Red Dwarf Review: Series V, Episode 2: "The Inquisitor"

Airdate: 27 February, 1992

Synopsis: According to legend, the Inquisitor is a self-repairing simulant that lived until the end of time itself. After millions of years alone, h e came to the conclusion that there is no deity nor afterlife, and that the only purpose of existence is to live a life that is full of worth and justifiable. Therefore, he erases those which are deemed unfit for the gift of life, and replaces him/her with somebody that never had a chance – the unfertilized egg, the late sperm, for example.

It just so happens that the Inquisitor is real, and has the Boys from the Dwarf as his next target. When they are captured, they are given the parameters of the test to determine their worthiness of existence. What is that test? The Inquisitor is the judge, and the boys have to defend themselves. Which are saved? The Cat and Rimmer. Shocking, right? Well, they were judged…

… by themselves. The Inquisitor took the form of the person he was judging, personality and all. Rimmer managed to get out of the charges (that of being a selfish, cruel liar) by noting that his childhood was a mess, and he did the best he could given the circumstances. The Cat cites his own beauty, effectively agreeing to the charges laid against him. (“I’ve given pleasure to the world ’cause I have such a beautiful ass!”) Kryten tries to dismantle the charges against him by arguing that the only way he could do good deeds on his own is to break his programming and that The Inquisitor has no right to judge anybody. He is merely able to give the argument that he could’ve broken his programming and done good deeds, but didn’t do so. Lister simply refuses to hear the accusations that he slacked off in life. (“Spin on it!”)

Thus, Lister and Kryten are doomed. As memories of them by others are deleted, Lister and Kryten manage to break the Inquisitor, and try and reverse course… with a little help from a Liverpudlian slob and a snarky robot along the way, neither of whom recognize them.

Review: Well, glad to be reviewing Red Dwarf again.

For the first time in a decent while, Lister is given the center role in an episode. Does it work? Yes. In fact, this is almost the best episode of the series, beaten out by “Back to Reality”.

This episode is somewhat more dramatic than other episodes. While comedy is prevalent in this episode, it’s also an episode that’s not afraid to ask a question. That question? “What is a worthwhile life like?” Are we worthwhile? Does one judge his or her self-worth by the standards of society, or the standards of oneself?

The big one is simple; Can we improve ourselves? For example, you see The Inquisitor take on the persona of Lister before barbing him with the fact that he never tried. Since this is the persona of Lister, it unveils some deep-seated neurosis in him. Yet, he also reveals himself to be a brilliant man in the second half, setting up a scenario quite obviously influenced by The Iliad to take down the inquisitor. This is no accident; he was seen dissecting The Iliad in the beginning of the episode. Thus, he is one of the craftier people on the ship, and thus, has a purpose in life.

The idea of self-questioning is nothing really new, but its execution is brilliant. The Jack Docherty-played character is very innovative. He judges others, yet does it by taking the persona of the person on the hot seat, who are forced to question themselves if they made the most of their life. It’s brilliant, manipulative, and so cruel. It’s also seemingly nihilistic at first; those with inflated egos and tons of pride are to live, while those with neuroses are damned to be erased. Yet, it takes another turn that makes you think; Rimmer’s defense shows that even those who seem to be egoists can be very, very self-loathing, yet resort to trying to defend their actions (or lack thereof) so they can’t admit that their life was wasted.

The humor is not as fast-and-furious as a typical episode in, say, Series III. However, the timing of each joke and action is perfect enough to carry the jokes from one moment to another. It’s funny enough that the average viewer won’t think about the episode’s message at first; they’ll just be laughing constantly. The best joke, by a country mile, is the Cat’s defense.

It’s pure drama, comedy, science fiction… it’s just a fantastic episode. Too bad it aired in Series V, and is thus overlooked by the tragic “Holoship”, the mysterious “Quarantine”, and the purely topsy-turvy “Back to Reality”.

Favorite Moment: Again, it has to be the core four defending themselves. It’s dramatic (Rimmer’s defense), prophetic (Lister’s defense), thought provoking (Kryten’s defense) and hysterical (Cat’s defense, dear god, Cat’s defense!)

Least Favorite Moment: The one thing keeping it from a 10 score is Lister’s move to get past a door that won’t recognize them. It’s a bit out of character, given the near-perfect character that Lister is as of this episode.

Rating: 9.5.

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