Saturday, 20 October 2012

Red Dwarf: Lemons

It's like the producers of Red Dwarf heard me doing a post on Roman Britain and decided to throw in a trip there, just to shake things up. Not that they do anything especially interesting while there, but still.

This is the third episode of the long-awaited new series of Red Dwarf, and oddly enough the second to have a strangely Classical flavour (the first was called 'Trojan,' though in reference to a spaceship and, presumably, the prophylactic rather than the ancient city or war). Our boys accidentally end up in pre-Roman Albion (Britain) in AD 23, but they stay there for less time than Julius Caesar, immediately leaving again in search of lemons. I'm pretty sure Italy or Greece should have some lemons by this point, but the gang don't know that, so they walk all the way to India to get some, where they run into a young guy called Jesus, take him home, operate on his manly parts and accidentally leave him in a room with a history book.

In the end, the joke is that this isn't *that* Jesus at all, 'Jesus' (or Joshua, Yeshua, Yehuda, or however he actually pronounced his name, since 'Jesus' is the Greek version) being a fairly common name at the time. I quite liked that, and the joke about the potentially 'real' Jesus was quite funny too, though I was disappointed to see the earlier religious history of Rimmer's family, devotees of the Church of the Seventh Day Advent Hoppists, contradicted (not because of the inconsistency - this is the same show that had a main character's appendix removed twice - just because I always thought the idea of the Church of the Seventh Day Advent Hoppists, whose Bible had a misprint leading them to believe that the three greatest virtues were Faith, Love and Hop, was hilarious). The idea of Jesus (any Jesus) being in India seems vaguely plausible too; oddly enough, in 29 years of being Catholic and 11 years of being an ancient historian, I'd never actually given much thought to what Jesus did between the ages of 12 and 30. Possibly, like Rimmer, I assumed he was making tables.

The show tries to address the language problem by claiming everyone's speaking the language of Albion, which did bug me a bit, because anyone's who's watched Doctor Who knows that the British language should sound like Welsh (actually, it wouldn't quite be Welsh, but it was probably a distant ancestor of Welsh/Cornish/Breton. It definitely wouldn't sound anything like the Germanic language of English). I think they probably would have been better off just ignoring the issue all together, especially since everyone sounds vaguely like they're from the north of England anyway.

I'm rather unsure how I feel about this new episode, and this new series. The fact that the characters are nearly 25 years older is simply not addressed, which I find slightly odd - I'd have liked to see an episode dealing with the fact that they're ageing (is the computer artificially ageing Rimmer to make him fit in with the others?!). Maybe that's just because my favourite Star Trek film is The Wrath of Khan, which does this so well (I should point out, I missed episode 2, which might deal with some of that). I also think the 'science' part of 'science fiction comedy' has become shakier ever since Rob Grant left after Series 6. Red Dwarf has always been at the soft end of science fiction on the Mohs scale, but Series 1-6 tended to take a fairly simple idea and run with it, whereas from Series 7 onwards it all seemed to get... sillier, and less grounded somehow.* I'm not sure I quite believe in these characters any more, and some of the jokes have got a bit obvious too. On the other hand, I do like these actors, the show has got rid of a lot of unnecessary baggage from Series 7 and 8 (we do not speak of 9) and both the episodes I've watched have made me laugh. Which is what you want from a sitcom, isn't it?!

The Last Supper. Obvious? Yes. Funny? Also yes.

*Case in point: at the end of Series 6, the crew had a time machine that they could use to travel in time but not space - taking them on an exciting journey to medieval Deep Space - and was a day out. Both my Dad and my brother theorised that, when they returned from the fifteenth century, they were out by a day or two and came back to an unreality bubble, which is what produced the future versions of themselves where Lister was a brain in a jar. All they had to do was keep flying until they came out of the unreality bubble and everything went back to normal. But when the show returned for Series 7 without Grant, there was a time-loop-based explanation so convoluted it made Lister's camcorder explode, Starbug had got much bigger for no reason whatsoever except timey-wimey stuff - and because they wanted a shiny new set and lots more CGI - and the time machine was suddenly able to transport them to Dallas. If they had a machine that could get them back to Earth, to whatever time period, but to an Earth with other people and women and everything, why didn't they just go back there and live out their lives in the 1960s?
Ahem. Sorry, got carried away there. Back to ancient history...


  1. But but but surely a time machine that moved in time but not space would be useless, because your planet and sun would have moved so you would end up nowhere in particular.

  2. Well, they were in deep space, so it all looked pretty much the same!

  3. Wasn't Jesus supposed to be in Egypt between 12 and 30, or was that earlier and he came back when he was 12?

    I suppose the Hoppists were a nod towards the most infamous of all misprinted Bibles, which included the injunction "Thou shalt commit adultery." Wasn't that a plot point in Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens?

    I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of another season. We gave up part way through season 7, basically after the Rimmer Experience and the song. Everything I've read about the later seasons and the special in 2009, not to mention the competing novels, says to me that they've lost it. But then I look at those stills you've posted and darn if that doesn't look like Red Dwarf. Maybe the only real explanation is that they never really got out of Better Than Life.

    1. That can explain a lot!

      He was back in Nazareth by age 12 (hence, Jesus of Nazareth or the Galilean) and then went to Jerusalem for, um, something (Passover, presumably) and started teaching in the Temple, and his parents couldn't find him when they headed home (according to the Bible, obviously). They lived in Egypt (according to Matthew I think) up until the death of Herod the Great which was around 4 BC, so Jesus was probably about 2 if he was born in 6 BC.

  4. I have heard of this series... but never saw it, and am now finding myself, to put it mildly, profoundly confused!


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