Thursday, September 1, 2016

Red Dwarf IV Episode 5: "Dimension Jump"

Ace Rimmer arrives and Chris Barrie and Craig Charles get gobfuls of water. Another episode developing Rimmer, this classic Red Dwarf instalment is another one hurrying to make its point in half an hour. I would argue that it's fundamentally about how we're shaped by our experiences, and leans on the "nurture" side of the argument, as opposed to the "nature" one which seems to arise at other times due to the show's portrayal of the British class system and the idea of "breeding". Here we discover that Rimmer's situation wasn't inevitable. It's something we always knew, but this makes it very clear. Yet it also raises the idea of free will, essential in Red Dwarf's often-deterministic universe; to what extent was Ace Rimmer born of his own choice to fight back, and how much was this an inevitable consequence of the headmaster's choice to have him repeat a year?

I understand that some commentators argue that Ace is meant to be smug and annoying, not pleasant and likeable, but I think this is somewhat missing the point; the point is that he's different, radically different – so different that he's practically the opposite of our Rimmer, and all as a result of one decision. This is something expressed by Lister, our resident amateur philosopher, when discussing his opposite number, Spanners: "Whatever he did that I didn't, he deserves the lot." It could be argued that the episode is saying that our lives are the product of how we navigate these forces beyond our control, the way our choices interact with the "choices" made for us. This is expressed by the question of who got the "break".

Any such vaguely philosophical elements aside, there's plenty of humour to enjoy in the episode, starting with Ace's reality and the alternate versions of the characters. I think my favourite might be the Padre, Danny John-Jules portraying a very different character to the Cat in such a short space. Points have to be given to Robert Llewellyn's ridiculous turn as Bongo as well, however, the best part being the hasty way he looks down and starts writing after propositioning Ace. The scene of the Dwarfers sneaking off to go fishing is perfectly enhanced by the actors' facial performances as they cringe at their own weak excuses to Rimmer. The best part of Rimmer's speech, which attributes to him even more unbelievable "lame" hobbies, is his description of Morris Dancing as "the clonk of wood on wood."

The episode also includes some terrific model work. The establishing shot of Rimmer's home in the dome on Io is very effective, as are the shots of Ace landing on Mimas and the Dimension Ship taking off. The highlight, however, must be the shot of Starbug crashing on the ocean planet, which looks entirely convincing and shows just how good the special effects team were and what they could achieve. The Mimas test base sets are good too, and the use of the greenhouse location shooting as the interior of the Rimmers' gardens is very well used and convincingly chosen as somewhere that might be found in an enclosed lunar colony on one of the moons of Jupiter. The shot of Starbug's exterior, last seen in "Marooned" I believe, gets another outing in the storm scene, which apparently pissed Chris Barrie off due to constant inundations, but looks entirely believable and gave rise to Craig Charles's classic offscreen line: "We're supposed to be space heroes!"

We get a couple of notable instances of Rimmer calling people "gits" in this episode; he says to Kryten "You're a git" and he says to Lister "How'd you feel if some git arrived from another dimension, another Lister, with wall-to-wall charisma and a PhD in being handsome and wonderful?" This seems like a bit of a movement towards conventional insults, away from "goit" and "gimboid" and the like, perhaps with the aim of getting bigger laughs. I like Lister's complaint about Cat "blundering in with your size 12s" and the jokes about the in-flight magazines, although Rimmer's panic about the card is probably the best: "Haven't we got to sit behind a woman clutching a baby?" Weirdly, Lister tosses the closed magazine in front of hologram Rimmer, who appears by the next shot to have somehow opened it to an article. Perhaps his light bee floated into his hand.

The highlight of the whole thing, of course, is Chris Barrie's performance as Ace; he's practically unrecognisable as the same person as our regular Rimmer, with the obvious effect of emphasising how different the two of them are. The choice of costuming obviously suits this too. As an episode which added something major to the show's fabric, Ace himself and "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast", it's worth it on its own, but its ability to provoke ideas in a humorous way is what makes it stand out as another one of those classic examples of just how complex and effective Red Dwarf could be in the ideal circumstances, when performances, effects, humour, plot, characterisation, ideas and action all coalesced in a delicate balance.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.