Red Dwarf II, episode 3: “Thanks for the Memory”
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor; originally transmitted 20th September 1988.
After celebrating the anniversary of Rimmer’s death, the crew wake up to find that something strange has happened onboard the ship: Lister and Cat have broken feet, several pages are missing from Lister’s diary, Holly’s star charts have been messed around with, the clock is four days fast, the ship’s black box is gone and somebody has completed Lister’s jigsaw. As the crew investigate, they stumble across the mystery of the only woman ever to love Rimmer. Sort of.
What do I think of it?
Another experimental episode for Red Dwarf after the previous week, we’re playing with the “recovering lost memories” trope this time. Despite the later discovery of the “massive footprint” and the “gravestone”, the truth about the missing days isn’t kept from us for too long which, in one way, is a shame, because it would have been nice to see how the comedy could have carried through the three of them attempting to piece together the clues instead of simply remembering via quasi-flashback.
However, what we do get instead is a surprisingly heartwarming story involving a remarkably sweet but deeply troubling act of compassion on Lister’s part. I’m not going to give too much away in case you haven’t seen it, but suffice to say it’s a wonderful mix of science fiction and bittersweet, faintly tragic storytelling (the sort of thing Doctor Who used to pull off well before it became a confused, posturing shell of itself). It never takes a turn for the mawkish, though, which it could easily have done; and the idea of celebrating Rimmer’s “deathday” is classic Red Dwarf. Laughing at death is pretty much the show’s reason for existing at this point.
By the way, if we needed any more clarification that Rimmer was the star of the show, this episode gave it. Rimmer is pretty much the perfect sitcom character: arrogant, self-delusional and deeply flawed, both likeable and detestable at once. I feel as if we learn something new about the character with each episode that passes, and the rambling interactions with Lister are still as warmly barbed as ever. As for Cat, well, you know the drill by now, but at least there are slight hints of character development at play – I don’t think he mentions food once in this episode.
I like that the strange occurrences the crew wake up to aren’t particularly creepy or strange or world-altering – they’re just a little odd, bar the broken feet of course. They all make sense and tie together well, too, which gives both the mystery and the plot a tidiness expected of sitcom writing, but rarely that well done. Overall a great episode and a personal favourite of mine from series two – one that shows that there really isn’t much difference between comedy and tragedy.
Some stray smeg:
- I tried to Shazam the song that’s playing at the beginning, to no avail. Shame, too – I quite liked the sound of it.
- I love the animation of Blue Midget being piloted by a drunk Lister. Simple but lovely.
- Oh yes, the triple fried egg butty with chili sauce and chutney. Doesn’t that look just completely delicious? By the way, because I know you’re curious, somebody had a go at recreating this infamous sandwich and posted the recipe online. Bon appetit.
- Further development of Rimmer’s fascination with aliens. His explanation for the missing days is simply marvellous, too.
- Wonderful bit of acting between the three as they watch the black box recording.
- Doesn’t last long, does it? (If you’ve seen the episode you’ll know what I’m talking about.)