Eric Bay-Andersen reviews Red Dwarf XI Episode 4 – ‘Officer Rimmer’…
Kryten – According to Freud’s ‘Lexicon of Dream Symbols’, flying is meant to be a metaphor for sex.
Rimmer – Absolute poppycock. I dream of flying all the time. It’s certainly nothing to do with sex. It’s always the same dream – I’m in a Boeing 727 that can’t take off, I’m sitting there with a tiny bag of nuts I can’t get open. Then suddenly, after one giant tug, much to my embarrassment, the whole bag explodes over premium economy. Now tell me, because I don’t see it, how is that anything to do with sex?
Red Dwarf XI saw our favourite misfit space crew return with two great episodes. Like last week’s ‘Give And Take‘, ‘Officer Rimmer’ doesn’t quite match them in terms of quality, but is still a very enjoyable half hour of television.
It opens with Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat coming across the Nautilus, a deep-space explorer ship in distress. The ship bio-prints crew-members whenever they’re needed, and hilariously suffers a ‘paper jam’ that results in a Captain with a face spread across the top of his head. Thinking only of saving himself, Rimmer tries to blow the ship up and inadvertently ends up saving it, and the Captain is so grateful for his heroism he bestows on Rimmer the one thing he’s always wanted – a promotion to Officer.
Back on Red Dwarf, Rimmer immediately uses his new authority to instigate a class system, where he has the best of everything and the rest of the crew are forced to use the ship’s dirty (and rude) service elevators. He also uses the bio-printer to create copies of himself that he can lord over, but his greed ultimately leads to his downfall when the machine spits out a many-headed Rimmer monster, and it’s up to Lister, Kryten and the Cat to save him.
While Red Dwarf often tips its hat to classic sci-fi shows and films, the huge multi-Rimmer monster at the end of this episode is a clear reference to John Carpenter’s legendary horror movie The Thing. Credit must be given to the make-up and effects team, because it’s a pretty disturbing creation (helped by Chris Barrie and his fabulously contorted facial expressions!) The strongest aspect of this episode is the story – fans will know from classic episodes such as ‘Rimmerworld’ and ‘Quarantine’ that there’s plenty of comic potential whenever Rimmer interacts with clones of himself, and when he’s abusing a new-found position of power. Both of those things happen in this episode, and whilst it is amusing to see Rimmer ride in luxury elevators and populate an entire Officer’s Club with his own clones (the barbershop quartet scene is particularly funny), they feel a bit too much like re-treads of similar scenes from older episodes, like those I mentioned before.
There are some very odd moments of direction and editing in this episode, which disrupt the flow and dull the impact of certain jokes (Rimmer gliding through his ‘Officer’s Corridor’, for example) and as with the previous episode, the ending is bizarrely abrupt. Some of the jokes are also a bit too obvious – every time Kryten mentions there’s a possibility of Rimmer getting killed and the Cat responds with “so what’s the problem?”, it’s less and less funny. I found myself wishing there were more subtle jokes, like when Lister and Cat are forced to watch ladies’ croquet matches on TV instead of Zero-G sports (“Gosh!”) and when the Nautilus’ head-face Captain compliments Red Dwarf’s ceilings as he boards – both wonderful moments.
Overall, it is by no means a poor episode, but after such a strong opening to the series I’m hoping Red Dwarf XI will end with a bang rather than a whimper!
‘Officer Rimmer’ is available to watch now on UKTVPlay.co.uk, and will air on Dave on 13th October 2016 at 9pm.