While Red Dwarf XIs finale Can of Worms may have been a rather unremarkable if well put together finale that’s certainly not the case in a finale that is truly a masterclass of nostalgia.
The story sees Rimmer, after a few notable logic highjinks, gain the ability to jump into alternate realities in the hopes of being able to find a reality where he isn’t such a snivelling cowardly and backstabbing mess of a man who only holds status because of his failure as a technician. Unfortunately this doesn’t go too well for him, seeing him end up in such versions of reality including just as the drive plate causes a radiation leak and one where Lister had a pet rat, until he finally finds said reality where he does get all he claims to want. A reality where he’s an Officer, married, and has two children with the only downside being that Lister is his superior. This one weakness however sees him realise that while he doesn’t have any of those goals on his version of Red Dwarf he does have what he truly desires for his lot in life which is being the highest ranking individual in any room, even if that means being trapped with a bunch of misfits on a clapped out old mining ship.
Rimmer-centric episodes are few and far between, with episodes like Holoship and Stoke Me A Clipper seeing the man temporarily better himself to some grand ideal of selflessness while others like Quarantine and Terraform have him as the pathetic villain of the piece, but this one is unique in that it finally sees the man accept what he is, an incredibly petty one at that who will never amount to much but really doesn’t need to for him to be what passes for happiness to him. It’s a rather strange outcome of self-discovery but given all he’s gone through over the decades it doesn’t half feel earned when everyone else has gotten some form of closure.
What really truly makes the episode so special is what can only be described as a non-stop nostalgia fest as the show uses the reality jumping to bring back the delight of previous characters. The first of these is of course Holly, the senile ship’s computer who can’t even remember to turn over a test paper which sees Rimmer and Holly re-enact the conversation regarding everyone’s death in the very first episode between Holly and Lister. While I was sad this was spoiled by the trailer (damn you) the real true delight for me was the return of Captain Hollister. Many didn’t like series VIII but I loved it and the main reason for that was Mac McDonald’s portrayal of the dim-witted and craven Hollister who very much was driven slowly insane by the Posse, with his increasingly delusional actions a joy. That man really has an ability to play visually expressive comedic characters and it was a shame he wasn’t brought back in the new series sooner.
Even the other members of the Posse get in on the alternate reality hilarity when we see a Posh Lister and Kryten dealing with the “evolved” descendants of his pet rat who are still very much ratlike if mixed with Will Smith from Fresh Prince. Craig Charles also gets some time with the greenscreen as he inhabits a ship filled with himself. The only one who doesn’t get much time is Cat but given the earlier focus on him in other episodes it feels he got his due.
After the hilarity use of nostalgia however it really goes for the rose-tinted variety when the show brings back not only the old uniforms with their square bottom ties and the huge hologram H but also that rather spartan bunkroom that Lister and Rimmer shared during the very classist-themed “odd couple” days of series one and two, with even the studio audience sighing at the sight. Even Esperanto wall signs come back again. So much time and soul clearly went into the recreating of all the old sets and costumes which in the final cut really feels worth it. This series in particular has managed to make callback after callback without going overboard and this feels as close as you could go without becoming too much.
So that was Skipper, a nostalgia heavy episode that revisits the very first episodes of the show that, if this was sadly the last ever episode, really does feel like a perfect way to end the show for good.