Episode two of Red Dwarf X didn’t quite live up to the high standards set by last week’s series opener but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable outing and a promising continuation of the series.
This episode revolves around a plot strand first developed in the much-maligned Series Seven which informed us that Lister is in fact his own dad. It’s a classically Dwarfian (probably not a word) high-concept plot device and one which they scriptwriters utilise perfectly. We learn at the episode’s outset that every Father’s Day, Lister gets plastered and leaves a card for his dad, ie: himself, but is so hungover the next morning he doesn’t remember sending it. This time around, when hungover Lister wakes in the morning, he also finds a drunken video message left by his ‘dad’, in which he tries to motivate his son to improve himself and make more of his life. He’s finally trying to be the father he never had, or was, whichever way you look at it.
The video messaging scene is an episode highlight and Craig Charles does sterling work playing both the drunken angry dad and the eager to please son. He didn’t have a great deal to do in the first episode of this series, but Lister is front and centre this time around and Charles rises to the task and shows he can still capture the cheerful and mischievous nature which always made Lister so likeable.
While Lister is off trying to better himself, Rimmer and Kryten are busy trying to replace the ship’s computer. It was a shame that the show runners decided not to include Holly this time around as both Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge were excellent in the role and provided a valuable fifth outlet for choice lines but I guess we can’t have everything. It does feel strange not having Holly around in some form but in this case it did provide the opportunity for Arnie and Kryten to create a new and improved version of the onboard computer. As they begin to create the new image, Rimmer proves rather overly fixated on one certain aspect of the new young female computer’s look and at one point barks at Kryten the immortal words “I order you to pick 36D”.
The end result of their programming is Pree, an all-business computer very much in the Queeg mould (we are talking jape of the decade) who is so technologically advanced she can predict entire conversations and save precious time by rendering them completely unnecessary. Her ability to predict the future and cut down on wasted time is put to good comedic effect when she fixed the ‘B’ deck’s problems in the exact manner in which senior officer Arnold Rimmer would have asked her too, ie: badly. The two stories do eventually link in together with Pree calling Lister Jnr’s position on the ship into question and then setting the Dwarf on a course into the sun. Inevitably she soon turns against the crew, prompting a frustrated Rimmer to at one point call her a “mad goth bastard”. Luckily though, as is often the case, it’s Dave Cinzano Bianco Lister who comes up with a scheme to save the day.
The whole ‘are Chinese whispers racist’ gag did fall a little flat however, much like the 'hold-queue’ strand from last week it felt far too out of step with the rest of the show and like a needlessly broad piece of comedy thrown in for no good reason. This is only a minor criticism however, the joke wasn’t especially unfunny, it just wasn’t anywhere near the calibre of the rest of the episode.
Overall it was another well scripted and well acted outing from all concerned and it was pleasing to see that the good groundwork put in last week in episode one was continued this time out.