Red Dwarf – Series II Review

Back with more Red Dwarf and the second series already starts to move into more sci-fi territories, introducing small craft, moon surfaces and an android (or “mechanoid”) though only for a single episode (for now!) At the end of the day though the series is still focused on Lister and Rimmer as they try and meek out some sort of existence on the massive but empty Red Dwarf…

Synopsis (of Episode 1 “Kryten”):

Red Dwarf intercepts an SOS distress call from the American Space cruiser Nova 5, which has crashed on an asteroid, but the crew from the Dwarf are disappointed when they encounter the ship’s promised crew of ladies…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The Cat, Lister and Rimmer on a beach instead of grey corridors?! What madness is this?!

Series II has some all-time great episodes in it. Episode 2 “Better Than Life” is one that comes immediately to mind, which sees an old “post pod” arrive with new letters, videos and games for the whole crew, now reduced to just Lister, Rimmer and The Cat. One of the games is called “Better Than Life” and is a VR experience that allows the players to live out any fantasy they wish, something all three crew members take advantage of… until Rimmer’s inner guilt won’t allow him to enjoy himself and his general negativity and self-loathing ends up “corrupting” the game for everyone else. It’s genuinely great and often funny, plus some location shoots freshen up the feel of the show.

Then there’s Episode 5, “Queeg”, which sees Holly cock up a bit with Rimmer’s hologram projection and nearly getting Lister killed so as the crew badmouth him a second A.I. appears named Queeg, who claims to be taking over from Holly as he’s no longer able to do the job. The crew welcome the news until Queeg becomes overbearing, forcing them to do hard labour for very little food and takes control of Rimmer to make him do “holo-aerobics” against his will. The crew scheme to get Holly back but instead Holly gets himself erased… only to then reveal the whole thing had been a joke and he was Queeg all along. “We’re talking April, May and June Fools”. Again so many great lines and moments.

Holly plays with himself. (teehee!)

Episode 3 “Thanks for the Memory” is a good episode. After a booze up on an asteroid to celebrate Rimmer’s “death day” they all wake up and soon realise they’re missing a couple of days of their life, and Lister and Cat have broken legs. Rimmer assumes aliens and that the leg breaking was how they were saying hello (allowing Lister to reply “Jesus, I wouldn’t want to be around when one of them is giving a speech!”) but they soon find a blackbox recording that shows the events of the missing days. Lister had used his own memories of an old love and inserted it into Rimmer’s holo-memory as a present after the hologram admitted he’d only ever slept with one woman. It works for a while but Lister’s attitude and lifestyle were too different to Rimmer’s and he soon figures it out, decreeing it as a horrible thing to do to a person. They bury the box on the same moon (and drop the marker on their feet, breaking them) and erase their memories. It’s a fun episode, especially putting together the puzzle if its your first time round.

Finally Episode 4, “Stasis Leak”, is also a strong episode. The crew discover a, well, stasis leak that can take them back in time to three weeks before the disaster that wiped out the crew, and while they can’t bring anyone back they could change history and avert disaster. Well, I say that, but Lister tries to get his old self to run off with Kochanski and Rimmer tries to convince his past self to go into Stasis. Sadly for him this Rimmer is suffering from hallucinations and so when a hologram version of himself appears and says “In three million years you’ll be dead” he laughs it off as symptom of his illness (as well as an obvious statement of fact…) In the end Lister finds a slightly older version of himself already married to Kochanski (though looking back that future obviously never comes to pass…) and Rimmer of the past attacks Captain Holister, who is wearing a turkey costume at the time. So all is well…

The Bad:

I was tempted to make a Brigadier Bambera reference here, but I doubt many would get it… Wait, by writing that I technically have?! Oh well.

The opening half of Episode 1, “Kryten” is still a good laugh, with Lister, Cat and Rimmer hearing the message from Kryten that his ship is damaged and only three women survived and need help. They arrive on the mechanoid’s ship in their best outfits only to find the three women to be skeletal husks still in uniforms and therefore that the robot had just gone mad. That whole sequence is still genuinely funny, it’s just the next half, with the original Kryten played by David Ross just not seeming right after over ten series of Robert Llewellyn playing the character, and the fact it ends with the mechanoid breaking his programming, becoming a swearing “bad-ass” and heading off on a space bike, which makes no sense when the character reappears like his old self in the future. It’s fun as the one-off it was meant to be, but retrospectively it sort of… isn’t as fun to watch any more.

Episode 6, “Parallel Universe”, has never been one of my favourites. Holly creates the “Holly Hop Drive” that takes Red Dwarf into a parallel universe where all males were born female and visa versa and it was the females who were the dominant sex on Earth (plus it was Lister’s dog that evolved into a scruffy man rather than it being a female cat, much to Cat’s distress…) I just never found a lot of the jokes funny, and the female Lister and Rimmer are somehow much more unpleasant despite just being female versions of the actual characters. It ends with Lister sleeping with Lister, but our male version of Lister gets pregnant due to how it all works in their universe. This is how Lister has the twins we saw in “Future Echoes” in the previous season, though all of that (and much more!) is hand-waved at the start of Series III… It also has to be stated that there is a female Holly played by Hattie Hayridge, which also becomes more significant in the next series…

Overall Thoughts:

Kryten’s debut! Well, I mean, sort of anyway…

With only one episode I’d actually say I don’t like and two episodes that would easily enter my Top 10, Series II keeps up the momentum of Series I well. The next series brings about the first of many complete status quo changes, so look forward to that soon!

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