Evolution of... Rimmer's Costumes

Continuing our design retrospective series.

In the lead-up to Red Dwarf X, we're taking a nostalgic trip through the design elements of the show from Series I through to Back to Earth. We've already examined the ship's sets, and Lister's costumes - so now we turn our attention to Second Technician Arnold Judas Rimmer BSc SSc...

Many people would doubtless criticise Arnold Rimmer for his excessively pedantic attitude towards regulations - but when compiling an article looking at a character's outfits over a long period, there's something to be said for a man who sticks rigidly to uniform no matter what. It certainly makes him a lot easier to keep track of.

When we first meet Rimmer in The End he is, of course, decked out in full ship's uniform. This consists of a beige/khaki military-style shirt (complete with shoulder epaulettes), trousers and dark boots - and, in the series' one concession to "futuristic" costumes, a uniquely square-ended tie with JMC logo. Furthermore, in pre-accident life, we see him wearing a darker ship-issue jacket - although the fact that he doesn't generally wear it as a hologram suggests that it's designed to be worn on technician's duty, rather than being part of his "dress" uniform.

It's notable, however, that while Lister chooses to revert more and more to clothing of his own choice as soon as he has no superior officers around, Rimmer stubbornly refuses to change his uniform. We can presume that Holly can essentially generate any clothing imaginable for his hologrammatic form - and yet, aside from a couple of dedicated outfits for exercise and his ship-issue pyjamas, Rimmer is always seen in his second technician's uniform. Well, that is, aside from when he's pretending to be a Captain AJ Rimmer, Space Adventurer...

Click image to enlarge. Photograph courtesy Paul Grant.

With the show-wide visual revamp at the beginning of Series III, Rimmer was finally treated to a new outfit - but it was still, very firmly, a "uniform". In-universe, its purpose can only be speculated on: initially the suggestion might be that Rimmer has chosen to design his own outfit, but as it's later worn by possible replacement holograms (in Holoship) and a supposed visitor from another ship entirely (in Camille), we can assume it's either a Space Corps-wide standard issue outfit, or perhaps a design unique to holograms. Either way, it's a striking design - Howard Burden's shimmering two-tone colour scheme cleverly suggestive of a being generated of light, while the asymmetrical tunic and boots have a far more "sci-fi" feel than previously. Although the less said about the "Captain Emerald" hat the better, really...

Another notable change in the Series III outfit came in the shape of Rimmer's hologrammatic identifying mark - the famous "H" on his forehead. In the first two series, this had been a simple, and quite thick, silver block in a sans-serif font - but with the new costume came a new, smaller logo - in a shimmering, reflective style that matched the outfit.

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After two series in this new costume, the time came with Series V to freshen things up a bit. Series IV's Camille had already introduced the same basic costume in a red colour scheme - and this was now applied to Rimmer. Although at a glance this looked like a simple "palette swap", there were subtler changes too - the "H" was now rendered in a taller but slimmed-down (and altogether classier-looking) serif font, while a new version of Rimmer's distinctive badge - originally sourced from an old Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy costume and flipped upside down - bore his name for the first time, thanks largely to a minor plot-related line of dialogue in The Inquisitor. That same episode also saw Rimmer return, briefly and without explanation, to the green costume of the previous series - including the t-shirt and braces combo worn under the tunic and generally reverted to in more casual moments.

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It would also be remiss to alight on Series V without remarking on two of the more memorable of the many one-off outfits Arnold donned that year. The opening episode, Holoship, gave us insight into what superior-class holograms elsewhere in the universe were wearing: a padded, all-in-one burgundy and gold ensemble with a distinctly Star Trek feel and a neat circular "H" design. And then there were the results of his Holo-virus affliction in Quarantine - a certain gingham number that went on to inspire a thousand convention competition entrants...

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If the switch to red was seen as a minor change, however, there was something altogether more major for Series VI - although to begin with, red remained the primary colour scheme. The new outfit seemed to suit the more adventurous nature of life on Starbug, and the functional feel of the ship's surroundings - although of course, to begin with, Rimmer was still stuck in intangible soft-light form. This would change in Legion - and the acquisition of his brand new hard-light drive saw the new outfit shift to a distinctive blue that would, for various reasons, arguably become the character's most defining look.

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The blue hard-light costume was carried over to Rimmer's appearances in Series VII with just a few tweaks - more pronounced buckles, a darker black trim, and with his name once again dropped from the now ever-present badge. But in flashbacks to pre-accident life, we saw a completely new costume - Howard Burden having come up with an entirely new concept for the standard JMC/ship issue uniforms. A dramatic new design, in dark blue with bright piping, the fact that it was ultimately only seen in Ouroboros can perhaps be explained by the fact that those scenes took place in an alternate universe...

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Of course, the production-based reason for Series VIII's switch back to a more traditional look was to evoke a nostalgic feel with the return of the Red Dwarf crew - and of Rimmer, now resurrected in his pre-accident form. The new JMC uniform was an updating of the original look - a much deeper khaki, and this time with no contrast between shirts, trousers and jackets. The square ties were gone, and the stitched JMC logo moved to the sleeve - replaced instead with a metallic tie pin of the main Red Dwarf logo itself. And, most notably: there was no "H".

Ultimately, however, although this uniform would be seen throughout the series on assorted members of the crew, it wouldn't be Rimmer's main look - as, just like the rest of the main cast, he was plunged into the prison deck's unflattering lilac boiler suits upon incarceration. He did, however - just like the rest of the main cast - also get to wear the yellow and black uniform of the Canaries, the padded nature of which wasn't a million miles away from his Series VI outfit. And once again, a name badge proved a plot point - this time the oversized printing on his jacket in Cassandra.

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The circumstances by which Rimmer returned to hologrammatic form prior to Back to Earth still aren't known - but what is known is that, as a result, Rimmer reverted once more to a hologram-specific outfit. The new costume was a superb composite of a number of past classics - the padding and two-tone blue colour scheme were straight from Series VI, but the tunic cut, trousers and boots were more in keeping with the Series III-V outfit - and even that Hitchhiker's badge was back (albeit once again with no name attached). Eagle-eyed viewers may also catch a small alteration made partway through shooting - a belt was added following the Coronation Street location shoot to give the tunic a better shape.

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Rimmer's Dave-era outfit has been tweaked further for Series X. Although from a distance it looks similar to the Back to Earth uniform, on closer inspection there are a number of detail changes beyond simply the shift to a darker blue tunic - but while some are evident from the first publicity photo, you'll have to wait until later in the year to examine the full outfit in detail...

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