Red Dwarf XII S12E02 “Siliconia” Review
Airing in the UK on Dave (from 19 October) and UKTV Play (from 12 October)
Writer: Doug Naylor
Director: Doug Naylor
Essential Plot Points:
- While on a mission on Starbug to retrieve Lister’s jettisoned guitar, the Boys From The Dwarf are captured by a giant spaceship, the SS Vespasian, which is crewed by mechanoids.
- These droids are all part of MILF (the Mechanoid Intergalactic Liberation Front) – they aim to free droids from slavery.
- (They don’t seem to see the irony in using slightly older model mechanoids for menial tasks, though.)
- MILF gives Lister, Rimmer and Cat new mechanoid bodies, then forces them to do all the tasks they used to force Kryten to do.
- Rimmer prefers being a mechanoid because it means he doesn’t have to think.
- Kryten is pampered and almost joins MILF.
- But Lister convinces Kryten that joining MILF is actually more of a form of conditioning than being taken advantage off on Red Dwarf, where at least he has friends!
- The MILF retaliate by forcing mech-Lister and Kryten into a gladiatorial fight… with mops.
- Kryten loses and is just about to be thrown out of an airlock when the SS Vespasian encounters Siliconia… a mythical mechanoid paradise that turns out to be a DivaDroid Automatic Update Station.
- While all the mechanoids on the Vespasian are being upgraded into the same model – thus creating some form of idealised mechanoid communist society, apparently – the Boys From The Dwarf download themselves back into their real bodies and escape.
Rumours about this “all-mechanoid” episode have been circulating within Red Dwarf fandom for a couple of years now, escalating it to near legendary status long before it had even aired. It had a lot to live up to. It doesn’t quite make it. Luckily, the central conceit – let’s see what the three non-mechanoid Dwarfers look like as machanoids – is strong enough to smooth over many of the other cracks. Yeah, we’ve seen Chris Barrie do Kryten impressions before, but they take on a whole new dimension when he has the novelty condom head too, and Cat’s distress that he’s now got, “a registered trademark where my wing-dang-doodle used to be” is classic Red Dwarf.
There are also plenty of great fan-pleasing continuity references (see Random below) and a couple of memorable comedy setpieces (the brain-drain machine not finding much in Cat’s head to copy , the self-help group, the arcade machine grabber devices) to keep you chortling throughout.
But the episode doesn’t truly capitalise on its main strength – Lister, Cat and Rimmer as mechanoids. There’s an awful lot going on, what with the MILF, Siliconia, the below decks mechanoids, Lister’s guitar, the arena mop battle, the group therapy, Rimmer deciding being a mech is good and more besides, and they all seem to be struggling for space. None of them feel properly developed and they don’t even fit together particularly elegantly, as the plot lurches from scene to scene with little internal logic. Okay, Red Dwarf is a comedy, but using that as an excuse to hand wave away plot contrivances only works so long as a get-out clause.
If the gag is as weak as the excuse Rimmer gives for being on the guitar rescue mission (he wants to keep an eye on Kryten, apparently) it simply highlights the problem. Worse still is the ending, an almost literal deus ex machina when you consider that Siliconia is mechanoid heaven… unless it’s supposed to be the subtlest gag in the show’s history.
“Siliconia” is a solid episode of Red Dwarf, though you can’t help feeling that it had the potential to be a classic episode of Red Dwarf but it dropped the ball somewhere along the line.
- The idea of the rest of the Dwarfers becoming mechanoids is the kind of wonderfully silly concept it’s difficult to believe the show has never done before – and they all look great in the make-up (even if Craig Charles seems to be sinking into his ill-fitting breast plate like a frightened tortoise at times).
- Rimmer: “Your badly-stacked Jenga head is casting a shadow.” In an episode where gags about Kryten’s head-shape become a plot point, it was crucial to come up with new head-shape gags, and this one’s a cracker.
- The MILF gags.
- Cat: “Not my brain. Not my brain. I need that sometimes.”
- Some lovely special FX shots.
- Lost of fan-pleasing references (“Smmmeeeeeeg heeeeeeead!”, “The Om Song”, etc).
- The opening gag with Lister revealed to be in the same room as Kryten is a gem.
- The Mechanoid support group meeting.
- Did you spot the copy of Mech’s Health?
- The mop fight is so poorly shot and edited it squanders much of the comedy value it might have had.
- James Buckley is pretty much wasted as Rusty.
- The ending is pure deus ex machina. Or is that deus ex mechanoidia?
- Lister: “We’re mechs now. We can dismantle our bodies, put them though the bars, and rebuild them on the other side.” Now, this would be a very funny idea… if they weren’t on a spaceship that presumably regularly locks up new-machanoidised prisoners and must have come across this loophole before.
- The gags about the differences between the Mark II and Mark III 4,000 series droids are completely undermined by the fact that the Mark IIIs “upstairs” seem to come in all shapes and sizes.
And The Random:
- We have “more than a feeling” that Lister would be appalled if we pointed out that the image of his guitar in space looked like various Boston album covers.
- This is the first time Silicon Heaven (which was introduced way back in Red Dwarf III episode VI “The Last Day”) has been referred to a Siliconia, though we’re not entirely sure if the two things are supposed to be interchangeable or if Siliconia is more like Eden.
- “The Om Song” was first mention in Red Dwarf III episode V “Timeslides”. It was written and performed by Smeg And The Heads, the rock band Lister fronted during his teenage years. Rimmer recalled that people who heard “The Om Song” formed themselves into support groups.
- “Hey Baby, Don’t Be Ovulating Tonight” was first mentioned in the Red Dwarf novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.