Hello everyone. When we last met, I guided you through a history of three wall sections used in Red Dwarf in 1988. This went down disturbingly well. You fucking weirdos.
With this in mind, let’s continue our in-depth examination of Red Dwarf‘s sets in its first couple of series with one of their most famous oddities: the disappearing and reappearing Captain’s Office. This article was intended to be a more general look at the Drive Room set, but believe it or not I have found enough to say about this single topic to make a full standalone piece. We’re not dumbing down our material. It’s always been this stupid.
As before, we need to take this one in recording order, rather than broadcast order.
With the Bluray release just over a month away, we now have confirmation of exactly what’s packed in to those 19 shiny discs. Firstly, with regards to the episodes themselves, the TOS update is keen to emphasise that the extent of the re-mastering this time around is to upscale the video, clean up any damage and polish up the colour grade, rather than making any significant changes to the overall show. They note that there’s no change “to the feeling of each unique season”, so VII will keep its film look but none of the others will have it added. Bless, they know we’ve been burnt before with re-mastering, so they’re just trying to reassure us.
With Noel Edmonds currently commanding his biggest TV audience since his mid-90s heyday on the superb current series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, now seems an appropriate time to revisit the Saturday night behemoth that was Noel’s House Party. Any Brits aged around 30 and over will need no introduction, but for everyone else: this was a hugely popular live entertainment show, featuring pranks, gunge, celebrity guests, competitions, and a huge amount of involvement by the general public. It’s perhaps most notorious for introducing the world to spoof kids’ TV character Mr Blobby, a hugely divisive figure who was absolutely ubiquitous for a few years, spawning videos, books, a single that reached the coveted Christmas number one spot in 1993, and even an ill-fated theme park.
There’s nothing quite like it on British TV these days, although Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway comes closest. Indeed, fans of that show may recognise a fair number of familiar formats in House Party‘s various regular features. Those segments were, of course, framed with live studio sections, with Noel hosting his various guests in the Great Hall of fictional village Crinkley Bottom. Popular television stars of the time would pop by throughout the show for a scripted comedy chat. For example, Chris Barrie, portraying his most famous character at the time – Gordon Brittas.
You can see a selection of clips here, courtesy of Chris Barrie Fans, but why not treat yourself to a full episode of the show, in which Brittas makes cameos at various points throughout:
Well, in the absence of any Series XIII news, and with no Bluray until the new year, we’re scrabbling for crumbs. We’ll take whatever morsels of intrigue are thrown our way, but when our friend and loyal G&Ter Jonathan “Jonsmad” Young recently got in touch to draw our attention to The Prop Gallery, we didn’t realise how intriguing these particular morsels would turn out to be.
It’s one of those places that sells props, costumes and other film and TV memorabilia, often at somewhat eye-watering prices. In the past, such items have included Red Dwarf scripts, and a quick search reveals that twelve have been sold in total. They’re all long gone now, but the listings remain online. As well as providing details of their condition and provenance – many have come from the personal collection of the late, great Peter Wragg – what we’re really interested in are those tantalising images of sample pages.
As previously established on numerous occasions, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of 1988. It was a very busy time for so many of our favourite comedy talents, and shortly after the conclusion of the second series of Red Dwarf, Spitting Image preceded its forthcoming fifth series with a 45-minute special, broadcast on 29th October 1988, thirty years ago to this very day.
Of course, Rob and Doug had long since departed to create some sci-fi sitcom thing, but Chris Barrie was very much at the forefront of Bumbledown – The Life and Times of Ronald Reagan, marking and undoubtedly celebrating the end of the incumbent President’s second term – the election to find his replacement took place the following week. Let’s transport ourselves back to the halcyon days when nobody thought that the US could ever elect a worse President than this unintelligent, right-wing, lying celebrity.
It’s been eight days since the start of the twentieth Dimension Jump convention, honouring the thirtieth anniversary of Red Dwarf, and to be honest we still haven’t fully recovered. If you’re looking for a comprehensive, chronological and coherent guide to what happened over the weekend, you won’t find that here (Gazpacho Soup’s social media roundup does a good job of that). Instead, we waited until the early hours of Monday morning, when everyone was at their most tired and emotionally involved, and gathered whichever attendees and team members were still around, regardless of their levels of energy or sobriety. It offers a fairly accurate snapshot of the mind of your average Red Dwarf fan having come to the end of such a special weekend.
Our random anecdotes and memories include our reactions to the weekend’s bits and bobs for Dwarf news – ie. the current status of the Blurays and Series XIII, behind the scenes goss about the time Jo accidentally stalked Charles Augins, speculation as to the contents of a “honeymoon video”, adventures in urinals with three former Red Dwarf producers, complaints about a lack of biscuits, and a very rude story about Clare Grogan and a glass of milk.
In some distant parallel universe, Red Dwarf only got one series. It was never released on VHS or DVD. A fan club never appeared. It got a few reviews in some Doctor Who fanzines, and then quietly faded away.
Yes, the great and the good in the world of Dwarf are gathering for the third convention running at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nottingham, for a weekend of wonder, excitement, and… wonder. And as usual, unlike the early days of G&T, a great many of us are either official fan club members or are helping out in an unofficial capacity, so the weekend promises to be “fairly busy” for most of us.
Fear not, however: I’ll be trying to keep the Ganymede & Titan Twitter updated as much as possible over the next few days, for those of you who can’t make it. As usual, there will also be a DwarfCast looking back on the whole event, although it probably won’t be up until some point late next week. So don’t wait up on Sunday night desperate for our hot content, because we’ll all be too busy wishing we were all still in our 20s full of endless energy, rather than hopping over that invisible line where you really feel death and total oblivion staring you full in the face.
Yes, with just hours to spare before this feature loses its increasingly shaky-looking “monthly” status, it’s time for another treat from the televisual archives. We’re going all the way back to very nearly the beginning this time, with an edition of BBC1’s Open Air, a magazine discussion show about television, complete with contributions from viewers at home. This particular edition aired on 23rd February 1988, which you can verify from the reference to, of all things, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics ski-jump later that day.
The more astute of you will have noticed that this edition of Open Air was broadcast the day after Future Echoes first aired, and host Pattie Coldwell is joined by Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Paul Jackson and a semi-functioning skutter to discuss all things Red Dwarf. This hidden gem was recently resurfaced by Red Dwarf fan Chris Toone, and uploaded to YouTube by Chris Barrie Fans:
When I say to random people “Hey, what do you remember about the sets of the first two series of Red Dwarf?”, they back away from me and look for the nearest exit. Before they manage to escape, however, they usually mention the bunkroom. They might stammer out an anecdote about a yellow banana. Really cool people might mention how the Drive Room changes between series, or how the Observation Dome is a perfect combination of live set elements and special effects.
Still, all those stories have been told. I want to dig a little deeper, and I don’t care how boring things get in order to do so. With that in mind, Ganymede & Titan proudly present: a history of three wall sections, used at BBC Manchester in 1987-88.