Thursday, 1 November 2012

Review: Red Dwarf 10.5: Dear Dave

Lister accidentally (or not so accidentally, I don't know)
chats up Vending Machine 23.
Red Dwarf - Series Ten, Episode Five - Dear Dave
Written 1/11/12

The lesser the budget, the higher the quality. That's always been a very general rule on Red Dwarf, and in this very, very low budget episode of a series that's already strapped for cash, there had to be something to say in the rule's favour. Dear Dave, I think, was much better off without cash to spend, as it instead took the whole episode to develop Lister in a really fun way that took the inklings from Fathers and Suns and developed them into real ideas. Themes and ideas from across the series were re-addressed, and done so in a way that combined slight vulgarity with absolute hilarity. It's my favourite episode so far.
     Lister is down about the Human Race, sad that he's the last member of his species; the other members of the crew are unsympathetic. While Rimmer gets a message from the computer that he will be demoted to the same rank as Lister if he doesn't find a reason to take a sabbatical, Lister accidentally hits on Vending Machine 23 and Vending Machine 24 gets jealous. A mail pod arrives containing dozens of letters, one of them from one of Lister's old flames, telling him that her unborn child may be his. He scrambles to find the letter following, and in the process helps Rimmer to write his sabatical report. It turns out that Lister isn't the father, but he's over it.
     The vending machines have been incredibly well-used this season, after first showing sentience at the end of Series VIII being voiced by a tired Tony Slattery. Here Isla Cole (I think that's the name, IMDb has nothing) voices both, and manages to create two distinct and funny characters. I do think that the vending machine plot was a little out of the way, but then again there wasn't much to the main plot either. I'm still not sure whether this episode's thinness of plot was a good thing or not - it allowed for decent character development while keeping the laughs high, but it never felt consistent and the solution to all of the plot strands felt unsatisfying.
Never ask Cat to play charades.
     But it was interesting too, and all of the actors really got their chance to sink their teeth into the role - especially Craig and Chris, who both really feel as though they're used to playing their characters again after such a long time. And that was weird, really, as at times the episode felt very similar to those first two embryonic series in which the characters were just being developed. And that was to its credit. I really did quite enjoy Dear Dave, and while it wasn't as pacey or imaginative as the good old days, it still make me chuckle in its own way. Next week we visit the provocatively titled The Beginning - is this the End for Red Dwarf?


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