Sunday, August 28, 2016

Red Dwarf V Episode 2: "The Inquisitor"

The character of the Inquisitor himself is, in my opinion, one of the great costuming triumphs of the show. One of the most interesting aspects of behind-the-scenes material for Red Dwarf is, in my opinion, Howard Burden's insights into costuming and how much thought he put into the design of the characters, and the Inquisitor is a very memorable element of that. While he's obviously a takeoff of Darth Vader and looks rather like he wouldn't be out of place as one of the main villains in an Eighties cartoon series, the mask, gauntlet and cloak strongly evoke that slightly rugged "Red Dwarf" quality and make the character unique. He's also the second simulant character to appear on the show; I've always thought that simulants were one of Grant and Naylor's best inventions for the series (even though over time they've become a bit of an easy fallback when an arbitrary villain is needed) and the character here is fresh and interesting, a deranged artificial life form who compensates for his own existential dread by trying to force the universe into a meaningful shape. I actually think this aspect could have been explored a little more.

The episode, however, is ultimately about Lister and Kryten, wedged between two episodes about Rimmer. It's the first episode since "Timeslides" to really even dabble much into Lister's psyche, and continues ideas initially raised in "Balance of Power" in the very first series: the idea that Lister has potential and is quite an intelligent and competent person, but that this has been obstructed by laziness and a lack of a sense of identity in his youth making him feel purposeless and directionless. In this respect, Lister is in some respects presented as the opposite of Rimmer; Lister is capable but lazy, while Rimmer is ambitious but incompetent.

Kryten's erasure, by contrast, is a little more confusing, but I suppose the implication is that he hasn't applied himself since breaking his programming. In any event, the whole premise of "The Inquisitor" is possibly a little too clever for its own good; for instance, if the Time Gauntlet erased people from history, would the erasure of the Inquisitor himself from history necessarily cause the people he erased to be brought back? If someone "never existed", it seems that even causing to never exist the person who caused them to never exist wouldn't matter... but then surely if you erased someone from time, that would erase the action of erasing; it doesn't really make sense. I also don't quite understand how the erasure of Lister and Kryten would just result in the existence of a slightly different Lister and Kryten who otherwise seem more or less the same. Has the Inquisitor judged them? Have they led worthwhile lives? It's also odd to think that the Inquisitor is judging Rimmer, the electronic replica of a long-dead man, rather than judging the flesh-and-blood man upon whom he is based.

Also, what's with the bit in which Lister claims to be reading a comic book adaptation of Virgil's Aeneid, but the story's obviously that of Homer's Iliad? As a former Latin nerd I can't distance myself from the knowledge that the narrative Lister is describing (the Trojan Horse in particular) scarcely features in the Aeneid. Highlights from this episode include Lister's long description of Rimmer to prove that he knows him, Kryten's "have you got through those damn manacles yet?" and all of the gags surrounding the severed hand; "I'll beat you to death with the wet end" is probably my favourite. The delivery of Kryten's "blood chilling terror" line might be the funniest bit in the entire episode, however. I also like Rimmer's "they've come here to hijack the ship and do, ooh, weird things to us."

The highlight of the episode is probably the four scenes of judgement, and the strongest of these is certainly Rimmer's, especially when the Rimmer-Inquisitor repeatedly interrupts normal Rimmer before he can say anything. Cat's judgement is a classic moment as well: "A shallow guy with a great ass." Kryten's sudden time-travelling appearance is good too. I think the bit when the Inquisitor turns Lister into a kid and an old man are a bit crap, though. I'm glad they didn't go down the route, as shown in the deleted scenes, of giving the Inquisitor a visible face. In the end, the Inquisitor is a serviceable and suitably dark instalment of Series V, but ultimately I think the strongest material, as usual, comes from brief moments of the characters analysing themselves, and less so from running around corridors fiddling with time gauntlets and the like. The idea of a "worthwhile life" and how we should judge ourselves probably should have been explored more than lasers shooting out of fingers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.