From the moment it begins we’re aware that Siliconia is going to be a Kryten episode, and a smegging brilliant one at that. It opens with a series of hilarious gags about his slavish relationship to the rest of the crew. He does the Cat’s ironing, needs to make appointments to speak to Rimmer, and is called via monitor to hand Lister a can of lager from a fridge which is mere feet away. Of course, we’re used to jokes related to Kryten’s love of dusting, and scrubbing Mr Lister’s underpants, but this is the first time his position among the crew has been played out so fully, and with such sustained comic effect.
Doug Naylor, the series co-creator, writer and director, then takes the idea that Kryten is somehow a victim and spins it into one of the best scenarios the series has ever presented. The Boys from the Dwarf are kidnapped by the Mechanoid Intergalactic Liberation Front, which makes for an interesting acronym, and while Kryten is gifted a life of leisure, having his bodywork buffed whenever he wants, the rest of the posse have their minds transferred to mechanoid bodies, and are forced to perform menial tasks as punishment. It’s such a good idea, and so fresh that it’s amazing to think that the show had its debut episode all the way back in 1989.
Once again, the Cat gets the biggest laughs with a joke about the smallness of his mind, which I won’t spoil here. And the rest of the crew have a lot of fun getting in touch with their inner mechanoid, especially Chris Barrie, who shows off his mimicry skills, doing a near pitch perfect Kryten impersonation. Meanwhile, Kryten’s new status as a victim is mined for further comic potential, including an excellent sequence which sees him attend a survivors’ support group. Who wouldn’t welcome a few kind words after decades of having they’re beautifully appointed head mercilessly mocked? The Chairbot of the group is played by Marcus Garvey, who is in scene (almost episode) stealing form.
As a slight quibble, one could argue that the idea is so good that it feels just a little crammed into its half an hour time-slot, and James Buckley (from The Inbetweeners) makes little impact in a small guest starring role.
Nonetheless, this is yet another strong episode of Red Dwarf, with a handful of classic moments and one of the best concepts of the series’ entire run. Yet more reasons for Dwarfers to rejoice and new fans to come aboard the Small Rouge One and find out what they’ve been missing.
4.5 / 5