It is the fifty-seventh episode overall.
Every year Lister sends himself a Father’s Day card to celebrate the fact that he is his own father, but when Rimmer points out he’s been a lousy father to himself Lister decides to do something about it. Meanwhile, Rimmer and Kryten install a new computer; the beautiful, but lethally logical, Pree.
The episode opens in the sleeping quarters with Dave Lister (Craig Charles) playing video games and getting drunk on GELF Hooch, after having previously chickened out of a dental appointment to get a filling done once again, much to the amusement and derision of the Cat (Danny John-Jules). Before long Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) enters the room, complaining about a whining sound and the ship's current state of disrepair, soliciting Lister's help in order to try and identify the sound's source. Lister says he can not help, as he is doing something especially important today. Every year he makes a Father's Day card for himself, since he happens to be his own dad due to "some time-travelly paradoxy sci-fiey smeg". In order to ensure that every year his card is a surprise, Lister gets himself so wasted that he forgets the means of the card's creation.
Sure enough, Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) enters the sleeping quarters bearing Lister's card from last year, with Lister having no idea what is on it. Rimmer, thinking the matter over, asks why Lister should even like his father, considering he left him abandoned in a pub with only a rattle and a cardboard box. Lister, shaken, admits that Rimmer actually has a point. Later on, Kryten and Rimmer are walking down one of the ship's corridors, identifying flaws and faults. Kryten talks briefly with Dispensing Machine 16, who says how much it enjoyed their game of Chinese whispers from the night before. Rimmer asks whether or not Chinese whispers can be considered racist, and tells Kryten to ask around. They also make mention of the need to install a new computer, ostensibly to try and fix the ship's increasing amount of breaks.
Lister gets into a conversation with the ship's Medi-Bot (Kerry Shale), asking about what he can do to improve things with his son (not mentioning his son is himself). Lister admits that, while in general he likes his son, he is somewhat disappointed with what he has done with his life. The Medi-Bot tells tells Lister he needs to show some "tough-love" in order to whip him back into shape, and also convinces Lister to get his son registered as an official crew-member, primarily for the generous privileges it would offer.
Meanwhile in the drive room, Rimmer and Kryten are finally getting around to installing a new computer, which they recovered from a derelict ship, to replace Holly. After a brief discussion involving its various "attributes" (Rimmer asking Kryten to give it large breasts), the new computer, named Pree (Rebecca Blackstone), comes to life on their screens. Pree has the unique ability to predict a crewman's actions before they have done them, in a similar fashion as predictive text on a cell phone. She studies security footage and crewman data to determine a profile of every registered crew member, and can then predict their actions, words, and thoughts even before they have even determined them themselves. Shortly after she is installed, Lister wanders in drunk and informs Pree that he has a job for her.
Lister wakes up the next morning in a shopping cart, severely hung-over, and wondering what he did last night. He finds a video addressed to himself from himself, presumably made the night before, which Lister immediately puts on. On it a drunk Lister plays father, berating his son over his lack of achievements, and telling him he needs to buck up, ordering him to get his tooth fixed and to enrol in the JMC engineering program. Much to Lister's dismay, Lister Senior had anticipated much of his future self's incredulity, and had actively taken steps in order to enforce his will - including flushing out his prized guitar.
Later in the day, Rimmer asks Pree to put on the next season of a television drama he had been watching, but Pree informs him that she has already deleted all twenty four episodes after having decided that he would not like them. She also says she is sorry that tonight is going to be such a nightmare. Kryten walks in and informs Rimmer that B Deck, one of the decks that Pree had repaired, is in total disarray. She explains coolly that she simply handled the repairs in the way that Rimmer would have instructed her to. Lister, meanwhile, fails to follow his father's instructions for the third time by once again chickening out at the dentist (although the Cat stealing away the last of the anaesthetic did not help), and once again feels his past self's predictive wrath. Pree informs him that he had de-registered himself last night, and following JMC policy, his oxygen allowance will run out at noon. The only way for Lister to re-register would be to apply for one of the JMC undergraduate programmes. Unfortunately for him, his past self did not realize that you had to be twenty one or under to enrol.
Following JMC policy, Pree forces Lister off the ship with the help of the ship's garbage droids, only just in time for him to don his space suit to breath and survive. Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten notice Lister's predicament from the drive room, and ask Pree what is going on. Pree informs them of Lister's de-registration, and tells them that without any living listed crewmembers to bring home and protect (Cat and Kryten not seeming to count, potentially because they are additionals) she must then consider the ship to have lost it's purpose and to have become merely space junk. In accordance with the Space Pollution Act, she must fly the ship into the nearest sun. Lister manages to jetpack back on board through the ship's Front Ramscoop, and regroups with the others. They try to formulate a counter plan but Pree releases laughing gas, and takes other additional measures to stop them, including again conscripting the help of the garbage droids, having complete control over almost all of the ship's systems.
At this inopportune moment, one of the dispensing machines chimes in with the answer to Rimmer's question about Chinese whispers (which by this point had transformed from "are Chinese whispers racist?" to "do Siamese sisters get whiskers in stasis?"), giving Lister the spark of an idea. Since he had previously attempted to register his son as another cremember, Lister informs Pree that as soon as his file is done being registered after his medical for stasis his son would be able to order her to uninstall herself. Because Pree is a predictive computer, and because her overriding mission is to ensure the efficient running of the the ship and the prompt execution of the wishes of its crew, she agrees with Lister that she should uninstall herself immediately, rather than wait for the order to actually come from his son, who is of course himself.
The episode concludes with Lister, now registered as Lister Junior, finally attempting to follow his father's wishes by enrolling in the robotics programme (having already fixed his tooth problem thanks to Kryten's quick fix dentistry in a previous scene). He gives in to his past compulsions, however, after receiving his free privileges for registering with the JMC, telling Kryten to open the bottle of champagne and waste the weekend with him playing his now free copy of Zero-G Total Football.
As available for viewing on the Series X DVD:
- An extended scene from immediately after when Lister discovers that his "father" (his own drunk self from the night before) has tried "tough love" by flushing his guitar out into space. Lister goes down the corridor, upset and waving the fake, floppy guitar at Rimmer, saying that "it's not fair". Rimmer shows incredulity and confusion.
- An extended scene where Lister goes to get his tooth filling, and the Medi-Bot is acting very creepily. Lister says that he can handle the pain, explaining why, but then of course chickens out when he sees the drill.
- More of Rimmer trying to decide whether he would prefer to be switched off, or left on to burn to death. The Cat wonders exactly how hot the star is that Pree is flying them into, with Kryten explaining that "it's very hot".
- Another scene of Lister going to get his tooth done by the Medi-Bot as "Lister Jr", and the Medi-Bot asks if he is the brilliant guitarist his "father" spoke of.
- Towards the end of the episode, Lister is seen actually applying for the robotics course he discusses applying for throughout the episode.
- It is possible that they uploaded the old Rimmer's memories (who went off to be Ace Rimmer in "Stoke Me a Clipper") into the new hologram (who was resurrected by the nanobots in "Back in the Red" and becoming a hologram again sometime in the 1999 - 2009 bridge). However Rimmer, in any incarnation, was not actually present during the events of "Ouroboros", so he must have somehow been informed after the fact about the events of the episode.
- Interestingly, drunk Lister (or Lister Sr if you prefer) also relies heavily on the powers of prediction to get his points across, and does so just as successfully as Pree; though it has been suggested that helping Lister do this was the "job" he had in mind for her earlier on.
- This is the only episode of Series X to mention Holly (who is, presumably, still off-line).
- At Dimension Jump 2011, comments by Doug Naylor suggested that he wanted Series X to focus on the character's family backgrounds. One of the ideas that was floated was to include further analysis of Lister's past as revealed in "Ouroboros"; in the end, this manifested as the episode "Fathers & Suns".
- According to the We're Smegged Series X DVD documentary, Craig Charles suffered from flu during the making of the episode and filmed his scenes with minimal rehearsal as a result; his somewhat ill appearance during the sequence where Lister Sr. records a message to his son is evidence of this.
- Lister: Who needs a denti-bot anyway, man? Half a bottle of GELF hooch, can't feel a thing now... anywhere, starting to get worried actually.
- Rimmer: And what are you doing today that makes you so "busy"?
Lister: I'm getting drunk.
Rimmer: That's your day?
Lister: Not just any old drunk. I'm talking traffic-cone hugging, pavement licking kershnickered. That's my day, cheers!
- Rimmer: So now we don’t have that conversation and move straight onto the next conversation?
Pree: Your next conversation is a conversation about not having the previous conversation, saying you were looking forward to the previous conversation, and now feel a bit lost not having had that conversation. You conclude that you will probably get used to hearing the results of your conversations and no longer having the conversations yourselves.
- Lister Jr: What the smeg?
Lister Sr: Don't swear!
- Pree: I watched them all yesterday and you did not enjoy them.
- Rimmer You knew that I was going to cock this up, so you cocked it up for me?
- Rimmer: That's not a man, that's Lister!
- Pree: Mindful of the Space Pollution Act, JMC policy dictates the ship should dispose of itself by flying straight into the nearest sun.
Kryten: What about us?
Rimmer: Never mind "us", what about ME?
Initial ratings for the episode were 1.1 million (4.8% of the UK television audience), with Red Dwarf repeats after the event bringing in 423 thousand (2%) and 293 thousand (1.1%).
The episode received a mixed reception from the fan community, with the Taiwan Tony character being especially controversial, and with Kerry Shale's roles in general being largely considered redundant or awkward. The humour was also considered more subdued than in the first episode, with less outright hilarious moments, although the Lister Sr versus Lister Jr sequences were widely praised. Rebecca Blackstone's portrayal of Pree was also generally commented upon positively.
The prominent community website Ganymede & Titan summed it up with "I can’t fully love this episode, but I want to make it clear that I do like it. It makes me laugh a lot, I adore the concept, I admire how the two main plots fit together so well, and the double Lister scene is perhaps the most inventive and unpredictable sequence we’ve seen in Red Dwarf since 1993. There’s so much to love here, but unfortunately, there’s so much to dislike. At its best, Fathers & Suns holds its own against the impenetrable bubble of perfection I’ve built around the first 36 episodes. Its worst elements – the medi-bots and Taiwan Tony – belong in the same bin as dancing Blue Midgets, the Data Doctor and Kryten’s penis. Put simply, Fathers & Suns needed its big fat butt kicking at times. It could have been so much more, and it knows it."
- Interestingly, this episode bears some vague resemblances to Dark Star - one of the films that originally provided the inspiration for Red Dwarf. Notably, it contains a female computer with a cool, logical approach and voice to match, Lister uses his space suit in open space, and Lister reasons with Pree to get her to shut down, similar to the way Doolittle uses logic to persuade the bomb not to go off.
- The launching sequence for Pree, when analysed closely, is quite obviously the boot-up for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, saying as such in the corner and featuring the operating system's gecko mascot named Geeko. Coincidently, this is the same base operating system (Server rather than Desktop) used by the real life IBM artificial intelligence program Watson.
- Lister taking a robotics course is appropriate considering he has now rebuilt Kryten at least three times. He first had to rebuild Kryten after he crashed Lister's space bike into an asteroid ("Kryten", "Dad", "Backwards"), then later after a moonquake left Kryten smashed and in two halves ("Terrorform"), and finally after Kryten's Nega-Drive repeatedly caused his heads to explode ("Beyond a Joke"); Lister also built a Marilyn Monroe kit droid as a surprise for Kryten in "The Last Day".
- As well as referencing Lister's origins, the episodes "Ouroboros" and "Fathers & Suns" are also similar in both referring to Lister's dental needs, with a dental cap needing to be fixed in the former and a filling needing to be fitted in the latter.
- Naturally, the episode has also been commonly compared to "Queeg", as it features a backup computer, and "Cassandra" as it has a predictive computer.
- During his escape from Red Dwarf, as Lister struggles to get his spacesuit on in the airlock, a Canary uniform can be seen. This is the only reference to the Canaries or The Tank outside of Series VIII.
- During the events of the episode, Cat mentions that he is going to take the last of the anaesthetic, yet Pree is somehow able to release laughing gas to try and subdue the crew, which in of itself can be used as an anaesthetic (and indeed, allows Kryten to pull Lister's tooth with only comparatively minor pain); although it is possible that they are out of anaesthetic because Pree took the laughing gas for herself, predicting that she would need it.
- The gas is somehow also able to affect Rimmer and Kryten, yet as both a hologram and a mechanoid this should not be possible.
This is not a new inconsistency, as both Rimmer and Kryten are susceptible to hallucinogenic ink, and later Lithium Carbonate, in "Back to Reality". This may be because Rimmer's hologram light bee simulates human-like responses for the hologram which has been seen numerous times and in numerous ways, and as also stated in earlier series Kryten's brain is partly organic ("D.N.A."), based on the genetic material of John Warburton ("Beyond a Joke").
- Interestingly when Kryten and Rimmer are booting up Pree and choosing the specifications for the new ship computer, Rimmer orders Kryten to choose blonde for the hair colour. Yet when Pree boots up, she has brown hair instead. Rimmer seems to notice this but does not ask why, possibly as the Cat comes into the room. Rebecca Blackstone actually is blonde, but the slick they applied to her hair changed its appearance on camera.
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