Friday, August 26, 2016

Red Dwarf X Episode 3: "Lemons"

While it has plenty of good laughs, "Lemons" is by far my least favourite episode of Series X for a few reasons. My primary issue with it is with the premise. As with "Tikka to Ride", I don't like storylines that feature the Dwarfers returning to Earth, albeit in the wrong time period. It feels too much like Doctor Who to me, despite the comedy element. On a very pedantic level, the way the setting is handled rankles too, although obviously only because I take it too seriously. But why are there Roman soldiers in India? Why does Erin, the lemon merchant, who is Indian, know about the Ten Commandments and speak about them as if she's Jewish? How can the Dwarfers understand what they're saying? If there was some "universal translator" explanation it would make more sense than "they speak the tongue of Albion"; in 23AD that would just be a Celtic language (I believe) almost completely unrelated to modern English.
The episode also sits uneasily with Rimmer's backstory and characterisation. If he doesn't believe in Jesus, thinks Jesus was "a hippy" ("Demons and Angels") and can't believe he "didn't go into showbusiness" ("Holoship"), why is he so excited to meet him? Similarly, why is he so dismissive of Shakespeare at the start of the episode when in "Marooned" he was so respectful of the Bard? You can of course argue that Rimmer is such a contrarian that his opinions are contextual, and that he tends to think whatever contrasts with the opinions of the others such that he feels different and therefore superior, but as a bit of a Red Dwarf anorak it bothers me. Furthermore, how does his mother's membership of the "Church of Judas" fit with his family's membership of the "Seventh Day Advent Hoppists"? ("The Last Day") Obviously I'm completely overthinking this; it comes with the territory. It's just easier to enjoy the show as a long-term enthusiast if things feel consistent. At least Rimmer asks Jesus to call him "big man", which is a nice call back.
To whinge on a bit more, I'm not terribly fond of how Jesus has a comedy Geordie accent, which I don't find especially funny, and I don't like the references to eBay or Wallace and Gromit; they feel out of place in Red Dwarf to me (as much as I like Wallace and Gromit, don't get me wrong about that). I think Lister's book on famous people is a bit repetitious of the book of weird facts used in "Trojan". The whole plot is a bit contrived as well, isn't it? If the remote control just needs an 8-volt battery, why can't they just use Kryten's or Rimmer's power supplies to do it? Given that both of them remain completely active for six months straight, they must have pretty good reserves of energy, or the ability to generate it themselves. It'd be easier to ignore this if it wasn't for the fact that Kryten constructs part of the battery by yanking a bunch of wires out of his finger later in the episode, which makes me wonder why he didn't just wire himself up to the remote and power it that way.
Moving on from that, I do find things to enjoy. Rimmer's complaining about Shakespeare's "skullet" feels appropriate and reminiscent of "Future Echoes" and "Emohawk", and his description of their "non-pickly lives in deep space today" and lack of knowledge of the contents of sixteenth-century pickle jars is very evocative of his sarcastic remarks about "the heady medieval atmosphere of pre-Renaissance deep space" in "Out of Time". The montage of the Dwarfers assembling the Rejuvenation Shower is funny too, especially the Cat playing with the wires and Kryten mucking around with the bendy tube. I do, however, find the Ikea joke to be a bit naff; the joke about the pack's instructions and unrealistic claims of simplicity and brevity is also very similar to the joke about the impossibility of assembling the Marilyn Monroe robot in "The Last Day". Furthermore, a second joke about Sweden in the space of three episodes feels a touch repetitive.
Some other funny visual gags include Lister's beard and Cat's much more elaborate costume in India, and I like that Lister says that fighting Jesus would be "like punching Gandhi." While I don't find Jesus himself that funny, something does amuse me about his expression of a bag having "strange cloth walls." My favourite joke in the whole thing, however, is probably when Kryten finds Jesus missing from bed, says "Oh. He hath risen," and then laughs to himself. Some of the criticism of Christianity is a bit heavy-handed, even for someone non-religious, but I do like the joke about the commandments being written "in a rush." I don't know why Lister and Rimmer object to the kidney stone operation so much, and I'm not sure if the joke about Cat accidentally eating Lister's organs, another similarity to "Tikka to Ride", is that funny. I do, however, like the defensive way Kryten says the operations he performed secretly on Lister were "all above board." Rimmer's joke that Jesus said "I'm back, baby, I'm back" is sort of funny, and I like the little anxious movement he does in his chair at the end when he sees what appears to be the real Jesus and Judas. "You're him off the Bible, aren't you?" is okay too. I like the revelation that he's actually "Jesus of Caesarea", although the comedy names of his parents and the "thingeth never taketh offethetheth" joke are pretty weak in my opinion. I do like the way Rimmer says "eight" when Erin asks how many lemons they need after their long journey. Another highlight which I think doesn't get the reaction it deserves is when Jesus says he has walked across the River Mersey, and Lister replies "All those old prams; it's not hard, is it."
Overall, because I'm such a hopeless case, I find too many silly, contrived or inconsistent moments in "Lemons" to really enjoy it completely, and to me it feels very much like an "off" part of Series X, although I realise that it's basically my problem for being too much of a big nerd to see past the plot and focus on the humour. There are funny bits, to be sure, but in terms of some core concepts I find it a bit too daft to fully enjoy it. At least this episode clearly shows some character development for Lister by following on with the "robotics course" thing from "Fathers and Suns", and establishes a decent reason for them not staying on Earth any time they accidentally get back there (he's looking for Kochanski, who's presumably still in deep space). Ultimately, I think this could have worked better if it had been written more as a mockery of modern Doctor Who's obsession with "celebrity historicals". I feel like the episode approaches this towards the end, but I feel a little more of this would have given the episode more bite than taking justifiable but easy shots at religion.

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