Back again with Red Dwarf XI and this time episode four takes up back to the very beginning of the show, largely taking the episode ME2 from series one and injecting it with steroids.
The plot is largely as follows. The team find yet another hulking wreck of a ship out in deep-space drifting in an asteroid field. Upon getting closer this ship ‘bioprints’ a captain who asks for help from the team but Rimmer, as usual thinking only for himself, launches a torpedo at the ship to destroy it before it gets closer and likely takes them down as well. This goes wrong however and knocks the other ship to safety, with Rimmer being rewarded with a promotion to Flight Lieutenant and therefore command of the ship. Rimmer immediately puts the promotion to ‘good use’, reinstalling the military class system on the ship between ‘Officers’ and ‘Other Ranks’, and using the bioprinter to print out 50 copies of himself who are all Officer only so have to follow his orders. When the rest of the team, now labelled ‘grunts’ break into his new Officer’s Club he tries to create 4 ‘Bouncer Rimmers’ to keep out the riff-raff. This as per usual goes badly, with it creating a horrific entity that goes round killing all the other Rimmers, with the team able to save Rimmer Prime after getting him to demote himself back to Technician 2nd Class.
While the first half of this series focused on the ‘golden era’ of four guys being dicks and exploring the universe this episode brings back the original class divide comedy between Rimmer and Lister. Rimmer, who has always had the dream of becoming Officer, represents once again the upper class toff with him believing himself superior to the others simply because he thinks it. The episode plays this to great effect, with the episode styling a stark contrast between the ‘Officer’ lifts/corridors, which are pampered to the max and brightly lit, and the ‘Grunts’ versions, which are poorly maintained and dark/dingy hellholes, with both being separated by a fence.
This visual juxtaposition is also added to by the references of just how lowly ranked Rimmer still is. The show, which is clearly using the Royal Air Force rank system for officers to a large degree, has Rimmer made a Flight Lieutenant, which while sounding like a major step up is an automatic rank every Officer gets during their initial 12 year contract. This goes to show just how inept Rimmer is as even during his ‘heroism’ he is only able to make it up to a base entry grade that every Officer in their 20s would get but is still blissfully unaware, wearing dinner jackets with gold trim as though he was an Admiral or Field Marshal.
One of the best parts of the episode however though had to be even though it’s a limited budget series the imaging of multiple Rimmers into a single shot is still incredibly well-done. This is a show that has been doing complex shots that involve the same actor appearing twice since the very beginning and many other shows (with larger budgets to boot) still fail to do it in a believable way. Here you’ll have shots that had to be computer helped in some way but when the angle is reversed you’ll see a stand-ins hand or arm which gives a physical presence that is otherwise missing in other shows.
The main weakness of the episode however is the same as the first two. Despite my hopes that last week’s episode would mark the end of rushed endings this one goes completely back on that progress, going so far as to just ending mid-shot of the team shooting the Rimmer monstrosity at point-blank range, making it a very odd place to end the episode.
Overall however the episode is still a good one, filled with references to common nicknames for characters, such as ‘Old Iron Balls’, and the focus on the classism angle of the original two series. The acting is great, the comedy witty, and the effects surprisingly good with the episode once again only being slightly marred by the lack of an ending.