Sunday, August 28, 2016

Red Dwarf V Episode 4: "Quarantine"

The birth of Mr Flibble. "Quarantine" is very much an episode in two halves, the first feeling more like a horror show than anything else, with the second half going more for straight comedy. Dr Lanstrom is effectively unsettling, and I like the exchange about how they never meet anyone who is nice or who can shoot straight. This is also the episode that first proposes that Kryten is not actually an android butler but rather an android toilet cleaner, and reflects on the idea of his becoming, due to his bravery and scientific expertise, the effective leader of the team, which rankles upon Rimmer. I wonder if aspects of this characterisation were dropped in later series, in favour of making Kryten more interested in domestic activities and more fussy and short-tempered, in order to avoid him becoming too heroic a character and therefore not conducive to good comedy.

The "We're going to... live" line is funny, as is the speech leading up to it. I also like that this episode, much like "The Last Day", features a brief bit of Chris Barrie impersonating Robert Llewellyn-as-Kryten when Rimmer says "Space Corps Directive". I have to admit, the first part of this episode does contain some material which isn't terribly funny, largely Rimmer calling Kryten names and being deliberately difficult over the radio. The best bits in my opinion are Lanstrom's lines, particularly her first one: "Schopenauer said 'life without pain has no meaning'. Gentlemen, I wish to give your lives meaning." We get some more good bits later, including Lister imagining vultures reading 'What Carcass?' magazine and Rimmer's "I hope the next eighty-four days pass as swiftly and pleasantly as the Hundred Years' War." A similar joke is used in Series VI's "Rimmerworld". I note that Rimmer says he's going to play them music by "Reggie Dixon", while in previous series it was "Reggie Wilson" who was Rimmer's favourite hammond organ musician.

The whole scene with the argument in the Quarantine room is good, particularly the stuff about Kryten being "tetchy", the Cat's "feckles, heckles, hackles, schmeckles", and particularly Kryten wondering why Lister always looks at his handkerchief after he blows his nose: "I mean, why? What do you expect to see in there? A Turner seascape, perhaps? The face of the Madonna?" Something I've always wanted to know in this scene, given that the set is just a repainted and adjusted bunk room set, what the thing is that the top bunk's been turned into, because it looks like a roller door and I want to know why it's not possible for anyone to sleep in there.

Some of the best stuff in this scene is, of course, from Rimmer. I've always enjoyed the way he says "...and army boots", and the line "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's crazy people." I do think it's a bit odd that they never thought to use the luck virus earlier, however. It's a bit of a cheap plot device but it works in this episode because of the overall use of "disease" as a concept (which is why it doesn't work in "Back in the Red"). The idea of "positive viruses" is pretty ridiculous, however. I like the way Mr Flibble is used, which seems to rather invoke Sooty. The bit where Flibble "whispers" in Rimmer's ear and he says "We couldn't possibly do that. Who'd clean up the mess?" is particularly good. It's just such a silly concept in general. I also enjoy the calm way Kryten says "I have a medium sized fire axe buried in my spinal column," although I think the resultant joke goes for a little too long. The final gag of Rimmer waking up in quarantine to see the others dressed like he was is a satisfying ending after the show's turned him into an outright antagonist. By and large, "Quarantine" exemplifies the slightly dark and sinister humour of Series V, although it's perhaps a little light on funny jokes in the first half. Nonetheless it gave us Mr Flibble, another example of how every series the show could add something else to its repertoire of relatively minor elements that would come to somewhat define the show's humour and unique qualities.

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