Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Red Dwarf VI Episode 5: "Rimmerworld"

I've always found this to be a weirdly fillery episode because of the way it's structured. The setup is so lengthy that the actual "Rimmerworld" sequence feels like a rushed coda to a story primarily about looting the simulant ship from "Gunmen" and the conflict between this and Rimmer's diagnosis with a nervous disorder. I suppose you could say that Rimmer's use of the escape pod and creation of the world made in his image is ultimately the result of his stress condition, but it's not entirely clear how it completes the story of his medical situation. The entire premise of Rimmer being stressed seems to have little payoff apart from the admittedly amusing gag of the ground-down worry balls at the end, although the highlight of that element is definitely the line "Balls on standby, sir." You can't go wrong with the word "balls", really, though, as "grind those balls" and "after you with the balls" are both winners as well.

This episode goes even further than ever in emphasising the idea of holograms as "electronic life forms" rather than computer simulations of people, something which seems to connect to, for instance, the fact that Rimmer was judged like a living man in "Justice" and "The Inquisitor". Weirdly, despite having so much human biology replicated through his hologrammatic programming that he can have the equivalent of blood pressure and be at risk of dying, Rimmer doesn't age over the course of six hundred years, yet an episode later he ages rapidly over fifteen. Nonetheless, there are all sorts of unnecessary explanations to cover this and why Rimmer would age as the actor who plays him ages. I think the reason might be because it's a TV show.

The idea of Rimmer failing to get along with duplicates of himself feels rather like a retread of "Me2", and the idea that the world is controlled by Rimmer's worst impulses is very evocative of "Terrorform". I also rather dislike the way that the clones openly and unironically embrace Rimmer's worst characteristics, which reminds me unpleasantly of Rimmer's admissions of being a "coward" and a "bureaucratic nincompoop" in earlier episodes of the series. It seems to lean weirdly towards the "nature", as opposed to "nurture", side of things, which I thought was already debunked by "Dimension Jump". Perhaps you could blame it on hologram Rimmer's influence on the society, but it's all so rushed that it's not clear.

The episode's set and location work is good, including the "paradisal" appearance of Rimmer's planet after terraforming although the simulant ship set would very obviously pull double duty for the interior of Starbug in other episodes, particularly the climax of "Out of Time". I enjoy Lister's line about the simulant ship: "Let's pray the crew are rotting in Silicon Hell with all the photocopiers." Possibly the funniest part of the whole thing is how Cat and Lister rapidly adapt Rimmer's misremembered names for them: "There isn't a prison built that can hold Derek Custer." Some other vaguely funny bits include Rimmer's rising panic about "the heart palpitations and the blackouts and the chest pains and the voices!" which oddly doesn't seem to get a laugh, and the seedy Space Corps Directive about "sniffing the seat of the exercise bicycle in the women's gym." I especially like how Kryten says it "doesn't quite get to the nub of the matter for me." Rimmer's skepticism about being able to build a "two storey home with running water and a balcony stroke sun patio" is a funny line and sets up an occasional joke about Rimmer's love of spacious accommodation, followed up on in "Trojan" with the "barn conversion" joke. I also like his description of how they'd be forced to attack in the disintegrating simulant ship: "What do we do? Whisper 'charge', tippytoe up to them all screaming 'shh' and chloroform them with Lister's armpits?" Of course Kryten's line about greeting the time "with a smile on your lips and a song in your heart" is a good one too.

A lot of people seem to think that the naked Rimmer clone who emerges from the pod with a bare arse is Chris Barrie, but it's not; it's obviously a body double, for no more clear reason than the shape of the head and the hairstyle, and I'm surprised more people haven't realised this. Rimmer's "What the hell, I just wouldn't tell her" is good, but the longer version of the speech, found in the deleted scenes, in which he talks about Alexander the Great crying and says "if it's okay for Big Al to cry, then it's okay for me" before falling to his knees weeping is a funny bit that should have been retained. In general, "Rimmerworld" is ultimately a pretty funny episode, although it has a few fairly dry spots, especially in the simulant ship, but like "Emohawk" it feels like it's rushing through a bunch of different ideas without giving any of them sufficient time.

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