Hanging around on a deep, dark, unloved corner of the internet is an old version of Ganymede & Titan. The reasons for this are long and complex, but essentially amount to laziness: during one of our relaunches many years ago, we didn’t move all of our stuff over to the new version of the site. We thought until we did, the least we could do would be to leave all that stuff online.
We never did get round to moving it, of course, which means you can insert a certain Mickey Mouse operation quote here at your leisure. But clicking around on that old version of the site can be fun, especially for old-time G&T visitors. And one page in particular fascinates me: our links page, last updated in mid-2004. It’s an interesting snapshot of online Red Dwarf fandom at the time; a list of the sites we thought were important back then.
12 years later, how many of them are even still online, let alone important? I thought it’d be fun to go through the list and take a look at the fate of that slice of Dwarf fandom. And dare I say that it might shed a bit of light on the development of the web over the past decade? Tune in at the end to see whether I manage to tie that one up at all convincingly.
So, let’s start with…
Red Dwarf Official Site
Description: “Updated every Friday, and genuinely one of the best official sites about any TV show on the net.”
Status: ONLINE, and UPDATED
Notes: A heartening start, and our description from the time is entirely correct: twelve years later, it’s still one of the best official sites for any TV show. I love, for instance, that an official site would post such a fannish article as this. I think as a fandom we often take the official site too much for granted; we should remember how lucky we are to have a site that updates every week even when the show isn’t in production.
The Red Dwarf Shop UK
Description: “The official Red Dwarf shop. Buy your official merchandise here! Unless you get annoyed with the fact that they keep taking things off the front page without actually saying why, of course. Or you’re annoyed with them not delivering Dwarf DVDs on the date that they promise. And why did they stop selling Brittas DVDs? Basically, use them if you like a company that doesn’t communicate with its customers.”
Status: OFFLINE, though the URL does take you to the official site instead.
Notes: Ah, the site which inspired amazing headlines such as these. That article pretty sums up my experiences with the site – it closing was probably a blessing. I do kinda like the fact that GNP still own the domain and just use it to point to the official site instead though.
Description: “Contains a very big quiz and a short clip from each episode, but don’t expect any proper updates. Essentially, this site is publicity for the DVDs and repeats.”
Status: Technically speaking ONLINE, but in a vastly stripped-down version with broken links, and NO LONGER UPDATED.
Notes: Well, the big quiz has disappeared, and the episode clips don’t work; the page is a shadow of what it was back in 2004. In an alternate universe, where the BBC a) decided it still liked Red Dwarf, and b) hadn’t had an appalling licence fee settlement, there’s a BBC-run Red Dwarf site which is similar to Doctor Who. Ah well.
To be honest, what I find most upsetting here isn’t what’s happened to Dwarf‘s page; of course the BBC isn’t interested in that when it’s not their show any more. What depresses me is the fate of the BBC Comedy site full stop. Not so long ago, that was a proper site, with an interesting blog and everything. Now? It’s merely a portal into comedy shows on iPlayer. It makes me sad. (And I don’t recall any announcement about the existing site or blog being shut down, either.)
BBC America Red Dwarf site
Description: “Nothing ground-breaking, but some interesting bits and pieces here.”
Robert Llewellyn’s Home Page
Description: “A Flash monstrosity. Some lovely, lovely info on everything Rob does, but a bastard to actually read and navigate.”
Status: OFFLINE, slightly bizarrely.
Notes: This is really odd. Robert Llewellyn has always been the cast member with far the greatest presence online, and in its various forms his official site was around for years. Now it seems to have disappeared entirely.
A bit of investigation is required via the Wayback Machine for this one. It seems the last time the site was online was around late 2012; for a while afterwards, it redirected to Robert’s Squarespace-hosted blog, though it no longer does. Incidentally, Robert’s Squarespace blog hasn’t updated since 2015, although he does post now post updates on his Fully Charged blog, even if they’re about Red Dwarf rather than electric cars, which is just strange.
Oh, and llew.co.uk itself? It’s currently suspended, as the registration expired in June 2016. So ends the tale of what, despite some major accessibility issues, used to be an extremely useful site. All very weird; it’s not like I’ve not let domains expire in the past, but the sites on them were projects which were swiftly abandoned, not sites which were updated for years like this.
Description: “…Another Flash monstrosity. Wah. Also due to be updated ‘quarterly’. Sigh. Still, the content that is there is very nice, including a good FAQ and news page.”
Status: ONLINE, and UPDATED. Hooray!
Notes: All credit to Chris: his website is still online, now free of Flash, and still updated every so often. You could ask for little more than that really. Well actually, I’d probably ask not to have ridiculous references to political correctness on the front page, or indeed ask for the front page updates to be in a viewable archive rather than just replaced each time it’s updated, but never mind.
Craig Charles Online
Description: “A total misnomer, as the site is currently offline. Although it wasn’t much cop when it was still around.”
Status: OFFLINE. Up until very recently the domain still worked, but redirected to a Lister fan site, which has an article about, erm, “Red Dwarf bingo”. Scum scum scum scum scum, thpptth. Now it doesn’t work at all, which is actually an improvement.
Notes: Already offline by 2004, still offline now. Craig clearly has yet to crack the potential of the internet. Still never mind – at least in 2003 the site was full of content.
Description: “Norm’s official site. Again, some nice content here.”
Status: ONLINE, but MOVED: the address is now normanlovett.com. Incidentally, the .co.uk address is now the blog of someone who counts Best of Bowie as one of the Top 5 albums of all time.
Notes: The change in URL is slightly odd, although seeing as G&T has had at least four different addresses over the years I won’t go into that too much. There’s really very little on his site at all at the moment – his news page has nearly four years between entries – but hey, at least it exists. I think he should upload every single snotty email he’s sent to Doug Naylor over the years.
Description: “One of the most talented composers of our time. You can download some of his amazing cues from this official site.”
Status: ONLINE, and UPDATED.
Notes: Still online, still updated, still great. Excellent. And looks rather nicer now than it didin 2004, though it does seem the Dwarf music cue downloads have disappeared…
The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club
Description: “You can sign up for the club here, and the site also contains a special members-only section and the latest info about the conventions. Just don’t link direct to BTLi, or there will be serious repercussions. Incidentally, why not try typing BTLi into Google?
Status: ONLINE, and UPDATED
Notes: It seems we’ve hit a run of good ones. Still online, still nicely updated. Even the BTLi forum is still online. (I presume I’m not going to get into trouble with linking to that at this point.)
Unfortunately, we’re about to hit a run of unpleasantness. And worse still, it doesn’t exactly reflect very well on me. OK, let’s get this over with.
Description: “John’s site. Not much there, but it’s a grower. As Tanya alleges.”
Status: ONLINE, but RUBBISH; now just a page linking to my other stuff online.
Notes: Eugh. The saga of ofla.info, best told by just clicking around on the Wayback Machine and slowly shaking your head. As the first domain I ever bought for myself, I always meant it to be a proper personal site, but it never ended up happening. (It took until 2010 and Dirty Feed before I managed that properly.)
The worst thing is that for a while in 2004-05 I did end up running a blog on there, which got deleted in an “Oh, I’ll reupload it at some point with a new design” moment which never happened. I’m not as stupid as that now, but ten years ago I was a bloody idiot, and this is an unpleasant reminder of it.
It’s Ian ‘Ian’ Symes!
Description: “Ian’s blog. Remarkably popular, for such a complete cunt.”
Notes: Ah, that’s both members of the G&T team at the time who had blogs which are no longer online. Bleugh.
Description: “Tanya, the third G&Ter’s site. About Colin’s Sandwich and Open All Hours, with more stuff due soon. Extremely good. Nice tits, too.”
Notes: So, let’s get onto current members of the G&T team… oh look, another site which is no longer online. There was absolutely no reason to take that existing work off the net, and it is entirely ridiculous that we did so, even if the best of it ended up on Noise to Signal.
Incidentally, I like to think the tits comment wouldn’t make it through my filter now. It’s obviously a joke, but I’ve read far too much shit aimed at women online now for that to be funny any more.
Description: “The wonderful Rob Sedgebeer’s site, with some great forums and links to other sites he’s involved with.”
Status: ONLINE, and ACTIVE.
Notes: I say “active” rather than “updated” because Rob doesn’t really update the site any more – the last article was posted in 2013 – but the forums are still going. Frankly, after the above utter nonsense from me, that’s well worthy of recognition.
British National Party
URL: You must be fucking joking if you think I’m going to link to them again.
Description: “Vote Fascist for a third glorious decade of total law enforcement.”
Status: Sadly, ONLINE and UPDATED.
Notes: Yeah. That would have been a funny joke if I’d just removed it after a couple of months. Leaving it there for any longer just makes it look like we ACTUALLY supported the BNP. Ho fucking ho, what a brilliantly hilarious man I was.
Right, let’s run as far away as possible from that debacle, as we move onto:
Active Fan Sites
Notes: Ah yes, the big merger of a load of Red Dwarf fansites into Ganymede & Titan. All very well and good. But bearing in mind I lent the webspace to Austin Ross – and that I still own the ofla.info domain – can anybody tell me exactly why I didn’t just keep his site online, with a point to G&T for further updates? And the answer is: because I used to be an absolute fuckwit. (As opposed to now, where I am merely a fuckwit.)
Description: “A fantastically in-depth site, containing every single piece of music ever heard or even referred to on the show.”
Notes: Aw man. Groovetown used to be one to visit regularly, despite the lack of swearing. Sadly, it died in 2008.
The Red Dwarf Zone
Description: “Recently completely re-launched, and much improved. Fantastic at news.”
Status: OFFLINE – the site is now domain-squatting scum city.
Notes: The Red Dwarf Zone used to regularly beat us to news back in the day, but it stopped updating at the end of 2004, and disappeared entirely in mid-2008. Ah well, at least Dan is still around, and occasionally posts to G&T. We like to keep tabs on you, you know.
Description: “You’re Smegged Mate! Or something.”
Notes: I expect most people have forgotten about this one. Popped up early 2004, did the usual “Relaunch coming soon!” in early 2005, and by late 2005 redirected to a Hex fansite. Oh well.
The White Hole
Description: “Cappsy’s site, spewing time and matter back into the universe. And cum. Very good site, actually.”
Status: OFFLINE, though again, all the articles were folded into G&T during The Big Merger.
Notes: I will endlessly regret that we didn’t do a better job at retaining the archives of all the individual fansites which were folded into G&T. It keeps me awake at night. (I’m not joking.)
Notes: Pretty dead now. You’re all on your MySpaces and your Bebos, no doubt.
Other Fan Sites
Description: “A massive archive of Dwarfy downloadables, including icons, skins and spoof movie posters.”
Notes: Rick Mason’s other site, gone along with Groovetown. Sob! Here’s it is, mid-2004.
Red Dwarf Clearing House
Description: “Although sadly moribund, there are still loads of articles and guides here.”
Hol’s Post Pod Primer
Description: “Never to be updated again, but TJ’s site contains the best Series VIII reviews ever, as well as a nice little archive of Smegazine articles.”
Notes: You might have expected this site to go down during Yahoo!’s cultural vandalism of 2009 when they deleted all of Geocities, but seemingly not – The Wayback Machine’s last archive is from February 2005.
Red Dwarf – The Other Movie
Description: “One group of fans were so bored of waiting for the movie, they decided to make their own!”
Status: To their immense credit, ONLINE. NOT UPDATED, but with this kind of site you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to be.
Notes: The project which inspired the Red Dwarf VII DVD fan films competition, and the kind of thing which frankly you’d have expected to fall offline by now. Excellent work all round, and a million times better than anything I managed with my sites of the same vintage. I’ll even let them off calling our winning fan film “pretty poor”. Just.
Total Red Dwarf
Description: “There is a wealth of features on this site, but sadly, it isn’t updated much.”
Status: ONLINE, but NOT UPDATED.
Notes: Again, much kudos for staying online. No kudos for anything else, though.
And finally, moving away from the fansites, to sites we just used to nick news from:
British Board of Film Classification
Description: “Censorship is bad. But it has one benefit; we get to find out about extras early…”
Status: ONLINE, and, of course, UPDATED.
Notes: Well, they’ve been around since 1912, so it was unlikely they were going anywhere else in a hurry.
The R2 Project
Description: “Good for early rumours and details about the DVDs – but don’t trust everything they say.”
Notes: Seems to have died at some point in 2008, and definitely gone by 2009. This is the kind of thing I find really weird – the site was a huge resource, and endlessly updated, and then it just… disappears. I’ve tried to find out more about this one, but drawn a blank – if anyone knows anything, let us know.
Description: “CHEAP DVDs. GO.”
Notes: So many of us bought ultra-cheap DVDs from Play over the years – although as their Jersey base and tax avoidance became obvious, I got more and more uncomfortable ordering from them. The loophole they exploited was closed in 2012, and that was the start of a long, slow death for the site – changing to a marketplace format, then replaced with Rakuten.co.uk – which is itself closing in August 2016. So we can now all feel uncomfortable ordering from Amazon instead. Oh, speaking of which…
Description: “Got nothing better to do than check for new Red Dwarf shite every day? We haven’t.”
Status: In a SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT, Amazon is both ONLINE and UPDATED. Who knew?
Notes: Though this does remind me is that Amazon was a huge deal 12 years ago… and still is. As we reach the end of this article, it’s perhaps nice to see not all things endlessly change. Well, apart from the fact that Amazon can be shits.
Description: “The place to go for Brittas DVD news.”
Status: ONLINE, and UPDATED.
Notes: Nice to end on a positive note, isn’t it? Look, Brittas is even still available!
OK, so, a little bit of number crunching:
- Listed here is a total of 32 sites.
- Of those 32, 15 sites are still online in some form.
- If we only count sites which are online, where the URL hasn’t been changed, and the site is still updated, it narrows down to 9 sites. And one of those is the fucking BNP.
- Of the sites listed as “active fan sites”, precisely none of them are still online and active.
When I first started this article, I thought there might be a lot of dead links. But the above is even worse than I imagined. Bless the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine for protecting so much of 2004-era Dwarf fandom. So much of this stuff would otherwise be lost. (For further on this topic, I wrote a piece over on Dirty Feed recently on the fragility of the web.)
The most striking fact for me is the total disintegration of every single fansite from the time, aside from the fanclub site. Even the ones that have clung online are no longer updated. There are a few new sites online now, of course, but nearly all Dwarf fan activity has gone onto social media. Which has its own advantages and disadvantages, of course, beyond the scope of this article, but let it be put on record that I find the ever-decreasing role of proper fansites online – for all programmes, not just Dwarf – to be rather a shame.
It’s perhaps also worth noting the rather ignominious end a lot of those sites had. The best of them did a closing-down post, but many just faded out without even a word. I know it’s never meant maliciously, but I do find that to be treating the reader of your site with contempt. (I used to be bloody awful at it – see the ofla.info blog example above – but I’ve got better at it.) It really would be nice if people would just say goodbye.
But hey, back to Red Dwarf. And on a more positive note: despite the absolute carnage above, let’s remember that the official site is still going, TORDFC is still going, and I’m afraid we’re still around causing trouble. That’s actually a far better hit rate than some shows have, even if everyone else has fucked off.
See you in 12 years?