Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 8: "Nanarchy"

Airdate: 7 March, 1997

Synopsis: Lister’s feeling a bit down. Apparently, having your right hand lobbed off isn’t the best thing for your mood. Apparently, he’s made Kryten basically take care of him, to the android’s happiness… and Kochanski’s frustration. Kryten is forced to realize that Lister needs a new arm. After a mind-controlled prosthetic only causes pain to Kryten, the crew decides to use Kryten’s circuit reconstructing Nanobots. They were last seen around the time the crew suffered a minor incident with the Despair Squid. (Ah, a time when reviewing Red Dwarf didn’t depress me. Happy days!) The crew are put into a deep sleep until they arrive back at the site of the Esperanto. They find that the planet is apparently registering as Red Dwarf, partially due to the materials on the planet being from Red Dwarf.

Review (SPOILERS): This episode seems to exist for one reason and one reason only- resolve the arc that seemed to be abandoned at the end of last season. Oh, and try and resolve the cliffhanger from the previous episode.

The thing is, with Red Dwarf, previous changes that seemed to be permanent at the end of the episode were resolved by the next week, such as the ending of “Bodyswap”, or the end of “Polymorph”. Here, this episode seems to be an answer to “how does stuff like this get resolved?”

The answer? Glacially slow.

Much like, say, “Blue”, this episode would’ve worked better if constrained to American time limits: 22 minutes seemed fine for this episode. Now? Every attempt at humor drags on, at least in the first half. We get it: Lister’s disabled. Now, Red Dwarf has done dark comedy before: Rimmer’s screwed-up life, for example. Yet, the jokes are too thin and drag on too much to be funny. That, plus a lack of jokes in the second half, meant that the episode has far too little humor.

The plot? Pretty stupid. What, Starbug couldn’t register something that was in its own ship? Look, I know Red Dwarf is microscopic now, but come on. Now, Red Dwarf had plotlines and resolutions that made no sense before, such as “Backwards”. However, “Backwards” ran on a pure theory of “rule of funny”, and was actually, you know, funny. Not a whole lot of laughs here. Doug Naylor wants us to take Red Dwarf seriously now, yet the plots here make little, if any, sense.

Oh, and why are they taking a risk with another cliffhanger? Didn’t Naylor learn his lesson from the three-year hiatus that the show endured?

It’s not a total loss of an episode. For one, despite my complaint of “not a whole lot of laughs”, there are a few scenes that are a bit funny, such as the reconstruction of Lister’s arm. The second half of the episode does pick up in terms of good lines, also. Again, I will not fault the actors here: they all put in an awesome performance, up to and including Chloe Annett.

It’s just not a very good episode. The plot is muddy, and the comedy is dry. Kinda fitting that a poor series ends with a poor episode.

Actually, I forgot one thing…

HOLLY’S BACK!

“What’s happening, dudes?”

Yes, folks. Norman Levitt, after 8 years, reprised his most famous role, barely any balder. Maybe it’s just me being ecstatic because it’s a link to a much happier time in Red Dwarf history, but every line that Holly delivers is fantastic. That’s a plus for this episode.

Tidbits:

  • This was the first and only episode of Red Dwarf to have three writers, albeit only out of a technicality. James Hendrie wrote the first draft. He was unavailable to write the second draft, however, and was replaced by Paul Alexander. The episode was “brushed up” by Doug Naylor.
  • I know I’ve mentioned this for the 7th time, but the CGI is garish. Some might argue that I should give the show the benefit of the doubt: it was a BBC production, and BBC once had a reputation for being notoriously cheap with its sci-fi entertainment, one it never really shook off. That, and I will concede that it was a necessary evil to get the last scene of the episode.
  • Nice to see the small rouge one again… even if it is in cheesy CGI.
  • This episode (and the past two seasons, in fact) actually have a webcomic prequel, “Prelude to Nanarchy”. It’s pretty decent, I guess.
Favorite Scene: “All right, dudes?” And with that, the last episode of the series became memorable.
Least Favorite Scene: The “ball” scene is long and boring.
Score: 3.75. Holly saved this episode.
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