Red Dwarf XI: 4 “Officer Rimmer” Review
Reviewed by Ryan Monty.
Arnold Judas Rimmer is a man that could be described in many different ways over the years, and the majority of them are negative. One word that has never applied to Rimmer however is “officer”- but that all changes here in Series XI’s fourth episode, Officer Rimmer.
After the Dwarfers accidentally save the captain of an exploration ship carrying explosive cargo (and a bio-printer that prints the crew) thanks to Rimmer firing a nuke at him and, completely unintendedly, saving the ship, the captain then promotes Rimmer to officer status (and later lieutenant), thus finally fulfilling Rimmer’s dream. When Rimmer decides he wants to open a new officers club with his newfound status, he prints multiple members of himself to fill the club up with. Has there ever been a more Arnold J Rimmer thing to do?
The concept of multiple Rimmer’s has been done before (in three different episodes- Series I’s Me 2, Series V’s Terrorform and Series VI’s Rimmerworld), but it’s never been done as hilariously as here. With Rimmer finally having gained officer status, the situation allows Chris Barrie to take Rimmer to levels of smugness and arrogant sneering that we’ve never seen before. Officer Rimmer is easily Rimmer at his most odious, the instant he receives officer status being the instant moment in which he begins to milk his position of power for everything it’s worth. He’s waited a long, long time for this, and he was never going to not be this pompous! Even adopting a brilliant faux-authoritarian split-leg pose when addressing Kryten, it’s evident that Chris Barrie is having just the best of times finally taking Rimmer to ultra-Rimmer status, if you will. He’s stolen the show plenty this series thus far, but Officer Rimmer may very well be one of the best episodes of Dwarf for him.
From installing a travellator in the “officer’s corridor” to redecorating a lift as an “officers lift” complete with complementary perfume, champagne and hot towels, it’s prime Rimmer. And it’s all the better when put next to just how much misery Rimmer is putting his fellow Dwarfers through, including their “grunts” lift, which is majorly malfunctioning and is staffed by a snarky AI system that sounds suspiciously like female Holly Hattie Hayridge. The Dwarfers just don’t get on with voiced technology on board the Big Red do they?
The central drive of the episode comes from the bio-printer, an idea that surely must have sprung from the current buzz around 3D printers. Indeed, we get a really quite terrifying bit of body horror when the bio-printer malfunctions and prints the ships captain’s head far too big leaving him looking a bit like, as the Cat puts it, a circus freak. Near the end of the episode a Rimmer “monster” is also created, as the episode suddenly turns briefly into The Thing as the freak of nature goes around absorbing the other Arnolds. The bio printer runs into multiple problems throughout the episode, including Kryten having to give it a “good kicking” to get it working again at one point, which surely can’t be anything other than a jab at how real printers never, ever seem to be reliable.
By tying in real life frustrations with a futuristic concept it really drives home the comedy of the situation, and doing that typical Dwarf thing where we can all relate to the frustrations even though we’re not 3 million years into deep space like the Dwarfers are (for a recent example think back to Lister’s endless phone queue when ordering the Stirmaster in Series X’s Trojan). In fact, from another frustration comes Lister discovering that the bio printer has his DNA stored, and the small matter that he had previously sold his image rights back on Earth-for just 100 dollar pounds and half a packet of cigarettes- and that call centres across the globe may possibly be staffed all by versions of him. The visual it creates is absolutely brilliant and I sincerely hope this wasn’t just a throwaway gag (a great one nonetheless), as it seems like an idea with endless potential.
Inevitably though this is the Chris Barrie show in Officer Rimmer, with every moment he’s in using one of the never-ending lexicon of sneering facial expressions or faces-you’d-love-to-punch that he pulls off so effortlessly. Once his officers club has opened, filled with more versions of Rimmer than you’d ever feel comfortable with existing, we get one of the shows best ever visuals- the effects are seamless and seeing a Rimmer barbershop quartet perform their own version of Mr Sandman is something I’m very glad exists. The scene is even complimented by the Rimmer Experience song from Series VII in the background, which helps to drive home the Arnold Rimmer paradise he’s created.
Series XI has enjoyed a terrific run so far and it has another corker in Officer Rimmer. It’s an episode which easily features some of Chris Barrie’s best work on the show, and although it is again an episode that suffers from an abrupt ending it’s not enough to bring down a classic slice of pure, unadulterated gimboid Rimmer.