Thursday, September 10, 2015

Red Dwarf: Polymorph – review

Director: Ed Bye

First aired: 1989

Contains spoilers

In the UK, for people of a certain age, Red Dwarf is an institution. Comedy at its finest, it followed the misadventures of a group of misfits on the mining spaceship Red Dwarf.

The basic premise was that technician, and self-confessed lazy slob, Lister (Craig Charles) had been frozen in stasis having illegally brought a cat on board the ship. Following this there is an accident, caused by his overtly neurotic and bureaucratic bunkmate Rimmer (Chris Barrie, the Young Ones), and the crew are killed by a Cadmium II leak.

Hattie Hayridge as Holly
3 million years later the ship’s computer, Holly (in season 3 played by Hattie Hayridge), deems the radiation danger to be over and revives Lister. Holly also brings Rimmer back as a hologram to help keep Lister sane. As the series started the other occupant of the ship was the Cat (Danny John-Jules, Blade II), a creature evolved from Lister’s pet cat (which was safe in the hull when the leak occurred). This episode was from season 3 and by that time the android character Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) had been made a permanent character.

the polymorph
Now, as I say, this was an institution but I never thought to consider any episodes for this blog. I started rewatching the show from the beginning on Netflix and when I watched this episode it became apparent that I would have to cover the episode – after all the creature they encounter is described as, “sort of an emotional vampire”. Essentially a pod in space containing a genetic mutation experiment is breached and the creature gets aboard Red Dwarf.

Robert Llewellyn as Kryten
It is a polymorph, turning into a variety of objects and people. At one point it becomes a pair of boxer shorts that Lister puts on. The shorts begin to shrink necessitating Kryten (who happens to be wearing a vacuum cleaner groinal attachment) to pull them off. Apparently, according to IMDb, the live studio audience laughed so long at that gag that Chris Barrie had to wait several minutes to deliver the next line. The creature uses its polymorph abilities to provoke negative emotion in its prey and then eats the negative emotion.

sucking emotion
This feeding leads Lister to lose his fear, Kryten his guilt, the Cat his vanity and Rimmer loses his anger. They all get their emotions back once the creature is destroyed but, in the meantime, their personalities have all changed. Rimmer proposes (as a right on activist) to call the group hunting the creature The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society – I’ll let you work out the acronym. The creature was a product of Earth, an attempt to create a perfect warrior that could change shape to adapt to any terrain – it is, however, completely insane.

Craig Charles as Lister
Season 3 was a brilliant season of Red Dwarf – the dynamic of adding Kryten into the regular characters worked splendidly and this was a great episode. Definitely worth 8 out of 10 as an episode.

The episode's imdb page is here.

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