Red Dwarf XI Episode VI “Can Of Worms” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Kryten discovers a Personality Tuck Machine – it performs the equivalent of plastic surgery on personalities.
- Lister falls asleep while piloting Starbug and the ship goes way off course, taking them into an area of space dominated by a tribe of gelfs who kill virgins.
- Cat looks very uncomfortable at this news and nobody believes his claim that he has two lady cats secreted away of z-deck.
- The Dwarfers discover a ship containing a Mercenoid (a kind of crazy Scientology-esque mechanoid who thinks he can pay his way into Silicon heaven) and one other life form.
- As the ship is heading towards a black hole, they decide to board the ship to rescue the other life form.
- They destroy the Mercenoid; the other life form turns out to be a female cat.
- Cat is very excited and immediately arranges a date and has sex with her.
- Except, of course, she’s not a cat, she’s a polymorph. Cat still thinks it counts.
- And now Cat’s pregnant with morphlings.
- The rest of the crew prepare to perform a caesarian but – in one the show’s most genuinely disturbing but really clever ideas ever – the unborn morphlings turn themselves into tumours to prevent their removal.
- So they have to wait for Cat to give birth.
- When he does, he delivers eight morphlings who disguise themselves as cute animals to try to prevent the Dwarfers killing them.
- Cat says he’ll deal with them (as this whole mess is his fault) but instead sets them free – the pregnancy has left his body riddled with hormones that urge him to protect his offspring.
- Lister uses the Personality Tuck Machine to remove his fear so he can go on a polymorph hunt.
- But things get weird when the polymorphs turn themselves into copies of the Dwarfers and nobody knows who’s real and who isn’t.
- Then Cat – his hormones now back to normal – steps in and kills all the polymorphs, claiming that a mother always knows her children.
- (But what if he’s wrong? Now that would be a twist to kick off Red Dwarf XII.)
Following up the brilliance of last week’s “Krysis” was always going to be a tall order, but even granting that, “Can Of Worms” is a disappointingly by-the-numbers slice of Red Dwarf with which to end the season. Still fun. Still with hilarious moments. But it all feels a little overfamiliar with echoes (not even future ones) of “Camille” (an episode about a pleasure gelf that appears to each person as their perfect sexual partner) and “Parallel Universe” (Lister get pregnant). It doesn’t help either that this is the third episode in a run of four to feature multiple versions of the same character on screen at once. Have the FX guys worked out a really cheap way to achieve this?
The plotting is also worryingly clunky. This week’s magic piece of technology – the Personality Tuck Machine – is handily discovered in the same episode in which the Dwarfers need to use it (although admittedly, it’s not used to any great effect; it sets up one Lister gag, and could easily have been dropped from the episode altogether without much rewriting required).
Having said that, “Can Of Worms” has enough comedy set pieces that deliver the laughs you want. The entire pregnancy sequence works well and – along with the amusing running gag about Cat’s sexual status – produces a merry-go-round of bizarre expressions from Danny John-Jules. The female cat is great. Lister’s lens cap gaffe was so obvious it’s amazing it’s never been done before on the show. And the way the morphlings disguise themselves as first toys, then cute animals, is classic Red Dwarf madness.
So a solid, if not top-tier episode, the main problem being that this is the last Red Dwarf until 2o17. Personally, we would have ended the series with “Krysis”; instead, while “Can Of Worms” is far from ending with a whimper, it’s no big bang either. For Cat, sadly, more than most (fnarr, fnarr).
Overall, though, this has been a cracking season. Roll on Red Dwarf XII.
- The gag with Kryten apparently tyring to pronounce the gelf tribe’s name but actually having just sat on a screwdriver is a beauty. Whether by luck or design, it’s also given an extra layer of misdirection after last week’s episode; at first you assume Kryten has been practicing his Gelf to get back at Butler.
- “You just has sex with a genetically engineered insectoid arachnid.”
“It still counts…”
- Cat’s expression when he learns about what the Gelf do to virgins.
- In fact, the whole Cat-as-virgin angle is brilliantly played throghout.
- Dominique Moore is fabulous as Ankita and she made a great double act with Cat. Shame she was on screen so little and turned out to be a polymorph.
- The whole birth sequence is a blast, and the idea of the morphlings turning into cute animals to make it harder for the Dwarfers to kill them is inspired lunacy.
- The high-angle shots of the three sets of Rimmers, Listers and Krytena all doing a weird version of “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” works really well.
- So Kryten just found the Personality Tuck Machine – the precise machine that becomes useful later on in the story – gathering dust in storage? Usually Red Dwarf plot devices are granted a cleverer introduction.
- To be honest, it’s probably a good thing that none of the characters draw attention to the similarities to the episode “Camille” but in the other hand it’s odd that none of the characters mention “Camille” since it was so similar.
- The Mercenoid is another random baddie with an interesting-sounding MO that’s left frustratingly unexplored.
- Okay, probably a bit too gruesome and/or expensive for Red Dwarf, but having told us that the morphlings will explode out of Cat’s every available orifice, it’s a little disappointing that Cat’s delivery scene proves to be pretty much a normal pregnancy… even if the babies are toys.
- It’s unclear why Cat suddenly goes postal in the climactic lift scene; the last time we saw him he was happily skipping off to do usual Cat things.
And The Random:
- Does a miniature top hat really make a hedgehog cuter? We’re not convinced.
- Dominique Moore is a regular on Horrible Histories.
- Underneath the Mercenoid helmet is Bentley Kalu who has had small parts in Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Klaue’s Mercenary), Edge Of Tomorrow (dog soldier 4) and Red 2 (commando).
- Cat is the second of the main four Dwarfers to become pregnant; Lister was “up the spout” in season two’s “Parallel Universe” when the crew visited a gender-reversal alternate reality. He gave birth (between seasons) to his twin sons, Jim and Bexley.