Better Dead Than Smeg

RIMMER: Then I say fight!
KRYTEN: Mr. Rimmer?
RIMMER: Better dead than smeg.
LISTER: Yes! Cat?
CAT: Better dead than sofa-sized butt!
LISTER: Kryten?
KRYTEN: Better anything than that toupee.
LISTER: Shields up, arming lasers.
CAT: Bringing her round.
KRYTEN: Target acquired.
LISTER: Locked on… firing!
KRYTEN: Direct hit – starboard thrusters. Nice shooting, sir.
CAT: Bringing her round for desert!
RIMMER: Threat warning! They’ve got a lock on.
LISTER: I’m going for the main fuel tanks.
KRYTEN: They’re in your sights.
LISTER: Locked on… fire!

[An explosion takes place near LISTER, knocking him to the ground.]

KRYTEN: Mr. Lister?
CAT: Is he OK?
KRYTEN: He’s… dead, sir.
RIMMER: The hull’s going to go. We’ll all be dead in a minute.

[There is another explosion, this one knocks CAT backwards.]

RIMMER: Cat?
KRYTEN: Dead. But there may be…

[KRYTEN is interrupted by another explosion, which kills him. RIMMER goes over to his station.]

RIMMER: Kryten? Kryten? There may be a what? A way out of this? Is that what you were going to say? S-speak, Kryten. How can we change what’s happening?

[RIMMER is gripped by a sudden realisation, and runs from the cockpit, grabbing a bazookoid. He runs through decaying corridors, before finding the time drive. He cocks his gun and shoots – but Starbug gets blown up by an incoming missile. A caption reads: ‘To Be Continued’. Roll credits.]

Out Of Time features the most pulse-racing, exciting, gripping ending of any Red Dwarf episode, ever. In fact, it’s hard to recall an ending to any sit-com, or indeed a sci-fi show, to end with such drama. Not bad, considering Out Of Time was written as a last-minute bottle show, and the cast were so under-prepared that they had to read their lines from an autocue.

This doesn’t show at all, and if it wasn’t for the story being told after the episode aired, none of us would be any the wiser. Just look at the range of emotions in the final scene. Determination (‘I say fight’), excitement (‘bringing her round for deserts’), fear (‘threat warning’), desperation (‘Is he OK?’), shock (‘he’s dead, sir’), resignation (‘dead’), hope (‘but there may be’) and total chaos (Rimmer’s final plea to Kryten’s corpse). Anyone who complains that two comedians, a poet and a dancer can’t possibly be convincing actors should watch this scene, and stand amazed as their prejudices are challenged.

The entire show is a testiment to the skills of those who worked on it – Rob and Doug completed an hilarious script, the actors managed to be naturalistic, despite using the most unnatural method ever and the costume and make-up departments created completely new characters in no time at all. I mean, just look at an image of Kryten wearing a toupee and a pair of false eyebrows, and try not to laugh. Plus, the visual effect at the end is stunning; created by overlaying a stock shot of Starbug in space with a CGI explosion. A perfect example of how model shots and CGI can, and should, work together. Although it would be remiss of us if we didn’t point out that the background changes before and after the explosion…

Plus, as ever, the God-like genius of Howard Goodall provided a score that really heightened the emotion of the scene. The chord after Rimmer’s “I say fight” is pure drama, and the music changes chord after every death, before culminating in a frantic, yet emotional, sequence to accompany Rimmer’s dash to the time drive. I can’t wait for the isolated music cues on the Series VI DVD…

Interestingly, when interviewed by Mr. Flibble, Series VI director Andy DeEmmony had this to say about Rimmer’s heroic charge:

“There were quite a few debates about that at the time, because it’s quite out of character. But maybe that’s quite nice. It reached such a point that even he was out of character. Sometimes those breaks in character logic, or the flaw in your plot, is the interesting element.”

We, like most fans, don’t see Rimmer’s efforts as a negative break in character continuity, more as a moment of self-actualisation. We applaud Rimmer at this point, as he is finally becoming a hero; something he knows he’s had the potential to be for years. It’s also fitting that, in the broadcast version at least, he doesn’t quite make it. This fits in extremely well with Rimmer’s character – he always intends to do well, but something always goes wrong for him.

We’re used to the good things in life now, bud.

So, the ending of Red Dwarf VI is one of the best things ever. Ever. But despite this, it wasn’t the original ending to the show…

1) “Smeg, I’m a hero!”

This was the first planned ending for the show. Jane Killick describes it in Volume 2, Number 8 (December 1993) of Red Dwarf Smegazine:

In the original version, everything happens in roughly the same way until Rimmer blasts the time drive. The time drive explodes and Rimmer is thrown back by the force of the blast. As he lays there, everything around him returns to normal. With the time drive destroyed, there is no way the Starbug’s future crew can use it to travel through time and destroy them. There is no debris or smoke, just the time drive laying in bits on the floor. Rimmer looks at what he has done and realises: “Smeg, I’m a hero!” He gasps and faints.

Later, Rimmer celebrates his heroics with Lister, Cat and Kryten. They are of course returned to the land of the living because it is now impossible for their future selves to kill them in that way. They toast their good fortune with a glass of margarita. “To the present,” Kryten says as they chink their glasses together. They all sip the wine commenting “nice wine… good year… best yet,” indicating that they are happy with the year they are living in without all that messing about with time travel. Then the end credits roll.

Hmmm. This original scripted version sounds, frankly, poor. “Smeg, I’m a hero!” is just not very good, although Barrie could perhaps have made the line work. It sounds as though this part was shot (as detailed below, it was only the end scene in the Starbug mid-section that was changed to start with); so hopefully it’ll turn up as a deleted scene on the VI DVD. As for the end scene in the mid-section, it could have worked quite nicely – it sounding similar in tone to the end of Series V, in Back To Reality. And, in an odd way, it would have been nice for Rimmer’s heroics to have worked – although, in our opinion, the fact that they didn’t doesn’t mean that his actions are any less heroic. However, it’s all a huge anti-climax to the final ending used.

2) “They aren’t margaritas. That’s urine-recyc!”
This is the alternate ending most people know about, as a version of it was on the Smeg Ups tape; although see below for our notes on the discrepancies about this.

[Fade to: Starbug mid-section. RIMMER, LISTER and CAT sit at the scanner. KRYTEN walks in, and starts pouring drinks.]

KRYTEN: Chilled Margaritas sirs. We have much to celebrate. Mr. Rimmer destroyed the time-drive, deleted our future selves, and saved us all.

RIMMER: Please Kryten, it’s not something I’m proud of. [LISTER pats him on the shoulder.]

KRYTEN: Furthermore, we’ve relocated Red Dwarf’s vapour trail and are barely six days behind. May I take the liberty of proposing a toast. To the present!

ALL: To the present! [Their glasses are raised and clinked. They all take a sip and spit it out with disgust.]

LISTER: They aren’t margaritas. That’s urine-recyc! [The three stare at KRYTEN angrily with foam moustaches. KRYTEN looks sheepish.]

As to why the original version was changed, it’s back to the Smegazine article:

…it was changed during rehearsal when Craig Charles took one sip of the ‘margarita’ and exclaimed it was ‘urine re-cyc’. Just hours before the scene was actually filmed it was considered a good idea to go out on a laugh. Craig’s ad libbed line was in, and the make-up department rustled up four foam moustaches for Starbug’s crew to show what sort of cheap plonk they were drinking. The end, therefore, not only tidied up the time paradox and brought everybody back to life, it also reprised the urine re-cyc joke used at the beginning. It thereby provides one explanation for the episode’s original title, Present from the Future – the gift presumably being the foresight of their future mistakes and a warning not to turn into three aging fat gits and a jar with dreadlocks.

This ending is actually quite funny; but again, it’s obviously a huge anti-climax to what has gone before, and in no way compares to the final ending.

3) “It’s smegging Red Dwarf!”
Again, it’s back to Smegazine:

Once this had all been filmed, the production team realised it didn’t necessarily need to end that way, and several ideas were mooted. They thought about finding Red Dwarf in the closing stages of the episode (this had been the original idea, but was ditched when the episode was written). They considered using model shots to show Starbug approaching Red Dwarf as a kind of cliffhanger.

Finding Red Dwarf would have been an interesting end to the series; but it wouldn’t have made that much sense. To quote Rimmer at the start of the episode:

It’s no secret that morale is on the floor. We’ve lost all trace of Red Dwarf; tempers are strained; and supplies are low.

You’d need some way of explaining that away; it would come rather out of the blue otherwise. Perhaps one method would be for the crew to use the time drive to travel back in time by a fortnight or so. Given that they are following Red Dwarf’s vapour trail, it makes sense that at some point in the past, the ship was at the same point in space that the present Starbug is; the crew would simply have to travel to that point. Interestingly, though, although elements would have to be dropped, and most of Nanarchy wouldn’t work, the vast majority of Series VII would have worked just as well aboard Red Dwarf. Most of it doesn’t rely on the action taking place on Starbug. Therefore, it’s possible that this vastly different ending would not have affected the stories in Series VII as much as would be expected.

4) To Be Continued…
The ending which was finally used, of course, and undoubtedly the best. Back to the good old Smegazine and Jane Killick:

…having killed everybody off, it was decided that would be a better teaser for the next series – especially as the BBC had already said they wanted more Red Dwarf.

For this new ending, though, Starbug would have to be seen to explode. The BBC special effects department, who thought they had finished with Red Dwarf for the year, were asked how much it would cost to explode Starbug. They worked out a budget for the shot, but the producers said they couldn’t afford it. So the final shot was compiled electronically using an existing shot of Starbug and putting an explosion on top of it.

So, for the final version used, this new explosion shot was created. Fine in itself, but this piece of information brings up huge anomalies about the ending used on the Smeg Ups tape. This ending is supposedly number two in our little list; and yet there is a problem. It uses the explosion shot created for ending four; this footage simply wasn’t around at the time the second ending was being considered. And it’s not simply a case of tacking on the mid-section scene to the end of the broadcast ending – the explosion shot is missing the laser beam hitting Starbug, and has the other Starbug in the top right of the picture. This implies that it’s the future Starbug that is being destroyed, caused by the present Rimmer destroying the time drive (rather than, as in the broadcast version, the future Starbug destroying the present one), and this fits in with the mid-section scene. Which is all well and good, but as we said – why the hell is the shot there, when it wasn’t around when this ending was being considered? It’s possible that a new version of the explosion shot was created especially for the Smeg Ups video, but this seems rather unlikely; we could well understand that this is a fresh edit, but going back and creating a different version of the explosion effect seems rather extreme and pointless. And a further question – where is the “Smeg! I’m a hero!” stuff? Craig Charles’ ad-libbed ending only changed the final few lines; not anything before it.

Clearly, there is some information missing here. One possible (hypothetical) answer is that after the explosion footage was created for ending four, they considered going back to a variant of ending two, but including the explosion effect. Or maybe the Smegazine article is inaccurate in some way. We will make it our mission to find out, even if it involved kidnapping Doug Naylor and urinating on him until he submits.

What a senseless waste!

Course, it’s a damned shame that the resolution to the cliffhanger was so crap. We don’t really want to dwell on this, seeing as we’ve already slammed it in our cliffhangers article. What is interesting to note, however, is the way the footage from Out Of Time was edited. The clip was cropped from the original 4:3 resolution to 16:9, with big black bars covering the top and bottom of the screen. This is evidently designed to seperate the footage from the new stuff, and is quite effective.

Secondly, as we all know, a filter is applied to Series VII, in order to give it a ‘film effect’ (this is not the term used in ‘the industry’, but we don’t care). From a technical point of view, it’s pretty darned good, although we don’t think this suits the show. On the Out Of Time clip, however, a rather different effect is applied. There is a lot of flare, particularly when there are explosions, and the picture is not as detailed. Presumably, the degraded image quality is deliberate. Remember, “see attached” – the footage is supposed to come from the equivalent of Starbug’s CCTV cameras. It certainly seperates it out from the rest of the episode. However, there is a rather unpleasant bit when the laser from the future ship hits Starbug – the footage jumps a few frames, we see a brief flash of the laser hitting Starbug again, but more importantly – the degradation effect suddenly disappears. All rather odd, and a strange bit of bad editing.

Apart from this, the editing in the clip is very nicely done, and not too noticeable. A lot of the dialogue is edited, and Lister and Cat now appear to die in the same explosion. We miss out on some excellent acting – the desperation when Cat asks if Lister is OK, and the shell-shocked manner of Kryten’s statement that he isn’t are breath-taking. This doesn’t matter at all – everyone watching will have seen it before. In fact, with the exception of Holly’s distress calls and a few model shots, this was the first time that footage from one episode had been re-used in another. The only other bit of interest is that we see an extra shot of the future Starbug firing their laser, before we see the present Starbug explode; presumably to reinforce the fact that it’s the future Starbug that destroys the present one.

It breaks our hearts when we think about just how crap the resolution to this marvellous cliffhanger is. But it doesn’t seem to matter. The ending to Series VI is no less effective as a result; it’s still pulse-racing, exciting and gripping.

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2 Responses to Better Dead Than Smeg

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly, I just never understood the fat rimmer!

  2. G&T Admin

    Now we’ve had the VI DVD, this article could do with a revision…

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