Red Dwarf’s third series is the first of many complete shifts in setting, cast and tone that the show undergoes, this time adding Kryten as a regular cast member and setting several stories off Red Dwarf entirely. While I don’t think there is a complete dud in the series it is split in half between three all-time classic episodes and three other episodes, funnily enough in that order. Want to know more, or rather my opinions in review form? Read on!
Synopsis (The actual scrolling text that intentionally flies by too quickly to read!):
Three million years in the future, Dave Lister, the last human being alive, discovers he is pregnant after a liaison with his female self in a parallel universe. His pregnancy concludes with the successful delivery of twin boys, Jim and Bexley. However, because they were conceived in another universe with different physical laws, they suffer from highly accelerated growth rates and are both eighteen years old within three days of being born. In order to save their lives, Lister returns them to the universe of their origin where they are reunited with their father (a woman), and are able to lead comparatively normal lives. Well, as normal as you can be if you’ve been born in a parallel universe and your father’s a woman and your mother’s a man and you’re eighteen years old three days after your birth. Shortly afterwards, Kryten, the service mechanoid who had left the ship after being rescued from his own crashed vessel, the Nova 5, is found in pieces after his space bike crash lands onto an asteroid. Lister rebuilds the ‘noid, but he fails to recapture his former personality.
Meanwhile Holly, the increasingly erratic Red Dwarf computer, performs a head sex change operation on himself. He bases his new face on Hilly, a female computer with whom he’d once fallen madly in love.
And now the saga continuums…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Compare this image to any image from the past two series… That’s quite the direction change!
As I said the first three episodes are all-time classics but the one that will always stand out the most to me is Episode 3 “Polymorph”. What seems like an alien life form (though is actually man-made) gets on board Red Dwarf and uses its ability to change into any shape or object to make its way to where Lister is having a meal and after a few great gags to do with the creature changing into Lister’s underpants it appears in its natural Xenomorph-inspired body and sucks away Lister’s fear and cowardice, turning him into an aggressive and fearless version of himself. This is where the episode gets fun as the creature sucks out more emotions from the cast (ignoring wondering how it can suck out emotions from an android or especially a hologram…) stealing Kryten’s empathy and selflessness, Rimmer’s anger and selfishness and The Cat’s cool and self-respect. Several really funny scenes later and they track it to a warehouse-like environment and it ends up getting destroyed by the debuting “Bazookoid” guns, albeit accidentally. It’s one of those all-time classics that I could nearly quote in its entirety.
The two episodes before it are great too. Episode 1 “Backwards” sees Rimmer and Kryten falling through a wormhole and ending up on a version of Earth where time is running backwards, surviving by performing a novelty act where they do things forward to them but therefore backwards to the on-lookers. Lister and Cat follow (and take a humorously long time to figure out what’s happening) before getting the other duo to return, Rimmer wishing to stay because of odd ideas like there being no death and such, but it all becomes irrelevant as a bar room unbrawl de-takes place and they lose their job… before it unhappens. It’s a great episode that ends with a classic end gag, though if you actually stop and think about the order of events or how some things work differently in different parts of the episode you’ll lose your mind. It’s not actually well thought out, but it’s also a fun sitcom, so you can ignore it…
A nice fireside chat…. in a spaceship.
Episode 2 “Marooned” is literally 30 minutes of Lister and Rimmer having a classic Series I & II style chat, making fun of each other and their personalities like only they can. They become marooned on an ice world and Lister has to burn some of Rimmer’s possessions to survive being the main crux of the story, but it has some properly funny dialogue. Not much else to say about it, but it is a hilarious half hour.
Episodes 5 “Timeslides” and 6 “The Last Day” are good as well, though not up to the three opening episodes. The former sees Kryten discover that the photo developing fluid has mutated and brings the photos to life, eventually allowing the crew to “jump” into the frames. This allows Lister to visit his younger self and put him on course to becoming mega-rich, but Rimmer then drops back into the past himself and undoes it because it’s “his duty as a complete bastard”, a line that never ceases to make me laugh. The latter episode on the other hand sees the crew receive a video declaring that Kryten has reached the end of his warranty and his replacement would be arriving soon, leading to a fun party for the mechanoid as well as a look at his belief in “silicon heaven” and a general humorous analogy on religion. It ends with a showdown with the replacement droid after its revealed it had gone insane during all the years waiting to be activated.
Lister in the middle of the “unrumble” which got Rimmer and Kryten fired, despite the fact that they did a show after the fight due to the nature of things going backwards *shrug* Best not to think about it.
The only episode I don’t particularly rate is Episode 4 “Bodyswap”. It, as the title suggests, uses the classic bodyswapping storyline with Lister and Rimmer using weird technology to achieve the result so Rimmer can have a living body again and get Lister’s body into shape for him… but instead he pigs out on food, smokes loads of cigars and generally does the opposite thanks to being unable to do any of the sort for a long time. It’s okay, but the main story is a bit tired and the pigging out scenes aren’t that funny to me. There are at least one or two good gags at the end where Rimmer uses Kryten’s inability to say no to a direct order to steal some more bodies, but overall I just don’t like the episode that much, especially compared to all the episodes that surround it.
Lister comes face-to-face with Lister.
Red Dwarf – Series III has such a high hit-rate that I have to give it an overall five. The first three episodes would easily end up in my top 10 Red Dwarf episodes ever and two of the other three are still really enjoyable. Thanks to that I’ll give the one duff episode a pass, and look forward to the next batch! I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the series still holds up so much…