“Stoke Me a Kipper” is Chris Barrie’s kinda sorta send off. He will make another appearance this season, though not as the real Rimmer, so for all intents and purposes, this is the end of the character. At least until the eighth series, when barrie decided the lighter demands of the seventh series were enough for him to recharge his batteries and resume the role. The after the fact revelation the episode is not really barrie’s swan song does not detract from the episode. It is one of the best in the series.
I mentioned yesterday the production values of series seven have greatly increased over the past. The improvements are more noticeable in this episode than the previous. It begins with a james bond style action sequence in which Ace Rimmer is charged with rescuing a kidnapped princess from the Nazis. He has to jump from an exploding plane while wrestling with, then gliding on an alligator, steal a descending Nazi’s parachute, survive a fall into a shed, dispose of the firing squad about to execute the princess, and escape on a motorcycle, all in style. It is absolutely hilarious the ease at which he does it all.
Not to be outdone, in our dimension, Lister is playing a virtual reality game in which he must defeat a king’s best night in a jousting contest in order to spend the night with his queen. Stealing Brian Cox’s women..that takes some backbone. Or cheat codes, which Lister uses to shrink the knight down to midget size and defeat him. His ’reward” is interrupted by the arrival of ace in our dimension.
He has come to see Rimmer, who obviously is not thrilled to be reminded of all that he good be. Ace reveals only to him tht he is dying because of a mortal wound he suffered rescuing the princess. He is not the original Ace Rimmer, but another in a long line. Each time one nears death, he recruit’s a Rimmer from another dimension to replace him. This Ace wants Rimmer to replace him. Rimmer, of course, refuses.
Ace recruits Lister in order to convince Rimmerhange his mind. Using reverse psychology to mock the very idea Rmmer could be Ace, Lister wounds his pride enough for Rimmer to give training a go. He fails miserably at a virtual reality training exercise to the point he wants to quit, but upon leaving, he confronts and defeats the knight from Lster’s program. It is actually Lister in disguise as part of a ruse he has with ace to build up Rimmer’s confidence.
The ruse works well enough for Rimmer to go along with a plan to claim the now deceased Ace is really him murdered by the knight. “ace’ defeated the knight in revenge for the murder. Only Lister knows the truth, and in a rare act of true friendship, hides the truth through “Rrimmer’s” funeral, even saying a few good things about him, before sending the new ace off to save the universe.
We are certainly not left with the notion Rimmer is going to set the woods on fire as the newest Ace, but I think it is a fitting send off regardless. Rimmer still has all his bad qualities in abundance, but he has still stepped up when absolutely necessary. Being Ace is everything he has said he ever wanted to be in life, and it is a nice touch to see lister cast aside his distaste for Rimmer personally in order to nudge him towards the opportunity to finally have everything he has wanted in life.
After the two opening sequences with ace and Lister respectively, the laughs are sparse, but it really does not matter. The point of ‘Stoke Me Another Kipper” is to give Rimmer closure, and it does that well with a rare instance of Lister showing true friendship for him. Sparse is not to say there are not some funny moments as the episode moves along, either, but it is not the comedy that makes the episode one of the best of the series. It is a great episode even knowing that Barrie will return as Rimmer for another series.
Rating: **** (out of 5)