Red Dwarf Review: Series II Wrap Up

My reviews of individual episodes of Series II of Red Dwarf are done, so it is time to take a look back on the series as a whole.

Series I laid the foundation of the show. Series II laid the framework of the show.

Series II was quite an improvement over Series I. Series I tended to be more formulaic, revolving over the fact that Lister and Rimmer hated each other and were basically stuck together for eternity.

Series II, however, seemed to take a lot more risks with the setting. Starting with “Kryten”, the trio left the ship. The only episode that does not feature the crew leaving the ship 100% is “Queeg”. “Better Than Life” has the crew going into virtual reality, which is close enough to leaving the ship.

Science-fiction cliches was used, but all for the sake of parody. From virtual reality collapses, to androids, to parallel universes, almost everything in this series is played for total comedy.

The two greatest episodes of the season are those that delve into the main character’s back story. “Better Than Life” is one of my favorite episodes of the show because it is the first episode that managed to show just how screwed up Rimmer’s life was. “Thanks for the Memory” also makes you feel bad for the lonely, lonely Rimmer, alongside delving into Lister’s history. “Queeg” gives Holly more character development than he will ever get for the rest of the show’s history. “Stasis Leak” gives a focus onto Lister’s life before he was frozen in stasis. When all is said and done, the odd man out is the Cat, who is reduced to Plucky Comic Relief and utter fashion victim.

Probably the worst episode of the series is “Parallel Universe”, if you cut out the music video in the beginning. However, it still gets a 6, a passing score. With the video at the beginning of “Parallel Universe”, then the worst episode is “Stasis Leak” with a 7.5. The best episode is “Better Than Life”.

Overall, a brilliant second series.

Score: 8.33


Red Dwarf Review: Series II, Episode 6: "Parallel Universe"

Airdate: 11 October, 1988

Synopsis: The Boys from the Dwarf have nothing better to do to start the episode (like most others). The Cat is using the dream recorder to try and find a dream which involved him, three girls, and a family sized tub of banana yogurt. Rimmer calls the Cat out on his chauvinism. This prompts Lister to call Rimmer out on HIS sexist behavior. Rimmer tries to justify his use of hypnotism on females, despite being told that this is akin to trying to conquer aliens by Lister. Also, Rimmer can not use pick up lines.

Their nothingness is broken by an announcement by Holly: he has invented the Holly Hop Drive, which can transfer any object to any other point in space. Thanks to a few mishaps, they do not go to their intended destination, which was Earth. Instead, they wind up in a parallel universe, where, as they board that universe’s Red Dwarf, there is one big difference. Not only are the genders of Rimmer, Lister, and Holly swapped (played by Suzanne Bertish, Angela Bruce, and Hattie Hayridge respectively), but so are the gender roles. Women landed on the moon, Wilma Shakespeare wrote the great plays of her era, and Men burned their jockstraps. Outside of the Cat’s counterpart being a slobbish, kind male dog (Matthew Devitt), the rest of the characters are the same as their counterparts. Deb Lister is a lager drinking, slobbish tomboy; Arlene Rimmer is uptight, with rather strange sexual morals; and Hilly is just about as loopy as Holly.

With the Holly Hop Drive needing 12 hours of repair (not helped by Holly and Hilly falling in love), the two go to the ship’s disco, where the characters have unique relationships with each other. Deb and Dave get along rather well, although Dave is put off by Deb’s attempts to impress him, which involve drinking a six-pack and belching the whole of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Arlene tries to come on to Arnold, with the same tactics that Arnold uses to get women. The Cat is not a fan of the Dog’s dance skills. The party goes on all night long for Deb and Dave, while Arnold belts toward the male’s ship.

The next morning, the two Lister’s wake up with hangovers… right next to each other. They eventually piece together that they had relations the previous night. As the two Rimmers come aboard to gloat, Arlene tells Dave that he hopes HE gets pregnant. Suddenly, the truth comes out…. in this universe, MEN get pregnant. As Dave grills Deb on her lack of concern, Deb goes on the defense, declaring that Dave should have used protection. Dave then learns that Holly fixed the hop drive, and that they have to go back to his universe. As he is reminded of a scene from their incident with the Future Echoes where Lister was seen with twins, his pregnancy test comes back… with hilarious results.

Review: Well, this episode was a weird way to end the series.

We get to see how far into the Jerkass zone the characters can go in this episode. Arnold Rimmer is probably as unlikeable as he gets in the show thus far, with his complete and utter disregard toward women. The alternate Rimmer manages to be even MORE unlikeable then Rimmer is (especially when she declares that she hopes Dave gets pregnant), which shows how far the characters can go. Deb also comes off as quite unlikeable when she tries to defend herself after being grilled by Dave. Since the two characters are supposed to be opposite sex clones of the male Dwarfers, it makes the episode quite disturbing. Then again, the episode did try and provide a commentary on the troubling sexual politics of our world, so that’s can be excused a bit.

Also, the actors that play the female counterparts are wonderful at what they did. They manage to capture each of their characters PERFECTLY. Even Hattie Hayridge does wonderfully in her role as Hilly.

The humor does age a tad bit, but it’s still decent. A scene that I like in particular is the Cat teaching the Dog how to dance, and the Dog’s reaction.

Normally, I would give this episode a 6, but there is one scene in particular that props up the entire thing to an 8 score.

The song appears at the very beginning of the episode. Much like the Conway Twitty gags in Family Guy (especially from the FG episode “The Juice is Loose”), it’s pointless and a time consumer. However, unlike Conway Twitty, effort was put in here, and it has a thin bearing on the plot. Also, it’s suddenness is just hysterical! Charles Augins (Queeg from “Queeg”) actually directed the video. How popular was the song? An R&B remix, sung by Danny John-Jules, was released in 1993, and it reached #17 in the UK.

Favorite Scene: Three guesses, no prizes.

Score: 8.

Red Dwarf Review, Series II, Episode 5: Queeg.

Airdate: 4 October 1988

The greatest battle in the history of humanity… or at least a decent battle within a science-fiction sitcom.

Unlike normal, this synopsis will NOT contain spoilers.

Synopsis: Holly has been making one too many mistakes on board Red Dwarf. Upon missing a meteor, to messing up Rimmer’s hologram, to confusing wires, the crew are at their breaking point. Enter Queeg 500 (professional dancer Charles Augins), Red Dwarf’s backup computer, who declares Holly too incompetent to operate, demoting him to night watchman.

“From now on… Red Dwarf is run by Queeg 500!”

Queeg then works the rest of the crew to the bone, giving them very limited food and making them work like dogs. The crew quickly get sick of Queeg, and demand Holly back. Holly initially refuses, as he heard the crew insult him. However, he eventually declares a duel with Queeg: a game. Winner gets control of Red Dwarf, loser gets erased. The ending…

… I will not give away. However, it is brilliant.

Review: This is Holly’s finest hour. The humor that involves him is BRILLIANT! This gives him fantastic character development revealing just how senile he has gotten. And yet, he does something that I just can’t reveal. Queeg is a FANTASTIC character, who helps bring in the lesson “you don’t know what you’ve got until he is demoted to night watchman”. And Craig Charles manages to do one of his finest stunts ever!

On a slight negative, the humor with the other characters seems to be slightly weaker, although not totally terrible. Also, the depressing fact remains that this episode is Holly’s biggest role in the show, and the only episode where he has a center role. From this point on, the show shifts away from him, especially as a certain character is reintroduced in Series III. By the end of Series V, the character is basically there for the occasional joke, being written out by series VI (although the character does come back for series VIII).

Still, FANTASTIC episode.

Favorite Moment: Queeg explains Holly’s IQ.

Queeg: “It’s got a 6 in it, but it’s not 6000.”

Cat: “What is it?”

Queeg: “Six.”

Holly: “Six? Do me a lemon! That’s a poor IQ for a glass of water!”

Final Score: It’s got a 5 in it, but it isn’t 5. What is it? 8.5.

Red Dwarf Review, Series II Episode 4: Stasis Leak

Airdate: 27th September, 1988

Synopsis: The episode begins with a prequel, set before the crew was wiped out, where Rimmer is placed on 8 weeks paint duty for being a smeghead. While going back to his cabin, he finds himself as a hologram poking through the table.

In the present (3 million years in the future), while going through Kochanski’s personal things, Lister finds a photograph of the two of them getting married. Remembering something from the past, he reads Rimmer’s diary and finds an entry describing the table incident which Rimmer himself (in the diary entry) took to be an hallucination. Following directions from the diary, the gang head down to floor 16 and find a hidden stasis leak which transports them back to the past, a few month’s before the crew all died.

Because they can’t bring anybody back to their time (unless they want them turned into powder), Lister and Rimmer fight over who they should convince to go into one of the two stasis booths (Lister himself being sent into the other). Lister wants to save Kochanski and Rimmer obviously wants himself. (“One for the week, and one for Sunday best!”) While Rimmer goes back to convince himself, Lister and Cat find Kochanski at a hotel, but she is already married. Kochanski invites them in and Lister discovers… himself! Five years in the future (sorta), Lister found a way to go back into the past and marry Kochanski.

Rimmer attempts to convince himself to go into stasis, but his former self acts the same as he did before and believes it to be nothing more than a hallucination, ending up attacking Captain Hollister The present Lister and Cat return tho their past quarters to collect the present Rimmer and meet up with their future selves. Overwhelmed by the arrival of these duplicates, the past Rimmer snaps and yells for them to go away.

Review: Two reviews in one day? It’s a wonderful Friday!

After two brilliant episodes, we get a rather mild one. While Rimmer gets some character development (the Lemming Story), this episode relies more on, to quote Doctor Who, “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff”. The humor in this episode is rather weaker than “Better Than Life”, although it is by far not the lowest the humor goes ever. The ending provides something that could be interpreted as an ending (“GO AWAY!”), but it is rather open ended.

It is also worth noting that Future Lister is a complete jerk to himself. He makes RIMMER look comparable. Seeing Lister as he is in this series being quite kind (comforting Rimmer in “Better than Life” and giving him eight months of his memory in “Thanks for the Memory”), this comes as a shock. On the flipside, the show also reminds us, after the sympathy inducing stories in BTL and TFTM, that Rimmer is still a jerk.

Not a bad episode. But still, not the best of the season.

Favorite Scene
: Lister reads Rimmer’s diary.

Score: 7.5

Red Dwarf review: Series II Episode 3: Thanks for the Memory

Airdate: 20 September 1988

Synopsis: After finding a planetoid with a breathable atmosphere, the crew decide to celebrate Rimmer’s Death-day. Completely inebriated from the party, back on the ship, Rimmer tells Lister about his single sexual experience, with the ship’s female boxing champion Yvonne McGruder. He regrets putting his career first, because it cost him a love life. When they wake up, the crew find out the following:

  • Four days have passed;
  • The legs of Cat and Lister are broken;
  • The star charts have changed;
  • The puzzle that Lister was solving had mysteriously been solved;
  • Four pages are not in Lister’s diary;
  • The ships black box is missing.

They trace the black box’s signal to a barren airless moon, where they first find what appears to be a giant footprint and then come across a gravestone reading “To the memory of the memory of Lise Yates” – Lister reveals that Lise Yates was one of his ex-girlfriends back on Earth. The black box is buried in the shallow grave marked by the headstone — the rest of the episode consists of them watching the videos of what happened over the missing days.

The black box shows that after Rimmer confided in Lister, Lister felt sorry for Rimmer and decided to do something about it. Lister and Cat went to the hologram simulation suite — where Rimmer’s hologram is generated — and Lister uploaded his own memory of the eight months he was going out with Lise Yates into Rimmer’s memory. Rimmer woke in a jubilant mood from what he thought was a magical eight months of his life, but he found a number of things confusing. For instance, why did he suddenly move to Liverpool and become a total slob? Why did he need his Appendix removed — twice?! And most of all, why did he leave Lise to “play the field” and resist her urgings for him to get a career and settle down, when that is what Rimmer wanted all his life? Altogether, Rimmer seemed to appreciate his apparent relationship with Lise much more than Lister ever did, and Lister came to realize how foolish he actually was in breaking up with her.

Rimmer’s happiness was short-lived as he discovered the letters that Lise wrote to Lister during those eight months. Lister told him that he didn’t go out with Lise and that it was just an implanted memory. Rimmer was distraught at the knowledge that the only woman he ever loved actually loved Lister, and is unwilling to cope with his pain any more, despite Lister’s urging that he shouldn’t go through life without experiencing love. Eventually Lister agreed to erase all their memories of the past four days, which would eliminate Rimmer’s memory of Lise. They buried the black box on the barren moon underneath the gravestone, and in the process Cat and Lister drop the gravestone on the ground — leaving a large footprint-like indent — and then drop it again onto their feet. Back on Red Dwarf with their broken legs in plaster casts, Lister ripped the pages out of his diary for the last 4 days, and as they left the sleeping quarters to erase their memories he put in the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

Review: The first time this aired, viewers held this in a low light, ranking it 19th out of 30 available episodes. In the 2012 survey, this episode got 5th place out of 61 episodes. The same thing happened with me. The first time I watched this episode, I thought that the comedy was too light. Then, I watched it again. The comedy is still light, but there is more than enough drama to make up for it.

This episode takes some time out to develop Lister for a change. We learn that he once had a girlfriend that he never appreciated. He realizes that he should have treated Lise better and not taken his relationship for granted. Lister is developed out from being just a slob (like we saw in previous episodes), and becomes much more of a human being.

Naturally, Rimmer gets TONS of development. While “Better Than Life” made him more sympathetic, this episode makes him completely sympathetic. In fact, there is little trace of his jerkassery in this episode. This episode makes you feel bad for him. “Stasis Leak” will pull viewers in to remind us that he is still a selfish coward, but this episode is still brilliant for developing Rimmer.

Again, the humor is light, but that is a minor criticism.

Favorite Scene: The initial reveal that four days had been skipped. Hysterical.

Score: 9.

Red Dwarf Review: Series II, Episode 2: "Better Than Life"

Airdate: 13 September 1988

Take THAT, Kinect and PSMove!

Synopsis: The post pod reaches Red Dwarf. In it, Rimmer receives a large tax bill from Outland Revenue, along with a letter from his mother (through her poor handwriting) informing him that his father is dad-uh, dead, and that he passed away peacefully in his jeep-uh, sleep. Although he knew his father is already long dead, seeing the news in writing upsets him, mentioning that he looked up to his father and wanted him to say “well done”. However, Rimmer also states that he loathed his dad, due to his strict requirements for his kids to get into the space corps to make up for his failure to get on the corps. To cheer him up, Lister and the Cat invite Rimmer to play “Better Than Life”, a total immersion video game where everyone’s deepest desires come true.

At first, everything goes well. The Cat has two girlfriends (Marilyn Monroe and a reversed mermaid). Lister is rich enough to eat caviar-covered vindaloos and play golf. Rimmer, who has a physical form in the game, leads an admiral’s life with drinks and parties. Rimmer meets his dad, whom, although Rimmer is expecting him to say “well done”, says that he is a “total smeghead” (as it turns out, Rimmer’s father was imagined by the Cat). Rimmer’s neurotic mind, subconsciously unable to accept nice things are happening to him, rebels against him, and he cannot control his negative imagination. He soon ends up with a wife, seven kids, a mortgage and being chased by an outright psychotic tax collector (who demands ₤18,000 and threatens to break his legs and thumbs). Eventually, the others find themselves caught up in his nightmare, buried up to their necks in sand and about to be eaten by ants. The game ends, and as Lister and the Cat call Rimmer out for his “messed up brain”, Rimmer gets a letter informing him that he passed the astro-navigation examination, causing Rimmer to believe his life is turning around. When they get back to their quarters, the tax collector emerges from a locker, causing the crew to realize that the game is not over. The tax collector then proceeds to break Rimmer’s thumbs.

Review: This episode holds a very special place in my heart. It was Christmas 2012. I had gotten some iTunes cash for Christmas. I had already seen some Red Dwarf clips online. I decided to buy a couple of episodes from Series II. After buying and watching “Parallel Universe”, I brought “Better than Life”. Needless to say, by the end of the episode, I was barely breathing from all of the laughter. The episode had sent me on an emotional roller coaster, from depression at the news of Rimmer’s father, sympathy for Rimmer, and laughter at the end with the tax collector. It may seem strange, but this episode cemented my feelings: Red Dwarf was possibly going to be my all time favorite show.

And I was right. As of this writing, it is my all time favorite show.

This episode is simply a brilliant episode. Rimmer gets developed more in this episode then ever before. For the first time ever, we get to see why Rimmer blamed everything on his parents: his father was an absolute jerk ass to him and his brothers, stretching them to put them into the Space Corps and failing to feed them if they got Astro-Nav questions wrong (Rimmer almost starved to death.) Then, we get his one shot at happiness crushed, just to give the Cat a laugh, causing Rimmer to break down. It really humanises Rimmer in a way that the show never did before, and is the first episode where he is truly sympathetic.

However, the episode still takes time out to remind us that, no matter how sympathetic he might be, Rimmer is still a pathetic slime ball who takes down everybody with him. His negative fantasies wind up almost killing the others. Lister puts it best: “You’re a total dinglebat, are you?”

The rest of the episode is just pure comedy. Lister’s role in the fantasy just makes him into himself WITH MONEY (caviar vindaloos, golf, and slobbish drinking). The Cat gets to take the Jerk ass role from Rimmer for once, interrupting his moment, not caring if Rimmer’s dad has died, ignoring Marylin Monroe, AND killing Rimmer’s fantasy for a quick laugh (although he gets his comeuppance in the end by almost dying). The tax collector is just so overtly psychotic that he becomes hilarious.

If I had to find one problem with this episode, it is that the scene with Gordon and Holly was unnecessary (although still funny). That, and the first few minutes of the episode seem to be too loose to the plot.

Favorite Scene: God, it’s hard to pick. If I HAD to pick one, it would have to be the Rimmer on the Observation Deck scene. It gives in 4 minutes what other shows can’t do in an entire episode: develop a character. There is a reason why many people consider Rimmer to be the center focus of the show. He get more development than any other character.

Score: 9.

Red Dwarf Review, Series II Episode 1: Kryten

Airdate: 6 September 1988

Synopsis: While Rimmer is trying to learn Esperanto, Red Dwarf receives a distress call from the wreck of the Nova 5, sent by the service android Kryten (played by David Ross). The crew are lured to rescue the crew due to the three girls aboard the ship. Kryten, however, does not realize that the three girls are dead, and have been for centuries. Rimmer takes Kryten aboard and makes him do menial tasks. Lister tries to convince Kryten to rebel, but initially seems doomed to failure. However, apparently, Lister’s attempts at rebellion against Rimmer work, as Kryten messes up Rimmer’s portrait, throws soup on the bed that Kryten made, and calls him nicknames as he takes off in a space bike.

Review: This episode is really the first sign that Series II had evolved from the flaws in Series I. The pacing in this episode is better then in series I. This episode is chock FULL of character development between Rimmer and Lister. The twist on the “saving the ladies from the spaceship” into making them all dead is brilliant. And the ending. Oh, god, the ending! That is how you do a rebellion! It’s amazing how Red Dwarf can be intelligent enough to quote one of the best movies of the 50s, yet also mix in the perfect amount of sophomoric humor. The comedy was brilliant, with characters driving a good 90% of the humor.

The scene with Esperanto did drag on a bit, as well as the “Lister is a slob” scene and the scene where we first learn that the ladies are dead. That drags the episode a bit. Also, Kryten did seem a bit too similar to C3PO. And, this is minor, but I just can’t get used to David Ross playing the role. He did a good job, but he just does not fit perfectly into the role. To me, Kryten will ALWAYS be Robert Llewellyn.

Favorite Scene: The ending. Just the ending. Especially the “Wham Lines”.

Rimmer: “What are you rebelling against?”

Kryten: “….what d’ya got?”

Score: 8

Red Dwarf Review: Series II Preview

Sorry for the hiatus. As I get ready to take a look at series II, let’s take a quick look at the episodes for this season.

Kryten: The trio find a broken down starship with only a robot living. The robot is programmed to serve absolutely. Lister tries to break the robot’s programming and make him rebellious, but Rimmer wants him as a slave.

Better Than Life: Rimmer gets some depressing news in the post. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew go into a total immersion videogame that grants their fantasies. Rimmer joins along to try and live out the desires of his father. Hilarity ensues.

Thanks for the Memory: Shortly after a party celebrating Rimmer’s death, Lister, Rimmer, and the Cat wake up with no memory of the previous few nights. Rimmer also wakes up remembering a love that he once had. Lister gets down to the bottom of Rimmer’s memory.

Stasis Leak: Thanks to a leak in stasis, Lister, Rimmer, and the Cat can go back to a short time before the accident. Rimmer wants to bring himself back via a stasis tube, while Lister wants to bring Kochanski back via the stasis tube.

Queeg: With Holly becoming more incompetent by the hour, a new computer arrives, relieving Holly of duty. While the crew are at first relieved, they eventually learn the age-old lesson “meet the new boss, more insane than the old boss”.

Parallel Universe: During Rimmer and Lister’s debate (this time about the former’s chauvinism), Holly announces that he has invented a device that can transport objects through space. Instead, it takes them to a parallel universe, where genders and gender roles are reversed, right down to biology.

This season showed the writing get tighter, the humor become quicker, and tons of character development between the characters. Rimmer and Lister become closer, Holly gets his finest hour, and plots from previous episodes are developed upon.

What also occurs is that the first series was set entirely on Red Dwarf, with little interaction outside the ship. Here, the crew actually does some exploring, such as in “Kryten”.

And from now on, I will not be distinguishing between the Good and Bad openly. I will merge the two sections into a general “Review” section right below the synopsis section.