On Jupiter's moon Io, a young Arnold J. Rimmer is told from his mother that he is running the risk of being held back a year in school. According to her, this could damage his chances of getting into the Space Corps and becoming a test pilot.
Cut to twenty years later. Having just completed a test flight, Arnold "Ace" Rimmer is given a hero's welcome. He is charming, good looking, intelligent, brave, and quite modest, preferring the engineering lads (such as Spanners) to the officers. He even gets sexual offers from his secretary, Mellie, and his boss, Bongo (who is male; Ace proclaims that he is "butter side up"). Bongo tells Ace that there is an opportunity to fly a dimension jumping prototype spacecraft. Ace takes him up on the offer, despite being told that there is no coming back. He bids farewell to the space corps ("Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast!") before taking off into the big black into another dimension.
In the other dimension, Lister, the Cat, and Kryten fail in their plans to escape Rimmer and go on a fishing holiday when Rimmer wakes up, and begins complaining about how much people hate him. Failing to talk their way out of it, Lister is forced to take him along. Rimmer immediately begins acting annoying on the trip, nagging Kryten on his piloting (then complaining that Kryten is a front-seat driver), mentioning his Hammond Organ CDs, and singing campfire tunes. As he is singing "Kumbaya", a purple alert comes on, alerting the crew that a dimensional disturbance is fast approaching.
Ace's ship leaves the disturbance and crashes into Starbug. Starbug crashes on a watery planet, damaging the engine and injuring the Cat. Ace lands on the planet, and helps repair the Starbug engine. Ace and Arnold instantly take a mutual dislike to each other, while Lister and Ace become fast friends. Cat is operated on by Ace, and the ship is back to normal. However, Arnold is complaining that Ace had all of the breaks, giving him an advantage, and calling Ace and Lister a couple due to their friendly interactions. Lister, on the other hand, is happy that he has a successful counterpart, Spanners.
Ace decides to leave the Boys from the Dwarf, because he could not stand to see their Rimmer being as pathetic as he is. Before he leaves, he reveals what the break that Arnold talking about was: Ace was held back a year. The humiliation was enough to make him learn to fight back and keep on trying. Arnold, meanwhile, managed to squeak through, never learned anything, and kept on making excuses for his failings (his parents, for example), leading him to advance as far as second technician (just one rank above lowest-ranking Lister), and eventually dying in an incident partially caused by him.
Ace sets off to find a more irritating Rimmer then the one he just encountered. According to an ending scroll, he did not find any other incarnation of Rimmer as pathetic as the one he met aboard Red Dwarf.
- His impossible search continues...
Tropes present in this episode include;
- A Boy and His X: Mocked. When he finds out that his counterpart's nicknamed Lister "Skipper," Rimmer remarks, "Ace and Skipper? You sound like a kid's TV series about a boy and his bush kangaroo!"
- The Ace: Three guesses, no prizes.
- Ace Pilot: Ace is a test pilot in the Space Corps.
- Backseat Driver: Even though Kryten is now a fully-qualified pilot and knows what he's doing, Rimmer considers it his prerogative to boss him around and micromanage the flight. When it becomes clear that all the orders he is giving are unnecessary, Rimmer — being Rimmer — becomes annoyed at Kryten for being a frontseat driver.
- Blatant Lies: Rimmer catches Lister and the Cat trying to sneak off in the middle of the night, and instantly figures they're going to ditch him to go fishing on an ocean moon they passed. Lister's insistence they're just going to go see Jaws isn't helped by Rimmer finding a note saying "we're going fishing. We tried to wake you but didn't succeed." Despite this, Lister is later adamant he could've talked their way out of it.
- Even the Guys Want Him/If It's You, It's Okay: Bongo asks Ace if he wants to sleep with him. "I've been happily married for 35 years. It's just— a chap like you can turn a guy's head."
- Expy: Bongo bears a striking resemblance to Al Calavicci, who was nicknamed Bingo in his youth which was a shortened form of Bingo, Bango, Bongo.
- Fainting: Thanks to his injuries, Ace confesses to Lister he's going to black out for a moment. He does so, then immediately recovers.
- For Want of a Nail: Rimmer believes that if he had gotten the same break as Ace, he would be in the same position. That break was being...
- Held Back in School: Rimmer faced this in his youth. In one dimension, Arnold got through, took the easy way out, and made excuses his whole life, becoming a pathetic hologramatic smeghead trapped three million years in the future with a complete slob, an egotistical cat, and a neurotic robot. In another, Arnold got held back, learned humiliation (he was the tallest kid in his class by a clear foot), buckled down, fought back, and became Ace.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Rimmer. Again. The others, Holly included, try to ditch him for some fun because they know Rimmer will be dull as all Hell if he comes along. Unfortunately, he comes along, and is both dull and irritating.
- Insufferable Imbecile: Rimmer has always proclaimed he's just narrowly avoided being an officer due to failing his exams by narrow margins. When Ace tries to get him to help, his physics-jargon laden questions confuse and irritate Rimmer, who has no idea what he's talking about.
- The 'lucky break' that Ace got that Rimmer didn't turned out to be when Ace was held back a year in school while Rimmer wasn't. So it was one of the few 'breaks' he thinks he ever got in his life that resulted in him growing into the pathetic man he is.
- Or that Ace 'not' getting that one Lucky break, turning out to be the 'real' lucky break all along as that's the moment his life turned around for the better.Ace: Maybe he's right. Maybe I did get the lucky break.
- Necessary Evil: The difference between Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) and the loser Rimmer is that Ace was held back in school one year. It made him determined to succeed.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Cat starts going into shock from his injuries, and to make it clear just how bad it's getting...Cat: Paisley with stripes... that's nice. Green anoraks with fuzzy collars... they're great!
Kryten: (clearly horrified) Oh, sir! He's delirious!
- Other Me Annoys Me:
- Ace leaves for another dimension because he can't stand being around a version of himself who is so pitiful and loathsome. And Rimmer is bitterly resentful to realize that there is a version of him who's so charismatic, brave, and successful because it means he wasn't destined to become the incompetent smeghead he is.
- Subverted with Lister and Spanners. Although they don't meet, he refutes Rimmer's assertion that anyone would be upset to learn of a more successful alternate self. Instead, Lister is genuinely pleased to know that in another universe he became a respected engineer, married Kochanski, and had kids with her, reasoning that whatever happened differently, Lister himself still had the potential for those good things to happen to him: "Whatever he did differently than I did, he deserves the lot."
- Phrase Catcher: Ace. What a guy!
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Though we use "hero" only in the sense he's one of the protagonists, not because there's anything remotely heroic about him. Rimmer starts making a lot of homophobic remarks in Ace's direction once they meet.
- Shout-Out: Ace's intro parodies Top Gun.
- Skewed Priorities: When the Cat's leg is broken, he is despondent because he's getting blood all over his apricot suit. ("I'm bleeding an unfashionable colour! If I had known that I was going to get my leg broken, I'd have worn white! That goes with everything!"). When he learns that he might get gangrene, he is happy, as he believes that green works well with apricot.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The episode begins with Mrs. Rimmer talking to a young Rimmer, who's hanging upside down from a snare. She barely acknowledges this, and continues lecturing him without taking any time to cut him down.