Red Dwarf XI title sequence analysis

As has been the case since Series III in 1989, the first episode of a new series brings us a new title sequence, which in turn brings with it several tantalising glimpses of future adventures. Some of them are already familiar to us from the various trailers. Others fall into context when you’re armed with frame advance and a list of synopses. The most exciting ones are the ones that could from anywhere, and there’s a fair few of those. By our reckoning, there are 29 individual shots (plus a title card) in the 35-second sequence, all of which are analysed and annotated below.

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Uniquely for a full series in which Red Dwarf features, the eponymous ship does not feature in the opening shot (Series VIII’s opening shot was inside the ship, rather than a shot of it, admittedly). This shot comes from the climax of Twentica, as Lister pilots Starbug away from Harmony’s EMP. And a short while later, we see the shot that comes second in the title sequence:

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Ah, so there’s the small rouge one – it didn’t take long, and it’s quite nice that she shares the spotlight with her sister ship. Despite its brief cameos in X, the new model and permanent cockpit set suggest XI will see a long-awaited return for Starbug as a main setting, for the first time since 1997. The opening episode bears this out, as does its prominence in the title sequence. Meanwhile, as noted above, we’ve seen this particular shot in Twentica, but it’s one of those establishers that could well be repeated throughout the next series or two.

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Next up, a shot of Lister, bazookoid aimed, storming through a gloomy, red-tinted location. We saw similar shots in the trailers – he’s about to be shot at by the monster who’s borrowed from Doctor Who. Not sure yet which episode this is from.

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We saw this shot in the trailer too, but not this one:

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Given that it shows Rimmer alone at his Starbug station, it could well come from the same sequence as the “three life signs” confusion in the main trailer. Perhaps this reaction is caused by the realisation that he drunkenly confessed to only having had sex once, or perhaps he’s realised that the title credits for the four main actors will still be inexplicably controversial, despite this being their third consecutive appearance.

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Next up, a nice long shot of Kryten smugly dancing in his Krysis get-up, while the Cat joins in and Lister looks mildly disgusted. Bearing in mind what usually happens whenever Kryten does something unusually quirky, I confidently predict that this episode will split Red Dwarf fandom firmly into one of those two reactions.

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Next up, a shot that we first saw in the shorter TV trailer, and has now turned up as expected in Twentica. As has…

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…this model shot of Starbug crashing. Seems like there’s a lot of Twentica so far, doesn’t there? The ratio does calm down a little later on.

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This is something new. Lister in a white parka, on a location which looks different to any that we’ve seen before (even if it’s the same actual location in real life, the lighting and costumes are different), firing a gun at…

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…The Cat, in a pink velour tracksuit. The bullets make him explode in a burst of green goo, a process that we’ve captured at the exact midway point. What on Io is going on here, then? I mean, it’s probably not the actual Cat actually dying, but it’s certainly intriguing. He turns up again in this outfit later on in the sequence. Note that this quick shot is the only time in the titles where an actor’s credit is used over footage that doesn’t feature them; it was much more common in Series X.

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Next, there’s a quick shot of Kryten preparing to operate on The Cat, while the others watch on. This is presumably from Give and Take – after Lister’s kidneys have been stolen, necessitating Cat to donate his – and it quickly cuts to…

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…a wide of the same sequence, as Kryten accidentally fires a laser off in the direction of Rimmer and Lister.

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This is followed up by a quick shot of Kryten punching Lister in the face. I think it’s possible to figure out which episode this is from, but only if you’ve read some slightly-too-spoilery press reports, so I’ll leave it for now.

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Then another familiar shot, from both the trailer and Twentica, of Rimmer being kidnapped by The Actor Kevin Eldon.

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Cat and Lister seemingly being shot in the back is also from the trailer…

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…whereas this somewhat suggestive shot of a proud, erect spaceship penetrating the moist ocean first showed up in the trailer-for-the-trailer.

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And Danny is illustrated with this shot of him peering through the hatch of the Lady Be Good Club. That’s the last shot from Twentica, so hopefully this analysis will be a bit more interesting from now on…

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Ooh, that’s more like it. A rubber-gloved Lister wrestling a sopping wet pineapple. This shot has been mentioned a few times over the last couple of days by people who think they’ve figured out what it is, but as they’ve pieced it together using spoilery information, I can’t speculate too much. The truth is possibly out there if you want to dig for it, but at this stage, you’re probably better off waiting, rather than spoiling the surprise for yourself.

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Next, the Cat having a little spinny dance, as he fetches something from a serving hatch in the kitchenette area of the sleeping quarters. Check out their new white goods. There then follows three shots that we’ve seen in trailers, but which can’t be placed into any particular episodes…

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…the last of which concludes the on-screen credits. Next, possibly the best shot of the sequence:

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It’s a quartet of Rimmers! When Howard Goodall tweeted those words nearly a year ago, we joked that it might be an actual barbershop quartet. We didn’t think it actually would be. This is surely from Officer Rimmer, as the synopsis tells us that he uses bio-printing to fill an officers’ club with versions of himself. Note that these printed Rimmers don’t have an H on their heads, which might clear up the confusion over whether or not Rimmer’s wearing an H in the above shot of him being bathed in blue light.

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Next, a shot from the trailer, as Lister, Kryten and Cat go searching for life signs.

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A bit of business with The Cat and Lister peering at each other through glowsticks. They’re not Lanstrom’s viruses again, are they? Not clear which episode this is from, but Cat is wearing the strangely-patterned suit that he’s wearing in the main promo shot.

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Another clip from the trailer, of an exploding bell jar, before the final new shot of the sequence:

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It’s a very angry Cat, in his pink trackie from earlier and very messy hair, firing two handguns. There’s an awful lot of guns in this series, aren’t there? Maybe he’s angry at Lister for making him explode into a green gloopy mess, and he hasn’t had time to get his hair done before seeking bloody vengeance.

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There’s one final location shot, with debris falling around the cast, as seen in the trailer, before the hero shot:

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Starbug fleeing from an exploding space station, providing a visually similar image to the climax of Series X’s title sequence, before dissolving to a stylised starscape as the logo flies onto screen, a la Series III and IV:

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It really is so similar to the title cards from those two series that it has to be deliberate. The logo is a lot sharper and bolder these days, and of course it’s accompanied by the series number, which flickers into life to the sound of static interference. This then (in Twentica at least) dissolves into the first shot of the episode proper, and the temptation is to rewind and watch it all again.

This is undoubtedly the finest title sequence in the Dave era to date, benefiting as it does from a wider range of locations and situations to draw from. Last time round, almost everything was either in the sleeping quarters or a Red Dwarf corridor, but the broader range of locations and more distinctive lighting contained within XI allows for a far more varied title sequence, and as such it feels like an incredible amount is packed in to a short running time.

Another difference from last time is that the majority of the visually impressive ended up coming from one episode, The Beginning. Obviously, that could also turn out to be the case this time, but it doesn’t feel likely – the variations in clothing and settings seem to suggest that the clips are gathered from an even spread of the six episodes.

So that’s the impression that this introduction gives – we’re in for a series of thrills and shocks, where each episode is distinct and equally impressive. Even if that ends up being the wrong impression, bravo to the title sequence for doing its job perfectly.

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32 Responses to Red Dwarf XI title sequence analysis

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  1. Things I Quite Like in this sequence:
    1) The Rimmers’ hair.
    2) The fact that Cat’s firing of those guns is nicely in time with the theme tune.

    More later.

  2. I wonder if there’s any meaning behind the XI flickering into life and being followed by static interference?

  3. Thank you Ali – I have been deeply obsessed with this fizz, but wondering if I’m thinking too much into it. Does it represent a theme in the same way the VIII chalk represents doing bird? I would love to know the thinking behind it.

  4. G&T Admin

    The tight kerning between the W and the A on the logo is still bugging me.

  5. Cat firing his guns in time with the music was my favourite bit.

  6. Could lister wrestling with that pineapple possible point to another polymorph? could explain lister shooting the cat and possibly explain the image of kryten punching lister in the face but just a guess, those situations could be explained in other ways

  7. Oh that is tight. You have to manually kern the W and A when presenting RED DWARF in microgamma but the differing angles in that typeface allow you to get in tight but it widens out at the peak.

    I’ve turned into Fanny Thomas.

  8. I really hope my guess is wrong because it’s gone past ‘amusing’ and onto genuinely pissing me off that I’ve spoilered myself by accident about four times already now through lucky guesses.

    Those title sequence clips are too readable I think.

  9. I do love that each of the titles always tend to start with the ship(s)

  10. Just noticed Robert Llewellyn’s got additional, weird ice-blue contacts in for his Krysis costume. Jesus, that man deserves medals.

  11. The Rimmer quartet is my favourite image of the lot. I’d almost say that second or so of the four Rimmers is my favourite Red Dwarf moment since Out of Time. I am definitely looking forward to Officer Rimmer.

  12. The opening titles did have some intriguing visuals

  13. Surely that shot with Robert’s credit over it is easy to place, due to one of the tv spots showing what Rimmer is firing that bazookoid at? That’s not a spoiler right?

  14. Things I Quite Like in this sequence:

    1) The Rimmers’ hair.

    In BtE and X his hair was way too short and colored jet-black some reason. Now it’s longer and brown, y’know, like Rimmer’s hair always used to be.

  15. Yes, that’s why I like it.

  16. Another clip from the trailer, of an exploding bell jar, before the final new shot of the sequence:

    It can’t possibly be this, but that prop really looks like Lister’s future self from Out Of Time.

    or perhaps he’s realised that the title credits for the four main actors will still be inexplicably controversial

    I try to ignore the title credits for these reasons:

    1. They distract from the imagery
    2. They’re indelicately placed with CC’s name running into footage of The Cat (far worse in BTE and X)
    3. They’re a break with tradition
    4. They suggest that Doug’s still thinking of movies when it was devotion to selling a movie that lead to a decade of zero new Dwarf, the addition of Kochanski as a main character, and the exclusion of a studio audience in VII.

    One can’t have everything though and this is a lovely title sequence with a good range of costumes and locations. The best in the Dave era by a long shot. Still can’t get over the TRUE BEAUTY of the retro logo.

  17. >They suggest that Doug’s still thinking of movies

    I don’t agree with this one. Names in opening titles have been a standard feature of TV shows for ages, now – it’s nothing to do with movies. As we discussed at the time of Back to Earth, they only look unusual because Dwarf used to come from a time when they weren’t.

    Doctor Who started using them in the 2000s, having not done previously. Why shouldn’t Dwarf have?

  18. Doctor Who started using them in the 2000s, having not done previously. Why shouldn’t Dwarf have?

    Well my point about movie thinking is probably wrong. Defer to you on that one. But they’re still a bit naff.

    DW’s credits are fully integrated into the title sequence, the names biffing off down the time tunnel one after another. They’re part of the design, not just plastered over an already-perfect concept. It’s feature creep.

    There’s so much going on in a Red Dwarf title sequence before adding credits: it’s a feast of gorgeous model shots and monsters and explosions and crazy outfits, each appearing for a mere fraction of a second. Doctor Who just has the footage of someone’s endoscopy.

  19. The way the Dwarf titles are placed into the montage is pretty much the same as in the title montages of the majority of US shows. Doesn’t do any harm.

  20. The way the Dwarf titles are placed into the montage is pretty much the same as in the title montages of the majority of US shows. Doesn’t do any harm.

    Absolutely. I’m just nitpicking. The sequence is great and I still can’t get over how gorgeous the logo is. Impossibly grateful for such a good choice.

  21. Honestly I think the cast deserve the being credited in the title sequence, I mean they have been playing these characters foe 28 years now!

  22. I don’t know if I’ve already said this, but there were plenty of comedy shows with them pre-Dwarf, such as Only Fools and nearly every Paul Jackson show. I maintain that Dwarf’s lack of them until 2009 is a holdback from them trying to keep the show’s format a secret (“Danny John Jules as ?” etc) at the beginning. Then they just forgot.

  23. I don’t know if I’ve already said this, but there were plenty of comedy shows with them pre-Dwarf, such as Only Fools and nearly every Paul Jackson show. I maintain that Dwarf’s lack of them until 2009 is a holdback from them trying to keep the show’s format a secret (“Danny John Jules as ?” etc) at the beginning. Then they just forgot.

    Why would you want to keep the format a secret? For starters a lot of comedy shows rely on you being able to jump in at any point and understand what’s going on with little back story. This would have been important in the 90s when the fan base was still growing and important now when there is a potential for new fans to be hooked in at in moment.

    Also, as far back as Future Echos up to Queeg, they had the Holy introductions explaining the concept of the show right at the start of the show. It’s missing from the start of The End because the episode is exposition and scene setting in and of itself, and Parallel Universe … well, god only knows what had happened the night before that intro was written lol

  24. Why would you want to keep the format a secret? For starters a lot of comedy shows rely on you being able to jump in at any point and understand what’s going on with little back story.

    Watch “The End” again. Watch broadcast ads for Red Dwarf prior to the broadcast of “The End”. The impression is that the show was being positioned as “the crew of a mining ship in space”, and the idea of Lister being the last human on board a largely empty ship with a hologram and an evolved cat is saved as a sort-of Shyamalanian twist.

  25. I always do that when I’m introducing the show to someone. I say, “It’s a sci-fi sitcom about these guys on a mining ship in the future.” I always love to see how surprised they are during the “Everybody’s dead, Dave” scene.

  26. Why would you want to keep the format a secret? For starters a lot of comedy shows rely on you being able to jump in at any point and understand what’s going on with little back story.

    Watch “The End” again. Watch broadcast ads for Red Dwarf prior to the broadcast of “The End”. The impression is that the show was being positioned as “the crew of a mining ship in space”, and the idea of Lister being the last human on board a largely empty ship with a hologram and an evolved cat is saved as a sort-of Shyamalanian twist.

    That’s one episode, the first episode, and I did address that with “the episode is exposition and scene setting in and of itself” … from that point on there is no need to keep it a secret, and they didn’t. I just find it odd that you’d claim cast credits at the start of the episode were left off to keep the format secret, when after episode one, it’s no secret at all.

    It’s more likely that it’s because the tone of the intro those first two series wouldn’t have suited having credits placed over them, then come the re-vamp in series 3 they carried on without them.

  27. That’s one episode, the first episode, and I did address that with “the episode is exposition and scene setting in and of itself” … from that point on there is no need to keep it a secret, and they didn’t. I just find it odd that you’d claim cast credits at the start of the episode were left off to keep the format secret, when after episode one, it’s no secret at all.

    I mean, I didn’t actually make that claim. Darrell did. And he makes a good point! Thing is, once you’ve made your opening titles it actually costs more money to make them again. Famously, Joss Whedon wanted the opening titles for the first episode of Buffy to include Eric Balfour as Jesse, but they couldn’t afford to do a second set of titles.

    So, working on the assumption that secrecy is the reason they didn’t change the titles (and, hey, it probably isn’t, but let’s go with it) they make one set for “The End”, and then they don’t change ’em for the next ten episodes.

  28. Seeing the Kyrten dancing clip for the first time I immediately thought “Oh god, it’s gonna be the ‘wacky Kryten’ debate from that Back to Earth teaser all over again”. I’m genuinely surprised I was wrong.

    …wow, BtE really was a very long time ago now.

  29. So they’re using the first version of the end theme WITHOUT the explosion on the end for the first time since the end of Series 2! Also that’s in mono.

    Why?

  30. So they’re using the first version of the end theme WITHOUT the explosion on the end for the first time since the end of Series 2! Also that’s in mono.

    Why?

    …because the version with the explosion is too long and otherwise has to be faded out like in Series X. I guess.

  31. Seeing the Kyrten dancing clip for the first time I immediately thought “Oh god, it’s gonna be the ‘wacky Kryten’ debate from that Back to Earth teaser all over again”. I’m genuinely surprised I was wrong.

    …wow, BtE really was a very long time ago now.

    It doesn’t seem like it hey, then you realise it’s two years longer than the entire original run of the show.

  32. I love that practically every clip is a different color from the last. This might be the most visually dynamic opening montage of the entire show.

    Also I found “Glow Sticks” as the hint in one of the set reports looking at them again, but I forget which.

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