Red Dwarf was a special occasion when I was a kid, the only way you could watch it was in day-long KCTS 9 telethons and those were fairly rare. If it was unannounced all else was dropped. If it was a scheduled event the prep was meticulous. Blankets and pillows were amassed on the couch, a perfect balance of sweet and savory snacks on hand and of course, anyone who could sing through ‘Tongue Tied’ was invited.
While Red Dwarf hit me in that time & place way that makes something become a part of one’s fabric, I think I can honestly say that one or two episodes have actually in some small way shaped the course of my life. Or perhaps the episodes simply articulated something that was always there. Either way, the visuals of Season 5, episode 2 come not infrequently to mind.
The episode is titled “The Inquisitor” and features the boys all being judged by versions of themselves hosted by ‘The Inquisitor’ – a being who believes those who have ‘wasted’ their lives should be snuffed from ever having existed and their place in the universe given to someone who never had the chance to live. The interesting part of the episode being they are judged by themselves. Rimmer and the Cat pass easily as they honestly believe that they are the best versions of themselves they could be given their circumstances. Rimmer willingly admits he is nothing, stating “…but from what I started with, nothing is up.” And the Cat is content with his good looks.
Kryten and Lister on the other hand, fail themselves, believing they could have done better, made something of themselves, possess untapped potential. This episode first aired in 1992 and I have been thinking about it off and on since then. The 90’s were formative workforce years for me, the type of years you do a lot of thinking about what your strengths are, how you like to spend your time and what you want to contribute to the world. Culminating in the most basic of realities: “Crap, I have to feed myself now. How do I do that and stay sane?!”
In the episode Lister asks the questions “Who is to say what’s worthwhile?” and upon discovering that the Cat and Rimmer have passed while they did not is told “By their own low standards they have acquitted themselves.” On a grander scale I believe what is worthwhile is a no brainer, but on a daily, minute-by-how-you-spend-your-minutes scale – it can be quite subjective. Since 1992 I have tried to keep the question “What is worthwhile?” in the forefront of my daily thinking, and sometimes the answer really is day-long Red Dwarf marathons or sleeping in till noon on rainy days. Worthwhile for me does not mean constant action. On the other hand this question has prompted many a step outside my comfort zone with the half serious expectation of being asked at the end of it all to…