Every single Red Dwarf fan ever knows that Red Dwarf was based on the Dave Hollins: Space Cadet sketches from Son of Cliché. But that’s not the full story. Early versions of many famous scenes and concepts, particularly from the early series, can be found in this sketch show, and this document lists the vast majority of them.
We didn’t have to look far for the first instance of recycling. The very first sketch after the title music in episode one is called How To Meet More Girls – By Kidnapping Them. Although none of the dialogue is the same, the concept of the sketch reminds us of Rimmer’s book How To Pick Up Girls By Hypnosis, as detailed in Parallel Universe.
Similarly, a sketch in the second episode, Romulus, is rather reminiscent in concept of a Red Dwarf scene. In the sketch, Romulus (the man raised by wolves) has a restaurant meeting with a movie executive. When it comes to ordering, Romulus enquires whether the food is dead, as he is of the opinion that “half the fun with the lamb is chasing it”. Of course, in Better Than Life, Cat states that he likes his food to move.
This sketch is upstaged later on by the first appearance of Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, entitled The Strange Planet You Shouldn’t Really Land On, a transcript of which can be found here. Again, no actual dialogue is lifted from this sketch, but we couldn’t let it pass by without mention. Interestingly, Dave is killed off at the end of this sketch – he didn’t reappear until the second series, where the name of his craft changed from Psion IV to Melissa V.
The fifth episode of the first series is presented as a NASA probe from Earth, apparantly on a mission to spread information about mankind to alien species. It contains this well-known fact: “On my planet, the highest of the species is man, and the lowest of the species is a man who works in a Post Office.” This message was also sent in a distress call from Holly, in Confidence and Paranoia.
That, then, was the first piece of dialogue to be lifted straight from Son of Cliché into Red Dwarf, albiet with a bit of tinkering. The next was from the seventh episode of the series – the Newsflash sketch. In the sketch, it is announced that a missing page from The Bible has been found, which also happens in Better Than Life. The jokes are nearly identical, even down to the name of the dedication being Candy in both sketches. However, the radio version contains some additional jokes regarding sequels to the book, which didn’t make it to television.
Questions: who was the first person to sing Tongue Tied, and who was the first to compose music for it? If you said “Danny John-Jules and Howard Goodall”, you’re wrong, and you’re a grotesquely ugly freak. Way back in 1983, Nick Wilton sang an early version of the song, to Peter Brewis’s music. As you can see, the lyrics weren’t quite as refined, but it works very well as a comedy ditty. Better, perhaps, than the Parallel Universe version, but that one works better as a song in general. I’d like to put it on record that this version of the song is a bitch to transcribe…
A year or so later, a new series of Son of Cliché brought with it an excellent new set of sketches. Freshers was the continuing saga of students in their first week of university, and the first sketch in the serious concerned exams. Nick Wilton’s character (un-named in the series, referred to as ‘Nick’ in the transcript) explains the problems he’s had with exams, which include writing “I am a fish” four hundred times, doing a jitterbug around the room and fainting. Hmmm. He also talks about his revision timetable taking him months to compile, so that he has a very short amount of time in which to actually revise. Funnily enough, Rimmer experiences this exact same problem in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers (Part One, Chapter Twelve). It’s very interesting to hear Chris Barrie playing the straight man in this scene, as his character in Red Dwarf is on the recieving end of all these jokes.
The first edition of the new and improved Dave Hollins – Space Cadet came in the second episode of the second series. Here, Dave talks about how the only thing that keeps him sane is his collection of onions. This was changed to singing potatoes when Holly re-uses the joke in Queeg. Later, Dave reveals his plans to build a perfect replica of a woman, but he doesn’t know how to make the nose. Holly faces the same problem in Confidence and Paranoia. The main action of the sketch concerns two fighter jets from the NorWEB federation, who are tracking Dave for his crimes against humanity – including leaving two sausages on the table, hoarding 98% of all the world’s wealth and leaving the bathroom light on. Unfortunately, this is not an April Fool, unlike the jape that Holly plays on Lister in Me². The next Dave Hollins sketch was in episode four, but nothing from this sketch made it to the series.
Another excellent series debuts in the third episode – Asso: Spanish Detective. The opening sketch features a joke about Spanish cigarettes and coffee, which is word-for-word IDENTICAL to a joke used in Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers (page 14, about half way down). Also, Asso reveals that he wears two pairs of socks – one on his feet, the other rolled-up down his trousers. The same technique is used by Rimmer in Kryten.
In the same episode, another edition of Freshers contains a couple of Red Dwarf-related jokes. Firstly, Timmy discusses his favourite posters, which include the one of a chimp on a toilet (of which Rimmer has a framed copy in Me²) and one of a female tennis player scratching her arse (as referred to by Cat in Tikka to Ride). Furthermore, the punchline of the sketch concerns lectures being held first thing in the afternoon, which Lister reveals as his reason for leaving art college in Kryten.
The sixth episode of the series contains a simply excellent sketch – Attack of the Killer Italian Y-Fronts. In the sketch, a multitude of characters have to cope with the peril of wearing boxers that suddenly start shrinking. This is the fate suffered by Lister in Polymorph, although the nationality of his pants in never made clear.
The seventh episode features a profile of Sir Kevin Kevin Sir, the man who revolutionised music by inventing two new notes, H and J. A remarkably similar scheme is proposed by Holly in Kryten. He even contemplates some of the same problems as Sir Kevin Kevin Sir faced, such as women being banned from playing the cello. However, Holly doesn’t mention some of the things that this sketch does, such as flutes becoming a two-man instrument and the requirement of a golf cart to play the keyboard.
The last two episode of the series contain another couple of Dave Hollins: Space Cadet episodes. Although there’s no major sections of dialogue that are re-used in Dwarf, there are a couple of jokes that make it into the series. In the sketch from episode seven, Dave mentions that he oversleeps in suspended animation. This analogy is used by Cat in Waiting for God, and by Kryten in Psirens. Also, Dave announces that the planet Earth is missing, before realising that he was looking out of the wrong window. Holly makes the same mistake in Parallel Universe. Also, the sketch from the final episode contains a reference to a race of aliens known as ‘Zygons’. Lister also refers to this species in Waiting For God. And finally, the punchline of the sketch, in which a rip in the fabric of time rather conveniently appears is rather similar to the effect of the luck virus in Quarantine.
It is interesting to note that the vast majority of re-used ideas and jokes come from the first two series (and the first novel) of Dwarf. Perhaps, this is because the main source of humour shifted from dialogue to action in later series, which limited the space available for imported jokes. It could also be due to Grant Naylor’s writing style evolving so far, that their old work looked conspicuous next to the newer stuff.