Red Dwarf Review: “Officer Rimmer” (Series XI, Episode 4)

Merry Christmas, everybody! The reviews of Series XI, I guess, will serve as my Christmas Spectacular Thing. It’s gonna go into January (I think), but given that it feels like stores have begun selling Christmas goods in August, what’s the problem with going a few extra days?

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A first lieutenant must keep his priorities in order, prepare for any sort of danger. Truly, Rimmer is the MacArthur of his fleet.

“Things are about to get a whole lot more Rimmery!” – Rimmer.

Airdate: October 9th, 2016
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: As the title suggests, Rimmer becomes an officer. He does so by saving a JMC officer that was printed out by a 3D printer. After getting this promotion, he uses the printer to make several clones. Unfortunately, like real-life printers, this one encounters some errors… a few of which are deadly.

Review:

The idea of cloning somebody isn’t necessarily a complex idea. How this episode deals with it, though, is by analyzing the style of DNA reproduction by making temporary copies in a printer. It’s rather horrifying, especially given that the printer is connected to a network of individuals whose genomes are available for anyone to use, regardless of their intent.

Red Dwarf, like most sci-fi tropes it takes on, puts a comedic spin on it by tying it to one of the main plot threads present in the show – Rimmer’s utter failure to reach what he feels is the next class level.

On that note, anybody remember Series VIII’s “Only the Good”?

If you’re a Red Dwarf fan, of course, you do. It’s impossible to forget an episode of Red Dwarf so haphazard – at least, in my opinion. A concept touched upon in that tragically undercooked series finale is Rimmer’s quest to become an officer (in hindsight, a bit of a bookend to the first episode.) Captain Hollister rebuts him by saying that he lacks the qualities to be an officer. My view on that was simple:

This episode had a ton of potential for a finale: what if Rimmer was the captain of a ship? How would he run it? We sort of saw that during the first six series, where he was technically the most senior officer on the ship (despite being a dead second technician). However, there, he was balanced by the more rational Kryten and the more humanist Lister. We also saw him take some level of total control in “Meltdown”, where he becomes the leader of “Arnie’s Army” and leads them to a brutal pyrrhic victory.

Seeing Rimmer in control of a mining ship, even in an alternate universe story, might have been decent. Seeing the crewmembers in reversed roles might have been good. It had so much potential.

But not like this.

Granted, that was back when I was a more emotional, ultra-progressive, somewhat SJW-sympathizing geek. Now I’m a less emotional, SJW-skeptic (yet still mildly socialist) geek. Still, my point stands that the episode dispatched a great idea in favor of an overstuffed, slapstick-heavy mess. Not helping matters is that, by the time the next episode aired, an entire US Presidency had started and ended. Ten years with that episode in the shadows probably drove more than a few fans spare.

“Officer Rimmer” revisits the basic premise of Rimmer getting promoted to a senior position, and does so with a bit of gusto.

Yes, Rimmer’s desire to be an officer has been a plot thread since the first episode. His reasoning is to please his social father, who pretty much abused him for his own failings. Given what he knows about his father now, it does seem a bit strange that he would continue to promote himself as “superior officer”. Then again, not only is Rimmer messed up beyond all belief, but his ego doesn’t necessarily stem from his father’s abuse.

In terms of actually passing the advancement test, the thing is, he’s so neurotic and uptight that he thwarts his own attempts to revise… or take an exam in the first place. (Writing “I am a fish” 400 times on an exam does not a promotion make.) He is only captain by some minuscule level of default – and even then, he has little (if any) real authority. (The Cat openly despises his guts, for starters.)

Still technically a second technician, he is damned to low status for the rest of eternity – or at least until Lister dies. Until this episode, at least.

He does get promoted, not thanks to a test, but thanks to a recommendation. Ironically, this came from an act of selfishness – launching a missile at the Nautilus to save Starbug – proving lucky for Captain Edward Herring of the Nautilus. So thankful, he promotes Rimmer to the rank of Officer, and Rimmer respects the office by creating a class system aboard the Red Dwarf. Chris Barrie, like always, makes Rimmer’s most insufferable moments absolutely hilarious. Once tied to a working class lifestyle, Rimsie abandons it with a selfish gusto, taking advantage of every single aspect of the Officer lifestyle and even creates classist aspects of it unseen before by the trio – themselves on the lower rungs of society.

Rather interesting to compare the classist actions of Rimmer to the (at least seemingly) somewhat egalitarian Federation in Star Trek. There, the superiors and the privates, while not equal in rank, still treated each other with a certain respect. Here, the division leads to anger and/or bullying.

The really intriguing part is that, by raising himself to a higher class, Rimmer thinks that he is safe from the sort of rebellions and missteps that have dogged him for years. He doesn’t comprehend – or tries to ignore – the fact that others’ distaste for him is not because of his low status, but because of his shortcomings in personality. This is best demonstrated when Lister (yes, the working class space bum) and Kryten team up to thwart Rimmer’s plans to make clones of the ship’s crew. Instead of taking the hint, he makes 50 copies of himself.

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OK, before anybody asks – yes, this has been done before. “Me2” and “Rimmerworld”, anybody. “Me2” was a borderline masterpiece, and “Rimmerworld” my least favorite episode of the first six series, both for the way they treated our favorite failure. Here, what we get is that, actually, a bunch of Rimmers together on an officer’s deck is merely annoying and irritating. Still, the printer restricts the Rimmers to their various duties – they can’t stop Lister, Kryten, and the Cat from entering the officer’s club. His ego outweighs his thought process – clearly, Herring made a pathetic decision, and since he completed his goal of saving the Nautilus, he’s no longer alive.

Oh, also, his lack of patience and arrogance lead him to destroy a print job… creating a gestalt-esque mass of tortured Rimmers who absorb every other Rimmer. Forced to ask the trio for help in destroying the Rimmer Monster, he is strong-armed into resigning his command and taking up his old second technician slot. How strange that this trio of working-class dorks can effectively bring an elitist snob to his knees, with only a very simple act setting that in motion. We’ll never see that in real life, right?*

With Rimmer humiliated, he’s forced to accept their help in saving his arse. They distract the monster, allow Rimmer to slide past the entity, and fire the bazookoids.

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Cue Credits

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Not kidding. Lister orders the trio to open fire, and just as the bullets leave the guns, the end credits roll. This might be the single most jarring ending in the history of Red Dwarf. Yes, even more so than Rimmer meeting the Grim Reaper before kneeing him in the pelvis (the aforementioned “Only the Good”). Even more than the open end to “Polymorph” (and no, I don’t count the remaster). And at least “DNA” ended on a joke. (“Has anyone got a popadom the size of Lake Michigan?”) Here, it just feels like Dave ordered the real end cut in order to fit more ads in.

Still, it’s a mark to this episode’s hilarity that it barely serves as a strike against the episode’s quality. “Officer Rimmer” is probably the funniest episode this season. It has a brilliant twist on the “clone” plot, has loads of Rimmer at his callous best, and a whole lot more. I preferred “Give and Take” (because that episode had an ending), but this episode is a decent second in my rankings for this series.

Tidbits:

  • The comic bit at the beginning doesn’t necessarily tie into the rest of the episode on first glance – serving more as “warm-up” jokes. However, given the fact that Rimmer becomes an arrogant ass once promoted to Officer, his dreams are probably a great representation of him selling himself short subconsciously.
  • More flashbacks to Lister’s past come, with him revealing that he sold the rights to his genome for $£100 and a half a pack of cigarettes. End results? A bunch of Listers working in call centers on the Mersey. “You mean all those smart-arsed Scousers in call centers are me?”
  • One of the silliest gags in this episode involves Rimmer creating a Barbershop Quartet to praise his Rimmerness. Doesn’t Rimmer remember that Barbershop ain’t been popular since aught-six, dagnabbit?
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Baby on board… how I’ve adored… That sign on my car windowpane…
  • The pens! The pens! Even in an ending that stupid, I laughed.

Wrap Up:

Favorite Scene: Rimmer not only segregating the corridor by class but going as far as to give the Officer’s corridor a moving walkway.
Least Favorite Scene: “Dying!” Two shots are fired. “It’s cold outside…” Damn it, Doug Naylor!
Score: 7.75. Without that ending, though, it would be a solid 8.5. One of the best of the series, hampered by the worst ending in Red Dwarf history.

On that note, It’s uncertain that I’ll be able to get another post in until the new year. I think I should, but just in case I don’t, I feel like a small note is in order.

Let’s face it – 2016 was a bit of a rough year. I don’t think I need to get into why. We’ve had terrorist attacks, democracy going to strange new places, and a sizeable chunk of pop culture icons ascending to the great beyond. (Edit, 6:30-ish PM – former Wham! frontman George Michael is now on this offensively long list. Like I said, ain’t gonna be hard to have 2017 be better than 2016. Here’s my favorite GM song, for posterity purposes. Fifty-three, man – far too soon.) It feels like it’s been one of the gloomiest years for quite a while. I figure that keeping in tradition with the relative awkwardness that was 2016, I play one of the more depressing Christmas songs ever recorded – this one from the disco group Erasure.

 

 

Still, that doesn’t mean 2016 was all bad. We got some great sci-fi TV this year (Red Dwarf returned, Star Vs. came into its own, and we saw some sublime Steven Universe), as well as a new Star Trek movie that was alright. The sports world was full of fantastic underdog stories, from the Cubbies winning a World Series for the first time since Theodore Roosevelt was President, to Leicester City’s unprecedented Premier League win. Personally speaking, I’m glad to see the backs of Sec. Clinton and PM Cameron, even if the circumstances of their denouement were less than ideal. And there’s more to list, but this post is getting a tad bit long anyway.

Besides, 2017 is just days away. Let’s start it fresh, and make it better than 2016. (Shouldn’t be too hard, but still.)

Have a Merry Christmas, everybody!

*Before anybody gangs up on me, I should clarify that I am not necessarily Eurosceptic and that I had enough concerns about Trump to not back him. I understand, though, why the voters made the decisions they made – and most of them were concerned about economic security and disliked the government elite. (I’m a bit of a Bernie Sanders fan, by the way. The two-party system is sorta strange.)

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