A hell of a lot will be written about David Bowie in the coming days. I don’t feel remotely qualified to add to it; I’m a fan, but far from a scholar. And yet I feel that Ganymede & Titan should mark his passing in some way, despite it being far beyond the remit of a Red Dwarf fansite. But then again, it’s hard to think of a single piece of popular culture from the last forty-odd years that hasn’t been influenced by Bowie in some way. And there are a handful of tenuous Bowie/Dwarf connections…
1. The film Labyrinth. A combination of the talents of Jim Henson and David Bowie could hardly have failed to be enduringly brilliant. Also starring in the film was a young Danny John-Jules, as one of the Fireys. Another was Charles Augins, who also played a big role behind the scenes, as the choreographer of various dance (magic dance) routines. How bizarre to picture one of the most creative and innovative artists of all time being told what to do by Queeg 500…
2. The film Moon. Co-written and directed by David’s son Duncan Jones/Zowie Bowie, the sci-fi offering, which concerns a lonely spaceman on a mining mission, shares an uncannily similar aesthetic with Red Dwarf, right down to the font choice. This is perhaps thanks, in part, to the contribution of Steve Howarth and Bill Pearson, who recycled models originally intended for the long since abandoned Red Dwarf movie.
3. Back In The Red (Part Three).”Ground Control, this is, umm…” “Major Tom!” But let’s not dwell on that.
4. This is the big one. Listen to the song Loving The Alien, particularly the bit leading up to the chorus:
I mean, that’s just undeniable. Loving The Alien was released in 1984. Howard Goodall recorded the Red Dwarf theme in 1987. Having helped to curate an exhibition of Bowie ephemera at the V&A, and indeed tweeted beautifully this morning, Goodall is most definitely a fan.
Other links can be found in the subject matter of Bowie’s work, of course. Space Oddity is the most obvious parallel, and sci-fi-inspired metaphor can be found throughout his oeuvre. But that’s not the real reason why, on the evidence of today, there’s a hell of a lot of crossover between Dwarf fans and Bowie fans. His music speaks to anyone who ever felt “different” when they were growing up, whether that’s because they weren’t in to the same pop culture as everyone else, or because they were shy and awkward, or because they were just trying to figure out who they were, and how they fitted in to the day’s society.
Basically, the exact same type of person who’d be attracted to the escapism provided by a weird little comedy set in space, and especially the type of person who’d still be obsessed by that world so many years later. Bowie spoke to people like us. But like Red Dwarf, his appeal was never limited to a “cult” audience, and his universal popularity is testament to his sheer artistic genius.
The stars look very different today. RIP David.