Red Dwarf Review: Series VII, Episode 2: "Stoke Me A Clipper"

Airdate: 24 January, 1997

What a guy.

Synopsis: While fighting off the Wehrmacht (or what I believe is the Wehrmacht) to save a princess in an alternate dimension (just go with it), Ace Rimmer takes a bullet to the chest. Realizing his imminent death, he manages to hop into the dimension with the Small Rouge One… that is to say, the dimension with Lister and Co. Ace sees the potential in Rimsie, and tries to get him to conquer his inner Ace and take on the mantle.

Review: Fitting that, for my 99th post, I review a controversial turning point in the development of Red Dwarf: the departure of Arnie J. While “Tikka To Ride” could be considered something of a test, this episode pretty much set the stage for the rest of the series. This episode has a range of reviews, from “high point of Series VII” to “mixed bag” to “why did the BBC fund an eight series after this dreck?”

So, what do I think? Well, it’s certainly better than “Tikka”.

Why? Well, this episode’s message is fantastic. It’s something of an apology for “Rimmerworld”, which seemed to imply that Rimmer’s odious behavior was wired into him. This episode’s message is simple, yet so perfect; everybody has an “Ace mode” inside them: they have the potential to have a real human impact. It’s just how they harness it (or if they harness it) that impacts their past, present, and future. Rimmer never really harnessed it effectively. He often envied those that could, thought he couldn’t, and often resorted to his cowardly and selfish actions as a defense mechanism. By harnessing his inner Ace, this episode proves that, deep deep down inside, Rimmer is truly a person that is capable of the best of actions.

This episode returns to a focus on character development. And boy, do Lister and Rimmer shine in this episode. Several years deep in space has really caused their relationship to develop from one based on their differences to one more complex. It’s been proven that Rimmer wanted to finally be like Lister: satisfied with his lot in life. He just had too much ambition to do so. Here, he’s given ambition: a chance to escape from his hell, to harness his inner Ace. Yet, he feels deep enough of a connection with Lister to hug the man. He even defends Lister, doing so by committing what he believes is an act of bravery… and by all accounts, it is.

Same thing with Lister. Lister is really the soul of Red Dwarf. Barring his simple character we saw in “Tikka”, he’s an optimistic guy. I’d go as far as to call him a more “laddish”, down to earth version of Mabel from Gravity Falls. He sees the potential that Rimmer has, and knows that Rimmer is kept down by his own neurosis and flaws. That’s why he helps Rimmer, by mocking him, by helping him in his act of bravery, by giving him a decent eulogy. When Lister promotes Rimmer to First Officer, you can tell that Lister has done the best thing even in his relationship with Rimmer. It gives Rimmer the ultimate push to go out and unleash his inner Ace. It serves as something of a coda to their characters and their relationship.

The rest of the episode? Not too fantastic.

For one, with just one exception, the “filler” in this episode wasn’t really funny. Lister’s use of the TIV was done way more efficiently in “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, for one. Given that the TIV would only be used for a bit part later, it’s also less balanced. I did like “Lister of Smeg”, but I felt that Lister came off as just a little bit too sexist in the TIV. Granted, it balances his character a little bit, but it bugged me.

Special effects… no denying it, they’re crap. The first six series used models and improvised, stretched the budget to the max, and the results are beautiful. The CGI and the green screen in this episode is grating on the eyes. It was probably dated in 1997. It’s certainly dated now.

On top of that, this episode isn’t really funny. Granted, this series was going more for comedy-drama, but it’s still a bit dry. A majority (albeit not a commanding majority) of the jokes are sitcom-style… and not in a good way. In a way, I think comedy was not the first thing on Doug’s mind when writing this episode. Yet, we saw a fantastic balance between comedy and drama in Series V. (“The Inquisitor”, anybody?)

Yet, I can’t really knock this episode down too much. It’s a touching, if somewhat underwhelming, send off to one of the greatest TV characters of all time. Shame it couldn’t be funnier.

Tidbits:

  • The first four minutes of the episode feature Ace saving a princess in distress, only complaining about his shirt when getting shot, and escaping after using a rocket on a motorcycle to jump over a brick wall. It’s a damn near perfect scene. As much as I bashed the effects in this episode, I will concede that the cheesy green-screen does add character to the overall scene. It’s some of the best comedy we’ll see this season.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the reveal about Ace and the light bee’s final destination. I’d say it drove his character into the ground, but I must admit that it wasn’t the worst thing they did with the character. (“Emohawk” was something more of a disservice to the character.)
  • Another thing that befuddled me: why didn’t the Cat and Kryten figure out the truth behind Rimmer’s new portrayal of Ace? I realized, though, that the Cat is an idiot, and Kryten is pretty outdated. I’ll give Naylor the benefit of the doubt.
Favorite Scene: Rimmer fighting off the knight to save the ship. It cements the character development over the past six series. It’s fantastic… especially the twist at the end.
Least Favorite Scene: After the “duel”, the first TIV scene drags on.
Score: 6.5.
Oh, a Few More Things
  • Reports that came out in April (that I just found out about) have revealed that yes, Red Dwarf will have an eleventh series.
  • Gravity Falls Season 2 premieres on August 1st at 9:00 PM in the States. It will air on Disney XD. Those interested, either contact your local cable/satellite provider to get Disney XD, or contact a friend who gets Disney XD. International airdates are unknown, although I’d expect Disney XD UK to air the show in late August, and Family or Disney XD in Canada to air the show in the middle of August.
  • Well, that’s my 99th official post on the site. Now, how do I celebrate this meaningless anniversary coming up? What can I possibly do to celebrate my 100th post? Mmmm…
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