More than any episode in Series XII so far, M-Corp acknowledges just how long the show has been running. It’s Lister’s birthday, not his thirtieth, not his fortieth… But before he can tuck into a birthday breakfast he’s having a heart-attack, watched by a hilariously indifferent Cat. Long-dead Rimmer then gloats over Lister’s misfortune in the medi-bay, while Kryten does what he can to help.
It’s a great opening that deals with the elephant in the room of the recent run of Red Dwarf on Dave. No, I’m not calling Lister an elephant, but he is an overweight, middle-aged man with a deep love of curry and lager. Mortality was bound to catch up with him eventually. The opening also showcases the perfectly balanced character dynamic that has produced decades of laughs for Doug Naylor and the Red Dwarf Posse.
The episode then cleverly segues into the main thrust of its story. Red Dwarf has missed out on years of software updates due to Cat being a bit haphazard as to where he plugs in his curling tongs (not for the first time, as long-standing fans will know). When the updates come, so Lister’s crew mates and almost all of the gear on Red Dwarf disappear, leaving only the kit delivered by M-Corp, a massive, world swallowing conglomerate that also provided the ship’s new software. Watching the crew disappear one by one is perhaps the episode’s comedic high-point. It’s a strange, yet simple gag, perfectly timed.
Lister, after a bit of moping, enters M-Corp’s virtual environment, where everything costs money, even speaking, and everything’s for sale, whether you can afford it or not. Anyone who’s ever run out of credit on their phone (so that’s everyone I presume), wasted days staring at their laptop on social media, or bought things that they don’t need because it’s made really easy for them to do so, will get the joke and appreciate what the experience costs Lister. It’s a prescient idea that provides plenty of laughs.
The episode ends by reaching right back to the early days of the series, with a short scene that will likely fill dedicated fans with a pleasurable thrill of nostalgia, while reminding us all just how much time has passed.
4 / 5