Despite Arnold Rimmer’s (Chris Barrie) lack of success, he is highly competitive. A psychologist would probably say this is because he grew up with brothers, and not very nice brothers as we can see in the episode “Dimension Jump.” Here, we see Rimmer’s mum lecturing little Rimmer as he hands by his feet, having been left there by his brothers. Since she is unphased, we can assume this is the normal state of affairs in the Rimmer household.
The competition with his brothers comes to a head in “Trojan,” when the boys from the Dwarf discover the ship Columbus III led by a hologram of Rimmer’s long dead brother Howard (played by Mark Dexter). Centuries after Howard left little Arny hanging by his feet, the competitiveness is as strong as ever.
In the episode “Timeslides,” Dave Lister (Craig Charles) goes back into the past and meets his younger self, a wannabe rockstar who has just written what he considers to be the next big hit rock song. It’s called “Om.” The actor playing Lister’s younger self is none other than the actor’s real life brother, Emile.
Lister’s family has always been a bit of a mystery, since he was found as a baby in a box under a pool table. But in the episode Ouroboros, he discovers that he is his own father. He and Kochanski create a test-tube baby and send it back in time, leaving it in a box under a pool table. The box is marked “Ouroboros,” which is of course the symbol of a snake eating its own tail. Growing up, he always thought his parents didn’t know whether he should be called “Rob” or “Ross.” In fact, in “Fathers and Suns,” Lister unveils that he has been sending himself Father’s Day cards every year. He gets really drunk on Father’s Day, writes a card to himself, gives it to Kryten to give him next year on this date, and then doesn’t remember having ever written the card because of how drunk he was. This goes sour when he takes the medi-bay computer’s advice and tries a little tough love on himself from father to son.
Sebastian and William Doyle
Rimmer has always been able to blame his failures on his upbringing, on his mother and brothers. When he and the others hallucinate that they all have other lives in the episode “Back to Reality,” he believes he is still a failure, but is in fact the brother of Lister, whose new identity is immensely successful. Realizing that his failure is his own and not the fault of his family, he is driven toward suicide.
Despite that the core crew of the Red Dwarf is entirely male, two of the main characters have given birth. In “Parallel Universe,” Lister has sex with a female version of himself from another universe, but because it’s the men who get pregnant in this universe, it’s Lister who is up the duff. He winds up giving birth to two baby boys, Jim and Bexley, and returning them to the alternative universe where they can be with their mother/father, Deb Lister (played by Angela Bruce).
In “Can of Worms,” Cat (Danny John-Jules) mistakes a polymorph for a sexy cat lady named Ankita (Dominique Moore). She seduces him so that she can fill him with her eggs. After her life cycle ends, Cat goes through pregnancy, including donning a pink workout outfit, and gives birth to half a dozen baby polymorphs. To defend themselves, the little polymorphs transform into adorable animals like chinchillas and kittens, but ultimately, Cat is forced to kill them before they suck the emotions out of the whole crew.
There are so many mum jokes when it comes to Rimmer, but we rarely get to see her. The best Mrs. Rimmer moment, though, I’m sure you’ll agree, is in “Polymorph,” when the Polymorph pretends to be Rimmer’s mum and claims she’s just had sex with Rimmer’s bunkmate Lister. Knowing that the Polymorph is trying to steal his anger, Rimmer tries to keep calm, but then his mum says of Lister “The things this boy can do with alphabetti spaghetti.”
In “The Beginning,” the finale of season 10, we get another Rimmer flashback. Here we learn that Rimmer’s school teacher was also his father, or at least so he thought. In a hologramatic letter, Rimmer learns that his mother had had an affair and that his father, biologically speaking, was never his father at all. By season 11, he is still dealing with this shock. He consults the new snack dispenser, mistaking it for a medi-bot with psychological therapy programming. He confesses to it that his father is not really his father, his mother is unfortunately really his mother, and he also has brothers.