I originally started this article with a standard rant about the mainstream media’s attitude towards geeks. That it’s the playground mentality of bullying people, that why are people unpleasant about people simply because they’re interested in something, and IT’S NOT FAIR MUMMY WAH. All of which is absolutely true. But that wouldn’t actually be an entirely truthful way of starting this article. Because, if I’m absolutely honest with myself, this article stems from a feeling that I had all by myself.
And that feeling was this: I spend ages participating in Red Dwarf fandom. Wouldn’t my time be better spent on something else?
I don’t mean working for charity, or helping elderly people across the road, or anything that might actually improve the world we live in. No, it’s simply that there’s so many shows out there – glorious shows, that deserve celebrating. Why spend so my time in Red Dwarf fandom? Why not spend more of my time watching and writing about other shows?
Indeed, it’s part of – but by no means the entire reason – why I thought about setting up NTS. And it’s also part of (but again not all) the reason why G&T went through its lull over the past year and a half before the relaunch. Red Dwarf has been celebrated endlessly. Why was I wasting my time on it? Why didn’t I go and focus my attentions on, say, a Woof! website – a wonderful show that has had bugger all attention?
More to the point, perhaps – by spending so much time on Red Dwarf, was I frankly losing perspective? Sure, I might know minutiae about the model sequences… but wouldn’t my time be better spent getting a wider overview of, say, British comedy of the 20th century?
The first reason why I’m still here came out loud and clear recently – fuck me, it’s fun. Since the relaunch of this site, it’s just been a huge joy to do – and that’s mainly because of the community that’s built up around the site. Much as I might enjoy writing my 28467th sarcastic news article, it’s ten times more satisfying for someone to comment on it. Meanwhile, Dimension Jump this year was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever had in my life ever ever ever. That’s why I still hang around in the Dwarf fan community. The emotional reason, at least.
But actually, there’s a another reason – a more intellectual one. And I only realised it recently. And it’s simply that: by concentrating on one show, you can sometimes gain more perspective, not less.
Let me explain. By looking at Red Dwarf so closely, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. That’s not to say that I could go out there and put a sitcom together tomorrow morning – believe me, if I thought there was any chance I’d be doing it – but I have learnt a lot about how a television programme is made. This includes both technically, but also about what creative decisions took place, and what effect those decisions had.
The Series VII model shot debacle? An important lesson learnt as to how to schedule your production, and the importance of communication. The deleted scene from the start of Back To Reality? An important lesson about a script’s pacing. The fact that Rupert Bates (or his agent) or Tracy Brabin (or her agent) don’t want their outtakes to be used on the DVDs? An important lesson as to how certain people feel about that kind of stuff. (Yes, I’m being diplomatic.) The problems with Back in the Red? A lesson on how both scheduling and budget can screw up a creative vision. Or on a more opinionated level, perhaps: Doug’s dissatisfaction with much of Series 1? A lesson that the creator’s views on what they’ve produced don’t have to correlate with my own. I could go on. For pages and pages and pages.
This is perhaps even more pronounced with Doctor Who, where fandom has detailed the show to the point where it’s pretty much a microcosm of British television production between 1963 and 1989. And from 2005 onwards, of course. Now, that’s perspective.
Getting down to the nitty gritty gives you things you can take away and apply to anything. Wheras if you simply have a surface-level knowledge of a million and one shows, you’re not actually learning anything fundamental at all. All you’re really doing is saying “I’ve watched a lot of telly”. It’s only through close study of one show that you learn the really important lessons – that you can then take away and apply to other shows. Or, indeed, anything you might want to produce yourself.
So, spending my time entrenched in Dwarf fandom? I’m happy. And yet… there is that nagging doubt. Why is it that Red Dwarf and other SF shows are celebrated so much, and yet so many other things that deserve it are left to struggle? Why is, say, the Blackadder fanbase so small? Why aren’t there ‘Allo ‘Allo conventions?
I’ll cover that in my next article.