Meltdown? Let-down more like – this episode did not see series IV out on a high, unfortunately. Admittedly that could be partly due it’s being postponed due to the 1991 Gulf War, and ending up being shown after two of the show’s best episodes.
In its favour, it does introduce the ‘matter paddle’, a sort of teleport device the Kryten repairs, allowing the crew to venture much further afield than was previously possible – in this case to a wax-droid theme park which, following millennia of abandonment, has descended into an idiotic war.
Enter Arnold Rimmer, Risk-nerd turned hardest of Generals, taking command of a motley crew of holymen and pacifists, turning them into an army which he will send on a daylight charge across a minefield towards an enemy led by a Hitler-droid…
I still feel there’s a solution, probably involving triangles.
Although there are a few laughs to be had along the way, a few lines playing on war movies to make a change from the usual sci-fi references, but the episode as a whole comes across as a bit silly – and then Holly shows up at the end, for no reason other than to be on a motorcycle headlamp. The fact that he hasn’t been in the story at all up to that point just makes his single line all the more jarring.
What the episode does do – and perhaps this was more poignant when it was first shown, after the end of the Gulf War – is highlight the utter futility of war: the pointless killing of innocents – in this case Winnie the Pooh. The ruthless (not to mention under-qualified) General willing to sacrifice his own, equally under-qualified, soldiers. The senior officer (Kryten) just following orders.
I’m sorry, sirs, I had no choice. I’m programmed to obey, no matter how psychotic and deranged the human order.
There is a happy ending, of course; General Rimmer brings peace back to Waxworld – by following through a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Lister, as usual, is the voice of reason, raging against Rimmer’s war machine, but to no avail – at least until after the war has wiped everyone else out and he can punish Rimmer in his own inimitable style…
Watch it if you’re a war movie buff, or a fan of the 70s movie Westworld, but don’t expect a classic episode, or for it to say anything new about war.