Airdate: 14 March 1991

Synopsis: In an alternate universe, Arnold Rimmer is a handsome, loveable test pilot in the Space Corps (played by Chris Barrie). His close friends include engineer Spanners (Craig Charles, yes, THAT Craig Charles), chaplain Padre (Danny John-Jules; yes, THAT Danny John-Jules), secretary Mellie (Hattie Hayridge, notice a pattern here?) and head of Space Corps, Bongo (Robe… you know what I’m going to smeggin say). Bongo gives “Ace” the opportunity to take a dimension hopper and test it out. Despite being warned that he may never return, Ace takes up on the offer and winds up in another universe…

… where a mining ship is floating around, three million years deep in space.

In this universe, Rimmer manages to lay a major guilt trip on the others and makes him go fishing with them. While boring them to death, however, the dimension hopper manages to crash into Starbug, sending the latter ship crashing on the fishing planet, injuring the Cat (and worse, damaging his suits). Ace turns to rescue Starbug, and meets the crew. All of the Red Dwarf crew fall head over Cuban heels over Ace… except Rimmer, who belittles Ace for being better than him. Ace manages (with the help of Lister) to fix Starbug, and tries to save the Cat.

Now, why was Ace such a success? Well, it had to deal with an event in school. This one I’m not going to spoil.

Review: This episode is part of what I like to call the Red Dwarf episodic trinity, consisting of “Polymorph”, “Back To Reality” (from series V), and this episode. These three episodes have the most fame from the casual viewer, are considered the most memorable, and are considered to be the funniest.

And they have a point. This episode is just a joy to watch from beginning to end!

I’ll be honest: at first, I didn’t “get” Ace. However, upon repeated re-watchings, this episode went from being merely funny to outright brilliant.

Ace Rimmer is a brilliant parody of the typical action hero/”marty stu” character. His exploits are over the top awesome! In fact, Ace fills the role of action hero brilliantly (I thank Chris Barrie for this episode; he actually requested this episode, as he had spent his career playing Arnold Rimmer, the goofy Ronald Reagan on Spitting Image – that show also brought Grant/Naylor to fame – and the incompetent Gordon Brittas on The Brittas Empire.)

His introduction in the alternate universe is brilliant. The fact that Craig, Danny, Robert, and Hattie reprised there roles is brilliant enough, (in fact, when you realise this, the scene becomes even better), but they fit so well in their roles! What makes this scene even more brilliant is that you would never hear of any of the Posse liking Rimmer. Ace, meanwhile, was asked by both Bongo and Mellie if they wanted to have relations.

The backstory behind Ace Rimmer and what caused him to be so successful and why Rimmer is such a git is one of the most brilliant reveals in history. Even if you know what it is, it’s still brilliant. It brings up an important lesson: sometimes, negative reinforcement is needed to succeed.

This episode also goes quite far as to show who Arnold Rimmer really is: despite his smegishness, this episode cements him as a pathetic, poor individual who never got anything good to occur to him. Granted, much of this is due to the fact that, again, he is a smeghead, but a sizeable amount of his behavior was caused by his childhood. And then he mucks it up by mocking Ace.

That’s not to say that the other characters are totally left out. Cat’s reaction to having his leg crushed is brilliant! (“I look like a jerk. I’m bleeding an unfashionable color!”) There’s also Lister talking about his prior fishing experiences even though there was no fish, alongside Holly’s reaction to the crash, both of which deliver great laughs. Kryten, while not getting the same amount of brilliant lines as Cat and Lister, gets a laugh when he fesses up to Rimmer about attempting to leave him to go fishing.

Overall, a brilliant episode, and one of the all-time TV greats.

Favorite Scene: Ace’s first few minutes on TV.

Least Favorite Scene: Hard to decide. I’ll get back to you later.

Score: 9.5

Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 4: "White Hole"

 Airdate: 7 March, 1991

Synopsis: Kryten manages to create a device to repair Holly’s intelligence, at the cost of a decreased lifespan. The device works… too well. In fact, Holly, while brilliant, only has the lifespan of 3 minutes, so she has to shut herself down. Once Holly goes, so does the ship. Rimmer refuses to sacrifice his life to try and increase the lifespan for everybody, so the crew are stuck, waiting to die with no power nor heat.

While trying to move supplies from one part of the ship to another (which now takes hours), Rimmer and Kryten encounter a strange time phenomenon. Kryten deduces that this is the fault of a white hole, which spits out time. Holly is briefly reactivated to give a plan: shoot a bomb into the sun, knocking it into the white hole. Lister, however, decides to use his pool-playing skills to fire the bomb, and chooses another planet. The planets bounce against one another, and a sun plugs up the white hole… eliminating the events that happened in the episode.

Review: This episode marks something of a watershed moment in the character of Holly. The producers argued that the character was written out because they ran out of ideas for her. Nowhere is it clearer than in this episode. Initially, it seems that Holly will be the center of the episode, with the IQ increase and all that. However, once it’s revealed that Holly has to shut down, the episode jerks to another “Boys from the Dwarf” episode, with Holly barely mentioned, spitting out a plan, and having Lister deviate from her plan.

However, this episode is not hurt by this. Rather, this is my second favorite episode from the fourth series. The plot manages to combine brilliant sci-fi with killer comedy (they have to plug up a white hole by playing billiards). There was not a lot in the way of character development. However, in my Top 5 Lowest Arnold Rimmer Moments list, I cited the scene where Rimmer refuses to sacrifice his life for the good of the crew as an indicator that, despite his desire to lead, he lacks the components to lead.

The comedy in this episode was hysterical. I had previously mentioned that Talkie Toaster is much funnier here. This is actually a good example of the concept of Flanderization, where a single trait of a character consumes most of the character. In this case, Talkie Toaster went from a mere annoying git to a bread-obsessed annoying git. Granted, he does try and justify it (“It’s my raison d’etre- ‘I toast, therefore I am!’).

The Cat gets quite a few brilliant lines, such as this one.

Rimmer: (to the Cat) You’d sacrifice your life for the good of the crew?

The Cat: No. I’d sacrifice YOUR life for the good of the crew!

Kryten manages to end the episode by finally telling Rimmer that he is a complete and utter smeghead. Best. Red Dwarf. Ending. Ever.

Oh, and do I have to mention “What is it” and the pool with planets scenes?

Favorite Scene: Talkie. Toaster.

Least Favorite Scene: Don’t make me choose… alright! The scene where Lister and Cat have to go back to basics was the least funny. Still a decent scene, but a bit more filler.

Score: 9.

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 12: Summerween

Airdate: October 5th, 2012

Synopsis (Spoilers): It’s Summerween, which is a variant of Halloween celebrated during the Summer in Gravity Falls. Mabel intends to go out with Dipper, Candy, and Grenda for trick or treating. However, Dipper wants to go to a party with Wendy and Robbie. Soos warns the group about the Summerween Trickster, who eats the children if they do not enjoy their candy. Dipper tries to fake being sick so he can not go Trick-or-treating. The Trickster comes by the shack, and warns Dipper that, if the kids do not deliver 500 pieces of candy by the time all the jack-o-melons go out, the kids will be eaten by the Trickster.

The kids go on a mass candy spree, Dipper being dragged along. They manage to get 499 pieces of candy. However, two things prevent them from getting 500. First off, Dipper meets Wendy and Robbie, and talks to them about the party… with Mabel overhearing, creating a row between the twins. Second, Dipper managed to accidentally destroy the candy by pushing the wheelbarrow down a cliff in trying to hide it from Wendy and Robbie. The Jack-O-Melons then go out, bring the Trickster to their footsteps. Soos rescues them, and drives them to the Summerween Store. While fighting off the trickster, Mabel reveals that she was cold at Dipper earlier because she was afraid that their Halloween together was done. Soos winds up eating the Trickster from the inside out, with the Trickster’s goal of trying to get people to enjoy the candy that makes him up (most of it candy that nobody wants to eat) being realized. Back at the Shack, Dipper confesses to Wendy about the fact that he was trick-or-treating. In a stroke of luck, the party is also canceled, so Dipper, Wendy, and Mabel, alongside Candy and Grenda, celebrate the true meaning of Summerween… pure evil.

Meanwhile, Stan goes through his own experience with Summerween Trick-O-Treaters, in which he tries to scare them… but winds up more scared of them.

Review: I’ll admit this right now; I am not a Halloween person at all. I am not one for jump scares. I get freaked out easily. So, this episode did manage to give me some chills.

There is a bit of a cliche in episodes that revolve around Dipper wanting to get to first base with Wendy or try and give himself some space with Mabel: do something stupid/callous/selfish, get himself, Mabel, maybe Wendy, and any innocent bystanders in peril, and do something to make up, or in the case of Mabel, realise her side of the story. Both sides manage to get squished together in this episode. Yay?

Well, I do believe that yes, this provides a detriment to the episode. However, it is less of a detriment than it was to “Time Travelers Pig”. At least Mabel does not come off AS selfish as she did in that episode. Dipper gets a bit of a ride on the self-concerned train here. This seems to try and hammer in the point that, yes, he is as immature as he claims he is mature. Kinda repetitive, but still. But this episode does provide Dipper with a conflict: does he try and stay young as long as he can, or does he take a plunge into adulthood? This conflict will continue with him for the rest of the season (and may continue into the next season).

This episode also uses another cliche that manages to drive me insane: the Liar Revealed cliche. God, this cliche drives me crazy. It’s my least favorite cliche of all time.

Also, the credits with Waddles? Not really funny. Then again, I am not a fan of Waddles in the first place.

The humor and the creativity in the designs of the episode and it’s central theme, Summerween, save the episode. Stan manages to bring some of this episodes best laughs ever with the ending of his subplot. The idea of the Summerween trickster makes him one of the best villains in the show, and he gets a lot of character development. The episode also managed to give me some chills (as stated above), with the dimmer-than-normal colors in the episode. The small details given to Summerween (jack-o-melons) are brilliant. Old Man McGucket is funny, as always.

It’s also worth noting that Robbie breaks the “cold war pact” made in the last episode when he insults Dipper. Then again, this could be a reference to the cold war, where the US and USSR, even when trying to avoid direct conflict, still were not on good terms with each other, and in fact, still openly criticized each other.

Overall, a good episode, but hampered down with a semi-cliche plot.

Favorite Scene: The Summerween Trickster himself.

Least Favourite Scene: The end credits.

Score: 7.5

Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 3: Justice

Airdate: 28 February 1991

I can feel the symbolism!

Synopsis (SPOILERS AHEAD): A pod from a prison ship lands on Red Dwarf. Unsure of whether or not the pod contains a female security guard or a simulant (which is like a mechanoid, but more human and more likely to kill humans), they go to the prison ship. Aboard the prison ship, the computer scans the crew for various crimes. Cat, Kryten, and Lister are cleared (the computer ignoring the latter’s adolescent misdemeanors.) However, Rimmer is charged with 1167 counts of second-degree murder, for failing to repair a drive plate properly aboard Red Dwarf (consequently causing that drive plate to explode and kill everybody, sans Lister and his cat). He is sentenced to prison for over 9000 years. In the Justice Zone, where Rimmer is imprisoned, it is impossible for him to commit a crime (if one tries to commit a crime, the effects are felt by the person committing the offense).

Kryten manages to convince the computer to give them a retrial. Arguing as his defense counsel, Kryten argues that the mind probe was merely used to ascertain guilt, not to ascertain the capability to commit a crime. Kryten also argues that Rimmer’s ego caused him to think that he was fully responsible for the deaths of the crew, while in reality, Rimmer was (and is) merely an egotistical, incompetent moron who should have never been held responsible for the crime in the first place. The computer ultimately rules in favor of Rimmer and Kryten.

As they try and return to Red Dwarf, the life-form in the pod escapes… and it is a simulant. While chasing the crew around the ship, the Simulant enters the Justice Zone… where offenses affect the offender. The Simulant tries to kill Lister… and winds up killing himself. Back on the ship, Lister goes on a lengthy rant about how there is no such thing as absolute justice… with the rant ending when he winds up in a manhole.

Review: One of Red Dwarf‘s greatest strengths is the psycho-analysis of Rimmer. As such, this episode is brilliant, as it really does go deep inside Rimmer’s mind. This episode asks the questions: is Rimmer responsible for his actions? Is Rimmer a good person blinded by his own ego and desire for control? Or is he really malevolent, willing to cut down anybody for his own selfish gain? This can be applied to the average Joe, much like Arnold Rimmer: do we do bad things out of malevolence, or are we good people that just made bad decisions and are clouded by our own faults? Is there such a thing as true justice?

It’s worth noting that Rimmer, in previous episodes, refuses to take responsibility for anything. Could it be that he has so much guilt for killing the crew, that he felt that he needed to relieve himself of some responsibility by putting up an egocentric aura? Or is he just an egotistical smeghead?

OK, let’s drop the philosophy for a second, and go into a full review.

The character development given to the two main leads is brilliant. This episode shows that Lister is not a bad guy by any means: he’s controlled by peer pressure. This episode also solidifies him as the show’s moral center, and the most well-rounded person aboard the ship (Rimmer’s a smeghead, the Cat is vain, and Kryten is still trying to get hold of humanity). Yet, the episode also mocks his attempts at summarizing the lesson to the crew. The development given to Rimmer is brilliant, with the smallest details in his life showing that Rimmer is a smeghead.

The simulant plot seems a bit unnecessary, just being there to move the plot forward. They could have made the entire episode about the trial. However, the simulant plot is still funny as all get out!

If I had to find one defining fault about the episode… it would have to be the Space Mumps scenes. They’re just there to pad the episode out to 28 minutes. It’s stupid and its resolution is just plain gross. They could have done without it. In fact, without the space mumps, the episode would have EASILY gained a 9.5 score. Instead, the episode only gains an 8 score: still great, but the Space Mumps knocks it down that far.

Favorite Scene: Lister’s fight with the Simulant. Just plain hysterical.

Least Favorite Scene: The smegging space mumps plotline.

Score: 8

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 11: "Little Dipper"

Airdate: September 28, 2012

Hamster V. Q-Tip! The Battle of the Decade!

Synopsis (SPOILERS AHEAD): Mabel finally gets to one-up Dipper in terms of their height (Mabel is slightly taller), and gloats about it. Dipper manages to find a crystal and a torch that, when shined on objects, either increases or decreases their size. Dipper uses it to make himself taller, to the frustration of Mabel. Meanwhile, Gideon is seeking the Mystery Shack to get hold of a secret in said shack. Gideon manages to get the torch and make Dipper and Mabel tiny, capturing them in his room.

A hamster-sized Dipper and Mabel manage to escape Gideon’s room and manage to arrive at the Shack… just in time to get captured alongside a now-shrunk Soos. Mabel finally confesses to Dipper the reason why she was gloating about her height: Dipper gloated about being one above Mabel in terms of everything. Their size also provides an advantage in taking Gideon down… thanks to some tickling.

Review: This episode is often selected for “least favorite” by fans, many complaining that is was a boring episode. Granted, I will give the fans the fact that this episode was light on the humor, although it had some funny moments, like Mabel wanting to go to the Shack… via Cheekums.

Yet, I can’t fathom why people dislike this episode. In my opinion, this episode manages to give some of the best character development to Dipper and Mabel. Unlike “Time Travellers Pig” (Yes, I am still livid over that episode), this episode produces a wonderful analysis of the Dipper/Mabel sibling relationship. We get to see tensions that exist between Dipper and Mabel, without it going as far as it did in “Time Travellers”. In the end, neither twin suffers painfully as a result of the other’s actions. In fact, they gain off of each other.

The strange part is that, with this episode, Mabel (y’know, the girl who wanted to ride a hamster from a house to a shack) is more sensible than Dipper. In fact, I have to resort back to my comparison between Dipper and Arnold J. Rimmer. Despite presenting himself as more mature and sensible, Dipper is actually less mature and more self-serving than his loopy sister. Again, Dipper ultimately does the right thing in the end, and is actually smart, so the comparison I make between Dipper and Arnie J. may be a bit strained, but still.

What made this episode even better is that, with this episode, we get to see Gideon go truly insane. I mean it. His sanity goes down to levels that are frightening. Likewise, Mrs. Gleeful’s insanity is also pronounced, but on a different level. While Gideon is insane in the “evil villain” sense, Mrs. Gleeful is insane in the “completely broken by the world gone mad” sense. On the contrary, Bud seems like a guy you could really be a good friend with and is my favorite of the three. He sorta reminds me of J.R. Ewing from Dallas, but with less oil and Texan-ism. (Gideon is more like Nevel Papperman from iCarly… except with a less nerdy exterior.) And Gideon’s line about the shack… pretty chilling.

If there is anything bad about this episode, it’s that the ending seemed rushed. That’s it. Also, it’s not too memorable, and Soos did not have a brilliant role. Otherwise, this is a great episode with great characterisation and decent humor.

Favorite Scene: The cold opener. The entire cold opener.

Least Favorite Scene: Soos’s role in this episode seemed to be merely “get captured and mess up”. Not a bad scene, but still. Slightly limiting for a funny character.

Score: 8

Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 2: "DNA"

Airdate: 21 February 1991

Yes, that is Robert Llewellyn without makeup.

Synopsis: The Boys from the Dwarf board a drifting spaceship. While on the spaceship, the Cat fiddles around with a DNA modifier. At first, it turns Lister into a chicken, followed by him being a hamster. However, Cat, trying to turn Lister back into a Human (he succeeds), also manages to turn Kryten into a human.

While at first Kryten is enthralled with humanity, humanity quickly loses it’s luster, with Kryten being unaware about various body functions, being insulted by his spare heads, and unable to pick up JazzFM. Therefore, the crew decides to go back to the DNA modifier, where Kryten will become a mechanoid again. They test the DNA modifier on a vindaloo… only to create a vindaloo monster. It’s not worth revealing what they do to defeat the vindaloo monster, but it involves Lister using the DNA modifier himself.

Review: Oh, this was hilarious. Not exactly the most memorable episode of the series, but hilarious.

Let’s start with the biggest problem with this episode: it’s more sitcom-y than the rest of the episodes, which are more character-driven. Granted, it’s not NEARLY as bad as what we would get in the torrid series VIII, but it was a small hint at things to come.

Still, it pulled it off. Character development is not too high, but it managed to give some insight into the functions Kryten does as a mechanoid, while still showing his naivete with humanity. Therefore, he’s not just an exposition spewer: he is as flawed as the rest of the crew.

The ending is something only Red Dwarf would pull. The humor in this episode hits all styles (lowbrow, highbrow). The “monster of the week” is pretty freaky, yet still hysterical. The delivery by Robert Llewellyn as a human is wonderful. Just a great episode to watch.

Favorite Scene: Kryten talking to his spare heads. That’s how you do “man vs. self” in sci-fi.

Least Favorite Scene: Not that I hated it, but the scene aboard the drifting ship before they reach the DNA machine was a bit disturbing.

Score: 7.9 (Rounded to 8).

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 10: "Fight Fighters"

Airdate: September 14th, 2012

Synopsis (Spoilers Ahead): Robbie realizes that Dipper has the hots for Wendy, and is furious. (This is, despite Robbie not seeming to care about her feelings). After Dipper breaks Robbie’s phone to prevent the latter from divulging Dipper’s secret, Robbie challenges Dipper to a fight in town. Hiding out at the arcade as to not get beaten up, Dipper enters a code on a game which happens to be his and Wendy’s favorite, Fight Fighters. Once the code is entered, Dipper is able to select a character to appear in the main world. He chooses ultra-Macho Rumble McSkrmish and goes to town to fight Robbie.

To motivate Rumble, Dipper claims that Robbie killed his father. This sends Rumble into one goal: kill Robbie. After Rumble ALMOST kills Robbie at the water tower, Dipper reveals the truth, and Rumble turns his hatred to Dipper. Apparently, lying is a such a great offense to Rumble, it drove him onto the path of evil. Dipper decides to fight Rumble and take it like a man… and gets beaten up quite severely. Afraid of losing Wendy, Dipper and Robbie decide to continue their animosity in secret.

Meanwhile, despite his initial statements to the contrary, Stan has a phobia of heights. Mabel tries to get Stan to conquer them. They happen to get on the water tower at the same time that Rumble almost kills Robbie at the water tower (by beating on the stilts). Stan manages to overcome his fear, but now Mabel has a phobia.

Review: This episode leaves me conflicted in so many ways.

On one hand, the humor in the episode is pretty funny. There is some subtle visual comedy, the callbacks to retro video games (Street Fighter, Donkey Kong, Mario) and video game-esque media (The Wizard and Scott Pilgrim) are brilliant. The art done for Rumble McSkirmish is pretty good (thanks to the art of Paul Robertson, who also did Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.) This episode does have a bit of character development. Isn’t it weird that I can talk about the bad more than I can talk about the good?

On a more mixed note, there is Robbie.

This image was actually taken from “The Inconveniencing”.
  • On one hand, the character seems to come off as pretty one note at this point in the show. At first glance, he’s just there to give Dipper an arch-enemy, a jerkass who has the hots for the same girl as our protagonist. He gets worse later in the show: wait until we take a look at “Boyz Crazy” to see how much of a jerk he can be.
  • On a more positive note (in terms of writing, of course), Robbie manages to bring the absolute worst out of Dipper. Granted, he always tries to do the right thing at the end, but thanks to Robbie, Dipper has cloned himself, made SEVERAL alterations to the timeline, AND unleashed a macho video-game character to try and beat up said rival. Remember in the beginning of my Gravity Falls reviews, when I compared Dipper to Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf? Well, those things I just mentioned are among the things that I could see Rimmer do (although Rimmer was much more callous after he messed everything over in his show). This is not a really bad thing at all, as it shows that Dipper can be as immature as his age suggests.

There are two negative points that I would like to address, and both have to do with our leading females.

  1. Oh, smeg, Wendy, what have the writers done to ya? As much as I hate to admit it, by this point in the show, they do not seem to have a whole lot of ideas for her. Therefore, they have reduced her to something of an object for Dipper. That’s a shame, as she has the potential to be a wonderful character and a pretty damn good foil for Dipper. The best way to fix this? Simply put, the writers should take note of what happened at the beginning of the episode (with them hanging out), and make them very close friends with some tension. A second option would be to make them a brilliant Id/Superego pair in the supernatural aspects of the town. Alternatively, include Mabel, and Dipper, Mabel, and Wendy can try and work some of the old Id/Ego/Superego magic that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy brought to Star Trek: The Original Series. Also, get rid of Robbie. Dipper’s own selfish and neurotic tendencies brought on by his lust and organized personality can help create some friction between the two.
  2. Mabel, again, gets reduced to a bit plot here. Granted, here, she gets some funny lines, but the plot she gets here is still dull. Thankfully, the writers seemed to recognize this and made the character act closer to her potential with each successive episode from here until the season finale.

The main plot, however, is so hysterical that it manages to give the episode a good score. It’s not the best of Gravity Falls, but it’s still pretty funny.

Favorite Scene: Rumble demands transport to the Soviet Union. Given the age of the game, that is PERFECTLY in character for him. It’s also a brilliant reference to a flaw in Street Fighter II.

Least Favorite Scene: The entire Mabel Subplot. It’s just dull.

Score: 7.4.