Title Statistics: What’s in a name?

How much can an episode title really give away? Red Dwarf fans up and down the country were wildly hitting refresh on the BBFC website just to get a first glance at the final names for the latest batch of episodes. These people clearly think there’s value in these words, or maybe they just need to get out more and join Rimmer and his mates in the celibacy society.

Looking back over titles from previous series can be quite revealing. In some cases the episode titles state a phenomenon that the crew will encounter. Think ‘Stasis Leak’, ‘Parallel Universe’ or ‘Dimension Jump’. These are all ideas which Holly could down to the constituent parts and explain so Lister could understand.

Others monikers provide a little more mystery. From the name alone one might think ‘Meltdown’ would involve the ship’s engines reaching critical mass rather than a trip to a wax based amusement park. Similarly with ‘Tikka to Ride’ you may believe that the episode would show Lister setting up a vindaloo delivery company that only has one customer as opposed to a tale of time travel involving the Kennedy assassination.

Some titles provide some clues to the content without giving too much away. Anyone who saw ‘Out of Time’ would assume there would be some time travel involved.  While not explicitly stating it most science fiction fans would presume an episode entitled ‘Nanarchy’ might involve nano technology in some form.

A title can evoke a mood or a genre and set expectations. ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse’ instantly suggests a Western. ‘Psirens’ implies that there may be a science fiction take on the ancient Turkish legend where sailors were lured onto the rocks by a femme fatale.

As a series mythology grows then an episode name can imply the return of something familiar. ‘Emohawk: Polymorth II’ is perhaps the strongest example of an episode really putting its cards on the table. In a more subtle way, ‘Back to Earth’ very much echoes ‘Back to Reality’ and any fan who saw ‘Stoke me a Clipper’ would be certain it would feature the return of Ace Rimmer.

There are episodes where the title really doesn’t give much away. Probably no one thought the ‘Pete’ two-parter was going to be a detailed examination of Lister’s relationship with Pete Tranter. ‘Blue’ might be the porn-based episode that had been so anticipated since viewers were first treated to a view of Lister’s Long Johns.

So what of the Series X episodes? What would someone with no knowledge of the production make of them?

Episode one, ‘Trojan’, of course is similar to the Series VI opener ‘Psirens’ implying a mythological link. Having read the comic book version of Virgil’s Aenied during ‘The Inquisitor’ Lister surely knows to “Beware of Trojans, they’re complete smegheads!”

‘Fathers and Suns’ is interesting. From the trailer we know Lister gets a father’s day card and from Series VII we know he is his own father. Rimmer’s relationship with his own father has been explored in ‘Better than Life.’ Could this be revisited? Could the Cat’s parents, the cripple and the idiot, finally be introduced or has the finally got his end away? It’s probably none of the above to be honest. It probably involves at least one sun though.

The first episode title in the public sphere was ‘Lemons’.  Perhaps the gang finally play another round of ‘What’s my fruit?” and nobody guesses female aardvark. Lemon can be a fruit or alternatively can be something considered useless which would be an apt description for the Red Dwarf crew.

‘Entangled’ doesn’t really provide many clues although there is hope it may be a riff on Disney’s Rapunzel tale, Tangled and the Cat has to climb Lister’s locks to woo him. Or not.

‘Dear Dave’ might be a play on ‘Dear John’ suggesting the off-off relationship between Lister and Kochanski is finally off. Then again it may be the cast and crew begging the self-styled “home of witty banter” for another series.

The final episode title is the most intriguing. ‘The Beginning’ clearly references the very first episode of Red Dwarf, the fantastically titled ‘The End’. Could this be the last-ever episode? It would be a nice bookend in terms of designations. Or maybe it means something else: perhaps we revisit the early days of the Dwarf; or Doug introduces a new crew including a wisecracking talking space dog.

All this speculation is part of the process of being a fan and it makes the reveal so much sweeter when it comes. The publication of these titles makes it all so real. New Red Dwarf is coming tantalisingly soon. Are any of these idle musing accurate? Probably not but it sure is going to be fun finding out.