Holo I Must Be Going

The history of holograms in Red Dwarf is given the Down Time treatment.

Holo I Must Be Going

It's not easy being dead. In fact, it's a pretty tough existence - hard enough if you're a tough, resilient human being, but infinitely worse if you're a whiney under-achiever with a Napoleon complex.

Holo I Must Be Going

Rimmer's holographic status began with his resurrection in The End. By that time we'd already met George McIntyre, the original ship's hologram. One has to wonder what poor old George was thinking while he watched his entire crew get killed off by a nuclear blast. "Well, now you know what it's like," probably.

Did Holly switch George off? Or maybe his digital self was destroyed by the blast in some unforeseen way - either radiation damage to a data disc, or possibly a spilled cup of coffee on the console.

The dead, it seems, were not well-regarded in the world Red Dwarf left behind. Rimmer - not a stranger to prejudice himself, having made snap judgements about every single human being he's ever met - was lucky to have escaped a time where holograms march for equal rights, face being called 'deadies' and suffer for a lack of equal opportunities. Sure, Groovy Channel 27 has a hologram reading the news, but we all know she was just hired to fill the deadie quota.

Projected from the hologram suite and maintained via Holly's processors, the original Red Dwarf hologram required a massive amount of power just to keep going. The ship could run one hologram only... at least until the crew died. With no additional personnel, most of the ship could be powered down and, with some effort, a second hologram generated.

A second Rimmer. For smeg's sake.

Holo I Must Be Going

Of course they didn't get on. Of course they spent nights calling each other names. These two H-headed lunatics couldn't possibly survive together and, blessed relief, the duplicate was deactivated.

But - and here's the thing - before being wiped, the duplicate insists that Rimmer is different. He's not the same as he was when his personality was recorded onto his data disc so many years before. Lister's influence had softened him somehow.

Holograms, it seems, can learn.

With artificial intelligence so commonplace in the Red Dwarf universe, from robots and computers down to lowly toasters and toilets, it's important to remember that Rimmer was an electronic life-form. But far from being limited to his initial personality, the hologram Rimmer's program can be updated, added to, augmented. He can learn - though he still doesn't stand a chance at his astro-navigation exam. What the hell is a quasar anyway?

Holo I Must Be Going

Emblazoned with an 'H' on the forehead lest they be mistaken for normal people (imagine the embarrassment during "pass us that screwdriver" moments), holograms must have bonded together. Not least because, as Rimmer's female equivalent proved, holograms can touch each other.

Already hologrammatic objects were a familiar site - exercise bikes, glasses, books - so it stood to reason. (Though why Rimmer exercises when he could just have Holly alter his physical projection is anyone's guess. If he can have his mind placed into Kochanski's body, surely a bit of liposuction wouldn't be too taxing.) Still, it used to be that a shave, shower or beverage would just be electronically 'introduced' to the hologram's body, without all the bother of rendering exact likenesses. The hologram felt the water, but couldn't see it.

Holo I Must Be Going

Regardless, the hologram's existence - free as it generally was from physical contact - must have been frustrating. Very frustrating. Steal-Lister's-body-and-run-off-with-it frustrating. And so Rimmer did when the two swapped bodies. That handy hologram technology allowed his brain to be placed inside a body that could touch, feel... and eat.

Rimmer's reaction to all this raises fascinating questions about how much holograms feel. Certainly there are senses - check out his reaction to the taste of Lister's triple-fried-egg-chilli-chutney sandwich, or the smell of camphor wood. But if sensations were entirely 'normal', if the computer-generated meals he eats felt real, why start hijacking Lister's podgy form?

It could be that hologrammatic senses are duller. Familiar, but more vague. Like listening to sound through a hearing aid, looking out through dirty glass, or trying to get a proper answer out of a politician. What this says about Rimmer's attempts to cook in Series II is interesting - he must have found the whole experience as frustrating as spraining both wrists after reaching for a top-shelf magazine.

By Series III, a change had occurred in Rimmer's hologram technology. In previous series, he had been massively restricted in his off-ship travelling. Confined to a hologram cage when outside of a vessel, he was generally confined to Red Dwarf and Blue Midget or other encountered ships. But by the time a time hole took Starbug crashing down onto the Backwards Earth, Rimmer was headed out and about. And a season later, we found out how.

The light bee.

Maybe two inches tall, one inch wide, the light bee buzzed around inside Rimmer and projected his image. No longer trapped within metal walls, the hologram was able to get out and about. Explore planets, meet new lifeforms and start wars. At least until Lister swallowed the 'bee.

Holo I Must Be Going

But eventually even that wasn't enough, and encounters with hallucinogenic quid ink, a psi-moon and a fully hologrammatic spacecraft brought Rimmer into contact with the world in more and more real ways. On the psi-moon, in fact, he was rendered entirely flesh by the location's peculiar energy. But the really interesting bit was to come...

Hardlight was it seems, created by Legion, the former-genius-cum-psychopath, but it must have been in development elsewhere when our boys first left earth. Enabling fully physical interaction with the surrounding environment, it's hard to say how human this makes a being. Sure, they can eat... but where does it go? And while pleasure and pain responses remain the same, they cannot be killed or particularly damaged. The Rimmer projected is as solid as oak... but more prone to running away.

As an aside, think about what eating with hardlight status means for the very old Rimmer we saw in Out Of Time - grey haired and overweight, this Rimmer had spent decades indulging himself. Feasting on the very best. Now, given that previous hologrammatic feeding had been a fairly flat experience, could it be that hardlight holograms have some kind of choice? That the internal bodies can be recreated in order to fully experience the senses once again... but at the price of taking on all the punishments regular bodies suffer - aging, illness and the terrible, terrible onslaught of calories.

Holo I Must Be Going

With a 'hardlight remote belt' the wearer can, it appears, travel anywhere. And while early implications suggested that this form was more draining to a ship's power, this may have been just Lister's undereducated guesswork - after all, Starbug's minimal power supplies kept the wild-eyed bugger running just fine after the initial teething troubles of Psirens. (Where Rimmer eventually powered down completely and popped off!)

Still, it seems hardlight holograms are not without their weaknesses. A hologrammatic Ace Rimmer took a shot direct to the light bee which, over time, caused a fatal power leakage. (Interestingly, this hologram had no 'H' to identify his status, possibly to maintain confidence in the inter-dimensional hero's indestructibility.)

Holo I Must Be Going

So where does all this leave our Arnie? His image was remotely changed by the departing Ace to provide his successor with an outfit shiny enough to roast a chicken in - and also once again remove that pesky 'H'.

His identity seems to be safe. Rimmer the hologram has changed - almost unrecognisably - but the implication, either by congenital illness, holo-virus or simple deactivation, is that this man who died once could die again. That the destruction of a hologram would also destroy everything he has learned. You can't just plug the disc in and start again.

Once he's gone, he's gone for good.

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