Red Dwarf XI Episode IV “Officer Rimmer” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Starbug detects a ship on the opposite side of an asteroid field crewed by bio-printed personnel – the ship’s computer decides which crewmembers are needed in a certain situation and 3D-prints them out for temporary use.
- The ship is about to explode, so the ship has printed off the captain (although a printer jam means his face ends up on the top of his head).
- The explosion could also take out Starbug if the ship gets any nearer, so Rimmer unilaterally decides to nuke it while still at a safe distance.
- But by a stroke of luck the nuke only destroys the dodgy engine, saving the ship.
- Thinking that Rimmer’s move was a case of tactical genius, the ship’s captain promotes Rimmer to an officer, then dissolves.
- Rimmer immediately orders Kryten to use the bio printer to create a new crew that he can boss around.
- Kryten and Lister surreptitiously wipe the printer’s memory to prevent this happening.
- Rimmer instead uses the printer to create multiple versions of himself from DNA on his belongings.
- When Lister and Cat gatecrash into the Rimmer-filled new officers’ mess Rimmer-Prime forces Kryten to print out more muscly versions of himself to act as bouncers.
- But the printer jams again a creates a Rimmermonster from multiple, merged, mad Rimmers.
- Lister, Cat and Kryten only agree to help Rimmer kill the monster if Rimmer resigns from being an officer.
- Reluctantly he agrees and they blow the monster to smithereens.
“Officer Rimmer” is one of those rare occasions when you really wish Red Dwarf had a decent budget. Usually, the show’s bargain basement production values work to the its advantage; when Red Dwarf did start relying on special FX for gags around season seven and eight the quality of scripts seemed to plummet. But since the move to Dave (post “Back To Earth”, anyway) and the resulting limited funds, the show has rediscovered its mojo. It’s almost as if the scuzzy characters work better in a scuzzy atmosphere.
But there are some visual gags in “Officer Rimmer” that are utterly brilliant in concept but which lose something in cash-strapped translation to screen. The idea of a bio-printed captain whose face is warped because of a printer jam is inspired lunacy, and the initial glance we get of Captain Herring and his “face for a toupee” is brilliant. But after a while the mask begins to look really ropey and it kills the gag.
Similarly, the gestalt Rimmermonster is almost Monty Python meets John Carpenter’s The Thing but the initial brilliant reveal is eroded by too many really poor shots of the lumbering beast. It’s not quite self-consciously cheesy to get away with being “pastiche” but it’s not good enough to be taken seriously. Well, not seriously, maybe…
It’s a shame, because the episode has so much to enjoy, and the scenes of multiple Rimmers filling the ship are both hilarious and impeccably achieved. The throwaway gag about armies of call centre Listers is a peach, and Kryten gets some cracking insults in at Rimmer’s expense. The central conceit – 3D printed crews – is also another classic case of Red Dwarf delivering a sci-fi concept on screen that even “serious” sci-fi shows haven’t come up with yet; though Dark Matter’s copying devices are similar, the idea of a ship’s computer creating its own crew on-demand is new and full of dramatic potential and moral exploration – in the new Star Trek perhaps?).
Despite a couple of creaky moments and a bizarrely abrupt ending (which the final gag isn’t quite strong enough to justify) you can’t help thinking that it this exact same script had been produced on the money it takes to pay the casts’ wages for an episode of The Big Bang Theory, “Officer Rimmer” could have been a true landmark in TV sci-fi.
- Some of the visual gags – the bio-printer looking like a photocopier; Herring’s “jammed” face; the multiple Rimmers in the officers’ club; the Rimmermonster – are inspired. This is the kind of imaginative bats’-arsey the show built its reputation on.
- Chris Barrie is clearly enjoying having an episode centred on him, and his barber shop quartet scene is one of Rimmer’s greatest moments on the show…
- Though we also loved his snooty wine waiter…
- The multi-Rimmer shots are flawless.
- “You look like you’re wearing a toupee made of face.”
- “What – tell him I’ve just nuked his ship? I’m not telling him that.”
“He won’t like me.”
- “You mean all those smart-arsed scousers in call centres are me?”
- “There’s a deranged version of me out there.”
“There’s one in here too.”
- One of the Rimmer heads on the “Rimmermonster” quite clearly isn’t Chris Barrie.
- The prosthetic for Captain Herring’s head is great for the initial gag, but it doesn’t really stand up to amount of screen time it has to endure.
- Some of the innuendos would be hard-pressed to make it into a late Carry On script, and the gratuitous Kryten looks “hilariously” like he’s humping Rimmer is just… oh dear.
- Would anybody have thought any less of the episode if Kryten’s long-winded and largely laugh-free technobabble about how the monster had been created had been cut?
- Did the Pac-Man video screen make any sense? Even in a “comedy logic” sense?
- Blimey, that was a sudden ending!
And The Random:
- Interestingly the Rimmerhead that isn’t Chris Barrie is the only one that doesn’t say, “What’s that?” in unison at the very end of the episode. Is that because of that old TV rule about having to pay extras – or in this case, head and arm double – more if they’re required to speak?
- Rimmer’s list is headed “New Officer’s Club” whereas it should be “New Officers’ Club”… unless it’s a really subtle joke because, if you look at the situation in a certain way, there’s still actually only one new officer.
- Edwin Herring may be known to his friend as “Ed” Herring… which sounds an awfully lot like “red herring”. Bet he was teased as a child.