Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 6: "Meltdown"

Airdate: 21 March 1992.


Synopsis: As Rimmer is boring the crew of Red Dwarf to death with his stories, Kryten discovers a matter transporter device in the research lab of Red Dwarf. It can convert an individual into digital information and then transmit them in the form of light beams to another point in space within 500,000 light years. The crew decide to explore the nearest planet with breathable air, 200,000 light years away. Rimmer and Kryten go first to see if the atmosphere is breathable and send the device back, but are then chased by two Adult Gappas, then taken prisoner by a gun-toting Elvis Presley and the Pope. Lister and the Cat follow but accidentally end up in what appears to be the Third Reich and are captured by Adolf Hitler, whose men take the device.

It soon becomes apparent that they have traveled to Wax-world — a Wax-Droid theme park that has been abandoned for millions of years, during which time the droids have broken their programming and gained sentience. Now the droid replica inhabitants of Villain World are waging war against Hero World, in “the ultimate battle of Good versus Evil”. The evil Waxdroids use the heroes’ wax to make more of their own kind. Thanks to this, the heroes are on the verge of defeat. Rimmer takes up the opportunity to turn the tide of the war.

Review: This episode gets a rather weak rap on Red Dwarf polls, as it is often cited as being too hokey and a bit unlike Red Dwarf.

And I can see where they are coming from.

Not only are there some shifts in character that are not explained well (the writers tried to keep Rimmer like a human, yet he is turned into a light bee that can practically stop him at any time), but the anti-war message at the end was pretty blatant. Not Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue blatant, but still pretty blatant.

Does that mean this is a bad episode? Not really.

This is not an episode that will place tops on the Best Red Dwarf Ever poll, but it still is a pretty funny episode. I actually like the idea of a two-plot structure seen in this episode, as it shows what happens when the Posse are split up. The end results are hysterical.

Not only is Rimmer training the Good Wax droids funny, but it also exposes an aspect of his character. He does not like being a leader so much as he likes a desire for control. He also does not give a lot about what happens to his soldiers: as long as he gets the personal feel of victory, all is right in the world of Arnold Judas Rimmer. That’s why he is obsessed with war: he does not like the historical aspects or the mechanics or the ethics. He likes to control. He thinks that he is leading, but he is controlling. His dialogue with the Wax Droids shows it all. Also, he has no idea how to lead anybody. “We attack tomorrow, under cover of daylight!” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Plus, Lister and the Cat’s antics are pretty good. The scene with them in the jail cell is hilarious. There is the Cat flipping out, Lister watching the worst people come out and build gallows, and then…

They’re tyin’ him to a stake… it’s Winnie the Pooh! […] It’s Winnie the Pooh, I swear! He’s refusing the blindfold.

(after watching Winnie get executed, he simply steps down, completely fazed). That’s something that no one should ever have to see!

Also, Elvis Presley as one of the good droids that kidnap Rimmer and Kryten? Brilliant! And the bad special effects of dinosaurs? Wonderful!

Of course, the critics of the episode do have a point when they criticize the “moral of the story” ending. Unlike in “Justice”, where it was mocked by having Lister fall down a pipe, there was no such mocking of the moral. That’s not really like Red Dwarf. When it does include a lesson, it’s pretty subtle. Granted, some anvils need to be dropped, but still; a bit jarring.

TL;DR? A wickedly underrated episode, and a good closing episode to series IV.

Favorite Scene: The jail cell scene. Just, the jail cell scene.

Least Favorite Scene: The whole “moral of the week” ending. What is this, Red Dwarf, or Captain Planet?

Score: 8.

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