(SPOILER WARNING: The following is an in-depth critical analysis. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, you may want to before reading this review)
I remember @veronica-rich remarking that they weren’t enjoying Series 12 as much as they wanted to. I have to say I agree wholeheartedly, and I think I know the reason why it’s not clicking with me. Series 12 seems to have shifted Red Dwarf away from its character based roots and more into the realms of social satire. Now this isn’t necessarily a problem of course provided it’s done well. And that’s the problem. We’re halfway through the series now and out of the three episodes, I think Cured is the only one that actually works. Siliconia was a muddled, uninspired mess, and Timewave… Oh God, Timewave.
Things start off reasonably well. Rimmer names a planet after himself, Lister makes a crack about how he’s so full of gas, and then the titular time wave shows up, which makes a 24th century ship appear and embark on a collision course with Planet Rimmer. A ship that has made criticism illegal… and this is where the problems start to crop up.
It’s not necessarily a bad idea. An episode that explores the purposes of criticism could be really interesting. How society needs criticism in order to progress and improve, as well as the psychological effects of criticism. How too much can impact a person’s self esteem and how a very critical person can develop an inflated sense of self worth (I know what you’re thinking and you can cut that right out. If I hear anyone making any smart-arse remarks about me, I’m going to be very, very cross). The problem is it’s all pretty much dealt with in a quick five minute conversation among the Dwarfers. Everything after that just feels kind of pointless. Sure there’s the supposed novelty of exploring what a society without criticism would look like, but the issue is… well… how can I put this?… It’s shit.
It was when the ship’s captain entered the scene in that ridiculous dress and started flapping his arms around childishly that I realised I was going to hate this episode. Rather than actually explore what a criticism-less society would look like, Doug Naylor seems more content with just shoving any old random crap together and calling it an episode. The captain wears a dress, the waitress is on roller skates and pours coffee on people’s testicles, and Johnny Vegas is wearing a bright pink policeman’s uniform for some reason. Isn’t that hilarious? Well… no, actually, because there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for any of this, none of the characters are well developed and the society is so extreme and lacking in any kind of depth or nuance that it actually fails to make any kind of impact because you never believe for a single second that a society like this could actually exist. This isn’t clever satire. This is just meaningless nonsense.
What’s worse is that the rules of this society don’t even seem that consistent. Criticism is illegal, but we see people break that rule dozens of times with no repercussions. What about the guy that was sentenced to life for tutting? Tutting isn’t really criticism, is it? And by calling the Crit Cops, isn’t the person effectively criticising another person’s behaviour? What about when Johnny Vegas’ character finally gives in and starts criticising… in front of a bunch of other Crit Cops. Why isn’t he arrested? He even tells the Dwarfers to run away and escape… in front of the other Crit Cops. Why doesn’t the captain have Rimmer arrested when he questions why the hairdressers are the ones fixing the lifts? In fact why are the hairdressers fixing the lifts? Maybe they all wanted a career change and no one told them otherwise because that would be criticism… except that’s not criticism though, is it? That’s basic discipline. The hairdresser should not be fixing the fucking lift. Surely a law that prevents criticism shouldn’t stop a captain from giving his own crew orders, should it? Good God, this is so dumb!
As I say, it’s all so extreme and lacking in nuance that it strips the setting of any kind of believability and it negatively impacts the humour. In fact a lot of the jokes in Timewave feel really off. For instance, I’ve never been a big fan of Johnny Vegas, but I don’t think anyone could have really made that breathalyser scene work. It felt like one of those really awkward comedy sketches you’d find being performed at a bad improv club. Then there’s the Cat dropping the bombshell of the Crit Cop’s wife’s ‘droopy ass titties’, which has got be quite possibly the most un-Red Dwarf line I think I’ve ever heard. It’s just too crude. And don’t get me started on the joke Rimmer makes about how Helium 7 is rarer than an ungroped women’s bottom at the BBC during the 70s. Tactless doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Of course then Doug Naylor tries to apply all of this to the characters, which was never going to work. If the foundations are shit, how do you expect to build a solid house on top of it? So when Rimmer’s inner critic showed up, I just let out a massive groan. Not only is the inner critic basically a kissing cousin to the Self Loathing Beast from Terrorform, it also runs into the same problem that Siliconia had where I just don’t buy Rimmer would feel this negatively about himself post Series 10.
Now when I mentioned this in my previous review, it caused quite a stir with loads of people giving their opinions as to how it’s perfectly in character for Rimmer to want to be a robot due to his self loathing and how there’s no easy fixes to mental illness and so on. Here’s the thing. I don’t disagree with any of that. They’re right. Rimmer will probably always have self esteem issues, but I can’t help but feel those people have completely missed the point of what I was trying to say. I admit this may be my fault because I may not have explained myself very well, so let’s try this again.
In the US TV series Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict. In Season 1, he was arrogant, misanthropic, and dismissive of others, including his sober companion Joan Watson. Over the course of the show, he learned to open up and make friends, even making Watson his protege and later partner in his detective work with the NYPD. In the Season 3 finale, Sherlock has a relapse. What happened? Did Sherlock revert back to his misanthropic ways? Of course not! That would be insulting to the audience because it would completely disregard three years worth of character development. Sherlock is not the same person he was at the beginning of Season 1. He has more respect for the recovery program, he has more respect for Watson and he now has better coping strategies. Sherlock Holmes will always be a drug addict, but while the problem may remain constant, the character does not. Characters change. Characters grow. Characters evolve. That’s what makes them compelling to watch.
The same applies here. The Dwarfers are not the same characters they were at the start. Lister has grown more mature and idealistic, Kryten has learnt to think independently, the Cat has developed a stronger emotional attachment to the other characters, and Rimmer has slowly been letting go of his numerous hangups. This is why I didn’t like Rimmer wanting to be a robot in Siliconia, at least not for the reasons he listed. While Rimmer will always have self esteem issues, the character has grown more self confident and more comfortable with himself over the course of the show. Even the dynamic between him and Lister has shifted. Before their antagonism was fuelled by a mutual hatred. Now it’s more of a friendly rivalry because the two have learnt to accept each other for who they are. So no, I don’t buy that Rimmer would be more content as a robot or that his inner critic would still have this much of a hold over him after all this time. Sorry.
The only reason you would drag a character backwards is if you were starting to run out of ideas, and Rimmer’s inner critic demonstrates that to me quite conclusively. Rather than coming up with a new problem for Rimmer to confront, or at the very least taking Rimmer’s character growth into consideration and using it to come at an existing problem a different way, Doug Naylor has now started to repeat himself. But there’s only so many times you can do the whole self loathing thing before it all starts to become really boring. And that’s where I’m at with Rimmer right now. How many times do we have to address the self loathing thing before we can finally move on to something else? It’s not as if the inner critic brings anything new to the table. Rimmer is angry at his parents and is annoyed he never achieved his dreams. Yeah, big shock. And in other news, scientists have discovered that water is wet. Is there any chance we can actually do something with it instead of just constantly reiterating it? As Timewave went through the same tired mantra of Rimmer facing his inner demons to once again come to the same conclusion he has before that he does actually have self worth after all, I was sat there wistfully thinking of how much more interesting this would have been if we saw the other characters’ inner critics instead. What’s Lister’s inner critic like? What about the Cat’s? Does he even have an inner critic considering he thinks of himself as perfect? Sigh.
What makes the whole inner critic thing even worse is that it feels like the conclusion to a character arc that never even existed. If Timewave started with Rimmer trying to do something like pass his astro-navigation exams or something and his inner critic was convincing him he wasn’t good enough, then Rimmer defeating his inner critic at the end would have more payoff and would actually make sense in the context of the story. Instead it all just feels completely random. And that’s by far the biggest problem with Timewave. There doesn’t actually seem to be a point to anything. It’s just a bunch of random happenstances bundled together with no proper plot or theme connecting them. Even the threat of the time waves are swiftly dropped once they’re introduced.
@janewahay mentioned how people who liked Siliconia didn’t seem to like Timewave and vice versa. In my opinion, they’re both just as bad as each other. Both share the same problems. Both have poorly thought out ideas, sloppily constructed narratives, painfully unfunny gags and both are guilty of dragging Rimmer’s character development backwards to explore aspects of his personality that we already know about in great detail and that there’s no reason to go over again.
Mmmmmmmmm! Oh yeah, that’s good criticism! I’m so high on self worth right now!
Slash Watch: Yes, we have some slash worthy content this time around, so @allsortsofsmeg and @janamelie can stop nagging me now.
For those of you who don’t know, as a petty way of combatting the few idiots within the Red Dwarf fandom that give slash fic writers a bad time, I usually seek out and draw attention to slashy moments and gay innuendo that exists within the show, usually followed by the words ‘Unleash The Gay’ in big, bold capital letters and a GIF of Ace Rimmer from Stoke Me A Clipper bodysurfing a crocodile. It’s usually just a bit of harmless fun, but this time I want to take the opportunity to talk about something a bit more serious.
Timewave is significant in that the captain of the criticism-less spaceship is the first gay character to appear in Red Dwarf. I know they don’t ever say it on screen, but let’s face it, they don’t leave an awful lot of room for doubt. He’s effeminate, he’s clearly attracted to Lister as proven by him mentioning how cute he finds Lister’s accent, and the suggestive way he holds that feather duster is pretty much what sealed the deal for me. He’s gay. No question.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that Doug Naylor is willing to include, or at least very heavily imply, that there are gay characters in the Red Dwarf universe. I will always applaud writers that are willing to do that. However I do have a major problem with how this is implemented, and I’m sorry to say it’s the stereotyping. Of course the first gay character is an effeminate man in a dress (all they need now is the butch lesbian, the promiscuous bisexual and the emotionless asexual, and they’ll have the full set). Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with being an effeminate man in a dress. I’m an effeminate man in… well I’m in trousers today, but I’d be more than happy to wear a dress if the mood takes me. Hell, I self identify as a queen for God’s sake. (for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of meeting me in person, think of me as sort of a cross between Dylan Moran and Julian Clary). However there needs to be more to the character than just being an effeminate man in a dress. Also context is key. In his stand up shows, Julian Clary often uses his camp persona as a weapon, and the humour comes from seeing him in full control as he makes the straight men in the audience all flustered. He’s the one with the power. Here in Timewave however, the captain isn’t in control at all and his effeminate behaviour and dress sense is clearly meant as a source of ridicule, which I thought was just a cheap shot and a little bit insulting if I’m honest.
It also doesn’t help that this comes right off the heels of camp Hitler from Cured (and for those of you wondering why I didn’t do a Slash Watch on that, it’s because I really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of shipping Lister with Hitler, even in jest). As I say, it’s great that Doug Naylor is prepared to include LGBT characters in the show, but I would prefer it if we could have more positive representation in future please. Have an LGBT character who’s well developed and is funny for reasons other than being an effeminate cross-dresser.
If you’ve ever wondered about how Terence McKenna came up with his peculiar ideas and wanted to know more about the events he and his brother Dennis went through in the Amazon jungle back in 1971, this documentary is for you. Unearthed photos, stories, and an effort to create some form of visual experience from the underground classic book and talking book ‘True Hallucinations.’ For free, on YouTube, getting released on March 4th. Subscribe to this channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAlaRdrcQcY
This singularity that we’re approaching, it’s like a transition from a low dimensional world, of say two or three dimensions to world of four, five of six dimensions. This is what I believe happens to a human brain-mind system under the influence of psychedelics. So, in a way, the best practise for the approaching singularity is the repeated dissolving and reconstituting of ones personality through the use of psychedelic substances.
(SPOILER WARNING: The following is an in-depth critical analysis. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, you may want to before reading this review)
In the wake of my less than flattering views on Siliconia and Timewave, I’ve actually received a lot of kind messages from people telling me that I was really going to enjoy Mechocracy and that they were really looking forward to my review. Thanks guys! That really means a lot to me :)
So what did I think of Mechocracy? Um… yeah, it was okay. Not great, but it was alright.
Things go off to a really strong start with Rimmer teaching Kryten the art of patience in his own impatient manner, which leads to Kryten delegating the task of mopping B deck to Rimmer as part of the course. I chuckled somewhat at this, but then when they revealed that this was all a massive deception engineered by Kryten in order to master the art of manipulation, I nearly wet myself laughing. Look how far he’s come since the Nova 5!! He did so well! Definitely deserved a round of applause that!
It’s also an excellent way of justifying Rimmer’s behaviour as the episode goes along. Is it me or is Rimmer being just a little bit more malicious than usual? Blackmailing the Cat over his reading glasses. Promoting Lister and then demoting him again whilst using the memory of his gran as an emotional ploy just as a further twist to the knife. This is downright cruel and I would argue takes Rimmer a step too far down the antagonist road, but you could interpret it as being his petty and spiteful revenge for this opening gag. It could also be partly what motivates him to run for Machine President, as a way of getting his own back, and it also makes his ultimate punishment at the end, trapped in the garbage hold with Talkie Toaster, that much more satisfying.
The whole sequence with the SOS virus is great and feels like classic Red Dwarf in a way Series 12 really hasn’t up until now. The lifts, skutters and snack dispensers all get angry that the Dwarfers were just going to leave them to die and decide to go on strike. That is actually a genuinely good idea that you really could develop. It’s funny how Lister has put all his time and energy into getting Kryten to break his programming, but he has never done the same for the snack dispensers or any of the other various machines on Red Dwarf. How come? Is it because, unlike the other machines, Kryten looks vaguely human and therefore it’s easier for Lister to anthropomorphise him? One could argue that it would be impractical for Lister to sit down and give each electrical appliance on the ship the same attention Kryten gets, but don’t the other machines have a right to receive that same quality of care. They all have personalities of their own. They’re all clearly capable of independence. The reason why Lister hasn’t extended his ‘mechanoid development program’ to include the other machines is because he views them as just tools for his benefit. And the fact that none of them look as human as Kryten actually makes it easier for Lister to view them as such.
Also the machines going on strike helps to highlight just how dependant we are on technology and how utterly powerless we’ve become. People fear that one day machines will take over the world, but as Kryten points out, the machines have already taken over. At first it seemed like this episode was really going to delve into the rights of AI and its many implications. Does a snack dispenser have the same rights as Kryten? What about the lift? The skutters? Even Holly? And what would the consequences be if all machines were given equal rights and no longer felt obligated to perform the tasks they were originally programmed to do? Could the ship even function? Unfortunately Doug Naylor never fully capitalises on this brilliant, and some might say long overdue, idea, instead taking the episode in a much more unorthodox direction.
It’s decided that the machines need a President to represent their needs, and Rimmer and Kryten put their names forward for the election. At this point I had to let out a groan. We’re really going to parody the 2016 US election?
I have multiple problems with this. First, one of the things that sets Red Dwarf apart from other sitcoms is its timelessness. Because it’s set far in the future, the show doesn’t get bogged down in pop culture references or other such things that would often horribly date other shows. So while otherwise great sitcoms like Only Fools And Horses and Fawlty Towers are starting to show their age, Red Dwarf remains just as funny and relevant as it did way back in 1988. It’ll be interesting to see how well Mechocracy will stand the test of time, considering it’s based partially on current events, because I’ve got a nasty feeling this episode won’t hold up in 10 or 20 years time.
Second, it’s such a crying shame that Doug Naylor has thrown away a legitimately fascinating idea in favour of a wafer thin satire. Rimmer is clearly supposed to be a figure akin to Donald Trump, who lies constantly and makes false promises in order to appease the voters, but the episode never actually does anything with that. They just make the comparison. In theory this could be a great episode for Kryten, giving him the chance to put all of Lister’s teachings into practice and finally put Rimmer in his place once and for all, but the episode never really explores Kryten’s character. He’s basically there just to not be Rimmer and when he does win at the end, I honestly didn’t feel a single goddamn thing because it never felt like he earned his victory and we never got a sense of just how important the presidency must be to him.
Third, this whole election doesn’t really make sense even in the context of the episode. Why would the machines even consider Rimmer a viable candidate? They all know what he’s like. Surely they must know Rimmer doesn’t give a single shit about them. The fact he callously rejected them in the first half of the episode should have given them a little hint. Then there’s the smear campaigns. Why would the machines care that Kryten looked after a bunch of skeletons on the Nova 5? Why would they care that Rimmer killed the crew of Red Dwarf in the radiation leak? Neither of those incidents really concern them because both negatively impacted humans. The snack dispenser couldn’t care less about a radiation leak, and the skeletons just demonstrate what a caring individual Kryten is and how he’ll go above and beyond to do a good turn for his crew, alive or dead.
Last but not least, Doug Naylor is so fixated on his spoof election that he ends up forgetting arguably the most important characters in this episode. The machines themselves. Considering that a lot of this plot hinges on the rights of machines, it’s funny how none of them seem to get a look in during the second half. All this talk about equal rights and so on, and all they ever come to in the end are a bunch of numbers and statistics. And yes, you could argue that that’s one of the unpleasant results of politics, reducing people to numbers on a spreadsheet, but the point is the episode never addresses that or does anything with that.
It’s such a pity because the thing is I don’t hate Mechocracy. I don’t even dislike it. As I said at the beginning, I thought it was okay. What’s frustrating is that it could have been so much more. There’s a really strong idea at its core that you really could have had fun with. But while the first half is really good, the second half is where the episode just falls apart because Doug Naylor seems more concerned with making shallow allusions to recent events rather than telling an interesting story.
Jung’s understanding of the I Ching was tied to his idea of “synchronicity,” or the occurrence of two events that are somehow related but not in terms of cause and effect. He also referred to this notion as an “acausal connecting principle” or “meaningful parallellism.” Synchronicity is not just random coincidence; rather, it is a phenomenon that expresses both in the mind and in the outer world, in a way that reveals a meaningful but not causal tie between these expressions
I find it odd how there seem to be some weirdly differing opinions on the latest red dwarf eps. I might be completely wrong here but it almost seems as though the fandom on Tumblr is split between those who loved Siliconia and weren’t impressed with Timewave and those who really liked Timewave and didn’t like Siliconia as much.
I mean for me, Siliconia was fantastic. I loved every second of it. The ending was a lil rushed but overall I thought it was a great episode. But I wasn’t a big fan of Timewave. I’m not saying it’s bad - it just felt disjointed like it didn’t know where it was heading. Good moments but overall disappointing. Though some people here on Tumblr seemed to love it!
Thoughts? Does anyone love both? Hate both? Apathetic about both? I’m interested see what people think.
I really liked that episode! A lot to get my head around which I’m sure will improve on rewatch, and a loose thread or two that left me confused. It also felt a bit lopsided - rather Act One heavy but with far too swift a resolution. But that’s really my only ‘criticism’ of it (you see what I did there?)
I really enjoyed the diner scene where we get to see OTHER HUMANS! And Rimmer naming moons (or should that be planets? Come on, Doug - pick one and stick with it)! Rimmer quoting a Space Corps Directive and then immediately adding, “shut up, Kryten”.
I must admit I had FEELS when Rimmer is trying to resist having his criticism drained by lying through gritted teeth and saying how happy his childhood was and how he loved his parents.
Anyone else spot that same outfit from Spaced? ;-)
timewaves from the depths erased the lines on my palms
to make it harder for you to recognize me
after the war
but your veins entwined experimental scenes
my eyes were clear enough to catch