Friday, 2 November 2012

RED DWARF X – 'Dear Dave'

Friday, 2 November 2012

written & directed by Doug Naylor

A slightly better episode this week, although obviously not a patch on classic Red Dwarf—but the rekindled hope of a return to form fizzled out weeks ago. I was just grateful "Dear Dave" kept things relatively simple, although there was still a half-arsed attempt to bring every single plotline together in a manner that didn't work. What helped this week's episode was letting Lister (Craig Charles) and Rimmer (Chris Barrie) share the screen for the longest time in Series X—resulting in some decent moments like Rimmer's theory about "dead moves" men used to attract girls, and their competitiveness over the delivery of some mail to the ship (which even included a moment of quintessential Rimmer-ness that, briefly, reminded me of the good old days).

"Dear Dave" was mostly about Lister's sense of ennui as the last human alive, and how his life has grown hollow and empty without the human race. It's something that felt like a better fit for Series I and II, back when Red Dwarf simmered with the subtext of loneliness in-between the jokes, but I didn't mind the idea being reiterated now Lister's middle-aged and chatting up vending machines. By the by, those talking vending machines appear to be something Doug Naylor's incredibly keen on this series. They've almost had more lines than Cat (Danny John-Jules), who rather strangely didn't make an appearance until a third of the way through this episode... but, one again, proceeded to steal the show from the others because his comic timing's less rusty. That said, a potentially funny moment with Cat breaking bad news via a game of Charades didn't work as well as intended because it was too drawn out.

This wasn't a particularly good episode, but it had more individual moments of amusement than previous half-hours this year. Lister's discovery that an old girlfriend may have fathered him a child, leading to a discussion with Cat about his love-rival Roy's "finger wetting" machine; or the genuinely amusing moment when Lister was caught trying to "have sex" with a vending machine that had fallen over (ignoring the fact Lister's IQ dropped by 90% if he thought laying atop a vending machine is the best position to pick up a fallen one). It was a shame the script again started to overburden itself with extra ideas like Rimmer's attempt to bribe the Med-bot with surplus toilet roll savings, resulting in Cat shuffling around the ship looking for something to wipe his arse with. But compared to last week's long-winded "Entangled", this episode was considerably less busy and focused on telling a character-based story. It wasn't an especially riveting, insightful, or funny character-based story, but at least it provided a backbone for moments that raised the odd smile and wry grin. Faint praise? Oh, definitely; but beggars can't be choosers.

1 November 2012 / Dave