‘Dear Dave’ wasn’t anywhere near the best of series ten so far, but it speak volumes of what level this series plays at that we can say despite this, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. More than any other episode in this run, its plot seemed almost secondary and inconsequential. I mean loosely it was about Lister finding out he may be a dad… again…. but then it was also kind of about Rimmer trying to not get demoted and Lister coping with being that last human being alive. None of these really took precedence though, it was more like a jumble of several minor subplots spliced together to make up a whole one.
The opening exchange where Kryten queries as to why Lister is so depressed is almost a carbon copy of an earlier Dwarf episode as the mechanoid accidentally keeps rubbing in the fact that Dave is the sole human being left alive. Nevertheless, the scene is still well done and I particularly liked it when Kryters started comparing the human race to an old girlfriend of Listers, “I never thought they were good enough for you sir.”
Lister’s sense of despair and loneliness isn’t helped by Rimmer who is as supportive as ever. During what is becoming the duo’s customary early conversation, Arnie suggests that Lister wouldn’t know how to charm a woman even if there was one aboard. This leads into a strangely amusing scene where Lister begins to chat up the ship’s vending machines, with wildly differing results. While one machine takes great umbrage at Lister’s advances, another becomes strangely attached and she and Dave become rather close by the end of the episode.
The stuff in ‘Dear Dave’ involving Rimmer and Kryten is perhaps the most irrelevant of the bunch but it does start off with an excellent if predictable gag revolving around the JMC having received so many letters of recommendation for Arnie that, according to Kryten, “they have absolutely no option but to request you stop writing them”. The ship's on-board computer has also accused Rimmer of neglecting his duties and thus threatens him with demotion, a fact that terrifies him as it would relegate him to being on a par with Lister. This whole subplot is a little strange as it suggests that the ship’s computer still exerts some authority over the crew. I thought the whole idea now was they were out alone in space and authority could no longer touch them? Anyway, once the issue of Lister’s possible child comes into play, this whole demotion issue takes a rapid backseat anyway.
The idea that Listy may once more be a dad is brought to the crew’s attention by the arrival of a post pod. To be more precise, Cat brings it to their attention through the medium of charades. It’s great to see the full cast bouncing off each other in this scene as the other three try desperately to work out what Cat is trying to tell them (“death worm?”), though I thought Cats payoff line could perhaps have been a little better. Despite his minimal involvement in this episodes several plot strands, Cat is involved in my favourite scene of the whole outing when he rather unhelpfully tries to keep Lister’s mind off his possible parenthood.
Cat: “The key is, don’t think about it.”
Lister: “I’m not thinking about it.”
Cat: “Think of something else.”
Lister: “I’m thinking of something else.”
Cat: “Good. Cos if you start thinking about all those hours you were sitting at home, killing time, while she was probably on all fours, covered in money, while his finger-wetting machine was working overtime, it’ll drive you crazy. Now you get a picture like that in your head, it’s real hard to get rid of… What you doing?”
Lister: “What do you think I’m doing?”
Cat: “I told you not to think about it.”
Lister: “I’m thinking about it NOW!”
Cat: “That’s unbelievable! You’ve not listened to a word I’ve said.”
There are a couple of scenes which don’t quite work, such as Rimmer and Lister’s betting over who will get the first piece of post or when the two of them discuss the evolution of courting. Yet there are far more hits than misses, as is the norm for this series so far. It’s clearly not the most complete of the recent episodes and there was plenty in there which felt like padding, but there was enough good stuff on show too to ensure it kept up the quality of the series.