Well, there’s certainly a lot to discuss. Red Dwarf XI has been densely packed with ideas thus far, and this episode contains possibly the highest concentration yet. With spoilers aplenty for anyone who’s not yet watched the episode, here are some of what we consider to the most interesting of these ideas, neatly packaged into subheadings for your convenience. These are based on just one viewing and a quick scan through afterwards, which for the record took place following the deliberate release, as opposed to the brief accidental one.
Red Red Whine
The news that this was to be a Kryten-centric episode sent shivers down the spines of some, considering the somewhat unpredictable characterisation that has been a feature for a good few series, and the fact that The Last Day and Camille seem so much longer ago than, say, Beyond A Joke. This is Robert’s biggest foray into the centre stage since then. We’ll get on to the reasons behind Kryten’s crisis later, but how did you feel about the way it manifests itself? The main visual reference for this episode prior to its release was Kryten’s sexy new red suit; consequently the reveal in the episode isn’t much of a surprise, but we do at least come fresh to elements such as the speaker system, the whizzy sound effects and the ability to spin round really fast. Plus, we really didn’t know how Robert would play it all. Does he rise to the occasion?
I ‘ate you, Butler?
It turned out that our suspicions about a Nova ship featuring in this episode were correct, and the Nova 3 introduces us to a Series 3000 mechanoid who looks disconcertingly similar, but not identical to, our own Series 4000. This is Butler, played by serial comedy guest star Dominic Coleman putting on an American accent, who features almost as prominently as Kryten for big chunks of the episode. There have been several notable guest performances already this series, but this is a particularly tricky task, considering the amount of lines to learn and the necessity to be simultaneously likeable to some characters and detestable to others. Where does it stack up?
GELF and Safety
Perhaps related to the non-specified amount of time the crew spend in stasis during this episode, they find themselves in a rather densely populated section of post-humanity deep space once more. A new breed of GELF is introduced, similar to the familiar Kinitawowi, but with a whole new look, vastly different from the BEGGs of Series X. They sound similar to the Emohawk model, but with a bilingual twist reminiscent of The Fast Show. They also have names, personalities and families, and the one we meet here is an old mate of Butler’s. Consequently the GELFs bugger off again, and that particular plot thread closes, leaving it feeling like a distinct segment within the bigger episode. One which contains sequences of up to six characters at a time saying “maaaaah”. A successful segment?
Aside from the bling-based accoutrements and trying-to-be-cool mannerisms, Kryten’s main role in this episode is to ponder life’s unanswerable questions, and it gets pretty deep at times. His very raison d’être is at stake, as he loses his passion for cleaning in the face of the bleakness of existence. His interactions with Butler then make him lose faith in himself, as well as bringing out his jealous side. But instead of squeaking about people lying, this time it eventually leads to him having pretty much a complete breakdown, to the point of not caring if he or the crew live or die. Kryten really goes on a journey in this episode, and it culminates with the next point:
Yes, in the Red Dwarf universe, the universe is a character. He’s played by Daniel Barker – quickly establishing himself as this production block’s Tony Hawks – who voices it with what is unmistakably a Morgan Freeman impression. This obviously raises many questions. Despite the explicit references to the uncertainty of the existence of God, the portrayal is in itself pretty God-like, with the suggestion that The Universe “created” the life within itself. Also, is it real? Is this literally the show portraying The Universe as a sentient intelligence, or is it some sort of Deep Thought-esque man-made approximation of an ultimate power? Again, it’s pretty deep, and as Lister points out from the safety of Starbug, very strange.
All of which leaves one to ponder exactly where this episode sits in the Red Dwarf canon. It certainly adds some bold new elements to the pantheon, for better or worse. At different times it’s reminiscent of varying eras from the show’s past, and there’s a certain number of similarities to specific past episodes, deliberate or otherwise, such as Kryten, The Last Day, Legion and Emohawk, just off the top of my head. But there’s also a number of potentially bothersome continuity queries. For starters, Kryten being the best part of three million years old can’t possibly tally with previous occasions where his age has been given, plus a Series 3000 mechanoid such as Butler should possibly look more like Lister than Kryten. Come on, show us your headcanon.
Is it shit or is it good?
It’s already become a cliché to say that an episode of Red Dwarf XI is splitting fan opinion, but once again it’s undeniably the case. Another cliché is to note that episode five is often where you hide the least good episode of the series, but – with only one more morning of frantically refreshing the UKTV Play platforms left – is that the case for Krysis and Series XI?
Let us know your thoughts on the above points, and we might deign to acknowledge you in our Live DwarfCast for Krysis, at 10pm on Thursday 20th October. And look out for our in-depth written review in the coming days.