So, it’s 1992, and Red Dwarf is back for series 5 – and what a comeback it is: from the opening scene of Holoship, Rimmer in particular is on sparkling form, turning his nose up at the ‘blubbery schoolgirl mush’ the crew have compelled him to endure.
Yes folks, this is the love episode, framed around an encounter with the Holoship Enlightenment and its crew of dead geniuses, which Rimmer, in his wisdom, decides to join. Being, well, not a genius, Rimmer goes about this by undergoing an illegal, immoral, and highly dangerous mind patch in order to access a greater intellect than his own. This has the added side effect of allowing Chris Barrie to act as someone other than Rimmer, which is always good to watch.
Shenanigans ensue, Rimmer has recreational sex with Jane Horrocks in an accent (I think she may have been going for Deanna Troi?), she falls in love with him, and gives up her place on the Enlightenment so that Rimmer can live his dream. Only it turns out that his dream was actually sex with Jane Horrocks, and is he can’t have that he’ll stay on the Dwarf thankyouverymuch.
That’s more or less the story anyway; suffice it to say, this is an episode full of great comedy moments, great science fiction moments, and plenty of food for thought.
For instance, in the very first scene, we witness this exchange:
RIMMER: Those kind of films really irritate me. Just not realistic. There isn’t a man in the universe who wouldn’t have taken the job and to hell with the woman. Total baloney.
LISTER: Rimmer, you said that about “King of Kings – the story of Jesus!”
RIMMER: Well, it’s true! A simple carpenter’s son who learns how to do magic tricks like that and doesn’t go into show-business? Do any of us believe that, even for a second?
LISTER: He was supposed to be the Son of God.
RIMMER: And when he was carrying that cross up the hill, any normal realistic bloke would have mule-kicked the guy on the left, clobbered the one on the right, and been over that green hill and far away before you could say “Pontius Pilate.”
LISTER: Why do I feel that somehow you’ve missed the point? I mean, whether you believe that stuff or not, it’s about a dude who sacrifices his life for love.
RIMMER: Not realistic. As if!
LISTER: You’ve got no soul, man. No soul.
I don’t even know where to start with that; there must be at least one sermon there already. It could be argued that this conversation makes the denouement rather predictable, but I don’t even care.
And then there’s the holoship; a ship full of self-confessed superhumans, who have developed beyond love (‘That is a short-term hormonal distraction which interferes with the pure pursuit of personal advancement’), and discarded the concept of “family” when scientists finally proved that all our hang-ups and neuroses are caused by our parents. This, and the fact that holograms cannot get diseases, has led to the creation of the Sex Deck and regulation twice daily sexual congress – a notion which Kryten is alone in finding horribly tacky. I think there’s another sermon right there on the effect that separating love from sex has on our humanity…
Wasn’t it St. Francis of Assisi himself who said, “Never give a sucker an even break?”
And then there’s the one factor that has led us to this point: Rimmer’s dream of being somebody. Rimmer, in his own eyes, is a failure – because he defines himself by his job of Chicken Soup Nozzle Repairman. Lister, of course, takes the view that unclogging vending machines was just a job, and Kryten reminds him that Albert Einstein was not a clerk in a patent office, but the greatest physicist who ever lived. Even though Rimmer himself manages to convince the Holoship Captain that he has been in effective command of Red Dwarf for nearly four years, he still ultimately sees himself as hopeless.
Nirvanah Crane (Jane Horrocks), having taken leave of her senses and fallen in love with Arnie, can see through that though:
Underneath all that neurotic mess is someone nice trying to get out. Someone who deserves a chance to grow. So, you won’t give up, OK?
There follows self-sacrifice (first by Crane, then by Rimmer) to bring us full circle to the carpenter’s son.
And among that carpenter’s son’s magic tricks is the ability to see through our neurotic messes to the someone nice – to the somebody we are deep down. All it took for Rimmer to become somebody was to be loved – loved enough that someone would give up her life for him to achieve his dream. Rimmer grasped that, and gave everything back. He grew, and was a better man.
Red Dwarf was at its peak with this season; Holoship was voted the weakest episode of the series, yet it stands head and shoulders above many that have come before it. There is better to come, but this is a great episode – even the cheesy final line is delivered in a knowingly self-deprecating way.