“Now on Dave, it’s time to sit back and relax this Bank Holiday Monday, as we bring you an afternoon in the company of the finest smegheads out there – with the complete series of Red Dwarf XI.”
– Dave continuity announcement into Twentica, 2nd January 2017
Most people, when greeted with a continuity announcement like that, might think: “Oh, that’s good, I get to half-watch all of Red Dwarf XI this afternoon whilst pretending to get some work done.” Or perhaps: “I hate Red Dwarf, Red Dwarf is shit, I am going to turn over, I need to watch anything other than Red Dwarf because I don’t like Red Dwarf.”
Us? We clap our hands in delight, as we indulge in one of our favourite pastimes: pre-watershed Red Dwarf edit spotting. Although perhaps to our surprise, only two of the six episodes had any alterations whatsoever: Twentica, Officer Rimmer, Krysis and Can of Worms got away cut-free.
Let’s take a look at what was changed…
Samsara is a very rare thing: the only episode of Red Dwarf to be currently rated 15. (The only other 15-rated Red Dwarf was the original VHS release of Marooned, and Smeg Ups/Outs.) With this in mind, perhaps it isn’t surprising there were a couple of trims to a certain SKELLINGTON BLOWJOBS scene.
Which gives me an excellent excuse to publish the following two screengrabs. Both of these shots were missing from the pre-watershed broadcast:
However, how these shots were cut is what’s really interesting here. Instead of just chopping them out, alternate angles are used in the pre-watershed version instead, leaving the dialogue identical.
- The first shot is replaced with a longer version of the shot panning across the skeletons on the floor.
- The second shot isn’t removed entirely. Instead, we just hold on the previous shot of Kryten talking for longer, and only cut to the shot once it’s tilted up and is merely a close-up of a grinning skull.
All of which means: these can’t be after-the-fact edits made by Dave, like most of their pre-watershed stuff – this is a version which was actually delivered by GNP and Baby Cow for pre-watershed broadcast. Creating this version of the episode relied on access to different, alternative footage.
As to how successful it is, the scene still works… just. Unfortunately, it still means one of the strongest visual gags in the series has gone. It’s always the way with pre-watershed edits – usually it’s the strongest material which is affected, as it’s often the more extreme material which is the funniest. (See: what a certain Mr. Cleese has to say on the matter.)
Give & Take
I think you can already guess this one. All four instances of “Captain Bollocks” are bleeped. Meaning we’re in the strange situation where you can walk down the street with one of these on and presumably not cause widespread offence, but you can’t broadcast the word on daytime television.
I reiterate what I say above: pre-watershed edits aren’t neutral. One of the most well-known jokes in the episode is diluted in this version, which is an irritating state of affairs. Personally, I’d argue that conjuring up the word in people’s heads pre-watershed is just as bad as saying it, but neither The Two Ronnies nor Ofcom would agree with me on that one, and that’s not Dave’s fault.
Oh, Ofcom. Speaking of which…
This is really rather unfortunate. In the centre break of every single episode, a merchandise promo was shown, featuring friendly old Kryten telling us:
“Plus, to be in with a chance of winning an exclusive t-shirt signed by the cast, just head to RedDwarfOnDave.co.uk now.”
Exciting! So, I headed over there. Guess what?
I am now going to quote from the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, and point you especially towards rule 2.14:
Broadcast competitions and voting
2.13 Broadcast competitions and voting must be conducted fairly.
2.14 Broadcasters must ensure that viewers and listeners are not materially misled about any broadcast competition or voting.
2.15 Broadcasters must draw up rules for a broadcast competition or vote. These rules must be clear and appropriately made known. In particular, significant conditions that may affect a viewer’s or listener’s decision to participate must be stated at the time an invitation to participate is broadcast.
2.16 Broadcast competition prizes must be described accurately.
I make no judgement as to whether this technically contravenes the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. What I will say is that this is extremely poor form on the part of Dave. No viewer lost any money, true – but it shows a fundamental lack of care over the scheduling of their competitions. If they’re not careful, a similar mistake could seriously come and bite them on the ass one day.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these edits is how few of them there actually are: a total of three, across six episodes. This is in stark comparison to some of the pre-watershed butchering Dave has done in the past. Perhaps Red Dwarf XI is less rude, or at least less sweary than some previous series – certainly, the lack of bastards, twats, and V-signs gives them less to worry about.
Or maybe, just maybe, part of the answer is: this set of edits were done in a far more controlled situation, and to current broadcast standards, rather than being picked away at over the years. Sometimes it felt like the edits made to Dwarf in the past were almost done out of fear – if in doubt, best cut something to avoid any problems.
But if you have the correct people paying proper attention to things like this, you just don’t need to cut so much. The recent Hi-de-Hi! repeats on BBC Two afternoons happily left “bastard” intact for every single occurrence. And these edits feel even more controlled: GNP and Baby Cow were definitely involved, at least at some point in the process. And the more carefully-done the censorship process is… the less you have to cut.
And regardless of how I feel about the episode as a whole, broadcasting the sordid details of Cat’s seduction in Can of Worms pre-watershed with no cuts pleases me immensely.