Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 4: "Duct Soup"

Airdate: 7 February, 1997

“There! We’ve lost Doug and his boring scripts!”

Synopsis: Kochanski is having trouble adjusting to life onboard Starbug, being that she has to deal with the more laddish Lister and a robot that hates her. Not to mention, the accommodations are less than stellar; the pipes are loud, or, in Lister’s case, the shuttle is too hot. Kryten gets more and more jealous of the two… just in time for the ship’s functions to shut down completely. To fix the problem, they have to climb through the ducts.

Review: One of my personal favorite Red Dwarf episodes would have to be “Marooned”, from Series III. It’s a tad bit strange because you’d expect it to be your typical “bottle episode”, where two characters are stuck together. Personally, the “bottle episode” is one of my favorite (or at least my most forgivable) TV cliches, especially if done in a hilarious manner, and especially if one is interested in the characters. In “Marooned”, they took the heart and the soul of Red Dwarf, and allowed them to showcase the best and the worst aspects of their characters when they were together, yet also allowed for the characters to gain some more depth. It’s one of the few times I came close to crying at Red Dwarf.

So, why not try and repeat that with Lister, Kryten, and Kochanski? Try and show some depth with that. A few problems…

  • A) There is far less tension buildup between Kochanski and Lister. In fact, we’ve just met her!;
  • B) Lister’s character has been inconsistent for the past three episodes;
  • C) The development of character in this episode is poorer than in it’s predecessor;
  • D) This script is pathetic, especially as a bottle episode. Hell, it’s barely a bottle episode.
Want depth to my bulletpoints?
For (A), the development in “Marooned” came from Lister and Rimmer already being stuck together both in the 23rd century and three million years in deep space, as well as their antagonistic relationship due to their vastly different personalities. Here, we just smeggin met Kochanski. There’s no time to build up any tension. One episode she’s here: next, she’s trapped in the vents. Also, the adversarial relationship between Lister and Rimmer is not prevalent. Here, Lister does everything good for Kochanski.
Speaking of Lister, for the fourth episode in a row, his character is inconsistent. “Tikka” showed him as a selfish manchild with no respect for the crewmates he once had some modicum of respect for. “Clipper” showed him helping Rimmer achieve his great potential, although you could argue that he only did that to get Rimmer off the ship. “Ouroboros” shows him become a raging egoist who’s idiocy also clashes with a sudden realization about his backstory. And now, in “Duct”, he’s become a bland nice guy.

Character development isn’t just poorer… it borders on character derailment. The biggest problem with the character development here is that every single development is explained to us in bright, primary colors. “Marooned” was more subtle, yet also funny. Kochanski gets the best of it, as we finally see how hard it is to see a middle-class woman fit on a ship that contains a working class lad: even then, not only does she spell everything out for us, but her interactions with the other characters barely shed new light on any of their relationships.

This episode is tragic for Kryten. I can understand him taking more laddish actions after being trapped on a ship with Lister… but here’s the deal. Kryten work because he was both the sanest man on the ship, yet he also had his own personality quirks to deal with, such as his older software causing him to have a weak understanding of humans and less understanding of emotions. We see that in the beginning with Kryten giving Kochanski the Heimlich Manoeuvre to stop her from crying. However, his jealousy overtakes him… and it’s pathetic. The bot who would once protect humans from anything (or at least try to protect humans) is reduced to threatening their lives to satisfy his own selfish needs. Character derailment, ladies and gents.

Thus, in an episode that follows a trope that requires good character, the three characters focused on in this episode are, at best, given weak development, and at worst, derailed.
Again, this is all exaggerated by the fact that the episode barely has any laughs in it. Jokes were either too long, or sitcom-style plots. The only thing I laughed at was Kochanski beating Kryten with a wrench… if only because I felt that Kryten needed some form of punishment. Also, the pacing in this episode was off… again, the culprit was the jokes that went on too long only to be explained to us. Heimlich Manoeuvre, anybody?
Overall… my god. Three out of the first four episodes of Series VII are some of the worst that Red Dwarf has to offer… I give up. May as well try and bang the rest of the series out within the next week or two. I have lost all hope for the rest of the series… and I have a bad feeling about Series VIII.
Tidbits:
  • Worth noting that the three episodes in this series so far that were pathetic were written by Doug Naylor alone. “Stoke Me A Clipper” was written by Naylor and Alexander. Maybe I’ll just give Doug the “writing alone blues”. That, and a theory exists that Naylor, in his partnership with Grant, tended to focus more on the dramatic aspects of the show. Then again, if he was so good at drama in the first six series, why is the drama here so boring?
  • This episode was actually cut down by three minutes. They could’ve cut the length of some gags, such as the Heimlich, or the rushing water, or the wind, or some of the awkward discussion about the alternate Lister’s sexuality. They cut the opening credits.
  • This episode replaced “Identity Within”, an episode that would’ve developed the character of the Cat and would’ve elaborated on his species, because the series ran over budget. Methinks most of the budget went to the spectacular CGI prevalent through the series!
  • Oh, this is the first episode not to feature Rimmer in any way, shape or form. He isn’t even mentioned!
Favorite Scene: Uh, the credits? Maybe Kochanski beating Kryten with a wrench.
Least Favorite Scene: Uh, everything else? I’m going with the discussion about Lister’s sexuality, because it’s not only awkward, it’s not only pointless, it’s so boring.
Score: 2.5. Wow, we’ve sunk so deep. At least we’re officially halfway through the series.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 13: "The Joy of Sect"

Airdate: February 8th, 1998

“Special effects by Industrial Lights and Morons” – Mike Nelson, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (“Space Mutiny”)

Synopsis: Whilst wasting time at the Airport, Homer and Bart meet two members of the “movementarians”, Glen and Jane. They convince Homer, amongst others, to visit a film, where they promise to use praise to “the Leader” to get “access to a starship to ‘Blisstonia'”. Despite initial difficulties (Homer being too thick, for one), their message manages to get into Homer, and he, alongside most of the rest of Springfield, are sucked into the cult. Said cult forces its members to move to a farm to harvest Lima Beans. The Leader is said to be living in a forbidden barn, building his ship, making brief appearances to wave to the cult members. The cult’s popularity manages to take over Springfield, right down to its media. Only Marge is able to resist the cult, and has to flee the compound to find a way to deprogram the family.

Review: FINALLY! After, what, three weak episodes, we finally get an episode that’s… good.

Overhyped, though? Maybe a little.

This episode’s main strength is in its scathing critique of religious cults.  Oh, boy, is it scathing. Take your typical cult tropes and exaggerate them to the nth degree. That’s the Movementarians. Let’s see, all they do is guilt trip people into being brainwashed, take over entire media outlets, poison those into submission, take their member’s money and property, and force them into hard labor… and it’s all just empty. They spend lavishly on themselves, descend the followers into petty fights, enjoy the tax-exempt status of the government to partake in the aforementioned self-serving spending, and pander to the follower’s weaknesses/battle against their strengths.

This episode was also very topical, somewhat rare for a post-classic Simpsons episode. You see, this episode has it’s basis in the Heaven’s Gate cult, which, a year earlier, committed suicide in an attempt to ride Comet Hale-Bopp. Also gaining media attention around this time (I suppose: I don’t have many memories of the 90s) was Scientology (which even had one of its founders write a book that was adapted into a hysterically awful movie), as well as the Unification Church.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Simpsons episode without its characters. For the most part, this episode does well in this regard. In all honesty, this episode shows Marge at one of her high points. It’s not really as high as, say, “Marge on the Lam”, but it’s pretty awesome. Through her, we see her have to take “deprogramming” maneuvers similar to those of brainwashing. It’s a tough call, but sometimes, you have to stoop low to achieve a goal that you know will be heroic in the end. Lovejoy and Flanders are perfect in their role as the Christian holdouts. That, and Ned actually has beer. Maybe I just have traces of ZS on the mind, but that’s a deep, more “average” side to Ned. Willie’s role as the “Id” of the deprogramming operation is perfect. I’ll go as far as to say that, as much as Homer did have some jerkass scenes in the beginning, most of it is excused, as his character is made more realistic by the end of the episode. The twist to deprogram him is awesome, and totally fits in with his character.

Complaints? Pacing was a bit off: the airport scene seemed to just be there for a bunch of sitcom jokes, yet the placement of the third act seemed to make it so that said third act dragged a bit. However, it’s an otherwise fantastically funny episode, with wicked satire and good characterization.

Enjoy it. These types of episodes will be rarer as the years go on.

Tidbits:

  • This episode was technically produced by David Mirkin, the showrunner for Seasons 5 and 6. Much like Scully, Dave Mirkin’s twist on the show (especially in Season 5) took it into more outlandish and cartoony territory (“Deep Space Homer”, “Homer and Apu”). Mirkin also took on some social commentary. (“Sideshow Bob Roberts”, “Homer Badman”). However, Mirkin also used more character based plots, rather than plots that caused the characters to conform to the plot. This episode feels like a Mirkin-era episode… except for art, which is somewhat more rigid.
  • I personally like the twist with the loaner bikes. Goes to remind us that not only are there still holdouts for the cult, but that Our Favourite Family isn’t exactly doing so well. Hear me, Zombie Simpsons? Characters living the high life is not really funny!
  • LOVE the scenes with the “Lawyer Department”, especially when they barge into KBBL-TV to look for Homer. “Idiots? That’s slander, sir, and we have it on tape.” “Alright; I’ll get out my chequebook!”
  • “We are watching FOX!” I love the “take that’s” at FOX.

Jerkass Homer Meter: 2

Jerkass Homer Moment: Most of Homer’s jerkassery is a little justified, but almost mowing down the Movementarians certainly crossed the line. This is also a literal Jerkass Homer Moment: while driving to the Movementarian Centre, Homer screams “Outta my way, jerkass!” And thus, a name for the post-classic era Homer was born.

Zaniness Meter: 2

Zaniest Moment: Rover from The Prisoner appears in the barrier between the Movementarian Campground and the town… capturing Moleman. Mmm… I swear I remember that a later episode had a more direct parody on The Prisoner.

Favorite Scene: Everything (except the road rage) at the Movementarian Center.

Least Favorite Scene: At the airport, Homer is an idiot as to the “free film this weekend” presented by the Movementarians. This joke was done better in “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”, with the VIP gag.

Score: 8

Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 3: "Ouroboros"

Airdate: 31 January, 1997

Synopsis: Starbug winds up in the center of a temporal disturbance. Said disturbance allows the crew to meet up with a crew from a parallel universe… one where Kochanski was caught with Lister’s cat and spent six months (read, three million years) in stasis, and where Lister was brought back as a hologram.

The meeting is interrupted when the linkup is attacked by a ship piloted by GELFs who want Lister to consummate his marriage that was performed in exchange for an oxy-gen unit. (Remember that mess?) Kochanski winds up on the wrong side of the disturbance and has to find a way to shake off the GELFs and get back to the temporal disturbance… all the while, wanting Lister to help her in her in-vitro fertilization.

Review: I am of the opinion that bringing Kochanski onboard ship was a decent maneuver… that was acted on in a less-than-stellar fashion. I’ll get to that later.

Let’s get this out of the way first… this episode is pretty poor. Why? Well, getting this out of the way first, the first half is basically Red Dwarf for Dummies.

  • Hah, Lister’s a slob. It gets funnier later on when he’s compared to his counterpart, but still.
  • The class structure holding Lister back, once implied so well, is outright stated by Rimmer. (Yes, Chris Barrie does make a brief appearance).
  • Hah, Rimmer hates Lister and is an idiot!
  • Ah, Kryten is “femmy”.
It’s pathetically simplistic. I could understand if it was the first episode of the series, but the third? Come on, Doug!
Character comedy would have worked… if there was any character to care about. Sure, the Lister being a slob at the beginning works somewhat, and his lack of ambition is also decent, but we’ve moved beyond that over the past six series. Oh, and Lister now thinks of himself as awesome. He knew he was something of a slob in prior series: now, he rejects that. The closest we got to seeing that side of him was in “Dimension Jump”, with this dialogue:

Rimmer: How would you feel if some git came from another dimension… another Lister, with wall-to-wall charisma and a Ph.D. in being handsome and wonderful?

Lister: Hey, man! I am that Lister! […] I made up for that other Lister! Whatever he did that I didn’t, he deserves the lot!

Yet, that works. Not only does that show that he’s satisfied with his lot in life, but he’s perfectly comfortable in his relaxed lifestyle. Here, he comes off as a Rimmer-like pompous ass… except Rimmer could at least take a claim to being organized.
That’s not even the worst character in this episode descends. Kryten… oh, lord, what have they done to ya? The character has literally fallen in love with Lister, to the point of jealousy with Kochanski. This might have worked if we saw hints of that in the previous series! Here, it’s out of place and a stupid attempt to create tension. Then they take it a step further by having Kryten whine way too many times. It’s irritating.
The Cat is left bone dry: he is literally an idiot.
Now, Kochanski had a lot of potential, some of which we will see in the next few episodes. Her getting adjusted to being on a ship molded in the lower-class lifestyle that Lister maintained could’ve made for great character comedy. In fact, we get to see this in future episodes. This episode shows her as too much of a Captain Picard type character who makes awesome decisions and outruns the enemies. Not picking on Captain Picard: he’s one of my favorite TV characters, but he worked due to having to deal with moral dilemmas and dealing with his past. Here, Kochanski, without having to deal with any dilemmas, manages to outrun the GELFs. I think this was an attempt to establish her as more experienced due to her promotion, but still. Lister, Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten were introduced with their defining flaws:
  • Lister is dismissive of authority
  • Rimmer is overtly neurotic and likes order… and also has an ego problem:
  • The Cat is flamboyant, yet also self-centred:
  • Kryten tries too hard to impress.
We don’t see that in Kochanski’s first appearance. Maybe the end, where Kochanski doesn’t want to stay, but still.
The plot is a bit of a mess. Let’s get this out of the way now: the plot twist at the end related to Lister’s lineage. While Red Dwarf had never been fantastic in its sci-fi, the twist is especially crazy… especially how Lister finds out about the twist. I’m not complaining too much, as Futurama did something similar. However, Futurama‘s use of a similar twist had a dramatic impact on future episodes. I didn’t really see that in future episodes of Red Dwarf… maybe “Fathers and Suns”? Point is, it’s stupid.
Also, there are far too many plot points in this episode. This, strangely enough, was not enough, so we get some filler-esque scenes.

Now, what’s this episode’s biggest problem?

It’s not really funny!

 
This episode was simply trying too hard to be dramatic. As a result, most of the comedy comes from cheap one-liners. Some of it is funny. A lot of it is stupid.

Overall… we’re three episodes in. Two are bad, and one is watchable, yet a bit dry.

Oh, god.

 
Tidbits:
  • Yes, this episode is the first to star Chloe Annett as Kochanski. Once you get used to the fact that she’s not Claire Grogan, it’s a pretty decent performance.
  • This episode had to be cut down for time. And this is the end result.
  • Admittedly, Baby Lister is rather cute. He was played by Danny John-Jules’s nephew.

Favorite Scene: Kochanski orders Rimmer to have coitus. Not with her.

Least Favorite Scene: I’m going with anytime Kryten sobs!

Score: 3.

Movie Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Image stolen from Google Images, as well as being a screencap from Futurama. Don’t sue me, FOX!

Wow. My 100th official post. A pointless milestone that will be forgotten in a few years time. Better enjoy it while it lasts.

I started this blog (when it was called “Geek Zone”) as a class project in High School. I was to post some of my assignments to this blog. In the meantime, the class was also given free reign to post whatever else they wanted to this blog. I went with episodic reviews. After the class ended, I… kept reviewing TV shows. First Red Dwarf, then Gravity Falls, then certain episodes of The Simpsons. Then the blog got renamed, because, well, I wanted a new name.

So, what could I possibly do for my 100th post? What thing could I review for my 100th official post? It has to be monumentus, brilliant, epic… and other synonyms for “great” that I can’t think of.

Ladies and Gentlemen… after the jump…. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 2: "Stoke Me A Clipper"

Airdate: 24 January, 1997

What a guy.

Synopsis: While fighting off the Wehrmacht (or what I believe is the Wehrmacht) to save a princess in an alternate dimension (just go with it), Ace Rimmer takes a bullet to the chest. Realizing his imminent death, he manages to hop into the dimension with the Small Rouge One… that is to say, the dimension with Lister and Co. Ace sees the potential in Rimsie, and tries to get him to conquer his inner Ace and take on the mantle.

Review: Fitting that, for my 99th post, I review a controversial turning point in the development of Red Dwarf: the departure of Arnie J. While “Tikka To Ride” could be considered something of a test, this episode pretty much set the stage for the rest of the series. This episode has a range of reviews, from “high point of Series VII” to “mixed bag” to “why did the BBC fund an eight series after this dreck?”

So, what do I think? Well, it’s certainly better than “Tikka”.

Why? Well, this episode’s message is fantastic. It’s something of an apology for “Rimmerworld”, which seemed to imply that Rimmer’s odious behavior was wired into him. This episode’s message is simple, yet so perfect; everybody has an “Ace mode” inside them: they have the potential to have a real human impact. It’s just how they harness it (or if they harness it) that impacts their past, present, and future. Rimmer never really harnessed it effectively. He often envied those that could, thought he couldn’t, and often resorted to his cowardly and selfish actions as a defense mechanism. By harnessing his inner Ace, this episode proves that, deep deep down inside, Rimmer is truly a person that is capable of the best of actions.

This episode returns to a focus on character development. And boy, do Lister and Rimmer shine in this episode. Several years deep in space has really caused their relationship to develop from one based on their differences to one more complex. It’s been proven that Rimmer wanted to finally be like Lister: satisfied with his lot in life. He just had too much ambition to do so. Here, he’s given ambition: a chance to escape from his hell, to harness his inner Ace. Yet, he feels deep enough of a connection with Lister to hug the man. He even defends Lister, doing so by committing what he believes is an act of bravery… and by all accounts, it is.

Same thing with Lister. Lister is really the soul of Red Dwarf. Barring his simple character we saw in “Tikka”, he’s an optimistic guy. I’d go as far as to call him a more “laddish”, down to earth version of Mabel from Gravity Falls. He sees the potential that Rimmer has, and knows that Rimmer is kept down by his own neurosis and flaws. That’s why he helps Rimmer, by mocking him, by helping him in his act of bravery, by giving him a decent eulogy. When Lister promotes Rimmer to First Officer, you can tell that Lister has done the best thing even in his relationship with Rimmer. It gives Rimmer the ultimate push to go out and unleash his inner Ace. It serves as something of a coda to their characters and their relationship.

The rest of the episode? Not too fantastic.

For one, with just one exception, the “filler” in this episode wasn’t really funny. Lister’s use of the TIV was done way more efficiently in “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, for one. Given that the TIV would only be used for a bit part later, it’s also less balanced. I did like “Lister of Smeg”, but I felt that Lister came off as just a little bit too sexist in the TIV. Granted, it balances his character a little bit, but it bugged me.

Special effects… no denying it, they’re crap. The first six series used models and improvised, stretched the budget to the max, and the results are beautiful. The CGI and the green screen in this episode is grating on the eyes. It was probably dated in 1997. It’s certainly dated now.

On top of that, this episode isn’t really funny. Granted, this series was going more for comedy-drama, but it’s still a bit dry. A majority (albeit not a commanding majority) of the jokes are sitcom-style… and not in a good way. In a way, I think comedy was not the first thing on Doug’s mind when writing this episode. Yet, we saw a fantastic balance between comedy and drama in Series V. (“The Inquisitor”, anybody?)

Yet, I can’t really knock this episode down too much. It’s a touching, if somewhat underwhelming, send off to one of the greatest TV characters of all time. Shame it couldn’t be funnier.

Tidbits:

  • The first four minutes of the episode feature Ace saving a princess in distress, only complaining about his shirt when getting shot, and escaping after using a rocket on a motorcycle to jump over a brick wall. It’s a damn near perfect scene. As much as I bashed the effects in this episode, I will concede that the cheesy green-screen does add character to the overall scene. It’s some of the best comedy we’ll see this season.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the reveal about Ace and the light bee’s final destination. I’d say it drove his character into the ground, but I must admit that it wasn’t the worst thing they did with the character. (“Emohawk” was something more of a disservice to the character.)
  • Another thing that befuddled me: why didn’t the Cat and Kryten figure out the truth behind Rimmer’s new portrayal of Ace? I realized, though, that the Cat is an idiot, and Kryten is pretty outdated. I’ll give Naylor the benefit of the doubt.
Favorite Scene: Rimmer fighting off the knight to save the ship. It cements the character development over the past six series. It’s fantastic… especially the twist at the end.
Least Favorite Scene: After the “duel”, the first TIV scene drags on.
Score: 6.5.
Oh, a Few More Things
  • Reports that came out in April (that I just found out about) have revealed that yes, Red Dwarf will have an eleventh series.
  • Gravity Falls Season 2 premieres on August 1st at 9:00 PM in the States. It will air on Disney XD. Those interested, either contact your local cable/satellite provider to get Disney XD, or contact a friend who gets Disney XD. International airdates are unknown, although I’d expect Disney XD UK to air the show in late August, and Family or Disney XD in Canada to air the show in the middle of August.
  • Well, that’s my 99th official post on the site. Now, how do I celebrate this meaningless anniversary coming up? What can I possibly do to celebrate my 100th post? Mmmm…

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 12: "Bart Carny"

Airdate: January 11, 1998

Synopsis: While at the carnival, Bart trashes Adolf Hitler’s limo. (“What did he do to you?”) Homer and Bart become carnies to pay off the debt, and befriend father-and-son carnies Cooder (Jim Varney) and Spud. After their booth gets shut down (thanks to, surprise surprise, Homer), the two begin living at Evergreen Terrace… ultimately pulling a trick (i.e: a faux act of kindness) that puts Our Favourite Family out on the street.

Review: This review is going to be very short. This is another episode that’s too dry on laughs, and with too weak a plot. I mean it. This plot is stretched out way too far, and there are too many dry spots in between.

Character was not as much of a mess as much as it was forgotten. None of the characters here were very entertaining. Why is Bart the straight man? Why is Homer an idiot? Why is he a pyromaniac? Why are the two partners in crime? Their characterisation is confusing and simplistic. Lisa also gets hit in the first act, although it’s not really bad: it’s there to remind us that as intelligent as she is, she’s still just a kid.

The plot was also dull as dishwater. Why is Homer working the carnival booth? Because, under the command of Grand Leader Scully, Homer must get into moronic antics that “move the plot” for an episode to pass inspection! Whatever.

The humor was a mixed bag. The gags at the fair during the sunrise were actually a little funny, although the gags at the fair itself, not so much. Homer explaining that the water in the dunk tank was dangerously low was just there to explain what would happen next: he gets dunked, and it’s cringeworthy.The glass boat scene was funny… then Homer and Bart did some slapstick, acting like partners in crime.

I do see where the plot was going… and I wasn’t a fan. The exposure of the carnies as just a bunch of failures and conmen seemed predictable. There’s little complexity to the two. They’re just there to prove the stereotype of them being backstabbers and conmen 100% true. Previous episodes, when they had one-shot characters, gave them complexities, and helped develop our main characters. For example, I refer to Mr. Bergstrom, the substitute from “Lisa’s Substitute”, one of my favorite episodes of the show. There, not only is Mr. Bergstrom a quirky and fantastic teacher that turns out to be tragically underrated and underused due to the complexities of the American school system, but he manages to make Lisa realize the benchmark of a good education, while at the same time, truly question her faith in Homer. Cooder and Spud don’t do anything: they just act like conmen. It’s simple and predictable characterisation.

That’s the problem with this episode; it’s simplistic. Simple can be good, but the greatest seasons of The Simpsons were complex, deep… and thus, fantastic. This episode? Not so much….

OK, I’ll admit that the ending was fantastic.

Tidbits

  • This episode was written by veteran writer and notable recluse John Swartzwelder. He managed to write both the best episodes of the show (“Rosebud”, “You Only Move Twice”) and the worst  (“Kill the Alligator and Run” and the slop we have here).
  • This episode was also co-produced by Brian Scully and Julie Thacker. Gee, wonder how they got the job.
  • Marge shuddering is actually my second favourite joke in the entire episode.
  • Cool to see Krusty explain the joke of the “squirt gun” joke. And by cool, I mean stupid.
  • …and that’s it. This episode was uninteresting.

Jerkass Homer Meter 2.5

Jerkass Homer Moment: Not really jerkass, but Homer is such an idiot during the “bribe” scene with Chief Wiggum.

Zaniness Factor: 1

Zaniest Moment: I think they went too far with the “Dunk Tank” scene.

Favorite Scene: The resolution to the plot. For a poor episode, it’s actually pretty funny. Take that, ring toss!

Least Favorite Scene: Did we really need the gardening scene? Pointless openings would become the norm in later seasons.

Score: 4.

Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 1: "Tikka To Ride"

Airdate: 17 January 1997

Synopsis: So, apparently, the crew were not blown out of the sky by their future selves. A time paradox, however, trashed the Indian food. Lister, having a memory of the accident, suggests using the time drive to get 500 curries. He manages to swing Kryten by removing his guilt chip. Their time travel predictions are off; they wind up at the School Book Depository in Dallas, 1963… just as President Kennedy is passing by.

Review: Uh, no. I doubt I watched Red Dwarf. I think I stumbled across a bad fanfiction version of Red Dwarf.

Wait.

This is real?

Oh… crap.

Facepalms, facepalms everywhere.
 Well, let’s get to the obvious: this episode is pretty bad. We are but one episode in, and my hopes for the series have gone down quite a bit.
 
The big failure in this episode is character. Character is at the center of Red Dwarf. This series has effectively taken Lister’s character, and thrown it out the window. He might be the first victim. Through six series, we saw him develop beyond his slobbish character into a complex character with morals and virtues, who served as the true moral center of the cast, and could be quite mature and sensible. Here? He’s a curry-obsessed jackass. That’s all. I might be able to chalk it up to PTSD from the explosion… somewhat. Three years on, and Doug Naylor has forgotten to write for Lister. It’s bad. It makes the episode almost unwatchable, given the development he’s gone through.
The time travel is also very screw-y. While inter-series continuity is a bit weaker in Red Dwarf, this episode takes it to stupid new heights. The beginning of the episode makes it clear that there was a paradox caused by the fight in the previous episode, thus preventing the future selves from killing them. (It’s confusing enough to break a video camera). At the end of the episode, Kennedy gets involved in the same incident (long story)… and does not fall victim to the same effects. Hello, Doug? Also ticking me off is that “Out of Time” made it clear that the Time Drive did not travel through space? So, the question remains. WHY DID IT SMEGGING TRAVEL THROUGH SMEGGING SPACE TO SMEGGING DALLAS IN SMEGGING 1963-
 
It’s a TV show. Happy thoughts, dude. Happy thoughts…
…mmmm…
…that’s better. Anyway, credit where credit is due for this episode, I guess. I like the implementation of time travel and the effects of causality. With Kennedy alive, he gets impeached, the Mafia use J. Edgar Hoover as a puppet president, and manage to land in deep trouble with the Soviets/Cuba. It’s a pretty interesting take. I also liked the twist of JFK being the “man behind the grassy knoll”. Strangely enough, this is something of a callback to “Timeslides”. Remember when Kryten was talking about the photograph fluid?

“Well, we could go to Dallas in November 1963, stand on the grassy knoll, and shout “duck”! Uh, I’m sorry: I must have bypassed my good taste chip!”

Ironic, innit. Again, the good there is destroyed by the faulty time paradox.

I don’t know what to say about the ending. On one hand, I think it’s in character for our heroes to learn nothing from the experience. On the other, I shed no sympathy for Lister. Unlike the fine folks at Ganymede and Titan, I actually feel that Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten beating Lister to a pulp was somewhat excusable.

The biggest failing is that this episode really isn’t that funny. Too much focus is on drama. The balance is just off. It’s just a weak episode, and a bad sign of things to come.

Tidbits:

  • It’s worth noting that, in real life, had Kennedy ducked the bullet, he would’ve died soon after from Addison’s disease. His muscles had failed so much that he had to wear a brace. Had he not worn a brace, he might have been able to duck and avoid Oswald’s second bullet. (He might have died because the first bullet hit his trachea, but the bullet to the head definitely terminated his life.)
  • Kryten having his guilt trip works here. It just works better in “Polymorph”, where it’s somewhat crueler.
  • How come, if Kryten’s so smart, he wanted to eat a dead man? This episode is horrid at characterisation.
  • Again, THIS EPISODE FAILS AT CONTINUITY. Just figured I’d let that sink in.
Favorite Scene: While not as good as “Polymorph”, Kryten’s post-guilt-removal behavior is still pretty funny. ‘You bet your ass”, indeed.
Least Favourite Scene: Not scene, but by the end of the episode, I actually wanted to see Lister get beaten by his crew members. This episode was to him was “Rimmerworld” was to Rimmer: it destroyed his character.
Final Score: 4, only for the time travel aspect.