With the release of the DVDs, fans finally got to see new Dwarf for the first time in three and a half years – deleted scenes. But whilst such scenes are shot, but cut during editing, some scenes are written, but never shot – such as the double Rimmer scene in Me², where both Rimmers try to sneak a nap behind each other’s back. And sometimes, entire scripts are dropped in pre-production, and new ones produced in their place. Not an unusual thing in television production, but we never tend to hear much about them. Luckily with Red Dwarf (and, indeed, with a lot of science fiction), fan interest in behind-the-scenes matters has meant that we have a few clues.
The first unmade script we know about is in the first series. In the introduction to the Son of Soup scriptbook, Rob Grant talks about the strike that postponed the shooting of the episodes, and the effect it had on the series.
The strike hadn’t been all bad for the show. There had been a valuable opportunity to see the cast in action, and to watch the bulk of the shows at least to rehearsal stage. The consensus was that the second show was the worst of the bunch. The story involved Rimmer trying to cope with his death by going insane, and trying to construct a new body for himself by stealing bits of Lister while he was asleep. We decided to replace it…Me² was the replacement.
This sounds very intriguing, and also completely impossible to shoot; God knows how they were planning to do it. It also sounds about the darkest episode of Red Dwarf ever; Rimmer going mad was an idea later used in Quarantine, but there it was due to an outside force – the holo virus. Going mad from an inability to cope with your own death sounds frankly scary; and a great idea for an episode. However, obviously the script didn’t live up to the story idea, with the exception of a few jokes, as recollected on the Six of the Best CD:
ROB: …we changed one of the scripts in between the first set of rehearsals and the second and we threw out a script.
DOUG: It was show two, wasn’t it?
DOUG: And took some of the three or four good gags in there and stuck it in the new shows.
ED: What was that script about then? The one that was never made?
ROB: Well, I actually – this is very strange – I came across it about three weeks ago just going through some papers.
DOUG: Oh yeah? And?
ROB: Very – oh it’s all right.
DOUG: Is it?
ROB: It’s not as bad as I recalled it being.
The Programme Guide also mentions another possible idea considered for an early series – about the cartoon character Mugs Murphy, seen in the cinema in Me², coming to life. Lister wears Mugs Murphy T-shirts throughout the first two series, and the character was intended to feature reguarly (hence the effort made to create some actual animation for Me²). However, the concept was dropped after that, due to Grant Naylor deciding that contemporary references would be better for ‘viewer identification’.
The next lost episode is perhaps the most well known. Entitled Dad, it bridged the gap between Series II and III, that was eventually done with the scrolltext at the start of Backwards. The basic storyline is told in the excellent Time Hole feature on the official site:
The basic story of Dad told of Lister giving birth to his twin sons, Jim and Bexley, while Rimmer became something of a doting father figure. Having recreated the ‘photograph’ moment from Future Echoes, the crew (which included a rescued Kryten) discovered that the babies had an accelerated growth rate, and were approaching 18 years old after only a few days.
However, Rob and Doug apparantly dropped this episode because they felt it could have been deemed homophobic and misogynistic, and that joking about pregnant women would be in poor taste. It’s hard to picture – and making jokes about pregnant women seems far less offensive than Lister’s latent homophobia in Duct Soup. However, they must have had good reasons. Mind you, it’s a pity it couldn’t be rescued – the sheer quality of Series III makes you forget that the Series II cliffhanger is apallingly resolved, from a dramatic viewpoint – indeed, the resolution makes the cliffhanger seem almost meaningless.
The next missing episode is rather more vague. The last thing Rob and Doug ever did together was Six Of The Best, a boxset containing videos of their favourite episodes of Red Dwarf. It also contained a rather nice hologram of Starbug, and (most interestingly) a CD containing an interview with them, conducted by Ed Bye. It details the genesis of Red Dwarf, and they all talk about their memories of each series and each episode featured on the tape. Segments of this have found their way onto the DVDs as bonus commentaries or easter eggs, and no doubt more will follow. Anyway, intriguingly, Ed mentions this:
“The only time I’ve ever said, I think, ever said “Sorry. I really don’t think we can do this” was when you presented a script which said: Lister is astride, is it Lister? Somebody is astride a giant cockroach and it’s flying through the air and we see that the cockroach approaches Rubbish World, a planet completely made of rubbish. The cockroach, he gets off and more cockroaches arrive with people getting on and off them and stuff and you know, and I thought…But I looked at it and I thought, I always used to always go: There must be a way of doing this. There must be a way of doing this…Could do it now. I think we could do it now. Happily.”
We have no clues as to which series this would have featured in – all we know is that the episode took place before Series VII of Dwarf. Ed Bye saying they could do it now is no help, seeing as the interview takes place three years after Series VI – and that’s quite a long time in terms of production techniques. The Garbage World scenario does take place in the Red Dwarf novel Better Than Life, published in 1990 – but not only have ideas from the episodes made it into the series, but the reverse has also happened (White Hole). So again, no conclusions can be drawn.
With Series VII, we get a hint of the budget problems that scuppered much of Series VIII. An episode was written where Cat had to have sex or die – his testicles would explode. Lovely. It’s an interesting idea, and made more so by the fact that this would have been the first Red Dwarf since the Waiting For God to have focussed on Cat for a main storyline. However, the episode would have involved the return of Duane Dibbley, who frankly even by his second appearance was beginning to look overused. We would have to wait until Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg a year later for that particular pleasure.
Duct Soup was the replacement script, and was cheaper to make due to there being no guest stars, and being shot on existing sets (apart from the ducts themselves, which are a nifty piece of set design – to its credit, the episode doesn’t come across as a cost-cutting bottle show.) Despite Duane, it’s a great shame the original script had to be dropped – let’s face it, an episode about Cat is likely to be far better than an episode focussed on Kryten’s jealousy of Kochanski, which is perhaps the most annoying character arc in any episode of anything ever. Ironically, Cat even gets the best line in Duct Soup – “Boy, is it cramped!”
Incidentally, the original draft of the Cat-Sex-Die script included Rimmer – and the first part of the Paul Alexander interview on the official site reveals that an early draft of Nanarchy also included Rimmer. Not lost episodes as such, but more lost Red Dwarf material that we will never get a chance to see.
The next episode discussed is rather different to the rest, but it seems important to include it. As is well known now, the Series VIII episode Back In The Red was originally to be a special, one-hour long episode, and was indeed shot as such. Then, because of both scheduling and budget problems, it was split into three parts – with Back In The Red Part Three being the last episode recorded in the series. According to someone who has seen the original script for the one-hour version of BITR, apart from a few scenes (such as the Blue Midget dance sequence, and the final tank scene), Part Three was mostly new, filler material (especially Hollister’s logs, also inserted into Part Two). And, it’s with Part Three that the story really falls apart. The original 1-hour version would play like a completely different episode, and hopefully the dropped second AR-suite scene (according to Time Hole, “a somewhat more dream-like affair with the crew laid out on tables”) would explain the plot far better.
However, the budget problems didn’t stop there. As well as BITR being split into three parts, Pete was originally supposed to be one episode, rather than two. Again, there is evidence of padding here (with rather too much of the previous episode being recapped at the start of Part Two). The reason Pete was expanded into two parts is simple – the dinosaur effects cost too much. An episode was therefore dropped from the series – but apparantly at a very early stage, as in Part Two of his Mr Flibble interview Doug can no longer remember what it was:
The episodes that were dropped weren’t properly finished, written episodes, they were just ideas. I can’t even remember what they were now! The decision to make Pete a two-parter was taken quite early.
As if the series hadn’t had enough problems, Doug recounts the following in the scriptbook – the dropping of the episode Earth:
The final show was supposed to include an out-of-control Dwarf, travelling at a speed close to light, using anti-matter from the parallel universe and causing a meteor-like impact into the planet Earth, caroming through the White House, totalling the Arc de Triomphe, skidding skilfully round the Taj Mahal – Lister: ‘Totally that would be sacrilege, man’ – but winding up causing a tidal wave that totally destroys the future civilisation now living happily on Earth.
Rimmer et al were then supposed to fall out of the finally stationary ship and say: ‘Sorry, didn’t see you there. Sorry.’ And we were to fade out with them exchanging insurance details with one of the few surviviors.
We must admit to not being sure about this ending when we first read about it. But the more we think about it, the more it seems a fitting, epic, and funny end to the series. Let’s face it, whilst Doug Naylor appears to be keeping his options open for a new television series of Dwarf, it seems unlikely to be made – if anything, it would probably be a one-off in order to finish the story. If the film does well, as we all hope it will, are they even going to want to do that? Out of the proposed five endings to the series (see the article Don’t Leave Us Hanging), this one wins hands down. Just think, if only they hadn’t wasted the money on unamusing dancing Blue Midgets, and unamusing dinosaurs, we could have ended up with a decent end to the televisual adventures of the Boys from the Dwarf…
When reading all of this, of course, bear in mind that this is just the stuff we know about. Interestingly, in the Red Dwarf VIII scriptbook, Doug laments the problems Dwarf has always had, as his Line Producer tells him:
‘You’re going to have to come up with a new script which ideally doesn’t involve spending any money.’ Where had I heard that line before? Series VII was the last time, and the time before that? – Series VI, Series V…
Now, the lost episode for Series VII had already been documented here. But what about for Series V and VI? Is one of them the Garbage World idea? Even if it is, that’s at least one more script lying around; unless, of course, Doug is just exaggerating for effect. And none of this counts the millions of storyline ideas that probably got as far as the outline before being discarded; stuff of interest to tens of thousands of Red Dwarf fans all over the world…
With the unused script for Series I not making it onto the relevant DVD, it seems that we are unlikely to get a chance to read any of these. But just imagine walking into your favourite bookshop, and being able to purchase Red Dwarf: The Lost Episodes. It would be amazing. And far more interesting than all the existing Red Dwarf scriptbooks rolled into one. And it wouldn’t even need to be a glossy, expensive production like the VIII Scriptbook – and it wouldn’t take much effort. Dig up the old copies of the scripts, or bits of scripts, or first drafts of produced episodes that ended up being radically different – typeset them, stick an introduction on the front, and let people buy. Surely Grant Naylor are missing a money-spinner here?