Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 5: "Dear Dave"

Airdate: 1 November, 2012

Synopsis: Lister’s having one of those days where he mopes around about being the last human alive. To interrupt his sadness, he realizes that two vending machines are fighting for his affections. Making matters worse? He gets a letter from the past, telling him that he may have sired a kid. Meanwhile, Rimmer is threatened with demotion by the ship’s on-board computer (not Holly, sadly) for failure to perform duties, putting him on par with Lister. He realizes that he’ll be able to avoid being put on equal footing if he can convince the computer that Lister’s nuts, thus giving him an excuse as to why he didn’t perform.

Review: Let’s get this off the bat – this is the weakest episode of Red Dwarf X. The reason? It seems like they wanted to siphon elements from Series I and II, yet forgot what made those series… quirky in the first place.

Here’s the deal- Lister has been the victim of both cheating accusations from vending machines, while realizing that his ex-girlfriend cheated on him, yet he still might have sired the kid inside of her. Remove the vending machines for a second. That is as stock a sitcom plot as you can possibly get. Engaging? Not in the slightest.

What’s worse is that the “remembering the ex-girlfriend” plot was used in Series II’s “Thanks for the Memory”. “TFTM” is one of my all-time favorite Red Dwarf episodes, because it gave some insight into the characters of Lister and Rimmer, the tragedies the two faced. That, and we actually saw Lister’s former girlfriend, giving us an emotional connection. It’s brilliant. Seeing elements of that episode used in a stock sitcom plot? Tragic.

That’s just the largest of the ways this episode apes from the earlier series. Let’s have a list!

  • Rimmer tries to maintain his position of power over Lister? Inverse of “Balance of Power”.
  • Post arrives alerting a character of bad news? “Better Than Life”. (Oh, and also “The Last Day”.)
  • Lister moping over the fact that he’s the last human alive? “Timeslides”.
  • Rimmer has no idea about women? “Parallel Universe”.
  • Lister mistaken for robosexual by Rimmer? “Polymorph”.
  • Lister needs to know about his children? “Ouroboros”. Yes, that failure of an episode.
    • Lister realizes that he might have a child? Again, “Parallel Universe”.
  • Ambiguous ending? “Out of Time”.
What made those episodes work was the soul, the creativity in those plots. Even “Ouroboros”, as bad as it was, was at least an attempt to shake up the status quo. It failed miserably, but still. There, they tried. This episode? Doug could’ve removed the vending machine, and shipped it as a spec script for Two and a Half Men. Nobody would’ve noticed the smegging difference.
Is there anything good I can say about this episode? Well, the gags worked, for the most part. They petered out by the time Lister takes one of the vending machines around the corner. Still, even the chrades scene was decent. While it did give off some Series VII vibes, it at least was funny. Curse thee, giant worms!
What a shame. After a solid, if not overly spectacular, first four episodes, we get this mediocre mess. I’ll pass it, if only because this episode didn’t really infuriate me as much as “Krytie TV” and “Pete” did. That, and it actually made me laugh more than thrice. Oh, and it was made in a week, pretty much, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tidbits:
  • Speaking of Series VII, this episode was a replacement for a two-parter that would’ve seen Kochanski re-enter the picture. Ah, at least “The Beginning” looks promising.
  • The toilet paper joke? Damn, that ran on just a bit too long.
  • Oh, and one more positive? The acting is pretty damn good. I still question the french accent used for one of the vending machines. Why?
Favorite Scene: The chrades scene. Like a Series VII gag, but better.
Least Favorite Scene: The mail scene. Too similar to “Better Than Life”.
Score: 5.5
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