Red Dwarf I, episode 6: “Me2”
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor; originally transmitted 21st March 1988.
As you may notice, it’s been a long time since I wrote about Red Dwarf, for which there were a number of reasons. Firstly, assignments. Oh boy, were there assignments. Secondly, as odd and self-defeating as it may seem, a three-year English with Creative Writing course can seriously affect your enthusiasm for writing, which put me off completing this post for a while. Thirdly, and this might be the most important point, this is a pretty shambolic episode that I struggled for a long time to structure into a coherent review. If the episode itself is all over the place, how am I supposed to write about it consistently? But I managed and, well, here we are.
That title actually reads “Me-squared” but WordPress won’t let me use superscript which, given all their other nifty features, is a bit of a shame. The reason behind the title is clear to anyone who watched the previous episode: at the end of that story, Rimmer managed to trick Lister into duplicating his hologram. Why he didn’t simply switch the other holo-Rimmer off immediately after realising what he’d done, I have no idea, but it means that now, instead of having to deal with one obnoxious, repulsive smeghead, Lister has to deal with two. Rimmer-squared.
Actually, that doesn’t square Rimmer at all, does it? One squared is one, so Rimmer-squared would be… Rimmer. Eh, never mind. On with the episode.
This is one of the few Red Dwarf episodes whose plot follows on directly from the previous story, with Lister clearing out Rimmer’s stuff from their room. The presence of two Rimmers aboard Red Dwarf should be what we might lightly call a “nightmare situation” for Lister, yet oddly enough he’s actually rather pleased at the prospect. The two Arnold Rimmers, naturally ebullient at the thought of spending so much time with each other, have moved in to their own bunk together, leaving Lister on his own to basically go mental from the “mega-ecstasy-bliss” of freedom. That bit where he puts the socks back into the basket is a nice touch – possibly a little nod to the audience that Lister needs Rimmer’s authoritarianism more than he realises, or at least that it’s had some effect on him. What we also get from these opening scenes is that Rimmer thinks Lister is to blame for his lack of success, always holding him back. We’ll see how that goes.
Just then Lister discovers video footage of Rimmer’s death, complete with a eulogy by Rimmer himself. Rimmer giving himself a long-winded eulogy? That makes so much sense it physically hurts. I don’t recall if we were made aware of it before, but the video confirms that Rimmer was responsible for the radiation leak that wiped out the crew. It also features Rimmer’s final words: “gazpacho soup”. Lister is understandably puzzled by this and endeavours to figure out what it means. That makes up his plot for the story and, honestly, we probably learn more about Rimmer and his past than we do when Rimmer is actually on screen. The bit with his diary is a classic moment that utterly crystallises what Rimmer is all about: glory without the work required to achieve it. The fact that he would torment himself by putting “gazpacho soup” in his own diary is also perfectly typical of the man’s character.
Things soon turn very sour, however, as the Rimmers have a bit of a bust-up. Actually, it’s quite an aggressive bust-up; and although we never really learn the cause of their lovers’ tiff, after five episodes of getting to know Rimmer and his attitude towards others, you probably won’t need more than one guess – Rimmer’s natural antagonism and arrogance towards others has turned on him in a very literal sense. So there you are: even Rimmer can’t stand Rimmer. Mind you, other-Rimmer does seem to be a lot more antagonistic and malicious than the one we’re familiar with; perhaps because other-Rimmer hasn’t had the (albeit brief) character growth ours has had over these past four-and-a-half episodes or so. For the most part our Rimmer cowers and simpers in other-Rimmer’s company like a child, which is actually quite disconcerting. It’s a startling vulnerability for someone so abrasive and arrogant, but it perfectly emphasises Rimmer’s situation: even after shutting himself away with a perfect clone, his life doesn’t run smoothly. He only has himself to blame now and he clearly can’t handle it. Sad but funny – that’s Red Dwarf for you.
Eventually Lister has had enough and demands that one of the Rimmers be shut off. Longtime fans may notice a parallel here between this episode and series 2’s “Queeg”, but while Holly and Queeg played chess to determine who should stay online, it’s just a case of future eenie-meenie-miney-mo that decides the original Rimmer has to go. Of course, we’re perfectly aware as viewers that the “real” Rimmer is the one sacrificing himself in front of us, but the dramatic irony makes for a great tense reading on Chris Barrie’s part – especially as he finally relates the meaning of the “gazpacho soup” riddle. If you don’t know what it is already I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s as perfectly goofy, cruel and brilliant as Red Dwarf gets. After Lister squeezes that out of his subject, he admits that he already wiped the alternate Rimmer and, therefore, the “real” Rimmer’s suffering, honesty and whiskeys were all for nothing. And that’s that. Plot-wise “Me2” is a shambles, but it’s an amusing shambles with some funny set-pieces. The final scene is quite touching and demonstrates how the character of Rimmer has grown over these mere six episodes, along with the character dynamic of the two men (still not getting much from Cat at this point).
- “We have enough food to last thirty-thousand years, but we’ve only got one After Eight mint left, and everyone’s too polite to take it.”
- You have to love this show’s irreverent attitude towards death. It’s inevitable – you might as well laugh about it.
- Nice little run-through of all the ways Lister has irritated Rimmer and vice versa. Adding a little depth to their relationship while making us laugh – and not once do they describe how they’re feeling (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory).
- It’s interesting how Rimmer’s salute had already become so noteworthy by this point that they were able to riff on it with Lister’s parody and get a decent laugh.
- Like I’ve said before, Cat gets very little to do in these early episodes, but what he gets is usually very funny, and his scenes in this episode are no exception. Why does he still think there are other cats on-board, though?
- Little logic-pick that I never really thought about before: why do Rimmer and Lister still share a room at this point? With all the other empty rooms on Red Dwarf, they could sleep as far away from each other as possible. I suppose it’s Rimmer’s insistence that they stay in the room they’ve been assigned, even though he can’t stand Lister and Lister can’t stand him. I’m making this up, of course, but you know it to be true.
- Arnold J. Rimmer, BSc, SSc. Still one of Red Dwarf‘s finest gags, in my opinion.
- I’m going to assume the Citizen Kane reference in the “eulogy” was a deliberate inclusion on Rimmer’s part. Again, you just know it’s something he’d do.
- I’ll admit, Holly had me going for a moment there as well. Brilliant bit.
- There’s something very Pythonesque about that Titan Taj Mahal commercial.
- Lovely unspoken touch in the cinema scene: the sign behind them has both the English and Esperanto words for “cinema.” What are the odds that Rimmer insisted on putting that there in his ceaseless quest to learn Esperanto?
Even in its early stages Red Dwarf was capable of balancing character study with standard sitcom humour, something I’d never appreciated before writing these reviews. If the show hadn’t received a second series this wouldn’t make for a bad final episode at all, ending with enough character growth and the delicious cruelty so intrinsic to this show to make a satisfying conclusion. That said, they did get a second series, as well as many others, so, ah, expect all that growth on Rimmer’s part to be somewhat less prominent as we head into series two.