Monday, September 19, 2016

Red Dwarf II Episode 1: "Kryten"

The Dwarfers find a legit robot and Cat tries to chat up a skeleton. Series II starts off strongly in my view, with an effective guest character, some surprisingly effective set design, good model work and a number of cracking gags. Probably my favourite joke in the whole thing is when Rimmer walks in wearing his incredibly elaborate dress uniform from "Me2", now with even more trim, and Lister says "You look like Clive of India." I think it's because so much is conveyed in such a simple expression; it's a curry gag, a class gag and a silly comparison all in one, and we instantly know what Lister means. Rimmer's line about being "Captain A.J. Rimmer, space adventurer" is classic, as is the "fear not" bit. We also get Holly's timeless "dog's milk" routine, Lister spray painting his backside and Cat's ludicrous gold space suit. The simple sets for the interior of the Nova 5 are pretty convincing, and I like the use of hanging plants to foreshadow Kryten's garden dreams. The brief glimpse we get of "Androids" is amusing too.
I wonder if the audience shouldn't be told that the Nova 5 crew are dead or if the dramatic irony is more effective. This is the cue for some more good woofers, including "I was only away two minutes", "Are you a doctor?" and "My mate Ace here is incredibly, 'credibly brave." I also like the way David Ross delivers the line "What about this one?" which seems to foreshadow "How 'bout a muffin?" from "White Hole". It's interesting to see this set up the nicknames "Bonehead" and "Ace", both of which would obviously be prominent in later series. This episode has a good Holly opening gag, summing up the characters' predicament quite well: "we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?" The Esperanto scene is decent, especially Holly's interjection. Holly gets another good gag when he's wearing a toupee: "Whose head's that then?"
Lister's story about art college is good, although the delivery of "in the afternoon" is pretty stagey and heavily signposted. "You can still taste the toothpaste" deserves a bigger laugh. We probably should have got a better shot of Lister's space bike, which is different to his other bike, for the purposes of the ending. It's worth noting that this is the first episode in which Rimmer is shown to have a sense of smell despite being a hologram, as he reacts to Lister's moon boots. The Blue Midget and Nova 5 models are both rather nice, although the composite shot of Cat walking out to the ship in his space suit is obviously pretty dodgy. There are some strong musical cues in the episode as well, including Lister getting ready, the moody music used for shots of the crashed Nova 5, and of course Kryten's cleaning montage.
This montage is quite funny, particularly the skutter eye-gouging and Holly's bemused reaction to his screen being cleaned. Another good visual gag in the episode is, when Blue Midget is returning from the Nova 5, Lister slaps the Cat's hand away from a control he needs to operate. The ending of the episode is a bit corny, but works well enough, and Lister's conversation with Kryten shows the characterisation of Lister as a bit of an amateur philosopher emerging. "Some give orders, others obey" is probably Rimmer at his nastiest in the series. I feel that the space bike shot, restored in the remastered version, probably could have been used in broadcast for a slightly better closing. The episode is a good start to the series, being familiar but fresh and showing a bit of a transition for the characters if only the early stages. David Ross's Kryten is enjoyable and there are some big laughs. Nonetheless I'm unsure if this interpretation of the character would have worked for Series III onwards.

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