Red Dwarf I, episode 5: “Confidence and Paranoia”
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor; originally transmitted 14th March 1988.
How’s about this for a formula (yes, I’m still experimenting) – I basically describe what happens in each episode, peppered with personal commentary, and round it off to some sort of point at the end? It’s not thoroughly imaginative or original, but I’m trying to kick off a blog here – that’s tough enough, what with all the academic essays and reading I have to do in the real world, but I’m also looking forward to getting on to writing about other shows. Not to mention all the musical stuff I want to write about – there’s a few juicy album releases on my radar coming out soon, so I’d like to review them, along with some Starostin-style looking back through my CD collection. I don’t mind writing about Red Dwarf at all, but I need to find a consistent formula if I want to switch my writing to a higher gear and get all ten series – Back to Earth counts, right? – reviewed before I’m dead.
Actually, isn’t Naylor supposed to be writing an eleventh? Right, sleeves up, let’s go.
Here’s the skinny with episode 5, “Confidence and Paranoia”: because Rimmer won’t give him Kochanski’s hol0-disk to spend some time with her, Lister has been moping around in her old quarters, as you do. Trouble is, they haven’t been decontaminated yet and, as a result, Lister contracts pneumonia – or at least, what used to be pneumonia but, after three million years, has since evolved into something else. Lister passes out from sickness and Rimmer rushes to his aid, after which he–
Wait, hang on a minute: Rimmer actually cares about Lister’s well-being for once?
Yep, after four episodes of antagonism between the two, we get to see Rimmer genuinely concerned about Lister, and it really is rather nice. But the drama doesn’t last long (lest this show take itself even slightly seriously) before we’re back to physical comedy and barbed banter, including a decent little scene in the medical bay involving eye-pokery, Rimmer-rambling and scutter-fail.
Turns out, this “nu-monia” (hilarious, aren’t I?) brings Lister’s visions and personality traits to life: some raining fish, an exploding mayor, and his confidence and his paranoia, personified as a game show host and a snivelling runt of a man respectively. While Lister hangs about with his Confidence, Rimmer, stuck with Lister’s Paranoia, looks for a way to eradicate them. They are symptoms of the virus, after all, and will do what they can to–
Wait, Rimmer’s still trying to help Lister? Was he hit with some sort of mutated virus as well?
Well, actually, Confidence and Paranoia are symptoms of Lister’s sickness, so Rimmer deduces that they are doing everything they can to keep him sick and, by extension, themselves and the virus alive. I’m not sure I agree with that wholeheartedly: I mean yes, Confidence is clearly making himself a welcome part in Lister’s life, but how is Paranoia doing that? Surely he should be trying to make Lister too paranoid about taking up any treatment for his illness rather than just sniping at him to Rimmer? It’s also telling that Lister’s other visible symptoms conveniently disappear once C&P turn up – he definitely perks up once Confidence arrives, which suggests that C&P aren’t really doing anything at all. Maybe Lister’s other symptoms have been externalised in those two? I don’t know. It’s probably not worth thinking about too much.
As you’d expect, Confidence is the personification of everything Lister finds appealing, constantly praising Lister on everything he does; whereas Paranoia persists in critiquing Lister’s appearance, history and, well, everything about him. I suppose this develops Lister’s character a little, learning what he got up to in his youth, what frightened him and whatnot – that be what character growth are, no? – while throwing in a few gross-out facts about his, er, sexual development. Lister and Confidence hanging out together makes for some funny bits as well, largely relying on Confidence’s permanently-gobsmacked awe of his host.
Eventually Confidence gathers some vital information for Lister: he knows where Rimmer’s hidden the holo-disks – outside the ship. As they venture out to get them, Confidence casually mentions that he killed Paranoia. As in, he straight-up murders the other symptom of the virus off-screen. I suppose that makes some sort of sense – Paranoia was a drag, maaan – but still, what the heck? Eh, gets rid of Paranoia, anyway, and at least Lister finally sees Confidence’s craziness, but Confidence pushes it too far by trying to convince Lister to take off his helmet (you’re trying to keep your host alive, right? Great job, Confidence). On seeing Lister’s reluctance, Confidence proudly removes his own to show there’s nothing to worry about and, well…
On the plus side, though, Rimmer finally lets Lister open up Kochanski’s holo-disk and see her again – only to ruin Lister’s day even further by revealing that he swapped Kochanski’s disk with… a second Rimmer disk. Not totally sure how he managed that: okay, he must have copied his own disk, but how’d he do that while he was still using it? Unless he turned himself off and Holly did it for him, but why would Holly agree to that? Nevertheless, the end result is that Lister has no Kochanski and two Rimmers to deal with.
“Confidence and Paranoia” is actually quite an important episode in its own right, as it’s the first episode in the run to feature characters that aren’t part of the core cast in prominent, plot-relevant roles (I think we can exclude the first half of “The End” here. Well, I’m going to, anyway) and, technically, it’s the first episode to feature any sort of villain (though Cat’s cold detachment came close at times). This would become more common as the show continued, possibly as Grant and Naylor started running low on things to do with the four main characters alone. For now, though, this was an interesting break from Rimmer-Lister antagonism as a driving plot point, introducing some literal germs (well, viral symptoms, but shut up) to the slap-shod social system the characters have constructed.
It’s not the funniest episode in the run, and the wackiness, especially concerning a character like Confidence, might be a bit too much for some people to stomach, especially as it gets in the way of the show’s greatest strength: the Rimmer-Lister interactions. There’s also a lot less Holly in this episode, which is a shame. However, it has its strengths in some funny bits here and there, while slowly pushing the show towards introducing more characters and more outlandish situations. Plus I kinda like the wackiness – makes for a decent change from the relative dourness of “Waiting for God” – and it sets up the series finale nicely, ending with a shocked Lister and Cat and two very smug Rimmers.
Two Rimmers. One Lister. Oh yes, there will be banter.
THAT BLOGGER RUN-OFF THING THAT ALL BLOGGERS AND REVIEWERS DO THAT I’M REALLY NOT FOND OF BUT I DO IT ANYWAY BECAUSE IT LETS ME TICK OFF THE STUFF I COULDN’T GET IN THE TEXT WHILE MAKING FOR A NICE FINISH TO THE POST. THAT THING.
- “It really is going to be one of those days, isn’t it?”
- It’s generally well-known for anyone who’s seen the episode and/or knows the show, but yes, that is Craig Ferguson of Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson fame playing Lister’s Confidence. He does a pretty good job, too, though the American accent is suitably atrocious. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?
- Oh please, I saw Danny John-Jules flipping that chicken away. You don’t fool me, Red Dwarf.
- So… this is a virus that can create living flesh-and-blood people from Lister’s mind. He creates a metric tonne of fish and a exploding mayor, not to mention C&P. Does this mean Lister’s psuedo-pneumonia is some sort of God-virus? If he thought about Kochanski, would she turn up in the control room? Sure, she’d be a symptom of his illness doing everything to keep him sick, but Lister probably wouldn’t mind. Cat ate the fish, after all, and, er… where am I going with this?
- Confidence’s version of Lister’s “kindle” song is very short but very funny.
- Missed comedic potential: Rimmer clearly enjoys being regailed by Paranoia about all of Lister’s embarrassing secrets, yet is dead keen on removing said symptom. It would have been nice to have a couple of jokes about Rimmer’s personal dilemma here.
- The low-budget SFX of Confidence exploding into space are really quite horrifying – almost as bad as that Kryten’s exploding head bit later on in the series, where it quickly flashes to the dead-eyed prop head and you’re reunited with your breakfast.
- I haven’t said much about Cat in this episode. That’s because, as usual, Cat’s role in proceedings is as limited as could be. A character who acts as comic relief to what are generally some pretty light comedy situations anyway is a weird concept that I really should have gone into in some detail by now. Eh, maybe next time.