“Have you ever felt ‘I’ve wasted my life?” “You? Sure! Every single day!” – Lister and the Cat, summing up a midlife crisis.
Airdate: 20 October, 2016
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: Kryten’s hit a rough patch in his duties aboard ship. The trio diagnose him with a midlife crisis – something that becomes readily apparent once Krytie dons a bright red shell (pictured above). To try and remind him of how far he’s come, the Boys from the Dwarf go to the Nova III, to analyze a similar mechanoid and see how he’s held up all alone… only to come across a mechanoid that has become a connoisseur of and participant in all the finest arts.
This episode should not work.
I mean, let’s face it – the plot here is pretty much the child of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and “Barely Beyond A Joke”. I disliked The Final Frontier, and “Beyond A Joke” is my second least favorite episode of the show (third if you count “Krytie TV” as an episode and not as an instrument of torture banned by the Geneva Convention). Point is – is the third time the charm for these plot threads on this blog?
Well, if you count the second half of Gravity Falls season 2, then for the most part, yes.
But what about the fourth time? Does it work then?
Kryten, though the life of Red Dwarf, has served as the sane man. Between Holly’s loopiness, Lister’s laziness, Cat’s vanity, and Rimmer’s… Rimmer-ness, Kryten is a bastion of levity. He serves as the source of exposition for the cast of goofnuts, but has his own plot lines in the show – a desire for humanity, putting up with the less than stellar behavior from the crew, and so forth.
He was bound to break sooner or later, though. Now, one could argue that he snapped in “Beyond a Joke”, but that stemmed more from his jealousy of Kochanski. Besides, that episode is trash, and I’d rather not think about it. In “Krysis”, he becomes unable to perform his duties aboard the ship – duties that he has enjoyed for so long no longer give him emotional fulfillment. What’s weighing on his mind? The idea that the universe is going to end someday, making keeping a tidy house utterly meaningless.
And to be fair, given that he’s been a servant for much of his life must take something of a toll on him. Still, framing it as a midlife crisis is a bit silly, especially given that he was deemed past his sell-by date and already threatened with deactivation in “The Last Day”. (C’mon, Hudzen cooks a chicken in a second.) Here, though, his midlife crisis also comes with him losing his faith in Silicon Heaven, so I’ll let it slide. Oh, and we do get Kryten donning a new shell – rather shocking if you’re unaware of it beforehand, but I did laugh. (Hey, it made more sense than the freakin’ Dibbley Family.)
The crew of the Dwarf, unnerved, go to meet another droid to compare and contrast. It makes perfect sense that their choice – a similar droid on a similar derelict – would turn out to be far more intellectually successful than Kryten. I mean, consider that the crew of the Red Dwarf are all representative of varying shades of working-class men. Lister is the most cultured one of the trio, and his working-class tastes neutralize the high-class tendencies. (Rimmer deludes himself into culture, yet is but an idiot.) Butler, alone on the ship, has been able to expand his mind. Not a knock on the boys – Lister himself has been teaching Kryten to be more human – but Butler has accomplished far more than Kryten.
Personally speaking, though, I didn’t like Butler too much. I think that was the point of his character – to have this borderline Marty Stu-esque character come off as irritating. I think it worked rather well – his delivery comes off as approaching snarmy instead of reflective, and as such, I wanted him off the screen as fast as possible. If that was the point, nice job, Mr. Naylor.
Disillusioned by his relative lack of accomplishments compared to Butler, Kryten begins taking every tiny victory personally – such as one of Butler’s maneuvers on the ship failing. While there were a few awkward “Duct Soup” or “Krytie TV” vibes there, his more brash behavior at the turn of the third act is more in tune with his overall character and the episode itself compared to his actions there, which felt out of place and childish. (Hey, at least this episode doesn’t turn its characters into appallingly sexist jackals.)
Speaking of out of place, the episode encounters a rather stunning shift in the plot, as we get to have the boys meet the Universe itself.
First off – Futurama did it.
Secondly, it feels rather sudden and “normal” for a science fiction show. I’m giving it a pass since Red Dwarf often plays with science fiction tropes, and (as far as I’m aware), few have mastered the idea of meeting the highest entity possible successfully. Besides Futurama‘s success in doing so, I can remember Star Trek V doing so, and the payoff underwhelming. I guess the idea of the Universe being (relatively) easily contactable plays to Red Dwarf‘s parody of the genre as a whole. And, hey, the Universe itself goes through a midlife crisis thanks to Kryten’s questioning.
However, in trying to solve the Universe’s midlife crisis, Kryten comes to his own resolution – that the Universe has created love, and by extension, that since love exists as created by the highest entity, that there is a life worth living. That one phone call solving Krytie’s existential crisis? Sounds strange, but honestly, it works quite well. It proves that even if you don’t see the fruits of one’s labor, that you have contributed something worthwhile to the universe – even if it’s just a concept.
Yeah, it’s a message that wouldn’t seem out of place in Star Trek or Steven Universe. However, it’s implementation – giving the Universe a midlife crisis – truly fits into the style of Red Dwarf. (That, and it turns out Butler is friends with the Universe. Much as the character grated on my nerves, I did laugh at that, cos that’s what we expect from Red Dwarf.)
“Krysis”, overall, turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. It had an interesting theme behind it, put a lovable character in the spotlight yet again, and while not having the best side character, still managed to deliver quite a few laughs. It’s a solid episode of a solid series.
One more left.
- Before anybody asks, I am aware that a Series 3000 Mechanoid was described in “Out of Time” as more human than a Series 4000 Mechanoid. Let’s just leave it to the unreality bubble in that episode – a theory thought up elsewhere on the web – and let it be for now.
- Lister’s note of a midlife crisis (that he handled “northern-style”) could be a reference to his depression in “Dear Dave”, where he was disillusioned with the fact that he was the last human alive.
- Much has been made of the fact that they gave the Universe the voice of a Morgan Freeman send-up. Personally, I liked it. It gives the Universe a big, booming presence – only for it to encounter something rather human and low-key. It works on a comedy level. (What, you thought that Dave could afford the actual Morgan Freeman? They could barely afford the coffee for the actors.)
- “Kryten. Take off that suit. It really sucks.” Perfect line to complete the episode’s climax.