Back again with the Boys from the Dwarf and this time we’re stumbling around metaphysical questions in true Red Dwarf fashion; achieving nothing.
The story this week largely follows Kryten as he goes through a midlife crisis. Finding that he no longer enjoys his old jobs, seeing the pointless of cleaning above eye-level if everything will one day die, he instead tries to recapture his lost youth by splurging out on material things. When this doesn’t the rest of the crew decide to have him meet another mechanoid like him and show him and how much he’s achieved via breaking his programming and being free. Instead however they bump into Butler, a true renaissance man who has perfected many arts and sciences while alone in deep space. After a foul meeting the boys decide to go home after Butler is called away by some GELF friends of his, finding a space station that was meant to be used in an experiment to make contact with the Universe itself. After receiving a call from the Universe Krysis manages to help both himself and the Universe come to terms with their mortality and decide to carry on doing the things they like. We end with the new Kryten trying to one-up Butler only to find out that Butler has the Universe on speed dial and deliberately send Kryten to say hello to solve his own issues.
The idea of mortality seems to be a common thread in Kryten-focused episodes, with him previously having had to deal with psychotic droids or lost love. For this episode however the story focus of the midlife crisis is an apt one for both the character and the show, largely due to the fact the cast are entering their twilight years. In the early part of the episode this sees the standard stereotype of a midlife crisis applied to Kryten, who takes on a racecar appearance for his body and starts listening to young people music in an attempt to seem ‘with it’ to the annoyance of the rest of the crew. Through the latter half of the episode however we explore the ultimate fact of life which is that it’s rather pointless and we might as well enjoy it while we’re here, regardless of what legacy we might leave behind in the process.
This idea of enjoying yourself is displayed well in the character of Butler, a character very similar to that of Legion from series 6 but far less tragic, who despite being a self-taught genius who has become a master of the visual arts and also curing all known diseases with time remaining to keep the ship clean and tidy. The fact that no one outside of a nearby clan of GELF (who he gets on well with) will know of his exploits or accomplishments doesn’t stop him from being proud of these things, even if he does comes across as a snooty dick in the process.
In terms of the visuals to go along with this adventure it doesn’t half fill it with special effects shots compared to the rest of the series so far, with quite beautiful scenes of the Dwarf going across the sky similar to the effects from the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica and scenes of GELF ships that look a lot like Klingon Warbirds. While they don’t necessarily fit in with a lot of the episode’s contents they don’t half add a sense of wonder and journey to the show that has a history of being limited by the 10’x8’ set.
While the episode doesn’t lack an ending like before I still can’t help but think it’s probably the weakest part of the episode. Despite introducing the Universe as this Morgan Freeman like figure, in an obvious nod to Bruce Almighty, and Kryten coming to terms with his issues rather quickly he then becomes almost immediately vindictive once again, deciding to try and one-up Butler for no real reason. While it is a funny scene, with Butler once again coming across as snooty, I can’t help but feel it undercuts the spirit of the previous scenes.
Overall the episode still remains a good one of the new series if slightly slower in pace and more philosophical in tone compared to the others. Let down by a couple of characterisation issues most of the plot thankfully stands up, exploring the very idea of why we bother at all, and comes to a fair conclusion that fits the show; it’s pointless but just enjoy it anyway.