Sunday, August 21, 2016

Red Dwarf VIII Episode 5: "Krytie TV"

Lister and Rimmer become even bigger pervs and Kryten foreshadows the rise of shit "prank" (read: harassment) shows on the internet. Apparently, however, Kryten's fake beard in this is a reference to a mid-90s British TV "prank" show called Beadle's About which was already off the air before this episode was made, showing just how on-the-money and timeless the writing was for this series. This episode is the nadir of the entirety of Red Dwarf in terms of cheap boyish humour, the objectification of the female lead and the diminishment of Lister's character from a fair-minded egalitarian to an overgrown adolescent. How are we supposed to believe that he has any genuinely deep or noble feelings for the woman he professes to love if he's willing to watch her in the shower without her permission? I note that this is a Paul Alexander script, who had originally proposed a story called, in all seriousness, "Phwoaarr", which involved a sequence much like the ending to "Cassandra" but featured a virus which caused people to fornicate themselves and each other to death, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.
The establishing stuff of Kryten in prison is just ridiculous, and is stupid rather than funny. It's also, once again, pretty sexist: women skipping, women painting their nails, women with their clothes off in the shower. What's actually the joke when Kryten's painting his whole foot, anyway? If he's a robot, why's he in the shower? Why is he in the women's section of the prison?!? The idea that he doesn't have genitalia and is therefore a woman is a nonsensical idea that could be reflected upon for comedy, but it isn't. They could have at least given Kryten a "bunk room scene" with Kochanski to try to go into this, or literally into anything that might have given them more characterisation in this series, but they don't, so even in an episode in which the two of them are quite central to the plot they once again really become peripheral characters in the "Lister and Rimmer's wacky prison life" show.
That aspect has its moments, but again everything has to be measured against how vulgar the core concept of the episode is: Kryten being reprogrammed to film the women in the shower without their knowledge or consent, "another one for the boys" as it's put in the Series VIII documentary. Lister and Rimmer's reluctance to leave the cinema raises a smile, especially Rimmer's "one, two, go!" and then failing to move, as does their ludicrous comedy turn when Kryten starts filming Kochanski. Nonetheless it still makes Lister look like an unprincipled sexist, and while his bemoaning of seeing "all three terrible hours" of the thing is also kind of funny, it's hard not to feel fundamentally repulsed by the whole concept. Probably the only highlight is Rimmer imagining how Lister's apology letter to Kochanski would be phrased, imagining it describing "three gobsmacking hours of steamy fun" and how he was sending "two bags of self-raising, something I didn't need any help with yesterday."
I don't mind the character motivation of an appeal and it turning out to be about guitar strings. Ackerman's scene with his missing glass eye is kind of amusing too. The highlight, however, is probably "Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens", the concept of which is a pleasant relief from the relentless "hurr hurr naked women" humour of the rest of it, even if the film sequence has a self-indulgent reference to "surfboarding killer bikini vampire girls" from Series VI. Nonetheless, more humour of this fashion would have been preferable to the apparent humour of Cat saying "oh mama" or the incredibly awkward conversation in which Lister and Kochanski talk about her being naked, which makes me shudder in horror even to think about. Honestly, how objectified can the character be? It's also worth pointing out how nonsensically written this all is when Kochanski blames Lister, who at least informed her of what was going on, and does nothing to Kryten (his being reprogrammed and kicked out of the womens' section turns out to be ruse) or indeed the real people responsible, the convicts led by Kill Crazy who reprogrammed him. Wouldn't that have been a more appropriate finale - the Dwarfers sorting out Kill Crazy and his gang, perhaps with the assistance of a guilt-ridden, reprogrammed Kryten, a reluctant Cat who either didn't understand or didn't care about what they'd done, and a panicky Rimmer fearing it will endanger the appeal?
This is another episode which shows Series VIII struggling to decide what its main focus is, as this one tries to awkwardly hybridise the ongoing interest in Lister-Rimmer hijinks with a continuation of the unfulfilled romantic plot of Series VII, notably the only real time this comes up in Series VIII apart from some deleted material from "Back in the Red" and "Only the Good...". What does Cat do in this episode apart from saying the word "naked" an uncomfortably large number of times and making some cliché exclamations? The sequence in which Lister trashes Ackerman's room (thinking it's Tim the Chef's room) and then Rimmer helps him undo the damage is pretty feeble prop-based comedy. Why would Rimmer have Christian rock music? The whole thing's daft, and it's noteworthy that the episode has no consequences; despite their argument, Lister and Kochanski are hanging out like normal in the next episode as if nothing happened. This, however, is still not the low point of Series VIII.

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