Now, those of you following our Dwarfcasts know that me and Series XI…well, we’ve had a bit of a tiff. Perhaps we haven’t quite seen eye to eye. Which made the prospect of me writing this review a little daunting. Imagine my relief, then, when Officer Rimmer ended up being very much my cup of Earl Grey. Well, at least most of it.
If I have to listen to Kryten starting an explanation with “Best guess…” one more time, I may scream, but Officer Rimmer’s cockpit scene had some good dirty jokes, and a decent set-up of synthesised humans. An excellent start.
Doug’s tendency to let his frustrations with modern living overspill into his writing actually gives us an impressive premise here, where we see a printer jam produce a fairly disturbing bit of body horror in Captain Herring. Naturally, the Captain’s not up to much (a strong performance by Stephen Critchlow, with a good explanation of his short appearance in the episode), even if we discount his excellent aerial vision, which is why we end up, through a perfectly plausible bit of dumb luck, with Rimmer getting what he’s craved all these years; a promotion to Officer.
As I’ve had reservations about Rimmer’s role in Series XI to date, as well as Chris Barrie’s performance, it was frankly thrilling to see a Rimmer-centric episode. Chris is allowed to give Rimmer’s pomposity and stupidity time to build, and he starts in a characteristically petty manner by taking away the Cat and Lister’s sport channels. An ironic punishment for those of us watching the episode early on demand in the 21st century, of course, but, well, it works, especially when followed by Rimmer claiming a lift and a corridor for himself, with ludicrously sumptuous furnishings. Cat, Kryten and Lister, of course, have to deal with the surly service lift. I was surprised, but very happy, to discover just how well-realised the jokes were here.
Captain Herring is a little trigger-happy on the promotions when he arrives on the ship, and promptly makes Rimmer a first lieutenant, but I guess you would be if your life-span is only that of your mission. In any case, this produces a rather magnificent suggestion from Chris that Rimmer’s just come in his uniform. Herring’s demise prompts a good cliffhanger for the break; how indeed will they get Rimmer demoted now? Especially with THAT expression on his face?
This allows us to start part 2 with the real madness and tyranny of a power-crazed and uncontrolled Rimmer. It’s a wonder to behold; he’s got his dress uniform from the first series on, and has enlisted two skutters to help him with the refurbishment of the ship. It’s good to see they’ve got hard hats on, even if it’s a little premature at the blueprint stage. Safety first. It’s a real treat to see Chris’ performance ramp up a few notches here, with a ramrod-straight back and a proper bark in the voice. I had a stupid grin on my face throughout.
Rimmer’s attempt to recreate the Nautilous’ crew leads us to a rather nice character joke for Lister, who, it turns out, is a member of the crew thanks to him selling his genome for 100 dollarpounds and half a packet of fags in his youth. As a consequence of Sandex Communications buying a licence to reproduce his genome, Lister condemned himself to speaking to a version of himself everytime he rang a call centre. It’s a great joke, and in fact is almost wasted by its use here as a throwaway gag, but I’ll take it.
Undaunted by Kryten’s attempt at sabotage, not only is Rimmer willing to retrieve what’s left of his DNA and mind from the ship in order to create a crew made from himself, but he’s prepared to make them all officers. Smug, loud, entitled officers. There’s even a Rimmer barbershop quartet to entertain the insufferable lot. Kryten, having been here before (and this is nicely acknowledged by the dialogue), tries to warn him, but Rimmer is confident that it’ll be FINE this time, as he’s a rank above them. It’s all rather beautifully worked out. What on earth could go wrong?
With rather nice CGI effects, things get a whole lot more Rimmery. Pompous laughter fills the air, and Rimmer takes time to lord it over Lister and Cat. Rim, rim, rim, rim indeed. Lister and Cat inevitably walking into the officer’s club despite Rimmer’s protests leads, even more inevitably, to Rimmer’s downfall. In an attempt to produce more muscular versions of himself to throw the two miscreants out, Rimmer’s impatience results in a printer jam, resulting in a hilarious and horrific mess of half-printed Rimmers, all fused together, and more than willing to absorb the rest of the Rimmers to make themselves stronger. Despite a slightly unfortunate bumming joke, we move on quickly to the far more amusing pursuit of First Lieutenant Rimmer around the ship by his own more powerful and more ill-natured clones.
Naturally, Rimmer is trapped by his own dividing fence, and has to resign his officer status in order to be allowed through the gate to safety and a plan to get rid of the troublesome Rimmers. All perfectly fine and plausible, which is why, due to me being me, I was somewhat irritated by the gate to the Officer Corridor being left open. I can only presume it was a production mistake, but it’s a doozy, given the importance of the gate to the plot.
Unfortunately, it’s also the start of where things start to fall apart in an otherwise strong episode. Although the Rimmer-as-bait plan is pretty good, especially as it relies on Rimmer’s mania for lists as a distraction to enable the original Rimmer’s escape, the decision to simply blast the Rimmer monster seems a little, well, unimaginative compared with everything else in the episode. It’s also a little callous, given that the Rimmers ARE human, albeit in an extremely unusual form. I think the Lister of past series may have had some ethical worries about simply blasting Mega-Rimmer to pieces, but perhaps the fact that this is where the episode ends, with no actual confirmation that Mega-Rimmer is dead, is also a contributor to my feeling that things aren’t particularly well wrapped up here.
Still, I feel it’s a minor issue. A central idea that’s well-introduced? A plot that is set up properly and allowed to develop at a suitable pace? Jokes that make perfect sense in character terms? Strong performances from everyone? Now THAT is entertainment.
TINY TEASER: Dirty Dave – slightly awkwardly, this refers to a line that was cut from the episode…
ACTUAL SCENE COUNT: 34 (Series total: 97)
ACTUAL SMEG COUNT: 2 (Series total: 9)