Here’s a lovely thing. Reader Jon Kearey recently got in touch to tell us about his visit to the BBC Visual Effects workshop in late 1997. Jon was doing on a project on Red Dwarf‘s model and effects work for his Design A-Level, and was invited along to take a look by the late, great Peter Wragg. This would have been at the time when the team were working on models for Re-Mastered, which would turn out to be their last major contribution to Red Dwarf for the best part of twenty years, by which time they’d gone freelance and set up The Model Unit.
On his visit, Jon was fortunate enough to meet Mike Tucker and Alan “Rocky” Marshall, who showed him not only their collection of Red Dwarf models and props from across the years, but also their work-in-progress new builds of Red Dwarf and Blue Midget for Re-Mastered. And he was allowed to take photos. Our deepest gratitude to Jon for sharing those photos with us, so that we could share them with you.
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ED BYE: Rob and Doug and I made the decision that it’d be better to see Norman rather than just hear him, because he’s got a great lugubrious face.
NORMAN LOVETT: Initially the money was low because it was a voiceover, so they can get away with paying you peanuts for that.
ROB GRANT: Norman had been banging on from the start saying “Get my face on-screen, that’s the money…
NORMAN LOVETT: So I kept moaning and whinging about this. I said “Why have I got to do a voiceover in a TV show? Why can’t you see this face, and why can’t this computer called Holly look like this bloke here?” By the time we’d recorded the third episode of the first series, it had been agreed that we would see Holly, and we’d go and reshoot some of the bits for the first and second and third episodes…
The Beginning, Series 1 documentary, The Bodysnatcher Collection
The above story – in endless slight variations – has gone down in Red Dwarf lore. Norm whinged right at the start of Series 1 that Holly should be in-vision, the powers that be eventually agreed, and they went back and did some reshoots to add his FACE to the early episodes. (The real horror arises when you consider that due to the electrician’s strike, where Series 1 was entirely rehearsed but never actually recorded, Norm was probably on his ninth week of moaning about this, rather than the third. Try not to let that shrivel your soul too much.)
However, what hasn’t been done is going back to examine those early episodes in detail, to see exactly how those reshoots worked. And when you do, you spot a few interesting details which haven’t been widely talked about.
Let’s take a look. Doing this takes a certain amount of extrapolation; without access to the proper production paperwork, we have to do a bit of stretching and join some dots along the way. But I think the below makes sense. Obviously, to get any kind of idea of how this worked, we have to take the episodes in production order rather than broadcast order.
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Just a quick one, this, but we felt it certainly warrants more attention than premature nonsense about Series XIII on account of the fact that it actually exists. Dave, readying itself for it’s change to its position in the digital EPG, has once again given Red Dwarf a prominent place in its marketing by getting some familiar lads involved. It’s always lovely seeing The Model Unit and their work getting some attention, and you can’t get much better than this beautiful Starbug model that’s put in decades of work at this point.
It seems a trailer is being shot here rather than it just being wheeled out for a public appearance, so we’re looking forward to what comes out of of Wednesday’s shoot, especially considering the move is happening very soon. Give us a shout when you see it pop-up, will ya?
EDIT: Mike Tucker’s been in touch to point out that despite our wonderful and thorough journalistic standards, we’v e missed the fact that this trail already went out during Taskmaster on Wednesday. Er, whoops.
May 2019. Broadcunting House lies abandoned, a layer of dust coating its various microphones, laptops and indigenous cats. Suddenly, a door opens, a switch is flicked, and a light bulb slowly stutters into life. From the shadows emerge four mysterious, yet sexy, figures. An ancient warning system is triggered, issuing a familiar call to arms. “Awooga”, it cries, “this is a DwarfCast”. And it bloody well is. It’s only the third one since Series XII finished, and the first regular episode commentary that we’ve bothered to release since September 2017. We are back.
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Oh, Robert Llewellyn. You are a one man gun-jumping machine. This time, he’s turned up on the annoyingly-capitalised radio station talkSPORT, primarily to promote the forthcoming Fully Charged live shows. G&T regular Stephen Abootman was listening, and has very helpfully clipped up the part of the conversation that turned to our favourite show. Upon being asked by either Hawksbee or Jacobs whether he was “gonna do some more Red Dwarf“, Robert replied:
We are. We start Series XIII, which I can’t believe will be nearly 32 years since we started, which is quite daunting. So we’re all getting on a bit, but you know, we have such fun doing it. We’ve been working together recently and it is… I think none of us would do it any more if we didn’t get on, ’cause it’s such a difficult show to make. If you make a show that’s science-fiction, where everyone’s got loads of make-up on and props and difficult things, everything goes wrong. Mainly me and my brain not remembering what I’m supposed to say.
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This month’s G&TV is short and sweet. No prolonged, tedious analysis. No choosing something purely so I can rant about something which has been annoying me this week. Just a little something you almost certainly haven’t seen before.
With many thanks to Gary Rodger for the clip, here is Mac McDonald appearing on Tyne Tees kids music programme Razzmatazz in 1981.
As… a human jukebox.
Despite Red Dwarf‘s futuristic off-world setting, it’s always been a show deeply rooted in reality. Rob and Doug drew their inspiration as much from Steptoe and Son and Porridge as Blade Runner and Alien, deriving humour from workplace antics, characters being trapped together and the good old British class system, all things that are far from alien to the viewer at home. As such, it’s always been intrinsically linked to the time and place in which it was made, and the fact that this time and place was up to 31 years ago now makes for some interesting anomalies between the future as predicted in the late 80s and early 90s, and what we now know about how society and technology has developed since then.
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Well, then. We’ve been fairly cynical about the prospect of new Red Dwarf happening any time soon. Everything went very quiet for a very long time, and it seemed like once again, circumstances had somehow conspired to kill off any momentum and put the show back into the past tense again. We refused to get excited a couple of months ago when the cast went for a curry together, given that it’s not too unusual for a group of people who’ve known each other for thirty odd years to meet up for a bite to eat, but Danny John-Jules has tweeted a picture today, and…
Yep, it seems like something is happening. All four cast members present and correct (I’d recognise Robert’s bald patch anywhere), in what looks suspiciously like a production company meeting room, with bits of paper in front of them. Doug’s even there, although he doesn’t look massively thrilled about it. Now, this isn’t necessarily Series XIII. There’s still been no official announcement about that, despite what less reputable sites like Den of Geek or Digital Spy will tell you. It could be something to do with the long-proposed live show. It could be a meeting about future merch or something. It could just be them going for a coffee in the world’s worst-decorated Cafe Nero, and we’re reading too much into it. But finally, things are starting to look a little more positive…
These days, it’s difficult to imagine the sheer unavailability of Series 1 of Red Dwarf. Broadcast in 1988, it was only released on VHS in 1993, and got its first repeat run in 1994. For five years, the series existed merely as fuzzy off-airs, passed around among fans with increasing generation loss. It’d be really odd if anything major linked to Red Dwarf was like that these days, wouldn’t it?
On an entirely unrelated matter, today’s topic is Grant Naylor talent agency sitcom The 10%ers. Which has never had a commercial release or a repeat run. And seeing as it’s 2019 and both are looking increasingly unlikely, we’re going to be a little cheeky. Today is the 25th anniversary of the start of Series 1, after all.
So here’s the pilot, broadcast as part of ITV’s Comedy Playhouse in 1993:
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Back in 2008, when Red Dwarf turned twenty, it was very much a former television programme. The last new series had finished almost a decade earlier, fans had finally accepted that the long-proposed Movie was never going to happen, the regular DVD releases had come, gone and done a lap of honour with The Bodysnatcher Collection, Dimension Jump attendance had fallen off a cliff, and while there were still regular updates from The Official Site and the odd dribble of merch every now and then, the general feeling was that Red Dwarf was a show that should be talked about in the past tense. And that was sort of ok. We’d come to terms with it, although we were all more than a little worried about what the fan community would look like at the next milestone anniversary without any fresh stimulus to keep us going.
But when Red Dwarf hit 25 in 2013 and 30 in 2018, the landscape could barely have been more different, thanks to what happened towards the end of that twentieth anniversary year.
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