Half an episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience. Kris Carter reports reports reports reports.
This article discusses Red Dwarf X whilst adhering to G&T’s spoiler policy. Please ensure your comments do likewise…
Another week, and another horde of Red Dwarf fans descend upon the Shepperton Studios service entrance – their mission: to clog up the tiny roundabout by the gates in as quick a fashion as possible. Well, maybe they were for another reason…
After parking up near the bizarre western town facade in the free car park, we trekked through the now familiar muddy back path into the audience holding area. Plenty of time to grab some refreshments, share some expectations of the night, and meet up with Team G&T. Just after 6pm we started funneling into the studio, to be greeted by a candled and black curtained episode-specific set (which as it turned out, wasn’t used in this episode – at least, not in the parts we saw!). The standing sets remained as they were from previous recordings – the new Drive Room-esque set with it’s sharp looking displays and funky self-lit seats, the standard (and very cleverly reconfigurable) corridor, and the new bunk room, in all its wonderfully detailed glory. Previous set reports have detailed how impressive the new sets are, and in person they look great. On the monitors, they look fantastic.
Ray Peacock immediately began his warm-up routine for the audience, this recording being his final warm up for the show, as someone else takes the reins next week. Ray did re-use some gags and material from previous recordings, but it’s delivered with such cock-sure confidence you can’t help but laugh at the man. He did another excellent job of keeping the energy levels up in-between takes, and two unfortunate audience members who’d brought food into the studio quickly found their snack snapped up Ray, and dispersed throughout the crowd. This was a source of much frustration for me, as the chocolate digestives made it as far as the couple sitting next to me, and they had the last one. Booo! Another fun highlight was seeing Robert and Danny steal another audience members seat while he’d gone to the toilet. The look of awkward confusion upon his return was brilliant.
Before the recording started proper, Doug popped up to reiterate the now-customary plea for non-spoilers, and the cast were duly introduced to rapturous applause. The nameless episode 5 recording then kicked off with a very good exchange between Lister and Kryten, which excellently played on (and played up) one of the show’s oldest conceits, and shared thematic similarities with series III’s ‘Timeslides’. The action then moved across to an equally good Lister / Rimmer exchange. At this point I was struck by how much more assured the cast seemed this week compared to last week’s recording – out-takes and line flubs were minimal, and the atmosphere on set seemed very relaxed. Especially interesting as Robert had tweeted on Monday that they’d not seen a page of script yet!
The show’s only guest star appeared as a voice-over in the next scene, a pre-recorded corridor scene that again mined its comedy from great character interplay, and didn’t rely on just one-liners.
The main plot of the episode started to take shape in the following two scenes (the first of which was pre-recorded), but there’s no B-plot as such. Some inspired Cat lunacy kicks things off, and there was a definite sense of some cast improv in the pre-record, not dissimilar to the comic shop scene in Back To Earth (but much funnier). The next scene brings in the plot progression in a manner that evokes series II’s “Better Than Life”, and this Lister-centric episode continues to provide some well realized character moments between Lister and Rimmer – including one particular revelation that elicited an audible gasp from the audience on the first take, which unfortunately wasn’t repeated on subsequent takes as the surprise was now lost.
The story continued with a funny (if somewhat predictable) Cat & Lister scene, that has the virtue of a gag that is wonderfully rude and banked some classic woofers for Danny. Doug then took to the floor to advise that the middle portion of this episode hadn’t yet been filmed, but gave the audience a very brief and very vague description of the missing scene(s). The production moved on to film the final scene, which pulled no punches in giving Craig a tonne of dialogue to learn and a great last line, while the rest of the cast simply supplied appropriate reaction shots.
It’s hard to fully appraise an incomplete episode (the same goes for last week), but this story felt very simple and straightforward, but that’s no bad thing. It’s one straight story, start to end – no secondary plots, and Cat and Kryten get very little to do in this episode – in fact, Kryten could quite easily have not been in it at all, and the plot would not suffer. It really does feel like a sort of offshoot of series II & series III writing styles, with the humour developing naturally through some good character comedy, and with less emphasis on shoe-horned one liners.
It’s not all peaches and cream though – while the writing and dialogue feel like a welcome return to earlier series form of sorts, some of the performances could be taken as being a little over the top, or pantomimey, in that series VIII sort of way. It’s not apparent all the time, but there’s flashes of it occasionally, and it’s slightly jarring. Some more contemporary pop culture references creep in too, but are generally quite funny, so it’s okay. Again, no model sequences, and no storyboards either, but seeing as this ep feels very ‘bottle show’, it’s no deal-breaker.
Following the completion of two thirds of episode 5, Craig and Danny were carted off for a costume change to perform a pick up for the beginning of episode 3. Bobby was brought in to record a reshoot of a two-word sentence from another episode (would it be too much of a spoiler to note the line? What the hell – “Enjoy, sir!”), and Craig and Danny then emerged to redo the opening scene of episode 3 (and fill the studio with the smell of freshly cooked meat – mmmm!)
Finally, by way of apology for us missing a chunk of the episode, we were granted a viewing of the rough cut of episode 1. For an-depth stab at that one, check the earlier set report. Cut together though, it’s a good episode, better than pretty much all of series VII, certainly better than anything in VIII, but maybe not quite reaching the heights of the earlier series in my humble opinion. Still, on screen it looked fantastic, and there were some great running gags and character comedy. Still no model shots yet, but storyboards made up for it. The audience laughter from us was recorded again over this, and presumably will be used to beef up the existing laughter track on the episode. It’ll be interesting to see if other edited episodes are shown to the audience next week.
And so, recording over, we all trooped out into the open air, queued for the portaloos, and head off back to reality. I enjoyed this recording much more than episode four’s recording, which left me feeling a bit worried about that show. Having now seen episodes one, four and five, I’m confident that the series will be a good return to form – perhaps not as red hot as III to VI, but much better than VII, VIII and BTE. September can’t get here quick enough!
TINY TEASER: Death Worm
INCREDIBLY MASSIVE APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 10 (Total so far: 71)
SMEG COUNT: 0 – I think, forgot to keep count. Sorry. I’m a bad guest writer. (Total so far: 6.5)