written & directed by Doug Naylor
This was a strange amalgam of the classic Red Dwarf sitcom format (which Series X is an attempt to return to) and the overreaching action-adventure style that swamped Series VII. Consequently, "Fathers & Suns" felt more hit-and-miss than last week's premiere, although things resolved themselves well enough for me to forgive some of its bigger flaws. There were two major storylines this week, and each would have been improved without the other's inclusion. Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) and Rimmer (Chris Barrie) installed a new computer to replace the mysteriously absent Holly, resulting in the birth of beautiful AI called Pree (Rebecca Blackstone) whose USP is an ability to predict behaviour and carry out crew orders before they're even given. The second storyline found Lister (Craig Charles) celebrating Father's Day by sending cards and video-messages to himself, which he's forgotten making after getting hammered on GELF hooch.
Most of the first half was focused on Lister's paradoxical Father's Day (he's his own dad, as Series VII's "Ouroboros" unfortunately made canonical), and this was the big highlight of the show. I wasn't sure the episode would get much mileage from the idea, but having Lister interact with himself (via messages recorded while drunk the night before) was a very funny idea. The standout scene being when Lister was trying to outfox "Dad Lister" by refusing to follow his instructions properly without skipping ahead to the next message. Interestingly, this story was similar to Pree's in the sense that the drunken "Dad Lister" was likewise able to predict behaviour. I'm just not sure this was intentional, or a weird coincidence.
talking toaster. Added to the fact we're seeing far more of the ship than was ever possible in the BBC days (the cockpit, longer corridors, the dental room, a waiting area), and it feels like the scope of the show has effectively widened without compromising anything. Maybe we'll even discover where Cat sleeps one day?
Overall, I have conflicting thoughts. The less said about the extraneous running gag about "Chinese Whispers" the better, seeing as it resulted in material that got perilously close to racist. As a whole, this episode segued into Series VII-style nonsense by the end, forgetting that nobody ever watched Red Dwarf for action set-pieces and high-stakes drama. The episode should have been entirely about Lister trying to give himself a fantastic Father's Day, with Rimmer's input on the idea of fathers being responsible for how their children turn out. With fewer laughs than last week's "Trojan", slack plotting, and a storyline rehashing "Queeg" (to some extent), I can't recommend "Fathers & Suns" for anything other than the excellent Lister-vs-Lister scene (which Craig Charles did a fantastic job with).
- It's nice of Dave to tease the next episode at the end of every new instalment, but who's editing those montages? They're so random and communicate very little in terms of plot and jokes.
- I know it's only a silly sci-fi comedy, but why was hologram Rimmer affected by laughing gas? Speaking of which, who else prefers the days when Rimmer couldn't touch things? It just worked better when he was technological ghost, haunting Lister.