"As my father always said, shiny clean boots and a spanking short haircut and you can cope with anything. He said that just before all that unfortunate suicide business".
Arnold Rimmer discussing his social father, Mr. Rimmer (Future Echoes)
Arnold Rimmer's Social Father was a strict disciplinarian who terrorised Arnold Rimmer's childhood, creating many of Arnold's hang-ups in later life due to the high expectations brought on him from an young age, which he consistently failed to live up to. Arnold would much later discover that his biological father was Dungo Dennis.
Mr. Rimmer was refused entry to the Space Corps because he was one inch below regulation height. This made him determined to get all of his four sons (John, Frank, Howard and Arnold Rimmer) into the Space Corps, so that he could live out his dreams through them. He would test his sons' knowledge at the dinner table, refusing them food if they were wrong. Arnold was so bad at astronavigation that he nearly died of malnutrition. He also used a traction machine to stretch them above the minimum height for the Corps, overdoing it with his son Frank who was 6 ft 5 inches tall at age 11 ("Better Than Life").
According to one account, Mr. Rimmer provided each of his older sons with a brain implant that provided them with instant knowledge. Just before Arnold was to receive his own chip, his father's business went bust and he couldn't afford to give Arnold the same advantage (Last Human). In the series he is shown to have taken a job as a University Lecturer at Io Polytechnic, where he engineers a social experiment regarding peer pressure in order to humiliate Arnold ("The Beginning").
He was very critical of Arnold, treating him with contempt whenever his son captained the Io House skipping team ("Back in the Red II"). Arnold grew to both admire and hate his father, divorcing his parents at the age of fourteen ("Better Than Life"). He described his father as "a half-crazed military failure" ("The Inquisitor"). In spite of their differences, Arnold did receive one thing from his father: a Javanese camphor wood chest that became Arnold's most treasured possession ("Marooned").
He had several axioms that he passed onto his children, such as "Never apologise, never explain" (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers), "Winning isn't everything, but losing is nothing" (Backwards) and "Shiny clean boots and a spanking short haircut, and you can cope with anything", the last said just before an unsuccessful suicide attempt ("Future Echoes"). Arnold also once accidentally shot his father through the shoulder with his own service revolver. ("Better Than Life")
In later life, Mr. Rimmer had four strokes and, according to his son Arnold, would sit by the window and dribble. Arnold blamed himself for his father's poor health, citing his lack of achievement and lowly status as triggers for his father's disappointment ("Holoship"). Rimmer also claims that his father insisted that he had an alibi for his sperm on the night of his conception ("Back in the Red I"), which in fact he did.
Arnold learned of his father's death millions of years after it happened, from a letter sent to him by his mother. It indicated that his father had passed away peacefully in his sleep. Despite realising that he must have been dead for millenia, Arnold took this news very badly. Although he hated his father, he also respected and looked up to him.
He had always hoped to earn his father's respect, so when he entered a Total Immersion Video Game that brought his dreams to life, he encountered his father and waited for him to say "Well done" for all his illusory achievements. Instead, his father called Arnold a "Total smeghead", because he was actually The Cat's fantasy ("Better Than Life").
His overbearing and unjust manner may have been what drove his wife to have affairs with several other men, including his own brother, Frank ("The Last Day"). He also later revealed to Arnold, in a message he made for him to be played only if Arnold became a success, that he was not in fact his biological father; his real father was Dennis the Gardener, better known by his nickname "Dungo". Rimmer actually became emboldened by this news, feeling that it lowered the expectations placed on him, and this new found confidence subsequently enabled him to successfully lead his fellow Dwarfers into battle against killer Simulants ("The Beginning").