Airdate: 14 March 1991
Synopsis: In an alternate universe, Arnold Rimmer is a handsome, loveable test pilot in the Space Corps (played by Chris Barrie). His close friends include engineer Spanners (Craig Charles, yes, THAT Craig Charles), chaplain Padre (Danny John-Jules; yes, THAT Danny John-Jules), secretary Mellie (Hattie Hayridge, notice a pattern here?) and head of Space Corps, Bongo (Robe… you know what I’m going to smegging say). Bongo gives “Ace” the opportunity to take a dimension hopper and test it out. Despite being warned that he may never return, Ace takes up on the offer and winds up in another universe…
… where a mining ship is floating around, three million years deep in space.
In this universe, Rimmer manages to lay a major guilt trip on the others and makes him go fishing with them. While boring them to death, however, the dimension hopper manages to crash into Starbug, sending the latter ship crashing on the fishing planet, injuring the Cat (and worse, damaging his suits). Ace turns to rescue Starbug, and meets the crew. All of the Red Dwarf crew fall head over Cuban heels over Ace… except Rimmer, who belittles Ace for being better than him. Ace manages (with the help of Lister) to fix Starbug, and tries to save the Cat.
Now, why was Ace such a success? Well, it had to deal with an event in school. This one I’m not going to spoil.
Review: This episode is part of what I like to call the Red Dwarf episodic trinity, consisting of “Polymorph”, “Back To Reality” (from series V), and this episode. These three episodes have the most fame from the casual viewer, are considered the most memorable, and are considered to be the funniest.
And they have a point. This episode is just a joy to watch from beginning to end!
I’ll be honest: at first, I didn’t “get” Ace. However, upon repeated re-watching, this episode went from being merely funny to outright brilliant.
Ace Rimmer is a brilliant parody of the typical action hero/”marty stu” character. His exploits are over the top awesome. In fact, Ace fills the role of action hero brilliantly (I thank Chris Barrie for this episode; he actually requested this episode, as he had spent his career playing Arnold Rimmer, the goofy Ronald Reagan on Spitting Image – that show also brought Grant/Naylor to fame – and the incompetent Gordon Brittas on The Brittas Empire.)
His introduction to the alternate universe is brilliant. The fact that Craig, Danny, Robert, and Hattie reprised their roles is brilliant enough, (in fact, when you realize this, the scene becomes even better), but they fit so well in their roles! What makes this scene even more brilliant is that you would never hear of any of the Posse liking Rimmer. Ace, meanwhile, was asked by both Bongo and Mellie if they wanted to have relations.
The backstory behind Ace Rimmer and what caused him to be so successful and why Rimmer is such a git is one of the most brilliant reveals in history. Even if you know what it is, it’s still brilliant. It brings up an important lesson: sometimes, negative reinforcement is needed to succeed.
This episode also goes quite far as to show who Arnold Rimmer really is: despite his smegishness, this episode cements him as a pathetic, poor individual who never got anything good to occur to him. Granted, much of this is due to the fact that, again, he is a smeghead, but a sizeable amount of his behavior was caused by his childhood. And then he mucks it up by mocking Ace.
That’s not to say that the other characters are totally left out. Cat’s reaction to having his leg crushed is brilliant! (“I look like a jerk. I’m bleeding an unfashionable color!”) There’s also Lister talking about his prior fishing experiences even though there was no fish, alongside Holly’s reaction to the crash, both of which deliver great laughs. Kryten, while not getting the same amount of brilliant lines as Cat and Lister, gets a laugh when he fesses up to Rimmer about attempting to leave him to go fishing.
Overall, a brilliant episode, and one of the all-time TV greats.
Favorite Scene: Ace’s first few minutes on TV.
Least Favorite Scene: Hard to decide. I’ll get back to you later.