Pages: 96 pages
Release Date: October 1992
The book opens with an excellent introduction by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, which, like their later efforts for the Making Of and Doug’s Red Dwarf VIII books, are wonderfully irreverant. They discuss the inspiration for Rimmer, late scripts for Son of Cliché, meetings with BBC executives, and finally getting the blasted thing made. Not sure whether it’s all true, particularly the Rimmer story, but it’s all very funny. Rob and Doug are the king of forewords.
We then go into the character section – a few pages each for the four mobile characters, and a mere single page for Holly. As well as little factoids about the characters, there are quotes from the actors, and from Rob and Doug, giving away behind the scenes snippets and amusing anecdotes. The layout is very good – the text in two columns, with an extra column featuring pictures or quotes from the series. This format is the same for the rest of the book, and it looks fantastic. There’s an additional page for the guest stars; it’s far from complete, but has some good little snippets about the backgrounds of some of the actors. To omit Tony Hawks is ludicrous, however.
Next up is the episode guide – a load of synopsi covering all thirty episodes of the show that existed in 1992. Each episode from Series III-V is given its own page, which follows the format of the previous section – two columns of text, one of quotes, interspersed with pictures. However, Series I and II are only given one double page for each series, meaning three episodes are squeezed onto one page. This is daft; it almost suggests that the early episodes were not as worthwhile as the later ones, and only deserve a third of the space. This is not the case. Some of the Series II plots in particular were jam-packed, and are much more complex than, for example, Marooned, although that’s not to say that the simpler episodes aren’t excellent. It’s also odd that Series I is only brushed upon, considering that the episodes weren’t repeated or released on video until 1994, and hardly any Red Dwarf fans knew anything about them. Therefore, there’d be more interest in the first six episodes than any of the following twenty-four, yet all the information is crammed into a double page.
There are no behind-the-scenes tit-bits at all in the episode section; just brief plot summaries. However, the book comes into its own in the Behind The Action section. Six areas are covered in this 36-page chapter: scripts, production, design, visual effects, costume and make up. As well as interviews with the main protaganists (Rob & Doug, Paul Jackson, Mel Bibby (RIP), Sir Peter Wragg, Howard Burden and Andrea Pennel respectively), there are some excellent, rare photographs, including a shot of the Despair Squid, which didn’t feature at all in the final edit of Back to Reality. Also featured are shots of Starbug being assembled, Norman Lovett playing around with a model of the set, Robert Llewellyn with a partially-applied mask and some of Howard Burden’s original sketches for Series V costumes. Our only gripe is the revisionist nature of some of the prose – Paul Montague (Series I and II Designer), Jacki Pinks (Series I and II Costume Designer), Suzanne Jansen (Series I Make Up) and Bethan Jones (Series II-III Make Up) aren’t mentioned at all.
The book finishes off nicely with a double page feature entitled ‘The Future’, covering Red Dwarf USA (which, incidentally had no future at all), the forthcoming sixth series, the novels and plenty of merchandise. There’s also a double page spread of Production Credits, detailing credited guest cast and the main behind-the-scenes folks. The Official Companion is a great book for those who require a basic knowledge of the making of the show, and handy reference points for the series. However, it’s a little simplistic for our tastes, and falls by the wayside compared to Howarth & Lyons’s Programme Guide and Joe Nazzaro’s near-perfect Making Of.
Apologies for the pedantry, but this has to be done. Okay, the book was published over ten years ago. Okay, Bruce Dessau is a hugely successful biographer and probably doesn’t give two squirts of piss what we think. But we must put it on record that not everything you read in the book is accurate.
- p.14 onwards Christine Kochanski
Although this spelling appeared in Confidence & Paranoia, it’s not right. The correct spelling is ‘Kristine Kochanski’, as reflected in the novels.
- p.18 ‘[Rimmer] left home at sixteen’
Rimmer reveals in Better Than Life that he divorced his parents at fourteen.
- p.22 ‘Kryten starts life in Red Dwarf as a Series 400 mechanoid with a problem.’
There have been many series numbers given for Kryten – Series III in The Last Day, Series 3000 on the back of Smeg Ups and Series 4000 everywhere else. Never Series 400.
- p.29 onwards Duane Dibbly
- p.30 ‘Tenth generation A1 hologrammatic computer’
Probably just a typo, but Holly is in fact an AI (Artificial Intelligence) computer.
- p.32 ‘Less easy to spot was the cameo by comedian Arthur Smith, one of the customers in the Backwards bar.
This is bollocks. Arthur Smith was very easy to spot, seeing as he did in fact play the manager of the pub. Also, it wasn’t a cameo – it was fully credited.
- p.36 “Goits, Goits, I’m surrounded by goits.”
The real and actual quote is: “You’re all goits, I’m surrounded by goits.”
- p.41 ‘…three Rimmers, three Listers and three Cats appear in the same room,’
There is only ever one Cat, seeing as he wasn’t around three million years ago, and his future version never showed up.
- p.46‘The crew…decide to “smeg it to oblivion”,’
What a disturbing mental image. Of course, they actually decide to “nut the smegger to oblivion”.
- p.46 ‘In the final showdown the beast [Polymorph] seemingly gets blasted into pieces – or does it?’
Well, yes, it does. There’s nothing ‘seemingly’ about it. The Lister clone at the end is a second Polymorph.
- p.47-48 Timeslides/Body Swap
These episodes are dealt with the wrong way round. Perhaps symbolic of someone working too closely from the videos…
- p.52 [Camille] ‘A Valentine’s Day special.’
It is pure coincidence that an episode with a romantic theme went out on Febuary 14th. The series was originally going to open with Meltdown and Dimension Jump, but they were put back due to the outbreak of Gulf War I.
- p.53 ‘There remains the problem of the rampaging curry monster – the result of Lister’s leftovers having fallen into the machine.
This was not an accidental thing – it was an experiment.
- p.61 ‘The Inquisitor, a fearsome Darth Vader-lookalike simulant,’
Has Bruce Dessau not seen any Star Wars films?
- p.64 ‘Kryten and Lister inadvertently create a Triplicator’
This is a deliberate creation.
- p.66 ‘Dave Hollin – Space Cadet‘
Dave Hollins, clearly.
- p.78 ‘The impressive set built for Justice‘
The accompanying picture is of Sunbury Pumphouse. This is a location, not a set, and it was clearly not built especially for a few scenes of a BBC sitcom.
- p.79 ‘The cockpit on Red Dwarf’
The accompanying picture is that of Starbug’s cockpit. A ship the size of a city would not have a cockpit that small.
- p.82 ‘Starbug caught on the rocks in Back to Reality.’
The accompanying picture is that of a scene from Dimension Jump. This is really worrying; almost as though he doesn’t know much about Red Dwarf…
- p.94 Peterson
In the credits of Stasis Leak, Olaf’s surname is ‘Petersen’, but this is not reflected here. That’s understandable though, given that it’s spelt ‘Peterson’ in Series I.