Red Dwarf XI: 5 “Krysis” Review
Reviewed by Ryan Monty.
Kryten has often had the roughest ride of any of the Dwarfers throughout Red Dwarf’s history since joining the Big Red permanently in Series III’s Backwards. Whether being treated with the utmost contempt by Rimmer constantly, or if it’s the frequent jabs towards his appearance, Krytes doesn’t always get it easy. I suppose it was only natural then that Kryten – a mechanoid utterly obsessed with cleanliness and prone to frequent panicking- would eventually have a breakdown or mid-life crisis, which finally happens here in Series XI’s fifth episode, Krysis (I love this title far too much!)
As we open with Lister performing another famous example of perfect hygiene standards (by trimming an ingrown toenail with a pair of lawn trimmers), Kryten brings along Lister’s breakfast – although he then presents Lister with an empty plate haven’t forgotten to make it. You see, Kryten’s having a bit of a mid-life crisis and he’s lost the appetite for all the things he was so passionate for before like mopping and ironing. After Kryten gives himself an upgrade into a ridiculous Ferrari-red coloured outfit, Lister decides to search for an old Nova ship – the same kind of ship Kryten was discovered on – and let Kryten meet another mechanoid, to show Kryten just how much he’s evolved and make him feel better.
Of course the exact opposite is achieved, with the lesser 3000 series model they meet (brilliantly brought to life by Dominic Coleman) having achieved all manner of accomplishments in his many years of solitude, from painting works of art to creating cures for all diseases. It all feels very reminiscent of Series VI’s Legion, and naturally this makes Kryten feel more than slightly miffed. Thanks completely to Coleman’s superb performance his mech Butler hits the perfect balance of smug and earnest (with Butler consistently “humblebragging” to steal a phrase from Britta Perry), where you can feel his pride at all of his accomplishments but you never feel like he’s being smug to the point where you start to dislike him, which makes Kryten’s jealously all the more palpable.
An unfortunately recurring comment from some corners of the internet with this series, and indeed the last, is how the show just “doesn’t feel the same” with the main cast having inevitably succumbed to the ageing process since the last full series in 1999. And while there can be arguments held for and against this (myself being firmly in the belief that they’ve fully recaptured the magic), there’s no doubt that having a story in which Kryten suffers a mid-life crisis is a fantastic idea and one that expertly lampoons the cast’s ageing and brings the characters more in line with the actors themselves. The story told in Krysis is a really very emotional episode at times, with the musings on the validation of life itself being handled in a way that feels befitting of the overall Red Dwarf story.
There’s also exploration of Kryten’s relationship with Lister, and just how much freedom Kryten has gained under him. A scene in Starbug where Lister rattles off all the things he’s taught Kryten, from self-importance to jealously, sees Kryten respond with the thought that he’s had a privileged “upbringing”. Of course ever since his first lying lesson back in Camille (it’s a banana) Kryten has certainly learned plenty from Dave. But how much of this is positive really? Their relationship in this episode is almost paternal, with Lister expressing pride in Kryten like he’s his son. It raises interesting questions about how much of the events happening are Lister’s fault for “corrupting” him like this (of course Kryten seems to love waiting on hand and feet for him so maybe there’s no point here).
When Kryten returns with his new look (packed with subwoofers and boosters) he’s the mechanoid equivalent of a real human mid-life crisis, and it’s a truly funny visual to see him with a renewed spirit and a sudden interest in wanting to bungee jump down a lift shaft. Robert Llewellyn naturally steals the show in this Kryten-centric episode (at last!) and you see the full range of his human traits as Robert pulls off multiple classic Kryten expressions to add to the gallery as he gets more and more irritated as the episode goes on. In fact, Kryten gets the majority of the laughs in this episode, as you’d expect, with the moment Kryten finally gets one up on Butler and his jealously chip goes into override as Lister freaks out being oh so typically Kryten. Butler briefly joins the Dwarfers on a jaunt, running into some GELFs (who have been gifted an updated design in the same vein that some of Doctor Who’s classic monsters were) who Butler knows well, and as Butler tries to teach Kryten how to pronounce a GELF word correctly the whole crew try to join in and they all end up just shouting “MARRGH!” multiple times at each other, in a wonderfully silly moment. Watching Lister try to explain the concept of a mid-life crisis to the Cat is another moment worth its weight in comedy gold!
The episode leads itself to a space station that had been lost and Butler’s ship were looking for, which was attempting to try out a theory that the universe itself was sentient, and the Dwarfers discover that this is true. In fact, it’s been on hold for millions of years. Simply picking up the phone to speak to the universe- who, again, had been on hold- is a typically Red Dwarf moment (and with a Hitchhikers’ Guide feeling to it), especially as the universe has a voice that’s just a bit similar to a certain A list actor. Howard Goodall’s score in these scenes is terrific- when approaching the station, his soundtrack is superbly adventurous (as they fly towards a visual feast of a VFX space station) and then becoming ethereal to give the episode’s climax a great sense of power even as Kryten ends up giving the universe itself a mid-life crisis as well.
Krysis is the most thoughtful episode of Series XI thus far, and as the episode draws to its oddly profound conclusion (even if the message is a bit basic, but still working in Kryten’s scenario) you’re really left wondering about the journey of the Dwarf so far over the series and the years, all capped off with a (finally) wholly satisfying ending to an episode this series with a real punchline to remind you that for all the musings on life and the point of it all, this is after all Red Dwarf and it’s all never too serious. It’s a real shame that next week is the final episode of the series, and if next week’s finale can top it all off this could be one of the show’s very best series!