Red Dwarf XI – Episode 4 – Set Report

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

A full episode of Red Dwarf has been has been recorded in front of a studio audience that included a G&T writer, for the first time since 2012. Despite G&T being there, it was only on a standby ticket, so we’d already asked our excellent long-time friend Kris Carter to do the honours. Ian’s brief thoughts are presented in a boxout, as are those of correspondent John Miller, but for now, over to you, Kris…

Well. That was pretty smegging brilliant.

The marquee tent at Pinewood Studios was holding its own against the wind as the studio audience for Red Dwarf XI episode 4 huddled inside. It was a much easier set-up for the audience than at Shepperton, where previously we’d had to troop through shrubland to get to the studio from the car park.

At 6:30 we were moved en masse through the studio streets, over Jimmy Carr’s parking space, and into the giant shed housing the good ship Red Dwarf. I noticed on the way in several large set walls stacked outside, all sci-fi panelling and very ‘futuristicky’. There was also (I think!) the big secured door that Rimmer walked through in
Entangled. As we entered the studio, a table to our right showed some filming clutter, and what looked like a damaged Skutter prop – it wasn’t a Skutter, but I could see where the confusion would arise.

After getting seated, the always-welcome Ray Peacock stepped up to the mic to get us warmed up, try and make a wet-fart noise, and drill the health and safety into us. Ray’s a great warm-up guy and he kept the audience entertained (and the crew slightly annoyed from time to time) over the whole night. He introduced Doug, who gave the customary ‘please don’t spoil the episode for everyone online’ schtick, and then hoped we’d enjoy an episode that was a little different. The cast were duly introduced to rapturous applause.

This gave me my first look at the XI costumes. Rimmer and Lister are unchanged from X – why mess with perfection? Lister’s undershirt’s are a bit more eclectic, and he has the neckerchief going on, as seen on Danny’s Twitter account, but otherwise it’s the same as X. The styling of Chris Barrie’s hairpiece is a little different than before – it reveals less forehead than in X, and looks much better for it.

Spoiler-free Mini Review #1

What is your overall non-spoilery opinion of the episode?

I loved it! Very funny with some brilliant classic dwarf gags that were still funny after several retakes.

Were the cast on good form?

Yes, despite several retakes etc they were all brilliant and interacted with the audience and the warm up guy! Especially Danny who kept wandering about during takes and bantering about.

Did it remind you of a particular series or episode from the past?

The whole episode reminded me of the series IV-VI era, which is my favourite period of Red Dwarf, so I was thrilled.

John Miller

The Cat’s look for this episode was exceptionally smart. Danny looked spot-on. The wig is obviously different, less silky, but no cause for alarm, he still looks like Cat. Kryten’s new mask looks much better than X, but with less angular definition on the neck. The cheeks are slightly higher, and in certain lighting almost evoked the old David Ross mask, in terms of shape. The costume torso and shoulders are re-done from X. The shoulders are much better, but the torso feels like a big step backward (at least to me). But that aside, the costume works.

We started the filming by viewing a super brief VT shot of Rimmer, and then it was onto the sets themselves. The curtain had been dropped… but the lights weren’t on, so we had to wait until the VT was done before we could get a good look at the sets! The X Drive Room is gone, replaced by a very impressive Science/Med room. Imagine the Series II Drive Room, but sideways facing the audience, and decorated/styled like the BTE sleeping quarters. It looks great. There was a large green circular portal on the one wall, with a scanner bed next to it, but this wasn’t used for this episode.

The corridors look the same, but with additional LED lighting on the supports, which can be changed for red alert situations (without changing the bulbs). The sleeping quarters – virtually the same as X, but with less clutter, and less monitors. To the right of the quarters was an unused corridor that frankly looked very ropey, so I’m hoping that’s something unfinished to be used later on in the series.

Finally. we had the Starbug cockpit, complete with removable fourth wall, to allow for some great Series VII style filming angles. Recent set reports had me worried about this set – having seen it in person, I can’t understand what the fuss is about. It looks absolutely fine. The layout is the same, the crew seating is the same, it looks really good. The deco is very Series X.

The lighting is fantastic. Much better than X, and really evocative of series IV and V in particular. Lots of blue and red. Lots of off-screen rotating fans as well, like in series VII, to add further visual flair. The direction and cinematography is so much more assured here too. Shots that pull focus, more visually interesting camera angles, great use of shadows…. If nothing else XI will look gorgeous.

Two guest stars this week, although one was a small voice over part. The main guest star had a particularly thankless task as far as the make up was concerned, but he knocked it out of the park with a very distinctive role, and some excellent but groan worthy verbal and visual gags.

Spoiler-free Mini Review #2

There are several faults one could point to in this episode, but a lack of originality isn’t one of them. It’s the kind of story that Dwarf could only do at this particular moment in its history, due to both the concept behind the story and the complexity of visual effects required. This is incredibly ambitious, with one set piece in particular promising to be truly impressive – as well as incredibly funny – after a suitable amount of rotoscoping and compositing.

There are a number of similarly memorable sequences towards the end of the episode, but it’s a bit of a slow start to get there. It’s not bad, but it’s very gentle up to a certain point. No doubt this feeling wasn’t helped by the stop-start nature of the recording, and the scenes will definitely benefit from a nice tight edit. Luckily the laughs were more forthcoming as the main plot progressed, although it did rather rush towards a resolution.

One big improvement from X is the direction. The cinematography is certainly striking and beautiful in itself, although I’m not absolutely sure it suits a studio sitcom. However, while ungraded footage is no real indication of how the final episodes might look, the shot choices are superb – a lot more close-ups done on the night rather than by cropping in the edit, and sexy focus pulls to take full advantage of the RED’s depth of field. Overall, very assured and confident in all aspects of production, with enough comedic highlights to more than make up for a slightly mediocre start.

Ian Symes

The filming itself went fairly smoothly, with one early sleeping quarters scene and a Starbug scene only really giving much grief to the cast and crew. The Starbug scene in particular seemed to bring out a little tension between Craig and Danny, but it was back to banter as usual after that scene. The spark between the cast was great throughout, with the guys coming and sitting in the audience for a few VT’s, Danny wheeling a wheelchair-bound audience member around the set, and generally larking about with Ray in-between scenes. Ray stole popcorn from the set for fans to sell on eBay, and tried to get a fan to lick Craig (alas, twas not to be…). All the cast were on the ball, Chris Barrie having to carry a HUGE amount of work this episode but coping wonderfully and funnily. “It’s ok, I’m on it. I’m almost on it.” he said, pausing after a line flub, “Well. I’m near it..”

Filming finished at just before 10pm, and then it was time to head back to reality.

As for the story itself? It’s very, very good. It’s most definitely a Rimmer story. In fact, it’s a VERY Rimmer heavy story, but delivered enough for each cast-member to feel nicely ensemble. It felt to me like a fantastic mash-up of Series V and VI. You have a solid, funny, sci-fi concept providing the core of the episode, and then the characters react to that concept in their own particular ways, very much like V. The pacing of the story is very VI, with three distinct sections like Gunmen and Emohawk – the sci-fi concept beginning, characters using and abusing that concept in the middle, and the dangers of abusing that concept at the end.

The return of several iconic props was good to see, and the homages to Alien throughout were very welcome – in fact, this episode takes Red Dwarf into the realms of genuinely disturbing body-horror in a comedic way that only Red Dwarf could do. Seriously, there are really unsettling make-up effects in this one, but played for comedy so it’s not too scary! Couple that with a new Howard Goodall composition, ridiculous comedy props and some of the most daringly extensive special effects ever seen in Dwarf… Well. It’s an absolute corker, and I can’t wait to see it again in it’s finished form.

Crits? Well, it ended a bit quickly for my liking, and there’s some slightly forced jabs taken at multinational corporations that seem out of place, but otherwise… this was a very, very good episode.

TINY TEASER: Dirty Dave
APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 21-24 (Total so far: 64-82)
APPROXIMATE SMEG COUNT: 1 or 2, depending on your definition, and which take is used of a certain line. (Total so far: 4 or 5)


Massive thanks to John Miller for his mini-review, and an even massiver thanks to Kris Carter for providing the full report. His portfolio is here, his blog is here, and Lou Scannon, the Eagle Award finalist sci-fi comic that Kris co-writes and colours is here.

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37 Responses to Red Dwarf XI – Episode 4 – Set Report

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  1. It sounds like Doug is doing a great job here with direction. Taking a studio sitcom and making it look like something…more, is what Dwarf has excelled at over the years. Series X was no exception, but…the one single location scene and restricted model shoot didn’t lend itself to that ideal; and neither did the lighting and staging for much of it.

    The thing I’m happiest about is the scrapping of the Drive Room. The fact that the consoles looked like checkout tills… the cast facing front all the time, and yeah the red colour, all didn’t do it for me. You can’t blame the cast for wanting a sit-down…but I just found the setup less Dwarf. (I’m aware the crew are sitting for Starbug scenes but they’ve always been framed differently etc.) The new science/medical room seems like it’s gonna sort all that out, perfectly. :)

  2. We still don’t know if Starbug has a mid-section set or not. From another set report I read they mentioned that the guest star had to do a main scene in Starbug, so are all 5 of them cramped into the cockpit or is there a mid-section? Will we ever find out before broadcast?

  3. G&T Admin

    I think it would be too spoilery to reply to this in any great detail, but it’s true that the guest star interacted with the crew when they were in Starbug.

  4. Cheers for the reports guys. From the ones so far I had episode 2 seemingly being the most well received followed by 1 then 3. Not really sure where this fits in, wondering if when broadcast some people might be saying ‘favourite episode of the series, loved it’ and others going ‘didn’t really do it for me’.

  5. G&T Admin

    Yes, I’d say that one or two standout moments will be universally loved, but the rest depends on how things go in the edit. Much like Jo said last week about episode three, if episode four is the worst of the series then it’ll be a very good series.

  6. Great report, most intriguing one yet and very encouraging once again.

    > the guest star interacted with the crew when they were in Starbug.

    Very carefully worded, I feel…

  7. G&T Admin

    Engage innocent whistle mode.

  8. Personally, I like that Ian is very carefully monitoring the spoiler policy. Good show Mr Symes!

  9. So reading these set reports, have we had an ensemble, a cat, a kryten, and a rimmer focussed epsiode roughly speaking thus far then. So a lister one next and then another ensemble to finish maybe. Pure pointless speculation,

  10. Carefully worded indeed!

    I could give an alternative explanation as to how this character interacted with the crew (and indeed who this character could possibly be) but then my mind would go into overdrive and before you know it’ it’d be guessing something that might turn out to be true and end up unwittingly posting a spoiler… so I won’t say any more.

  11. I bet it’s Gordon.

  12. Original Gordon or Remastered Deleted Scene Gordon?

  13. The fact there is a scenes with body horror effects certainly implies the increased budget is being used to full effect, I couldn’t imagine series X being able to have something like that….particular when you see how cheap the BEGG’s looked.

  14. I’ll admit, Smeg or No Smeg would be a great spiritual sequel to Can’t Smeg, Won’t Smeg

  15. That’d be interesting to see in what would be changed and how the game works around a Red Dwarf theme.

    I also (sadly) highly doubt Dave would do another Red Dwarf Night to the extent that BBC TWO did, so the chances of seeing another spoof show like that are incredibly low.

  16. G&T Admin

    That was an event at Dimension Jump several years ago! James Bull as Noel, and Andrew Ellard as the contestant. He ended up with one penny-cent.

  17. If it’s a dollar-pound, shouldn’t it be cent-penny, although penny-cent sounds better!

    The new issue of SFX magazine is out today and has an article on Red Dwarf XI in it with some interesting facts about production. One of them being that Doug has said that he doesn’t know yet which episodes will end up being in which series, so the 6 episodes being recorded before Christmas may not actually be all for XI, but some for XII instead. Also, it was UKTV who pushed for 12 episodes, not Doug.

  18. > it was UKTV who pushed for 12 episodes, not Doug.

    Quick, record as many episodes as you can before they’re too old!!!

  19. They must all be pretty standalone if Doug doesn’t know which series each will be in. Though we could maybe guess the opener and closer of each series is decided?? I was wondering whether they would change anything, set-wise, costumes etc. for XII but it appears we have our answer! :p

  20. >Also, it was UKTV who pushed for 12 episodes, not Doug.

    Hmm. That’s rather irritating. I was pleasantly surprised by this episode, but I remain unconvinced that so many episodes should be being made at the same time.

  21. We also know now that the costumes and sets will likely not be changed between XI and XII then, as they can hardly have the show looking different every week as some episodes are from before the changes and some after. Sometimes, changing too much can be bad, so I’m taking this as a good thing, especially since people are saying the sets look better this time around with better lighting etc. Don’t want it looking good now and looking awful later!

  22. Tbh I would rather have 12 made in one block now rather than having to wait another 3 years for series XII, if we ever got it at all. Having Craig available for this long, thanks to his Corrie exit, makes going for 12 episodes a no-brainer. Plus they save money by not having to remount production for XII, everything’s already set up.

  23. Yeah, although it might not be ideal in terms of series creative progression, it makes a lot of sense to have them all done together. Given the gaps between BTE, X and this, I can totally see why Dave wanted to get two series done at once.

  24. Seb’s response on the main site forum when Doug’s interview was brought up.

    In short, he has no insider knowledge, but he believes it may no longer hold true, as the interview was likely conducted some while back. He reckons the current episodes are very likely to be for series XI.

  25. If there is no real arc through out then there really isn’t anything stopping Doug from switching up the episodes if he so chooses after filming of both series is complete

  26. According to the main site’s forum, Robert has said on his periscope thingy that XI will be broadcast in September 2016 and XII in January 2017. Take those dates with whatever dosage of salt you prefer.

  27. According to the main site’s forum, Robert has said on his periscope thingy that XI will be broadcast in September 2016 and XII in January 2017. Take those dates with whatever dosage of salt you prefer.

    :/ I don’t remember him saying that. I’d have thought it’s be Sept/Oct 2016 and the same 2017, but that’s not insider info either, just what I’d assumed. Just seems silly to spunk the lot in the space of 5 months.

  28. I think it would be good to not leave fans hanging for series XII

    Just trying to work out how many series came on in Autumn and how many in Spring…

    Four in Autumn, six in Spring.

  29. It’s worth pointing out that that post of mine could be COMPLETELY wrong, by the way. Don’t want to give the impression that I know more than was said in the interview, nor do I want to contradict Doug!

  30. G&T Admin

    It’s worth pointing out that that post of mine could be COMPLETELY wrong, by the way. Don’t want to give the impression that I know more than was said in the interview, nor do I want to contradict Doug!

    So you’re saying I shouldn’t press Publish?

  31. Which picture are you using for that article?

  32. G&T Admin

    Patrick, pictured here returning from watching the broadcast of Series XII.

  33. G&T Admin

    “It’s Chris Barrie’s wigs, Ian! Something’s gotta be done about his wigs!”

  34. I like that you knew to look for that particular picture.

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