This article discusses Red Dwarf XI & XII whilst adhering to G&T’s spoiler policy. Please ensure your comments do likewise…
A full episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the first time since 2012. G&T weren’t there, which as you might expect has had a slight impact on our coverage. But fear not, because we had some top secret special agents in the audience, namely Jo Sharples and Shelley Smith, both of The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club. We sent them a few questions, and they were kind enough to jot down their observations and opinions. So allow them to be your guides as we document their experiences of the first studio date of twelve…
First of all, what’s the audience set up like at Pinewood, as opposed to Shepperton?
Jo: Tickets were checked as we drove into the studios. We were directed to the on-site parking by various yellow coated people. There was no queue to get in. The audience holding area was a marquee, which was next to a slightly larger marquee, holding the audience for Still Open All Hours.
Shelley: On entering the marquee, we were given wristbands and a number. There were already a few number of people sat waiting and there was noticeably a lot more men than women. We were then led over to the studio which was only a five minute-ish walk (a couple of slopes but no steps). The set was covered with black curtains when we arrived, so all we could see was four TV screens featuring a spinning Red Dwarf XI logo. There were a disappointing number of empty seats which is hopefully a one off and won’t continue for future recordings.
Ray Peacock returns as warm-up man, having proved popular during the four of six Series X recordings he covered.
Jo: He had a few gags that I remembered from last time, but mostly he chatted with audience members, talked about the fact that Star Wars was filming next door (and that there were enough of us that we could take the eight security guards and storm the Millennium Falcon), and chatted about what was happening on set.
Shelley: There was no sign of Doug at all, although we were assured he was there somewhere. The cast came to the front of the curtain before filming began, one by one as they were introduced by Ray, and Craig took the mic to say that he had been asked by Doug to remind us to not film or take pictures, and to not post spoilers. He asked us to laugh loudly, particularly at his jokes.
Both Jo and Shelley report that Rimmer’s costume is largely unchanged from Series X, but add that his hair is now all wavy. Please God, let’s not have the wig debate again. Lister also sports a familiar look, with a few alterations that are described as reminiscent of Craig’s own dress sense. There seemed to be some confusion as to the colour of Cat’s suit, but apparently his hair has changed significantly:
Jo: A lot less sleek and cat-like than previously. Quite square on top and the ponytail had a lot of volume.
Shelley: The style is fine but the hair itself is frizzy to the point of being pube-like.
We already know that Kryten’s mask seems to be an improvement, but does it look as good in person as it did in that tweet?
Shelley: The mask is far better than series X, the eye bags have gone, it’s a better shape, and the nose is less angular. With this mask you can actually tell that it’s Robert under there; whether that’s down to the shape of it or if it’s been made with different materials I’m not sure, but definitely a vast improvement.
Jo: I’m not sure about the body. The ridging is different and I think the shoulders have been redesigned too. It looks like they’ve altered the joints for ease of movement. I’ll likely get used to it, but it felt a bit odd.
Shelley: Robert seemed to move about fairly easily in it. I was amused to see a crew member tap him on the shoulder twice to offer him a drink, before giving up and standing directly in front of him – he clearly can’t feel a thing through that costume!
And when the curtains came down, what sets were revealed, and what do they look like? Well, we’ll go easy on the descriptions for now, in the hope that some lovely photos or behind-the-scenes video are released at some point soon. So we’ll paraphrase this bit rather than quoting directly. As expected, the bunkroom is similar but not identical to when we saw it last – smaller and more sparse. The Science Room that Doug mentioned has indeed taken the place of the Drive Room, and for this episode at least contained the medical equipment seen in the photo. And yes, there’s a Starbug cockpit, and it’s squeezed in round the side of the other sets, making it hard for the audience to see it up close. The ubiquitous corridors are similarly tucked away, but well-textured and well-lit – the lighting in general is described as striking and unusual.
But what of the episode itself? Well, just over half the scenes were performed live before the audience, with the rest a combination of pre-recorded studio scenes and location footage.
Jo: The location footage looks like it might have been shot in the same place as one of Richard’s recce photos (the one with all the pipes). The pre-recorded scenes were clearly rough cuts and there seemed to be some gaps where model shots will go. Some of those gaps were filled by scenes that had been ripped from other TV shows – some of them had the old Sci-Fi channel logo in the corner!
Unlike many studio sit-com recordings, each scene of Red Dwarf X was shot several times, gaining extra camera coverage at the cost of the audience’s sanity. We wondered if this was still the case this time round, so we asked our reporters how many takes were done of each scene, on average:
Shelley: 74. Not really, but some scenes evidently felt that way for poor Robert. He made several pleas to just ‘go from that last line’ rather than begin the whole scene again.
Jo: They seemed to do two or three full takes of each scene, but there were some issues with long pieces of dialogue throughout the episode, so it took them a while to get there.
Shelley: The first scene with all 4 of the cast was easily 10+ takes, due to line fluffing or the boom being in shot, but it got far better after that scene. The last scene to be recorded was done several times, as Danny’s lines were all re-done as close ups, and Doug asked him (via headset to the crew) to redo a line as he was listing things in the wrong order, which didn’t make any difference to the joke or the plot.
Earlier, Robert checked whether he was supposed to say ‘alongside’ or ‘next to’ as he had been specifically told before filming which one to say. Craig was also pulled up for saying ‘Kryten’ or ‘Krytes’ too many times in one scene. Doug is clearly being very strict about the script being followed to the letter.
The last scene, like a few other scenes, was filmed in its entirety twice. When the crew announced this there were obvious groans from a few members of the audience. Ray heard these and quite rightly pointed out that we may never be in front of this cast, live recording this show again, so to make the most of it. I felt like giving him a little hug for that but he didn’t seem like a hugger. Filming began around 6 and finished around 10.30.
Jo: It’s an ensemble episode, with no real focus on any one character. If this is the first aired episode, I think it’ll be a great opener – a solid, fun romp with the RD crew. There are some great jokes in there – from memory I’d say four or five genuine belly laughs, and lots of other jokes which raised chuckles dotted throughout. If I had to choose another series to compare it to… the general feel I get from this episode is Series IV.
Shelley: The style of the episode seems to be carrying on from series X, it’s revamped and modern looking but with some very comforting nods to the show’s roots. Some very funny bits from all four of the main cast, and (on VT) one scene which was genuinely quite scary – not common in Red Dwarf. The audience were pretty quiet when it ended!
TINY TEASER: No Longer Insane
APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 23-26
SMEG COUNT: 2
Thanks once again to Jo and Shelley. Are you, or someone you know, going to a Red Dwarf XI or XII audience recording? Would you, or they, be willing to answer a few questions over the weekend afterwards? Please get in touch and help us out!