I simply cannot believe that it has been a whole week since the start of the convention. For three days, I entered a strange and parallel dimension (Coventry), where the normal laws of time and space do not apply. Anything before the 4th April 2003 is irrelevant, and everything since the 6th has been tedious. This is the power of Dimension Jump.
After a pretty hellish morning of college, I arrived at about 2pm on Friday, meeting Karl, whom I had been texting all day, out front, along with many of my other good buddies from BTLi, and Snip. The main group for the weekend was me, Karl, Joey, Matt, Snip, Dave, Curtis and his friend Nathan, along with Dan and Irish when they could be bothered to show up. Of course, Karl and I also incorporated some special celebrity guests into our group, but more about them later.
For the next three hours I was gladly accepting offers of drinks, before the main hall opened at an alleged 5pm, although the whole weekend was behind schedule from the start. All the times I give are the times given in the programme, and not the actual times at all. Anyway, from 5pm-7pm they showed the first four shows from Red Dwarf Night, which included all the original continuity, idents and trailers, which was interesting. What is alarming is that BBC Two used to be really good – Buzzcocks, This Morning With Richard Not Judy and Is It Bill Bailey? all being shown late on Thursday nights.
Then there was a little opening ceremony, in which the fan club team seemed to be dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan, before the first part of the Boys vs Girls Quiz. Four volunteers from each gender went up on the stage and answered three questions each. It was split up into three rounds, which took place throughout the course of the evening, and I went up each time, got all nine of my questions for 2 points each and came up with all the conferred answers we had for one point each. We pissed the quiz by a record margin, and I have to say it was all thanks to me. Although, Snip’s contribution of one measly point is not to be discounted.
At 7:45 it was Bay 47 (Room 101), with Lee ‘I was in Red Dwarf once’ Cornes as Paul Merton, and Hattie as the guest. Hattie was brilliant, obviously, but Lee was not very good. He’s not funny at all, he kept on interrupting Hattie and he continually referred to Bay 47 as ‘Bay 72’, which goes to show his complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with Red Dwarf, with the exception of one episode in the first series.
After a quick break (more drinks), at 8:45 it was the ‘eating competitions’, and I ate a bowl of corn flakes with grated raw onions sprinkled on them. My excuse is that I had been drinking since 2pm, and a gorgeous girl called Joey coerced me into doing it. Afterwards, she was not so keen, as I smelt like a yak latrine.
After that, the merchandise room opened, and I bought two RD pens, one of each design, which are nice, although one of them uses the re-mastered/VIII ship, and the two new posters. I didn’t look at the designs, but they are a bit shit. Why is it that Hattie is never on any piece of Red Dwarf merchandise?
At about half ten, Lee Cornes did half an hour of stand-up, in which he died on his arse. The best moment was towards the end, when a voice from the back of the room shouted “GET OFF! YOU’RE SHIT!” Everyone there, including Lee, thought it was a drunken heckler, but we turned round to see Norman Lovett, who had just arrived! He didn’t stop, sadly.
After the close-for-the-night, bearing in mind it was running well over, we all left the main hall at around midnight. The programme advised us to “get an early night and conserve your energy”. Bollocks. Because who did I see sitting at the back of the lounge – Andrew Ellard (king of Red Dwarf fans) and Steev Rogers (ex-fan club chairman and Universe Challenge captain)! Karl and I went over to them, and after a suitable small-chat period, I gave them both one of my ‘Ganymede & Titan’ business cards. Andrew saw the name ‘Ganymede & Titan’ and said, I shit you not: “You’re Ian, aren’t you? You’re the bloke who writes these amazingly detailed reviews about the DVDs!” I managed to refrain from fainting, and we entered into a long discussion about the site and the DVDs, which lasted until we decided to call it a night at just gone five. My disbelief was raised to insane proportions when Andrew used the phrase: “I thought you were much older than sixteen; you’re a really good writer”. I am still buzzing from that comment.
We discussed all sorts of secret and confidential things, and no, I’m not going to tell you what they were. For most of the night it was just me, Karl, Andrew, Steev and a bloke we met called Peter, who seemed to remember me from a letter I wrote into BTL five years ago, although we were joined briefly by Dan, who came up with the quote of the weekend. We were discussing Series I, and Steev opined that a lot of the series was merely childish sarcasm, citing “Is that a cigarette you’re smoking/No, it’s a chicken” as an example. A mildly pissed Dan retorted with: “I challenge you to smoke a chicken, and it’ll be funny!” I went to bed at five, and amazingly I managed to get up when my alarm went of at half seven.
After a hearty breakfast, at an alleged 10am, Hattie and Lee did their Q+A session together. Why can’t we have Hattie without Lee ‘can I have a part on the Red Dwarf movie please’ Cornes? I asked a question about whether Hattie was disappointed that Norman was asked to come back in VII/VIII instead of her, and she replied to say that she was more disappointed when asked to leave in the first place. By the time VII came along, she knew that she was out of their plans. I also asked Lee about his many guest appearances, and he said that The Young Ones and Blackadder were the most fun.
At 11, Norm came on with his two daughters, Lillie (11) and Kittie (10). Bless ’em. Turns out that Kittie had supported Norm in Edinburgh, and is the country’s top child comedian. I asked her if she’d do a set in the evening, and after encouragement from her dad, she agreed. I then asked Norm what he thought about Danny and Craig taking the piss out of him on the commentary, and he said that he hadn’t noticed, although it was clear who the talented one of those three is. Norm also discussed his short-lived series ‘I, Lovett’, and said that the only person who didn’t like it was Alan Yentob.
After lunch, it was Chris Barrie, who was simply fantastic. He rolled off a load of impressions, including an actually funny Bush and Blair routine, and a brilliant anecdote about getting sacked from Harrods. Why has’t Chris Barrie got his own series? I asked him a question about A Prince Among Men, and he said: “Well, it was just wrong, wasn’t it? It had the same director as Brittas, and was shot in exactly the same way. The supporting cast were not the best that I’ve worked with, and it was too similar to Brittas to be successful”. I then asked him whether he preferred Dwarf or Brittas, and he said that he enjoyed the filming of Brittas more, as it was more relaxed, but the end product of Dwarf is vastly superior. He added that Dwarf will live for years to come, whereas Brittas was initially more successful, but had a much shorter shelf life. However, Brittas is coming out on DVD soon!
After Chris, it was the first autograph session. I gave out Ganymede & Titan cards to all of them, and I’ve a feeling that John Lenahan and Mike Tucker (Visual FX) will visit the site. The bigger stars, namely Chris, Norm and Hatt, did seem a little disinterested, I have to admit, but Lillie and Kittie seemed quite intrigued. I then bought a copy of Hattie’s book, Random Abstract Memory, which I have been seeking for years! Hooray!
Saturday night was the main entertainments night. First off it was the fancy dress, which was a tad dull, despite a fantastic winning Kryten costume. The highlight came just before the main hall opened, when Death came up to us, with his scythe in his hand, announced “I’m five minutes early” and walked off again. Right up there in my top five surreal moments of all time. Paul Gannon (Total RD) went up as ‘Potato Virus Rimmer’, wearing his girlfriend’s thong, and nowt else. Hmm.
John Lenahan then did his magic act, which was fantastic. He reminded me of Tommy Cooper; pretending to be crap and messing things up, when in fact he was a really good magician. In an audience participation bit, he asked for a random object he could use in a trick. I offered my camera, which he took, said, “Here’s something to remember me by” and took a photo of his cock! I saw the flash go off, but when I got my snaps back, there was no penis to be seen. Either he is a fantastic magician, or I’ll be getting a visit from the police soon.
Then came the stand-up. First was Kittie, who was genuinely good, and not just sweet and a novelty. She was so precocious it was phenomenal. Steev later predicted that she’d over-take her dad within ten years. But at the moment, she’s not a patch on Norm – who was absolutely perfect. He did a load of random stories with no punchlines, which only worked due to his perfect delivery. The highlight was his story about feeding his frog, along with his theory about the similarity between bread and books. I’ve never laughed so much in my life, and I can’t wait to see him again in May.
Then came the disco. I was a little shy at first, but soon got rat-arsed. Karl and I kept buying each other Jack Daniels and coke, and being as I’m sixteen, I was soon paralytic. I started head banging and acting like a fool, throwing around Karl’s leather deerstalker on the dance floor. After a while I was utterly knackered, and left the disco to sit in the lounge. I was sitting on the floor with Snip (my arch-nemesis, who I was best mates with for a few hours on Saturday night) when Hattie came along with her hand-held and started filming us. The DJ footage on the III DVD is Hattie’s video-diary, and all that she filmed is being used. So FUCKING YES!!! However, I was quite drunk, and I didn’t comply with her at all. She was getting people to say “Smegtastic!” and when she started filming I said that I refused to say it, on the grounds that I disapprove of the word ‘smeg’. Next year, I could be signing copies of the DVD myself…
I spent the next hour or so putting the deerstalker on cast members and the fan club team, and wasting all my photos on them. It was at this point that I decided I needed to calm down, and I shared my tender moment with the afore-mentioned gorgeous Joey. If it wasn’t for Snip cramping my style, I’d probably have shagged her, y’know.
After I’d sobered up a little bit, I spent another night chatting with Andrew and Steev. We (me, Karl, Andy, Steev, Curtis and a pianist whose name I can’t remember) discussed our preferences, favourites, most hated bits, etc, and we (apart from Steev) stayed up literally all night. Andrew nearly went to bed at about 4, but Karl pulled a masterstroke in getting him to stay by asking him a really simple question about the DVDs, knowing that he would waffle for ages on it, forgetting all about bed. It was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve ever spent.
After showering and changing, we went to the auction at 10. There wasn’t as many props as there usually are, and I didn’t have enough dosh to bid for the items I wanted, like the complete Smegazines (£60), complete set of Jap DVDs (£130) and a leather-sleeved jacket (£450). I shit you not.
Mike Tucker showed us an excellent behind-the-scenes of V video, which could go on the DVD. He talked all about the specifics for that series, as well as memorable effects from across the show. I asked him whether he thought the VII/VIII CG shots look as good as the I-VI model shots, and he avoided it completely, discussing the comparative merits of the styles in general. Steev later explained that he was aware that Helen Norman (GNP General Manager) was watching, and Mike was being careful to avoid offending her. Mike delivered the news that BBC Special Effects Department actually closed down on Friday, and all the designers are now freelance.
He was followed by Chloe, who was asked hardly any questions at all. It was painful – people really have nothing to say to her. Fortunately, Robert Llewellyn joined her after a quarter of an hour, and natural order was restored. He discussed his Woman Wizard DVD, his website, Scrapheap Challenge and his “big fucking stupid” car. Robert was great; he seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. He’s one of us too – he spends all his free time working on his website, and he encoded the DVD himself.
After lunch, it was Danny (sporting an afro, for a new sitcom called Crouch). Within moments, I decided that I’d been wrong about him being an annoying git, which was the impression I’d got from the cast commentary. He was really entertaining. He did an impromptu live version of Tongue Tied, thanks to PaulieH, which was fantastic. He was so full of energy and a willingness to please the crowd, that I can see why people love him so much in real life, despite the irritation it causes when transferred to home entertainment. My opinion of him had changed totally as I was leaving when I saw him in the car park, where my dad and niece were waiting for me. My niece loves Danny in Story Makers, and I took her to say hello to him. He sang the Story Makers theme tune, and had a good little chat to her. I’ve never seen her so happy. What a top bloke.
Between this incident and Danny’s Q+A, there was another autograph session. Robert Llewellyn seemed genuinely interested in Ganymede & Titan, and said he’d e-mail us within the next couple of weeks! I rewarded him by pre-ordering his Woman Wizard DVD, and I also bought the Crime Traveller DVD. Expect reviews soon.
Just when I thought the weekend couldn’t possibly be better, just when everyone was leaving at about six, the fan club team shouted, “CATCH!” and threw a load of items at the few remaining fans. I grabbed a TORDFC pencil case, and a videotape, which I had to force someone out of the way for. According to the label, it’s a Remastered version of White Hole, but in fact it’s just the original version with the time code in the corner. Boo!
Despite this disappointment, the weekend was fantastic. I met my heroes, got a load of autographs, finally met a load of people from the internet, made some good friends, bought some sought-after merchandise, got pissed, kissed Joey, got filmed for the DVD, had late-night chats with two of the most well-known Red Dwarf fans around and managed to go the whole weekend without thumping Snip! Only twelve months to go, folks…