We’re now over halfway through Red Dwarf XI and the series has gone from strength to strength, becoming a global social media event each Thursday night. The fact that #CaptainBollocks was trending last week is a testament to how great the show has once again become, with fans in their droves hitting the social networks to share their love. Episode three is already set to become one of the shows best, so have we hit the pinnacle of what XI can achieve? Well, let’s see what episode four has in store.
Creator: Doug Naylor
Staring: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn
Run Time: 28 Minutes
It’s Rimmerworld 2.0 as Arnie hits the big time with the promotion he’s wanted his entire life. Does he earn it through a selfless act, maybe a stroke of military genius from Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch? Well, of course not. Thanks to a cowardly act turning in his favour worthy of the luck virus, the hapless hologram saves the life a Space Corps Captain from a nearby ship. But we’re three million years into deep space, how could there be another Space Corps crew out this far? Well, this Captain isn’t quite human.
Using one the best visual gags the show has ever created, the existence of this ship and its crew are explained through the creative brilliance that is printable people. Using the DNA from any human, the printer can construct an artificial duplicate of them, though, as we learn early on, occasionally there’s a jam in the printer that can cause a few issues.
With the Captain’s mission complete, and thereby his existence terminated, Lieutenant Rimmer (yep, he’s promoted again) is left to live his high-flying dream, in the process ensuring that the rest of the crew, ‘the grunts’, are aware of his importance. Not content with being the only officer-level crew member, Arnie decides to use the people printer for his own misdeeds. Enter 50 Rimmers.
From the off, Officer Rimmer is a reminder of how good the Red Dwarf crew are at creating the physical comedy, the gags that turn your average science fiction idea into hilarity and the bio-printer takes this to a new level. Cloning technology, artificial life-forms, all fairly common principals in contemporary sci-fi, but when you turn that into a giant computer printer, with people shaped paper and dot-matrix sound effects you’re both borderline insane and a master of comedy, the team working on Red Dwarf are quite clearly both of those things. Throw in the paper-jam, an issue we’ve all faced at some stage, and the laughs come thick and fast, a gag that is revisited towards the end of the episode with the creation of the hydra-style Rimmer Monster.
I’ve been praising Chris Barrie for his return to form since XI began and so having the opportunity to see him driving the episode is a joy to watch. Some of the best episodes in the show’s history have seen Rimmer front and centre. The aforementioned Rimmerworld, Quarantine, Holoship, Thanks for the Memory, all classic episodes where Arnie drives the story, all up there with the best the show has to offer, Officier Rimmer will be too.
I can only imagine the difficulty and hard work involved in acting multiple versions of yourself for one scene, and yet Barrie has it nailed as we see Rimmer after Rimmer entering the hologram’s new Officers mess, all slightly different, all doing their own thing. I’m not saying that computer wizardry wasn’t involved at some stage but for the most part, you have to admire the effort that the actor puts into the episode, especially when the Rimmer quartet walk in – I was so hoping they were going to sing the Arnold Rimmer song from series VII’s Blue, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
Away from the Rimmer’s antics, the rest of the crew are trying desperately to come up with a plan for getting him demoted, while also dealing with the new class system that the would-be dictator has put in place. With Kryten bound by his programming to serve the smeghead, Lister and Kat find themselves dealing with the 24-hour knitting channel and an elevator with an attitude problem. The contrast between the new officers standard and what the ‘grunts’ are left to deal with is interesting to watch, it’s funny, but there is a serious side to the have’s vs. have-not’s. That said, the refined treatment Rimmer receives did remind me of the one time that British Airways bumped me up to First Class, so stupidly British in the best kind of way.
While Barrie takes the gong this week for best performance, not hindered by his larger portion of the runtime, the screen time he shares with Robert Llewellyn’s Kryten provides some of the best laughs of the episode, the two are incredibly funny together, have been in every scene they’ve shared this series, if I’m honest.
One thing that I’ve not focused on too much over the course of the series is the special effects, but let’s face it, they’ve been exceptional by Red Dwarf standards and this episode really gives the team’s work a chance to shine. While Rimmerworld got around the issue of multiple Arnolds using camera angles and such, this episode throws 50 on-screen at once and you’d never realise that the same man filmed all of those parts. Similarly, the multi-headed Rimmer monster which destroys them all at the end of the episode, it’s faultless in terms of on-screen visuals. I’ve always been worried that if Red Dwarf finally brought in a decent enough budget to add in extra CGI it would take something away from the charm of the show, look at the series IX’s CG skutters as a good example, and yet somehow in XI they’ve only done great things for the show.
Overall, Officer Rimmer is another great episode and while it doesn’t quite match Give and Take for brilliance in terms of story, it exceeds it in hilarity. The writing is once again superb, with some of the funniest visual gags the show has ever created, as well as some high-quality one-liners worthy of the best of Red Dwarf. While the entire cast is brilliant throughout, Chris Barrie excels in the spotlight and ensures that this episode will be rewatched over and over.
- Superb visual gags and witty banter throughout, this is the funniest episode of the series so far
- Plenty of nods to classic Dwarf, this feels like classic Dwarf
- Chris Barrie is the star of the episode, multi-Rimmers always make a fun story
- The ending is somewhat abrupt which threw me slightly