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 in the month of February for the first time since 1993. Well, you try coming up with relevant milestones for this many episodes in such a short space of time. As usual, there were no G&T representatives at the recording, but this week we strong-armed two “volunteers” into answering our questions, and they did so in such a thorough and entertaining way that we’re going to quote them both in full. Please welcome Jon Botham and TORDFC‘s Joey Newsome, easily the best person named Newsome to belong to that particular organisation.
What’s your opinion on the way the show looks on screen?
JOEY: I’m going to use the main guest set as an example this week as it was quite obvious to me that there was a marked difference to the live set and what was piped through to us. The colours were noticeably military greyer in real life (as it were) than on the screens. I tried to look at both the large projection screens and the three smaller televisions they have at the bottom of the audience and although colours varied, over all everything “popped” better on screen. What is quite interesting about attending a recording is that most scenes/lines/directions are filmed several times from different angles – it is very easy to forget when watching a first take that the action you think you’re missing will be covered in another take. This was no more evident than in this week’s episode, which saw characters in a particular scene walk down a hallway that featured turns – with some dialogue “off camera” at first.
Space (arf!) has always been well used in RD, even some economies can come off as looking truly huge on screen (c.f. last week’s episode). I would say perhaps the more intricate detail of the main guest set this week was lost somewhat to the scene; cameras were very close in, and a large part of the prop inventory in the centre of the set was ultimately ‘chopped off’.
Apart from the very intentional dodgy DIY temporary effects on VT scenes (as other reporters have mentioned, these will be ‘sorted out in the dub’/edit), generally I’m optimistic about the final look and feel. What we saw on screen had that ‘filmic’ look akin to Series X (but not as juddery as VII) but in 2016 it feels the norm now.
JON: We were sat directly in front of the sleeping quarters set, but sadly no scenes were filmed there. Most of the scenes were shot out of sight in Starbug and on guest set/s. The sleeping quarters are largely unchanged from X except for a few minor alterations. I was very impressed with the Starbug set despite an initial worry that it looked a little cramped in the pictures I’ve seen.
It’s clear that a lot more money has been spent on the production in general this series – it feels like a big step up visually. Also with there being more guest/supporting cast and shooting on different sets it feels bigger than most of the episodes in X. Doug seemed to be playing around with more/different camera angles and lighting options, giving the show a livelier look and feel. They also picked up quite a bit, and he seemed to be making sure the performances were tight and to script. One of my criticisms of X was that I felt that some cast members didn’t quite nail their lines so I’m pleased this was done.
Re: the look of the characters, Danny looked great as always, and Craig and Chris looked more or less the same as in X. I’m still not sure about the Kryten mask, though. It’s a slight improvement but still doesn’t look right to me. At least we’ve lost those shoulder hook things!
What are the main cast’s performances like?
JOEY: If I’m being totally honest, I felt the energy overall and generally (cast, crew and audience) was perhaps not as high as I have experienced before at an RD record – to be fair, it was a long evening (running to near enough 11pm) – however once ‘action’ was shouted, not one of them faltered in giving it their all. It is very clear that although RD is essentially a comedy first and foremost, they all take their jobs here very seriously and are engaging as utter professionals (darling). Form wise, I am always going to default to Danny John-Jules (as if he needs more praise); he actually rarely smegs up (perhaps twice this record) and delivery is consistent and sharp.
JON: The cast all seemed to be on good form and looked quite comfortable and confident with their lines. Robert and Chris had a few big chunks of dialogue, and I was impressed how quickly they got through them.
Everyone was clearly knackered by the end, though. At one point towards the end of the final scene I got the impression Danny was struggling a little bit – he leaned over a table for a second and I thought he was going to pass out! It was quite late by this point and he’d been stood in the same position for a long time while the crew sorted out a few technical issues. Danny and Craig didn’t join Robert and Chris at the end of the show to take a bow – we were told they’d already gone to the bar. I couldn’t blame them, I was ready for a drink myself.
Were there any amusing bits of the cast/crew interacting with the audience?
JOEY: To be honest this activity was low in general, as RAY PEACOCK WASN’T THERE. As a huge Ray fan for several years, I can’t deny I wasn’t disappointed to find out he had a prior engagement during this recording. As an experienced warm-up act, Ray has typically excelled in bridging the gap between cast and audience throughout Series X, XI and XII’s first episode, however younger act James Farmer took over the role tonight. James did well to introduce some of the crew, which by the end of the evening ended up like its own reality TV show. What was really nice to see was a smiley Craig shaking the hands of anyone in the audience he could reach during the original introduction of the cast on set. The love was truly felt!
There was one particular scene in Starbug where Danny had an absolute woofer to deliver, and it needed picking up towards the end. It was very much a ‘drop the mic’ moment with four fingers up to the crew who’d asked him to re-take it, with the audience practically rolling in the aisles! Burrrrrn.
No Kenneth moments from Chris this week, although Robert couldn’t be held back on the Les Dawson impersonations as usual!
JON: It was great to see the main cast (and one excellent special guest) interact with the audience. One funny moment involved the main cast winding Robert Llewellyn up about a recent, and somewhat personal medical issue which had us all laughing very hard. Apparently Bobby went to the docs midweek with a mild urinary tract infection, and Craig teased us all about his “leaking cock”.
The guest star told us he/she is a massive RD fan and that appearing in the show has been on his/her bucket list for ages. Also, thanks to James, the warm up guy, we got to meet Calum, an assistant floor manager, who we learnt went to Nando’s 72 times last year. He was the butt of a few jokes throughout the evening.
Roughly what percentage of the episode was pre-recorded, and what percentage was done live?
JOEY: Four and a half scenes were shown were VT (around a third VT in terms of number of scenes, and maybe 50/50 on time). I say a half scene, because of an absolutely seamless job on the final segment, which involved VTs of the same scene being piped in while the live scene was being acted out. Well… I was impressed.
JON: I’d say it was 70% live, 30% pre-record.
Was there a focus on any particular character, or was it an ensemble piece? What kind of story was being told?
JOEY: Definitely an ensemble, which meant everyone got pretty much equal screen time, although some cast in more than one guise. It was a stand-alone tale, with a healthy dose of guest cast – I think to say any more could be too spoilery.
JON: It was an ensemble piece, but there was a particular focus on Rimmer at the beginning and end of the episode. The episode has a sci-fi concept which is ripe for laughs (especially with the well-known guest star who was hilarious and went down really well with the audience).
Did it remind you of a particular series or episode from the past?
JOEY: Yes – hints of Series VI throughout – Legion, Psirens, and Rimmerworld spring to mind. There was one part where I felt my heart sing a little with a lovely VI reference!
JON: One particular scene reminded me of Terrorform, another of Entangled (oh no!), but I felt that the episode as a whole could fit into either Series IV, V or X.
What are your non-spoilery opinions on the episode?
JOEY: I thought the gags were brilliant from the first minute of the first scene; one thing I will say about this new tranche of Red Dwarf is that the jokes are as strong as they ever have been, and I can genuinely lose count at the number of guffaw moments from me just in this episode.
Probably the biggest boon of this episode (yet again, two weeks in a row), was the guest star. Again, this person has been very vocal in the past about their love for RD, and definitely will be known to a general audience as well as anyone who loves British comedy. As it goes, the guest told the audience it has been on their ‘bucket list’ to appear in Red Dwarf and it was almost quite emotional for a moment. Let it be said we have been truly spoiled with the quality of guest cast members during these recordings, well known and not. Linda Glover has done a stellar job with casting and should be applauded.
But I want to be balanced about this – I think it will look a lot better on screen because it suffered from a series of technical faults on the day (mostly sound, including recording the audience’s laughter), as well as 90 per cent of the live scenes being recorded on a guest set behind a wall. Because of this, scenes felt disconnected and it was difficult to hold onto a sweet-flowing storyline. Despite having a personal fondness for the weird and wonderful, the story was somewhat… no… downright bizarre in places, thanks to a trippy plot that largely revolved around surreal situations that our boys find themselves in.
I’m also sad to report that there were a number of audience members who felt it was the time and place to behave appallingly with unnecessary comments and heckles during this week’s warm-up act James Farmer. Rest assured they are not representative of Red Dwarf fandom, as has been said on Twitter over the last 24 hours. We were all there for an incredible opportunity to watch our favourite telly show being recorded live – everyone has put their blood, sweat and tears into the show. If you’re feeling snipey, please don’t ruin it for cast, crew or other audience members and kindly keep the mush closed.
So perhaps based on the previous reports and my own personal experience, this would sit somewhere near the lower middle for me – and only really brought down by some points out of the control of cast and crew. As a side note, I found myself utterly entertained by the adventures of warm-up man James Farmer, cheeky Assistant Floor Manager Callum, and his deadpan but fair boss, Dan. More crew-audience interaction please!
JON: Overall I enjoyed this episode. It was funny (at least 2 belly laughs from me), and all the cast, main and guest stars, got a good share of woofers. I particularly enjoy the “something happens and 4 guys go off in Starbug to investigate” stories so was happy we got that! It’s tough to say, though, as I enjoyed the last episode I went to see recorded, but wasn’t too keen when it aired. The excitement you feel at a recording, surrounded by cast, crew and lots of sci-fi buttons and lights can sometimes mess with your objectivity!
TINY TEASER: Crevice Brush
APPROXIMATE SCENE COUNT: 12-14 (Total so far: 28.5-30.5)
APPROXIMATE SMEG COUNT: 1-2 (Total so far: 2-3)
Huge thanks to Jon Botham, whose Twitter profile is recommended if you like B Movies, death metal and waffle, and to the Fan Club‘s Joey Newsome for betraying her husband. Are YOU going to any Red Dwarf XII recordings? Particularly episode 5? Would YOU be willing to write a full report, a mini review, or even just answer a few questions? If so, do get in touch.