We are now into our third week of Red Dwarf’s revival and so far the series has delivered above and beyond what most fans were expecting after the last couple of series’ failed to universally impress. Episode one brought us a time travel, plot heavy episode, while episode two proved that the chemistry among the cast is as strong as ever, so what could the unhinged quartet possibly be facing this week?
Creator: Doug Naylor
Staring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn
Run Time: 28 Minutes
Episode three, entitled Give and Take, is a fascinating story, but one of those that you can’t fully appreciate until the very end. Think about the first time you watched The Sixth Sense, you finally discover that Bruce was dead all along and now every time you watch it that knowledge makes the whole experience a very different one, this episode of Red Dwarf will have a very similar impact on you. With that in mind, I’m giving you one final opportunity to stop reading before I delve into the story. I promise you that this is one that you should probably hold off reading about until you’ve watched the episode, or just scroll to the bottom for the score and a spoiler free summary.
Ok, so you’re still here, let’s get on with the review.
With the discovery of an advanced medical space station hours away from destruction, the Dwarfers head on board to see if there’s anything worth nabbing. While exploring, they discover that the ship is home to the most advanced medical droid the human race has ever created and they set about looking to recruit him for the team. Unfortunately, as is most often the case when you put an inept chicken machine repair man and a bog-bot in charge, what they believe to be the super droid actually turns out to be Snacky, a snack dispenser, who looks like he should be running around yelling, “DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER”.
Unaware of Rimmer and Kryten’s new discovery, Lister and the Kat unintentionally run into the medical droid, though he’s not exactly running on all cylinders and despite his own medical assessment showing that he’s “no longer insane”, it’s clear that a second opinion may be required. Following a less than daring rescue from Rimmer and Kryten, the crew returns to Red Dwarf to discover that Lister’s kidneys have been removed – not a great situation to be in when you are quite literally the last man alive and with no chance of a donor. With a plan to change the DNA of one of the Kat’s kidneys so that it can be transplanted in with the help of Snacky, still believed to be the super medical droid, the team now find themselves attempting to convince the most selfish being in the universe that he is the only hope for saving Dave’s life.
When the truth about Snacky is revealed, the team come up with an even more insane plan to travel back in time a couple of days and steal the younger Lister’s kidneys, giving him a futuristic type of dialysis to keep him going until he becomes the present day Lister.
Ok, so let’s address the big elephant in the room first, time-travel making a second appearance in the series, it’s a little disappointing that the writer has turned to it again so quickly. On the flip-side, this is a very different story to Twentica in that it’s not the driving force for the episode but more an intelligent inclusion which turns this otherwise great episode into a genius classic that will sit up there with the best when we look back years from now.
How the show achieves this is surprisingly simple and one you won’t fully appreciate until the episode’s conclusion. With the early parts of the episode focused on the everyday things you’d expect these characters to be doing, Rimmer having an argument with a talking elevator and Lister passed out hungover, the episode is actually setting up the time-travel aspect of the story. It’s a brilliant concept which leaves only one question unanswered; if the guys went back in time to when Lister had his kidneys and stole them, then whose kidneys did the crazy-bot actually remove? God damn paradoxes, best not to think too hard about them.
So on the one side, this is a fantastic and intelligent science fiction story, but lest we forget, Red Dwarf is a comedy above all else and after the superb double act of Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules in the previous episode, Give and Take has it’s work cut out for it to hit that mark. Somehow, however, episode three matches its science fiction credentials with some fantastically delivered gags, most of which draw on the history of the show.
There have been a couple of times over the years where Kryten has needed to flush out a bit of his memory, he’s three million years old after all. Last time it was his knowledge of ironing bras, this time, its all the rubbish he can certainly live without, including Rimmer. I don’t want to ruin the gag but as I’ve already provided more than enough spoiler alerts, it’s safe to say that when this episode airs #CaptainBollocks will be making an appearance on Twitter.
Speaking of Rimmer, I can’t praise Chris Barrie enough this series, his return to the character has been nothing short of superb so far and one of the highlights of this episode is centred solely around how neurotic the character is as he has a therapy session with Snacky, believing him to be the super medical droid.
The Kat’s vanity and selfishness are also prime themes here, another thing that has been played out in gags since day one – the pleasure GELF springs to mind. It’s how Danny John-Jules somehow manages to deliver a character that you so want to hate but can’t is a real testament to both storytelling and the actor’s ability. In fact, every member of the foursome is superb throughout this episode’s runtime.
Overall, Give and Take is the best of the three so far, mixing genius sci-fi with gags worthy of classic Dwarf. Every single member of the cast is again on top form (I know I’ve said that a lot over the last few reviews, but to say any different would be a lie). The one and only disappointment in this story is the use of time-travel and that’s purely because we’ve seen the concept used only two episodes previous. That said, it’s actually what takes this from being a good episode to a classic, think Epideme meets Stasis Leak.