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 filmed in front of an audience for the tenth time in fourteen weeks. To celebrate this occasion we have gathered what seems to be around half of that audience to give us their thoughts and feelings on what was filmed. Strap in everyone, because as part of THE WORLD’S GIANTEST SET REPORT we have detailed thoughts from the wonderful Stephen R. Fletcher, Alisdair Green, Dan Pendleton, Pete Martin, Jezz Harrison and Mel Stanley.
“I wouldn’t call it one of the stand-out episodes, but it really is fun”
In what will most likely be the only time in my life, I saw an episode of Red Dwarf being recorded in front of my eyes. It didn’t feel real on the way there, it didn’t feel real while I was there but felt slightly more really just a few hours after the recording when I began my attempt at writing a set report.
Since becoming an obsessive fan at the age of 10, watching every episode and devouring Smeg Ups and as much behind the scenes info as I could, it had been a dream of mine to go to a recording. It felt like a fantastic way to end the week that started with the 28th Anniversary.
As my brother and I walked in our selected queue to the studio, we were suddenly greeted by the image of a couple of vehicles branded with the JMC logo just outside the entrance, as well as some disused set walls (one of which had the distinctive Series X red) and a JMC prop sadly abandoned just outside the entrance. Some more JMC branded machines were stashed to the side of the audience seating as we went in. I won’t go into too much detail as I might veer into spoiler territory but I will say that I assumed it was the production crew going all out for some sort of familiar decoration for the fans – like with the various music cues from series’ past playing as the audience took their seats. When we saw scenes on VT later, I realised that probably wasn’t the reason they were left there.
A large, black curtain covered the sets from view and several VT screnes with a beautiful 3D Red Dwarf XII logo were spinning on display. Ray Peacock, the warm-up, soon arrived and did a great job throughout keeping us laughing between takes and keeping the energy up. Doug made a short but sweet appearance to remind us all to not spoil anything. After the cast were introduced and just before filming started, Ray explained the reason behind covering the sets from view was to surprise the audience and stated that there had been some truly exceptional work done by the crew.
As soon as the curtain opened, I could see he wasn’t kidding! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a proper look, being all the way up in the back row (sod’s law) but what I saw was some incredible work! From where I was sat, the science room was the only set I could see in it’s full glory and boy, did it look good. It looked even better on screen, especially the lighting on the set. I didn’t get to see the new Starbug set as Starbug didn’t appear in the episode at all. The story took place entirely on Red Dwarf.
I got my first look at the Red Dwarf XI/XII costumes and looks for the characters and I have to say I have very mixed feelings about them, especially Kryten. I was really taken aback when I first saw him pop out from behind the curtain for his introduction. I had read some criticism about the costume before but I wasn’t expecting it to look ‘off’ quite like that. And, to me, it wasn’t just the costume that was off, but the mask too. Neither felt right. Jez did tell me later though that Kryten’s look has actually changed from episode to episode in XI & XII. And it may also be a case of it looking better on TV whenever the hell the damn thing is set to air.
Lister, Rimmer and Cat looked more or less the same from X, though there were some noticeable changes with Rimmer and Cat. Cat’s hair, while not particularly “pube-like” as some have said, was noticeably thinner and not as higher as it had been in previous series. Rimmer is still wearing the same costume from X but sporting a different hairstyle. It looked a tad longer and slightly flatter, and it just didn’t feel “Rimmer-y” to me. I don’t mean to sound like a nitpicky twat, but these changes just stuck out to me and did feel like quite a step back from Series X. But again, it could be a case of it looking better on TV when it airs in 2020.
But never mind this negative tot. Performance-wise, the cast were on form and felt very much the same as they did in Series X. The only worry I had was one moment with Kryten that did veer towards Series VIII pantomime-y. To see them work and banter right in front of you was fascinating and a joy. I particularly enjoyed seeing them slip right back into character mere seconds after delivering some funny quip to each other or people off-camera (usually Ray).
I remember the first scene recorded began with just Kryten sat down on-screen, managing to get laughs without saying a word for almost a full minute. Rimmer quickly enters and the scene becomes a two-hander. At first, I felt like it was a fairly weak or slow start to the episode but it ended with a funny punchline and the scene was made all the better by a revelation and even funnier punchline that followed in the next scene.
There were a lot more foul-mouthed Smeg Ups than I was expecting. I lost count of the number of times I heard my favourite characters utter the word “fuck”after flubbing a line. It was something of a childish delight to see, I must admit. I don’t know if they’ll be cut from the Smeg Ups or we’ll get a lot of bleeps.
There were a couple of amusing out-takes from Craig that stand out to me, especially in his first scene of the episode (the second scene they filmed). It was a scene with all four characters in the science room but during this particular moment, there was a lot of dialogue between Lister and Rimmer. The first time Craig flubbed, he sunk his head down to his hands in mock shame and exclaimed “28 years!”. The next flub followed with him bemoaning “I could’ve gone to Robot Wars!”.
In terms of the number of pre-recorded scenes, I would say there were 4 or 5 total. Most of them seemed to be in studio but there was one brief scene with Kryten that I’m not entirely sure if it was on set or location. I did hear there was some location filming done the night before, so that could be it. I could be way off though, as I often am so someone with more knowledge correct me if need be.
This episode is very much a “bottle episode”, barely having any guest cast and just centering on the core four. There were no guest cast members on set during filming but some did appear on VT. It’s very much an ensemble episode, not focusing on one particular character. Rimmer and Kryten do sort of dominate the plot in the second half of the episode, but Lister and Cat are still heavily involved. The episode had the claustrophoic feel of Series I & II, but also reminded me very much of an episode from Series IV. I don’t think I can really say which one without spoiling anything. Though the pacing of the episode is very much in the style of X and did evoke a little bit of Dear Dave – but done right.
As for my non-spoilery opinions on the episde? I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Had I read about the plot before seeing the episode, I honestly would’ve been a little bit dubious about it. At the beginning of the recording, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I may not enjoy the episode that much. Those fears were largely gone two or three scenes later. Especially once I started feeling hints of Series IV. The episode is probably one of the simplest plots they’ve done on Red Dwarf in a while. A lot more comedy and not much sci-fi. That’s not to to sell the episode short. Of course, when is more comedy a bad thing? It also does something that only Red Dwarf can do and for the most part, done well.
The beginning of the episode sort of tricks you into thinking it’s going to be an adventure-comedy episode. But they quickly dispatch that and it becomes a “bottle episode” confined to Red Dwarf with very few guest stars and completely centred around the core four. Again, that’s never a bad thing. Though when it became clear what the actual plot of the episode would be, I was worried. But it worked a lot better than I thought it would and brought plenty of laughs. It also brought something unexpected and once the audience saw what it was, a heartful cheer and applause followed. For me personally, it was wonderful to be there when it happened and be a part of it. Very much high up there with being in the audience at DJ last year when Doug Naylor made the announcement for Series XI and XII.
Overall, I wouldn’t call it one of the stand-out episodes, but it really is fun. And looking back, just thinking about certain moments from the episode, I find myself smirking like an idiot. It’s an episode that was a lot more fun and enjoyable than I expected it to be. It has some great character interaction, and has a couple nice surprises that I’m sure will make any Red Dwarf fan smile. I can also think of one line that brought a big laugh but will also get fans talking.
Stephen R. Fletcher
“There are a lot of genuine belly laughs”
This was an ensemble piece focusing on the main crew upon Red Dwarf with no guest cast. The show started with a series X style scene which was quite slow paced, however there is a great pay off shortly after which makes it worthwhile. The plot then steps up a gear where the crew encounter a problem which reminded me of an episode in series III. I had thoughts on where the show may be headed only for the problem to be unexpectedly resolved and for the show to head in a completely different direction. A new problem for the crew arose which greatly worried me at first, it made me think it was going down the road of one of the less favourable episodes of series X! However this was not the case and my worries were soon eased as a the plot moved on to a situation resulting in the foursome pairing off. What happened next felt a bit strange to be happening on an episode of Red Dwarf, even though I was unsure about this the sheer quality of the gags really did it for me and made it a really enjoyable episode.
In the second half of the show there were many throwbacks to previous episodes and a surprise but very welcome return. There are a lot of genuine belly laughs and the references to the past really didn’t bother me in the slightest, the way they was handled were very relevant to the plot. There was one scene where the dialogue almost completely mirrors that of an episode from series IV which some fans who aren’t a fan of bringing back the past may have a problem with, but this is exactly how this needed to be for it to work, and it was very funny indeed. There was however a part near the end of the episode where myself and other’s who attended felt there may have been a scene missing because the resolution wasn’t shown nor acknowledged by the characters before they move on to the final scene. As for what series does this show feel like I would have to say there were bits that reminded me of lots of previous shows, series III, IV and X in particular.
I’ve never really paid much attention to the lighting before but upon seeing the Science Room for the first time and many of the lighting effects in this episode I really thought it looked stunning. As for the cast they all appear mostly unchanged since XI. However I hate to say it but Kryten’s mask seemed really off, it looked almost lumpy in places and far too round and undefined, someone definitely needs to panel beat his head back in to shape in time for the next show!
There were a number of scenes played in on VT and the action that was shot on the night was all done in view of the audience. Each scene was filmed 2 or 3 times and despite a lot of Smeg Ups the recording was wrapped by around 9:30pm which I believe is the earliest finish so far. The cast all seemed comfortable and full of energy, laughing and joking throughout.
“The story is fun and interesting”
At one point, I was worried that this episode was heading in a similar direction to Dear Dave, but thankfully those worries didn’t last long. The story starts off as one thing but doesn’t take the direction you’d expect and progresses into something completely different. It’s definitely reminiscent of an episode in Series IV, with elements of a Series I and Series VII episode. However, it’s difficult to place this episode within a particular series that it reminds me of because it felt very much like its own thing. It was a bottle episode with minimal guest cast and no reliance on guest sets. All the action took place in the Bunk Room or the Science Room, with VT footage showing further scenes in other parts of the ship that didn’t require too much redressing of the current sets.
From speaking to other audience members after the recording, there seemed to be a mixed reaction to the opening two scenes. Not because they weren’t funny but because they felt quite unnecessary. I can understand this point of view, the opening scenes work to establish a character trait that will come into play later on in the episode, but this trait is definitely not unusual for this character and the episode would work perfectly well without these two scenes. However, this opening was very funny and sparked a huge reaction from the audience so it would be a shame to lose it. I was worried at first that this would be the start of a Series X style B plot, but thankfully that is not the case and the episode has a single story arc.
This episode is an ensemble piece but Rimmer and Kryten are slightly at the forefront. The only guest cast this week were voice-overs but one voice in particular was instantly recognisable and was very pleasing to hear in this episode. All cast were in very high spirits; there were plenty of fantastic smeg ups but the cast were in full form, constantly entertaining the audience and the energy never dropped.
There were a few callbacks to previous episodes and I know this is something that some fans have been worried about – but don’t! They worked really well in this episode and serve to give a bit of continuity between Series XII and previous episodes, whilst also advancing the plot. There was a surprise return of a Red Dwarf element that should please most fans but there is one person in particular from Red Dwarf who might not be too happy about this, but to say more would delve too much into spoiler territory. There is one much-loved joke from a previous episode that was recycled almost word for word, but there is a reason for this and it works within the context of what is happening in the story.
Overall, this is a very solid episode. The story is fun and interesting but, most importantly, it is very, very funny and there were several moments that earned huge reactions from the audience. I cannot compare this to the other episodes in Series XII but if this is the standard then we’re due a very, very strong series and possibly the best run of episodes since Series VI.
Dan ‘Pendo’ Pendleton
“I don’t think this episode will be troubling the Top 40”
A recurring theme of the set reports seems to be the way that fans start to anticipate the stories developing into well-worn territories, only for the show to surprise them and go in a completely different direction. I confess to being utterly guilty of this. After an opening 5 minutes that threatened a revisit to a much loved Series III episode, followed by a scene which was on nodding terms with an episode of Series IV, we then launched into the story proper. And, what do you know?, the plot seemed pretty original to me, so that’s got to be a plus point.
It’s certainly not a complex story, but it all flows pleasingly and even allows the show to do a bit of light-satire, which is hardly its most oft-used branch of humour. If you like your Dwarf with hard sci-fi, or even a monster-of-the-week, this one probably won’t win you over. But I appreciated it for being consistently amusing, and never played particularly broad. I don’t think there’s any major woofers here, but neither are there moments of face-palming cringe.
There was a big cheer when Ray Peacock (in fine form, as ever) mentioned that Red Dwarf recently celebrated its 28th birthday and perhaps it’s fitting that this episode featured a fairly major tribute to a well-loved scene from its past. I’d normally begrudge the show reusing dialogue, but completely due to the presence of a particular prop and a guest-star, I’m giving them a free pass on this.
The other episode I’ve seen recorded of this block of 12 was the 4th one of XI, which was a little odd as this episode grabbed a small chunk of that one’s script and recycled it. I can only assume that it’s been cut from the earlier episode due to timing reasons. It’s a nice bit of interplay between three of the characters which harkens back to the early years, so it’s not hard to see why Doug couldn’t face binning it.
While I don’t think this episode will be troubling the Top 40 episodes of Red Dwarf next time a poll comes around, I think it will be safely away from the bottom of the pile too. It remains to be seen how the rest of the series lines up, but if this episode, with its very small cast and simple story, is going to be filed as “filler”, then it’s not a bad statement for the series.
“The timing and pace built nicely across the episode”
There’s only one way to describe this episode, besides the oft-cited and completely appropriate words of ‘fantastic’ ‘hilarious’ and ‘strawberry jam’ (may not be accurate) and that’s as an ‘episode of episodes’. To my eyes there were more references, callbacks and hails to previous episodes of ‘Dwarf than I’ve ever noticed before. And before you start to worry that that’s because of taking shortcuts or lack of ideas, let me reassure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Last night’s episode was (that I’m aware of) the least science-fiction heavy of the current run, but by Darwin’s beard was it a funny fucker. The opening scene was tremendous, starting out with a very curious and non-apparent behavioral pattern from one of the cast which, once revealed, was definitely a guffaw moment. If that scene remains unchanged or at least is the opener at broadcast, then no-one will worry about the strength of the episode going forward.
It seemed to start a little slow but it quickly became apparent that this was intentional and the timing and pace built nicely across the rest of the episode. In fact, overhearing the crew’s earpieces occasionally made it clear that pace and timing were paramount to those in the gallery, with a number of scenes having extra takes to tighten up the dialogue or return (or delete) an errant word or two to the script. This was not an episode where ad-libbing was given room!
The first fluff went to CB (during this scene) and the second to Bobby Llew, with the next several fluffs belonging to Chris and I have to say that from that point forward, every one did nothing but increase the enjoyment and energy coming from the audience (who were a proper grand audience this week, well-behaved, energetic with not a single piss-break among them – plus it’s always nice to see home-made H’s and Flibbles in quantity, well done to those people that put some effort in!)
The next hour or three shot past quicker than a nun’s first curry, leading to – as far as I know – the earliest finishing time of this current production run. But that carries no (negative) bearing on the quality of the show; it’s well-paced, packed with humour, and has a decent spread of guest cast – enough to say it’s not just the “boys from the dwarf”, but just few enough to say that it is… Incidentally, when people realise who the ‘leading’ guest star is, I reckon there’ll be a few wet sheets. It’s a character whose presence could have easily been a shoe-in or just a self-referential gag, yet turned out to be perfect in every way: perfect for the plot, a perfect callback and/or revival and, not least, perfectly humoured.
The third scene had a spectacular Kryten gag that is *almost* obvious that it’s coming and yet is executed beautifully to great comic effect – in fact, the same thing could be said for a few of the gags in this episode; you almost expect a certain resolution to the joke and then have those expectations circumvented in the most pleasing manner.
This is an episode of ‘Dwarf that’s not afraid to parody itself, and not in a cheesy way. Every plot-point or guest performance that was harked to was completely justified and intrinsic – no space for self-gratification here! The social commentary (of which this episode has plenty) was perfectly balanced – neither preachy nor uninspiring.
The sixth scene had 5 different re-shoots and taxed Craig’s acting ability to the max. Actually, dropping all sarcasm for a moment – seeing an actor repeat the same action half a dozen times and manage to make it funnier with each repetition was genuinely impressive, that moment will clearly be a second or two in the episode, but the live experience gave me several minutes of out-loud laughter.
There’s a nice little montage moment about a dozen scenes in that was (even in the context of the episode) *completely* unexpected, a genuine never-before-seen moment for ‘Dwarf and yet worked astonishingly well. It’s yet another example of something in this episode (and series) that could have been done really badly and yet wasn’t. Either somebody landed on a lucky foot, or a lot of care and thought went into that montage moment.
The bunk room is VERY different from series XI, I wasn’t expecting that! Is it just a result of new graphics and design bods in the production crew? Probably. Does it work? Definitely. In fact, I think I might have been a little disappointed if there weren’t changes between series – it made it feel more like the ‘Dwarf we know and love, with the allusion that the boys like to move around from quarters to quarters within the ship (or whatever logic you choose to apply to the changes between series). Generally, there are / were a lot of tiny revisions and tweaks that I noticed, subtle stuff, but 98% worthwhile! New set decorations and motion graphics were pleasing to see and I *think* should survive me taking off my rose-tinted specs – only broadcast will tell!
Kryten seemed to me to have more revisions to his suit, and the mask looked different again to XI. I know that something iconic and loved and instantly recognisable is always going to attract more criticism when it’s changed – can you Imagine how much Doctor Who fans would shit if the TARDIS was painted orange? – but I think these changes are certainly for the better! I’m not sure if it was the lighting, or make-up or what, but the mask looked more… ‘dinged’ – not distressed, but less smooth somehow – which is almost bizarre to say, as it’s the smoothest (least angular) it’s ever been. I don’t know if it’s an artifact of new technologies in the moulding process or new materials or what but the edges and ridges of Kryten seem a little less sharp, and the flat panels (like the forehead) seem much… rounder. But after sleeping on it all night – I kinda prefer it! I mean; over the years (in the canon universe) how many times has Kryten panel beat his head back into shape? Or even replaced the damned thing? This time I think the changes are for the better… I hope I don’t regret saying that later.
“There was a very special surprise last night”
Candlelight. Beer milkshakes. Zero G football. Last night was one for the proverbial books – at least it was in my case. As a long-time fan but first-time live audience member of Red Dwarf, I am still buzzing from (and eternally grateful for) the experience. The first time that I ever visited England was for a Dimension Jump, and I thought that nothing could top that. I was wrong. Seeing the cast in costume and in character was powerful and surreal. From the first line to the final bow, I was awestruck. The set was spectacular and its unveiling is something that I will never, ever forget. The energy from the cast was almost palpable. They were as funny (if not even more so) during their smeg-ups and between scenes as they were during.
Bobby Llew danced for the audience. Craig Charles walked right past me to go smoke a fag. My cheeks hurt from smiling and my hands ached from clapping. But enough about me, you came here to find out about the episode. Hence my struggle – how do I inform the reader without pissing off our beloved Doug Naylor?
Here’s what I can tell you: There were callbacks to previous series that may make you squee. Cat’s outfit was nothing short of impressive – you knew that, of course; however, you may not know about his newest accessory. Rimmer’s nostrils were extra flare-y…probably because he was up to something. As you are probably aware by now, there was a very special surprise last night. And from what I understand, surprises are nothing new to series twelve. There was also an unlikely pairing out of our four heroes, for reasons that will become clear in time. Oh, and only Lister can make standing up funny.
TINY TEASER: Doncaster
APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 11 (Total so far: 59.5-60.5)
APPROXIMATE SMEG COUNT: 5-6 (Total so far: 8-10)
THANK YOU KIND SET REPORTEERS. And an extra thanks to Stephen R. Fletcher who, as he was originally designated main reporter for this week before things grew completely out of control, has provided the tiny teaser and updated counts for this week. Why not give him a Tweet and tell him what you think the ‘R’ stands for? Thanks too to Alisdair Green, Dan ‘Pendo’ Pendleton, who also do a Twitters. Pete Martin wanted to a plug a chocolate bar because he’s a silly man, but we’ll thank him anyway. Finally, thank you to Jezz Harrison and Mel Stanley, who wanted to pass on their desire that you join The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club. Fair enough, so.
Are YOU going to any of the remaining two Red Dwarf XII recordings? Particularly episode 5? Would YOU be willing to write a full report, a mini review, or even just answer a few questions? If so, do get in touch.