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.

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