Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 6: "The Beginning"

Airdate: 8 November, 2012

Synopsis: In the year 2200-ish, at IO Tech, Rimmer’s teacher, Mr. Rimmer, uses Rimmer as a guinea pig to make him unsure of his decisions through life… as punishment for being late to class.

Three million years later, a rogue droid named Hogey wants apparently another duel across time and space with the Dwarfers. They aren’t even fazed. Making matters stranger this time around is that Hogey stole a map of the various black holes through the universe from a Simulant Death Ship. Said simulants weren’t too pleased, and begin attacking Red Dwarf. The crew escape in Blue Midget, where they fear death. Rimmer, in particular, fears death so much he brings a holo-lamp that his father gave him to play the day he became an officer. With his father on his mind, he is unable to concentrate on a plan of action. Thus, he decides to take the ultimate dive, and play the holo-lamp early, proving that he doesn’t care about his father’s opinion anymore. There, Rimmer’s father reveals something stunning about Rimmer’s lineage.

Review (SPOILERS): There are three absolutes in life: death, taxes, and Red Dwarf episodes being constructed as “last episodes ever”.

Ever since Series V’s epic “Back to Reality”, every series of Red Dwarf (bar VII) ended with an episode ambiguous to the future of the series. Ironically, the even numbered series since V have ended with Rimmer called upon to save the ship. “Out of Time” was an epic ending for Rimmer. “Only the Good”, eh, not so much.

Thankfully, this is quite the improvement over “Only the Good”, by giving us actual character development for Rimmer.

We’ve learned through the history of the series just how Rimmer’s parents mistreated the guy. This episode goes beyond the exposition that was featured in “Better Than Life”, instead showing that, as punishment for being late, Rimmer’s father wants to make him unsure of the choices in life. Now, one could argue that this was an attempt to make it so that Rimmer wouldn’t be gung-ho in everything. Yet, the rest of the abuse that he got already made Rimmer insecure. This pushed him over the edge- he became unsure of any of his answers.

It’s here where we get a moment where he “mis-gets” the note his seatmate gives to him as an insult. He delivers a far crueler one back. Thus, we see the spark that kicks off Rimmer’s odious behavior- a really bad day in class pushed him over the edge.

Flash forward three million years, and the time comes for Rimmer to formulate a plan against the damned simulants. The thought of his father has weighed him down. He wants to get his acceptance, he’s driven down by the fact that he’s dead. Yet, at the same time, he barely conveys his hatred of the man’s abuse. We saw that in “Better Than Life”. We saw him say how he looked up to his father, despite railing against his abuse.

Here, he drops any pretense of a good relationship with his father. He drops the contradiction between either side. He ignores his father’s pressure.

And it turns out… he has nothing to worry about. Why?

Rimmer’s father was actually the family gardener.

With that realized, Rimmer now knows that he’s already probably made his father proud. Simply not being a dopey laborer, actually proceeding up the career ladder (albeit only one step) would’ve made him proud. He no longer has to live up to the high standards of Mr. Rimmer.

Thus, he’s able to formulate a plan that relies on his personality… surrendering with the threat of bureaucracy. This time, it really works.

Oh, and Rimmer’s not the only one to get character development. The Cat manages to convince Rimmer, a man he has despised from day one, to give up on pleasing his father. All while playing with a string and a stick. While the Cat might have not gotten too much in the way of character development through the history of the series, it’s moments like these that make the character that much more loveable.

Lister and Kryten were somewhat stagnant here. It wasn’t their episode. While not a huge problem, it just seemed like they were, at best, bystanders to Rimmer’s action. They got some funny lines, but not too much in the way of development.

That, and the simulants were still simulants. At least here, though, there was some interaction between them. It gave us a chance to look into the seemingly everyday actions of the primary antagonists of Red Dwarf.

Looking back on this episode… I really think that Red Dwarf XI might not have been necessary. This provides enough of an open end to continue on. Yet, here, as with “Out of Time”, we saw Rimmer finally overcoming his neurosis to provide a great heroic moment. There, it was an impulse, a genuine care for his friends, that got him to step up to the plate. Here, it’s realizing that his father only served to trash his life, and does not deserve to be given the time of day via reaching the highest of high standards. He banished the ultimate demon from his past.

I’d have been perfectly satisfied if this was the last Red Dwarf ever. It’s not “Back to Reality”. But, I’d be willing to say that it’s on par with “Out of Time”. Maybe if there had been a somewhat more unique antagonist like in “Out of Time”, it would surpass it.

Will I review Red Dwarf XI? Yes. Will I go back and re-review the early years of Red Dwarf? Likely. Still, for now, after 61 episodes, after the highs and the lows, the good and the bad, the TIVs and the dinosaurs… we have completed the outlook on Red Dwarf.

Look out, Dwarfers.

The slime’s coming home.

Tidbits:

  • Again, this episode replaced a Kochanski two-parter. It may have given us “Dear Dave”, but this more than makes up for it.
  • Oh, there’s a c-plot about some wacko GELF named Hogey pestering the crew for a duel across time and space to waste time. At least that led to the plot. No commentary about call centers, accident report forms, and Chinese Whispers here!
  • Rimmer’s father reappears. He had previously appeared in “Better Than Life”, played by John Abineri. Abineri wasn’t exactly alive at the time of filming this episode, however. So, they brought in Simon Treves, who has done some writing and directing work for other British TV shows. He also acted in the Fry/Laurie show Jeeves and Wooster.
Favorite Scene: “Arnold… I’m not your father.” With that, the episode, and the franchise, are forever changed… maybe for the better.
 
Least Favourite Scene: The scene with one of the Simulants apologizing to the Head Simulant just turned me off. It’s the darkest thing I’ve seen on Red Dwarf in a long time.
 
Score: 8
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