Red Dwarf Review: Series VI, Episode 2: "Legion"

Airdate: 14 October, 1993

Synopsis: Starbug is in a dire situation. Supplies are low; water is being reused, and the only thing available to eat are Space Weevils. The Dwarfers take turns piloting in shifts. To make matters more distressing, as Lister eats his Space Weevil for dinner, a tractor beam manages to capture Starbug. When the shuttle ends up at a space station, however, the crew are met by Legion (Nigel Williams), who fixes Lister’s appendix, turns Rimmer into a hard-light hologram, feeds the crew (albeit with strange chopsticks), and grants them bedrooms with their greatest desires. However, it comes at a price: they have to stay on the ship for the rest of their lives. Why? Well, the words “composite” and “gestalt” come to mind.

Review: Now, this episode feels a little bit more like Red Dwarf! After the first episode of the series was a dud, this episode really seemed to show Series VI settling in.

This episode, after all, really establishes this show as a more direct parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation and some of the tropes that TNG loved. Need to declare a red alert? Well, that’s going to require some maintenance! Have to dine with somebody you’ve just met? Have them use strange chopsticks and fling food all over the place! Imprison them for life? Put them up in bedrooms with their greatest desires!

The idea of the gestalt entity is a great sci-fi trope. Legion itself is brilliant: a sentient being with the minds of many. The faults of this are quickly revealed; while it can lead to greatness in the minds of scientists and geeks, it can lead to irrational behavior when idiots like the Dwarfers are involved. Such irrational behavior involves capturing the crew for life, stabbing himself in the hand, and threatening to stab himself in a far more sensitive place. The will of the many is best demonstrated in a quote he says that’s lifted from a little anthology called The Bible.

My name is Legion, for we are many. – A possessed man who’s taking to Jesus, Mark 5:9. Oh, and Legion in this episode, also.

Let me tell you something; it’s easy to make a lowbrow joke (of which there are quite a few in this episode, albeit concentrated in the first 4 minutes). It’s harder to make a direct reference to the Bible, one of the most indirectly referenced pieces of literature of all time. The will of the many have taken over Legion; thus, he is at their control in terms of emotional traits. He definitely possesses the neurosis and selfishness of Rimmer, for one.

Onto the jokes, they definitely work better here than they did in “Psirens”. A good chunk of them are still very much sitcom based, yet for some reason, they work better here. Maybe it’s because the character comedy is somewhat more prevalent. Rimmer’s now a hardlight, for once. This should mean he ascended to another piece of life, right? Nope; it gives him the opportunity to get food all over him and to get beaten up by Kryten in a futile attempt to disable the Gestalt. Nothing’s changed in his life, except things can’t pass through him. His life is still miserable.

Really, the only problem with this episode is the one that dominated “Psirens”, yet it’s a problem that smacks down this episode: no matter how good the jokes worked in this episode, this still feels more like a typical sitcom episode. Outside of the Cat (and his relationship with Lister), none of the characters get a whole lot of development. Outside of the tragedy of Rimmer being turned into a slapstick-based character for the episode, he is still less-dimensional than he was in episodes such as “The Inquisitor” and “Back to Reality”. Nothing in terms of character is really explored. It’s sad, because the lack of development drags down an otherwise well-done episode.

Tidbits:

  • This marks the second time that Lister had his gallbladder removed; the first time was revealed in “Thanks for the Memory”. Don’t you only have one of those? You do, right?
  • Nigel Williams was actually sewn into the Legion suit during filming.
  • When Legion stabs himself in the left hand with the scalpel, the rest react by grabbing their left hand… except for Lister, who grabs his right hand. Why?

Favorite Moment: Strangely enough, despite it being relatively lowbrow, I laughed at Legion’s threat to the Dwarfers in the case of a second insurrection. Let’s just have the reactions of the Dwarfers.

Kryten: “Legion, that type of tough talk doesn’t scare us!”

Cat, Rimmer, and Lister: “YES, IT DOES! 

Least Favorite Moment: It has to be Rimmer’s reaction to being turned into a hardlight. This is the closest that Rimmer is getting to being alive, and his reaction is similar to one’s reaction to getting a free Big Mac. It’s really just there to get some slapstick out of him, which is hilarious, but still. Grant/Naylor can say what they want about wanting to expand the potential of Rimmer. These guys are great, but I can’t buy that one.

Score: 7.75.

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