Airdate: 18 October, 2012
Synopsis: The crew of Red Dwarf manage to acquire a Swedish rejuvenation shower. Being the Red Dwarf crew, they assemble it… haphazardly, to say the least. End result? They wind up in Britain in the year 23AD. The remote that can transport them back? Lister tossed the battery, thinking it was used up. Rimmer suggests making a potato battery to power the remote.
Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any potatoes and won’t get them until the 16th century.
Rimmer’s backup plan- lemons.
Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any lemons, either. They won’t get those until the 14th century.
Cat: He’s getting closer!
The nearest lemon source is India… 4000 miles away. At a local lemon market, they manage to procure lemons. Whilst talking about how primitive 23AD is, they manage to attract the attention of a certain fellow. He calls himself Jesus.
Review: No matter what your thoughts on Christianity (or organized religion) might be, it’s pretty much a fact that The Bible is the most quoted and referenced book/anthology in the history of modern media. It’s influence extended beyond typical media, and has created numerous tropes- forbidden fruit, the Judas archetype, the house divided, etc. Name a trope, it probably originated in The Bible.
Red Dwarf has routinely referenced the book, both via jokes and as plots. Rimmer’s middle name? Judas. The religion of Mr. Rimmer? Based on a misprint in 1 Cor 13. “The Last Day”? Total send up to the idea of puritanism and the afterlife. Red Dwarf, when dealing with religion, leans heavily to the “atheist” side of the spectrum- bashing organized religion as a means of controlling the masses, as seen in “The Last Day”. (Robert Llewellyn is a self-described atheist.) The show also seemed to encourage people, however, to not use their “one life” and completely waste it- “The Inquisitor” was proof of this, with the titular character erasing those whose lives were spent totally slobbing around, unlike Lister.
Most of the brutal critiques of religion were done in the vein of “silicon heaven”- the afterlife for robots. So, how could Red Dwarf take on the figurehead of arguably the largest religious belief in the West?
Amazingly, he’s treated pretty well, and yet they were still able to write a damn good script surrounding the character.
What makes Red Dwarf work is its combination of subtle humor and louder comedy. There are several send-ups to the bible, several of which your average viewer won’t firmly get unless they’ve been paying attention in Church. Of course, they also make some more… obvious send-ups. One, in particular, caught my eye.
Of course, The Last Supper has been sent up by almost every piece of media in existence. The Simpsons, for one, used it as a parody of The Da-Vinci Code. (Too bad it was a Season 16 episode, and thus, probably is subpar.) Take a closer look at this, however.
In Da Vinci’s painting, the man whose face is right next to Jesus is Apostle Thomas, who is pretty miffed about Jesus’s plan. The man sitting next to Jesus on his left? Rimmer, who is not only always miffed about something, but still is a bit stunned that he appears to be meeting the most famous man in history. To the far right, Cat, who is just as confused as anybody else… much like the three disciples to the left of Jesus were. Sitting right next to Jesus on his right? Kryten, who Jesus declares a man of peace- possibly his favorite. To the right of Jesus in The Last Supper were Judas, Peter, and John, who Jesus regarded as his closest disciples (two of whom betrayed him). To the far right? Some guy who also looks surprised. Lister’s just there for comedy purposes.
The characterization of Jesus is actually pretty brilliant, from a comedy standpoint. Here we have this group, possibly in the presence of the wisest man in history. They send this man from the Roman ages to the future. What is his reaction to the year 3 million? He’s fascinated with the bags. You can store stuff in them! Oh, he also needs a kidney stone removed. Joy.
Of course, there’s a twist at the end that puts all the puzzles, all the characterization, in place.
This episode features some well-spread out character development. Compared to “Fathers and Suns”, which focused quite a bit on Listy, and “Trojan”, which focused more on Rimmer, this episode splits the development between the two. Lister, for one, is again back to his loveable characterization one that tries to focus on positive impacts of issues of conscience, even if he has disagreements. He maintains that Jesus’s teachings helped the world, despite the wars fought and despite his belief that he’s “the ultimate atheist”.
Rimmer’s revelation that his middle name was Judas because his mother wanted him to be named after somebody honorable is actually pretty deep in and of itself. You see, Rimmer, through the series, is shown to be cowardly and callous, quick to sell out. This comes at the cost of whatever virtues he has, such as those shown at the end of “Out of Time”. Same with Judas. While Judas’s betrayal was pretty low, little is known about any potential virtues that he had. It’s actually a pretty deep naming trick.
Only cons? Well, did we need the Shakespeare gag? Not really. Oh, and why did they have to name-drop eBay? Why? I’m just glad they didn’t name-drop IKEA.
Still, this is easily the best episode of Series X so far. Fantastic plot, great humor, great structure, great character… what more do you need?
- They actually made a battery out of lemons. It did put out eight volts.
- This episode actually used… location filming. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ate the budget of half the series.
- Interestingly, the “tongue of Albion” wasn’t spoken in 23AD England. The tongue spoken back then was Gaelic.
- This episode actually shares some traits with “Tikka to Ride”. Both episodes feature the Dwarfers going back in time, meeting a historical figure known for their idealism, trying to set history right, and cannibalism may or may not have been involved. The differences? Well, this episode was funny, and didn’t make me want to slap Lister.