Episode five already? Red Dwarf XII is flying and fans have had the pleasure of watching some of the best episodes the show has produced for decades. Last week’s venture into political satire was a masterpiece, proving for the first time this series that the best episodes need nothing more than the main cast to deliver the laughs.
Creator: Doug Naylor
Staring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn
Run Time: 28 Minutes
Moving from politics to corporate domination, M-CORP finds the crew in a bizarre situation as a new software update for Red Dwarf reveals that Jupiter Mining Corporation has been brought out by M-CORP, a company that quite literally owns the Earth.
Looking like a win for the team at first, new equipment and supplies start materializing all over the ship, but as with all things Red Dwarf, things quickly start to go wrong. Finding that he is unable to see any product not created by M-CORP, the crew discovers that a perception filter has been applied to Lister. As the only official member of the crew, Dave quickly finds himself alone as the filter also include the rest of the crew.
With hope running out, he turns to M-CORP’s AI assistant for help, finding himself transported to a virtual environment where his every whim can be purchased for either an inflated price or time off his lifespan. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew have a plan to take back the ship with a factory reset.
From the off M-CORP is clearly a directed swipe at the modern world we live in. With companies like Amazon and Google catering to our every whim at a moments notice, how long will it be before one company comes out on top and takes control of every aspect of our lives? JMC’s replacement provides a very apt and perfectly executed parody of the way the world could one day go, and given Amazon recently announcing profits exceeding a small country’s GDP, it isn’t all that far-fetched.
What episode five also seems to show us is Naylor’s confidence growing beyond relying on nostalgia to really sell a story. Of course, Mechocracy was the starting point for that in terms of originality, the closest thing to M-CORP that Red Dwarf has seen before, however, would probably be Queeg, and that’s a stretch. We do still get the throwbacks, of course, and despite Toasty’s return last week upping the ante, the final scene of M-CORP is nothing short of genius (Despite the spoiler-ridden review, I refuse to ruin it for anyone reading who hasn’t yet watched the episode).
Once again, the script is superb, there are some great gags throughout, though most focus on M-CORPs dominance of all things retail. It’s actually the visual comedy which steals the show this week, culminating in some impressive mime work from Rimmer, the Cat and Kryten as Lister’s perception filter kicks in – there’s something vibrating that Lister and the viewers can’t see, and we’re all hoping it’s an electric toothbrush.
Call the Midwife’s Helen George makes a wonderful guest appearance as the face of M-CORP, nailing a perfect personification of the emotionless sales tactics internet companies at the heart of this parody apply in the real world. Aside from George’s support, though, this is very much a foursome episode, with Craig Charles finally back front and center after taking a back step to Rimmer and Kryten of late.
Lister gets a lot of alone time in the episode and this great opportunity to put Charles in the spotlight isn’t wasted, though for obvious reasons it’s the visual comedy which outshines what minimal dialogue he has to delivery alone.
Where the episode ultimately has flaws is in its underlying story around age. Despite early scenes around Lister turning an undefined age above 40 and the realisation that death is closer than he thinks offering a great story, there’s some potential which never manifests as the story moves on swiftly to M-CORP and the capitalism story.
Overall, though, M-CORP is still a highly entertaining swing at big business with a science fiction twist. A clever script, with some very funny physical gags. It’s also great to see the last human alive given the spotlight once more.
- Another great story, interesting concept and cast on top form
- The physical comedy is hilarious
- Craig Charles in the spotlight with Lister at the heart of a story for the first time in ages
- Some early scenes offer potential that is never realised around how Lister deals with age. Ultimately, though, the story’s different direction is still entertaining.