A full episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the 2nd time in 7 days. G&T made an appearance.
This article discusses Red Dwarf X whilst adhering to G&T’s spoiler policy. Please ensure your comments do likewise…
This is the fourth episode recorded, but as it has been for the majority of audience members, my first.
We were ushered down the muddy path of the back lot of Shepperton to the waiting area aside The David Lean building, a name which seemed innocuous until I realised it was where Grant Naylor HQ resides, and that sparked a very long-overdue sense of excitement. Even when we were chatting about our particular hopes (and fears) for the series, it was strange that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls in anticipation, maybe the 8:30am start to the day and the 9-stop travel down to London had worn me out slightly. However, that all changed when we got into the studio…
Due to an unfortunate accident which left one of my ticket attendees with back problems, Jay from Lost In TV kindly allowed us to grab some seats with some leg room and allowed us to be one of the first into the studio, which provided us with a bit of time to get a look at the sets for a little big longer than everyone else. The first thing that struck me was the detail of the sets, the first set seen was the guest set for that episode and of course the main sets for the series: bunk room, drive room, corridor. Another part of set sat on the right purely for one brilliant gag involving Lister, and even more sets built round the back, out of shot of the audience for various single scenes.
Now, I will say at this point, because I had never seen a set, or indeed THE set for Red Dwarf previously in person, it reminded me of a museum piece that wouldn’t look out of place in the Media Museum in Bradford. I’ve been trying to work out why this was, and it became apparent how classic this set looked. It just screamed V, VI, VII style Dwarf all mixed together but with many excellent touches by the Art Department. The monitors were constantly active with graphics and information reminiscent of Series I and II with a modern twist, there was one item in the bunk room that reminded me of ‘Legion’ in terms of style and indeed pertaining to Lister’s tastes perfectly.
Once we got comfortable, Ray Peacock proceeded with the warm up doing an excellent job of keeping the audiences attention during downtimes, which were more often than I thought would be, but he did an excellent job, he never missed a beat with the audience and accepted participation and mild heckling as some kind of challenge, which culminated in an unbelievably strange fan story that slowly unfolded during the gaps in filming. It involved a portaloo, and a sex tape.
For an audience seeing jokes said multiple times, but genuinely I did not once hear the audience’s participation wane during multiple takes. Interestingly, the cast were slightly shifting their lines with every take in order to get a fresh laugh. You hear all the time on the documentaries that the cast prefer an audience in order to get feedback on the lines, but I’ve never seen a scene mutate organically in front of me. It was both fascinating and rewarding in equal measure.
Other than the video released on the website a few days ago, I haven’t really managed to visualise the guys in their main costumes. I was worried about the Cat’s look as it is something that errs on the side of extreme, but becomes something that is easy to get used to after long exposure to it, and now looks typically Cat-like, more about that later. Rimmer’s outfit just looks… right and Lister’s outfits work brilliantly. Kryten’s outfit looks different on the mask and shoulders but ultimately doesn’t affect Robert’s performance and general look on the whole, and as everyone has said that while it looks strange on set, it really doesn’t look as apparent on the monitors, and presumably, the cameras.
As per episode 3, the scenes were shot in order, but ironically I wasn’t expecting it to be, owing to previous experience with shooting practices. This led to some confusion with a plot point, but this seemed down to some very confusing scripting which was ambiguous enough to throw me off the plot and had to have the confusion explained to me later on after the fact. Understand? No, neither did I. On we go.
The characterisations were superb, Lister’s laziness and slobbiness kicks off the episode in grand tradition, Rimmer’s character being typically anal about procedure is used to great effect and forms a running joke throughout the episode. I’m relieved to say that the Cat has reverted back to his I/II-like catty ways, but still keeping his acid tongue from V-VI era. This is good, this is very good. Danny has a lot of dialogue in this episode, and it’s not wasted. It’s genuinely funny.
One interesting aspect of this episode is the Cat/Kryten dynamic, which hasn’t really been explored in previous Dwarf. They work very well together in this episode, and with good reason. We’re introduced to a new feature of Kryten which is hilarious, and again poor Bobby is subjected to dialogue so mind-bogglingly complex, it was worth him fluffing his lines so that you could absorb it properly. (There was a idiot board with these bits of dialogue in the seats next to ours when we arrived, they disappeared shortly afterwards…) Speaking of complicated dialogue, it’s worth pointing out that Doug has created another brilliant scientific concept reminiscent of Quarantine, in as much as the idea behind it is both brilliant and bizarre at the same time, while providing plenty of opportunities for gags along the way.
For a series that has traditionally had 4 or 5 characters per episode, they’re certainly managing to keep the extra characters coming, and this episode is no exception. From what we saw we’ve got about 6 extra characters involved in various scenes, one scene involved the majority of extras, one of them being introduced in the last 10 minutes of the episode, which is both unexpected and fairly strange, even for Red Dwarf. However, the fate of this character is not known to us as the last 5 minutes of the episode have not been filmed due to said new actor/actress being taken ill before shooting the pre-record VT that was intended for us. So we won’t know what happens until broadcast as Doug decided not to indulge us with any details.
All in all, it’s an episode that for me feels in part like series I through VII in various places. This is a very complicated episode, but without the ending, it’s very much in the hands of the edit and the broadcast to cast my full/true opinion, but from what I have seen of the episode, it’s got some great gags, some brilliant plot ideas and some excellent character work.
TINY TEASER: Kebab Instructions
MASSIVELY APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 12 (Total so far: 61)
SMEG COUNT: 1.5 (Total so far: 6.5)