Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Red Dwarf VII Episode 3: "Ouroboros"

Kochanski joins the crew and Lister finds out that he's his own dad. To its credit, "Ouroboros" makes a reasonable effort trying to establish a new protagonist for us who is meant to be Lister's longstanding love interest but is played by a different actress and who has a different characterisation. When framed in relation to the show's retcons, particularly the Series IV material establishing that Lister had a brief relationship with Kochanski rather than simply fancied her mostly from afar and hardly spoke to her, it works, but feels peculiar given that the original Kochanski, portrayed by Clare Grogan, only appeared one Series earlier (albeit several years earlier) in a hallucination. In prior series, Kochanski is incredibly "mythologised"; what starts as Lister's disappointment in discovering she's a pile of white powder in the drive room in "The End", and wishing to activate her hologram in "Balance of Power" and "Confidence and Paranoia", is transformed into an inexplicable belief he develops that somehow he'll "get her back" despite the fact that she's been dead for three million years; this arises in "Stasis Leak", "Queeg", "Back to Reality" and "Psirens".

Thus when she appears in "Ouroboros" there's almost too little fanfare; the whole thing feels kind of off, which is exacerbated by the fact that she's a parallel universe version of the character (a plot element quietly dumped after Series VII and barely referenced after the fifth episode of). Perhaps if they ditched the whole "she has her own Lister" element it'd feel less weird, but maybe that would have eliminated a point of conflict between the characters. That aspect, however, is ultimately not dwelt upon enough to matter. Furthermore, if Holly resurrected someone to keep Lister sane, wouldn't he have done the same for Kochanski? Why would he have resurrected Lister? Wouldn't he have resurrected one of her friends or something? Perhaps she asked him to do it; why am I thinking so much about this? Ultimately, I think if they'd explained a little more clearly why she's such a different character the introduction might seem a bit less anticlimactic. It also strikes me as really odd that despite being reunited (sort of) with this woman he's been pining away for over the course of years, Lister doesn't really ever talk to her about anything significant; he only has a single one-on-one conversation with her near the end of the episode.

What's funny in "Ouroboros"? Kryten's little titter after he declares how "hideous" Lister's broken tooth cap is raises a smile, although Lister's declaration that the Cat is "losing it" as he himself tosses tooth floss behind his ears requires too much repetition; it'd be better if he just shook his head and said "He's losing it, he really is." The "obscene phone call" after Lister shoots Kochanski in the leg is kind of funny, I guess. I like it when Cat says "You came in a box? That explains everything." Some of Kryten's whining about Kochanski and fear of abandonment is kind of amusing as well, but as I already stated the characterisation is pretty ridiculous and I don't like the way they altered Kryten's character so much. Too much of his jealousy also manifests in ways that objectify and sexualise Kochanski, which makes the character's role in the ensemble feel one-dimensional; the "make love to me you horny dude" line is pretty dodgy. I do find amusing the way he says Rimmer "didn't have any in-and-out bits, hardly at all."
The use of the GELF ship attacking the weird blue interdimensional tunnel in order to separate Kochanski from her own crew is pretty weak, and the second use of it at the end of the episode is pathetic, especially given that after blowing a hole in the tube it never appears again. I also don't like the way they rehash the "GELF bride" from Series VI either. Weren't they fairly technologically limited? Where did they get the starship from? It comes back to the contrived introduction of Kochanski. All they needed to do was travel to a parallel universe and find her in stasis in a derelict Red Dwarf that was falling apart or something. There's no need for the blue tunnel, hologram Lister or any of the rest of it.

What about Lister being his own dad? Kochanski says that she's "already in" the fertilisation device so it contains her genetic material. Wouldn't that mean that with every repetition of the time loop, each Lister was a bit more Kochanski than before? But I suppose you could argue that because it's a time loop, there would be no non-Kochanski genetic code, because every Lister would be part Kochanski and part himself, himself being also part Kochanski and part himself, which was part Kochanski, and so on. So really it'd be all Kochanski, all the time. Not only does it not make sense, but it isn't funny; it's just stupid. The only benefit of this absurd plot development is that it paid off fifteen years later with the Series X episode "Fathers and Suns", which actually does explore the comedy potential of a man being his own father. It also once again shows Lister using the time drive to go back to where he was found as a baby. Then why doesn't he just go straight back to Earth in his own time? It makes no sense. If Red Dwarf was just a comedy sci fi with unlimited time and space travel, a sort of Doctor Who with jokes (or New Who with jokes that were actually funny), it wouldn't matter, but the whole point is that they're trapped three million years from Earth. It also doesn't really make sense that the show is suddenly, out of the blue, interested in concocting a story about Lister's origins. It's certainly a mistake trying to do it at the same time as introducing a new character, and it's pretty sad that the very first time a woman is added to the main cast the plot becomes about children and reproduction.

There are some funny bits in "Ouroboros" but the story is overcomplicated and tries to do too much in a single episode.

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