Tony’s getting a body upgrade.
If you’re still waiting for an episode of Series 11 to really hit the high notes of some of Red Dwarf’s earlier series, you may have to wait no longer. Episode 5 does the same thing that all the other episodes of this series have done – reference or callback to other classic episodes – but here there’s more than enough invention, and a new enough way of looking at and dealing with the subject matter, to take the earlier material substantively forward, while delivering a couple of classic images and solid gags along the way.
In terms of classic images, this is the episode that gives us the Ferrari red Kryten bodykit seen in the credits, and the gag is undoubtedly exactly what you think it is, given that the ‘Krysis’ of the title comes when Kryten hits mechanoid middle age and begins to feel that ironing is meaningless, sponging is futile and that, (for the second time in his life espousing mechan-atheism) there’s no such thing as Silicon Heaven. In some ways, Krysis is a partner episode to The Last Day, and in some ways it actively makes it a nonsense – the Dwarfers working out that Kryten’s been around for nearly three million years, and was designed to last around six million rather contradicts the service contract idea that sent the homicidal Hudzen to replace him, but nevertheless, there’s a direct extension here of the central idea of the crew of the Dwarf helping their mechanoid buddy-cum-slave out of a psychological funk.
The solution to Kryten’s mid-life ‘Krysis’ harks all the way back to the droid’s very first appearance, and the Nova 5 on which he served. An attempt to find an older, more basic model of his kind of android, so that he can feel both inherently superior and especially smug about all the progress he’s made since Lister encouraged him to break his programming goes…less than perfectly, but it does lead the Red Dwarf crew to something of a Star Trek V moment, not exactly looking for God as looking for the animate, sentient universe, to have a bit of a chinwag about life, the universe and everything.
What’s most delicious here, beyond the endearing visual of Kryten in his new bodykit (top walking speed a whopping 12 miles an hour), is that while Kryten finds a sort of cure to his mid-life anxiety after chatting with the universe, the new irritation he finds in the person of Butler, the earlier iteration of droidkind who’s supposed to be less free than him gives him absolutely no respite – like turning up at a school reunion intending to lord it over the nerdy kid, only to find out that the nerdy kid is now a philosopher-poet-multi-zillionaire, married to the hottest, most intelligent life-form in the galaxy. Right to the end, Butler manages to one, two, three and four-up our Kryten, meaning (unlike Officer Rimmer), there’s no abrupt ending here, but an unhurried escalation of the gag into the end credits.
Are there missed opportunities to be funny here? Sure – in Series 3 or 4, we’d probably have had a scene with Kryten watching Top Droid, where three asinine already middle-aged droids tested new bodykits, to lead us into his full-on mid-life Krysis scene, because back then the pace was slower and more metered. We’d have lost a couple of really cool space sequences to fit it in, possibly – but this is Series 11, not Series 3 or 4, and slick CGI is how we roll now, and there’s still enough actually funny stuff here to make it more than pass muster. At the risk of inciting fan-fury, Krysis could well be the most consistently funny, slick, easygoing episode of Series 11 so far. That’s saying something, because Series 11 feels like it belongs in among those classic series where almost every episode was an easily rewatchable gem.
Robert Llewelyn has always been a welcome addition to the Red Dwarf crew (so much so, he was of course the only member of the team to be invited to the US for the pilot of the generally-considered-abysmal American version). His ability to make comedic meat of even tiny moments – he gets laughs in this episode out of plumping up a cushion, for instance – has seen the writers across several series grow confident of delivering ‘Kryten episodes,’ knowing he’s able to turn in performances that rip the roof off, even through the Kryten prosthetics. This is most definitely his signature episode of Series 11, just as Officer Rimmer was Chris Barrie’s, and while there’s no evidence yet of Duane Dibley, there’s a shot in the credits of a Cat unlike the one we know, suggesting there may be a Cat extravaganza to be had in Episode 6. If the series so far has been lacking anything, it’s been standout sequences or episodes for Craig Charles. He’s always there and he’s always instrumental in getting the Dwarfers out of trouble, but the Last Man Alive has yet to have his own standout moment or episode this series.
For the moment, we don’t care enough to hold that against the writers or the Production Team. Krysis is positively joyful, easygoing fun, with some solid existential questioning slightly crowbarred in. Watch it. Watch it now. Then, in all likelihood, watch it again. Krysis repays multiple viewings, and is so unchallengingly funny it invites those re-watches. If you’re going to have a favourite episode of this series, it’s probably going to be Kyrsis, simply because you can put it on at any time and have half an hour of uncomplicated fun.
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