Thursday, September 1, 2016

Red Dwarf IV Episode 3: "Justice"

Rimmer gets arrested and a simulant strangles himself. In my opinion this might be the best episode of Series IV, or at least my favourite. It's pretty much got it all: lots of good jokes, exploration of a main character, an interesting sci-fi concept and a decent bit of action. It's also structured more or less impeccably in a mirror-image fashion, beginning with Lister's complaints about the lack of justice in the universe, followed by the journey to Justice World to contain the potential simulant, followed by Rimmer's arrest and trial and the introduction of the Justice Field, after which the simulant is confronted and defeated, and the coda wraps up Lister's thoughts on justice from the beginning of the episode. It all comes together very nicely, without the tendency that some such busy episodes have to leave things hanging.

If I was to criticise anything about "Justice", it would be that I don't think the location shooting is terribly effective. As usual, the interior of a futuristic facility looks like an old-fashioned pump house with pipes and valves everywhere and stuff. Perhaps I'm just overthinking it and such a facility would need all that kind of malarkey, but I doubt it. On the other hand, the "Justice World" model is incredibly good, and the very simple set used for Rimmer's cell is highly evocative and conveys a great deal with very little. Obviously the courtroom set leaves a bit to be desired because it looks like a hypnosis wheel threw up on a drama studio floor, but the strength of the writing carries this. While I find the justice boots kind of amusing, largely because they enable comedy walks, they are very noticeably just polystyrene when they're blown up by the simulant. The simulant costume, by contrast, is very good. Cat's costume, it must be said, is hideous.

It's probably worth dwelling a little on the idea of Rimmer's trial. It's difficult to say whether Rimmer holds himself to blame for the accident or not; he blamed Lister for it in "The End", although he takes responsibility for it in the death video footage in "Me2". Some argue there's a contradiction in this episode as Rimmer has never very sincerely held himself responsible, but I think that the point is to imply that Rimmer subconsciously feels a sense of guilt or responsibility due to his inflated sense of self-importance, even though it was his superiors' fault for assigning him a task outside of his purview. The fact that Rimmer doesn't realise what the justice computer is talking about shows that he doesn't consciously feel guilty; it's a suppressed feeling. This is also an interesting depiction of the nature of holograms. Here Rimmer is treated as being the same person as the man who died on Red Dwarf, despite being simply an electronic replica of him. It's an issue that the show never really explores in much detail; is a person's hologram really the same person as them? Rimmer even says in "The End" that "I'm not really me", so does that make him just a simulation of the person, as is suggested early on, or, as develops more and more as the show goes on, an "electronic life form" based on that person, or as a third possibility is he somehow an actual continuation of the original person's existence?

Turning away from such weighty matters, I like the idea of the justice field, although Lister's little speech about free will at the end doesn't seem to entirely relate to it. Perhaps this is one aspect that doesn't get explored to its full potential and is mostly set up as a plot device to kill the simulant at the end. At least it provides us with a great joke, Cat smashing the simulant over the head with a shovel and knocking himself out. There are almost too many other good jokes to mention; early on, some of the jokes about Lister's space mumps are a good example of the show's piss-taking writing at its best, especially Cat's "Maybe you could stick a spike on your head and pretend you're the Taj Mahal" and Rimmer's "Shouldn't you be in the greenhouse with the rest of the cantaloupes?" Kryten perfectly sets up the difference between simulants and androids: "An android would never rip off a human's head and spit down its neck." I really like how Lister says "Hi, killer," when he comes into Rimmer's cell, and the trial is full of great lines: "A piece of sputum floating in the toilet bowl of life", "Take the fifth!", "I'd describe the accused as a git", "Only a yoghurt" and "That is his crime; it is also his punishment." Robert Llewellyn deserves a round of applause after this that he doesn't get. Perhaps my favourite line that doesn't even get a laugh is "He's like the security guard on the front gate who considers himself head of the corporation." When you get so many woofers packed into a single scene, it's impossible for any sensible person not to recognise the greatness that is "Justice".

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