As Red Dwarf fans do, we invariably pore over the details of an episode revealed before broadcast and create an expectation based on these details. With our only information before broadcast being that it was an episode about a deranged droid stealing Lister’s kidneys and a picture of this deranged droid, we all created an episode in our head that was dark and scary akin to The Inquisitor. We could never have expected the style of episode we eventually got.
That isn’t to say the opening ten minutes didn’t live up to the expectations. We got a dark atmosphere with Lister and Cat kidnapped by the deranged droid, Asclepius. These scenes were everything we expected, evocative of deranged villains from the past such as Hudzen-10 and Professor Lanstrom. And just like with those villains, the tense nature of the action could only be kept up so long and they had to be defeated as quickly as they had been introduced.
It was in the opening ten minutes when we were treated the first proper location work that Red Dwarf has benefited from since Back to Earth. It gives the episode a scope and scale that is difficult to achieve in a studio setting even with the most elaborate of sets such as the India set from Lemons or the Twentica sets.
Once the gang had escaped the clutches of Asclepius and the space station was destroyed, the episode became something completely different entirely. Gone is the dark and scary atmosphere and we are back to a more classic sitcom style for the rest of the episode back on Red Dwarf with the sitcom trope of mistaken identity feeding the comedy for the rest of the episode.
Snacky could easily have fallen onto the wrong side of parody, looking like a 1950s B-movie robot, but through great jokes and a vocal performance that brought back memories of Tony Hawks it was a complete delight. Snacky certainly won’t be splitting the fans the way Taiwan Tony and the Medi-Bot did from Series X.
The plot moves on to Cat needing to be convinced to give Lister a kidney with some great interplay between Lister and Cat as he and Kryten try to convince Cat. This is the first time Red Dwarf has really challenged Cat’s selfish nature and it is wonderful that over 25 years in we are still finding new ways to analyse these base qualities of the characters.
The fact that this storyline is all for nothing as Snacky can’t complete the transplant doesn’t feel like a let-down as the exploration of Cat’s character and the comedy wrung out of the situation was all worth it.
In a rather unexpected turn, Snacky the dispensing machine explains the experimental research was to do with converting stasis booths into time travel devices. This turns the episode on its head as we hurriedly find the gang transporting themselves back into the opening of the episode in a concept reminiscent to Stasis Leak but different enough to feel new and fertile ground for the show to tread. It is also reminiscent of the Xtended ending for Tikka to Ride, except this time Lister is stealing a kidney from his past self rather than the far more important curry.
In a way this is the only real criticism of the episode I would have. The concept of a stasis booth being used as a time machine is such a good concept it feels like it is could be an episode in and of itself. Perhaps Doug feels this is too similar to Stasis Leak to use for an entire episode which would be a fair view to have.
In Red Dwarf we take multiple version of the same performer on screen at the same time for granted but when you compare Red Dwarf to other TV shows, it really is above and beyond. Lister knocking himself out is Red Dwarf’s visual effects at their very best. The fact that Red Dwarf has consistently done these sort of shots so well since 1987 and other shows on television still seem to find it difficult is baffling.
Following Lister recovering his kidney we come to the ending gag with Rimmer forgetting to move the lift back to correct shaft. Reminiscent of Rimmer’s run-ins with AI in episodes such as Only the Good, it provides us with a great ending gag to keep us laughing into the credits. With Samsara it was felt that it had a somewhat sudden ending and just needed that one final gag. Give & Take likewise ends very suddenly but it is to great comic effect. The first real satisfactory ending that has lived up to the previous 25 minutes we have had this series.
Do you agree with our review? What did you think of the episode? Let us know below where spoiler filled comments for this episode can now be made. And keep an eye on the site for a further in depth review on The Garbage Podcast next week with our full team after the episode is broadcast on Dave.