The tenth season finale of Red Dwarf rewinds the clock and gives us a look at Rimmer before he was dead and lost in deep space, while in the present, the crew must fend off an attack by a Simulant Death Ship.
Rimmer’s father making him the butt of an experiment on peer pressure is classic Rimmer and encapsulates his character very well. He likes to be part of the majority, he likes to kowtow to authority, wrong or not. He’s been browbeaten by his father into believing he’s worthless and can never live up to his expectations. “The Beginning” is Rimmer’s story from beginning to end. It’s surprisingly touching and surprisingly awesome.
A weird cyborg dude comes aboard Red Dwarf with a wibbly-wobbly gun which destabilizes the molecular integrity of a surface, allowing him to pass through. He’s out for Lister’s blood, challenging him (incessantly) to “a battle across time and space” for kissing his brother. The cyborg doesn’t have much to do beyond the beginning of the episode, but he makes quite an impression with a unique look and amusing voice, and his fixation on battles across time and space. I loved how casual the Red Dwarf crew is towards this intruder, calmly directing him to Lister’s bunk and never batting another eyelid.
The cyborg eventually accepts a cook-off in lieu of a battle across time and space, offering a star chart stolen from the Simulants as a prize. Of course, the Simulant Death Ship then shows up right on cue to blast the crap out of Red Dwarf, causing a hull breach. The cyborg plugs it up when he’s sucked up against the hole. I was kind of expecting a gory death here for some reason. It’s probably due to the same thing happening to that weird human/xenomorph hybrid in Alien: Resurrection, only that unfortunate critter ended up being torn apart.
Yes, I just referenced the most hated film in the Alien franchise. Sue me.
The decision is made to flee the ship in the shuttle Blue Midget, taking shelter in an asteroid field while trying to come up with a plan.
The Simulants themselves are a lot of fun. They’re quite funny, but the jokes are never ones that cheapen the threat they pose. In particular, I liked the scene where a Simulant lieutenant apologizes to the Dominator for losing track of Blue Midget and begs forgiveness. The Dominator slides a sword across the table to him, and the lieutenant promptly begins disemboweling himself. Turns out the Dominator just wanted the sword polished and a written letter of apology. Oops.
It’s a nice wink to the audience for the characters to bring up the highly-corrosive organism situation. Before leaving the airwaves in 1999, the Season 8 finale had Red Dwarf being eaten away by a metal-munching micro-organism. Rimmer crosses over into the mirror universe to find a way to stop it, but decides he quite likes the mirror verse, because he’s a captain there. Having written themselves right into a corner and having been off the air for nearly ten years, the ninth season, Back to Earth didn’t resolve the cliffhanger at all, opting instead to just pick up the story nine years later and never revealing exactly how they got out of their predicament.
Rimmer receives a lot of development here and it feels almost like a conclusion to his character arc. He’s stuck trying to figure a way out of their situation, when Cat points out that he’s never going to come up with something when he’s still got the spectre of his father in the back of his head, causing him to doubt himself at every turn. It takes an extreme situation, but Rimmer finally decides to be his own man. He plays a recording left by his father for when he’d become an officer in defiance of his expectation and learns some surprising secrets of his true parentage. As Lister remarked, it’s a billion piece jigsaw puzzle falling into place.
Surprisingly for a guy like Rimmer, the news that he isn’t who he thought he was doesn’t break him. It makes him more confident and more comfortable with himself than he’s ever been. We get a reprise of the peer pressure scene from the flashback, only this time Rimmer has the balls to be his own man.
Red Dwarf was never an effects-heavy action show, but the climactic battle is nevertheless tense and surprisingly thrilling. Being severely outgunned, the crew has to use their brains. Our newly-confident Rimmer’s plan is surprisingly clever and it puts all the little seeds planted earlier in the episode into action. I don’t remember anything quite like this being done on the show before, but I bet it’ll go down as one of the most memorable moments in the whole series.
“The Beginning” is a great finale to a somewhat bland season. It ties up much of Rimmer’s story, and should the series continue, I hope they continue to push him in a new direction. The humor is top notch from everyone (arguing over who will have the best death is nice), the regular and guest cast are all giving great performances, and we even get a bunch of stuff blowing up. It wasn’t a perfect year, but it ended with a literal bang, and here’s hoping for another one.