Arnold Rimmer

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Arnold Judas Rimmer BSC, SSC
Holoship (Red Dwarf).jpg
Arnold Rimmer on board the SS Enlightenment
First appearance "The End"
Created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Portrayed by Chris Barrie
Nickname(s) Goal Post Head, Alphabet Head, - Smeg Head, Trans-Am Wheel-arch Nostrils, Bonehead
Species Human / Hologram
Gender Male
Occupation Technician, Second Class (series), Technician, First Class (books)
Children Michael McGruder (Last Human continuity only)

Arnold Judas Rimmer is a fictional character in the science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf, played by Chris Barrie. He is unpopular with his crew mates, and is often the target of insults or pranks. After he is killed by a radiation leak in the series' first episode "The End", he is present only as a computer-generated hologram, indicated by the "H" symbol on his forehead.

The creators of the series acknowledge that Rimmer's surname comes from a snobby prefect with whom they attended school. They claim, however, that only the boy's name was used, and not his personality because that would imply he had one.[citation needed]


Early life[edit]

Young Rimmer was often the target of his brothers' bullying.

Within the fictional universe of Red Dwarf, Rimmer was born on Io somewhere during the 21st through 23rd centuries.[1][2] He was christened Arnold Judas Rimmer. (He was given the middle name "Judas" not as some sort of cruel omen, but because his mother was a member of a denomination of Christianity that venerates Judas as Jesus Christ's twin brother.) He suffered an unhappy childhood growing up in the shadow of his three older and more successful brothers, John, Frank, and Howard, and unlike them, Arnold was not sent to the Space Academy to become a professional officer. Arnold's brothers tormented and bullied him throughout his youth, and their successes in both school and career greatly overshadowed his. His stepfather had been rejected from the Space Corps in his youth for being an inch below regulation height, and was thus fixated on all his sons succeeding where he had failed; to this end, he refused to allow them to eat unless they could answer complicated astronavigation questions. He also stretched them on a rack to make them taller, causing Frank to reach a great height at an early age.[3] His mother was a cold woman who had no time for fools and was having an affair with Rimmer's uncle Frank[4] and Porky Roebuck's father. The Series III DVD booklet speculates that Arnold's three brothers were actually Frank's children.[citation needed]

Arnold was also bullied by other children at school — where he was known as "Bonehead" — and his best "friend", Porky Roebuck, once spearheaded a plan to eat him during a Space Scouts survival course. Rimmer later recounted an occasion on which Roebuck threw Arnold's favourite shoes into the school septic tank whilst Arnold was wearing them. Rimmer attended a boarding school from age 8 to 18, where he used to sleep wearing boxing gloves and was visited by his future self (this being the Hologram Rimmer telling him to plagiarize a future invention); when he was 18 he joined a Polytechnic and studied maintenance.

Rimmer left home when he was 16, hoping he would get into the Space Academy, which for an unknown reason (possibly his exam performance) he could not do. His father would not pay for him to attend the Academy as he had done for Rimmer's brothers. Rimmer also earned two swimming certificates: one Bronze Swimming Certificate, and one Silver Swimming Certificate (despite not being not able to swim); he includes the titles for these certificates — "BSc" and "SSc", respectively — after his name in official correspondence.

Life on board Red Dwarf[edit]

Rimmer joined the Space Corps at an entry level as a third technician, and devoted his life to his career, engaging in few activities outside work. He was also rather unsuccessful with women, managing to have a sexual relationship with only one woman, Yvonne McGruder, the ship's female boxing champion. The entire encounter lasted little more than twelve minutes, including the time it took to eat a pizza, and, according to Lister, only happened because she was concussed and thought Rimmer was someone else entirely.[5] Rimmer claimed that he lost his virginity in the back of his brother's Bentley with a girl named Sandra,[6] though he said this in order to hide from Lister the fact that he actually lost it to Yvonne McGruder. The show's creators have also stated he was lying.[citation needed]

Despite serving in the Space Corps for fourteen years (obtaining four medals for three-, six-, nine and twelve years long service), he never managed to become an officer, advancing only from third technician to second technician.[7] He attempted to pass the astronavigation exam, required to become an officer, 11 times, but failed on every occasion, frequently because he spent the allotted revision time indulging his talent for calligraphy and design in the creation of elaborate timetables, leaving no time for actual preparation. In the ensuing panic, he often took up chain smoking and became dependent on stimulants in an attempt to condense months of complex learning into just a few days. This behaviour contributed to several psychotic episodes and breakdowns during exams, and on one occasion caused him to write "I am a fish" repeatedly on the exam paper. (This behaviour was described in the novel as the result of his becoming so stressed that he subconsciously denied his own existence.) However, he believed he was kept down due to an incident where he was invited to the captain's table and humiliated himself when served gazpacho, which he demanded be taken away and brought back hot.

During his service on Red Dwarf, he was assigned to both work with and share quarters with Third Technician Dave Lister, the only crew member of Red Dwarf that he outranked. The two were notably different in personality: unlike the uptight and pompous Rimmer, Lister was unmotivated, slovenly, relaxed and well-liked.

Death and afterlife[edit]

Rimmer died in the radiation leak that wiped out the entire crew of Red Dwarf, with the exception of Lister, who was in stasis at the time, and Lister's pregnant cat, Frankenstein, who was safe in the ship's hold. Three million years later, when Lister was brought out of stasis, Rimmer was chosen by Holly to be reactivated as a hologram in order to keep Lister company and prevent him from being driven insane by loneliness. He was chosen because only one hologram could be active at any given time and Rimmer was the person Lister spoke to most.[8]

In the Series III episode Timeslides, when the crew discover they can enter any photograph and change their future, Rimmer accidentally changes the past so that he is alive, no longer a hologram. His happiness is short-lived, however, as he dies within minutes anyway after hitting a box containing explosives. He is seen in the next episode once again as a hologram.

Lister inspects Rimmer's "Light Bee", the device that projects his hologram.

As a "soft-light" hologram, Rimmer retains his memories and physical appearance, but is composed of light and has no tangible form (other than the small "light bee" unit that projects his image by floating around inside him, which would also explain how he's able to lay down on his bed); however, the "Light Bee", Rimmer's only physical presence, is contradicted on a few occasions by his ability to move completely through solid objects such as walls or by the ability of solid objects or living characters to pass completely through Rimmer. He remains very unhappy with his lot after his death, frequently bemoaning his fate. Despite his dissatisfaction with his existence, he bitterly resists any move to turn him off. He remains as obnoxious and difficult to like for his crewmates as he was before his death, and gradually develops a pompous tendency to quote Space Corps regulations at any possible opportunity — despite his tendency to get the numbers wrong, for which Kryten often corrects him.

In Series VI, he encounters a being known as Legion, who upgrades Rimmer's projection unit from "soft light" to "hard light", giving him a physical form and the ability to interact directly with the world, in addition to making him virtually indestructible. In Series VII, Rimmer is approached by a dying alternate version of himself, Ace Rimmer, who asks Rimmer to become a defender of the multiverse upon Ace's death. Although initially hesitant, Arnold finds himself rising to the challenge and leaves to start his new life. Lister, for a time, desperately misses him, and it takes a therapeutic song by a simulation of Rimmer to remind him what a horrible presence he could be.

Return to life[edit]

When Red Dwarf is restored by nanobots in Series VIII, the entire crew is restored to life as well, including Rimmer. Because he is resurrected as he was at the time of the accident, he lacks any of the growth that the "other" Rimmer has gone through since the series began, reverting him back to his original persona. Due to a series of events, Lister, Rimmer, Kryten, Cat, and Kristine Kochanski are sentenced to two years in the ship's brig for misuse of confidential information. In the final episode of Series VIII, "Only the Good...", when a chameleonic microbe destroys Red Dwarf and everyone else evacuates to a mirror universe, Rimmer is trapped on the disintegrating ship. At the end of the episode, he encounters the Grim Reaper, who announces that Rimmer is dead and then tells him that they'll travel to the River Styx. Rimmer interrupts him, saying "Not today, matey!", knees him in the groin, says "Remember, only the good die young!", and flees.

Back to Earth[edit]

In the 2009 special "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth" Rimmer is a hard light hologram again; how this has come about was not explained, but in an interview, Red Dwarf creator Doug Naylor hinted that the hologram Rimmer from the first seven series is now back on Red Dwarf.[citation needed] "Part One" begins on Red Dwarf, nine years after the events of Series VIII. Kochanski (Chloë Annett) is dead and Holly is out of commission because Lister (Craig Charles) left a bath running in the officers' quarters for nearly nine years and the Skutters still have not finished drying him out. The crew have noted water supplies are low, and discover the cause—a giant squid in their water tank—after they go to investigate. After they barely escape the encounter with their lives, the squid proceeds to vanish, and Katerina Bartikovsky (Sophie Winkleman), a former Red Dwarf science officer, materialises. Informing Rimmer (Chris Barrie) he is to be switched off in twenty-four hours, she uses the ship's equipment to analyse the leviathan's DNA and manages to turn a mining laser into a dimension cutter, in the hope of opening up a portal so that Lister can find a mate and restart the human race.

"Part Two" begins with the discovery that the Red Dwarf crew inhabit an "invalid dimension". Zeroing in on the nearest valid reality, the portal sucks the crew to Earth in 2009, only to find that in this world, their adventures have been a fictional television show called Red Dwarf. As a result of the discovery they quickly accept that they themselves are merely fictional characters, and find a DVD of the "Back to Earth" special. They are alarmed to discover that they are to die at the end of the final part. They resolve to track down their creators and plead for more life. While on a bus, Lister meets two kids who are fans of the show and reassure Lister that, despite all of his faults, he is a heroic and cool character to them. They also share a theory about Kochanski's fate - since Kryten was the only person who actually witnessed her supposed 'death', it seems likely that Kochanski simply tired of Lister and left Red Dwarf, with Kryten telling Lister she had died to spare his feelings. Lister later confronts Kryten about this and Kryten admits that the children are correct.

In "Part Three" the crew track down actor Craig Charles on the set of Coronation Street and ask him to reveal the location of their creator. After locating him, the Creator (Richard O'Callaghan) reveals that he intends to kill the crew, having tired of them, but is himself killed by a now keen to remain alive Lister. Shortly afterwards, the crew discover that they are in a shared hallucination caused by a female relative of the despair squid that uses joy, rather than despair, to subdue victims. Kochanski appears before Lister, tempting him to remain behind, but having discovered his Kochanski may still be alive in his own reality, he chooses to wake up and return with the others. As the crew head back to their sleeping quarters, Cat (Danny John-Jules) admits that he brought the female despair squid to Red Dwarf, and they reflect on the ridiculous idea that anyone could consider them fictional characters.

Red Dwarf X[edit]

In the tenth series premiere, "Trojan", Rimmer discovers that one of his brothers, Howard, serves as a hologram on a Space Corps vessel. Rimmer lies to his brother, telling him that he is the captain of the abandoned space vessel Trojan. To his surprise, he finds that Howard is, like him, a vending machine repairman who became the superior officer on his ship following an attack by Simulants. Howard is mortally wounded during a skirmish with a rogue Simulant, and Rimmer takes the opportunity to further lie to Howard on his deathbed about his lifestyle.

In the Series X finale, "The Beginning", Rimmer is given the task of planning out a defensive strategy against a Simulant attack fleet; after failing to come up with one, Rimmer plays a recorded message from his father in an attempt to escape his feeling of being weighed down by his father's expectations. In the message Arnold's father, thinking that by now Arnold has achieved enough, reveals that Arnold is not his son, but that his real father was the family gardener Dungo. This revelation liberates Rimmer from the spectre of his lineage on the grounds that he has accomplished a great deal by the standards set by his biological father, and he is able to formulate a successful plan of attack that destroys the Simulant vessels.

It is strongly implied in this episode that this version of Rimmer remembers dying from the radiation leak but also remembers saving the ship from the corrosive virus that was devouring it at the end of Series VIII. However, attempts by Rimmer and Kryten to explain how he saved the ship at the end of that series are frequently interrupted.


Rimmer's primary character traits include anal-retentiveness, over-adherence to protocol, cowardice, misogyny, and a severely inflated ego which is likely a coping mechanism for his deep-seated sense of self-loathing, which he tries but sometimes fails to hide from others. As the highest ranking survivor aboard the ship (despite being a hologram), Rimmer often deludes himself into believing that he is in charge and that he has somehow been moulding "his" crew into an effective spacegoing unit,[9] despite the fact that the others tend to take suggestions from Lister or Kryten in a crisis.

Rimmer's poor repair work on the drive plate was responsible for the radiation leak that killed the crew, and Rimmer bore the guilt of this (although he also partly blamed Lister for the accident, as he was unable to help repair the drive plate due to being in stasis at the time). However, in "Justice", after Rimmer is jailed for over 9000 years for the accident, Kryten successfully argues at his appeal that Rimmer's guilt is misplaced- as a second technician (and one who "couldn't outwit a used teabag"), he could not possibly have been responsible for (and indeed would not have been trusted with) work that might endanger the crew if not performed correctly. Kryten further argues that Rimmer only felt guilty for causing the accident because of his delusions about his importance to the mission, comparing him to a front-gate security guard who considers himself corporate head. Kryten then went on to state that Rimmer's only crime is that of being Arnold J. Rimmer, which should also serve as a punishment. In keeping with his defective personality, Rimmer continually objects to his own defence (despite its effectiveness) on the grounds that he believes he is being portrayed unfairly.

Rimmer was finally able to live his fantasy of commanding an army in the Series IV episode "Meltdown", leading an army of "good" wax-droids against a much larger force of "evil" wax-droids. Although Rimmer ultimately succeeds in destroying the opposing army, his forces are completely wiped out when he uses most of them as a diversion and then has Kryten turn up the heating to melt all the droids. In addition to his fondness for militarism, elitism and Hammond organ music, Rimmer also enjoys Morris dancing and is an authority on 20th century telegraph poles, especially those observed while train spotting. Rimmer has also been attempting to learn Esperanto for eight years, but has failed miserably.

Many episodes of Red Dwarf focus on the conflict between Rimmer's ego and his neuroses. In "Me²", Rimmer manages to trick Lister into generating a holograph duplicate in order to provide him with a companion; however, as a consequence of Rimmer's self-loathing, the two Rimmers are incapable of getting along, and their interaction becomes so bitter and hate-filled that the duplicate must be turned off. In "Terrorform", a "psi-moon" sculpted to reflect Rimmer's psychological make-up becomes a desolate, swampy hell-hole dominated by Rimmer's Self-Loathing, personified as a sadistic beast, with a metaphysical graveyard marking the "demise" of his various virtuous qualities. Despite his cowardice, and tendency to run from any kind of danger or fight, Rimmer is the member of the crew most willing to kill, preferably in the safest and most cowardly way possible, although, due to a mixture of cowardice, and the fact that for much of the series he cannot physically harm anyone, he seldom manages to. He has attempted to coerce Lister to shoot a dangerous Simulant in the back (bemoaning the fact that said Simulant was currently awake), suggested shooting Kryten and Lister into space when they appeared on the ship in a timeline where they had been erased from history, suggested that he and Kryten eject Lister and Cat from Starbug when it was revealed that the ship lacked fuel to reach the nearest planet- although this was also prompted by the discovery that the ship only had air for seven minutes and was ended when Rimmer learned that his projection unit only had enough power for four minutes-, and casually pushed a fellow hologram into traffic after she repeatedly threatened to have him "erased".

Rimmer's personality flaws are in fact almost completely a result of his hang-ups. An alternative version of Rimmer, Ace Rimmer, who was kept back a year in school, learned humility and inner strength and grew up to become a charming and well liked Space Corps test pilot, interstellar hero, and sexual seducer.[10]

Surprisingly, however, Rimmer is still capable of nobility, honour and love. When Red Dwarf encounters a Holoship, with an all-hologram crew composed of the "best and brightest", Rimmer desperately wants to join. A female officer aboard the ship, Nirvanah Crane, played by Jane Horrocks, falls in love with him and sacrifices her place on the ship for Rimmer, only for Rimmer to do the same in return for her. This act of nobility surprises even Rimmer himself. Furthermore, in the episode "Out of Time", Rimmer is disgusted by his corrupt future self to the point where he'd rather do battle with him than surrender, Rimmer later frantically risking his life to save the others after they are killed by their future selves. He is also able to show respect for viewpoints in conflict with his own. In The Last Day, he tries to convince Lister that he should respect Kryten's right to believe in Silicon Heaven in spite of it conflicting with Lister's own beliefs.


Rimmer's status as a hologram in most episodes of Red Dwarf is shown by the "H" on the centre of his forehead, leading to nicknames from The Cat, such as "alphabet head" and "goalpost head". Rimmer keeps his unmanageable hair[11] relatively short, deciding that it makes him feel like more of a man.[12] When Lister and The Cat respond to a drill too slowly, Rimmer argues for increased discipline and sensible haircuts, believing that "every major battle in history has been won by the side with the shortest haircuts" (resulting in the Cat insulting his hair-do by saying 'that he had hair like his, just not on his head').[13]

Rimmer's Space Corps uniform changes several times during the course of the show. In the first two series it is a grey-and-beige shirt-and-tie ensemble; in Series III and IV this becomes a green suit with a shiny high-collared jacket, which is changed to red in Series V; in Series VI and VII, Rimmer's jacket becomes quilted and is red when he is in soft-light form and blue for hard-light; the alive Rimmer in Series VIII wears an all-beige uniform similar in design to the original. In the 2009 three-part special "Back to Earth", Rimmer wears a blue suit similar to his Series III and VI green suit but with the addition of a plain waist-high belt worn over the jacket and a quilted collar.

The hologram "H" on his forehead also changes from series to series: it starts as a grey colour and a blocky shape, then in Series III it becomes bright blue and reflective, then in Series V its shape is changed to a thinner and more stylised font. His "H" also briefly changes to a reflective red colour set inside a circle when he temporarily joins the holoship SS Enlightenment.


Rimmer encounters his "female opposite" Arlene.

Among the actors who auditioned for Rimmer were Norman Lovett (who went on to play Holly instead), David Baddiel, Hugh Laurie, and Alfred Molina.[14] Initially Molina was cast as Rimmer,[15][16] however, the role was recast and filled by Chris Barrie, a professional voice-actor and impressionist. Barrie, who had originally auditioned for Lister,[14] was familiar with Rob Grant and Doug Naylor having worked together on Son of Cliché and Spitting Image, and with the producers on Happy Families and various Jasper Carrott productions.[16] He has appeared in all but four episodes of the show, which he missed in series VII due to scheduling conflicts.[17]

Rimmer was played by Chris Eigeman in the first American pilot and then by Anthony Fuscle in the second pilot.The character's distinctive "H" was replaced with a marble-shaped object in the first pilot, but the "H" returned in the second one. Chris Barrie was given an offer to reprise his role, but turned it down for fear of being tied into a restrictive, long-term contract, which is common in American television production.[18]

The female Rimmer in the Series II episode "Parallel Universe" was played by Suzanne Bertish, an actress primarily known for her classical stage work. She had been asked by director Ed Bye to play the part.[19] "Young Rimmer", who had minor speaking roles in three episodes in Series III and IV, was played by child actor Simon Gaffney.[20] The 6th episode of series X features another "Young Rimmer", this time at college on Io, who was played by Philip Labey.[21]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Red Dwarf Series II episode "Stasis Leak" shows a calendar from 2077, the year that Rimmer died, which conflicts with Series IV episode "DNA" when Lister describes himself as a "23rd century guy".
  2. ^ In the episode "Ouroboros" the year when an eight-month-old baby Lister was discovered under a pub pool table is given as 2155, and in "Backwards" Lister mentions that he is 25 years old. Rimmer is presumably a few years older than Lister, judging by the age difference of the actors that play them.
  3. ^ "Better than Life". Red Dwarf. Season II. Episode 2. 
  4. ^ Rimmer: Anyway, middle of the night, I wake up with this tongue stuck down my throat. Wide awake now — I couldn't believe my eyes. It was Uncle Frank! He'd got the wrong room, he thought I was my mum! "The Last Day". Red Dwarf. Season III. Episode 6. 
  5. ^ In the 1995 novel Last Human, Rimmer's one-night stand with Yvonne McGruder led to the birth of a son. Also, apparently there truly was mutual attraction, but both decided to wait for the other to make the first move after that one night, leading to their going separate ways. Yvonne transferred off Red Dwarf.
  6. ^ Red Dwarf series 3"Marooned"
  7. ^ In the Red Dwarf novels, Rimmer was a First Technician and leader of "Z Shift:" "Red Dwarf," (1989) Penguin, London, p.46
  8. ^ HOLLY: He's the person you knew best. Over 14 million words in all. "Balance of Power". Red Dwarf. Season II. Episode 2. 
  9. ^ RIMMER: Captain, I've been in effective command of Red Dwarf now for nearly four years. I've guided that ragamuffin, ragtail crew of whacked out crazies and hippy peace-niks through hell and back. If I gave the order, those guys would crawl on their bellies across broken glass with their flies unzipped. So don't tell me I'm not an officer, Captain, just because in deep space there's no academy around to award me my pips. "Holoship". Red Dwarf. Season V. Episode 1. 
  10. ^ "Dimension Jump". Red Dwarf. Season IV. Episode 5. 
  11. ^ Red Dwarf Series V, "The Inquisitor".
  12. ^ Red Dwarf series 1, "Future Echoes".
  13. ^ Red Dwarf Series VI, "Emohawk: Polymorph II".
  14. ^ a b " Series I Casting". Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  15. ^ Interview: Norman Lovett, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 9, November 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, issn=0965-5603
  16. ^ a b Red Dwarf series 1 Episode One: The End, Red Dwarf Smegazine, volume 2 issue 1, May 1993, Fleetway Editions Ltd, issn=0965-5603
  17. ^ " Series VII Writing". Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  18. ^ Ellard, Andrew. "Down Time: Red Dwarf USA". Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  19. ^ Ellard, Andrew. "Mr. Flibble talks to Suzanne Bertish". Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  20. ^ "IMDb: Simon Gaffney". Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  21. ^ "IMDb: Philip Labey". Retrieved 6 November 2013. 

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