Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 2: "Fathers and Suns"

Airdate: 11 October, 2012

 

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AHHH!!! DATA DOCTOR FLASHBACKS! GET EM OFF! GET EM OFF!

Synopsis: Every year, Lister sends a Fathers Day card to himself, then proceeds to get wasted so that, when he sees the card on Fathers Day, he has no recollection on what he put in it. With Rimmer telling Lister that he’s a pathetic father, and with the help of the Medi-Bot, Lister decides to give himself tough love. Meanwhile, Rimmer and Kryten install a new computer, Pree. Compared to Holly, Pree has extreme intelligence, yet with a twist: her mission is entirely tied to the crew, such as repair standards and final destinations. This proves problematic when, in Lister’s act of tough love to himself, he resigns his position on the ship.

 

Oh, and Kryten is also wondering… is a table game that he played with various vending machines the night before offensive?

Review: This was a bit of a strange episode to organize my thoughts about. While the episode had a plot (two, even) that could’ve fit solidly in the first two series, the end result felt a bit more awkward than it should have been.

This episode is a follow-up on “Ouroboros”. In hindsight, I think “Ouroboros” was the moment when Series VII heavily lurched toward its negative reputation. (“Beyond a Joke” sealed it.) This episode decides to focus on how Lister tries to act like a parent to himself. Thankfully, the result here is much better than the result seen in “Ouroboros”- Lister actually acts on the fact that he’s the victim of the “grandfather” paradox. I have to say, the scene where Lister keeps popping in the tapes he made the previous night, with his “father” self in sync with his “son” self, is brilliant in both comedy and character. It shows that, as slobbish and as seemingly unmotivated as Lister is, Lister actually wants to improve- he’s just a bit too comfortable in his current state. That, and it’s probably the best gag in the show since at least “Cassandra”.

 

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“From now on… Red Dwarf is run by Pree!”

 

Speaking of which, I think the “Pree” plot could best be described as “Queeg” meets “Cassandra”, with doses of “White Hole”. I think that’s why that particular plotline felt a bit off- I think Doug was midway through writing the episode, noticed the similarities between this and “Cassandra”, was short on time, and decided to rip off “Queeg”, because who gives a damn about creativity anymore? Hell, if The Simpsons can rip of plotlines for 15 straight years and still get nominated for Emmy awards for 14 years after the sell-by date (not saying I like that theory), Red Dwarf can ape from two episodes once and get away with it.

In that plot, we get more of a view into Rimmer’s latent control freak tendencies, sexism, and attempts to conceal both. The execution seemed a bit broad, but it is a reminder that, as much as we feel for Rimmer after we see his family life, we have to recognize that he’s a git.

Pree, as a character, is actually pretty interesting. After learning that she did a shoddy repair job, she reveals that she takes her personality from the crewmen. Lister was able to predict what he was going to do with the tapes. Rimmer orders everything done, no matter what the cost. Kryten holds everything up to the letter of the law. The Cat is very strategic. Pree holds all of these characteristics- a gestalt, if you will. (And yes, I recognize that this is similar to “Legion”.)

The C-plot did split opinion when it first aired, with several reviewers claiming that it toed the line of good taste. In hindsight, I actually sort of liked it for what it was- a running gag that also exposed some aspects of the Red Dwarf universe. I did like how Red Dwarf presented itself as the anti-Star Trek; in Trek, racial issues are seen as largely consigned to the 20th century, with racism symbolically represented with episodes such as “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield”. Red Dwarf, though, still has racism as a question in their universe- that, and the characters are certainly at least a bit ignorant. Fits well with the more cynical universe of Red Dwarf. Yes, it did reach points that bordered on awkward and dated (Taiwan Tony, for one). However, the pay off manages to fuse all three plots in a manner that’s pretty damn creative.

So far, Red Dwarf X is holding its own; not outstanding, but not wretched. Will the next episode break the streak of good episodes? Who knows?

Tidbits:

  • This episode also gives some more input as to what happened with Rimmer between “Only the Good” and “Back to Earth”, as we learn that he knows about Lister’s parental situation. So, he does have some knowledge of the events of Series VII and VIII.
  • Craig Charles actually had the flu during the filming of the “tapes” sequence. Strangely enough, this made his scenes during and after Lister’s rant more convincing.
  • If I had to choose between the Medi-Bot and the Data Doctor… I’ll choose the Medi-Bot. Simply because I never want to so much as look at Series VIII. Ever.
  • It’s worth noting that this is the first episode of Red Dwarf since VIII to take place entirely on Red Dwarf itself (barring a brief sequence where Lister is jettisoned out of the ship). If VIII is ignored (which it should be), then it is the first episode since “The Last Day” to take place entirely on the small rouge one.
  • One more note: I will be putting off my review of the Gravity Falls episode “Little Gift Shop of Horrors” until we get closer to Halloween.
Favorite Scene: Tapes. Sequence. Excellent acting, excellent writing, excellent timing… excellent.
Least Favorite Scene: I’ll admit- Taiwan Tony was a tiny bit dated.
Score: 7.5. It would’ve gotten an 8.5 if it wasn’t so derivative.
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