Red Dwarf: 10.5 “Dear Dave” Review
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.
So far Series X of this rebooted classic has had some genius moments in comedy, particularly in series opener Trojan and the religiously satirical Lemons, other episodes have had their moments and for the most part maintained the overall level of comedy. Dear Dave however struggled, at times, to get into the lower half of entertaining episodes with it’s somewhat stale plot and lack of smart jokes. That’s not to say it wasn’t without it’s moments though, as every member of the crew pitched in with at least one joke that warranted a snigger, but it didn’t give it enough comedy to place itself on a similar level to the rest of the series.
The main plot of this episode revolved around Lister and his need to associate with his fellow man (or more importantly wo-man), searching through the mail to find any kind of correspondence from Earth. After finding a letter that suggests he has a 50/50 shot at being the father of ex-girlfriend Hayley Summers’ baby, the entire episode then revolved around finding the missing letter. This was a pretty pedestrian plot that never really paid off, even at the end with a decent sign off from Lister.
It seems to me that this series has been at it’s funniest when the crew encounter other life forms, whether that’s an academy of wrong, a super-predicting computer or even Jesus. Conversely, it seems to be least funny when the ship’s characters encounter it’s own vending machines. The second episode was borderline cringe when the game of ‘Chinese whispers’ was taking place and the situation was similar here with Lister trying to chat up a pair of unsuspecting dispensers.
Again we saw an overly stereotypical accent belong to a drinks machine that was the main subject of comedy and it just came over as basic and cheap. And is it just me, or every time Lister spoke to a vending machine he look the opposite way to the conversation? I know that’s a bit of a nitpick but it just made the scenes a little bemusing to watch.
Another snag to this episode was Rimmer’s subbuteo match – why didn’t we see it? Or at least use this as a plot device later on, in a situation that needed the ability for some nifty finger work. This was a huge missed opportunity; one that I felt was going to come into play somewhere between Kryten’s collection of unused toilet roll and Lister’s fraternisation with the vendors.
What did save the episode were some elements of humour placed sporadically through the episode that was enough to keep you entertained without belly laughing. Particularly, Cat’s game of charades, Rimmer’s teaching Lister some tricks to entice women and watching Lister try to pick up the vending machine in the most ineffective way possible.
Dear Dave didn’t really bring anything new to the table and the separate parts of the story didn’t really amount to anything spectacular, which made the penultimate episode of Series X a bit of a let down but wasn’t a total write off thanks to a limited selection of decent gags.
Scene of the Episode: Cat’s Charades – There were some good moments in this episode and this was the only one to really score a big laugh, Danny John-Jules had limited material to work with but managed to get the best gag in this witty segment of the show.