Sunday, August 28, 2016

Red Dwarf V Episode 1: "Holoship"

One thing this episode establishes straight away is the high visual quality of Series V. With very little location shooting (and that used effectively) the show is able to focus on its visual strengths: sets and model work. The Holoship model is very pleasing to the eye, and its sleek semi-transparent appearance is pleasingly juxtaposed to the bulky utilitarianism of Red Dwarf. While the Holoship sets naturally maintain the classic "nineties hotel lobby" aesthetic of much futuristic imagining of the period, they similarly work effectively as a contrast to the dingy corridors and cargo holds emphasised elsewhere in the episode and series. Perhaps the only shortcoming, apart from the natural contextual tackiness of the sets, is the contemporary computers which should, in my opinion, have instead been presented in the same way as Captain Platini's props, on coloured semi-transparent plastic (the keyboards in particular) to give them a less tactile, more "hologrammatic" quality. Interestingly, before desktop computers were around, this kind of interface was something achieved effectively in the 1969 Doctor Who serial "The War Games".

I'd say the sets and costumes are almost certainly meant to pastiche Star Trek, particularly the Original Series films and The Next Generation, and the characterisation of the "notoriously arrogant" individuals who make up the "hologrammatic cream of the Space Corps" seem rather evidently to be a mockery of the entire concept of Starfleet and the Federation, suggesting that such individuals would be more likely to be sneering, condescending snobs than high-minded altruists. Jane Horrocks' enormous hairdo as Crane seems almost certainly to be a takeoff of the extravagant 'dos of Trek past, with the mix of British, American and Russian officers similarly suggestive of Trek's multiculturalism. The "sexual recreation" policy also evokes the constant romantic entanglements which seemed to compose much of The Next Generation's filler content.

One curious aspect of the episode is that in terms of characterisation it emphasises the "misunderstood" quality of Rimmer, who only needs someone, in this case Crane, to appreciate him. It implies that Rimmer is more of a "softy" than he's given credit, but that he needs an attractive member of the opposite sex to take him seriously for this quality to emerge. On the surface, I'm not entirely convinced that Rimmer's plot in the episode is that meaningful given that the rest of the show is so intent on emphasising to us how charmless, graceless, rude and irritating he is; I suppose, however, it's summed up by Lister's "bon voyage" gag, which argues that he would fit in with the holoship crew, who are as arrogant and pretentious as he is, albeit with vastly superior intellects. Thus perhaps the Holoship really is the only environment in which this side of him could emerge, and in that respect the narrative is actually a success.

Lister, Cat and Kryten have very little to do in the episode, but I do like their scene interviewing the potential new hologram, and the scene in which Lister is mocking Don Warrington's Commander Binks is a classic. It's worth noting that Harrison, the hologram they interview, likes "horse riding and ballet". It may not be opera, but is this character inadvertently the model for, or at least an accidental foreshadowing of, the second Kochanski? I wonder if Doug Naylor was responsible for her lines. Kryten gets some smashing gags in this one, such as asking if anyone besides him thinks the sexual culture of the holoship is "just a little bit tacky" and informing Rimmer that if St Francis of Assisi ever said anything about never giving a sucker an even break it was "strictly off the record." Some other classic woofers in the episode are "Quick, let's get out of here before they bring him back" and "IQ unknown." I also like the little touch, which I only noticed recently, that just as Red Dwarf's holographic computer is called "Holly", the Holoship's "stochastic computer" is called "Stocky". Post-mind patch Rimmer is a little odd, but his effort to solve both exams at once is amusing, and his "I've come to regard you as people I met" farewell is very memorable. To an extent, "Holoship" feels weirdly out of kilter with the rest of this series given its lack of horror, violence and existential dread, but it's still an entertaining entry and a strong indicator of the concentration of talent in the show at this time.

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