Friday, October 26, 2012

Red Dwarf X: Entangled

Wow.. this was.. actually a good episode.
I think it's pretty solid Series 6 fare. It would fit right in to S6 if not for the actual ship.
And it even, maybe unintentionally, had some minor Star Wars references in it.. losing your ship in a game of cards, "I've got a bad feeling about this"...

I don't really have anything negative to say about this one, surprisingly. All of the little continuity flubs in this one are no big deal.

The only question now is: What is up with Kochanski? Seems like they're looking for her, like she's gone missing, or something...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Red Dwarf X: Lemons

"Lemons", the latest episode, takes the crew through another quasi-believable time travel mechanism (not an inherently bad thing; this show is really good at that), winding up in the year 23 AD, on Earth, in England.
It's a little bit contrived that yet again, their time travel widget takes them 3 million years through space onto Earth, but we'll accept that. This is even lampshaded by Cat when they first get there.

It's extremely contrived that everyone speaks English, but again we'll forgive this point, because translation jokes would have just made the episode stupider and more boring. Even "Why is there an H on your forehead, and why does your friend look like a chewed-up eraser?" doesn't need to be gone through yet again. Calling Kryten a gladiator was enough.

So, after Jesus reads about "Himself" and gets all depressed about it, you'd also think that maybe Lister would empathize. This is exactly what Dave went through in Waiting for God. They missed a great opportunity for a touching conversation between 2 reluctant gods and how they may have been misquoted, or their deeds misunderstood, even if it turned out that this wasn't really Jesus Jesus.

Rimmer mentions that his parents were members of the "Church of Judas". But we all know -- from the same episode where we learned about Lister's cardboard-box past, "The Last Day" -- that Rimmer's parents were Seventh Day Advent Hoppists ("Faith, hop and charity"). Maybe two names for the same thing, I suppose.

Also: How does Cat really know or care who Jesus is? Again, Cat's god is Cloister the Stupid, and human religion is irrelevant to his people. Sometimes I think the writers forget that Cat is a Cat except when convenient.  At all other times, he's an overgrown 5-year-old with unique fashion sense and sharp teeth.

Kryten also shouldn't be all that impressed with Jesus, but at least he spent his formative years around humans.

There is another trademark inconsistency in this episode that's almost endearing: comments about Shakespeare. Every time Shakespeare comes up, the characters' knowledge of him is whatever the plot requires of them. Whether Rimmer is referring to him as "Wilfred Shakespeare", or learning about Wilma in the Parallel Universe, or reciting that famous "Now" speech from Richard III, or coming up with a convenient way to introduce "skullet" into the lexicon...  It's not the only anachronistic cultural reference that the show has ever made, and it's not really a fault; it's just interesting that Shakespeare in particular keeps coming up like this.

Oh, yeah, and: If they were in search of battery power, why didn't anybody think to suggest Kryten's power supply or Rimmer's Light Bee power supply instead of their quest for citric acid? Not even as an insult-joke?

All the rest of that ignored, the jokes in this episode were alright, and the resolution was enough not to mess up all of human history too badly.  This is still on the level of "mediocre middle seasons", and better than Series 8, but it is not as good as Trojan was promising the series would be.

3 more episodes to go, let's see whether they can bring it on home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Red Dwarf X: Fathers and Suns and the whimsy of time travel

An academic overanalysis for your reading pleasure:
Edit: "Dear Dave"

In Series 3, Episode 6 of Red Dwarf, "The Last Day", we learn that Dave Lister "didn't have a mum"; he was found in a box under a pool table in a pub. His adopted parents (his adopted father died when he was 6, and his mother remarried) and grandmother raised him, but it sounds like he didn't have a strong family upbringing, while still holding all of his father-figures in very high regard.

In "Ouroboros", we learn that, due to some timey-wimey travel, Lister is his own biological father, and Kristine Kochanski from a parallel universe is his mum (and girlfriend).

In the most recent entry into Red Dwarf lore, "Fathers and Suns", Dave explores parenthood/sonhood by having drunken fatherly conversations with himself. But this isn't the first time Dave has talked to himself.. older scenes are definitely seen in a different light when you see them in this context.

We can not forget that Lister discovers himself to be the "father" of an entire civilization, and the closest thing to a father figure that the Cat will ever have. But the two act more like mischievous brothers than "father and son". And knowing what we know now, if they do have a spiritual father-son relationship, they also have a spiritual brotherhood.  In this sense, Lister is even more of a Jesus figure, both the Father and the Son, the Beginning and the End.. (it's also not lost that Kochanski's first name is Kristine, "Follower of Christ"), but I don't want to start any religious wars about colored hats here. Let's get back to the fun stuff!

The very first time Lister talks to himself is really early on: Series 1, Episode 2, "Future Echoes".  "This is you, age 171, Dave."  Old Lister, on his deathbed in his old bunk, complete with grey dreadlocks and mechanical bottle-opening hand, explains: "It wasn't you Rimmer saw in the drive room [when the computer exploded]; it was Bexley."
Old Lister never refers to Bexley as his son. It is "our" Lister, who hasn't yet found out about his parents, who immediately jumps to the conclusion that Bexley is his second son. Old Lister already knew that he was his own dad, and that he'd live on in the eternal cycle of life.. He also knew that Bexley was not only his son but his brother (although he was technically mother to the twins and father to himself). Not wanting to confuse the issue, or reveal too much about the future, he gave only the relevant details.
Lister runs down to the medical bay and witnesses the birth of his twins, his first children.

In Series 2, Episode 2, "Better than Life", Lister recounts the story of when his adopted father died. He really loved his dad, trying to send food down the toilet and read the football scores with his head in the bowl when he was told that dad went the same place as his goldfish. He really had a love for his father. And when his mother remarried, he established some kind of connection with her new husband, too. In "Marooned" (S3E2), the "final moments" with his guitar are to play a bittersweet song he learned from his stepdad.

Jump to Series 2, Episode 6, "Parallel Universe". This is the third time Dave Lister meets another one of himself, (and coincidentally a resolution to the Future Echoes plot). This is Deb Lister. Presumably, in her universe, she is also her own father -- her mom being Kristopher Kochanski from yet a fourth universe? -- and also doesn't know it yet.
Now wrap your head around this:
Dave and Deb Lister (effectively the same person) are their own fathers. Created out of themselves in a time-loop. They are also the mother and father of twin boys, Jim and Bexley. Jim and Bexley have two parents that never began existing and will never end existing. And Deb and Dave are also Jim and Bexley's younger half-siblings. No wonder they grew to 18 years old in 3 days ("Backwards")! These twins are the River Songs of the Red Dwarf Universe. Their DNA is Time and Existence itself.
Where are Jim and Bexley now? Perhaps they've disappeared in a horrible paradox accident. Perhaps they are the most powerful beings in two universes. This is also a good time to point out that Old Lister never said anything about Bexley dying in the Future Echo. He said it was Bexley that Rimmer saw in the Drive Room. If the twins are effectively gods, then this makes a big difference.

Now a step back for a moment, to S2E5, Stasis Leak.  In this episode, the first one with actual time travel, we see a version of Lister from "5 years in the future", who has traveled back in time to marry Kochanski (the one from his universe). Arguably, this future doesn't exist anymore, because it didn't happen. But Future Lister does seem to treat Our Lister like a bratty son, doesn't he? And maybe Kochanski has a little bit of maternal instinct toward him? Perhaps her "Oh, it's you" comment means that this isn't the first time that Dad and Son have gotten together in the last 5 years.

As another aside: From the introduction of Kryten in Series 2, through at least Series 5, Lister is also something of a father figure to Kryten (much like with the Cat). Lister teaches Kryten all about lying, cheating, "being human"... it really shows that Lister *wants* to be a dad.

During the episode "Backwards" (S3E1), we see Lister's fear of degenerating into a fetus, and then a sperm, if he's left in the Backwards Earth for 25 years. Lucky that he didn't stay, because this "time lord" un-aging and being un-born and un-conceived would certainly spawn more paradoxes.

And this brings us to the most poignant Father/Son moment of all: "Timeslides" (S3E5).
Through a questionably-plausible time travel technique, Dave Lister (age "late 20s") sits down to chat with Dave Lister (age 17), lead singer of Smeg and the Heads. This is a true Father/Son conversation.  Dad (ironically referred to by young Lister as "granddad", which he also technically is) is so "cryptofascist" and doesn't understand young people. "If you take your own chances, you'll wind up stuck on a spaceship with him, him, and him... for the rest of eternity.  You won't _have_ a future," says our Lister, who is totally "sick of it". These are the final words from Dad to Son, and Son actually listens, despite his outward defiance (as teenage sons often do).
So 17-year-old Lister invents the Tension Sheet, becoming a super rockstar, the richest man who ever lived, dying happy at a ripe old age.  At some point between 17 and 98, Lister (who never enrolled in the Space Corps) manages to acquire some time travel technology, woo Officer Kochanski (maybe on shore leave), and conceive himself, shedding the depressing-but-cosmically-important time loop, and instead creating a new time loop of existence where he is eternally happy. He has reached his reward in Heaven, so to speak.
Until, of course, Bonehead Rimmer and Thickie Holden rip Lister back out of his Heaven and into Reality, to serve out his true purpose of keeping the human race alive forever after their near-extinction.

In "DNA" (S4E2), Lister turns into a female chicken (the last chicken alive?) and almost lays an egg. Now that would lead to some interesting father/son conversations. Moving on...

"Dimension Jump" (S4E5) introduces us to the parallel universe that is the origin of Arnold "Ace" Rimmer -- and more importantly, David "Spanners" Lister. Spanners is happily married to Kochanski, with twin boys, Jim and Bexley.  These twins are not the same Jim and Bexley that our Lister has fathered. In fact, Spanners probably knows his real parents, grew up with a stable home, isn't stuck in a time-loop, and just happens to be the cosmic equivalent of our Dave. This is one possible father Lister could have been, if circumstances were different.

Series 5 brings us more alternative versions of Lister ("Inquisitor", "Demons and Angels", even "Back to Reality"), but none of them address the father/son relationship, not even by my stretch of interpretation :)

OK, I take that back a little bit.  In "Back to Reality" (S5E6), Lister's subconscious, brought on by the Despair Squid, and personified by Andy the attendant, hints that Lister knows he can not give up until he has found Kochanski. Not for True Love, but for keeping the Ouroboros cycle going.

In "Psirens" (S6E1), we see that Lister is still holding on to his dream, as a Psiren exploits his subconscious by appearing as Kochanski and mentioning their sons Jim and Bexley. Again, these aren't the same Jim and Bexley that Lister gave birth to. His subconscious mind just still has the imprint that his first 2 sons will have these names, and this is the strongest emotion that the Psirens can grab. (Once this fails, a Psiren tries a more vulnerable memory, Pete Tranter's sister, of course).

"Out of Time" (S6E6) shows us yet another potential future Lister, a selfish and "evil" future self, which inspires our Lister to fight. "What have I got to lose? Me jar?"
When "our" Lister dies, it is not Rimmer's sudden selfless burst of heroism that fixes the timelines. It is the temporal paradox itself. Without Lister alive, none of this could have ever happened. He must exist. He must find Kochanski. He must be born. Because it already "will-have-going-to-have-happened" happened.

After that point, we reach Series 7, which brings us back to the beginning again. The British version of "How I Met Your Mother", so to speak.

And then, skipping Series 8 and Back to Earth, which don't really address this part of the plot...

...we get to "Fathers and Suns" (SXE2). By this time, Lister knows the deal with his fate, and is taking it in stride. You can take or leave the rest of the episode, but the scenes of Lister and Lister show that he is a truly repentant father for all of the things he has done wrong, and understands the lessons he wished he had learned from his absent adopted father/stepfather; we only wish he has a chance to have the same conversations with Jim and Bexley someday.. Maybe they've talked to their dad (Deb) already, somewhere and sometime.

"Dear Dave" (SXE5) is another episode where Lister explores his thoughts on fatherhood.  Once again forgetting about his other "children" -- even though he just addressed his own self-paternity 3 episodes ago -- he thinks about the fact that he might have one child of the normal biological sort.  A child who could have spawned thousands of generations of descendants throughout the 3-million-and-change years since he got on the ship. The letter he got from his ex-girlfriend said she was 7 weeks pregnant, and thought it might be his, which means that this must have happened very shortly before he joined the JMC.  (Now, they've gotten mail before, like in "Better than Life", but it makes sense that they'd be receiving mail pods out-of-order since they're traveling in random directions out in deep space, hopping through parallel dimensions and actually experiencing at least one entire disintegration of the ship, and mail pod tracking beacons can't be assumed to be that accurate ;) ). Of course it turns out that the child isn't his, and he immediately does the "guy thing" and shuts off his emotional attachment and turns it into disgust at how she slept with "Roy". But we do see this vulnerable part of Lister yet again, for most of the episode.
If there is ever an absolute resolution episode of Red Dwarf, it really should be one where Lister is reunited with one of his descendants (however spacey-wacey-timey-wimey that turns out) so he can get that closure. He's long since given up on "returning to Earth" as the Plan, and now he just wants to be a good Dad.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Red Dwarf X: Fathers and Suns

Have just seen the second episode of the new season of Red Dwarf, "Fathers and Suns".
Disregarding the continuity concerns for a moment, I wasn't too fond of the episode. Other than the whole tape gag (with a nice continuity nod here, being a VHS), the rest was stale. The uncomfortably awkward episode-long joke about racism was just .. gah. The mention-in-passing of Holly was downright offensive to fans (and probably to poor Norm and Hattie), and the new by-the-book computer was certainly no Queeg.

Dave Lister is coming to terms with being his own dad. This seals this in some awkward continuity where Season 7 had to have happened, but other things are not quite in sync.
Best fanwank guess is that they're in the "other universe" Red Dwarf that the crew escaped to in the "series finale" of season 8.. but that doesn't explain where Kochanski is, or why hologram Rimmer is a chicken soup repairman, since in that universe, Rimmer was the Captain.
And while Lister is talking about parenthood, there's absolutely no acknowledgement about his firstborn twins?  Technically he's their mom, but still.. come on.

..And on a more minor note, where did that "doctor-bot" come from? On the Red Dwarf I know, the only automated doctor was the skutter who couldn't be trusted to open a can of beans.

If the first episode was a GRRR on the arbitrary Ossian quality scale, this one is more like a GRP (barely registering that second R).

I will watch the rest of it, and I will buy the Bluray or DVD, but I'll continue to keep my expectations low.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I played XCOM back when it came out in the 90s. I think it was one of those games that quaintly came out on CDROM just to avoid having to include multiple floppies -- the entire installation was maybe 10 megabytes.
I have fond memories of XCOM, but I can't remember ever actually getting more than a few missions in before the world collapsed and the game ended.
I also have a clear memory of some gaming magazine at the time, releasing a video on their included CDROM (Play videos on the world wide web? Are you nuts? That'll be the day...) which went through a heavy economic analysis of the game, pointing out that if you constantly built and sold a certain piece of equipment, you would make money yada yada.
This sort of "solving" of the game turned me off, and I think it was one of the reasons, apart from the (at least perceived at the time) insane difficulty, that stopped me from playing.

I still had fond memories of it. I like turn-based games because my reflexes suck. I liked the combination of resource management, research and tactics.

I never played any of the so-called sequels.

But then, after a long hiatus from modern computer gaming, when I picked up my new laptop a few months ago, I was looking for a new game to draw me in.  And lo and behold, I hear about XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which coincidentally is co-designed by a college friend, the guy who introduced me to this strange European boardgame called Die Siedler Von Catan (before it was printed in English), killed off my Call of Cthulhu character with a madman NPC's axe to the chest, and who also co-designed the top boardgame on boardgamegeek.
The game is also racking up all sorts of awards before it's released, and nobody can find a bad thing to say about it.

So I put my money up, preordered it on Steam, and figured maybe I'll find a little bit of time to play it over the next few months.

And then.. my 4-year-old gets sick, sick enough to stay home from school the day after the game is digitally released.  And he's home for the rest of the week.
I had to stay home with him.
This was a boon for some spare gaming time (while, yes, also doing actual Work From Home), but even then, I have a history of getting easily bored of games and walking away from them.
This game is phenomenal. It has absolutely drawn me in.

Sure there are a few little flaws in it -- like I wish there was an "undo" button for a move in combat -- and sure it's really hard.  But with all the decisions you have to balance, I am really enjoying it.

In my first attempt at playing, I made a gross underestimation.  I started in Europe (the only continent that doesn't get a monthly input of engineers), and I launched my first free Satellite in Europe (because you get bonuses for having multiple satellites in the same continent).  And, on top of that, I skipped (or failed, I forget which) the first mission which grants extra Engineers.
Now, the thing is.. You start the game with 5 Engineers.  And you can't build a Workshop (the building that gives you 5 more of them) until you've acquired some more in some other way.
So... with all of this combined, my game went several game-months without being able to build new tech.  As a result, my soldiers kept dying (I am a big fan of permadeath).. but the missions also kept getting more difficult.
I got to the point where I was sending 5 rookies to their deaths over and over, while my ever-growing supply of Scientists were devoting their lives to unimplementable theoretical research.  This did not make the world happy.  I put that game aside, despite my original insistence on playing to the bitter end.  When it stops being fun, you want to try something else.

So I started a new game.. this time shunning the tutorial, but still starting in Europe (despite the option for 5 continents in non-Tutorial mode, rather than the with-Tutorial 2), but this time I launched my first satellite in China, Asia being Engineer-heavy.
This.. seemed to start out better...
But in this scenario, I was running out of money.  Surprise surprise, when your Engineers have the ability to build stuff, you have to pay for it!
I couldn't afford to recruit new soldiers to replace the still-always-dying ones, and had to skip a few missions.
My first month's report card was a D! Much worse than in the "old" game.
But I did manage to crawl out of that pit.  I finally advanced one of my soldiers to Captain level (he's British, so I dubbed him Arnold "Ace" Rimmer), with a few other Officers beneath him.. and now that I can use alien technology properly, they don't just asplode in combat.
Even though the entire continent of Africa has abandoned me, I think I am in much better shape.

I'm still not sure what the "end game" is in XCOM -- other than, of course "you are doomed, everybody dies". But it should be a lot of fun finding out!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Dwarf X review, part 1: Trojan

(At this point, I will stop apologizing for not posting gaming content in awhile. It is kind of dumb that I keep starting posts with such apologies. Quick summary: I've been gaming, not as much as I would like, but it's been pretty good. And XCOM comes out tomorrow, yay!)

So.. I first discovered Red Dwarf back in the days when "channel surfing" actually happened; there was a marathon on PBS. It must have been season 3, because I distinctly remember the Backwards episode.
At this point, it wasn't clear to me that The Cat was a Cat, the Hologram was Dead, and that they mostly spent their time on the ship.  But I got hooked, pretty quickly.
A few other friends in high school were Red Dwarf fans, so we'd nerdily discuss the details and make inside jokes.

Eventually, via VHS and (mostly) PBS, I caught up with series 1-6 through high school. I also read the books, which take a different path down Continuity Lane.

When I got to college, and I had a Unix shell account (The Internet!), one of the first communities I felt comfortable in was the Red Dwarf community., and its sister IRC channel #starbug/#bluemidget, were where I spent a lot of time in the days before the internet was dominated by the web.
I first picked a nickname "Rimmer", but quickly changed it after I was propositioned by a person who introduced me to the other definition of the word.
Then I settled on "Legion" for the longest time (in my angsty days I always saw myself as the "sum of all parts" of the people around me), until I got sick of "Legion Of Doom" hackers threatening me to change my nick on IRC.
For most of my internet adulthood, my nickname has been "Jozxyqk", a relatively obscure Red Dwarf reference (from one of my least-favorite episodes, incidentally) that I only know of one other person (in Australia) using. My primary internet domain is (another relatively obscure reference).
I've only recently been steering my online persona away from Red Dwarf references and taking on Ossian. GRR! :)

Throughout the years, I met a few people through Red Dwarf -- while I never managed to take that trip to London or meet any of the cast/crew, I had a few visitors from around the world and traveled to meet some in person in the US. And I'm still in contact (at least facebook/twitter-level contact) with a handful. Some of you are likely reading this. Hi!
I even got a copy of the book "Last Human" signed by Doug Naylor (which does say "To Legion"), amongst other memorabilia.

Through college and the few years afterward, I managed to get VHS copies of series 7, series 8, the SmegUp/Out blooper tapes, and the "10th anniversary night" from my friends in the UK. I even scored a VHS copy of both American pilot attempts, and got to enjoy the Exit Sign Joke, the only really good thing to come out of those.

In college I had a friend introduce me to all of the Indian foods mentioned by Lister in the series, and I am still a vindaloo fan to this day thanks to Red Dwarf.
I also convinced my "science fiction literature" teacher, freshman year, to allow me to show a few episodes of Red Dwarf as a part of a unit, after he subjected us to some episodes of Star Trek (which I loved to hate).

By now, I own all of the episodes on DVD, including the special Skutter that came with Series 8. I even own the Region-2-Only Remastered "Bodysnatcher" boxset, which I've managed to watch on my computer. On that note, let's just say that I'm grateful that Grant Naylor chose to return to the originally-mastered versions of the shows as canon, unlike certain other owners of popular sci fi properties. But my completist nature forced me to watch them.

I've always said I was a bigger fan of series 1-2 than the later stuff; I preferred it when it was "a sitcom that happened to be in space", than when it was "a sci fi show with jokes".  On the other hand, I can separate the two, and I genuinely love the whole first 6 series, in their own ways.
I enjoyed pulling apart continuity errors, getting deeply involved in discussions over nothing, and generally love the show. Why else would I still be writing a blog post this long about Red Dwarf?

I didn't hate Series 7, although it was certainly a departure. I think the JFK episode, if you stripped out the Dwarf-specific references (and maybe fixed up the JFK accent a bit) is one of the most brilliant and internally-consistent JFK Conspiracy Theory stories ever.
Series 8 on the other hand -- I stand with many fans who thought it was pretty crappy. It didn't feel like Red Dwarf.  The characters, the humor, the forced situations.. We all wish we could forget it.

When I was first dating my now-wife, she was a complete foreigner (literally). 90% of my pop culture and nerd-culture references went several feet above her head. She hadn't even seen Star Wars (and that's a whole other blog post for another day)!
So when I said "you have to sit down and watch the entirety of this obscure British sci fi comedy show with me, it's called Red Dwarf", and she said "Is that the one with the Cat? I love that show!", I pretty much proposed right there.

When the "Back to Earth" special was announced, I was skeptical that it would be any good. I watched it. I was not thrilled.

So when they said "Yeah we're going to follow this up with another full series", add me to the chorus of skeptics. It's going to suck. They're too old. The magic is gone.

And here we are, with Red Dwarf X, episode 1: "Trojan".
Downloading this episode (I swear I will buy the BluRay, regardless of how I feel about the whole show!) felt a little risky, considering its name. :)
But I got it, and I watched it, together with my wife, who hadn't even been aware that it existed yet.

So.. even considering the setup of Back to Earth.. the first question is: "How did we get here?"
(Well, the zeroeth question is "how do we explain them being so much older?" but I let that one go for now)
When last we saw the crew in series continuity, Original Rimmer was long gone in his role as Ace, there was some metaphysical weirdness going on where Nanobot Alive Rimmer was kicking death in the nuts, and the rest of the Boys (and Kochanski) had escaped to a parallel universe.
Here we are on the bridge of Red Dwarf itself (another thing I'd completely let slide; the set looked amazing and nobody wants it to look like it did in the 80s).  Rimmer is Rimmer, a hard light hologram.
Lister is Lister, Cat is series 5-ish Cat. Kryten is Kryten.  Kochanski is.. where?  She gets mentioned, and not in an "is dead" way, so.. ?  Maybe she was just in the bathroom for this whole episode?
And, naturally, Holly is where?  Or at least some sort of ship computer which doesn't require these 4 idiots to manually pilot a 5-mile-long ship?

If we were taking this episode on its own, it would make sense that it was in a "Series 7 never happened, this picks up a little bit after series 6" kind of timeline. But blurbs about future episodes say that Lister is wrestling with the idea of being his own father, which means at least Series 7 must have happened, with Kochanski as part of the crew.
Also, ignoring all of the unlikelihoods of encountering another ship where they are (or a robot home shopping network) for the sake of sanity:
Howard Rimmer is just all wrong. First of all, why is he a hard-light hologram? It makes sense that Arnie was one, because the brilliant scientist Legion converted him. It even, OK,  makes sense that Ace (the last Ace before Arnie took over), was hard-light, because it is his job to be awesome and perfect and Better Than Rimmer.
But Howard being hard-light is just a sign of lazy writing, or an interesting backstory that warranted a mention, perhaps.
Second, we've already seen Howard (and the other brothers) as being these amazing Space Corps Officers, so how does it make sense that he was a chicken soup machine repairman, no better than the runty little brother he used to cover in fire ants?
Third -- and most strange -- he claims that the "attack" that wiped out his crew was fairly recent, and his Simulant Friend has just been hanging out with him not doing anything evil since then. How's that, exactly, unless they've traveled through a time bubble back 3 million years? (which maybe they did; see the First Question)
Or maybe that entire thing was an Artificial Reality test.  Arnie is no stranger to being the center of those kinds of situations.
Will we get an explanation? Maybe, maybe not.

All that being said, you'd think I hated the episode. But I liked it. I genuinely liked it!
The character relationships, and the jokes, were very reminiscent of the "middle seasons", the most comfortable era of the show. Even where the jokes fell flat, they fell flat in exactly the same way as those old seasons. It's orders of magnitude better than Series 8 and that BTE special.
As the credits rolled, my wife sang along with the theme tune, so I took that as a sign of approval as well.

I am genuinely interested in watching more, and seeing where they take things. I'd be happier if they at least pretend to address the continuity issues (other than the Space Quest IV-like "we skipped series 9 where all of this stuff happened"), but I will be at peace with that if the second episode doesn't go there.

I will try and not be too critical of the rest of the episodes, and only follow up with a reaction after the end of the series. But this seemed like a good time to start writing it all down.