Hopping Holly

Hattie Hayridge is a blonde comedienne from North London. She appeared in Red Dwarf between 1988 and 1992, clocking up 19 episodes and even writing a book about her experiences. So why is she so frequently overlooked?

As we all know, Norman Lovett left the show after two series. The official reason for this was that he had moved to Edinburgh, and would have found it impossible to travel to London every day for rehearsals, and to Manchester for the filming. This sounds very odd. Norman has always been on record as saying he enjoyed doing the show, so surely it wouldn’t have been too much of an inconvenience for him to stay in a London hotel for six weeks of the year. This story is more or less completely disregarded in the Series II Cast Commentary, when Norman says that “someone could have sorted it”. What he means by this is open to interpretation, but to us it sounds like he has a specific person in mind when he says “someone”. We can speculate who he may have meant, bearing in mind comments he makes about people elsewhere in the commentary and the behind-the-scenes changes that were made prior to his return, but we simply don’t know who he is referring to. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that one person would have been able to move production to Norm’s back garden, so he must have left for some other reason.

It doesn’t really matter though. The fact is he did leave, and it left a massive hole in the programme. Imagine being a fan in 1989, hearing that Norman Lovett would not be in Series III. He was one of the best things about the previous series, and it would have been hard to picture Red Dwarf without him. Fortunately, Series III confounded everyone’s expectations, and was absolutely fantastic. Norman was hardly missed at all – Lister and Rimmer both developed in maturity, the Cat became much less two-dimensional, a new character was added, and, last but not least, Hattie Hayridge was brought in. Aside from her exemplary performance, one of the reasons that Norman wasn’t missed, is that his lines were being spoken by someone else.

If you look at an awful lot of Holly quotes from Series III, they are written to specification for Norman. Take, for example, this exchange from Backwards:

RIMMER: What’s the time period?
HOLLY: Well, it’s difficult to pin it down exactly, but according to all the available data, I would estimate it’s round about… lunchtime, maybe half-one.
RIMMER: What period in history, dingleberry-breath? I mean, can we expect to see Ghengis Khan and his barbarian buddies sweeping across the hill? Or a herd of flesh-eating dinosaurs feeding off the bones of Doug McClure? What is the year?
HOLLY: Well, I’d need some more data before I could give you a precise answer.
RIMMER: Like?
HOLLY: Well, this year’s calendar would be handy.

Two good quality gags in quick succession (bankable woofers, as Danny John-Jules might say), and all written with a deadpan delivery in mind. Although we’re all too familiar with the episode to picture someone else in the scene, it’s plain to see that Norman could have delivered them. Another example:

RIMMER: So where’s the bomb?
HOLLY: We haven’t got a bomb.
RIMMER: What?
HOLLY: I got rid of it ages ago.
CAT: Why didn’t you say?
HOLLY: You never asked.

Again, a section of dialogue that displays apathy towards the subject matter, and anybody who’s seen Norm’s stand-up will know that this applies to him too. We could go on – quoting the Auto Pilot rant from Backwards, the five specks of grit in Marooned, Lister being killed in a plane crash aged 98 in Timeslides, etc. Fundamentally, Hattie’s character in Series III is identical to Norman’s character in Series II. There is a good reason for this – the only thing that changed about the character was his/her appearance. Other actor changes (Kryten, Talkie Toaster, Kochanski) did mean changes to the character, as they had been rebuilt, or taken from another dimension. But not Holly.

Incidentally, Norman Lovett has said that he was unhappy that the part of Holly carried on without him, especially as the characters were so similar. But there’s no way the character could have been written out at that stage – how can you live on Red Dwarf without the ship’s computer? Norman has also said that he thought that the version of Holly in White Hole (slicked back hair, spurting out information) should have been used throughout. This would have no comedy value whatsoever, and completely misses the entire point of Holly’s character. It is understandable that Norm wouldn’t have wanted someone to talk over his character, but for the sake of the show and of continuity, he should have accepted that the characters were the same.

However, there was a clear difference developing by Series IV, in which Holly started to be written with Hattie in mind. The obvious example of this is White Hole, in which Hattie has a starring role and her strengths are incorporated into the script. This also happened with Robert Llewellyn and later with Chloe Annett, and of course previously with the rest of the cast. Hattie also contributed to the scripts; according to Random Abstract Memory, Hattie’s 1997 autobiography, she came up with the ideas for Holly’s present to Kryten in The Last Day and fainting upon meeting Ace in Dimension Jump. Hattie also added to the role with subtle background acting, which was aided by the increase in monitors on the new sets. For example, in Timeslides, she ducks when the bomb goes off, and she rolls her eyes when Rimmer re-enters the room in Quarantine. These little touches may be barely visible, but they do reward repeated viewing, and add to the reasons why Hattie was excellent in the show.

However, as Holly developed, so did Kryten. Far from being an automated lavatory cleaner, by Series V he had settled into the unofficial role of Science Officer. This, coupled with the ever increasing role for the Cat, meant that Holly’s involvement in Series V was severely reduced. She still had some great lines, such as “Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil. Repeat: This is not a daffodil!” in Demons and Angels, but her role in V was rarely comedic. In the short time she was on the screen, she was mainly giving out information about the various perils facing the crew, reminiscent of Norman’s recommendations for the character. The reason’s for Hattie’s reduced role is understandable – the crew got off the ship in nearly every episode, which left no room for a computer to follow them around. We can also understand why Rob and Doug decided that one character had to go; it’s true that there wasn’t enough time in an episode to do them all justice. From Random Abstract Memory:

“In October 1992, a few months after I was told there would be a sixth series, Rob and Doug asked me into their office for a chat. They wanted to talk about the part of Holly. There had been less of a role for her during Series V, and they had been talking about some kind of change. Of course, I was hoping that this would lead to a bigger part, and met up with them in quite an excited mood. But they were rather more subdued.
‘We’ve got something not very nice to say,’ they said.
I still didn’t twig immediately.”

The decision to drop the character was understandable, and as it turned out, moving the action on to Starbug was for the good of the show. What is more unjustified, however, is the way that Hattie seemed to be immediately written out of Red Dwarf history. She’s hardly ever on a piece of merchandise, to the extent that her face was edited out of a poster of the crew in Starbug’s cockpit. Even now, recent posters and even the front cover of the Role Playing Game have every single regular cast member, apart from Hattie. She was also the only cast member not to take part in Red Dwarf Night, with only a 30-second clip and a three-word acknowledgement from Terry Pratchett to show for 19 episodes in the show. This is very poor, especially considering that Norman Lovett and Chloe Annett, who at the time had only appeared in 19 episodes between them, featured heavily.

You might speculate that it was Hattie’s decision to disassociate herself with the show after her sudden departure, especially considering that Norman Lovett was given the role of Holly back for Nanarchy and Series VIII. Indeed, when Ian (always the type to ask difficult questions) asked her about whether she was upset to not be asked back for Series VIII at Dimension Jump X, she replied “I was more upset to leave in the first place, to be honest”. However, Hattie didn’t let the way she was treated affect her relationship with the fans. She very rarely misses a convention, and she is prepared to hang around chatting to the fans, even when she’s off-duty. Anyone who has met her will testify that she’s a great person, and unlikely to refuse to take part in something due to petty spite.

However, in fairness to Grant Naylor Productions, Hattie is now becoming involved in the show again. She has already recorded a commentary track and interview for the Series III and IV DVDs, as well as filming Hattie’s DJ Video Diary as an extra feature. And, as friend of the website Karl Eisenhauer pointed out, given that the movie will be set in a different dimension to the TV series, there’s nothing to stop her making a cameo appearance in the film. This would be fantastic – as it is very easy to forget what a good job she did for three years. She was consistently funny, as well as being utterly grateful and devoted to her fans, and her legacy should carry on for years to come. Although it is fair to say that Norman Lovett is the definitve Holly, we should never forget that Hattie was great in the role.

FOOTNOTE: Despite barely featurring in the recent Futera Trading Cards (appearing on a grand total of ONE card), Hattie does now seem to be back in GNP’s plans. In addition to the commentary tracks and the video diary she recorded at Dimension Jump X, a quite astonishing development has occured – Hattie has resumed her role as Holly! Yes, once again she donned the black poloneck, to provide links for a documentary called Ace Rimmer – A Life In Lamé, which is set to feature on the Series IV DVD. So, fair play to GNP. They are now capitalising on Hattie’s general excellence and willingness to help the Red Dwarf cause, even if they have made the bulk of this article redundant in doing so.

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