Tony spots an Emperor’s Plot Hole. Whistles loudly. Ignores it.
Give And Take is probably the most fun of the first three episodes of Series 11. Yes, like the first two, it riffs on old material and old plots, but there’s a joyously farcical sense of run-about stupidity that makes this episode a multiple re-watcher.
You want a premise? Mad medic-droid steals Lister’s kidneys, which then get blown to smithereens in what Rimmer calls a rescue. Result: the last man alive is about to expire of Chronic Kidney Shortage Syndrome.
Cue some time-twisting fun with the Dwarfers using a technology invented by a colleague of the mad medic-droid’s to go briefly back in time and steal the only pair of human kidneys available anywhere three million years in the future.
There’s plenty of familiar stuff here – there’s Rimmer arguing with a lift, and the lift being as personality-rich as Tony Hawks’ vending machines, and both iterations of the Talkie Toaster were. These machines with personalities are a hallmark of the original Grant/Naylor Red Dwarf, so it’s delicious to see a new addition to their number. There’s some distinctly Series 6 dialogue as the Dwarfers smeg about in Starbug, with the addition of ‘Captain Bollocks’ to the long, long, long list of pseudonyms for everyone’s favourite smeghead (T-shirt already available at the Red Dwarf store). There’s the first sighting this series of a Skutter (Yay! Skutters!). And there are two iterations of the ‘Utterly Naff Robot’ – the mad medic looks like it’s been constructed specifically to take the piss out of something you’d see CGId into New Who, and there’s also a snack vending machine that looks like it’s wobbled off the set of Forbidden Planet, and from which it would be fun to hear more as Series 11 progresses. There’s some fun with the cat and his sense of gratitude which is well constructed and stops jusssst this side of being overmilked and tedious. And there’s some classic Red Dwarf running around with the whole space-time continuum and the survival of the last human being alive at stake.
What there also is, or seems to be, is a staggering, colossal plot hole that no-one seems to notice or mention. The solution that the Dwarf boys come up with to Lister’s lack of kidneys patently doesn’t work, because…well, let’s just say causality’s over in the corner weeping quietly to itself, drinking vodka and declaring to anyone who’ll listen that nobody understands it. What that means is that ultimately, you sort of have to cough discretely and pretend the whole episode didn’t actually happen – it’s a kind of ‘The Doctor is half-human!’ moment, so it’s not as if we’ve had no practice at ignoring this sort of thing – because if it did happen, Lister should probably be dead and the rest of Series 11, not to mention Series 12, should be in severe jeopardy. The solution here also pretty much means we have to ignore the fact that no-one even mentions the events of Epideme and Nanarchy from Series 7, though those events do rather suggest a logical reason why nobody’s exactly keen to go back down that road in the event of a medical emergency.
There’s less by way of deep and meaningful social satire in this episode than in Episode 2, but what it does have is the same essential riff as Episode 1 – Rimmer, of all people, providing a message of self-belief to the dispossessed and the dismissed. In Episode 1, he convinced Bob the Bum that he was potentially as brilliant as Einstein, simply because they shared a hairstyle and a pram full of string. Here, he convinces Snacky, the snack dispenser, that it has the ability to rise above its perception of its limits and the expectation of those who built it, so it can help the Dwarfers find a solution to Lister’s medical emergency. And while it’s easy enough to dismiss his actions in Twentica as self-preservation, here, he acts to get Lister the help he needs, even though it’s going to involve him in a hare-brained and foolhardy scheme to kick causality in the tender parts. While everyone loves the smeghead at his smeggiest, it’s good to see this development, especially since in the previous episode, Rimmer and Lister could have been their twentysomething selves, so similar were they to those original Odd Couple archetypes.
Despite the whacking great causality black hole around which this episode revolves, the ‘smeg it, we don’t care, let’s have some fun!’ attitude of the piece makes Give And Take probably the most re-watchable of the three episodes so far, being perhaps freest from predictability despite its riffs on previously-used material. And when things do become predictable, they feel like the satisfying arrival of a story’s final act, rather than simply a recognisable riff on old material. There are also a couple of lines (notably from Robert Llewelyn’s Kryten) that still manage to zing with freshness here, adding a piquancy to the whole thing that makes you prick up your ears.
Give and Take is a sign, if you needed such a thing, that Red Dwarf 11 is a return not only to the recipes that made the show a success in the first place, but to a standard of construction and delivery that shone from some of its finest half-hours.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk