(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
Red Dwarf has, over the years, touched on religion here and there. I remember Rimmer (Chris Barrier) once famously saying he doesn’t believe in God, he only believes in “sensible” things, like aliens (which, it is worth noting, the Red Dwarf universe doesn’t contain). We also had Rimmer once mentioning that he and his family were Seventh Day Advent Hoppists (“Faith, hop, and charity, and the greatest of these is hop”). Of course the whole subject of religion was tackled extensively back in the third season, when Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) was convinced he was going to go to Silicon Heaven, but that human Heaven didn’t exist. “That’s just something someone made up to keep you all from going nuts.”
When I heard that this episode featured the crew traveling back in time and getting stuck in Roman-era Britain, my mind flashed with imagines of Queen Boudicca, ancient Londinium (…hmmm…my spell checker was able to correct my misspelling of Boudicca, but doesn’t even recognize Londinium), and the legions marching. It did not, it must be said, fill with images of “Jesus” running around India.
Yes, the crew ends up back in time when Lister (Craig Charles) leads the screw-up assembly of a rejuvenation shower. To be fair, he was following Ikea-style instructions, and while I never have any problem with them, as I never had a problem programming my VCR back in the day, it’s a trope of many fictions that people have problems with these things, so there you are. The shower malfunctions and, in true BS Johnson style, sends them back to the previously mentioned Roman-era Britain. They have a remote control, so can return home, but they don’t have a battery for it.
Why they never simply use one from Kryten is never explained, but they end up on a quest to get a lemon to make a battery with. The nearest lemon is in India, so they walk (it takes six months). Once they get there, they not only get their lemons, but run into a certain long-haired fellow by the name of Jesus…things go from there.
This was another great episode for the returned series. All the actors were at the top of their games, especially Barrie, who does a wonderful job channeling Rimmer’s self-loathing while telling the story of how his mother came to give him the middle name Judas (and offering an explanation for the character that I hadn’t heard before, but found interesting). Charles and Llewellyn were good, too, but once again, Danny John-Jules was given a bit of a short-shrift as the Cat, who really didn’t get to do much. To be fair, that’s often been a problem with his character, but it seems to be a bigger problem this series.
The real quality in this episode, though, is the writing. It was intelligent and hilarious, and took the show places I didn’t expect. For example, I’d expected them to actually deal with the Roman Empire at some point, and that didn’t happen. Also, looking at the hairline of Jesus and hearing Rimmer’s comments on Shakespeare, I had entirely expected Jesus to end in a different place than he did, and I was pleased when I guessed wrong. I also really appreciated the great job the show did with pointing out the…shall we say…inconsistencies…with things like the Ten Commandments. It was, as it should be, entertaining and thought-provoking.
Really, I had no complaints beyond the fact that the Cat wasn’t given much to do. Still a solid story all around, and an easy 4 ½ stars.
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