The one accusation that can’t be levelled at Series X is a lack of ideas. With scenarios and stories floating around Doug’s head for over a decade, there was never going to be a shortage of adventures for the crew to get up to. Indeed, many episodes seem to have almost too many ideas, with several interweaving plots competing for screen time. As such, there’s a nagging feeling that we’d liked to have seen more of certain elements, as not all of the questions raised by the concepts were fully answered in the series.
This article, therefore, lists ten of the biggest talking points from the series – a series that contains enough invention and intrigue to keep us talking for years. We’re not saying that these are plot holes or things that Doug neglected; these are just topics that it’s fun and interesting to speculate on in a far more in-depth manner than the pace of a half-hour sit-com episode will allow. In several cases, it’s good and proper that these things weren’t expanded upon within the episodes; not only would it have taken up valuable screen time, but it would also have been a shame if we hadn’t been able to ponder on any in-universe interestingness in the weeks, months and possibly years we’ll spend waiting for Series XI.
So, starting with Trojan, then…
Do Howard and Sim Crawford travel through time?
I’d say yes, absolutely. Kryten specifically mentions that the quantum rods that power Trojan work by folding space-time, which is a different concept to both space and time as individual components. When Rimmer manipulates the rod (snigger), Howard and Crawford aren’t just pulled through space – they’re taken out of their own time. When Howard discusses his ship being attacked, it happened a matter of days ago as far as he was concerned; it seems very unlikely that a ship full of humans would still be around at the same time as the Dwarfers, and even more unlikely that Howard would have still been the ship’s hologram some three million years after his human body died.
Apart from anything else, there’s the whole simulant issue. In our crew’s time, simulants are purely and simply evil bastards, hiding in the shadows and hunting any life-forms of terrestrial origin for sport. But it wasn’t always thus – as Kryten points out in Justice, which was then expanded on in the novels, simulants were originally just as subservient as androids, before rebelling in order to pursue their spitting-down-your-neck agenda. Sim Crawford appears to be one of the pioneers of the simulant uprising, which – given that Kryten has previously had to explain what rogue simulants were to Lister and Rimmer – must have happened at some point between Red Dwarf’s accident and the Nova 5 going down.
This, combined with the fact that Howard knew that Arnold had been killed on board Red Dwarf, suggests that Howard and Crawford originate from some time after the radiation leak took place. Howard’s age, relative to Arnold’s, further suggests that he must have died and been resurrected no more than ten years or so after the events of The End – but let’s not get into the whole holograms aging debate here…
Why is Howard hard light?
This has either puzzled or pissed off a number of people. Given that the hard light drive was invented by Legion, on a space station in the depths of deep space, how is Howard Rimmer using it, if we’re now assuming that he’s from three million years ago? Well, the simple fact is that we don’t know when Legion invented this drive, other than that it was “many years ago”. Legion had been dormant for some considerable time when the Dwarfers arrived – it’s entirely possible that he’d been around for millions of years.
His research facility – and indeed the technology to power Legion himself – must have been set up by somebody. He wouldn’t have been inventing things and keeping them to himself, he’d have been reporting back to some company or other, for them to utilise and exploit his developments. Rimmer could have been really unlucky – maybe the hard light technology was sent back to Earth relatively soon after Red Dwarf’s accident, but too late for the radiation-filled facilities on board to be upgraded. Legion describes Rimmer’s light bee as “primitive” and “so basic”, and the installation of the hard light capabilities seems like an everyday operation. This is all somewhat of a stretch, but I have no real problem with the suggestion that hard light holograms are commonplace throughout the universe, and it’s just unfortunate that Rimmer didn’t get hold of the technology sooner.
In Fathers and Suns, what was the whining noise that Rimmer heard?
This is one that I’d have thought was perfectly clear, but due to the lack of an explicit reference within the episode, people weren’t sure whether or not they’d missed something. It’s certainly a tricky balance to get right – fans will moan if you spell everything out, and they’ll moan if something’s confusing. But my understanding was that this was Rimmer noticing all the faults and imperfections on the ship; the things that needed fixing, that he didn’t have the capability to do, and that therefore lead to the necessity of a new computer.
And on a similar note – the reason we couldn’t see Pree’s tits was that Kryten absent-mindedly selected ‘close up’ as the frame size when Rimmer lost interest in the preference menu. It’s all there in the episode, but there’s lots of little details that can be missed on first viewing. Such as…
How did Drunk Lister know what Sober Lister would do?
It’s pretty clear that Pree gave “Lister Senior” some help, judging by his “I’ve got a job for you” line, but the question is: how much help? She’d more than likely have had a hand in figuring out the structure of the message – the number of times Lister Junior would play the next message, at what point it would be necessary to reveal the missing guitar, and suchlike. Let’s face it, if Lister’s drunk enough to fall off a chair twice in as many seconds, he’s not going to be in a fit state to mess about with non-linear narrative structures.
However, those viewers who missed the ‘job for you’ line seemed perfectly happy with the interpretation whereby Lister knew what he was going to do when sober simply because he knows himself so well. There’s that whole drunken angst, self-loathing and compulsion for honesty that booze brings out – Lister wanted to tell himself off, but he knew that he wouldn’t want to hear it when he wasn’t pished. Drunk Lister’s mocking “I’m doing OK” is a very specific response to Sober Lister’s line, yet strangely it’s the kind of thing that feels like it could have been predicted without Pree’s influence. Maybe Pree just told Lister the number of messages he had to make, and at what point would be best to reveal certain bits of information, and the rest was Lister’s own knowledge and judgement.
Why didn’t Pree predict her own fate?
Well, I reckon she did. Pree is one of the most complex ‘baddies’ that Red Dwarf has ever had – usually, they either want to indiscriminately kill all humans, or they’re doing it for food. But I don’t think Pree actually has evil intentions; she just gets a perverse pleasure out of extreme bureaucracy. When she trashes B-Deck, it’s not out of malice, but out of a misguided desire to serve the crew in what she believed to be the correct manner. There are more shades of grey when it comes to crashing the ship into the sun, but you could interpret her little smirks as satisfaction that she’s employing faultless logic regardless of the implications. When she’s sealing off vents and gassing the crew, that’s out of the same desire to finish the job in hand, especially now that Cat, Rimmer and Kryten are expendable.
So if you take these actions as a slavish devotion to logic and rule-following, then self-preservation isn’t necessarily a motive for Pree. Indeed, if she’d have succeeded in destroying the ship, she’d have been destroyed with it. She probably knew all along that Lister was likely to return to the ship and figure out how he could reinstate himself, but because she does everything by the book, she couldn’t act on Lister’s predicted future actions and desires until he knew what he wanted to do. Her cold, clinical personality makes her very different to the likes of Holly – she’s more akin to the Justice Computer, executing its programming with little to no injection of character or personal opinion. The closest Pree gets to ‘happy’ is the knowledge that she’s acted in the correct manner, and if the correct course of action is to turn herself off, she’d be perfectly happy to do so.
How could the rejuvenation shower send the crew back in time?
Full credit to Danny Stephenson for the following theory. When assembled correctly, the rejuvenation shower makes people younger by essentially reverting their bodies to a younger version. Without the alignment rods correctly installed, whatever it is that makes people younger was projected outwards rather than inwards – much like the triplicator in Demons & Angels. So instead of making what was inside the shower younger, it made everything *outside* the shower younger. The universe itself was regressed three million and a couple of thousand years into its past; all matter was turned into its younger self.
There’s still a few unanswered questions with this theory – not least how and why they moved in space as well as time. Also, if the shower’s power was directed outwards, why was the universe itself affected but not the crew? Needs fine-tuning this one, but it’s a start.
Why did the BEGGs choke to death?
Now, this one is a little bit confusing, not least because the power of coincidence doesn’t quite work in a consistent manner within the episode. In some scenes, the quantum entanglement simply causes Cat and Kryten to notice coincidences that are happening around them – the Cat holding the book that Kryten’s talking about, the characters on the TV having a conversation that’s relevant to their situation, and so on. Kryten’s dialogue in the BEGGs scene states that they were always going to choke; it’s just a coincidence that they were around to see it.
But this dialogue doesn’t quite ring true with what we’ve seen happen within that scene. Cat and Lister’s repeated use of the word ‘choke’ has to be intrinsically linked to the BEGGs beginning to actually choke – if they hadn’t have been saying ‘choke’, then there would have been no coincidence. So would they indeed have choked to death at that precise moment if the crew hadn’t have been there to see it? I’d say that the episode implies – intentionally or otherwise – that the quantum entanglement can cause coincidences, rather than just make people more aware of them. After all, why would Cat and Kryten talk in sync with each other if that wasn’t the case? With that in mind, my interpretation is that the use of the word ‘choke’ did indeed directly cause the choking to take place.
What role does the JMC on-board computer play in the crew’s lives?
A huge can of worms is opened in this series with the implication that the Dwarfers aren’t completely isolated on that ship; that the Jupiter Mining Corporation still has an influence on their lives. It starts in Trojan when Howard is posthumously promoted and honoured, but the biggest interferences come in Dear Dave. It’s revealed that Rimmer has been in contact with the JMC, that they still have the power to demote him, and that the ship still has to be run to a budget, with toilet rolls taking up resources that could be spent on medical supplies.
The implications here could be huge. Does this mean that the human race has survived? Are the JMC aware that a member of their staff is still alive, stranded three million years into deep space? Why the fuck aren’t they doing anything about it, and why are they still pissing about with Red Dwarf’s budget? However, having put probably far more thought into this than Doug had the opportunity to do within Series X’s schedule, my interpretation is that this is an old automated system that’s just never been shut down, either because it’s impossible to, or because it can still useful to the crew at times. And after all, promotions were still possible way back in Balance of Power, again operated by a machine.
The increased influence that the system has on the crew is possibly down to Holly being offline. As Red Dwarf’s own mainframe, perhaps Holly could overrule decisions and ignore queries made by this separate JMC computer. Indeed, Holly always had “a little understanding” with Lister and Rimmer regarding food provisions, on-board duties and whatnot; if the JMC computer had demanded Rimmer was put to work, or held back on supplies for budgetary reasons, Holly could have just dismissed it and let the crew carry on. But with Holly gone, this little JMC computer is now free to be bureaucratic to its heart content – it’s presumably either unaware that the human race is largely extinct, or has decided that this fact is irrelevant so long as there’s at least one live crew member and a ship’s hologram.
If ‘Rimmer’ saved the ship from the chameleonic microbe, which version of Rimmer appears in the series?
Before we get into this, it’s worth pointing out that it probably doesn’t matter in the slightest. The deliberate lack of explanation in The Beginning was funny, and if anyone was genuinely annoyed by it, then they deserve everything they get. It’s unlikely that Doug even knows himself what happened at the end of Series VIII, and why the hell should the cliffhanger to a poorly-received series from thirteen years ago be given any significant amount of screen time in a brand new episode? But like everything else in this list, even though it’s not massively important, it’s still fun to speculate.
I’ve always liked the theory, perpetuated by TOSer Seb Patrick, that the current Rimmer is an amalgamation of both ‘our’ original Rimmer (the one that fucked off to become Ace) and the nanobot-resurrected new Rimmer from Series VIII. In this theory, nano-Rimmer died at the end of Only The Good and was resurrected as a hologram using a combination of his original files and a back-up of the Rimmer that we lived through six-and-a-bit series with. As such, the Back To Earth/Series X Rimmer has both sets of memories and experiences, leading to a unique third incarnation of the character, but one that in real terms can be whatever Doug wants him to be. The fact that he remembers both the original despair squid attack and the chameleonic microbe backs this up.
However, it’s not the only theory. The hints given in The Beginning indicate that Rimmer saved the day by sheer fluke, which makes me think that rather than (metaphorically or otherwise) kicking Death in the balls, the Series VIII Rimmer properly died, and our Rimmer turned up to save the day. Perhaps he made a rubbish Ace, or perhaps he just missed Lister too much, but for whatever reason, he decided to return to his own dimension. He made the jump, boarded the ship and saw that it was falling apart. He somehow fixed it – hey, if Doug can get out of stating exactly how, then so can I – and resumed his old life.
Either theory is pretty satisfying, but I sort of prefer the one that cuts nano-Rimmer out of the equation entirely. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get by this character – he’s simply not the same person when he hasn’t shared the same experience as the rest of the crew and indeed the audience. That scene in Cassandra where they have to tell him what Future Echoes are was just really sad.
What happened to Dungo?
The revelation that Rimmer’s biological father is not the person he thought he was is certainly a huge development for the character, but it’s unclear just how much it will affect him. It gave him a big boost in confidence at the climax to The Beginning, but the fact remains that he was still brought up by his “step-dad”, and it brings up an interesting quandary in regards to nature vs nurture. Remember, under the influence of the despair squid in Back To Reality, it’s stated that Billy Doyle’s shared upbringing with half-brother Sebastian was the source of Rimmer’s depression, so there’s no reason for Rimmer to lose the resentment he feels towards at least two thirds of his brothers.
This new information certainly doesn’t alter the impact and drama of our previous glimpses of Rimmer’s family life, but here’s an interesting thing to ponder. Rimmer’s mum thought that he’d passed every exam he’d ever taken, and held the position of Rear Admiral Lieutenant General prior to his death. Knowing that he had Mr Rimmer’s hololamp with him (even though we didn’t), she must have assumed that he’d played the message upon becoming an officer. So when she writes to him to tell him that his father had died, was she talking about her husband or her bit on the side? As far as she was aware, Rimmer would have known that “your father” refers to Dungo, although in hindsight it seems she was needlessly vague with her message. Perhaps the awful handwriting prevented her from clarifying this point.
So those are some of the bigger talking points thrown up by these six new episodes, although they’re certainly not the only ones. Remember, all of the above suppositions are just one fan’s interpretation of the footage we’ve been presented with, rather than definitive explanations. Long may the debate continue in the comments…