Dave – 9:00pm – Thursday 2nd November 2017
Available to stream NOW on UKTV Play
Created by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Written and directed by: Doug Naylor
Last week’s bold, PC-satirising shenanigans certainly divided the hardcore fanbase (read my review of “Timewave” HERE), although overnight numbers have confirmed that audience figures for Dave’s flagship original (re-) commission went UP for last night’s broadcast on the official home of witty banter, so I’m hoping all new boarders who alighted upon the good ship Red Dwarf stick around for this week’s far superior slice of sci-fi sitcommery.
After Lister (Craig Charles) precariously accepts an e-cargo download from an unmanned craft flying into a black hole without first sending the rogue data into a quarantine file, the Dwarf goes into Yellow Alert (which means “someone’s in danger – but it’s not you,”) and suggests all hands abandon ship. However, before the anti-virus software can eradicate the electronic threat, the dispensing machines (voiced by XI’s go-to vocal gymnast, Daniel Barker) take umbrage at not being evacuated along with the crew and they go on strike, turning off all food processors, heaters, consoles, lights, lifts, doors and oxygen units, until they get equal rights!
Cue a battle of the twits as Rimmer (Chris Barrie) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) lock horns as opposing candidates running for Machine President, roping in Lister and Cat (Danny Jonn-Jules) as running mates as they adorn “smear gear” and attempt to get the upper hand among the skutters, tampon dispensers and cigarette machines on ship. After a slow start (with Kryten literally spending what feels like the first minute patiently waiting in silence in an empty room for a tardy Lister), “Mechocracy” sprints into a spec-tacular second half once the presidential campaigns get under way.
That unsubtle word play alludes to a minor sub-plot concerning the Cat’s realisation that he can actually read if he wears glasses, but aside from Rimmer using it to blackmail the Cat into helping him win the election, and an eleventh hour resolution which sees the fashion-conscious kitty forgo his education for the good of his sanity, this is little more than a goofy diversion (and I won’t even query why Cat even needs to see to read when his species accumulate knowledge through SMELLING the pages in previous series?).
However, the real gold in “Mechocracy” is mined in the powerhouse second half, which might be the most astutely written Dwarf ever, satirising the hollow promises of politicians and the low-down, dirty depths they will stoop to discredit their opponents. Campaign videos from both the “Lovely Fluffy Liberal Alliance Party” (Rimmsy) and the “Independent Future Party” (Krytie) not only incorporate classic series footage in ingenious commentary-driven montages, they also make a bold addition to series lore when Lister states that Rimmer has killed himself TWICE before. Now, we know the first time was in pilot episode “The End”, but is the second time a reference to his accident in “Timeslides”, or a hint at what happened in the lost decade after “Only the Good…”? Theorists, get theorising!
I cannot conclude this review without at least alluding to the most genius reintroduction of a classic guest character in some time. I won’t outright spoil the surprise here by naming any names, but needless to say this is whoop-worthy fan service in the most clever and uncontrived manner possible. Same chirpy voice, same infuriating-yet-adorable catchphrase and same distorted camera angles return when the posse require one more vote to break the deadlock and crown a champion.
“Mechocracy”’s faultless latter half would easily scoop a perfect score were it not for the slow-burn feel to the opening half, which didn’t even introduce the central conceit until post-ad break! Nevertheless, this is a high four-out-of-five episode, knocking on the door of greatness.
CR@B’s Claw Score: