DwarfCast 89 – Stoke Me A Clipper Commentary

With just over a month until Red Dwarf XII debuts on Dave (and most likely just under a month until it debuts on UKTV Play), what the world needs right now is another discussion about Series VII. Luckily, we’ve picked one of the better episodes of that particular run as the subject for our latest commentary. Get ready to update your spreadsheets at home, and tick off Stoke Me A Clipper.

Join Cappsy, Danny, Ian and the Fan Club’s Jo Sharples (who, by the way, has recently announced the dates for the next Dimension Jump), as we discuss such diverse topics as the perils of a cold opening for a small child, Craig Charles’s secret past as a Leeds United supporter, the similarities between Ace Rimmer and Ford Prefect, another early role on Red Dwarf for Richard Naylor, plastikkrokodil and why Lister’s tie is so shiny. Plus, we offer up a possible solution to a plot hole that’s been bugging Cappsy for over twenty years.

DwarfCast 89 – Stoke Me A Clipper Commentary (32.1MB)

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51 Responses to DwarfCast 89 – Stoke Me A Clipper Commentary

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  1. For me this episode was definitely one of the low points for Series 7

    I didn’t like the way they treated the character of Ace Rimmer because he seemed like a caricature of who Ace Rimmer is and while you could make sense of it by saying it wasn’t the real Ace i can’t help but think the intention was to write it as if it was the real Ace.

    And the whole wig thing annoyed me also because it felt abit like breaking the forth wall joke since we all know chris is wearing a wig to be Ace so why ruin the illusion by turning it into a joke?

  2. For me this episode was definitely one of the low points for Series 7

    I didn’t like the way they treated the character of Ace Rimmer because he seemed like a caricature of who Ace Rimmer is and while you could make sense of it by saying it wasn’t the real Ace i can’t help but think the intention was to write it as if it was the real Ace.
    And the whole wig thing annoyed me also because it felt abit like breaking the forth wall joke since we all know chris is wearing a wig to be Ace so why ruin the illusion by turning it into a joke?

    If this Ace is a different Ace from Dimension Jump, how does he know the crew as well as he seems to? It could be argued he is blagging it, in that he has met enough of them across dimensions but it’s still played as it is the original Ace to begin with.

    The other explanation is that they have met this Ace in other off screen adventures.

    I quite like the wig joke, within the context of the whole show you’re right, but it’s a nice little gag that brings some humour to sad part of the episode.

    Something else that’s interesting, is that this episode shows its possible for holograms to not show their forehead H if they don’t want to, which is interesting.

  3. wait a minute, if lister is actually the knight that “escaped from the AR machine”, where the fuck did he get a knight costume and sword that look EXACTLY like the ones the knights in the game had?

  4. How could a knight have even escaped the AR machine anyway?

    Feels like a Star trek thing mistake.

  5. wait a minute, if lister is actually the knight that “escaped from the AR machine”, where the fuck did he get a knight costume and sword that look EXACTLY like the ones the knights in the game had?

    The future crew from Out of Time had different costumes and outfits on Starbug for all their gallivanting around history. This includes Knight costumes based on the AR game they have. When th two Starbugs combine to cope with the paradox of the future crew killing the present crew, they end up with a bunch of their stuff, including their clothes and costumes etc.

    Does that work as a piece of head cannon.

  6. A wizard did it.

  7. >If this Ace is a different Ace from Dimension Jump, how does he know the crew as well as he seems to?

    The Wildfire computer has a record of every dimension (dimensions are numbered as mentioned in the episode when Ace mentions his hairdresser). Ace merely read the record of the encounter. He may also have been with his own version of Lister, Kryten and Cat when he was recruited as Ace.

    I like the idea of Ace Rimmer meticulously recording each dimension. Despite being this ultra cool inter dimensional hero he still has that little bit of “Rimmer” in him. I bet he also still likes telegraph poles.

    >Feels like a Star trek thing mistake.

    It is a reference to Star Trek TNG and Voyager’s regular holodeck going wrong episodes which they usually did at least once every couple of seasons.

    An in universe explanation may be that Lister has seen some of these episodes and decided to copy it to fool Rimmer. Both Lister and Rimmer have referenced Star Trek in earlier episodes.

  8. Stoke Me A Clipper was definitely one of the better episodes of series 7 for me, because Rimmer’s departure has such emotional impact.

    But my problem with series 7 began with the way they resolved the series 6 cliffhanger. For me that cliffhanger was all about Rimmer’s active decision to try save them all and prevent their future selves from happening; the bravest decision he ever made. The cliffhanger wasn’t about them all being dead, it was about what it would mean for Rimmer’s character. But the series 7 resolution to that ignored Rimmer’s involvement and said their future selves created the paradox. I found it deeply frustrating.

    Then Stoke Me A Clipper had Rimmer become Ace. It would have made so much sense if this built on Rimmer’s brave decision at the end of series 6. Tikka to Ride could have shown us a slightly less cowardly Rimmer without changing the episode much, and Stoke could have followed naturally from that.

  9. I find the change of Ace from brave but still believable test pilot to dimension spanning, multi-generational superhero who passes the torch to another Rimmer when he dies one of the most awkwardly terrible things in the history of Red Dwarf.

    And although it can be explained away by him being a different incarnation, the fact that Lister, Kryten and Cat don’t notice that he’s changed from a fairly humble character to a smug git between Dimension Jump and Stoke feels off to me.

  10. Feels to me like a continuation of the characterisation of Ace in Emohawk: Polymorph II. The jump between Dimension Jump to Emohawk is greater than Emohawk to Stoke me a Clipper.

  11. Yeah it was always Rimmers point of view that Ace was a smug git but Stoke me a Clipper actually made Ace a smug git and the Crew seemed to just act like that was who Ace is.

    I don’t even think it was meant to be an awareness that it wasn’t the real ace, it was just a caricature of who Ace Rimmer is.

  12. Feels to me like a continuation of the characterisation of Ace in Emohawk: Polymorph II. The jump between Dimension Jump to Emohawk is greater than Emohawk to Stoke me a Clipper.

    But Emohawk doesn’t really show a continuation of the Ace character – it merely shows Rimmer having Ace-like qualities (and, inexplicably, clothes and hair) as a result of certain personality characteristics being removed. In terms of actual Ace progression, you have to go straight from Dimension Jump to Stoke Me A Clipper.

  13. Feels to me like a continuation of the characterisation of Ace in Emohawk: Polymorph II. The jump between Dimension Jump to Emohawk is greater than Emohawk to Stoke me a Clipper.

    But Emohawk doesn’t really show a continuation of the Ace character – it merely shows Rimmer having Ace-like qualities (and, inexplicably, clothes and hair) as a result of certain personality characteristics being removed. In terms of actual Ace progression, you have to go straight from Dimension Jump to Stoke Me A Clipper.

    Maybe a hologram is able to change it’s appearance at will. Rimmer, feeling like Ace, (consciously or unconsciously) changes his appearance to fit.

    This would also explain Rimmer’s sudden change of uniform when he resigns his officer hood in Officer Rimmer. He suddenly feels like a grunt again so his appearance changes his accordingly.

  14. Cheers for another Dwarf Cast. I knew Cappsy was going to bring up the knight escape, as he has done in previous podcasts, so it’s nice to listen and hear it brought up almost straight away and then almost twice, this didnt dissapoint, and then the surprise twist of a new coming to terms realization of a head cannon fix. lovely to hear. Its like all of the times cappsy had watched the episode previously suddenly all came together in a big shit looking cgi amalgamation of a giant TV and he suddenly looked at the episode differently!!

    Adding a little to that theory, but slightly different take. Lister says “So far, so good” implying he has a plan that needs more help to complete its further stages. So he quickly fills kryten in only and sends him in with cat to see the two rimmers. Cat then assumes rimmer is dead upon seeing ace dress, but our rimmer trys to confess its not him thats dead, before kryten corrects him by giving his voice an excuse, “your in shock” because kryten is helping listers ruse. Lister enters as if he knows nothing and further prompts rimmer to play along, the cat isnt smart enough to go against the flow then of what he is being told by everyone else so doesnt know and reacts genuine as the others string him along through all the rest of rimmers departure.

    Thats not a real crocodile Ian on his lap, I remember mike tucker talking about animating the crocodiles lip in that sequence so it looks less unalive. I dont think there is a real croc at all, is it not a credit joke or attempt to create the illusion you saw a real croc.

  15. If two hard light hologramme’s can be on starbug, and swap shit hard light hologramme wigs, then lister could wear a hard light hologramme version of a knight suit from an AR game. If only because the wildfire computer was helping him, with other dimension tech that we never see again. Fixed. lol

  16. Lister asked Kryten to make him the knight suit and then ordered him to erase the memory of making the suit.

  17. >It is a reference to Star Trek TNG…

    I agree that this is the most likely reason however as a kid when I first watched this I just thought the crew had seen enough crazy things to make it believable to them. I mean once Kryten talked about the possibility of “figments of Mr Listers imagination made real by some weird space ray” and in timeslides it was possible for a briefcase and explosion to leave a photograph.

  18. Could it be that they animated the crocodile’s mouth because it didn’t look real, even though it actually was real?

    “Going up to an all night garage, asking ‘What sandwiches have you got?'”

    I’ll have ten Kit Kats and a motoring atlas ;-)

  19. The opening sequence of this episode is one of THE classic Dwarf moments to me, along with the munchkin song in Blue and the whole Kennedy assassination plot resolution. VII had some good stuff. And some not so good stuff,

    I never considered Ace being out of character/more of a git in this episode, guess I’ll need to watch it and Dimension Jump again. I also never considered Lister’s knight getup being a plot hole.It’s not a “plot hole” per se, more just something that’s left unexplained. It would be a plot hole if it openly contradicted established continuity, like if Kryten said “we don’t have any armour on board, or any way of fabricating pretend armour under any circumstances” in the previous episode.

  20. Nowadays, we’d probably have an opening scene where the knight’s armour is seeded. So, yeah, best to skim over it.

  21. >I agree that this is the most likely reason however as a kid when I first watched this I just thought the crew had seen enough crazy things to make it believable to them. I mean once Kryten talked about the possibility of “figments of Mr Listers imagination made real by some weird space ray” and in timeslides it was possible for a briefcase and explosion to leave a photograph.

    I don’t remember it seeming at all odd at the time as a kid, its just as time went on i realised that i didn’t question it because i was confusing the AR video game thing for a Holodeck.

  22. With regards to how this Ace knows the crew, it’s tied up in the deleted scenes.

    In discussion with Lister, he reveals he is from a dimension where things were the same as we saw up until Out of Time. With the crew dead, he used the Time Drive to escape back to Napoleonic France where he hid himself away as a French woman in a flower shop. The Ace before him arrived, dying, and gave him a brief period of training before passing on the mantle to him.

    This might explain why there are so many Ace Rimmers. A lack of planning ahead.

  23. Seriously though – that armour was on board the Wildfire. Ace had it kept in the hold from some heroic adventure, so he devised the trick for Lister and coached him.

  24. If we’re going to be nerdy; since when are we referring to Ace’s ship *in the show* as “Wildfire”?

  25. TOS does recognise it as such.

    If we’re going to be Nedry: nobody cares.

  26. >If we’re going to be Nedry

    Okilly-dokilly.

  27. Ah ah ah, you didn’t say the magic word.

  28. G&T Admin

    “Going up to an all night garage, asking ‘What sandwiches have you got?’”

    I’ll have ten Kit Kats and a motoring atlas ;-)

    Hurrah!

  29. Maybe a hologram is able to change it’s appearance at will. Rimmer, feeling like Ace, (consciously or unconsciously) changes his appearance to fit.
    This would also explain Rimmer’s sudden change of uniform when he resigns his officer hood in Officer Rimmer. He suddenly feels like a grunt again so his appearance changes his accordingly.

    You could be right, but the Emohawk doesn’t only make Rimmer resemble Ace; it also physically alters Cat so that he resembles Dwayne Dibbley. Somehow his teeth and hair completely change. Has anyone ever come up with an explanation for that?

  30. As a 10 year old idiot, I never quite understood that Lister has some kind of voice changing device in his mouth during the AR knight scene. I just thought that putting a small object (penny, Pog, dishwasher tablet etc) in your mouth somehow caused you to speak in a clipped RP announcer voice. Needless to say, it didn’t work and God only knows how I avoided a horrific gum infection.

    But I think the conceit would have been clearer had Lister’s “So far…so good” line utilised actual dubbed dialogue for the “So far…” instead of Craig Charles’ patchy attempt at a posh accent.

    On a separate note, that model shot of Ace’s ship in the Starbug landing bay is beautiful, but also fucking infuriating because dimensional anomaly bollocks arrrghhh1111 etc etc etc.

  31. As a 10 year old idiot, I never quite understood that Lister has some kind of voice changing device in his mouth during the AR knight scene. I just thought that putting a small object (penny, Pog, dishwasher tablet etc) in your mouth somehow caused you to speak in a clipped RP announcer voice.

    Heh, I’ve only just realised that it was a voice changer. I assumed it was a gum shield or something.

  32. Somehow his teeth and hair completely change. Has anyone ever come up with an explanation for that?

    Cartoon logic

  33. You could be right, but the Emohawk doesn’t only make Rimmer resemble Ace; it also physically alters Cat so that he resembles Dwayne Dibbley. Somehow his teeth and hair completely change. Has anyone ever come up with an explanation for that?

    Yes, this is one of many issues I have with Emohawk, and why I generally don’t like it as an episode (despite a lot of good jokes). The crowbarring in of past characters is SO awkward.

    The opening sequence of this episode is one of THE classic Dwarf moments to me, along with the munchkin song in Blue and the whole Kennedy assassination plot resolution.

    The Kennedy assassination plot resolution which contradicts the “can’t kill your past self” science that was used as an Out of Time plot resolution 25 minutes before?

    I never considered Ace being out of character/more of a git in this episode, guess I’ll need to watch it and Dimension Jump again.

    He’s incredibly arrogant about sex for a start, which seems very at odds with the original Ace. I dunno, he just seems much more unlikeable in Stoke.

    Anyway, for all my moaning, it’s one of the VII episodes I like the most. There are plenty of really wonderfully written and performed dramatic moments, a decent amount of jokes that hit the mark, and Chris’s Rimmer-as-Ace performance is great (and makes up for his actual Ace performance being a tiny bit off). It’s still dragged down by the whole medieval scene, which is tedious padding and sets up the fairly nonsensical knight scene (I don’t buy that even Rimmer would think a knight could escape from the AR suite), and the Ace-becoming-superhero thing which rubs me up the wrong way, along with general VII-wide issues like effects, Wildfire landing inside Starbug, the existence of the AR suite, etc. But at heart there’s a touching, often funny, Rimmer and Lister story at heart, which puts it above all of VII and VIII for me, other than Blue.

  34. The Kennedy assassination plot resolution which contradicts the “can’t kill your past self” science that was used as an Out of Time plot resolution 25 minutes before?

    Uh…
    Umm…
    I just watched it again, and Lister specifies it was the destruction of the time drive that erased the old crew, not the young crew’s deaths, so, uh… there?

    Regardless, the Kennedy plot itself was so moving and so well done that I’m willing to overlook it contradicting the opening of the episode – I could try and rationalise it, or say that Lister got it wrong, but I won’t. That shot of Kennedy walking into the distance and fading away is so beautiful it could contain my mother getting shagged in the bottom right and I’d still forgive it. Plenty of stuff elsewhere in Dwarf contradicts itself.

    Alright here’s one for you – it was a fixed point. You’ve seen Doctor Who, yeah? So many people viewed Kennedy’s death, and wrote about it, and it was filmed, that it became a fixed point in time, that couldn’t be undone. We didn’t stay on the alternative earth long enough to see it explode from paradoxality or be destroyed by reapers. So THERE. [sticks out tongue]

    But yeah it is a bit of a contradiction, innit?

    [Ben’s laptop explodes trying to comprehend the explanation]

  35. It’s just exceptionally bad plotting, really. Lister was so, so eager to explain how, put simply, “by killing us they killed themselves, because once we were dead it was impossible for us to become them in the future, and return in time to kill ourselves in the past, even though it was the present” and then comes up with the incredibly clever idea for Kennedy to do just that.

    I agree, it is very nicely played, and one of the times in VII when the drama it pitched really well, but plot-wise it’s also some of the laziest writing Doug’s ever put to paper.

    I’m moaning about how much I don’t like Tikka again, aren’t I?

  36. I would just like to give some praise to Howard Goodall here. What fantastic work on this episode. Stunning stuff.

  37. It’s also some of the laziest writing Doug’s ever put to paper.

    I refuse to call anything as brilliant as Kennedy assassinating himself lazy, so I’m going to call the Out of Time resolution lazy instead and pretend it was written later. It was recorded later, iirc.

    I would just like to give some praise to Howard Goodall here. What fantastic work on this episode. Stunning stuff.

    Amen. I’m going to use the Ace Rimmer theme along with some of Howard’s other work as an example of good television scoring in my Screen Composition class at university.

  38. Isn’t there a recording from a few years ago of a school orchestra performing some of Goodall’s Red Dwarf score live? I believe they play the Ace theme stuff from Stoke Me a Clipper.

  39. The music from the funeral sequence, brrrr. Shivers just thinking about it.

  40. Isn’t there a recording from a few years ago of a school orchestra performing some of Goodall’s Red Dwarf score live? I believe they play the Ace theme stuff from Stoke Me a Clipper.

    I seem to remember watching this a few years ago, yeah.

    The music from the funeral sequence, brrrr. Shivers just thinking about it.

    SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR

    Chills.

  41. I refuse to call anything as brilliant as Kennedy assassinating himself lazy, so I’m going to call the Out of Time resolution lazy instead

    This is the right thing to do.

    I personally feel that Naylor didn’t know what the series 6 cliffhanger actually was. He decided that the future selves wiped out the younger selves, but we know from Out of Time that Rimmer took a bazookoid to the time drive.

    So let’s turn Naylor’s error into a character thing. Lister, Cat and Kryten refused to believe that Rimmer blew up the time drive, and came up with their own (wrong) explanation. So the end of Tikka doesn’t contradict anything apart from their assumptions.

    You’re welcome; that will be £50 each, please.

  42. When I initially watched Series VI, I thought the ending was ambiguous – it looks like Rimmer shoots our Starbug with the bazookoid, but then we see what appears to be the future Starbug exploding – leaving us to wonder which Starbug it really was, or if it was both etc.

    If I was in Naylor’s shoes I probably would have seen having to resolve the cliffhanger as a nuisance more than anything – it works as a piece of drama, does it really need re-addressing? But then people might not be happy if it’s ignored, and people would call Doug lazy if he did another fast-forwaded opening text crawl or something similar.

    I believe that Lister just got it wrong. It’s the same logic I apply to the Before The Flood episode of Doctor Who, really – The Doctor/Lister tried to be too clever and came to the wrong conclusion, leading to paradoxy timewank shenenagins

  43. It took away Rimmers hero moment to have had their future selves to be the ones to have changed things.

  44. It took away Rimmers hero moment to have had their future selves to be the ones to have changed things.

    Correct. And the point I made earlier is that this is especially frustrating when you consider that Rimmer became Ace an episode later, so it would have made perfect sense not to just brush that cliffhanger under the carpet.

    You can see Naylor flirting with the idea of Rimmer developing in that direction at the end of Series 10, as well. The problem is that such character development usually signals an end of some kind. It’s like Scrooge developing a sense of kind generosity at the end of A Christmas Carol. It’s a narrative end-point – not something you can easily build on (what would a sequel to A Christmas Carol have been like, for example? A story about Scrooge being kind? Boring. A story about Scrooge turning mean again? Awful). The difference with the Series 6 cliffhanger version of Rimmer’s heroism is that to all intents and purposes Rimmer was moving on in Stoke Me A Clipper. It was his ending episode (at least for a while).

  45. Ace isn’t particularly funny. He’s a one-joke character. The one joke being “This guy is amazing to a ridiculous, contrived degree”. That one-joke lasts for the first five minutes of Dimension Jump and, likewise, the opening of Stoke (both of which I think are very good, FWIW). The rest of those episode aren’t about Ace, they’re about Rimmer reactions to him and how he contrasts so heavily with him.

    I’d discuss Emohawk, but it’s not really worth discussing. I can’t think of a single amusing thing Rimmer does while being “Ace” in that episode. It’s a complete misunderstanding of what worked in Dimension Jump. As nonsensical and unwelcome as the Duane Dibbley stuff is in that, at least they get some laughs out of the character.

    So, yeah. Not surprising they keep on backtracking on Rimmer being marvelous and saving the crew. There’s nowhere funny to go with that angle.

    >what would a sequel to A Christmas Carol have been like, for example?

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/26638/quick-10-10-sequels-christmas-carol

  46. I think some of the later stuff in Dimension Jump with Ace and Lister is pretty funny. It’s a good point that if they really pursued the “Rimmer as a hero” after VI, or VIII… or X, it would be difficult to really take that anywhere within the format of the show. It could be done, but it could alter (spoil?) the dynamic of the show.

    RE: Rimmer not having his moment of glory, he still took it upon himself to pick up the bazookoid and shoot shit. When the going got tough, Rimmer got going, it’s just in the VII timeline the future Dwarfers beat old Rimsy to the punch.

  47. Heroic Rimmer is not a regular character we want or need. Rimmer who’s shown a hint of heroism and is struggling to follow up on that, however, could be mined for laughs. I’m not sure that level of continuity is something the show particularly needs – for all of the potential in plot arcs, I still think it works best as standalone episodes – but that would be something interesting to do with it. Rimmer in Give & Take, for instance, follows up on The Beginning reasonably well. Then it goes nowhere and he just becomes Rimmer again.

    So yes, him being a hero at the end of Out of Time could have allowed for a very short period of character development continuity through to Stoke, at which point he leaves. But a lack of tight scripting has been an issue throughout the post-Rob years, so unsurprisingly it never happened.

  48. Stoke and Tikka were drafted independently by different writers at the same time. Not being telepathic is hardly a shortcoming of Paul Alexander’s.

  49. That depends on whether Rimmer’s exit was decided by Paul Alexander or not, or whether Doug had said “Rimmer will leave and become Ace: write this story” to him.
    It would also only makes sense if Tikka had been filmed before Doug read the first draft of Stoke.

  50. Im gonna take a guess and say that either way Doug probably knew what the idea was gonna be before the script was written.

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