Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Red Dwarf III Episode 2: "Marooned"

Lister and Rimmer get stranded and Lister acts like a surprisingly bigger bastard than we'd expect. "Marooned" is in many ways the logical extension of the "bunk room" scenes from Series I and II embellished to essentially constitute an entire episode. It gives us some pretty serious insights into the differences between Lister and Rimmer and the nature of their relationship. It's interesting to note that the two of them get along fairly well in this episode, which shows the extent to which things have evolved past the first series at least, and more or less establishes their attitude towards each other for the rest of the series, as two people who don't have that much in common and don't feel very much affection for each other, but don't seem to actively dislike each other as much as they once did.

Obviously there are a few odd things to note in this episode, like the fact that Starbug has little to no power but Rimmer is still working. Must have bloody good batteries in that light bee they hadn't invented yet. Why does he need a jacket? Lister himself points out that he can't feel the cold. Maybe it's just to make Lister feel better. Furthermore, he can smell burning camphorwood, which I'm prepared to imagine a light bee can do, yet two episodes later in "Bodyswap" he's rejoicing at the restoration of his senses. Probably the most startling thing is that he's quite clearly pushing a button to broadcast the mayday signal. Perhaps his light bee is in his finger again. Maybe it's a hologram interface. In any event, those are just a few curious background details sure to appeal to the inquisitive nature of the Red Dwarf nerd incapable of just watching for the comedy.

As a development of the character it's quite effective. Comparable to his established belief in aliens, we now discover also that Rimmer's willing to believe in reincarnation. We also learn more clearly something we could have probably guessed from the previous series: that he's a bit of an armchair general who has very old-fashioned romanticised views of military conflict, something that goes badly awry in "Meltdown" but which would, in some respects, ultimately pay off many years later in "The Beginning". We also see more of his fraught relationship with his father, as he treasures the camphorwood chest as the only thing of value his father ever gave him. I often see people taking objection to Rimmer's "losing his virginity" story because "Thanks For The Memory" made a bit of a big deal about the fact that his sole sexual encounter was with Yvonne McGruder on Red Dwarf, but I've always thought that it makes more sense if you imagine that the story in "Marooned" was more of an adolescent fooling-around that he's embellished into a loss of virginity story to make himself feel more sexually experienced. Rimmer's satisfaction at the "marvellous" car this incident occurred in is also an amusing instance, followed up on much later in "Back to Earth" and "Trojan", of Rimmer acquiring Chris Barrie's enthusiasm for automobiles.

On the Lister front, we see even more of his feelings of loneliness and his entirely un-sheltered youth, with the particular example of his sexual precociousness being noteworthy. His feelings of abandonment, isolation and limited sense of his own identity are put on display, particularly through the importance he attributes to his guitar. It's a characteristic, not always dwelt upon in the show, that informs a great deal of his behaviour over the years. It seems a little odd, in hindsight, to observe the fact that he destroys Rimmer's chest, having destroyed many of his other possessions, in order to avoid sacrificing his guitar. It feels like the kind of weaselly thing Rimmer would do. There are various reasons we could imagine for this, but it still seems rather callous for Lister, who at other times we're generally meant to regard as fundamentally a fairly decent person. I suppose the point is to show that while Lister is a bit more of a "good guy" than Rimmer, he's certainly not without flaws.

Other things to enjoy in this episode include, of course, the model work, and some typically amusing lines and jokes. Perhaps my favourite is Rimmer's improvised performance of the Last Post for the wooden soldiers, with the obligatory squeaky off-note, cause of so many real-life smirks and sniggers during otherwise solemn remembrance services. His speeches after he thinks Lister has burned his guitar are good too, as are Holly's lines about black holes, grit and the scanner scope, which, like the nonexistent dilemmas of so many episodes from "Balance of Power" to "Queeg" to "Duct Soup", render the whole exercise completely pointless. Lister's description of Rimmer's historical heroes as "Patton and Caesar and various other gits" is memorable, as is Rimmer's about how generals "don't stick Newcastle Brown bottles in your face and say 'stitch that jimmy'," the line being particularly enhanced by Chris Barrie's delivery. Rimmer's "you can't have been a full member of the golf club then" is classic, and I have a soft spot for Lister working himself up to eating the dog food: "it's been charcoal grilled in garlic butter and is going to taste delicious. Delicious. Delicious." I like that Rimmer starts calling Lister "Dave" by the end of the episode before he's figured out what happened to the chest. This is probably an episode that's strongest on the initial viewing when the stories are more fresh, but it's still a memorable and well-written piece.

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