Dig very, very deep into your memories and you might recall a little article called You Have Been Watching… Part 1, which was published a staggering 35 months ago. But never fear because now, finally, I have returnethed with part 2, covering every last guest character from the final three episodes of Red Dwarf Eggs (Entangled, Dear Dave and The Beginning). There are a lot of the bastards, so strap in and prepare for some hastily researched biographies and overwrought opinions on the fine people that helped make his series the lovably flawed beast that it is.
Steven Wickham (Begg Chief, Entangled)
Steven Wickham (or ‘WickWocks’ as no one calls him) is the first guest actor to have the honour of bridging the large gap from the ‘classic’ days, after his turn as Lister’s hairy assed GELF Bride in Series VI. Having said that, his wide acknowledgement in fandom mainly came after his amusing appearance on the DVD documentary The Starbuggers, with his pleasing enthusiasm at the opportunity he had to man-handle and snog a perplexed and frightened Craig Charles – a feat he would later repeat on a Dimension Jump stage.
Other than Red Dwarf, Steven is well known for his voluminous appearances in Doctor Who, ranging from guest roles in The Caves of Androzani and The Twin Dilemma right through to a large number of credits in Big Finish’s ongoing and frankly confusing range of audio adventures. Outside Doctor Dwarf territory, Steven has a large history of one off appearances in a variety of shows, the most amusing of which is probably his inspired casting as Jamie Oliver in Armando Iannucci’s disappointing Time Trumpet.
Steven’s return to the show also marks the re-introduction of that common Red Dwarf staple – the GELF. Entangled can divide opinion among fans, but it’s still an episode I have a soft spot for, simply because I think it shows ambition and exploration in quite a pleasing manner. The limits of the BEGG Moon set and the costumes aside, the scene where the Dwarfers meet with Wickham’s Chief BEGG is still one of my favourite of the series, and his portrayal is a large part of this. He handles the made up language as well as you could hope and his booming voice and good comic delivery lift the character above a lot of his fellow guest actors. The fact that the episode descends into a confusing mess not long after his scene should not be held against what is an enjoyably larger than life part.
Peter Elliott (Chimp, Entangled)
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If that job is impersonating primates, give it to Peter Elliott. As you may have guessed, Peter’s long career in TV and Film mainly involves the impersonation of animals. As his appearance on We’re Smegged shows, it’s less a skill and more of a way of life, as his understanding and knowledge of the creatures he portrays runs deep. He’s even played Sir King Kong himself, although in the 1986 film King Kong Lives, which offers the tantalising prospect of King Kong still being alive after his nasty fall. I imagine it was brilliant. Also, 1988’s *actually* brilliant Gorillas In The Mist has him credited as one of the mime artists, which I’m assuming involves much of the same skills, but sans suit.
It’s a shame that Peter’s involvement in the episode was greatly reduced (thanks to the production being disorganised on such a level that they were not aware of how much the actor they booked could actually work) because of the concept of the crew dealing with a chimp on board is not without merit. Whether or not the proposed plot of Rimmer and Lister taking on the role of its parents would have been any good at all is another matter entirely. As it happens, we get Peter for a very short period of time and his appearance all ends up being part of one of the messiest and most incoherent 10 minutes Red Dwarf has known. But it can’t be denied that he is an incredibly convincing chimp. He is a man who has spent decades playing, as 2003’s Walking with Cavemen so aptly listed him, ‘various hominids’ and he has now played one on Red Dwarf. That is very much that.
Sydney Stevenson (Professor Edgington, Entangled)
It’s usually unfair to only mention an actor’s career in relation to a famous parent, but in Sydney’s case her start on TV is inextricably linked with the man whose cock is 50% responsible for her existence. Just a single year after she was brought into this world via the popular medical procedure known as birth, Sydney was playing the part of Kelly Astaire Rigby in Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool, daughter of the titular character played by her real dad Robert Lindsay. After that her TV career took a hiatus while Sydney concentrated on the process of ingesting nourishment and using the resulting energy to grow into an adolescent human. Her next TV appearances all come courtesy of the inexplicably popular My Family (starring Robert Lindsay) before a further hiatus ensued as the process of her mental development continued apace through the British school system.
Since 2010 Sydney’s adult TV career has been picking up pace, with regular TV appearances in shows like Misfits, Doctors (hands down the most common link between any two British actors working today) and something called Me and Mrs Jones where she played the part of ‘Bunny Girl’, a role that somehow manages to sound even more demeaning than her part in Entangled.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Sydney when you consider the tale of Entangled‘s last 10 minutes. Due to complications with Peter Elliott’s strict health and safety regulations regarding his working hours (yeah, THANKS BRUSSELS) the final scenes of the episode had to be hastily rewritten, and the part of Professor Edgington was brought in to close the plot. Cue a hasty casting of Sydney before she’s thrown in a white coat and told to wear her glasses upside down so she could play what is essentially a stupid, blonde, instantly sexualised character who ends up being heartlessly killed for the sake of a punchline. Problems with the character aside, though, Sydney turned in a good, likable performance and she was also gracious and entertaining when she appeared at Dimension Jump, so GOOD ONE SYDNEY.
Isla Ure (Dispensers 23 & 34, Dear Dave)
Before Isla’s voice over based role in Red Dwarf her only previously credited work was in a short film called Passengers playing the wonderfully descriptive role of ‘Girl’. Even though her appearance in Dear Dave would have be her first major TV work, she’d still not quite reached of heights of actually being given a human name, playing as she did Dispensers 23 and 34. Since then she’s been steadily appearing in a range of films and shorts, all in parts with actual names (apart from a brief relapse as ‘Girl in church’ in the short film Fled).
Isla is another actor to have the misfortune of being dumped in a disorganised mess, only this time Dear Dave‘s production woes affected the whole episode and not just the last 10 minutes. Here, though, she is part of a sub plot that actually provides some of the biggest laughs of the episode, and her performances as the Posh Vending Machine and French Vending Machine are entertaining. Her “I’ve never seen the ceiling before!” line is especially good. In the grand tradition of electrical appliance voices she’s a far cry from your Tony Hawkses and your John Lenehans, but she beats the living shit out of Kerry Shale so I’ll mark Isla as a success and I hope she gets the opportunity to return in an episode that isn’t quite so distressingly appalling.
Richard O’Callaghan (Hogey the Roguey, The Beginning)
For a man whose career stretches back to 1965 it’s hard to know where to begin with Richard. A veteran of stage, film and TV, of drama and comedy and the Dave era’s own Fifth Dwarfer. Richard’s many credits include two Carry On films (Loving and Convenience) during a period of his career where was very much the young actor about town. Later he settled more into character roles, including longer stints on 1980’s Born and Bred, a hand-full of Plays for Today, and more recently crime dramas McCallum and Dalziel and Pascoe. Basically, a brief summary of IMDb and stolen knowledge from Tanya Jones only scratches the surface of his long and excellent career.
He’s now appeared in both Back to Earth and X, and before then he even read for the part of Hogey in a read-through during one of the Movie’s ultimately doomed pre-production periods in the early 2000s. The fact that the character’s origins lie in the much fabled Movie probably does a lot for its popularity, but regardless Richard’s is an excellent and funny performance, even if the accent is a tad daft. The fact that a 72 year old man was prepared to wear such a ridiculous, uncomfortable and restrictive costume (he was basically blind for the whole of the recording) is a testament to what a pro this man is, and the result is a character that many fans would love to see return in the future – an honour not bestowed on many.
Richard has also attended two Dimension Jumps (2009 and 2013) and both occasions was damn near the star of the whole thing, sharing highlights and classic luvvy anecdotes from his long career and generally showing a huge enthusiasm for being part of Red Dwarf. The warmth he shows towards the fans matches his popularity and even if we’ve seen the last of the comically antagonistic ‘droid, I would love to see Richard return in the future in any role Doug sees fit to give him.
Gary Cady (Dominator Zlurth, The Beginning)
Gary Cady has been absolutely everywhere in his 30 year TV career, but most notably playing the character Luke Ward (aka Captain Jawline) in Mark of the Rani – possibly the worst post-regeneration story ever (unless you listen to a certain section of fandom in which case it’s probably Deep Breath). Since then he’s dotted around a number of notable comedy and drama (including the obligatory Doctors appearance) right through to 2012 in which he played Dominator Zlurth in Casualty and, of course, Dominic Carter in Red Dwarf X.
Cady was famously a little confused over the comedy nature of the show during the recording for The Beginning, but I think in the hands of a more tonally aware actor the part could easily have been over played. As it happens, there’s a nice seriousness to his performance as Head Simulant Bastard, which is necessary when he’s surrounded by what are basically prat-falling, comedy henchmen. That’s not to say he fails when it comes to the comedy, though, as his “formal letter of apology” scene stands up as some of the funniest Red Dwarf in many years.
As such, Cady is one of the stand-out guest stars of the series (in an episode packed with them) and his performance and screen presence do a great script justice. We won’t see him again considering he got blown to several pieces, but these more Series VI style of simulants were a welcome addition to the series, and long may guest stars of Gary’s caliber continue.
Simon Treves (Lecturer Rimmer, The Beginning)
The Beginning‘s fantastic guest cast just keeps going, with another cast iron love classing up the joint. Kicking off his career he achieved a credit of ‘Farmer’ in a 1975 episode of the woefully shortsightedly titled Play for Today, before the inevitable board treading began, including two stints working with fellow Dwarf guest actor and science enthusiast Brian Cox in Misalliance (1986) and Richard III (1995). Somewhere among about seventeen billion other stage and radio parts, Simon was probably best known to the TV watching masses for his recurring part of Stinker in Jeeves & Wooster.
Considering John Abineri, the original actor to portray Rimmer’s Father, was sadly unable to reprise his role due to mortality based complications, Simon (coincidentally a long time family friend of John’s) was cast as part of the extended family of Rimmers, given a mustache, and placed front and center in one of Arnold Rimmer’s most important character arcs in the show’s history. And he was excellent. Rimmer Snr is one of the most referenced but rarely seen bit-characters in the show, and portraying him here, while revealing some potentially controversial details about Rimmer’s origin, was not going to be an easy task. However, he was every inch the pompous bastard, and lent an important weight to Rimmer’s final, triumphant moments in the episode.
It’s worth pointing out that the inclusion of people like Simon (alongside Richard and Gary) in series X show one part of the troubled production that was mainly spot on – quality casting decisions and interesting guest characters. I’ll forgive any number of Taiwan Tonys in the future if they’re offset with pitch perfect Rimmers and demented droids of various flavours.
Philip Labey (Young Rimmer, The Beginning)
To complete to trifecta of the Rimmer extended cast we have another young actor with a postage stamp of an IMDB page. It’s fair to say Red Dwarf was his first noteworthy role, and since that point he’s partaken in the traditional Equity hazing ritual otherwise known as ‘appearing in Doctors‘ and he’ll soon be appearing in London Wall, alongside fellow Red Dwarf guest actor, and proud owner of a seven year old television, Jon Glover.
With any luck, that will be his career’s big break, because even from the short appearance in The Beginning, Labey’s quality is obvious. Of all the new Rimmers I think he had the hardest job. It’s one thing replacing a distinguished actor in the role of a little seen father, or creating a new portrayal of a brother, but this was a role that required him to portray a young version of one of the most beloved characters in British sit-coms. And he does an exceptional job, even with minimal screen time mainly down to some great facial mimicking of Barrie’s performance.
Back in part 1 I had a shoe horned structure that involved speculating if a particular actor or character could return, but I dropped it because it was mainly pointless and bollocks. But like Simon Gaffney (Polymorph, Timeslides, Dimension Jump) Doug’s fondness for delving into Rimmer’s past through flashbacks could definitely warrant a return to the show for Philip.
Alex Hardy (Chancellor Wednesday, The Beginning)
Alex’s TV credits comprise a number of one off appearances, most notably popular Police-em-ups The Bill and A Touch of Frost and everyone’s favourite show about hilariously sustained injuries, Casualty. His career in general is far more geared towards his directing work, however, with a handful of short films and a number of music videos, including one for 7 Days 7 Nights by The Fratellis, a band I understand are quite popular with the kids and/or people fond of terrible music.
Alex is the last guest star to make it onto the full featured list, unlike his Chancellor colleague Colin Hoult, and I think his two-hander scene with Gary Cady is the reason for that. The ‘hari kari’ scene is notable because it’s one of the very few examples of a full scene that doesn’t involve any of the main cast members, and despite that it’s one of the funniest of the whole series and Alex’s performance is a big part of that, with his broader and more slapstick performance providing to be a great counterpoint to Cady’s slightly straighter performance.
Colin Hoult (Chancellor Thursday, The Beginning)
Nik Williams and Jun Matsuura (Chimp Puppeteers, Entangled)
Emma Campbell-Hones & Nick Barber (TV Characters 1 & 2, Entangled)
Taylor James (Big Simulant Advisor, The Beginning)
Joanne Gale (Wendy, The Beginning)
So with the final six credited actors that appeared more in the periphery, we have completed our run down of Red Dwarf X’s fantastic and large list of guests. I’ve mentioned the quality of the casting multiple times, but it really was one of the main things that kept the series together, so let’s take a moment to appreciate every single one of them, even Kerry Shale.
It’s too early to say whether any of the names talked about here or in part one are likely to be returning, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing who will be enriching the Red Dwarf universe in series XI and XII (although reports from the XI filmings suggest there are more than a few stand out examples already), and I’m especially looking forward to writing another series of You Have Been Watching, which I aim to publish at some point before the heat death of the Universe.