Meltdown (Red Dwarf)
|Red Dwarf episode|
Rimmer, eager to take the opportunity to command an army, prepares to lead the good wax-droids into battle
|Episode no.||Series 4|
|Directed by||Ed Bye|
|Written by||Rob Grant & Doug Naylor|
|Original air date||21 March 1991|
"Meltdown" is the sixth, and final, episode of science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf Series IV and the twenty-fourth episode in the series run. It was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 March 1991. Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and directed by Ed Bye. The episode, featuring Wax-Droids of famous historical figures involved in a war of good versus evil, was originally supposed to open the series but was postponed due to the Gulf War conflict.
Kryten discovers a matter transporter paddle in the research lab of Red Dwarf. It can convert an individual into digital information and then transmit them in the form of light beams to another point in space within 500,000 light-years (although somehow at far in excess of the speed of light). The crew decides to explore the most interesting planet with breathable air within range, 200,000 light years away. Rimmer and Kryten go first to see if the atmosphere is breathable and send the matter paddle back, but are then chased by two Gappas, then taken prisoner by a gun-toting Elvis Presley and the Pope. Lister and the Cat follow but accidentally end up in what appears to be the Third Reich and are captured by Adolf Hitler, whose men take the device.
While in jail, Lister and Cat are interrogated by the Roman Emperor Caligula and Lister witnesses the execution of Winnie the Pooh by a firing squad consisting of Al Capone, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon, Richard III and James Last. It's clear to them that something very strange is going on. It soon becomes apparent that they have travelled to Wax-world — a Wax-Droid theme park that has been abandoned for millions of years, during which time the droids have broken their programming and gained sentience. Now the droid replica inhabitants of Villain World are waging war against Hero World, in "the ultimate battle of Good versus Evil". The evil Waxdroids use the heroes' wax to make more of their own kind, meaning the heroes are now greatly outnumbered. The heroes' faction is on the brink of defeat, as all of the great heroes like Sir Lancelot and John Wayne have been killed. There are only less than twenty "good" droids left: an eclectic assortment of actors, intellectuals, and pacifists (e.g. Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Santa Claus, St. Francis of Assisi, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa). Lister and Cat escape with Abraham Lincoln, who has explained the situation, after tricking Caligula and Rasputin into teleporting into a cupboard in their cell but lose the matter paddle to them in the process.
Rimmer sees this as his destiny to lead the small remaining group of heroes in their struggle against the massed forces of evil. Rimmer puts all of the heroes through a rigorous training regime, causing a number to melt from exhaustion. Going mad with power, Rimmer devises a tactic he describes as "The last thing they'll be expecting": a charge through the minefield under cover of daylight. Regrouping at base camp, Lister is appalled that Rimmer is turning pacifists into The Dirty Dozen, so to stop him from interfering Rimmer has both Lister and Cat tied up. The suicidal charge is merely a distraction; while most of the heroes are being shot and blown up, Kryten smuggles Queen Victoria into the villains' command center, who then guns down Hitler and several other villains though being killed herself in the effort. Rimmer then has Kryten turn up the building's thermostat to 100, thus melting the remaining villain wax-droids, then recover the matter paddle.
With the villain wax-droids defeated, Rimmer declares victory for the heroes, though when prompted he is forced to admit that all of the hero wax-droids also perished in the process. Lister on the other hand is disgusted by the pointlessness of it all. To punish Rimmer he requests Rimmer's hologram-projecting light bee and swallows it. He then assures Kryten that Rimmer will be okay ("He'll come out in a couple of days. Anyone fancy a vindaloo?"), and the crew uses the retrieved matter paddle to finally return to Red Dwarf.
For the scene transitional cuts the usual Red Dwarf model shots were replaced by a technique of stretching the shot, cutting then releasing it back. These scenes were produced in post-production and were accompanied by a military style drum riff. The intentionally unconvincing monsters of Wax World's prehistoric section were taken from footage of the monster movie Daikyojū Gappa (1967).
The episode turned out to be director Ed Bye's last. He had thought that Red Dwarf IV would have been the last series and he agreed with his wife, Ruby Wax, to direct her television show The Full Wax. He would however return to Red Dwarf to direct on Series VII and VIII.
The many guest appearances included Clayton Mark as wax-droid Elvis Presley, Kenneth Hadley as wax-droid Adolf Hitler, Martin Friend as wax-droid Albert Einstein, Stephen Tiller as wax-droid Pythagoras, Jack Klaff as wax-droid Abraham Lincoln, Tony Hawks as wax-droid Caligula, Michael Burrell as wax-droid Pope Gregory, Forbes Masson as wax-droid Stan Laurel, Roger Blake as wax-droid Noël Coward and Pauline Bailey as wax-droid Marilyn Monroe.
For the second time in as many episodes, the arrangement of the end theme tune was changed. The tune itself was retained as normal; however, the lyrics were sung by Elvis Presley impersonator Clayton Mark instead of by Jenna Russell.
The plot theme of wax-droids running amok is based on the 1973 film Westworld. When the Elvis wax droid explains the war to Kryten and Rimmer he states that all the best good warriors are gone: John Wayne, Sir Lancelot, Joan of Arc, Nelson, Wellington, even Doris Day. The Pythagoras wax-droid also refers to several members from the "Villain World": Hitler, Napoleon, Messalina, The Boston Strangler, and Caligula, among others. Lister references the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen when he sees what Rimmer's doing with the good wax-droids. During his abuse of the troops, Arnold Rimmer quotes Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. One of the people in "Villain World" is James Last, who recorded the version of Copacabana that was used on the first transmission of the episode Terrorform. Lister mentions that he recognises him from Rimmer's record collection.
The marching song led by "Sergeant Elvis Presley" is an example of a military cadence, or jody call, commonly used by military personnel while running or marching in the United States.
This episode also borrows footage from the 1967 Kaiju film, Gappa The Triphibian Monster, when depicting the scene where Rimmer and Kryten run away from the two giant monsters, which were the titular monsters from the film.
The episode was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 March 1991 in the 9:00pm evening time slot. It wasn't originally intended to be shown as the series' finale, but because of the Gulf War conflict at the time the BBC had decided to postpone the episode due to its war theme. When the hostilities had ceased the episode was able to be broadcast at the end of the series' run.
Although Series IV performed well overall in the Red Dwarf magazine poll, "Meltdown" was considered the least favourite from the series, gaining 1.3% of the overall votes. One review said that "this episode gets overlooked because fans feel it's hokey", but added "there really are a lot of laughs to be had here."
In the Series IV DVD commentary, the cast talk about how most fans dislike the episode, speculating that perhaps it wasn't 'space-y' enough. In contrast, the cast all talk about their love for it and how many classic scenes it contains.
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- Interview: Ed Bye, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 12, February 1993, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
- "Red Dwarf movie connections". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- "BBC - BBC - Programme Catalogue - RED DWARF IV - MELTDOWN". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
- Howarth, Chris; Steve Lyons (1993). Red Dwarf Programme Guide. Section 1: The History: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-682-1.
- Red Dwarf Smegazine: Survey Results, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
- "Red Dwarf Series 4". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
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