I honestly can’t remember the last time that we, as a community, were actively excited about an official merchandise release. There’s obviously been the DVDs and whatnot, and the odd poster or phone skin along the way, but we’re talking the best part of a decade since those old t-shirts were reissued, and more than that for the likes of the Starbug playset and Mr Flibble puppet. It can’t have escaped your attention that all this is about to change, and TOS has all the details.
First of all, it’s amazing that this was kept quiet all this time – we only got our first hint that merchandise was coming on Tuesday, and now we’re less than a week away from a dedicated online store opening, selling a range of brand new stuff that includes t-shirts, hoodies, hats, bags, mugs, posters, badges, postcards and keyrings. Wow, frankly. This isn’t just a token offering to cash in on the new series, this is something that’s had time and effort put into it. I mean, obviously it is designed to cash in on the new series, but that’s fine. Everyone has to earn a living, and all that we as fans can ask for is that the products that are on offer are worth our money.
Obviously, we’d have to wait for a price list, and to actually hold the physical items in our hands, before we can draw too many conclusions on that point, but the signs are looking very good indeed. Just from the bits we’ve seen so far, shut up and take my money. Those designs look great. While I’m not sure I’d ever wear that Kryten top in public, it pleases me enough that I’d like to buy it so that I have the option. The t-shirts are also looking lovely; it’s far from an original idea any more, but you can’t go wrong with a Haynes Manual parody, and this one is particularly well done – in the high-res image, you can see that the background contains the episode titles, which is a lovely touch. The “third technician” hoodie features the titles circling the JMC logo, and it’s this tiny detail that makes it my absolute favourite of the lot.
It’s interesting that these are specifically branded as “Red Dwarf XI” merchandise, with the series number visible on the majority of designs, as well as on the label. A cynic might suspect that these items have been given a deliberately short shelf life so that a new raft of designs can be unveiled this time next year. However, a reasonable response to that cynic would be: “who gives a shit, so long as the standards remain high”. TOS teases us that there will be some designs that relate to specific episodes, and it’s encouraging to think that elements from the forthcoming series have been deemed t-shirt worthy, in the same way “twat it”, Mr Flibble and Ace Rimmer were.
But the one thing that’s even more surprising than a new raft of official merchandise is the prospect of an official tie-in game. Again – no mention of this whatsoever prior to this week, and now it’s coming out in less than a fortnight. This does set off some alarm bells from those that have been stung by rushed, lazy tie-in apps in the past, but those fears are easily quashed by a glimpse of those screenshots. This looks way better than your average mobile game, and it may well contain the first ever decent looking CGI Starbug.
Not many hints as to the gameplay currently, other than that you’re “on a quest to explore as far into deep space as possible”. But again, it’s specifically titled “Red Dwarf XI“, not just “Red Dwarf: The Game“. The app will update as the series progresses, and Doug himself has written the script. This raises all manner of interesting questions about canon – are the events of this game part of the events of the series? Are we to consider it as important to the storyline as the episodes themselves? Or is that just a bit of a marketing guff that I’m reading too much into?
One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.