Episode six of Red Dwarf X saw the show go out on an appropriate high. Before the series began, there were plenty of reservations about the Dwarf returning, particularly after the lacklustre reception 'Back to Earth' received. Undeniably, more than a few of us entered into episode one with a fair bit of trepidation. Right from the off though with ‘Trojan’, Red Dwarf X put all our doubts to rest and took a large step towards returning the show back to its former glory.
This series finale capped off a great run of shows with an episode that while not packing as many classic zingers as some of the others, still had plenty of funny moments and added in a neatly done plot twist for old iron balls.
The opening flashback was a nice touch, looking back at Rimmer’s troubled experience in education thanks to his bullying father who also happened to be his teacher. This scene builds up slowly and, as is often the case, just as your starting to sympathise with Rimsy he goes and acts like a total git and calls the nice girl next to him a ‘baboon’ and ‘four eyes’. This sequence sets up the central plot point of the episode, namely the overwhelming impact that Rimmer’s constant quest for fatherly approval has had upon his own life.
Before the action really gets going though there’s a wonderful cameo from ‘Hogey the Rogeuy,’ a psychotic simulant who creeps aboard the Dwarf waking each of the nonchalant crewmembers in turn to claim they “keels my brother”. The indifferent attitude the crew all take to this attack is telling as it shows how world-weary they have become after years travelling through deep space. They’ve been there, done that and Hogey’s constant challenging to a “duel across time and space” is therefore met with an apathetic shrug. A choice moment for me was Rimmer’s helpful alternative suggestion, “how about a ping-pong marathon… rogue nutters versus the Dwarfers?”
Hogey’s presence is merely a catalyst however for the arrival of a Simulant death ship. Led by the charismatic Dominator, these dastardly foes would appear to be a major threat to the Dwarf crew, but as they acknowledge themselves, they always figure a way out of these scrapes eventually. As we’ve already said, they’ve been there, done that and brought the smegging t-shirt. The Dominator and his underling Wednesday give two brilliant guest performances here, with the latter’s Hari-Kari scene a definite highlight.
Doug Naylor has reportedly revealed that elements from the abandoned Red Dwarf movie script were used for this episode and this perhaps manifests itself in the episodes far more dramatic and action-heavy plot. The fact that they have saved the big emotional and dramatic storyline for the last episode is a wise choice by Naylor and his team as this meant that the rest of the series was able to instead just focus on bringing back the laughs and re-establishing the characters we know and love.
The decision to focus this climactic story on Rimmer is not a new one; it’s often been the case that Arnie takes centre stage come the end of a series. Here yet again though, Christ Barrie shows why this is such a wise choice with another bravura central performance. When he finds out his father’s big secret and it is revealed that he was in fact the offspring of their family gardener, it leads Rimmer to finally dig up the necessary self-confidence to save the day and come up with a plan to thwart the Simulants. No longer weighed down by his quest for fatherly approval, he is able to assert himself over his crewmates and in doing so provide us with a really uplifting moment of victory for the series to go out on. He also reinvents himself as a self-proclaimed working-class hero, a nice reversal of character if ever there was one.
Along the way there’s also a nice on-going joke where the crew tease the reveal of the much discussed ending to Season 8. It was never fully explained how Rimmer saved the days after the highly corrosive micro-organism began eating everything in its path and just when you think all will be spelled out for you, the conversation is promptly cut short. There is then a classic post-credits sequence where they do the same again, thus preserving the shroud of mystery. Nicely done.
Rimmer’s final line about “the slime coming home” was a nice hark back to Lister’s similar statement at the very end of the first ever Dwarf episode. That episode was of course called ‘The End’. Should we therefore read too much into the fact that this one was called ‘The Beginning’? As it stands there is no word on whether another series will be made and while Red Dwarf XI would be welcome news after Series X’s resounding success, ‘The Beginning’ would also work as a fitting ending.