A final episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the 8th time in over 24 years.
This article discusses Red Dwarf X whilst adhering to G&T’s spoiler policy. Please ensure your comments do likewise…
Episode 6, then. I knew it’d be big, I knew it’d be significant and I hoped to fuckery it’d be funny. I’m glad to say it was all of those things, and more. The significance of this episode is impossible to convey without dropping the most massive spoiler this series has to hide, so forgive me if I’m even more vague this week than usual, but there’s a lot to protect.
As with episode 3, the audience were directed into the far end of the studio as the guest set had grown a little too close to the normal entrance. It’s a very minimal set and its purpose was impossible to guess when I first saw it half built last week. It’s first introduced in a VT for an early and very funny scene, featuring two guest stars and none of the main cast or characters. There are a couple of scenes shot like this in this set, and it’s amusing to see how efficiently the proper actors can get through a scene with barely any mistakes.
Speaking of VTs, the first scene of the episode was technically shot on location, even though it’s clearly some random corridors and a room in Shepperton Studios. Again, this scene features guest actors only and, again, it’s very funny. This opening scene is very important to the development of one of the crew and there are two performances here that are absolutely spot on, despite the fact that they’re very difficult roles to get right.
When we arrived at the studios, Jay from Lost in TV mentioned that we’d be going in a bit later because the crew were still “rehearsing”. Bobby then tweeted saying they were actually still shooting a scene. The scene in question turned out to be one that was heavily action focused and required lots of reactions to special effects that weren’t actually there, which resulted is some very funny physical acting. Bizarrely, the final moment of this scene strongly reminded me of something that happens in Rob Grant’s novel Backwards. When they originally tried to play through this VT, the sound wasn’t working at all so there was a glorious moment where the cast were preparing to read in the lines as it played. Annoyingly, the sound issues were sorted and we were deprived of what would’ve been a wonderfully bizarre and hilarious experience.
At this point it’s worth mentioning another guest star, who appears in the first 10 minutes or so of the episode (including the action scene just described) and threatens to steal the show, and probably would’ve done if he’d been in it more. The actor and the character will almost certainly go down in Dwarf history after this episode has aired, for a number of INTERESTING and incredibly SPOILER LADEN reasons, but his appearance holds a great amount of significance to the nature of the plot, despite only being there to set everything up.
Back to the sets, now, and there’s been a very interesting change. You’ll recall from previous reports that there are two standing sets, the bunk room and the Red Dwarf drive room and the latter of those has been completely replaced for this episode. Well, I say replaced, it’s actually a very heavy redressing but it was one that was instantly noticeable as we walked in and it’s a set that will make a lot of people very happy. In addition to that, there’s an entirely new section constructed round the back, out of sight of the audience, that expands on the new set. This location is heavily used in the second half of the episode, and the scenes it hosts are amongst my favourite stuff in this series. The way they’re written and performed is exactly right.
Before recording started, Doug came out do his normal pre-filming patter, but this time explained that they’ve been having some big difficulties this week with power cuts affecting the production and Robert apparently has had problems with his eyes that presumably meant he couldn’t be in the mask much for pre-records (as evidenced by the fact that Robert was only in one pre-recorded scene, and that was one shot just before the audience arrived). So, once again there were a few missing scenes, but this week it was handled very well, with Robert (still in character) and Craig taking the mic to explain the missing scenes when needed. Robert did this especially well, turning the explanation of the difficulties they’ve had and the scene recap into a routine.
Another nice side effect of the fraught production was a scene that was supposed to be filmed in the Red Dwarf drive room but, as that set had now been re-purposed, couldn’t be done shot on the night. So, for the benefit of the audience they staged this scene in the new set and even went to the trouble of properly setting up the cameras and recording it, despite the fact it’s entirely unusable for the show (but, presumably, an excellent extra for the DVD). Robert was reading all his lines from a script, so the scene was made even more bizarre by Kryten wearing a pair of modified reading glasses throughout. Basically, the way the production dealt with all the problems was excellent and, for the first time, I didn’t feel having missing scenes was at all detrimental to the recording experience.
Richard Naylor said on Twitter that this episode was very different to the previous five, and he’s right. While it felt comfortably part of the series, the plot itself was much denser and more involved than what we’ve seen before, and I would say it’s the funniest episode I’ve seen this series. The plot contains big consequences for one character in particular and a revelation that could prove to be controversial, and it’s certainly something I wasn’t sure about. Then I saw where it was going, and how it leads up to genuinely one of the best end lines Red Dwarf has ever had. It wouldn’t be wise for me say whether or not it ends on a cliffhanger, but I will say it ends very well and I can’t imagine many fans having issues with it.
So… I guess that’s it. Audience recordings for Series X are done. Anything that’s left to shoot will be done over six days next week, which I’m sure will be an ‘interesting’ experience for all concerned. I’m curious to see how they’re going to deal with a lack of a real laugh track for these scenes, so maybe we could hope for a few audience screenings sometime in the summer so the laughter gaps can be properly filled, especially in the case of episode 5 which is missing about 10 minutes.
Never mind all that tot, though. I’ve seen enough of Red Dwarf X to get a good initial feeling of how I think it will turn out and I’m going to hang my big hairy balls over the fire and say now that it’s going to be great. Of course it’s not without its issues and there are plenty of elements I’m not too keen on but there are so many things they have got just right, and I think episode 6 is a culmination of everything that’s great about Red Dwarf X. I really like this series, but I love this episode.
TINY TEASER: We’re Fucked
MASSIVELY APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 15 (Total so far: 86)
SMEG COUNT: 1 (Total so far: 7.5)