And the straight after last week’s brilliant commentary on a current issue the show manages it twice in a row, this time switching out politics for technology.
The story sees the ship finally receive several million years worth of software patches after the feature is turned back on only to find out the JMC was bought out by a conglomerate called M-Corp. While at first this sees the delivery of many complimentary goodies it soon turns into a nightmare for Lister as it enforces a comprehensive exclusivity policy that sees everything not owned by M-Corp turned invisible, including the rest of the crew. Taking shelter in M-Corp’s artificial reality area Lister is soon rapidly aged as constant comfort purchases of M-Corp goods eats first his bank account and then his lifespan. Thankfully the others are able to walk back the upgrades and then use a backup of Lister’s brain to reset him, if reducing him back to Lister from several million years in the past.
It’s not hard to see the sort of companies the show is taking aim at, clearly shooting at the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Sony who routinely gate access to their product and enforce methods so that you can only buy their stuff, and here it ends up in a dystopian nightmare of a future where the corporations are able to twist reality itself to how they want it, leaving the humble individual alone in a world of adverts and contracts. To be honest it doesn’t feel that far off, at least some of it, with Apple forcing millions to buy new crap if they want to listen to music in the name of progress. The show also takes aim at the rise of the microtransaction, with Lister slowly coerced into buying more and more small items until it has a real effect on his life when combined. It’s incredibly sinister to watch the use of arbitrary limits on the most basic of non-vital tasks, in this case the ability to communicate, being used to normalise that instinctive purchasing behaviour to the point the poor sod is buying “friends” by the half dozen along with speakers and guitars he can’t actually play.
Both of the topics the show takes on are incredibly current, probably even more so than when the episode had been originally written, and the show I’d say is already at the top of the list in clever ways to tear them apart. Even with this seriousness however the show as per usual is still full of great humour to both add to and give a break from the social commentary, with Cat using his new invisibility to steal food from Lister whenever he wants and a medical machine accidentally predicting its own death rather than Lister who it was meant to be analysing.
The callback has really dominated this series and it continues in this episode but many of the callbacks are increasingly for the diehard fan. In this episode we see a reference to Rimmer’s implied abusive uncle who kissed him “thinking it was his mother” and the episode itself refers all the way back to the very first scene of the pilot where, after being rebooted, Lister wanders the halls driving Rimmer insane with his terrible singing/humming/cheek slapping. It all works as a real treat and a reward for “keeping the faith” through the years as it were.
Along with the callbacks the episode once again brings up the topic of the aging of the crew and how far they’ve come in the normal not serious fashion, with Lister not wanting to know how old he actually is while earlier mentioned medical machine complains about not being as energetic as it used to be. It’s nice to see the show continue to talk about its nature as an aged product and not try to hide it where other reboots/continuations have done to their detriment.
So there’s M-Corp, yet another fantastic episode of the reboot that sees smart commentary on social issues combined with the Red Dwarf high jinks we know and love.