In a change to your advertised schedule, this month’s High & Low is an attempt to ebb the increasing tide of ill-informed nonsense currently swamping the internet, masquerading as Red Dwarf discussion. We’re tackling ten of the biggest popular misconceptions about Red Dwarf, and taking the opportunity to thoroughly debunk them once and for all. On the other hand, for the ‘Low’ section, we’ll be celebrating all those supposed “myths” that turned out to actually be true. So settle in and prepare to have your preconceptions challenged and your minds blown…
10. Ainsley Harriott played a GELF
It’s easy to see why so many people fell for this one, and on the surface it’s hard to dispute. It all stems from the popular television chef’s appearance on Red Dwarf Night‘s Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg segment in 1998. Harriott mentions during his introduction that he appeared as a GELF in the Series VI episode Emohawk: Polymorph II, and we see a clip of this supposed cameo. Prior to the broadcast, the “fact” was printed in the Radio Times (w/c 14th February 1998) as publicity for the show, adding further credence to the myth.
But wait a minute – has nobody thought to question this assertion, considering that you can’t even see the actor’s face in the footage? It was all made up as publicity for Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg. The GELF Chief was actually played by the Newcastle-based actor and musician Jimmy Nail. Nail himself distanced himself from the role, as he didn’t wish to be typecast as a genetically engineered life form, allowing pathological liar Ainsley Harriott to bask in the reflected glory. The BBC played their part, withdrawing the original VHS release and editing the closing credits of Emohawk for all subsequent repeats and DVD releases. Those of us who recorded the original broadcast of Series VI off-air are the only ones to know the truth.
9. Red Dwarf was based on Dave Hollins: Space Cadet
Again, this one’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s a case of adding two and two together and coming up with six. It’s no secret that the notoriously work-shy Grant Naylor plundered their radio series Son of Cliché for ideas when putting together their magnum opus, and at first glance it looks like Dave Hollins was the likely inspiration. After all, it concerns a man called Dave stranded alone in deep space, with only a talking computer for company. Change the surname, add a couple of extra characters and you’ve got Red Dwarf, right?
Wrong. The above similarities are merely a coincidence, and it was actually the Freshers series of sketches that Rob and Doug developed into the show we know today. On the radio, Nick (Nick Wilton) and Timmy (Chris Barrie) were two students in their first week at university, coping with exams, lack of money and lack of interest from girls. For the TV, the university was changed to a spaceship, Nick and Timmy were renamed Lister and Rimmer, the lack of interest from girls was changed to the extinction of the human race, the exams were largely confined to the early episodes, and the lack of money was changed into The Cat. Need further proof? Look again at Chris Barrie’s character’s name. The middle three letters are “imm”, just like the second, third and fourth letters in “Rimmer”.
8. David Ross was too busy to play Kryten full time
The guest character of Kryten was a huge success in the Series 2 episode of the same name, and it was no surprise when the ever-derivative writing combo Grant Naylor brought him back full time for Series III. Many were expecting veteran comedy actor David Ross to reprise the role that he’d played so well, but alas this was not to be, as Ross was scheduled to perform in A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic at the same time that Series III was recorded.
Or so we thought for 24 years, until a 2013 interview with WhatCulture, in which Ross revealed that he’d made the whole thing up out of professional courtesy. There was no such play – to date, nobody has been able to find actual evidence that this supposed production took place. In fact, David Ross was completely available to join the Red Dwarf cast – he just simply didn’t want to do it. He hated his experience on Series 2, due to what he perceived of a lack of “legitimacy” within the production. He also demanded to be paid twice as much as existing cast members Chris Barrie and Craig Charles, which penny-pinching comedy duo Grant Naylor naturally baulked at.
7. Nobody claims responsibility for the added skutter in Re-Mastered
In one of the most notorious changes to the Re-Mastered series, a comically woeful-looking skutter is pasted across the vending machine scene in The End, distracting the viewer from the funny dialogue and looking completely out of place. While the Re-Dwarf documentary on The Bodysnatcher Collection cleared up one common myth – it was a real skutter chroma-keyed in, not CGI – it created a mystery of its own: who put it there in the first place? Between them, Doug Naylor, Ed Bye, Chris Veale and Mark Wybourne couldn’t come up with an explanation, as nobody can remember the shoot or the edit taking place.
But the mystery was finally solved just last year, when the popular Geordie actor and musician Jimmy Nail confessed all in an interview with WhatCulture:
I was working on the second series of Crocodile Shoes at the time, and me and a couple of the gadgees had been oot on the toon supping a few Broon Ales, like. We found worselves hanging aroond Shepperton Studios, and we noticed there was an open window to the Red Dwarf offices. So I had this canny idea for a great bit of craic, and I sneak in and grab this like robot arm thing, and I filmed it against this big blue bastard of a screen. Then I found the edit suite and pasted it in, in the worst place I could think of. Then I did a shit in one of the bins and fucked back off oot. Canny craic, like. Canny craic.
6. The opening of Backwards explains what happens between series
As we all know, there were a huge amount of changes when the show returned for its third series in 1989 – new cast members, new sets, and the cliffhanger to Series 2 being unceremoniously dumped. Unsurprisingly, the lazy and miserly Grant Naylor refused to write the inevitably expensive episode necessary to explain these changes, so Backwards opened with a comically fast Star Wars style scroll, which viewers naturally assumed contained the salient information.
But there’s no such information in there. People assume there is, but nobody’s actually checked. After all, the technology required to slow the footage down sufficiently was in its infancy in the late eighties. But, for the first time, Ganymede & Titan can exclusively reveal what the text actually says, thanks to us bothering to freeze-frame the DVD, eleven years after it came out:
RED DWARF III
THE SAGA CONTINUUMS
THE STORY SO FAR…
Three million years in the future, Dave Lister, the last human being alive discovers he is pregnant after a liaison with his female self in a parallel universe. But, frankly, we’ve got no idea how to get out of that one. We’d written ourselves into a bit of a hole at the end of that episode, and it was the only thing we could think of to provide any sort of punchline. We’re sorry, and we promise that we’ll never do a cliffhanger and leave it unresolved ever again.
Shortly afterwards, something happened to Kryten, and he’s Robert Llewellyn now. I can’t believe people are lapping up that fucking Old Vic story about that snobby prick David Ross. We should never have hired him in the first place. “Legit” my arse. Anyway, we got lucky with Robert, saved a few quid.
Meanwhile, Norman Lovett can fuck off as well. He bases his new face on Hilly, a female computer with whom he’d once fallen madly in love.
And now the saga continuums
AND NOW THE SAGA CONTINUUMS…
RED DWARF III
THE SAME GENERATION
– NEARLY –
5. Hattie Hayridge left the show because Holly was hard to write for
And speaking of the new cast for Series III, Hattie Hayridge turned out to be a more than adequate replacement for the departing Norman Lovett, making the character of Holly her own. But by the end of Series V, Kryten had also stepped up a gear, and the mechanoid was taking screen time and plot relevance away from the computer. When Hattie departed from the show ahead of Series VI, we were told that it was an agonising and regrettable decision, but unavoidable, as there simply wasn’t enough for Holly to do.
This is bollocks. For once, the over-rated authors Grant Naylor had plenty of fresh ideas for Holly, but they just didn’t want to work with Hattie any more. Her ego was reportedly out of control throughout Series V; she allegedly punched Hilary Bevan-Jones in the face for failing to provide a hot meal at the end of the recording of Quarantine. She lead a campaign of bullying and intimidation against her co-stars, believing them to be “sub-human wastrels, not fit to lick her boots”, according to WhatCulture. Ahead of Series VI, she demanded her pay to be trebled in order for her to continue – this was the last straw for the Scrooge-like comedy duo Grant Naylor.
4. Bodysnatcher was dropped from Series 1
Ah, Bodysnatcher. The mythical “lost” episode of Series 1 – it was rehearsed before the production was postponed due to a technicians’ strike, dropped from the roster and replaced with Me². Once thought lost forever, it eventually saw the light of day as the centrepiece of the glorious Bodysnatcher Collection box-set. The script was polished, storyboards drawn up, and the whole thing was performed with aplomb by Chris Barrie.
This is all a lie. There was no lost episode. The entire thing was made up by money-grabbing comedy charlatans Grant Naylor, in order to boost sales of the Re-Mastered DVD. Once they’d come up with the backstory, they churned out the script in their typical slap-dash style over the course of a drunken afternoon, then sat back and waited for the cash to roll in. Ironically, the cost of locating every existing copy of Son of Soup and Six of the Best, breaking into people’s houses under the cover of darkness, and replacing all copies with edited versions containing references to this “lost script”, proved to far exceed the profits from the ill-fated boxset.
3. Starbug was a miniature
Bit of a cheat this one – okay, the Visual Effects Team did use a series of miniatures for the vast majority of the required Starbug footage throughout the series. But when it came to creating the crash sequence in Dimension Jump, they were forced to come up with something much more creative. Penny-pinching producers Grant Naylor saw the opportunity to save some money by negating the need to build a miniature sea scape in the effects studio, instead electing to use a real location in nearby Cornwall. Therefore, Peter Wragg and his team built a giant, full-sized Starbug, at 1:1 scale.
The shoot was a huge success, but sadly the prop could never be re-used, after it emerged that Alan “Rocky” Marshall had built the entire thing out of deadly asbestos. For health and safety reasons, the craft was buried in the back-lot of Shepperton Studios, where it remains undisturbed to this day. Some say that on a quiet night, you can still hear the boosters…
2. Craig and Danny are the only actors to appear in every episode
Ah ha, you thought this was going to be a reveal that either Craig or Danny didn’t appear in one of the sixty-one episodes that we all thought they did. But no. That would be silly. You can see their faces and everything. No, there’s no disputing that Craig and Danny are in every episode ever, it’s just that they’re not the only ones. Cheeky northern actor and musician Jimmy Nail can make that claim too – you’ve just got to know where to look.
Some of Nail’s many cameos are obvious – such as Commander Binks in Holoship, Katarina in the Back To Earth trilogy, and “Naughty” Bob Entwistle in Tikka To Ride. But did you know that he was also in attendance at McIntyre’s funeral in The End? Or that he portrayed one of the planets in White Hole? He even donned heavy prosthetics to pass himself off as Rimmer throughout Series III, IV and some of X. But his most famous role is that of “Joseph C” in the 1988 adventure The Happiness Patrol. Classic Jimmy. The full list of Nail’s numerous Red Dwarf appearances can be found on WhatCulture.
1. Robert Llewellyn wears a mask to play Kryten
This is the single most common mistake we see people make about Red Dwarf, and it’s all so easily avoidable. Like all good urban legends, it’s based on reality, but the details are all wrong. David Ross did indeed wear a mask when he played Kryten in Series 2, but from Series III onwards, what you see on screen is Robert Llewellyn’s actual face. Llewellyn was involved in a freak hang-gliding accident as a teenager. Eight people perished, but Robert survived, albeit with a severe facial disfigurement. By sheer coincidence, his abnormalities matched the prosthetics worn by David Ross almost exactly, and the tight-fisted comedy partnership Grant Naylor saw this as a fantastic cost-cutting opportunity. Llewellyn was promptly hired, and the rest is history.
Unfortunately for the super-scrimping twosome, Robert’s unique appearance created the necessity for an expensive, realistic-looking human face mask to be created for Llewellyn’s role as Jim Reaper in The Last Day. The freakish actor subsequently stole the mask after filming had been completed, and continues to wear it for all public appearances to this day. The steady degradation of the once firm and wrinkle-free skin can be put down to the cheap materials used to make it, at the request of unknown individuals within the production.
We hope that little lot has set you right on a few things, and that you’ll think twice before continuing to spread these falsehoods in the future. Let’s end this little fact-finding mission by looking at the other side of the coin – those handful of popular myths about the series that it turns out are true after all…
5. Red Dwarf is something you grow out of
At first glance, it’s reasonable to come to the conclusion that Red Dwarf‘s universal themes of loneliness, class struggle and hope vs despair make it appealing and relevant to viewers of all ages, and that the only people who claim to have “grown out of Red Dwarf” are deluded wankers who hate who they were as a teenager and thus reject all the trappings of that time of their lives. But research has shown that due to vestigial DNA dating back to the time when man lived in trees, the human brain has evolved to shut off all receptors for good comedy at the age of 20. All those who claim to still like the show after this point are missing this essential gene, and can therefore be considered sub-normal freaks, free to be dismissed by sneering broadsheet journalists with stupid white streaks in their stupid hair.
4. Red Dwarf used canned laughter
Canned laughter is, always has been and always will be extensively used in television comedy. Red Dwarf is a rare exception, in that it went to the trouble of using a real studio audience to provide the laughs that would normally be pre-recorded – an unexpected luxury, considering Grant Naylor’s vice-like grip on the show’s purse strings. But that’s only the case in the Shepperton years – back in Manchester, live studio audiences were impossible, due to the overwhelming arrogance of all Mancunians. Sure, Tony Hawks was employed as an “audience warm-up man”, but that’s just old terminology for a now-defunct television role – digital sound recordings do not require the same “warming up” process as analogue tapes. Hawks left the BBC at around the same time as they switched to MiniDiscs, and subsequently retrained as a freelance panel show guest.
3. The special effects in the early series were crap
We’ve been lying to ourselves for years. We’ve concocted these notions that an insanely talented team of dedicated and brilliant visual effects artists, model makers, set designers and camera crews created beautiful works of art that far exceeded a standard that you’d reasonably expect with a sit-com budget and schedule. But, let’s face it – it’s actually a load of shit. The spaceships don’t look real, the sets wobble and there simply aren’t enough twinkling lights in the background. The move to CGI couldn’t have come soon enough.
2. Rob did the comedy, Doug did the sci-fi
Some people say that this is merely a trite over-simplification of two complex creative genuises, who are both capable of excelling in whatever genre they choose to write in, but who sometimes tailor their work for specific audiences or creative goals. Nonsense – it’s all true. You’ve only got to look at the solo output to see which elements each of them brought to the partnership. Take Rob’s sit-com Dark Ages, or his novel Colony – both works of comedic art that contain more laugh-out-loud moments than all of Doug’s stuff put together. And the one constant problem with the Doug Naylor era of Red Dwarf is that it always gets bogged down in heavy sci-fi concepts, such as dinosaurs shitting everywhere, racist vending machines and prison rape. Why does it always have to be so bloody serious?
1. Rimmer and Lister are gay for each other
That scene in Blue wasn’t simply a one-off gag – it was the culmination of a narrative arc that had been hidden in the subtext of every episode from day one. Red Dwarf is the world’s most unconventional love story, with its two star-crossed lovers expressing their deepest feelings via the medium of arguing, bickering, fighting monsters (real subtle, guys), lusting after women, outright hating each other, and generally displaying no signs of romantic affection or repressed homosexuality whatsoever. Some skeptics will claim that there’s no absolutely no evidence of the Lister/Rimmer relationship in any episode of the show, or that they’ve spoken to Doug Naylor about it and that he laughed at the suggestion. But there’s only one real reason for anyone to deny the truth – they’re all deeply, deeply homophobic.
Right, now that that’s settled, High & Low will return later this month, when – as promised – Ian Symes will determine the top ten and bottom five Holly scenes, instead of pissing about doing shit like this instead.
UPDATE: Joke. Barely even deadpan mode.
The bit about Doug dismissing the concept that Lister and Rimmer are gay is true, though.