After the first two episodes of the new series confined the action primarily to the interior of the Dwarf itself, this outing gave the crew a chance to visit a strange new world, or a strange old world, as the case may be.
After Kryten finds a flat-pack rejuvenation machine (as you do) and the gang eventually manage to put it together, they are accidentally transported back to Earth and land in Britain in the year 23AD. Unfortunately however the return-home remote has run out of batteries and a return journey looks rather difficult. Luckily though, Rimmer remembers an old schoolboy experiment involving using a potato as a makeshift power source. Unfortunately, as good of an idea as this is, Kryten tactfully points out (reminiscent of the classic “an excellent plan Sir with just two main drawbacks…” line), Britain won’t actually get the potato until the 16th Century. Rimmer then suggests that they decide to look for lemons instead. Unfortunately, Kryten again helpfully points out that Britain won’t yet have lemons until the 14th Century either. As a result the crew embark on a mammoth trek to India where the citrus fruit is already common place. Once in India, they bump into a peace-loving bearded do-gooder called Jesus and, as one might expect, the Dwarfers end up befriending the stranger and eventually wind up back on the ship with the apparent son of God in tow.
The concept of the crew meeting Jesus (…sort of) and taking him back aboard the Dwarf is one that is seemingly tailor-made for the Red Dwarf brand of comedy and yet while ‘Lemons’ is a perfectly enjoyable offering, it doesn’t quite match up to the first two outings of the series and is perhaps a slight missed opportunity.
The opening scene-setting conversations between Cat and Lister and then Lister and Rimmer weren’t quite up to the standards of previous weeks and Rimmer’s Shakespeare rant in particular fell a little flat. I know its needless nit-picking too but Rimmer has always been the kind of pretentious chap who would wax lyrical about the beauty of Shakespeare even if he didn’t remotely understand it. See that glorious “Now…” speech moment in ‘Marooned’ back in series three for proof.
After these opening exchanges, there followed the group assembly of the rejuvenation machine. The montage worked fairly well and had a few laughs in it, but it did feel a little out of step with the standard Dwarf humour. There seems to be an example of this every week so far where the writers are trying to inject a more slapstick/broader comedy moment into the mix and it tends to have fairly mixed results at best. Varying the regular formula isn’t always a bad thing, but it has fallen a bit flat on several occasions now. Also, the rejuvenation machine as a concept felt like a bit of a convoluted way of getting the gang down onto Earth. Surely the creative team could have come up with something a bit better? How many time machines and teleporters of one type or another can Kryten find aboard the Dwarf?
A lot of time was spent in this episode getting the crew into position to meet ‘Jesus’ and once they did there wasn’t perhaps enough time to really explore the concept fully. He’s only onboard the Dwarf very briefly and this is arguably perhaps where the greatest comic potential existed. For example, when ‘Jesus’ does find out about Christianity and what atrocities were committed in his name, it was done off-screen and explained only in a bit of throwaway exposition. I’d have liked to have seen the crew themselves break the bad news to him personally.
All that being said, there were still some great moments peppered throughout ‘Lemons’. Cat going all cat-like and batting at a piece of tubing as they try to assemble the rejuvenation machine and Rimmer taking out his imaginary hand-calculator were particular highlights. There were also some pretty good lines in there too, with Lister getting the two best ones with his to-the-point “right… so have you got any lemons” and “No Christmas? We’ve killed Wallace and Gromit” really hitting home.
There was also a first hint at perhaps a broader story arc developing over this series as Lister mentions that they need to get back to the Dwarf and carry on searching for Kochanski. This is the first time in the series this search has been mentioned and perhaps it will be developed upon in futures episodes.
The cast were all on top form yet again and on the whole, it had enough quality moments to ensure that the series maintained its winning streak thus far, even if it wasn’t an instant classic. It wasn’t quite as funny as the boys from the Dwarf meet ‘Jesus’ could have been, but it was still extremely enjoyable.