Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Red Dwarf VII Episode 5: "Blue"

Lister misses Rimmer and the infamous kiss occurs. In some respects, despite everything, "Blue" is a classic Red Dwarf episode because it featured two major things: the aforementioned kiss and the Rimmer munchkin song. The rest of it is pretty forgettable, although I like the idea that Lister's nostalgia for the "good old days" are all times when things went badly for Rimmer in some fashion. That being said, while we could imagine the golf scene happening sometime between "Tikka To Ride" and "Stoke Me A Clipper", the "locker room game" scene feels out of place. This isn't because it's Rimmer in his Series VI and Series VII uniform, although the fact that he doesn't touch anything suggests that it's meant to be soft light Rimmer from Series I, before they started spending as much time with the Cat. I don't understand why they didn't put Rimmer in one of the uniforms from the flashback in "Ouroboros". The real issue, however, is that Rimmer and Lister seem to get along too well in this scene, making it feel rather unlike anything from the era (Series I) it seems to be trying to evoke.

The introductory element featuring Kochanski trying to reopen the "linkway" to the other dimension feels rather perfunctory and it's just an elaborate setup for the main thrust of the episode. It's noteworthy that apart from a mention of "my Dave" in "Epideme" and "the Kryten in my dimension" in "Nanarchy" this is the final time the "alternative universe" aspect really comes up apart from one joke in Series VIII. The bit where Lister calls the Cat "Rimmer" is quite clever, but the idea that Lister is wearing rose-tinted glasses about Rimmer sits a little awkwardly given that when he left he'd become a hero, in the first two episodes of Series VII he's not especially unpleasant, and in the finale of the previous series he also does something rather "brave", ie dashing off to destroy the time drive, something we see at the start of Series VII. Thus the whole concept arguably comes across as a bit misguided. In any event, the whole concept is misconceived because by dwelling on an absent, popular character, the show undermines itself by encouraging the viewer to regret that character's absence.

There are a couple of bits I like in the episode. I like Kryten's description of Kochanski as "she who must be drooled over" and the idea that Kryten named the washing machine. "Frank" seems to be a popular name in the Red Dwarf world. Hollister and Todhunter are both named Frank; Rimmer's uncle and his second-oldest brother were both named Frank; in this episode the washing machine is named Frank. There's another "Hermann Göring was a transvestite" joke in this one as well, much like in "Balance of Power" and "Meltdown". His warning about "spiralling out of control into the core of a newly formed sun" is kind of amusing too. Cat's joke with the baked potato timer and how "it makes us look like we don't know what the hell we're doing" got a laugh from me recently too. Poor old Kochanski has to deliver some dreadful material, though, like "cosmic seasoning" and "whoever the hell he is, I'm not going to get to see him." I do, however, like the indignant way that Kryten says "This is the medical bay, for sick people only." The scene in which Kryten confronts Kochanski and she ends up yelling at him is a complete misstep though; it's not funny or dramatic, and doesn't endear Kochanski to the viewer whatsoever.

I'm sure it's intentional, but I always found something deeply unsettling about the "Rimmer experience" with the weird makeup, and I'm not sure the representation of Rimmer as a complete narcissist who was utterly deluded about his own importance really works. By comparison, consider his "death video" from "Me2", which is essentially Rimmer wallowing in self-pity and blaming other people for his shortcomings, something fundamental to his character in other episodes as well, such as "Dimension Jump" and "Holoship". Rimmer is also quite open about his cowardice in other episodes as well, which compounds the sense that the "Rimmer Experience" doesn't quite derive its humour in a way that is consistent with the character. It might have been more effective if, like the "death video", the "Rimmer Experience" was presented as a kind of pseudo-tragic "memorial" in which Rimmer blamed everyone but himself for his failings. I know the point was to make Lister hate Rimmer, but the presentation of a disturbing hagiography doesn't quite work for me; it's more creepy than funny. Apparently the filming experience was very unpleasant for some of the cast, which fuels the performance at the end, but it's a bit odd to see them come out of the experience with Lister and the Cat looking furious and Kochanski sitting there with a big grin on her face (apparently she's the one who didn't find the filming of the sequence so horrible). The Rimmer Munchkin Song, however, is of course a classic moment, as is the kiss. The kiss scene is ripe with entertaining moments, from "Hello Listy" to the party-blower "Hey hey!" It almost makes me wish, however, that Rimmer would just step back into the show.

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