Red Dwarf XI: 3 “Give & Take” Review
Reviewed by Ryan Monty.
Red Dwarf has always had its finest episodes come from when it strikes that perfect balance of science fiction concepts with humour, and in Series XI’s third episode Give and Take, the Dwarfers are on their finest form so far with a classic blend of Red Dwarf offerings.
The episode opens with a scene that immediately harkens back to the running joke in the final episode of Series VIII, when Rimmer and Tony Slattery’s vending machine had their bickering match, leading of course to Rimmer being knocked unconscious and subsequently kneeing Death himself where it hurts (“Not today matey”). Give and Take has a similar encounter as Rimmer gets continuously exasperated by a slow lift who he gets progressively uppity with, soon stumbling over himself into an oral sex gag in vintage Rimmer fashion, then “firing” the lift tasking the returning Skutters to find a replacement. It’s gloriously Dwarf, and this episode provides Chris Barrie with his best material this series.
Soon after the Dwarfers, including a “hungover” Lister who has been passed out in Rimmer’s bunkbed for two days, make their way to a technologically advanced ship floating in space hoping to harvest tech, under the threat on an oncoming asteroid storm. Once there they come across a “universal doctor” of sorts named Asclepius after the Greek God of medicine, capable of performing any kind of medical procedure on any lifeform (or at least, who Kryten and Rimmer think is Asclepius, who is in fact Snacky the snack dispensing machine) while Lister and the Cat discover a skeleton who appears to have stabbed himself in his own back.
While they wonder just what has happened to their long dead new friend (who Cat muses may have died of pneumonia because of the skeleton’s lack of clothes) the real Asclepius lurks on a walkway above them, and he seems to have just slightly gone a little bit insane. He knocks Lister and the Cat out, stealing Listers’ kidneys, before Kryten and Rimmer arrive on the scene and save them, escaping the ship sans Listers’ kidneys. Returning to the Dwarf, Lister must convince the Cat to let him have one his kidneys, which Kryten expects poor Snacky the robot will rewrite the DNA of so it’s compatible. With the Cat being the Cat however, this might be the biggest case of “easier said than done” of all time.
Right from the beginning, you can tell that there was a very clear plotting for this episode- the pacing is very deliberate, opening with another glorious VFX shot of the Dwarf. In fact, this may be the best looking episode of the show ever. There are multiple sets on show and you really get a good feeling of the new ship the Dwarfers land on such is the atmosphere built. You very much get the sense that is a ship gone a bit nightmarish, with the escape from the collapsing ship being wonderfully Hollywood-esque in its execution, with the direction giving a great sense of scale and the bombastic soundtrack (mixing in a bit of the classic Dwarf theme) adding up to one of the most grandiose sequences seen on the show. If you didn’t already from the previous two eps, after Give and Take you really do see just how good the budget is.
The two robots of the episode are superbly designed, with Asclepius being a horrifying hodgepodge of different surgical instruments and a disturbing smiling head with cute little ears and eyes, with a mouth grill of razor sharp teeth. He’s one of the best antagonists seen on the show and it’s a shame we don’t see him more, such is his nightmare workshop full of smoke and terror that is truly scary. On the flipside there’s poor Snacky the snack robot, a 50s sci-fi style robot with a pair of ladles for ears and a spatula on his head. Once back on the Dwarf (and still mistaken for Asclepius) he’s caught hilariously in the crossfire having to act as therapist and listen to Rimmer’s problems. The whole episode sees Snacky caught in the crossfire and this builds until the climax where an increasingly exasperated Snacky tries to explain just who he is. It’s a truly Dwarf exchange with all the Dwarfers having their moment as the situation escalates.
In fact, the whole episode is nothing less than premium Dwarf. The plot becomes very much a bit timey-wimey (3 episodes in and already our 2nd time travel episode of the series!) and turns into a real caper by the end, and the humour is on point for the whole run time. Easy highlights are the call back to one of everyone’s favourite Dwarf running gags, Kryten’s lie-mode, and the Cat tucking Lister in and sucking up to him after Kryten lies to him and tells Cat it’s in fact him who lost his kidneys and he needs one of Listers’. The whole casts character traits are on perfect display, which is surprising given this was the first episode back they filmed!
We’ve had two very good episodes already this series but this is absolutely a great one. Consistent laughs are had all the way through and by striking that perfect blend of concept and humour, this series has produced its first classic episode. I hope Snacky sticks around on-board!