Hello everyone, Jacob Wolfe reporting in once again and today it’s a silly rant about an old comedy called Red Dwarf. For those of you who don’t know what Red Dwarf is, watch it, seriously. The premise is simple – Dave Lister is a Brummy washout who joins an expedition to space but is then put into stasis for smuggling an non-quarantined cat on board. Whilst Lister is frozen there is a radiation leak on the ship that kills the crew, except Dave and this cat. Three million years later, the only crew aboard the space vessel Red Dwarf are Dave Lister, a creature evolved from his cat over generations of inbreeding and radiation, a hologramatic reincarnation of Lister’s bunk mate called Rimmer and a neurotic android the crew find in the wreckage of another ship called Kryten. The show is a low-budget sci-fi comedy that combines wit, sarcasm and hyperbole into something loveably tacky but entirely unique and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a laugh.
Red Dwarf is undoubtedly one of my favourite things to watch ever, it is hilarious and brilliant but like anything that I watch, I have to pause at points and think about some of the fundamental flaws in the logic of these programmes. Episode 26 is an episode about an interdimensional robotic rogue called The Inquisitor, a machine gone mad that travels time and space judging people on the worth of their existence and if he comes to the conclusion they are a worthless drain on their species, he erases them from history and replaces them with someone who never had a chance at life, a sperm that didn’t make it. Apart from failing at his job by allowing individuals like Shia Labeouf and Justin Bieber to continue existing, or people like Hitler and Caligula to have existed in the first place, I find fault in his method of judging people – he has them stand trial before their doppelganger and gives them roughly two or three minutes to justify their existence by listing their moments of selflessness, achievement or bravery and how closely they have adhered to a “Seize the day” policy and how they have utilised their potential. A sound idea in theory but terrible in practice, as I shall now explain.
Of the characters in the show, erased from history by The Inquisitor are Dave Lister and Kryten. Dave Lister, faced with his clone, fails to convince himself that his fate as a wandering tramp of the cosmos is the result of bad luck because he knows deep down his short-comings aren’t from a lack of opportunity or aptitude, but the unwillingness to commit to anything. Kryten, though selfless, is erased because a machine cannot be selfless because it is programmed to do so and thus it does not act on good motive but binary command. Rimmer and Cat are spared, by themselves. Rimmer gives his clone a sob story about how he was tormented as a child and had no opportunity to ever break free of a life of abuse and his clone agrees, also feeling that same abuse and neglect within himself. Cat, the physical embodiment of vanity, justifies his existence by his appearance and his clone is smitten and agrees to spare him, because if you love yourself to bits then you can’t erase yourself. In this small case study, a machine that set itself the task of weeding out the scum of the universe wiped an intelligent young man with untapped potential from the universe along with a robot on the path to sentience and left behind a gutless coward and a moron who believes his purpose in life is to be attractive. As you can see, The Inquisitor has already failed twice to choose the right people to survive because his idea of a fair trial is if you personally believe you are worthwhile then you are allowed to stay.
Let’s expand on this further shall we? You only have to convince yourself that you live a worthwhile life that is making the most of what is available to you. If you are unaware of greater potential hidden with you and believe the best you can achieve in life is sleeping in shop doorways, you stay, but if you are working a job at a checkout when you know you’re secretly a master musician reluctant to compose your own hit, you die. Therefore, if you believe the only reason you haven’t gone on to greatness is your own mistake, you erase yourself from the universe because that clone of you will know that whatever you say, deep down you only failed because you didn’t try hard enough or at all. The system is easily exploited then, by people like Cat and Rimmer. Cat, who believes the mere visage of his cuban-heeled figure is a just cause to keep him alive, escaped judgement because he is so vain and arrogant, he sees nothing beyond himself. Cat is not the only individual alive like this, there are lots of people who think they are God’s gift and the moment you sincerely believe that, you justify your own existence no matter what you do, be it treating those with leprosy or happy-slapping nuns with bricks. Rimmer on the other hand, blames everything that went wrong in his life on someone else – his parents, his brothers, his school, his superior officers – anyone bar himself. Though Rimmer does conceal a lot of self-loathing, he firmly believes that the only reason he’s in a dead-end job with no promotion prospects is because everyone is out to get him. So once again, The Inquisitor fails, because if you can tell yourself that you’re only stuck in the place you’re in because of other people, you get off scot free. Hitler did that you know? He blamed his failure to get into Art college on the Jewish teachers, saying that those damned Jews had infiltrated society and turned it against him. By the standards of The Inquisitor, someone smart enough to know they’re procrastinating deserves to die but Hitler gets to live? So who does The Inquisitor actually erase from history, anyone deserving? Hardly.
If you’re stood trial before yourself, your judge knows everything. Every lie you tell yourself but don’t really believe is torn apart and you stand before your own naked fury with little to defend yourself except what contribution you can remember making to the world around you. The Inquisitor would be the scourge of the Internet culture because he would turn up before Tumblr nuts left, right and centre and they’d tell themselves “You know full well you could use this time to actually revise for your exams but instead you’re writing a novella about Sherlock bumming Molly and John! You know you waste your time tweeting about movies and how often you buy coffee, you know you’re a worthless drain on your family and so we can’t be allowed to exist”. Poof. Overnight a lot of fanboys and girls would vanish, unless they’d done some sizeable charity work between conventions. Should you be intelligent enough to know you’re capable of better than you are doing, you terminate your own existence unless you have a lifetime of good deeds previously to defend yourself with. However, if you’re particularly at odds with yourself, say fighting inner demons, then you still risk deleting yourself. I know I have days where I wake up, look in a mirror and ask “What the fuck are you even for? I’d forgive you if you were rich, or famous, or stupid, but you’re not – so what are you doing?”. The Inquisitor’s wrath is limited to eradicating those who are aware of their shortcomings and judge themselves harshly for it, whilst leaving behind those who are not aware of their abilities or sincerely believe they are doing the best they can. A great artist struggling with an overwhelming sense of apathy can be removed from existence in favour of a burger flipper, regardless of the fact the burger flipper is unaware of any potential hidden inside himself. The Inquisitor can only destroy those who cannot convince themselves they are the best they can be given their circumstances.
My argument is probably not perfect and likely has holes that you can poke at but I encourage the discussion because I feel Red Dwarf has opened a can of worms for people to watch wiggle everywhere but that has largely gone unnoticed. I look forward to hearing from you, whether you think you’d survive the Inquisitor’s trial or not. Personally, I’m not sure – I pride myself on being a good honest person who has given his all for those who sought his aid, but I also know that had I made some ruthless decisions and pushed through my inner demons at an earlier stage, I could have had books on the shelves of every household years ago. So what do you think? Thank you for reading and I may well use Red Dwarf again in the near future for more rants on philosophy!