WARNING! This article – including the links, pictures and comments within – contain massive, epoch-making, slightly unbelievable spoilers for Back To Earth. You have been warned.
But, you know what? I actually rather like it.
Alright. Deep breath. First off, there’s a point about this that’s worth considering. A while ago, when people were complaining about the lack of production news, I made the point that Doctor Who had spoiled us, because of on-set reports and paparazzi pictures and the like – but that this would never happen with Dwarf, because the papers just aren’t interested. Shows how much I know. The ever-reliable Bobby Llew has already confirmed that this is not an official GNP “leak” – these are photos taken by a pap with a long-lens. Now, admittedly, the tabloid interest is almost certainly more to do with the Coronation Street angle, but even so. This is Red Dwarf STILL in the news, with The Meeja actually making an effort to find stuff out about it. It’s hard not to feel slightly proud.
Okay, so. “Kryten (Robert Llewelyn) and the crew track down ex-boss Lister (Craig Charles) to Weatherfield — where Craig, 44, plays Lloyd.” This is fucking mental. I think some people had predicted something like this, but this is the first time we’ve had confirmation that there’s at least some kind of meta element to the show. I mean, all speculation aside, the cold hard facts are : the show has been filming on the set of Corrie. And Simon Gregson is in it.
Now, before you all start blathering on about Dimensions in Time, let’s get some perspective. Red Dwarf is, first and foremost, a comedy show. It’s never been particularly madcap or zany, and never has it ever been meta or fourth-wall-breaking within its own continuity. On the other hand, from the in-character links of Smeg Ups to Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg, it’s a simple fact that self-referential humour has been a part of the franchise as a whole. With varying degrees of success, admittedly, but this is not out of the blue. And frankly, I’ve found myself wondering just how “traditional-format” Dwarf (whatever the hell that means anyway) could be fresh and relevant after so long. If we’re getting a complete about-face, I don’t really mind as long as it’s funny (but then, I’m a fan of metafiction in general anyway – my favourite comics are by Grant Morrison, my favourite recent novels are by Jasper Fforde). Of course, there’s no way of knowing from one tabloid report (especially one that calls the Dwarfers “alien visitors” – nice one, chaps) exactly what’s going on, and they could have got completely the wrong end of the stick. I’ve got my theories, but I’m not going to share them for now for fear of looking stupid.
And the car itself. This is, of course, going to be controversial. But come on – just look at the thing. It’s brilliant. It’s a wonderful piece of design, and the level of attention to detail – not to mention the sheer bloody lunacy of the thing – bodes incredibly well for the production design of the show as a whole. It could just be an incredibly cheap way of “doing” Starbug on Dave’s budget (like… I don’t know, they get to earth and suddenly the ship transmogrifies into that thing somehow). Or it could just be a simple and very funny single-scene joke (and that’s another thing to remember – this was one day‘s shooting. The Corrie material is clearly only going to make up a very small part of the episode) – again, I’ve got my theories as to how it might fit in in a highly amusing way, but I’ll wait and see if we get any further information first.
Yes, this could be an absolute unmitigated disaster. But on the other hand… it could be really fucking funny. And that is, in the final analysis, what Red Dwarf is all about.
EDIT (11:23am): Manchester Evening News has got a couple of new pics, including, rather excitingly, Craig in costume as Lister. Excellent. And look – Carbug has little legs on the wheels!
They’ve also pointed out the old quote by Craig: “[Back To Earth] sees me playing quite a few characters, some of them I’ve already played on television”. Hear that? That’s the sound of a thousand pennies dropping. What odds on a Captain Butler revival?
EDIT #2 (12:02pm): A bigger version of the Kryten picture has shown up in the print edition of The Mirror:
RIMMER IS A HOLOGRAM, RIMMER IS A HOLOGRAM, RIMMER IS A HOLOGRAM.
EDIT #3 (7:35pm): Here’s a better picture of Rimmer’s costume, courtesy of a) The Daily Star and b) thomasaevans.