Remembering Rimmer

The man who had to organise his own birthday parties goes under the Down Time spotlight.

H is for Halfwit, High, Hair and Hero...

If you're in trouble he will save the day. He's brave and he's fearless, come what may. Without him the mission would go astray. Yes, as the song goes, he's Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer - and without him life on Red Dwarf would be much grimmer.

Or rather, without him, life would me much more straightforward. It doesn't rhyme quite so well, but this is the truth of Rimmer's revival. He exists now to make Lister's life tougher, to give the last Scouser alive something to fight against. To make life grimmer. But does he know that this is his mission? Or is he blissfully, officiously unaware?

A great many men and women sign up to military organisations such as the Space Corps in order to defend the things they believe in, for the benefit of others. Rimmer... well, Rimmer boiled with jealousy for his three brothers and wanted to prove his disappointed parents wrong.

This is a man who thinks that the world loves a bastard, that Jesus just wasn't being realistic. That it's not how you get to the to the top that matters, it's that you get there at all. Up up up the ziggurat, lickety-split.

Rimmer Salute - Stage 1 of 48

Rimmer's parents. Ah, well - in the words of the man himself, a half-crazed military failure and a bitch-queen from hell. Rimmer Senior, an inch below regulation height, took his failings out on his children. Rather than make-good on his life and take out a new lease on life, he took a mortgage on misery. And in doing so, he taught the young Arnold Rimmer a valuable lesson.

Is it any wonder that Rimmer's mother sought comfort in the arms of other men? If rumours are to believed, in the arms of enough men to fill the London Jets' Zero-Gee stadium? She flees a husband who stretches his children on a rack and begins - predominantly physical - relationships with, amongst others, her husband's brother Rimmer's uncle Frank.

Again, here's a valuable lesson for the young Rimmer to take away. Love and affection are wasted - but sex...? Well, any space port in a dust storm. Rimmer's entire attitude ever since has been coloured by his childhood - one which ended at the age of 12 when he divorced himself from his parents.

He became a member of the Love Celibacy Society. Partly because he was unable to get a date, but also because he happened to agree with their policy that love is device invented by bank managers to make you want to spend all your money. And why would he believe in love when his own family - those who should provide unconditional love - proved to be cruel or disinterested. Even his brothers hid a land mine in his sand-pit.

Instead, Rimmer views relationships simply in terms of "giving it rizz". His one brief entanglement with Yvonne McGruder, the ship's female boxing champion, took place shortly after the lady in question was concussed by a falling winch. Rimmer has the sexual politics of a space weevil - it's all peep-hole bras and seduction with pre-determinism theory.

So what do Rimmer's alternate personalities tell us about the universe's biggest smeg head? We start, of course, with the most significant dimensional-double ever to get his hair cut in the Alpha sector - Ace Rimmer. For the sake of one change - being kept down in school - Arnold Rimmer could have been someone very different indeed. Very different? Well, maybe...

What a guy!

They do share a certain... simplicity of attitude when it comes to women. 'There'll be time for questions later - and hopefully some sex.' Ace, it would appear, has no more interest in love than the original Rimmer. The only difference is... well, some people want to sleep with Ace.

In Demons and Angels Rimmer's sexuality is given full reign over his personality - and it's not a pretty sight. Unless you happen to like seeing men in stockings. (Now we see why Arnold really likes to wear sock suspenders!) Also, how interesting to realise that the goodness of men is universal, but the evil is specific. The 'high' monk crew are all similar personalities, but the 'lows'... well, they all enjoy forms of cruelty based on personal preference. Rimmer idea of cruelty includes sex: "I'm going to lash you to within an inch of your life... and then, I'm going to have you." Given the scars his mother's escapades left on the young Rimmer, it's hardly surprising.

Does my bum look big in this?

Ace's selfless nature and downright heroism came from having something to fight against - he turned the cruelty and humiliation schoolkids are so willing to deliver around. Having something to fight against can be the making of a man - Ace knows this, and so does Dave Lister. Again, the question is, does our Arnold?

Certainly the 'peacenik' Rimmer of Polymorph proves that Rimmer is usually motivated by a large amount of anger. Without that emotion, he becomes keen to help - albeit in a rather ineffective way. Although an alternative reading might be that Rimmer, even at his least angry, still wants to be in charge. "I hope no-one thinks I'm setting myself up as a self-elected chairperson here; just see me as a facilitator."

My quiche is THIS big!

So, again, is Rimmer aware that he is annoying Lister for the benefit of mankind? Is his discouraging attitude to Dave's planet-potting plan in White Hole designed to spur Lister to greater self-confidence? To succeed just to spite the hologram?

Part of the truth may lie in the series VIII incarnation of our anti-hero. Revived by nanobots, this 'clone' could be seen as the fulfilment of the hologram Rimmer's plan in DNA, to recreate himself from his own dandruff. Even as early as Stasis Leak, Rimmer was hoping for a living version of himself, "A dead me and a living me. One for the week and one for Sunday best." And what kind of person does this alternate Rimmer turn out to be? One unchanged by years alone in space with Lister - akin to the slightly crueller, more competitive Rimmer we met in Me2.

The difference becomes clear quickly. While the aggravated relationship between Rimmer and Lister starts approximately where it left off - for Rimmer, at least - their confinement to prison is, in many ways, a zillion miles from their situation in previous series.

No more was Rimmer in place to keep Lister sane. Indeed, the pair soon become partners in crime, breaking prison regulations and playing dumb practical jokes on the guards. Called before Captain Hollister in the Pete two-parter, the two are more like best friends sent to the headmaster.

We should never have bought clothes from that Emperor dude...

This, then, is a Rimmer who has chosen to aim his aggression outwards, at authority figures. Lister - and the rest of the Dwarfers - become people he has, in some ways, on his side. He has chosen to accept Lister.

But if that's the case... well, why not accept him sooner? Why did the hologram Rimmer never learn to accept the slobbiest, and only, man alive? Maybe he chose not to. Maybe he knew that it would keep Lister sane - and protect humanity. Rimmer, after all, is the starting point for an infinite number of Aces - thousands of whom went on to become inter-dimensional heroes. Including our Rimmer!

It's all right there in Blue, as Kochanski explains to Lister: "Maybe he sacrificed his happiness to keep you sane... You had to hate him, it was what kept you going."

Or maybe that's just psycho-babble from a woman who could never store her underpants correctly. After all, the one thing The Rimmer Experience AR exhibit tells us is how Rimmer really saw his crewmates - useless, cowardly and, in Lister's case, only barely able to control his bladder in a crisis.

No, Rimmer is a git of the first order. He hates Lister because he hates him. But he hates being low down the chain of command even more - so, come series VIII, he takes the chance to bring Ackerman and the guards down a peg or two. (Actually, given the events of the Pete basketball game, it's decidedly more than two pegs...)

Rimmer's not helping Lister out of nobility, he's not trying to spur him on. He just wants to boss people around. It's the same misguided reason he joined the Corps in the first place. The reason a world of Waxdroids was wiped out. The reason the Rimmer of one possible future is able to take the best the universe has to offer without any prick of conscience. And the reason he so relishes the few minutes he spends as captain in Only the Good's mirror universe.

And, after all, even as a hologram, he outranks Lister.

Oh, and the skutters. Time to get those Ocean Grey walls repainted.

To discuss the many lives of Arnold J Rimmer, go to our forum and kick off a debate with hundreds of Red Dwarf fans worldwide.

How well do you know the smeghead himself? Find out by taking our Rimmer Quiz.

You can find data on all the Red Dwarf crew in the Complete Guide.

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