Sunday, August 28, 2016

Red Dwarf V Episode 5: "Demons & Angels"

Arguably the weakest part of Series V, "Demons & Angels" is nonetheless still a funny episode with some strong effects and costuming work and amusing performances. As I believe has been pointed out elsewhere, one issue is that the episode tries to get through two whole sets of "alternate personalities" for the characters in the space of half an hour. Admittedly it does a surprisingly good job of this, perhaps largely because the "high" or "good" versions of the characters are so homogenous that their personalities are all more or less the same. The show really shines through the diversity of the "evil" characters introduced later in the episode. Perhaps the other issue with the episode in general is just how "magical" the entire scenario is, with good and evil qualities being extracted from the original source somehow. What defines "good" and "evil" and how would a machine be able to separate the relevant components? It's a bit arbitrary. In some respects this plot device reminds me a little of "Timeslides", which also has a quite ad hoc approach to its core concept, especially because the triplicated objects are revealed part-way into the episode to have a limited lifespan, conveniently adding another threat to the story.

The joke that I primarily think falls flat is Rimmer's "Dorksville" gag early on, which is pretty weak. The rest of it is pretty strong; I like the way Cat runs in at the end of the scene to encourage them to do the "Awooga Waltz" and the way Lister says the chances of Red Dwarf exploding are "one in... one" as it actually does explode. The way Rimmer mocks the others with "Okay, homeboys, let's posse!" is a funny reflection on the way the other characters act at times in Series III to V, taking the piss out of stuff like "the Red Dwarf shuffle" of "Backwards". There's another Pot Noodle joke in this episode as well, much like "Marooned". Rimmer's explanation for why he thinks Jesus was a hippy amuses too: "He had long hair; he didn't have a job. What more do you want?"

The High characters are funny when they do the dance sequence, and I've always enjoyed the hopping walk High Rimmer and High Kryten do out of the bunk room, but their mindless optimism later in the episode becomes a bit repetitive after a while as they are all easily killed off. It's not quite clear why they lack the intelligence or common sense of their counterparts; is the implication that this is a "Low" trait? Still, there's a good laugh from this after High Kryten gets shot and, as he's dragged away, exclaims "He accidentally shot me five times! Oh how I love him!" As I said, the dance sequence is also a top moment, especially when High Cat jumps in with his hand to his ear. The way Danny John-Jules says "No part of me would ever be seen alive in sandals," is really funny for some reason; the delivery more than the line. Low Rimmer is another classic element, especially "And then... I'm going to have you." The title of the horror film "Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head" is memorable, setting up a recurring joke of ludicrous horror film names in later episodes, although I find it weird that Lister's love of horror movies is seen as a "low" trait. It's also interesting to note that "Weapons Magazines" are among the Lows' inventory, a suggestion which I'm sure would piss off some viewers. I've always liked the way Kryten says "Cinema hot dogs?!"

The remote-controlled Lister sequence is a good bit of action, and the delivery of "Look out, I'm gonna kill ya!" has stuck with me for years. More could possibly be done with the spinal implant gag, although it might get annoying after a while I suppose. Of course the instant it comes into play at the end, the nerdy part of me thinks "How would it work if Lister sat on it?" It's also a rare moment of the Cat and Rimmer sharing a joke. At the end of the day I do think "Demons & Angels" has a few issues in terms of what it's trying to do. The strengths are found not just in the jokes but in the costuming of the different versions of the characters and the set-dressing used to differentiate the different versions of the ship. It's worth noting that this is one of the only times the bunk room set is used in Series V, and as with "Quarantine" it's not used as itself. Perhaps the overall issue is that it adds one too many "alternate versions" of the characters, given that an alternative Lister and Kryten appear in "The Inquisitor" and more interesting and memorable versions of the main characters would appear in the next episode.

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