Mr. Exposition

More interesting discussion at the TOS Board and once again Mr Ellard has expressed an interesting opinion which I felt merited an OD discussion. It’s regarding Series V of Red Dwarf and Kryten’s sudden change in character from doting, obeying bog-bot, to a fully fledged science officer with expositional skills to put Mr. Spock to shame.

Andrew Ellard:
“I’ve always felt that Kryten as exposition-bot was
just kinda flat; a character drained of a lot of his persona
in favour of forwarding the plot. I much prefer Kryten in IV
and VII/VIII.”

Now, I find this an interesting opinion, as I adore series V for precisely that reason. V took a more sci-fi approach, an approach which I believe hit the nail on the head, it was a perfect balance of comedy, sci-fi and characterisation and the result was perfection, in my opinion. However, this newer style meant a change in direction for Kryten and he took on the role of ‘Mr. Exposition’, giving us the background scientific knowledge and plot advancements at the drop of a deer stalker.

But does this leave Kryten drained of his previous persona and turn him into a weaker character as a result? Well, obviously when you bring in new character traits you’re bound to lose some of the old characteristics, but I honestly believe that the balance is kept nicely intact. We still see his titanic struggles with Rimmer (“Smeee Heeee”), his close relationship with Lister (“Wasn’t that just beautiful, sir?”) and his fussy old self is back in full force for the main of Quarantine (“Two hours it took me to panel beat my head back into shape”).

I could go on for hours about the degradation of character that I see in VII and VIII, but I’m far too tired for that tonight.

So: what do you lot reckon?

4 Responses to Mr. Exposition

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  1. I don’t mind his expositional tendencies at all, mainly because I accepted that as part of his character. Remember, the first series I saw in its entirety was V, so I grew to understand Kryten as BEING Mr. Exposition.

    Even so, I think it allows Kryten, as a character, more “breathing room” than he was given previously. Unless the episode was specifically his own (Camille, The Last Day, etc), Robert had precious little to do…other than tell jokes befitting a mechanoid.

    But to allow him the further role of Mr. Exposition it enabled him to be brought to the fore of plots that weren’t even his own.

    Consider:
    – His expositional skill allowed him to be paired with Lister in The Inquisitor…having paired Lister with Cat or Rimmer wouldn’t have furthered the plot at all, as none of them would have been able to piece together what was happening…and they’d have been doomed.

    – It also allowed him to shine without costars in the great opening sequence of Terrorform. Though his short term memory had been erased and his short term memory had been erased, he was later able to assemble the clues for the rest of the crew and explain the Psimoon.

    – It enabled the great (and clever) plotting of Legion, as it was up to Kryten to explain and demonstrate the antimatter chopsticks, and also to have figured out that the only way to escape Legion was to rob him of the consciousness that he shared.

    What I’m really trying to say, I guess, is that Red Dwarf NEEDED a smart character…and by giving Kryten the sort of narrative power over the show, it demonstrated his intelligence very nicely. In addition to giving Robert a role in the show that surpassed “comedy android,” he became the enabler for more complicated plots so that less time had to be spent by the characters figuring things out, and more time remained to explore the comic possibilities.

  2. You could say that Kyrtens more senior role in V and VI matched his own growing confidence amongst his crew.

    The Kryten of series VII/VIII becomes very little but a one-joke comedy android.

  3. I think that Kryten’s character is perfect in V and VI – precisely because one moment he’s explaining some bit of science in great detail, and the next he’s covering his ears because Lister’s calling him “tetchy.” It shows he’s intelligent, but emotionally immature.

  4. That’s a perfect explanation, Austin.

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