Hiding in an asteroid, surrounded by a Simulant Death Ship and a fleet of Annihilators, the Dwarfers begin to wonder whether this is the beginning of the end. Only one man can save them. Unfortunately that man is Arnold Rimmer.
On a colony on Io, the first moon of Jupiter and the birthplace of Arnold Rimmer, Arnold's father is presiding as a lecturer at a class at Io Polytechnic. Noting that his son is late, he decides to use him as part of a social experiment to investigate the effects of peer pressure. A young Arnold finally shows up for class, embarrassed by his tardiness and by the severe air that his father subsequently shows to him. His father then asks the class to respond to a series of easily answerable questions, such as the colour of a piece of paper or whether or not a Fallopian tube is a musical instrument.
Arnold initially answers all of these questions factually, but is put off by the fact that all his classmates seem to be choosing the wrong answers, with his father making no attempt to correct them. Arnold then attempts to go along with the crowd, although his confusion gives away his insincerity. A female classmate who is sitting next to him named Wendy takes pity on Arnold, and writes him a note informing him that he is being used as a guinea pig. Arnold misunderstands her overture as being a slight, and subsequently writes his own note back, accusing her of being a four-eyed baboon.
Back on Red Dwarf three million years in the future, Arnold Rimmer had fallen asleep in his chair in the drive room while reading the Space Corp Book of Military Strategy, but is disturbed by the sound of warning klaxons. He gets up to check the monitors, which are reporting that there has been a security breech on G Deck, where a ship is clamped onto the hull. A rogue droid is seen boarding the ship through some kind of anomaly, bearing a weapon in his hand. He reaches the quarters of Cat, aims the weapon at his head, and informs him that he had killed his brother. Cat nonchalantly tells him off, saying that he wants Lister and gives the droid directions to his quarters. On his way there he encounters Kryten mopping the floors, and repeats his assertion to him. Kryten also calmly gives the droid more information about how to find Lister, unconcerned by the droid's apparent menace.
Finally finding his intended target, he aims the gun at a sleeping Dave Lister's head and tells him that he has killed his brother. A weary and dozy Lister disputes his claim, causing the droid to issue him a challenge to the death. Rimmer enters the room and calmly speaks in support of the idea, causing Lister to tell him not to encourage the droid. Lister refuses the challenge, disappointing the droid, who is now introduced as being Hogey the Roguey, a familiar character to the Dwarfers who comes aboard the ship looking for amusement, preferably in the form of "duels across time and space," but this is something that Lister and the others are completely numb to by this point. With the crew categorically refusing to oblige him with one, they start talking about other events they could do instead, such as ping-pong, mini-golf in the botanical gardens and finally a cooking contest. Hogey agrees to this last challenge, finally assured that his side has a chance, and offers them a prized cloth map that shows everything of note in the Galaxy, that he had stolen from a Simulant Death Ship should they win.
Suddenly Red Dwarf is attacked by a barrage of Photon Mutilators, cracking the hull. After a delayed period of shouting over the wind, Hogey's grip fails and he hurtles towards the crack, subsequently sealing it shut. Now able to move, Lister grabs Hogey's weapon while Rimmer grabs an unidentified object before they head off for the Drive Room, with Lister promising that he will come back for Hogey when things have calmed down. There they meet up with Cat and Kryten, and try to ascertain what it is that is attacking them. With all of their scanners and sensors down, Kryten comes up with the idea of seeing the enemy ships through a window. He goes off to have a look, and reports that they are being assaulted by a Simulant Death Ship like the one Hogey described, with them concluding that they must have followed him here, presumably quite pleased to have found a living human and his lieutenants upon which to vent their psychopathic hatred on.
One of the Simulant Generals, Chancellor Wednesday, reports to his leader, Dominator Zlurth aboard the Simulant Death Ship. He begs for his forgiveness and informs him that the "Earth one" remains alive. Zlurth casts off his advances, stating that forgiveness is merely a human quality, and glides his sword, the Sword of Spite, across the table to his subordinate. Chancellor Wednesday takes the sword and, without giving it a moments thought, disembowels himself with it. Dominator Zlurth then tells him that as a punishment he must polish his sword and write him a letter of apology. Chancellor Wednesday realizes the mistake that he has made and pulls out the sword, and takes the risk of telling him that his intentions were never really made clear, and that he had naturally assumed that he had wanted him to commit hari kari. Collecting himself, including the parts of him that have started to fall away, he bids Dominator Zlurth his leave, with Zlurth stating that this will at least serve as a lesson for him to stop jumping to conclusions.
Back on Red Dwarf, the Dwarfers are making their way through the corridors of the ship on their way to the cargo bays. Lister attempts to master the use of Hogey's gun, and accidentally uses it to destabilize the floor beneath him, causing him to fall down to another level of the ship. He uses the gun to bring the others down to him, and they discuss the gun's possibilities. That Cat first identifies it as a "wibbly gun", with Kryten explaining that it is in fact a Molecular Destabilizer, capable of disrupting the molecular arrangements of solid objects. They finally arrive in Cargo Bay 3, where Blue Midget is docked, and all four climb aboard. Lister asks about the object that Rimmer has been hauling with him all this way, with Kryten deducing it to be a holo-lamp that is capable of playing holographic messages. Rimmer explains that is is a message to him by his father that he was told not to play until he became a officer. They take off and evade the attacking Simulant Annihilators by flying into an asteroid belt, hiding inside a hollowed out cave in one of the larger rocks.
Chancellor Wednesday reports to the convened Simulant War Council that the human insurgents have escaped and are hiding out in an asteroid field. Dominator Zlurth is outraged, causing everyone around him to agree with his anger profusely. He points out their toadying sycophancy, to which they all once again heartily agree. Dominator Zlurth, now more annoyed than outraged, bids them to speak for themselves and question his assertions, saying that only then will they all be truly strong. One of the simulants takes exception to this statement, pointing out what has happened to people who have questioned his statements previously. He is immediately handed a death sentence and is hauled out of the room. Zlurth then orders for them to find their enemy's ship, causing the Simulant crews to send out probes to hunt them down, and blow the asteroids up one-by-one.
The Dwarfers meanwhile are getting into an argument about who is going to have a better death, with Rimmer espousing the virtues of getting death out of the way early. Kryten tries his best to change the topic, fearing this to be an unproductive and potentially damaging avenue of conversation. Cat agrees, saying that they all need to chill, with Lister admitting that he is right. He reminds them that they have gotten out of worse situations before, with Kryten referring back to an incident where a highly corrosive micro-organism tried to destroy Red Dwarf. Rimmer claims the credit for their past deliverance, which is disputed by the rest of the crew, but, before he can expand upon what he did that saved them, the ship's scanners detect a probe entering the asteroid. They kill their lights and hope that it will just pass by them unnoticed.
Lister declares that they need a battle plan, and charges Rimmer with the task due to his interest in military affairs. Rimmer unwillingly takes up the initiative, and goes back to the supply room to come up with a plan, which in the end amounts to nothing more than a nicely coloured timetable. Kryten eventually comes in and informs him of their current weapon stocks, which currently amounts to nothing more than two forks and a pencil sharpener, as well as Hogey's Molecular Destabilizer. He also states that there is rumoured to be a stick and some string as well, but that he does not want to get his hopes up. As he leaves, Cat enters, playing with the aforementioned stick and string. He casually asks if Rimmer has come up with a plan or not, with Rimmer replying in the negative. Cat, who claims that he can sense such things, informs Rimmer of an eternal truth: there is a demon messing up his head, and that demon is his father. He tells him that the only way he can defeat the demon is to realize that he is never going to win over his approval.
Rimmer actually takes the advice to heart, and decides to play the message on the holo-lamp that his father left for him in the hopes that it will lessen his hold over him. A hologramatic projection of his father appears, which goes on to inform him that he is in fact not Rimmer's biological father; he is actually the son of their gardener Dennis the Gardener, better known by his nickname "Dungo Dennis". He had withheld this information from Arnold as he did not want it to hurt his chances at success. Suddenly Rimmer's belief in his own noble heritage has been taken away from him, and he has to find a new definition of himself. Instead of being hurt by the news, Rimmer actually becomes emboldened by it, feeling that this lowers the expectations placed on him, and that his true father would be proud of him, giving him new found confidence that subsequently enables him to come up with an actual battle plan. The others show some misgivings, but Rimmer's new found self-worth allows him to win their approval and calm his own self doubts (more with his new fiery determination than his less-than-eloquent attempt at a rousing speech), finally preventing him from buckling under the scrutiny of others.
Flying out of the asteroid field to meet their oppressors, the Dwarfers manage to get them to line up their ships around Blue Midget. Rimmer keeps them talking by showing off his officiousness, warning them about the perils of violating the Geneva Convention and showing them how he is drafting a complaint letter to Geneva. The Simulants fire their missiles, only for Lister to use the Molecular Destabilizer to destabilize the craft's hulls to allow the Photon Mutilators to pass through the ship unharmed, causing them to hurtle towards the opposite Simulant craft. Their enemies destroyed, the Dwarfers fly away from the scene in triumph, congratulating themselves. Rimmer reflects that he has now become a "working class hero", with Lister offering his own consenting opinion about himself. Both agreed, Rimmer orders for them to fly back to the mothership, uttering the iconic words "the slime's coming home".
After the main credits have rolled, one final moment between the Dwarfers is shown. They once again comment on the situation with the corrosive micro-organism, with Kryten stating that he is going to settle the matter once and for all. Before he can begin however, Hogey (or perhaps his actual brother) shows up and states they they have all killed his brother, much to the crew's exasperation.
- Richard O'Callaghan as Hogey the Roguey
- Gary Cady as Dominator Zlurth
- Alex Hardy as Chancellor Wednesday
- Colin Hoult as Chancellor Thursday
- Simon Treeves as Lecturer Rimmer
- Taylor James as Big Simulant Advisory
- Philip Labey as Young Rimmer
- Joanne Gale as Wendy
Available on the Series X DVD:
- As the crew hurry down the corridor to Blue Midget, an unaware Cat asks what the rush is, "fish supper?" Kryten warns that there is a Simulant boarding party rampaging through the cargo bay. Rimmer complains that Blue Midget is not stocked with supplies, and is only half-fuelled (this scene was shot on the red, rusty gantry above the studio)
- An extended shot from within the cockpit of Blue Midget as it leaves Cargo Bay 3.
- Significant extensions within the Blue Midget cockpit (including rehearsals). Cat wonders why the Simulant Generals can't give their ships "nicer" sounding names, stating that their PR company must be "Scary'R'Us". Kryten wonders if the horror theme stretches to all their tech - "nasty nukes and unkind cannons". Lister says that he must do a number two in the "toilet of terror". Kryten says that they'll run out of fuel in two hours, and Lister suggests hiding from the Simulants in the nearby asteroid belt. Rimmer says it's a terrible idea, since they'll end up holier than the Pope's string vest. Kryten says that Blue Midget can sustain hits from the smaller rocks and avoid the bigger ones.
- An attempt to recreate the closing credits of old series - a close fly-by of the entirety of Red Dwarf from front-to-rear - was attempted for Series X using the new Red Dwarf model. However Deane Thrussell did this without a motion control camera, and Doug Naylor wasn't happy with it. It can be seen here in full.
- Although this episode had been promoted as answering the cliff-hanger from "Only the Good...", in the end it only mentions that Rimmer had somehow managed to save the ship from the Chameleonic Microbe, with the other crew-members expressing their incredulity. Before they get a chance to state their side of the story however, they are always interrupted. This leaves no concrete answers on the two key questions posed: what happened to the nanobot resurrected crew, and which Rimmer is now shown on-screen? (Although it is hinted that he has the memories of both.) Richard Naylor later stated that the Series VIII cliffhanger would be explained properly on the DVD documentary, which turned out to be another red herring.
- Within their Despair Squid-induced hallucination in the Series V finale "Back to Reality", Rimmer (as William Doyle) was the half-brother of Lister (Colonel Sebastian Doyle). Kryten (Jake Bullet) explained that this was uterinal, and so they shared the same mother. This perhaps indicates that Rimmer held some sub-conscious suspicions about his relation to his actual brothers, as this episode reveals that they are in fact also his uterinal half-brothers.
- The Series III DVD book also postulated that Rimmer's brothers were the sons of who they thought was their Uncle Frank, though this is now irrelevant as they would be Arnold's half-brothers anyhow. Howard Rimmer's own failings, as shown in the series opener "Trojan", might indicate that he was perhaps Arnold's only true full sibling, sharing his own awkwardness and neurosis.
- Lister's proclamation that Rimmer was now equal to him in heredity is in fact not entirely correct given that Kristine Kochanski is his mother and she is a navigation officer. This means that Lister himself actually has something of a high class parentage.
- Lister incorrectly says that Rimmer's last words were "Mummy, mummy!" when they were in fact "Gazpacho Soup!", as shown in the Series I finale "Me²". Of course, this was more than likely Lister's attempt to get back at Rimmer, as he should know his true last words quite well; though he had pledged to never mention them again. Lister also later corrects himself by stating that Rimmer did not have time for that entire speech, and simply said "Mu...". Richard Naylor later stated that Lister was indeed simply taking the smeg out of him.
- This could support the theory that this Rimmer is the one from Season 8 who died offscreen and was brought back as a hologram. This RImmer could have said "Mummy Mummy" before he died. He does say it was a radiation leak, but he could have been referring to a separate one that was caused by the corrosive organism devouring the ship.
- Rimmer feels so strongly for his holo-lamp that he brings it and nothing else during their evacuation, which makes one wonder why he did not bring it with him during the events of the Series III episode "Marooned"; though perhaps it was within the camphor wood trunk. It is also true that the hololamp could just be housing the hologram message file, and that he was not given the lamp itself.
- Cat says the name 'Lister' for only the third time in the history of the show. The other times he says it are in Series II's "Parallel Universe" and Series V's "The Inquisitor".
- The fact that Rimmer divorced his parents at the age of fourteen ("Better Than Life", Series II) must have made later having his father as his lecturer doubly awkward.
- At Dimension Jump 2011, comments by Doug Naylor suggested that he wanted Series X to focus on the characters' family backgrounds. This was embodied in both the series opener and finale, with this episode revealing the secret of Rimmer's true parentage.
- The episode was dedicated to the memory of Peter Wragg, the BBC Visual Effects Designer who created the original spaceship models for Red Dwarf, and oversaw the effects for the first seven series.
- The title of this episode led many to speculate whether or not this was going to deliberately be the last episode of the show, as the first episode ever was titled "The End". However, Doug Naylor and others had stated their desire to make more series (see Series XI). The episode does evoke many key sentiments from the pilot episode however, quoting the line "The slime's coming home!" The title of Back to Earth had also garnered similar speculations about it being a deliberate finale, thereby making this twice in a row.
- Lister: So, let me get this right. We’re being attacked by something but we don’t know what, and there’s no way of finding out what’s out there?
Kryten: I have a suggestion, sirs.
Kryten: How about we look out of the window?
Cat: Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
- Kryten: Please sirs, this is very bad for morale. I can't believe you're arguing about who's going to have the best death!
- Rimmer Sr: Arnold, I’m not your father.
- Rimmer: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Apart from pain. And maybe humiliation and obviously death. And failure. But apart from fear, pain and humiliation, failure and the unknown and death we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Who’s with me?
- Dominator Zlurth: It is the way of all things. You live, you die.
Rimmer: But sometimes you live, you die, and then you live again. I know, I've done it myself.
Initial ratings for the episode were 975 thousand viewers, or 4.20% of the total UK television audience, making it the lowest rated episode of Series X, but the one that faced the highest competition from other networks.
Despite the large amount of controversial revelations contained in the episode, viewer reception was largely positive, with particular praise being given to the quality of the model work, the musical scoring and the amount of care in general taken in the presentation of the ideas. Both Simon Treeves and Philp Labey's portrayals of the Rimmer family were also widely praised.
Community website Ganymede & Titan summed up the episode by saying that "Red Dwarf X as a whole will hopefully also be the beginning of a new era for Red Dwarf. It doesn’t feel like one last hurrah for a dormant franchise, it’s simply a new series that happened to come thirteen years after the last one. Sometimes a series can live, die and then live again. It’s been far from perfect, and The Beginning doesn't quite feel like a billion piece jigsaw slotting into place, as it doesn’t exonerate the problems that we’ve seen throughout. But what it does give us is a solid, confident final episode, which certainly holds its own against the 24 other post-1993 episodes, and even compares favourably to the original 36. With a combination of excellent guest stars, pinpoint characterisation, fantastic visual effects and very funny sequences, The Beginning is the series finale that we deserve – one which gives hope for the future, but that leaves us with a satisfying and pleasing moment of closure if The Beginning ends up being the end."
- Rimmer says, as he gives the order to return to Red Dwarf, "The slime's coming home!" This is said by Lister at the end of the Red Dwarf episode "The End", which at the end of that displayed the text that became the episode title of this episode.
- As elaborated in the notes section, the events of "Only the Good..." are referred to several times, as a running gag about the still unresolved cliffhanger.
- The crew's yelp of joy as Blue Midget flies away from the exploding Simulant Death Ship are evocative of their reaction to surviving diving into a volcanic moon, as was shown during the events of the Series VI episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".
- Hogey the Roguey is played by Richard O'Callaghan, who played the Creator in "Back to Earth, Part Three". However, he had been cast as Hogey many years before this role, as the character was slated to appear in the never completed Red Dwarf: The Movie. Using a droid to seal a crack in the hull is also similar to what happened to Kryten in the novel Backwards by Rob Grant.
- The opening sequence set inside the Io Polytechnic is also stated to have come from a film script draft, which itself is evocative of a similar opener in the iconic Series IV episode "Dimension Jump", showing off the terraformed domes of the colonies on Io. The Series V episode "The Inquisitor" also opened similarly, only showing off that episode's guest character rather than providing a window on a main character.
- The description of the Simulant Generals as being cross-bred makes them similar to the Homo sapienoids mentioned in the film script drafts as well.
- The concept of hari-kari/seppuku was previously mentioned in the Series V finale "Back to Reality", wherein the ink of the Despair Squid induced one Japanese crew-member of SS Esperanto to perform the act.
- Rimmer's tendency to make elaborate timetables as a means of avoiding actually attending to the task at hand dates back to the Series I episode "Balance of Power", but is more properly laid out in the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.
- The plan to hide Blue Midget inside an asteroid in an asteroid field is similar to the tactic used by the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Another reference to that movie is parodied with the message within Rimmer's hololamp, with Rimmer Senior stating "Arnold, I am not your father" and "look inside yourself", reversing the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.