After High & Low‘s sojourn into Guest Character territory, we’re sailing back to the main cast here, and arguably the most important character in Red Dwarf; Arnold Judas Rimmer.
Coward, pedant, complete bastard; who IS the real Rimmer? I hope my examination of his best and worst scenes over the past 10 series can shed some light. Or just provoke a mud-slinging row in the comments. As ever, my article, my rules, my opinions.
Well, actually, you could write a whole article on what makes a good or bad character scene, but I decided to narrow down the many great Rimmer scenes over the whole of Red Dwarf by deciding whether it actually told us something new or interesting about the character, rather than riffing on traits that we already knew and loved. As for the worst; well, I pretty much used the same criteria about character traits. You may or may not agree. Let’s deal with the best scenes first, to get us in the mood.
10. Rimmer’s deep bow on the Nova 5
Kryten is a corker of an episode anyway, but we’re really shown here to what extremes Rimmer’s lust for glory can reach, with one of the most glorious comic moments in Red Dwarf. At last, Rimmer gets to meet some women who *might* be persuaded to believe that he’s successful and brave, so he dolls himself up in his favourite ludicrous military uniform, only to find that he’s a little too late. Well, quite a bit too late, in fact. It’s quite something when you’re humiliated by three ladies who have decomposed down to their skeletons.
9. Low Rimmer
Demons and Angels
I have a feeling this is popular mostly due to Chris Barrie dressing up in stockings and suspenders, but Low Rimmer is by far the most interesting character in Demons & Angels. By this stage, fans were aware that Rimmer’s attitude to women wasn’t particularly admirable, but I think this shows something else; a general disregard for the humanity of others. Low Rimmer doesn’t much care WHO he has, as long as he gets to torture them beforehand, which is a callousness beyond that of the other Low characters.
8. The Parade
At last, Rimmer gets to indulge in his military fantasies, which is not only an excuse to trot out well-known prejudices of Sergeants all over the world, but also gives us Rimmer ordering Gandhi to give him 50 push-ups. Does Rimmer learn anything from his abject failure of leadership in this episode? Nah.
7. His sacrifice of his position
A rare example of Rimmer actually doing something honourable. For him to give a very hard-won (so hard-won, he risked permanent brain damage by cheating outrageously) position on a Holoship up, he must have experienced something remarkable. He did; the love of a good woman. Nirvanah Crane is the first character we see in Red Dwarf who loved Rimmer, and we see the result; Rimmer actually becomes honourable and considerate. Aw. Not for long, though.
6. Rimmer’s hijack of Lister’s body
It’s interesting that the full impact of Rimmer’s holographic status in the early series isn’t often dwelt upon, possibly because Rimmer’s complaining so much about everything anyway. Bodyswap shows us exactly why Rimmer can’t have nice things, as he kidnaps Lister’s body after Lister refuses to let him borrow it again, due to his overindulgence with everything he can’t consume as a hologram. Even crashing Starbug in Lister’s body doesn’t teach him a lesson.
5. His sacrifice of his soldiers
Rimmer could have let Lister freeze to death, but, despite everything, he does believe in an odd sort of honour, so when Lister leads him to believe that he’s burnt his beloved guitar in order to stay alive, Rimmer allows his precious Armee du Nord soldiers to be burnt as well. Shame Lister was actually burning Rimmer’s equally precious trunk, cut into guitar shapes.
4. His bravery
Out of Time
It appears that despite all his fantasies about wealth and power, when Rimmer comes face to face with what it does to him, he’s just as appalled as Kryten or Lister. His unlikely bravery is summed up in the famous line “Better dead than smeg!”, which seems to suggest that the Rimmer he really wanted to be wasn’t the Rimmer who plays canasta with Hitler.
3. Rimmer preparing for deletion
As vainglorious as it is, Rimmer does at least accept his fate with some sort of honour, and reveals the story behind his last word, “Gazpacho” with good grace. Unfortunately for this Rimmer, he isn’t smart enough to work out that Lister wiped the other Rimmer as he left the room, taunting Gazpacho Rimmer as he went, as Lister knew the story wouldn’t get told otherwise. Souper.
2. Rimmer telling Lister about his dad
Better Than Life
Affecting, amusing, and gives us a fairly substantial clue as to why Rimmer is wracked with insecurities, given his endurance of what was fairly severe child abuse. I presume social workers didn’t exist on Io. The fact that this doesn’t slow down a fantastic episode of sitcom also shows the quality of the writing for this scene; a real career high for Rob and Doug’s partnership.
1. Dead Rimmer’s entrance
A truly beautiful entrance for Rimmer as a hologram. Dead, entirely composed of light, and absolutely furious about it. So angry, in fact, that he accuses Lister of being a murderer, but is easily distracted from that argument when he threatens to put Lister on report for smoking in the drive room. Even dead, to Rimmer, rules are rules.
Well, that’s enough fun. Onto Rimmer’s five worst scenes, the ones that make the heart sink and tough nuts from Titan sob with depression. It was a tough and disheartening set of choices.
5. Rimmer being hauled up in front of Captain Hollister
Pete (Part One)
I thought there was some terrible mistake with this scene. Surely Rimmer was given Lister’s lines in error?
4. Rimmer leaving
Stoke Me a Clipper
Unlike some of the Rimmer scenes I hate, quite a lot of work goes into persuading us that Rimmer would take on Ace’s role and make it his own, but it just doesn’t seem right to me. Obviously, Chris Barrie had to be written out of that series *somehow*, but couldn’t it have been truer to the character? Double-crossing the rest of the crew and buggering off just seems…more…Rimmer.
3. His attitude to Howard’s death
Rimmer meeting one of his brothers should have been a massive thing. After all, we spent so much time over the course of Red Dwarf hearing about them, and yet, the appearance of Howard, was, in the end, fairly underwhelming. Even though the basic plot was quite strong, Rimmer’s callousness was overplayed yet again, and it was difficult to feel anything but frustration. The Observation Dome scene in Better Than Life is the perfect example of this sort of story being done right, and it was only one scene in an excellent episode.
2. Irene E’s death
I’m not happy with the treatment of Irene E as a whole in this episode, but Rimmer’s disappointment at her death robbing him of a possible sexual partner is pretty low, even for Rimmer. I could go on at length about my problems with Doug’s writing here, but we’ve had that argument, I’m sure.
1. Sexual magnetism
Back in the Red (Part Two)
Yuck. Yes, we know Rimmer’s attitude to women has nearly always been awful, but this crosses the line. Rimmer isn’t meant to have his bad behaviour rewarded, and his use of the virus is particularly cynical and callous. A genuinely disturbing scene.
On that note, let’s look forward to something a little lighter in tone; John Hoare making his case for the best and worst Red Dwarf special effects shots. Please feel free to nominate your faves and worsties in the comments, as well as telling me I’m an idiot for leaving out your particular Rimmer highlight.