Red Dwarf: Samsara

The sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf episode “Marooned” opens with Holly, the shipboard computer, announcing, “Abandon ship! Oh God, now the siren’s bust. Awooga! Awooga!” Similarly, the season 11 episode “Samsara” begins with the robot Kryten appearing on screen, going, “Bing bong! Sorry sirs, the bing bong machine is being serviced.” After his message, that they’ve discovered an escape pod and are bringing it on board, he closes the message with, “Bing bong!”

Speaking of Kryten, the first time they met this cleaning droid, he was alone on the Nova 5 with skeletons of the former crew. Oblivious that they had died, Kryten had continued to serve the crew their meals until he came across the Red Dwarf. He invited the boys from the Dwarf on board, where Rimmer, decked out in his admiral’s coat, introduced himself with a graceful bow before looking up and discovering that the women at the dining table had less meat on their bones than a chicken nugget. Rimmer makes a similar move when he introduces himself to the two escaped members of the doomed Samsara… only to discover they’ve been disintegrated to ash. This ash is a browner ash than the white remains left by the radiated crew of the Red Dwarf, which Lister had eaten in episode one, thinking they were salt. Nevertheless, Lister still manages to be disrespectful by sneezing into the two neat piles, scattering the ashes.

“Samsara” is the highlight of season 11. We are introduced to an alternate version of the Justice Drive seen in the episode “Justice,” which causes harm to anyone who attempts to harm other people. This version of the drive, called a Karma Drive, not only punishes bad behavior but also rewards good behavior. The problem is that the drive is programmable, so when Green and Barker (played by Dan Tetsell and Maggie Service) reprogram the drive to allow them to get away with their illicit love affair, they inadvertently set the ship on a course for destruction.

In the episode “White Hole,” the power goes out on Red Dwarf, which closes and locks all of the doors. The boys are trapped 53 doors away from where they need to be. You may remember this results in using Kryten as a battering ram and his, “I’m fine, thank you, Susan,” line. The boys are faced with a similar situation in “Samsara” when the power goes out in the Samsara at the bottom of the ocean. This time, they are split up, leaving Rimmer and Kryten separated from Lister and Cat. In the cafeteria, Lister and Cat camp out and wait for help, oblivious to the fact that all their kind acts toward each other is exactly what is causing them all their bad luck.

It’s here that Cat begins to educate Lister on science history. This is classic Red Dwarf: more time is spent dawdling in deep space than it is in having adventures. It’s almost as insane as the conversation between Lister and Cat about going to bed with Wilma Flinstone. After a crash course in general relativity by Harmony in episode one, we learn all about Archimedes and Newton in episode two. Lister has to correct Cat on his version of events: that Archimedes was sat under a tree when a bath fell on his head, he shouted, “Formica!” and invented gravy. Which begs the question: Who did invent gravy?

“Samsara” takes us to a place we’ve never been to before. Red Dwarf does use flashbacks from time to time, but they are usually flashbacks of the main characters, most notably Rimmer. In this episode, we get flashbacks to the lives of Green and Barker, minor characters who won’t come up again. This brings the episode more intrigue and depth.



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