Peter Wragg RIP

Peter Wragg, on the set of Red Dwarf, wearing a Red Dwarf jacket, reading the Red Dwarf Smegazine.

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Peter Wragg, the visual effects designer of Red Dwarf I-VII, who died over the weekend following a short illness. He was just 65.

As the head of the BBC Visual Effects team assigned to Red Dwarf, Peter was as influential as anyone in crafting and creating the identity of the show. Despite Rob and Doug’s surprise that the eponymous ship was actually red, the stumpy, bulky, ugly lump of metal, floating incongruously through space was by far the most iconic visual element of the show in the early days. The title sequence of Series I and II, combining the team’s model work with Howard Goodall’s score, sets an unusual and memorable tone, and was the first and most important indicator that this was no ordinary sit-com.

To imagine Red Dwarf without Peter Wragg would be sacrilege. With his team of fellow model-makers (including Mike Tucker, Nick Kool, Alan Brannan, Paul McGuinness and Alan ‘Rocky’ Marshall) and his trusty DoP Peter Tyler, they contributed such elements of the show’s iconography as Camille, the Polymorph, Psirens, the Mutton Vindaloo Beast, the Holoship, Ace’s dimension-jumper, Justice World, the explosion in Demons and Angels… oh, yeah and STARBUG. Oh yeah, and KRYTEN.

Robert Llewellyn’s Man In The Rubber Mask details how Peter was there at every step of the process, with a reassuring aura of a man who knows what he’s doing, even if what he’s doing involves encasing someone’s head entirely in plaster of paris. His appearances on the Series III and IV DVDs give the impression of a very clever yet humble man, approaching his work with professionalism and determination, yet without having lost sight of the fact that his job involves playing with spaceships and blowing stuff up. The joyful glint in his eye when reminiscing about the fun he had on the show was heartwarming to see.

There are many tales of Peter collaborating with Rob and Doug to contribute elements to stories. Peter’s desire to show off his snowy-landscape skills lead to the setting of Marooned. Memorably, the writers initially wanted Starbug to crash into a watery planet at the end of Gunmen. Peter told them that water would be tricky with miniatures, but he could do lava if they were interested…

Aside from Dwarf, Peter worked on a few lesser-known sci-fi shows. Just Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Doctor Who. In the latter, he appeared alongside Tom Baker as one of his creations, the Fendahleen, in 1977’s Image of the Fendahl. He also provided special effects for a fair few comedies, most notably Ed Bye’s The Detectives, Filthy, Rich and Catflap and Bottom.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Peter, but I know many of his former colleagues. Every single one of them speaks of him in a fond and reverential way, and each of them has their own collection of Wraggy anecdotes. He was well-liked, well-respected and highly sought after within the industry. His imagination was only matched by his practical skills, and he’ll be forever remembered as the man who gave brought Red Dwarf to Red Dwarf.

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33 Responses to Peter Wragg RIP

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  1. Shit.

    RIP Peter.

  2. Sad, sad news indeed.

    RIP Peter Wragg.

  3. I’m genuinely gutted. Huge condolonces to his family and friends.

    Mr Wragg was a massive influence on my creative energies from the very first time I saw Red Dwarf, and I’ll never forget just how much of a contribution he’s made not just to Red Dwarf, but to British special effects as a whole.

    He painted the Dwarf red, and made it glide effortlessly across our screens… he launched Starbug countless times, and crashed it even more… he helped bring to life emotion-stealing monsters and brain-sucking insects… and all on a shoestring.

    Wherever he and Mel Bibby are now, you can bet it looks fantastic, and is probably rigged to explode.

    RIP Peter Wragg.

  4. G&T Admin

    The picture on this article, from the pages of the Smegazine – I had it on my wall when I was about 8. That’s how good Peter Wragg was – an eight-year-old wanted pictures of the man who made the spaceship rather than the spaceship itself.

  5. G&T Admin

    RIP Peter. There are a great many people that will remember him and his work (even if they don’t know it) for a long time to come.

    Wherever he and Mel Bibby are now, you can bet it looks fantastic, and is probably rigged to explode.

    This is excellent.

  6. When I was about 6, Red Dwarf and Bottom were the two shows that I would watch endlessly, and Peter Wragg played a big part in both of them. In Dwarf especially his influence really aided the show as far as I’m concerned and doubtless played at part it what’s given it the longevity it has enjoyed. Somehow, I just can’t imagine the ship looking as iconic without the distinctive paint job for example. Very sad news indeed, 65 really is no age at all.

  7. Terrible news. I tried to write something just there about how,as a young 9 year old git with a runny nose, i knew his name very well as he was in the credits of all my very favourite tv shows (yes i was even allowed to watch Bottom as a kid, i had irresponsible parents :-D ). But to be honest, i think the article, and the subsequent comments have made the point better than i ever could. A great loss.

    R.I.P Wraggy.

  8. G&T Admin

    There was no-one better at British comedy explosions than Peter Wragg. I shall treasure his memory. RIP.

  9. Lovely tribute Ian. RIP.

  10. Terrible news, RIP Peter.

  11. An amazing artist, while the prominence of physical effects is fading he was one of its most impressive users and showed how great they could be. Without his work Red Dwarf would not be the show it is, and I am sad I will never meet him.

  12. Loving the banner by the way. Well played Team G&T!

  13. G&T Admin

    Gutted at this news. He did such good work for so many things. Very sad that he’s gone.

    RIP Peter.

  14. R.I.P. Peter, RD will not be the same without without his visual genius :(

  15. RIP, thank You for your art. Bara, Czech Republic

  16. Oh, just seen the banner. Lovely touch, guys.

  17. RIP Peter, made my childhood,and left a mark that will last years to come!!!!

  18. Very talented man. He will be missed.

  19. Beautifully written, Ian.

    >Oh, just seen the banner. Lovely touch, guys.

    Yes, lovely.

  20. Such a sad loss.

    > his job involves playing with spaceships and blowing stuff up
    If that isn’t the definition of the best job in the world, then I don’t know what is.

  21. What a shit end to the day, I’m genuinely gutted.

    Clearly a guy who hadn’t, didn’t and loved not growing up – he had such a ball creating such iconic ships, creatures and worlds.

    What a legend. What a loss.

  22. Somewhere up there he’s having a blast…

    An absolute legend who’s work we shall never forget. RIP Peter.

  23. I had the pleasure of drinking with Peter amongst fans at one of the earliest Dimension Jumps, he was nervous to speak publically to a room about the show, and yet he’s tales still came across well amongst the nerves, and just made for a room in quiet appreciative awe of a nice bloke telling simply what his job was, that just happened to be about something the room in question loved with a passion. I remember him thriving more at all the attension then given to him and his camera man afterwards at the bar, he couldnt quite believe how much people were in joy to see him, and the tales got a bit more about how funny all the mistakes in things were, and more off the record about all the shows he’d worked on, and he started to relax and enjoy being the star of things for the moment. That’s how I’ll remember him. He’s from a time in TV when credits appeared Large on the screen and you read them.

  24. Hope he is at that hotel and there is no check in!!!!

  25. RIP Peter. You’ll be sorely missed.

  26. I was so shocked and saddened when I heard the news. May he Rest In Peace.

  27. Thanks to everyone who has posted tributes. He was my brother in law, so I’ve known him for most of my life and he really was as sweet, kind and unassuming as people say. Growing up, I loved the way there would always be bits of Peter’s work lying around the house. I especially liked the description above of when he had to give a talk, that was spot on. It’s great that he is so well thought of in the sci-fi/film/tv/Red Dwarf community, really lovely to hear. It’s unbelievable that he’s gone, we’re going to miss him so much.

  28. Jan, we are sorry for your loss and our hearts are with you and the rest of Peter’s family. Warmest wishes to you and yours. :)

  29. I just happened to be watching a Bottom episode on YouTube today, not for any particular reason. Had almost forgotten Peter was involved in this series, but then it came flooding back when i spotted Eddie kicking in a TV and Richie being electrocuted by a fuse box. Great effects, but also hilarious in themselves, which is hard to pull off :)

  30. Was really sad to hear about this. The ocean planet in Dimension Jump is a work of art and the effects he worked on always had class.

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