Red Dwarf X – Episode 1 – Set Report

setreport1

A full episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the first time since 1998. G&T were there.

This article discusses Red Dwarf X whilst adhering to G&T’s spoiler policy. Please ensure your comments do likewise…

A full episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the first time since 1998. There’s a whole episode’s worth of Rimmer, Lister, Kryten and Cat dialogue that has only been heard by a handful of Red Dwarf fans. Naturally, G&T were there…

It was a stupendous moment in my own personal history. Having been too young to see any of the original run recorded, at no point between 1999 and now did I ever think that I’d witness a Red Dwarf recording. Even after Series X was announced, I assumed it would be shot in much the same way as Back To Earth, as opposed to the approach for seven of the original eight series. As it turned out, the two styles were combined into a very happy medium.

Before we get on that, I’m duty bound to document that there was a bit of a kerfuffle surrounding the audience entrance to Shepperton Studios. Our tickets featured a big arrow pointing to the main reception, so we headed there in plenty of time for doors opening at 5:30pm. However, we were turned away from the front gate, and told to make a 20 minute detour along the roads than surround the perimeter of the complex. Were it not for the fact we had contact details for people that were already there, there was a good chance we wouldn’t have found the concealed and remote service entrance we needed to go through. There’s clearly been a breakdown in communications somewhere between the production, the security staff at the Studios and audience agency Lost In TV. Hopefully there’ll be some sort of clarification available between now and next Friday.

Lister and Rimmer's latest bunkroomBut never mind this tot. Having arrived, we waited briefly in a holding room before being escorted into Stage K, to be immediately greeted by three-and-a-half sets, along with the likes of Doug Naylor, Charles Armitage and Helen Norman waiting and watching in one of these sets. The first thought: RED. The crew have evidently found a new area of the ship, with dark red walls, a grubby and grungey approach to interior design, and littered with shiny, metallic gadgets. There’s a new bunkroom, a new equivalent to the Drive Room/Science Room and, of course, a bit of corridor. (That’s the “-and-a-half” mentioned earlier; the other set was one build specifically for this episode, and was not part of Red Dwarf. There was also a little set that had been used for a pre-record knocking about at the side of the main stage.)

The sets are incredible. Aesthetically interesting and beautifully detailed, they contrast with past sets by evoking a sense of a rundown, slightly dystopian place to live. At first I was disappointed that the brilliant bunkroom from Back To Earth wasn’t being re-used, but it all makes sense. While Back To Earth was a celebration of Dwarf‘s history, priding itself on faithfully recreating what had gone before, Red Dwarf X seems to be taking the bold approach of taking the spirit of the show and twisting it into a whole new era. This doesn’t feel like a post-script to what’s gone before; it feels like the start of something completely different.

This is also reflected in the costumes, which again put a new spin on the characters instead of slavishly attempting to remain faithful to the past. It’s easiest to do this with The Cat, of course, and Howard Burden has not let us down on that count; a brand new suit, obviously, and even a new hairdo – long, but with a peak at the front, reminiscent of his ever-changing locks in Series III. Rimmer’s new costume is incredible – a blue, hard light version of his III-V togs, which just seems right. Lister’s in leathers, but different ones to the ‘classic’ version. While it’s not quite the same, it took precisely three seconds to get used to, feeling exactly like the sort of thing Lister would wear.

Kryten, on the other hand, looks… a little off. The costume has been slightly altered around the shoulders, which is fine, but the mask is not quite right. It seems a little too loose around Robert’s head, and consequently it flexes and folds in a way it’s never done before. This is a particular problem around the mouth, where it looks unfortunately like Kryten has a cleft palate. In terms of colour and tone, it looked better on the studio monitors than it did in real life, but even after looking at it for four hours or so, I couldn’t quite come to terms with the shape.

Of course, our first glimpse of these costumes came when the main cast were introduced prior to the first scene. First out was Chris Barrie, who gave a brief smile and wave before taking his place on the set. Then came Craig, who did much the same. I was expecting a little more interaction with the audience, and at this point was a little concerned that they’d all be utterly consumed with nerves. Enter John-Jules. In character. Dancing, gliding and squealing. Then enter Llewellyn. In character. Pottering, gurning and funny-walking. If these two had any nerves, they weren’t showing it, perhaps because they were both protected by characterisation that’s so vastly different to themselves.

Of course, it’s been 13 bloody years since they did this; even if they’ve all been in front of audiences in the meantime, they do most of their acting these days on closed sets. Fortunately, Chris and Craig both opened up by the end of the night, unsurprisingly instigated by people cocking up their lines. Chris was the first to relax, with Craig following suit pretty close to the end of the session. This makes sense, as we later found out he’s currently suffering from the flu. I’m happy to report that this doesn’t affect his performance during the takes, as evidenced by the fact that the audience had no idea he was poorly until afterwards. But nevertheless, by the end of the session, Robert had mimed cacking his pants, Craig had done his “starter, main course” nose-picking routine, Chris had impersonated Kenneth Williams, and all four of them had indulged in some of that pretending-to-only-just-notice-the-camera-and-staring-into-it-with-a-puzzled-look business. Heartwarming and soul-pleasing to witness.

I'm Not With PC Andy From TorchwoodThe studio warm-up was Tom Price, better known as PC Andy from Torchwood, and worse known as lead character Barry in Andrew Ellard’s I’m Not With Him. He did a difficult job very well, with short stand-up routines, audience chatter, a theme tune singalong, and even a quiz! He seemed genuinely excited to be part of the production, and this helped immensely in keeping the audience happy. Although, for someone who claims to be a huge fan of the show, he did fail to remember the name of Starbug at one point.

Before the recording started, Doug Naylor popped up to welcome the audience and reiterate the spoilers policy. Very interestingly, he said that the reason it was so important was that he had a real fight to persuade Dave to agree to an audience, and that if plots are posted online before broadcast, that could prevent them from having an audience on the next series. On the next series. ON THE NEXT SERIES. As indicated by the new aesthetics, Doug clearly intends Series X to be the start of a new run, rather than one last hurrah. Depending on cast availability, there’s no reason that Red Dwarf can’t run and run.

And so, the recording started. As mentioned earlier, it was a compromise between the largely single-camera approach to Back To Earth and a traditional audience sit-com. The cameras were each recording independently (hence the need for clapperboards and sync-claps), with a temporary vision-mix being done on the hoof, purely for the benefit of the audience monitors. Due to space restrictions, there tended to be only a couple of cameras on each scene, which necessitated multiple passes. They generally started with master wides and two-shots, did a couple of takes of that, then did another couple of run-throughs getting close-ups and reaction shots, and maybe a few minor pick-ups if necessary. This meant that we saw each scene in full at least three times. Which would normally be a problem with an audience sit-com, but they managed to still get laughs on the last takes, mostly courtesy of Robert and Chris’s facial gymnastics in reaction shots.

Interestingly, they recorded an alternate version of one of the scenes; the majority of takes contained a little set-piece between Craig and one of the guest actors, but the final one omitted it and slightly altered the surrounding dialogue. It’s a great insight into the way Doug’s mind works, and his dedication to giving himself as many options as possible in the edit suite.

Another unusual aspect was that the scenes weren’t all shot in order. We got the first ten minutes or so (mostly live stuff with one scene pre-recorded), then Doug came on to explain that they’d be jumping forward to do the last ten minutes, before then coming back to fill in the middle. This was due to a combination of costume changes, camera positioning and set configuration. It was a shame it couldn’t be avoided, because a few things from the end of the episode didn’t quite make sense until we’d seen parts of earlier scenes, consequently the reaction wasn’t quite as good as it could have been, not least because the long, pre-recorded penultimate scene suffered from some sound issues on playback, with two characters’ dialogue becoming almost silent at times. Not ideal, but the jokes were usually good enough to ensure the out-of-sequence scenes were still hugely enjoyable.

It was a compromise, but a small price to pay for the quality of the shots Doug has to choose from in the edit. There was plenty of camera movement – far more than you’d expect from a conventional audience sitcom, with dollies and tracks enabling Doug to utilise his favourite sweeping establishing shots, and to get in amongst the actors during dialogue. It’s shot in progressive scan at 25fps, which in layman’s terms is the one that looks more like Back To Earth than Series VIII. It’s a little odd to combine this look with a laugh track (save for the brief trend in the early-2000s to whack Field Removed Video over everything), but the minor disconnect in styles is a small price to pay for the glorious, rich, textured picture we saw on the monitors. And that’s nothing compared to how it will look on screen after a jolly good grading, and with a native HD broadcast; your senses will be overloaded on first broadcast.

Writing-wise, it’s good. It’s very good. It feels like V mixed with VI, with a chunk of II, which is obviously a very good thing. The episode starts with two two-handed scenes, which both seed the episode’s two main plots, before the third scene brings all the characters together and combines these two plot threads. There are two very strong running gags throughout the episode, one of which resolves halfway through through some great character comedy, and one of which becomes very important to the dramatic denouement of the episode before being paid off with a cracking visual gag in the traditional coda scene. It’s an assured and sophisticated story, with no loose ends and no padding; every scene is important, every joke tells us something about the characters.

These guys.There’s a return to what I’d consider the ‘classic’ aspects of each main character. Lister provides a moral heart to a Rimmer-centric story. Kryten has a couple of big speeches that explain complicated concepts in an amusing way. Cat is child-like without being stupid, Rimmer is neurotic without being pathetic, and Kryten is insecure without being whiny. It’s the versions of the characters that fans and casual viewers alike will remember the most, which allows Doug to play off viewer expectations to make his writing more subtle and understated than the last few series. One of the biggest laughs of the night came from Cat simply entering the room at a precisely-timed moment; the mere introduction of Cat to a scene enables the audience to fill in the blanks and anticipate what he’ll do. The characterisation on show here is the best Red Dwarf writing we’ve seen since Series VI.

This is helped immensely by the performance of the main cast. While Chris and particularly Craig were acting their socks off in Back To Earth, I got the impression at times that Robert and Danny hadn’t quite slotted back into their characters. Not a bit of that here. There were a couple of occasions where the Cat stole a scene by turning up right at the end with a solid woofer, and Danny reveled in it. You could tell that the audience feedback helped all four of them to improve their performances, adding extra facial reactions and tweaking their timing to elicit and accomodate the laughter.

It wasn’t all brilliant; at times, one of the main running gags veered into weak observational humour about an aspect of contemporary Britain, which felt a little tired. The thread improved immensely when it became more to do with Lister’s reactions than the initial source. There was one pre-recorded scene that I wasn’t sure about, featurring a guest actor putting in a slightly hammy turn that reminded me of a particular scene in Series VIII. And the main plot itself seemed to take a while to come to a head, and when it did it get going it was over far too soon. It was a Rimmer-centric episode that added a hell of a lot to the character’s back-story, and yet the conclusion felt too rushed to get a full emotional response from Rimmer.

Elsewhere in the story, we were given a new feature of holograms, which despite having not been mentioned before, doesn’t stick out too much because it makes perfect sense for Rimmer. There’s a couple of VTs that are played diegetically onto the monitors on set, very reminiscent of the earliest series. There were two “bicycle jokes” (you know, where a character says that they’re not going to do something and then you see them doing it), and one that looked like it was going to be a bicycle joke before being subverted. And there’s a comedy costume change.

There were three guest actors in the studio: one man, one woman and a female voice-over. All of whom did a good job, particularly the man, who could go down as an iconic one-off character. Can’t really say much about just why his performance was so good without giving away who the character was, but suffice to say he needed to do something very specific, and he did it well. Plus, he got a huge laugh with a precisely-executed swear word. Additionally, there were three other actors on VTs, a man and a woman in one scene, and a man in another. Plus, a bonus voice-over part for Chris Barrie; possibly a temporary thing that will be replaced later, but hopefully not.

There still plenty of things we don’t yet know about this episode, not least the episode title. We were shown a few temporary effects shots as part of the pre-recorded VTs, and the floor manager was at great pains to emphasise that they were only fudged together for the purposes of the audience. Furthermore, we were shown rough storyboards of a model sequence at one point. Worryingly, this featured the pencil-shaped ship, but hopefully that’s only a temporary thing. We’re not even sure whether this will be the first episode to be broadcast, but I’d say it’s very suitable as a re-introduction.

While it’s very hard to tell what the finished episode will be like, based on seeing it as part of a studio audience, I think it’ll be a great start to the new series. It re-establishes the characters we know and love, whilst adding something new. It’s a wibbley-wobbley storyline that only Red Dwarf can do, and most importantly it’s very funny. It’s not perfect, and it perhaps tails off towards the end, but from what we’ve seen, it’s the funniest and most satisfying Dwarf we’ve seen for a very long time. If it’s any indication of the direction that Red Dwarf X will take, we’re going to be a very happy fanbase by this time next year.

TINY TEASER: Gerald Hampton.
APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 15
SMEG COUNT: 1

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70 Responses to Red Dwarf X – Episode 1 – Set Report

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  1. Man I was psyched before, but now… eeeeee!
    Roll on January so I can be there!

  2. Spanking report! Beautifully written! NOW Red Dwarf is back!

  3. G&T Admin

    > It was a shame it couldn’t be avoided, because a few things from the end of the episode didn’t quite make sense until we’d seen parts of earlier scenes, consequently the reaction wasn’t quite as good as it could have been

    An interesting side effect was the last scene they filmed got a better laugh at the end, simply because everyone knew exactly what the the next scene would be so we could imagine the cut from one to the other.

  4. A great set report Ian. It didn’t give too much away, but just enough to get my taste buds watering. I am so, so excited!

    Will you be doing this for every filming?

  5. Thanks for such a detailed report – satisfying in giving us the tidbits without giving anything majorly away. Fabulous.

  6. Thanks Ian. I’m more hyped than ever now!! …..and intrigued…

    Also, it was pointed out over on TOS forum that the cut piece of plyboard in your last picture probably ended up looking something like the set door image that was released…

  7. I can’t wait until Autumn 2012. I may explode.

  8. > The characterisation on show here is the best Red Dwarf writing we’ve seen since Series VI.

    Even as a fan of that which has come since, this is a very exciting statement to read.

  9. Fucking hell, Ian, that was a great read. Well worth the wait.

    Reading that, just the thought of seeing certain moments mentioned above has left me sitting here with a big gormless grin on my face.

    The five week wait to my own visit to Shepperton can’t pass quickly enough.

  10. Exciting report. I hope we manage to get another few for future recordings.

    I take it then Rimmer is in a similar garb to his BTE outfit?

    Especially like to hear it is a mix of Series V and VI. VI style will do me down to the ground.

    I wonder how long it will take people to start pestering Robert about audience tickets for Series XI.

    9 months is too long to wait.

    At least the DVD/BR will probably come out straight after (what with them having time in between to produce it).

  11. Wow. Just when I was thinking the correct and sensible spoiler policy would make for short and dull reporting, I’m proved utterly wrong by a peice of writing so precise, without terming actual detail, that it makes me feel like somehow I was actually there last night to witness this cool ocassion and I’ve just been slightly rohypnoled since then. What a brilliant template for how everyone should talk about the recordings.

    A lot of pointers to great dwarf past strenghts, a sense of X being yet again a new re-invention of the show, and a whole heap of intrigue to see what the show is like not just for the obvious enjoyment, but to how it matches the experience you’ve described. Best of all. You like it. Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thats good enough for me, it’s going to be a fun January and great autumn

    “diegetically.” huh? … googles. Oh you mean they see it on a telly.

    Oh and. Yay. Smeg cunt! oh no wait a minute there is an “o” in there as well.
    Still nice feature! It’s a hope that you’ve already written a post autumn screening article ready for broadcast comparrison.

  12. G&T Admin

    Exciting report. I hope we manage to get another few for future recordings.

    I’m doing next week’s.

    Expect sickness.

  13. At least the DVD/BR will probably come out straight after (what with them having time in between to produce it).

    On which note, I should add that there was a small crew filiming bits with the audience outside asking for their reactions etc. They also filmed quite a bit of Tom Price’s bits, so plenty of bits and pieces for the site and the DVD extras.

  14. That was a great read, Ian; enough to whet the appetite without giving too much away.

    It feels like V mixed with VI, with a chunk of II
    This has made me a very happy bunny, indeed.

  15. Although I was there last night I was still excited to read this. Bloody well done on getting all those thoughts into a coherent, well-written piece. I know I couldn’t.

    Will look forward to the next five!

  16. Brilliant report, Ian! Seriously, how good does this sound??

    Love the approach Doug seems to have taken, really going for the show’s best elements (a mix of V, VI & II couldn’t be more welcome!) but still taking plenty of forward steps. Past it? Nah! :D

    Even though I do not know the plot of the episode (and don’t want to till broadcast) from what Ian has said about it adding a lot to Rimmer’s backstory, and with the guest actor having a somewhat ‘iconic’ role…I’m hoping this is what I think it is. And if its not, that’s great too because it’ll be even more of a surprise.

    Btw, I pray to the nine divines that NO-ONE SPOILS ANYTHING EVER now that we know how crucial this could be to the show’s future. And how AWESOME is that, the idea that a NEXT SERIES is being talked about????!!! Bring that right on.

    > Worryingly, this featured the pencil-shaped ship

    I would be a touch miffed at its return if it weren’t for the prospect of seeing the huge movie model in action. That’s if ‘models’ doesn’t mean CGI models. ;)

    Phew…it’s fucking Red Dwarf!!!!!!!

  17. Great Report, with a nice amount of info and not spoiling it .. Job well done.

    as for the Show itself it really sounds like we could be onto a good one here.

    Looking forward to next weeks report already and Looking forward to Jan when i will get to see one for myself.

    2012 is going to be a good year for Dwarfers !!

  18. Great report. You really captured what it was like without giving anything away. :)

  19. Y’know, the more I read about this, the more excited I get about the show. And the more excited I get about the show, the more excited I get about the inevitable DVD release. Hopefully they’ll be able to throw more at it than they were able to for BtE and we’ll end up with a two-disc set that’s comparable to the series I-VIII offerings.

  20. Pleasantly surprised to hit a lenghty page of text rather than a DwarfCast. Been reading over some old articles the past couple of days.

    There were a couple of occasions where the Cat stole a scene by turning up right at the end with a solid woofer …

    After being disappointed by Cat and Kochanski getting sidelined in VIII, that’s good to read.

    Hopefully they’ll be able to throw more at it than they were able to for BtE and we’ll end up with a two-disc set that’s comparable to the series I-VIII offerings.

    Yes, please.

    Can I have an extremely long series documentary, my dear?

  21. >Pleasantly surprised to hit a lenghty page of text rather than a DwarfCast.

    Hear, hear. I like the Dwarfcasts, but this was nice nod to G+T past. Very readable stuff. Looking forward to John’s views next week.

    >Writing-wise, it’s good. It’s very good. It feels like V mixed with VI, with a chunk of II, which is obviously a very good thing.

    I’m going to hold you to this.

  22. >Writing-wise, it’s good. It’s very good. It feels like V mixed with VI, with a chunk of II, which is obviously a very good thing.

    Congratulations. This seems to be the most quoted piece of text I can find in relation to RDX. :)

  23. I was almost in tears reading that….. my god.

  24. G&T Admin

    I heartily endorse this product and service.

    Fucking excellent article, Ian. Although this article has set a bar, now. You bastard. :)

  25. I’m going to hold you to this.

    It’s true that if when it’s gone out people hate it, all of us that have been singing the praises of the new episodes could look like twats.

  26. As great as this article is, I am looking forward to John’s article. Mainly cuz he’s been the most vocal about his hatred of later series. So if he likes it, i’ll learn to be a bit more optimistic :) At the moment i’m a cautiously optimistic, because i remember people who went to the Series 8 recordings saying it was fantastic, and we know what happened then :) The buzz of a live audience atmosphere can make you forgive a lot of shit :D

  27. G&T Admin

    Glad people are looking forward to mine – thanks! I should warn people that this report was the biggie, though – our other reports are going to be far smaller. They have to be – we’ve covered a lot of the non-spoiler stuff in this one, and we wouldn’t want to repeat it, or edge into plot spoilers.

  28. Brilliant report. I literally can’t think of anything I want to know that you’re allowed to tell us and haven’t covered.

    > they contrast with past sets by evoking a sense of a rundown, slightly dystopian place to live

    I like the sound of that a lot.

    > Writing-wise, it’s good. It’s very good.

    I fucking adore the sound of that.

  29. Glad people are looking forward to mine – thanks! I should warn people that this report was the biggie, though – our other reports are going to be far smaller. They have to be – we’ve covered a lot of the non-spoiler stuff in this one, and we wouldn’t want to repeat it, or edge into plot spoilers.

    The most interesting parts, certainly to me, are the performances and writing, they can change between episodes (and between person reviewing!) so I certainly will be looking forward to your report.

    Plus of course it will give us a better view of the direction Series X is going in.

  30. This is a great piece of writing about a series that’s looking very promising! I agree with the site’s spoiler policy, but like Jonsmad I’d assumed that it would mean that any reports on the filming would be very short and vague, so I’m pleasantly surprised by how informative this was able to be without spoiling plots or jokes.

    This is probably the bit I found most encouraging:

    …which allows Doug to play off viewer expectations to make his writing more subtle and understated than the last few series. One of the biggest laughs of the night came from Cat simply entering the room at a precisely-timed moment; the mere introduction of Cat to a scene enables the audience to fill in the blanks and anticipate what he’ll do.

    The above comment sounds exactly like the sort of comedy I want from Red Dwarf! It’s a relief to read that it’s got good, character-based jokes, because although I enjoyed Back to Earth, it was not particularly funny.

    (I mainly enjoyed BTE as a chance to see the characters again, a chance to have a better ending than VIII, and I thought it worked well in its originally-announced role as an anniversary celebration of the programme. The fact I approached it like that probably made me more forgiving of it than the people who criticised it for being “an unoriginal Back to Reality re-hash and an unfunny Blade Runner spoof”.)

    It wasn’t all brilliant; at times, one of the main running gags veered into weak observational humour about an aspect of contemporary Britain,

    Sounds reminiscent of Rimmer’s line about talent show contestants in Back to Earth’s escalator scene.

    I’m curious: which G&T contributors are attending which episode recordings?

  31. It wouldn’t be the first contemporary reference in the show, it may not even survive the edit, and so what if it does? I’ll judge it more on the quality of the joke than how jarring it is.

  32. To be fair even some of the best series of the show had some lame contemporary references, see Dustin Hoffman for details :)

  33. I should warn people that this report was the biggie, though – our other reports are going to be far smaller.

    Well you know what they say about the size of your article in relation to your body parts. I’m sure John yours maybe smaller, but it will be used with expert quality and assurance that we will all be satisfied after the word pumping your going to give us.

    And looks as though more extra cast this Friday, ooh and it’s a girl.

  34. I still can’t believe that I was actually there. First time I’ve ever seen a recording of RD, even though I’ve watched it from the start and grown middle aged with the cast. It was superb, even after 4 hours sitting in the same seat.

  35. Oh God, I’m so excited!!!

    Please, please don’t let the damn snow interrupt my plans (I’m flying from Prague on the 22nd)… one friend of mine was meant to be at this viewing, but the snow stopped him from driving and shattered his dreams. Hopefully he can make it to another one, though.

    Glad to hear that the writing is good!! My main concern was (maybe still is) that it would be a sell-out… I liked the later series well enough, but the characters often felt like caricatures of their past selves, and self-referencing that seemed a little too desperate, as if trying to appeal to a much wider audience while forgetting what made it so great in the first place. And hey, I’m going with John and Tanya! Most exciting. Eeee!

  36. G&T Admin

    Something we forgot to mention (and I’m not sure if this has been announced elsewhere) but we spotted Howard Burden on set, so he’s a confirmed returning crew member. Fully expected but nice to know.

  37. Great review there, much in keeping with my own thoughts. Though I didn’t notice anything amiss with Kryten’s head – just that his slightly larger shoulder loops kept intruding into the edges of shots.
    I didn’t notice the “alternate” scene version you mention, either – I just thought they didn’t do more shots of Lister’s bit because they were happy with what they had in the can already!

  38. > A full episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the first time since 1999.

    You’re clearly all smarter at this sort of thing than me, but Only the Good was recorded in 98. Do you mean Can’t Smeg, Won’t Smeg?

  39. Lovely stuff. I was only thinking the other day that the Boy Symes choice of career had robbed us of truly talented writer. It failed to occur to me that the return of Dwarf, would also trigger a Symes-o-write-me-do. (Reminiscent of the DVD Reviews crossed with Observation Dome, with a touch of Terra Terror thrown in).

    To add to the unspoilery soup; it was a very enjoyable night. I found the compere a bit of a tit to be honest. Such was the excitement of the night I’m not sure we really need someone who felt so daytime TV. The Quiz seemed a reasonable idea, but he kept seeming to lose faith with it. His stand-up patter I didn’t like at all. It seemed middle-class, tiresome and out of step with the show, but hey other opinions are available. I do think it’s a shame though that a few minutes here and there weren’t left for the audience to talk amongst themselves. There were details to be observed in the set and instant opinions to be shared, but hey credit where it’s due most seemed happy with it and should I go I’ll know to take earphones and a book.

    As for the show itself, I had prepped myself not to be too excited. I thoroughly enjoyed the ep of VIII I saw recorded and look how that turned out? That said, I think the writing here was not only better, but felt closer to the first six series of the show and

    The sets were glorious. Gone was the hideous lighting VIII and in came sets that looked like Red Dwarf, but new uncharted areas.

    The costumes, aside from Kryten’s bodysuit and it’s resemblance to a 1970s glam-pop star, could not have been better.

    Plot-wise I’m very happy. A new, original idea that for me had a superb twist on a status quo that’s been part of the fabric of the show for over 20 years.

    Perhaps because of the order the scenes were recorded it didn’t feel like we had witnessed the full story, so it will be very interesting to see how it all hangs together.

    Question: Were the running times of the BTE episodes the same as Series I-VII or slightly shorter to accommodate ad breaks?

  40. I think BtE had episode running times of about 23/24 mins.

  41. Ooh. Just hovered over the top set photo (I usually read the article on my phone) – is that *definitely* what that set is, then? I don’t think I’ve seen that confirmed anywhere else.

  42. BTE 1 and 3 were in a 30 minute slot, BTE 2 was in a 35 minute slot. That is if memory serves me.

  43. Ooh. Just hovered over the top set photo (I usually read the article on my phone) – is that *definitely* what that set is, then? I don’t think I’ve seen that confirmed anywhere else.

    Well, part of it. It’s the new drive room mentioned above.

  44. >As great as this article is, I am looking forward to John’s article. Mainly cuz he’s been the most vocal about his hatred of later series. So if he likes it, i’ll learn to be a bit more optimistic

    Ditto. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement for new episodes, but the sour taste of Back to Earth (to me) is still too recent. This all sounds fantastic, and I hope it really will be, but I’m curious to see if John’s article will read any differently in terms of enthusiasm.

  45. Jay @ Lost In TV has just had permission to post this on the Lost In TV Facebook page and TORD site.

    It’s people watching Red Dwarf….live.

    Audience

  46. Okay. One question. I thought there was an age limit on this thing? I really wanted my 12 year old daughter to watch it with me, but couldn’t because I heard it was for over 16 years or something.

  47. Ori, I think the front row had some kind of VIP thing going on as they switched them from the right to the left half way through. Guessing the age thing didn’t matter so much for that.

  48. I thought it would be. Shame though. I’d have loved for her to have seen it being made…

    ….although, it might actually be an adult who just happens to be small. In which case, I apologise to that man.

  49. I think I can shed some light on this as I’m actually the guy sitting next to the young lad in that photo.

    When I first saw him and his mum walk into the holding area I was worried that he would get turned away but they obviously didn’t want to have to do that to someone who had made the journey. At one point during the recording one of the producers came over to the boy and his mum and said something alone the lines of “Yeah, he’s over 16, eh?” (with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge delivery).

    Also, there was no VIP thing going on. Our tickets were the same as everyone’s, we just happened to get lucky with our ticket numbers.

  50. I just got to this article via a link supplied by some bloke on Twitter called Robert Llewellyn.

  51. Looking at that audience pic, Is that audience size usual for sitcoms? Living where i do, i’ve never managed to see a sitcom being recorded, but whenever i’ve seen the behind the scenes videos of Dwarf, the audiences have always looked a lot smaller than that.

  52. I think the audience is twice as big as any previous Dwarf audience. And it’s being filmed in a bigger studio….Somebody else will be able to give you all the details. It’s like a bunch of letters or something…Studio X is now being used instead of F or something…

  53. Stage K instead of Stage G (which was used for Series VI).

    I don’t know which stage they filmed Series VIII on, anybody know?

  54. I’ve seen a Shepperton stage plan somewhere (possibly Seb on TOS) which showed where it was and where it is now and the comparable size b etween them. God!! You’d have thought Ian would have included that in his article above!! I mean, thats not even a spoiler!! :)

  55. >Wired have a set report up too.

    Hm, a decent read. Good find.

  56. Hi, just wanted to say that was a great read & you said what I hoped that this Series would be like in good characterisation like Series V & VI & even a bit of II. Roll on January!

    Cheers

  57. Wired have a set report up too. The reporter liked it a lot as well.

    I think he liked it that much, that most of it was ripped from Ian’s report!

  58. Fortunately, Ian knows the actor names and the difference between past and present tense.

  59. > Also, there was no VIP thing going on. Our tickets were the same as everyone’s, we just happened to get lucky with our ticket numbers.

    Fair play, I thought the compere said something about VIPs. Although in that case it seems very odd that they would move the front-row from one end to the other. They could have just have easily filled another front row and given out twice as many chances to sit at the front.

  60. I think they moved the front row because otherwise it would have been a bit odd – especially given how much of the episode played out over that side – to have the actors playing to an empty front row. Wouldn’t have happened if the place was full, but as we know there were about 20 empty seats due to traffic/weather problems.

    And I’d imagine the reason they didn’t use people from elsewhere to fill the row instead was that it might have created an unpleasant scramble – a “leaving people where they are once seated” strategy was probably safest…

  61. Oh I see what you mean, but then given it was set ticket numbers surely it would have made more sense, especially as people were walked across in blocks, to fill both sides of the audience from the front (and leave the gaps at the back), rather than deliberately leave the left side front row empty (to start with), no?

    Sure line of sight was an issue for some sets, but that applied to rows further back too. So not placing ticket No.1 in front row left, just seemed… odd. No biggie anyway.

  62. I get your point John about audience sitcom capable of doing so much more. I’m sure Red Dwarf will prove this again when it pops up next year, but you’ve said yourself that nowadays it actually costs less to shoot on actual locations than it did in the 1970s. In the 1970s it actually made more financial sense to build an entire outdoor location in a studio. Location shooting was expensive then, and BBC owned studios already with audience seating already there and staff in-house all of the time ready to go. Nowadays it’s actually the hiring of studios that are the most expensive. Especially studios with audience seating. I’m actually really surprised that Red Dwarf is having an audience at all.

    The only reason then that they would go to the trouble of building an entire outdoor location indoors is purely for the different vibe you get from recording a comedy in front of an audience. While that vibe undoubtedly gives the show that extra something which is invaluable, all the execs are going to see is a larger bill and will likely not go for it. Again i’m sure Doug had to really fight for an audience this time for that very reason.

    So i doubt we’ll see a return to such a setting in comedy, as much as i’d like to. I suppose we can at least take some solice from the fact that American comedy is still very much studio bound, even when filming in outdoor locations. Just look at shows like ‘Big Bang Theory’, they rarely go outside the studio or backlot.

  63. Having now seen this episode, that report reads even better!

  64. I’ve loved reading these this morning. They really capture the imagination without really giving anything at all away! Amazing site.

  65. Having seen this at the premiere last night the Gerald Hampton teaser now makes perfect sense :) So much for me looking all over Google for it all those months ago!

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