Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Red Dwarf VI Episode 2: "Legion"

Rimmer gets hard thanks to a middle-aged man in form-fitting lycra. In my view, "Legion" might be the best episode of Series VI. The guest character is interesting and there's an entertaining combination of verbal and physical comedy. If I had one major issue with the episode, it's that the Legion character isn't quite utilised fully to realise the idea of a gestalt of the four Dwarfers. He still appears to be the sophisticated, debonair individual he's implied to have been when he was made up of "great minds" in the past. The episode only really goes further by having Legion be a bit violent and by turning into Kryten when the others are all incapacitated. It's not clear what other qualities of theirs he possesses. Furthermore, it's a little odd that, despite the fact that Kryten concocts the plan to defeat him and puts it into action right in front of him, Legion does nothing to intervene. I suppose this is all conveniently explained away by his line about how being rendered nonexistent after being composed of them "feels like promotion", but I can't help but wonder if Grant and Naylor bit off a bit more than they could chew here.
Nevertheless, "Legion" is a funny episode. Bits that stand out to me include the faux-French way Rimmer pronounces "Legion" and the speech he gives trying to persuade him to join their "already pretty damn fine top notch team." In fact, I'd argue that Rimmer gets the lion's share of good gags, including the "we surrender" one, although the bit about him having a "humiliating panic attack" is a step too far I think, especially as he's forced to run back into the cockpit moments later. Lister's plan involving replicating something from Revenge of the Surfboarding Killer Bikini Vampire Girls" is pretty funny, as are Lister and Cat's comedy slides across the table after being struck by Legion and the way Kryten keeps whacking Rimmer over the head after he's told him to stop. This episode has another moose joke as well: "asteroid shaped like a dancing moose." Is the word "moose" really that funny? This episode also gives us a silly comparison "nostril hairs vibrating faster than the bed-springs on a Spaniard's honeymoon bed" and a Space Corps Directive in quick succession. A better Rimmer joke is "Kryten, stop your blathering and get in the damn tube."
Some other highlights include one of the funnier "Kryten's head" jokes, "Just because I look like Herman Munster's stunt man", and Lister's "let's flag down a black cab and head for Real Street." It might be worth noting that, similarly to the incompatibility of prospective hologram Harrison in "Holoship" in Series V, in this episode Lister says of Legion that "he'd never fit in. Can you see him joining in on our late-night sessions of 'pin the pointy stick on the weather girl'?" It might have been good for Doug Naylor to keep this in mind when writing for Kochanski in Series VII. I'm not sure if I consider the "light switch" gag to be funny, and perhaps the alleged "masterpiece" status of Legion's artistic compositions was the script asking a bit too much of the props department.
Rimmer gets a hard light drive in this episode, granting him a fully tangible body at last. It's notable that this isn't dwelled upon in any great detail; it's mostly used to set up physical gags about him being pelted with food in the banquet scene. The way Kryten says "But of course, we all know that" after explaining Mimosian cuisine has always amused me. Despite how unflattering it is, I think that the Legion costume is quite effective, although as is pointed out by Chris Barrie and Robert Llewellyn in the cast commentary I dearly wish they'd kept the tube on his head consistently tucked into the mask. The space station model is nice, the location shooting is more convincing than the dingy old boiler rooms used most of the time, and the sets in general are a pleasant spot of brightness and cleanness amid the surrounding episodes. I also enjoy that they're drinking buck's fizz for breakfast.
One joke I've never entirely understood in this episode is the "raw carrot" one. I used to think that the point was that Lister was so averse to "fresh vegetables" (something he wasn't in earlier episodes) that he couldn't tell the difference between a decorative orange flower and a healthy comestible, but it appears that in actuality it is carrot, just carved into a flower shape. The whole food supply dilemma seems a bit contrived in general given that they're meant to be only twenty-four hours behind Red Dwarf. The final shot of them struggling against the vacuum of space is funny, but again it's not entirely clear what happened with the "star drive". Is the point that it never worked properly, that they hadn't connected it properly, or something else? I may as well ask how Kryten is able to eat the banquet: because it's funny.

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