Back again with episode two of the new series and it looks very much like the ‘old tales with a new spin’ feel of the first episode is common throughout the series. Once again we have a basic premise that harkens back to the older series but is filled with fresh material and twists that make it into its own beast.
The story this time is the crew once again find a crashed human ship that is underneath the ocean, this time after discovering an escape pod whose occupants suddenly died in between discovery and being brought on board. On the ship they find that the crew all died in the middle of what appears to be a hedonistic free for all, with clear signs of backstabbings and people clearly in the throes of pleasure moments before death. In the midst of their exploration the team get split up, with Lister forced to spend alone time with Cat who decides to explain all his incredibly bad history knowledge while Kryten and Rimmer are forced to work together to find out more. It turns out that the ship is using tech based off of the ‘Justice Field’ from the series 3 episode Justice but this time the field instead rewards people via Karma, so bad people get shitty treatment by fate while good crewmembers get rewards. While this sounds good in practice two of the crewmembers, tired of the shitty treatment due to their affair with each other, reverse the field causing the slow descent into chaos that the ship went under. Thankfully for the Dwarfers they’re able to escape the ship by being dicks to each other, which is how they usually behave anyway.
While the plot itself is fairly basic storywise I love how they spin it in the episode. Right from the get go events are being effected by the reversed ‘Karma Drive’ on the ship, with Lister’s cheating at Monopoly being rewarded by Rimmer falling into bankruptcy, the kindness of Kryten killing the survivors in the escape pod, and Cat stealing from a fund for orphans to play a slot machine giving him a jackpot. This series of events slowly hints at the revelation but it’s only on a second viewing that much of it becomes clear. The episode also brings back an old staple of the show, the flashback, and uses it to tell the story of the two cheating crewmembers who eventually mess with the Karma Drive in the first place and how they initially intended to only leave it that way for one-night which they either never undid or was enough to screw everyone up immediately.
The inspiration for the episode is fairly clear for anyone who’s seen Paul W. S. Anderson’s work as it’s obviously a send up of the 1997 film Event Horizon with the episode’s hedonistic positioning of the skeletons reminiscent of the video of the crew from the film, complete with sexual and violent imagery, and how an experimental drive is the cause of the crew going mad, but this time due to cheating lovers as opposed to it being an inter-dimensional portal to hell.
The one main criticism of the episode I’d have though is, like last week, the pacing of the final third but unlike last week where the ending was rushed this one simply doesn’t have one, cutting to credits as soon as they mention getting off the ship. While I love watching Cat slowly torture Lister just by being thick as mince as much as the next guy I feel some of the stories could’ve been cut down and instead allowed for a better conclusion.
Overall it was another great outing by the Boys from the Dwarf, with witty dialogue and the inclusion of more non-linear elements for the story, that is only slightly soured by a rather blunt and unsatisfying ending.