With Series IV only days away from dropping onto my doormat (PlayUSA posted it two days ago) I think the time has come to look into Series V in a bit more detail.

At the time of writing we are certain on only a few extras. Of course we will have the usual Cast Commentary and obligatory Easter Egg featuring an animated Rob Doug and Ed talking about Back to Reality, taken from the Six of the Best Interview CD. ‘Back to Reality’ will receive more attention in the form of a Fan Commentary for that episode with Simon Wigg, Clare Thompson, Jason Mercer and Ruth Latchford will be providing the soundtrack. Personally I am looking forward to this particular feature as it will allow the public to have a real perspective on what Red Dwarf means to the fans involved and provide interesting insights into the views of other like minded individuals. However, this has caused rabid debate on the net and it seems like the majority of the DVD buying public either hate the idea or are very weary about it. Only time will tell but I am willing to keep an optimistic and open mind regarding this particular extra.

It goes without saying we will have gargantuan documentary in the same vein as ‘All Change’ and ‘Built to Last’. Now we know this is going to be pant wettingly brilliant and nothing more needs to be said other than to pray to Cloister that we get oodles of bit part cast interviewees, as well as the regular cast and the excellent effects and production team. It would be superb to hear the opinions of the forgotten few who really made their respective episodes special, of which Jane Horrocks leaps instantly to mind.

So surely any other ideas for extras can only be pure conjecture at this point? Well there appears to be one extra that keeps getting mentioned and so, I am willing to stick my neck out and make some assumptions about the likelihood of it being included.

At the last Dimension Jump weekend (and at previous weekends, so I’m told) a behind the scenes video was shown as part of a presentation by special effects supremo, Mike Tucker. The video was a sneak peek at the, sadly now defunct, BBC Visual Effects Department working on several Series V effects such as the Despair Squid, the SSS Esperanto, the Self Loathing beast and various model footage. We even got to see the raw footage of Red Dwarf being destroyed for the episode ‘Demons and Angels’ along with interesting information regarding the shooting techniques for the less technically clued up among us.

The only doubt that has been cast over the inclusion of this video is the many clearance issues surrounding the music played on the workshop radios in the background. So, in a recent email I fired off to BBC DVD Producer Ross McGinley, I enquired further about this extra and perhaps if it would be possible that Mike would be doing a commentary to solve the clearance issues.

“Mike Tucker as ever has been an outstanding contributor and help in all Red Dwarf DVD’s so let’s just say he may very well be attending one of the commentary sessions coming up.”

Now this is interesting. Although Ross stated that nothing he said is stone clad this seems like an immensely promising comment. If Mike was indeed recording a commentary for his video footage then it would certainly fix the problems with music clearance and also allow GNP to present the video very much as it was at DJX, i.e. with Mike Tucker taking us through the footage to give it some relevance.

On the other hand Mike could well be involved in a separate commentary for one of the episodes from the series. In an ideal world we could wish for both of these outcomes but I can’t really envisage GNP using an episode commentary with the special effects team as well as the Fan Commentary, even if it was for different episodes. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

However, this does seem to suggest that the production side of the show certainly seems to be coming into focus when considering future extras for the DVDs. This seems like a positive reaction to the requests from many fans to have more Behind the Scenes features, exploring how some of the effects were created and shot and showing some raw footage of the effects. Let’s hope, as we move into more production intensive series, that we see more and more features in the same vein as the Mike Tucker video.

So, at the moment this is really all we have to go on for Series V. However, Ross’ email to me revealed the intention to include some non Red Dwarf clips in future releases:

“We always explore possible sources of extra material but it is not always possible to clear footage although I am hopeful that some non Dwarf show clips may appear on future releases.”

I know of the following clips that could well be used in the future:

‘How Do They Do That’ Feature
BBC Breakfast Interview
Children in Need Sketch
Patrick Stewart’s links from ‘Red Dwarf Night’

Now it’s obvious that masses of other Red Dwarf related clips exist out there and all of the above features are most likely to appear on Series VII and VIII for chronological relevance. We are very unlikely to see any of the above appear on the Series V disk. Maybe an interview from around the time of Series V can be dug up?

As we all know Series V is well known for overly long scripts which led to large chunks of the episodes being left on the cutting room floor to keep Red Dwarf on schedule. I reckon we will get a good 40 minutes of deletes scenes, if not more and maybe, just maybe we will get the full studio rushes for one of the episodes. Disk space issues makes this unlikely, however.

We’re already pretty confident that the design for the Series V cover will be a CG rendering of the SSS Esperanto with a teal colour. Ross says:

“The sleeves are a fluid process”

Perhaps a reference to the underwater theme of the Series V covers? Yes, I’m a funny man, me.

Of course, Ross was actually referring to the fact that ideas for the covers are ever changing and that he really didn’t want to comment on any ideas they are mulling over for future releases. Fair enough so.

And so, I leave you with a draft statement from Ross McGinley which seems to act as a defence to criticisms levelled at himself regarding a certain lack of extras with some shows released on DVD.

“BBC Worldwide is committed whenever possible to providing customers with bonus material on all our DVD releases.

“For example we are one of the few distributors to include subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on the vast majority of our DVDs and we believe that overall we lead the field in TV-based DVD extras. Doctor Who, The League Of Gentlemen and Red Dwarf are shining examples of this.

“However in some cases it is not possible to provide material above and beyond the original programming. We have to clear the rights to use extra material, out-takes etc and if the rights holders involved aren’t keen for these to be used there is nothing we can do. We try to shoot new material when we can but artists are not always available and the cost can be prohibitive. In addition, TV works very differently from movies and scenes deleted for reasons of timing or preference from programming made 15-20 years ago were rarely kept as no one foresaw the advent of DVD. Finally, although we are committed to providing quality products, as with everything, we have to work within a budget which is influenced by all sorts of factors from sales potential, clearance/ rights issues and artist payments as well as the actual cost of creating the DVD.”

ADDITIONAL (8th Feb 2004):

Well the Fan Commentaries for Series V were recorded on the 3rd February. One of the competition’s winners, Claire Thompson, has posted in The White Hole Forums to fill us in on some details. Over to Claire:

“It was recorded yesterday and needless to say we all had a great day. The only pity was Craig wasn’t there as he was ill, but he’s gonna sign some stuff and send it to us.
Ross, Helen and Andrew were all pleasantly surprised at how well it went. We did it in one take and they said it went far better than they hoped for – it was a big risk, of course.
Even better, the cast were genuinely very enthusiastic about it. They gave us some tips and generally said we knew it far better than they did – Chris hadn’t seen the episode in seven years! They said it would be great to hear what the fans think.
Andrew gave a few clues as to some of the deleted scenes for Back To Reality (I now think of him as Andrew ‘That’ll be on the DVD’ Ellard). I don’t know how much I’m allowed to give away, but basically everything in the script book was filmed – including the part where the crew get pixelised, apparently – and we’ll get to see them.”

So the commentaries seem to have been well received by the production staff, who appear to have had more than few doubts regarding the feature. The commentary is something I will continue to get excited about, I’m very much looking forward to hearing the opinions of like minded people rather than listen to a certain one or two cast members with over inflated egos, saying the word “HAM!” at every opportunity.

The most obvious bit of good news to come from this is that it appears Ellard has a bucket load of Deleted Scenes to throw at us. So all of the scripts we have read in the script books ‘Primordial Soup’ and ‘Son of Soup’ were shot and we WILL see them on the DVD. We had a pretty good idea that this would be the case anyway, but it’s great to hear it confirmed like this. Especially the scene from ‘Back to Reality’ which was meant to be used after the Starbug crash. Thusly:

25. Graphics
LISTER, KRYTEN, RIMMER and the CAT as computer sprites.

LISTER SPRITE: Is it just me, or did everything suddenly become two-dimensional?
CAT SPRITE: What’s happening?
RIMMER SPRITE: Kryten? Any theories?
KRYTEN SPRITE: My psi-scan does not appear to be functioning.

Over their heads, the giant letters ‘GAME OVER’ appear. They all look up.

CAT SPRITE: I have a very bad feeling about this.
RIMMER SPRITE: Oh, my god…
LISTER SPRITE: This can’t be happening.
KRYETN SPRITE: I’m afraid it is, sir.

And we mix from graphics to:

26. Int. Gaming Booth. Day

It’s a lovely thought isn’t it? A completely computer generated version of the cast, which is something we haven’t seen on screen in Red Dwarf apart from exception of ‘Back in the Red’ Part III’s claymation versions of the crew. This scene also features a lovely slow dawning of the ‘truth’ on the crew. I wish, more than anything, that I watched this episode when it first aired as the last episode of the series. Ho-hum.
Apart from that, it’s common knowledge that the episode ‘Holoship’ alone overran by 10 minutes, so if that’s a trend across any of the other episodes we will be in for a rather chunky collection of deleted goodies! Thank you very much for that insight, Claire. *hands over a White Hole cheque book and Mercurian Boomerang Spoon*

So, moving away from deleted scenes, my mind has been mulling over a recollection made by Robert in his book “The Man in the Rubber Mask”. Apparently, after Robert was ‘wrapped’ for Series V Craig got a camera, pointed at Rob’s face and proceeded to pull at Kryten’s nose until the whole mask ripped off at the front. For reasons explained in his book, Rob then started to blub like a girl. Now, considering they had a sodding camera pointed at this event, you would think it should exist out there somewhere! It MUST do and by jingo I want to see it! If i don’t I’ll be very upset and most likely write an article about my pain and suffering regarding it’s omission. Or not.

This WILL be the best of the set, I just know it. The combination of most people’s favourite series coupled with some serious potential in the behind the scenes department means that the sun should well and truly be shining out of whatever passes for a DVD’s arse.

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