Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Red Dwarf--"Balance of Power"

”Balance of Power,” unlike yesterday’s installment balancing the comedy and science fiction elements, is a pure sitcom concept. Lister and rimmer are already at each other’s throats because of a personality clash. The episode highlights Chris barrie’s talent for over the top comedy while Lister is presented as far less of a shallow character than previously. There are some funny bits, but this is a n average episode overall.

Rimmer’s insistence Red dwarf be run in tip top shape is getting on Lister’s nerves. He wants to spend an evening with Kristine Kochansky, one of his old crewmates who he had a crush on. Lister refuses to switch himself off so Kochansky can be activated because he does not believe Lister will turn him back on after the date. Lister decides to take the chef’s exam so he can outrank rimmer and order him to switch places with Kochansky. Rimmer does all sorts of Lucy Ricardo antics to convince lister not to take the exam, including impersonating Kochansky to reject lister as a suitable date. Nothing works. Lister takes the exam and acts as though he passes it, although it is revealed later he does not.

“Balance of Power” is very much a showcase for Barrie to act silly in a Jim Carrey or Peter Sellers manner. Barrie began his career as an impressionist who did a lot of physical comedy, and that is what he does best here. Rimmer is much more entertaining when struggling with the holographic arm holly gives him in revenge for insults in a scene reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove, hence the comparison to Sellers earlier, than he is in the smarmy way he tries to convince Lister what great buddies they have allegedly been. Rimmer winds up peeking at Kochansky’s cleavage before switching bodies, and playing with them as he leaves the testing room for Lister to take the exam.

Lister is not as funny a character this time around. Sitting alone in the dining hall on a Saturday night, he flashes back to good times with his long dead friends. There is a palpable sense of loneliness there. Lister may very well be the last human alive. He has not exactly made much of himself. One wonders whether his motivation to become Rimmer’s superior is not just for female captainship, but to raise his lot in life the only way he can at this point. It has to be a real kick in the ego to know he failed at it.

Kochansky is played by Clara Grogan. She will be played in series seven, eighth, and Back to Earth by Elizabeth Morehead, whom I find far more attractive than gorgan. Personally, it is difficult to see what Lister finds in her at the moment. Maybe it is indicative of his low goals in life. Whatever the case, having the hots for Morehead’s version makes more sense. Neither play kochansky as a particularly high class character, however. They still look down on poor Lister regardless.

“Balance of Power” is decent, but not great. I am not a big fan of sitcoms, particularly when the comedy relies on a lot of slapstick. Your mileage may very, so this shtick may very well be right up your alley. I laughed a few times, but I am more appreciative of Red Dwarf’s satirical efforts.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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