Dave – 20th October 2016 – 9pm
Created by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Written and directed by: Doug Naylor
BEYOND BEYOND A JOKE
Episode five of a standard British six-part sitcom series is – unofficially – considered the “dumping ground” for the less-marketable, less-spectacular episode of the series, hidden deep enough into the run that loyal fans are unlikely to be dissuaded from sticking with it, before the following week’s grand finale knocks everyone’s socks off.
Back in 2012, this ‘honour’ went to “Dear Dave” in Red Dwarf X, a hastily-written eleventh-hour replacement script which was only half-finished by filming night and had to be completed using green-screen during pick ups. To give the underdog credit, I have far more appreciation for the ‘love triangle with two vending machines’ scenario than the general consensus, but the cracks are clear.
Four years on and another introspective, character-based story steps up to the dubious penultimate position in Red Dwarf XI. The snappily-titled “Krysis” shares its Series X spot-mate’s catalytic theme of depression, albeit affecting a different member of the crew. The good news is that “Krysis” is an allround more confident episode which can in no way be regarded a dud. I will confess that it is my least favourite of XI so far, but as my previous four reviews justify, when the competition is so strong, finishing last does not make you a loser.
“I think I have lost something fundamental to my being… a light has gone out inside me.”
Unquestionably, there is a less chirpy milieu aboard ship this week. It’s Kryten’s (Robert Llewellyn) “Creation Day”, but rather than celebrating, the servantile mechanoid is lost in a fug of questions over his very existence (“What is the point in cleaning above eye level?”), themes touched on previously in VII.5 “Beyond a Joke”. Determined to revitalise his sorrowful friend, Lister (Craig Charles) – the man who helped Kryten breaking his programming back in Series IV – leads the group on a cross-universe search to track down a fellow mechanoid and prove to Kryten how much he has evolved from the pack.
There are an abundance of nice and attentive touches scattered throughout “Krysis”, such as the back-reference to the concept of Silicone Heaven first alluded to in III.6 “The Last Day”, a cheeky admission to the over-inflated look of Kryten’s hands this time out, and the welcome return of a G.E.L.F. Chief (Robert Nairne) – albeit a far buffer representation than ever before, from another tribe.
By taking Kryten ‘home’ to another ship from the Nova fleet we are introduced to another mech in the form of Butler (Dominic Coleman), an earlier model. However, his time alone has seen him greatly expand his knowledge, skills and artistic ability to the detriment of Lister’s lesson: rather than help Kryten, this self-satisfied savant just depresses him further. Kudos to Dominic Coleman for his even-tempered portrayal which never crosses the line into flat-out smug. Nevertheless, I will admit to being a little disappointed that the opportunity to bring David Ross back to the role he originated in Series II was not taken, nor the return of the penguin-suited costume.
Even the visual gag of seeing Kryten swap his custom grey-scale stylings for a Ferrari red shell “with twin exhausts… and a walking speed of 12mph” doesn’t push this episode’s gentler tone into a Series VIII extreme of broad comedy. This is much to its credit, as are the spectacular special effects which greatly aid the navel-gazing plot by amplifying what could easily have felt like a smaller and more confined half hour.
It is in the third act, aboard the star-gazing S.I.U. Space Station, that Doug Naylor really pushes the alien-less Red Dwarf universe into new territory – territory which may be more familiar to fans of Futurama and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Via the technologically advanced medium of, well, a house phone, the Dwarfers communicate with a God-like voice of the Universe (XI’s go-to guy Daniel Barker doing a spot-on Morgan Freeman impersonation) and ask him the meaning of life! It’s a bold move from the co-creator, and longtime fans will either applaud its audacity or abhor its implausibility, because unlike previous meetings of such magnitude (JC in X.3 “Lemons”, for example) this is not a case of mistaken identity.
“Krysis” neatly wraps up its plot threads with a reinvigorated Kryten hoping to finally get one over on the hermitised hotshot from the Nova 3, only to get something of a rude awakening. It’s a solid sign-off to a solid – if unspectacular – episode, despite its grandiose revelation. When you consider the journey Kryten makes this week, the sorrowful sanitary droid essentially talks himself out of his midlife quagmire, which makes the whole endeavour something of a superfluous escapade. Personally, that adds an additional layer of hilarity to “Krysis” because it is once again an exercise in staving off the loneliness of deep space, something the boys from the Dwarf have been successfully doing since 1988!
CR@B’s Claw Score: