Sunday, August 28, 2016

Red Dwarf V Episode 3: "Terrorform"

One of the reasons this episode is noteworthy is, in my opinion, due to the very effective use of location shooting. The psi-moon swamp and its surrounds are, to my mind, entirely convincing and seem sufficiently otherworldly for the purposes of suggesting a hastily-assembled dreamscape. The model work is also very good, with the shots of Starbug sinking into the swamp looking far better than one might imagine could be achieved with miniatures on a BBC budget in the early Nineties. The sparing use of the self-loathing monster is sensible, and the line drawing attention to the "unconvincing red eyes" of the silly "hooded hordes" makes them more amusing, especially the shot, which I particularly love when it's featured in the title sequence, of the three hooded things peeping over the top of the mound by the swamp in sequence.

This is another Rimmer-centric episode, but attention should be paid to the opening sequence featuring the damaged Kryten, another example of the kind of highly convincing detail which Red Dwarf's special effects crew could achieve, particularly the various puppets of the severed hand. The typing scene with Lister and the Cat is classic, although amusingly dated given that the Cat thinks Lister is playing a text adventure, which even by 1991 was becoming a pretty outmoded genre of video game. Lister's line after fixing Kryten about how material tends to be left over after do-it-yourself is clever and deserves a bigger laugh. On the other hand, how on earth does Kryten know about psi-moons? This is one of the many episodes in which the amount of exposition Kryten is expected to deliver borders on the ridiculous. It's a very dark and in some respects quite unpleasant episode, exposing that Rimmer's greatest problem is self-hatred, something also implied by "Holoship".

Despite these rather serious musings, there are some top notch jokes in this one, especially Rimmer's "boy am I glad to see you" when the self loathing beast appears, although it's delivered in a very Blackadder kind of way. The Copacabana music playing when Kryten goes offline always amused me, as well as the swashbuckling Rimmer-metaphor's over-the-top declamation "may your foulness rot in hell." I also like the line "I nearly had a knobbly thing the size and shape of a Mexican agave cactus jammed where only customs men dare to probe." The "jet powered rocket pants" exchange is a classic too. Kryten's actions as he says "four way hug situation" are a favourite as well. It should be noted that this is the second episode in the series in which Rimmer gains the ability to physically interact with the world, presumably as a result of the "psychic" nature of the setting, something which leads to the implementation of the hard-light drive in Series VI.

This episode clips along at a fair pace, and sometimes I'm surprised at how briskly all the pieces are set out, but it ensures that all the funny bits happen without anything outstaying its welcome. The end joke is a classic, and it really emphasises how much of a winner the writers were really onto with the character of Rimmer, whose neuroses could be endlessly mined as a source of plot and humour. It's also important for introducing me to the phrase "sit here like lemons" which I've always found to be a useful expression. Ultimately, it's an interesting, funny, largely convincing and atmospheric example of just how engaging Red Dwarf could be in terms of writing, performance and effects when all hands were on deck.

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