Everyone loves a Cat episode. Danny John-Jules’ character doesn’t get as many episodes centering around him as Lister, Rimmer and even Kryten, which is a shame because he is a great character brought to life by one of the few actors who could pull it off.
A larger-than-life character needs a larger-than-life plot, and this had it. Cat finds another felis sapiens and becomes PREGNANT! Yes, he was the one who was pregnant. For you see, this “felis sapiens”- who clearly took her design cues from Purple Rain-era Prince- turns out to be a polymorph in heat, looking to plant her eggs into a willing host. They do the deed and the rest of the crew rush our protagonist of the day into the medibay for an emergency Caesarian, which he thinks comes with croutons as standard. The unborn polymorphs then turn into tumours in a bid to save themselves. These could kill Cat if extracted, so the only other option was to wait for him to give birth “naturally”.
I had not only one, or two, but THREE problems with this scene:
1. My understanding is that tumour removal is a basic operation, even a day case if minor. So unless there’s some kind of feline-exclusive health issue playing into it, a tumectomy would not kill him. Typical me, griping over a medical oversight in an episode where a MALE CAT-TURNED-HUMAN BECOMES PREGNANT.
2. This is the second extended medibay scene this series. The producers were able to conjure up a number of unique planetary settings but felt the need to recycle an area that had hardly been visited across eleven series. While a medibay scene would understandably fit in a plot like this;
3. This turned out to be unnecessary as Cat doesn’t even need an operation. It would have been best to cut it and have Kryten analyse his insides through other means.
The birth scene was not as funny as I’d hoped. Yes, the polymorphs were being born out of where you’d expect, but it was just two minutes of Cat being filmed from the front as the crew fish the constantly-transforming creatures (taking the forms of false teeth, a pumpkin and a lucky cat amongst others) from the birthing pool. Cat did raise a smile by wearing a bright pink lounge suit as he prepared for the big day though.
We move onto the final bit where I have to praise Naylor for his characterisation of the polymorph larvae. Just as they are to be dumped from Red Dwarf, they transform into a number of cute animals. Nobody would want to jettison kittens, a pig with a bow on its head or a baby hedgehog in a mini shopping trolley, would they? The crew quickly realise their tactic and get away while Cat spends some time saying goodbye to “his children”. Unfortunately, he keeps them and they grow by sucking on his affections. At the beginning of the episode, we are introduced to a machine that can change one’s personality or even delete it altogether. Lister volunteers for the task of being rendered emotionless to confront the polymorphs headon. This turns out to be successful at first with him recognising the two that had morphed into Cat, but Kryten and Rimmer realise that they’ve turned him into a potential killing machine and draw their guns.
In a parody of The Thing, Lister, Rimmer and Kryten circle around each other ready to shoot, only to bump into two sets of polymorphs duplicating them entirely. This understandably confuses them and find themselves in a catch-22. They talk to the real Cat briefly before going up in an lift, with Cat shooting the rest of the polymorphs without harming his friends. Lister (I believe) asks how he was able to tell them apart from them, and he replies that a parent always knows their kids.
This raises another question: why didn’t he just shoot them in the bay when he turned up? He probably knew his kids by then, after all they grow up so fast ;).
Now for the more general gripes- in addition to the birth scene, this episode wasn’t as funny as one would expect. This was disappointing as this was not only a Cat episode but had a decent-enough storyline and a plotline ripe for jokes. There were no real laugh-out-loud moments. Early in the episode, it was mentioned that the tribe of the planet they were due to land on were rumoured to feast on the blood of virgins. That could have made for an EXCELLENT episode provided they didn’t mess up as they did here, and the length of the scene made it look like it was going there, but the only time things that come up there are alluded to again is at the very end where Cat beds down with “two lady cats from Z deck” the viewer was convinced he had made up in his panic to prove his lack of virginity.
So all in all this was an underwhelming finale to a mediocre series. If I was the controller of Dave I’d tell Naylor to either get it together or say goodbye to any hope of XII airing on my channel. The plots had more holes than Swiss cheese and many loose ends remained untied. This was clearly a series that had been rushed into filming and the quality seemed to deteriorate as it went on.
POSTSCRIPT: In the future I plan to review every episode of Red Dwarf, including those of XI that I have watched but haven’t yet written reviews for. In an ideal world the task would be completed before XII premieres but it probably won’t. My organisation is diabolical. How many episodes should I watch a week? Should I post two or maybe even more reviews in one day (my OCD probably won’t like that one) during a binge? Should I just put the kibosh on the plan before I find myself doing it? I always feel a sense of failure when I fail to do things like these.