UPDATE (20/05/18): New documents come to light!
The recent mumblings regarding a possible imminent announcement of brand new Red Dwarf naturally lead to a discussion about the merits of Series VIII, because this is Ganymede & Titan. In the course of what would go on to be a characteristically tedious debate, an interesting link was brought to light by commenter bloodteller: a contemporary set report on the final studio recording of the series, miraculously still online nearly twenty years after it was first published.
This was a great find, remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it turns out that the internet-enabled fans of the late 1990s had a dangerously casual attitude to spoilers compared to the self-regulating secrecy of today – every single scene described in detail and badly remembered jokes reproduced in full, online months before broadcast. It also throws up some neat little details about the production that would otherwise be lost to the mists of time, such as a message to the fans being signed “big hugs and kisses – the Inquisitor”, the audience being shown a picture of Ed Bye in a dress, and an incident where a make-up artist is caught unaware by a freshly-painted set.
Mainly though, you’re struck by how weird an experience it must have been for the audience that night. The production schedule of Series VIII was protracted and difficult. The very brief story is that Back In The Red was originally recorded as an hour-long special, with its audience recording taking place on 28th September 1998, before the decision was made to split it into not two, but three half-hour parts, to compensate for the planned series finale being dropped. Therefore the last recording date of the series, on Friday 4th December 1998, was dedicated to whatever material was required throughout the story to stretch sixty minutes into ninety.
The contemporary report does a great job of documenting what the audience saw that night, and what’s more, it reminded me that I bought a copy of the camera script at a Dimension Jump auction many years ago.
Between these two sources, we can now paint a definitive picture of exactly which bits of the entire Back In The Red saga were bolted on at a later date, rather than being part of the originally intended story. We can also note any differences between the scenes as scripted and the final edits – it’s pretty much all documented in the deleted scenes on the DVD and/or the Series VIII scriptbook, but we’ll note them anyway, for the record. Deleted sections are listed [like this], and all extracts quoted are as they appear on the page, spelling mistakes and all.
The front page of the script contains a definitive list of credits for the episode, including various runners and assistants who don’t get a credit on-screen. Page two consists of a cast list for the evening; along with the whopping seven regulars from that series, the only guest is Jeillo Edwards, listed simply as “Ground Controller” here, which became “Second Ground Controller” in the episode credits. Then comes the all-important running order, which reveals that a total of fourteen individual scenes were recorded in front of the audience that night.
Additionally, however, there were three scenes pre-recorded earlier that day. These are listed under the header “PRE-RECORDBEFOREWESTARTDRESSRUN“. Firstly, there’s two cutaways of Rimmer in the AR suite, watching the action unfold on the monitors. The third is Captain Hollister’s expository voice-over from towards the end of the episode, heard over what the script describes as a “MUG SHOT FLATAGE – A LA USUSAL SUSPECTS“. With those components in the can, the first action to take place after the audience arrived was:
INT. PRISON QUARTERS
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 1
Yes, the evening started somewhat conventionally with the opening scene of Part Three, even though scenes from earlier episodes are yet to be recorded. This nevertheless makes sense; the skit is fairly standalone, and will have served the same purpose for the audience on the night as the similar scene in Part One did for audiences at home, namely a flash-forward that creates intrigue as to how the characters ended up there. It’s a hefty eight pages long, and contains a few snippets that were cut from the final episode. Firstly, towards the start:
I thought social workers were supposed to be nice?
So did I. I also thought they were supposed to wear cordroy jackets and drive volvos.
But this guy didn’t, I don’t reckon he was fully qualified.] I was so shell shocked, in the end I went to see the Priest, explained what happened.
In the episode itself, the last part of Rimmer’s line is slightly reworded, to:
In the end I was so shell shocked, I went to see the priest and explained everything.
Following the reveal that the priest beat him up too, there’s an extra gag:
You should have seen the nuns.
What, and get garroted by Sister Les and her stupid smegging rosary beads.]
Then, inserted between the discussion about escaping and the bit about Rimmer defending himself:
Look, get some food inside you, supper’s any minute, you’ll feel better then..
Yes, I wonder what appetising morcel is on the menu tonight? Fricasseed elephant dung maybe or rats ears pan fried in garlic?
Doubt it’s rats ears, we had that last night.]
And finally, the aforementioned bit about Rimmer defending himself is expanded upon.
You defended yourself.
Yes, and I don’t need reminding thank you very much. [There’s certain things I excel at but defending myself at a board of enquiry is not one of them.
I don’t think referring to the Captain as your holiness helped, it came over as a bit licky. Especially all the genuflecting.
I led a blameless life until I met you. The worst crime I ever committed was handing in my geography homework late. And now this,] two years in the tank. How did I get into this mess?
Before the next scene was recorded, the audience were shown the first of several video inserts, put together to add some semblance of context to what was happening before them. The first package is described in the script as:
VT INSERT ONE
RESUME PACKAGE TO INCLUDE RIMMER SEARCHING STARBUG
UP TO ‘WORLD LOVES A BASTARD’
The contemporary set report indicates that this consisted of pretty much all the plot-relevant bits of Part One, including the resolution of the Nanarchy cliffhanger, the rat-arsed sequence, the Chen and Selby cameo, the scene in the old bunkroom and – as the script dictates – Rimmer searching Starbug. And as per the recap that opens Part Two of the final edit, the next order of business is:
INT. HOLLISTER’S OFFICE
BACK IN THE RED (2) – Sc. 25a
This is not, per se, a new scene added for the multi-part version of the story, but rather a reshot and extended version of a scene originally recorded for the hour-long iteration. The most notable difference between the two takes is that the original didn’t include the extra long Rimmer salutes, confirming suspicions that they were indeed only there to pad out the running time after all.
There are very few differences between page and screen on this occasion. In the script, Rimmer drops his file on Hollister’s desk straight after mentioning drive plates, rather than handing it over after insulting German tourists, as per the final edit. As scripted, this gives Hollister a lot more time to flick through Rimmer’s work before commenting on it than he gets in the episode. A shot of the file being dropped on the desk makes it into the recap at the start of Part Three, which would appear to be from the original version of the scene.
Incidentally, the script doesn’t include the second incredibly long salute that closes the televised scene, although as this is a camera script – designed for use by the technical crew – it doesn’t necessarily include all of the stage directions.
Another VT sequence follows, the board of enquiry scene from slightly later in Part Two, leading into:
INT. VISITING AREA
BACK IN THE RED (2) – Sc. 28
Again, a scene that was remounted and extended to pad out Part Two, and the last of only two scenes recorded for that episode on this night. It seems that the basic structure of the original story didn’t change too much until Part Three, as the changes made to Part Two merely saw extra dialogue added to existing scenes. The scene in the final episode is virtually identical to the script.
After this scene, the audience were shown a huge collection of pre-recorded scenes, listed in the script as:
VT SEQUENCE THREE
SC.31A – 42 ‘TESTING SHOULD BE WELL UNDER WAY.’
SC.2 – SC.68 THEY ARE RELEASED FROM AR MACHINES
This indicates that the VT skips a big chunk of the episode and starts with Hollister’s plot-relevant line towards the end of the captain’s supper, but the set report describes the earlier scenes of Rimmer shagging half the table and the crew disguising themselves as the Dibbley family, so they must have opted for a longer cut than was originally planned. Either way, the audience got to see roughly the first fifteen minutes of Part Three, taking them up to this, the first full scene to be inserted wholesale into the original story:
INT. SERVICE LIFT
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 69
It’s the scene where the crew persuade Rimmer to join them, and there are quite a few sections of the script that don’t make it to the final episode. First, an extra bit between Rimmer’s sexual magnetism being cured, and Holly embarking on his moon impression.
God, that’s so embarrassing, [I was like a wild animal ready to rip off his clothes and ravish every inch of his body.
(To Lister) That is absolutely the last time I ever take advice from you.]
LISTER BEAMS HOLLY ONTO MONITOR.
What now Hol?
And an extra bit after Kryten’s gag about an interesting hairdresser called Kylie:
[You really expect me to leave Red Dwarf and come with you?
What’s stopping you?
Every fibre of my being.] Why would I want to take off with you lot. What’ve you got to offer?
A substantial portion of the crew making their case is excised, with a few bits of dialogue differing from what was recorded, as seen in the deleted scenes on the Series VIII DVD:
And I’m so gorgeous, there’s a six month waiting list for birds to suddenly appear every time I am near.
Look, there’s nothing for you here.
(To Lister) But what are you offering apart from the opportunity to watch you idle away your evenings tiddlywinking your veruccas into an old pair of boots?
You used to do that?
No, of course not. I always used to miss. Hardly ever got them actually in the boots.
I can’t leave. I’ve got too much going for me here. What about my friends.
What friends? You mean the Polyester brothers – those saddos you play war-games with on Thursdays? When those guys get together they issue dandruff warnings on the news.
Look, now you’ve been resurrected by the nanos you’ve got a second chance, an opportunity to live your life afresh.]
And you know what they say, sir – if you’ve got three good friends you’re a rich man.
Weirdly, the scene on the VIII DVD includes an extra line from Kochanski immediately preceding this bit – “I’ve good some brilliant books on ponies” – but that’s not in the script. What is there, however, is a slightly extended version of Cat’s subsequent line:
Forget it.. He’s not going to change his mind. [We got more chance of persuading a dentist to hang around an X ray machine.]
Curiously, Holly’s line in the final episode, telling Rimmer they’re giving him an opportunity to screw up his life in a new and original way, is given to Lister in the script, continuing on from him saying that the original Rimmer never became an officer. Looking at the episode with this in mind, Norman’s version does suddenly look like an obvious pick-up, though it’s not clear whether Craig also recorded the line, as it’s not present on the DVD.
Finally, the scene continues long past the end of the televised version:
Just pone proviso – no more double dealing. If you’re with us it’s a weasel free zone.
I give you my word.
Does it have to be your word , sir, we’d prefer someone elses?
LISTER TAKES TUBES OFF HIM
And as insurance, I want the viruses.
RIMMER HAND THEM OVER.
So what now?
I think the new Head of Safety has a contribution to make here.
Fire away, sir.
Kryten’s right. They’ll know we’re out of AR and a crack battalion is probably on its way to us down with orders to shoot on sight.
What’s your advice, sir?
My advice is: we should run. Run like the wind.
PRESSES BUTTON. THE DOORS OPEN.
Everyone follow the Head of Safety.
THEY EXIT AT SPEED]
Despite the need to add vital seconds to the running time of this improvised third episode, that’s a substantial number of cuts made to a scene that’s lengthy enough in the final edit, and that takes up a full eleven pages of script.
INT. BLUE MIDGET / INT. GROUND CONTROL
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 71-77
There’s no VT listed between this and the subsequent sequence, which is all the stuff involving the second ground controller. In the finished episode, there’s a few shots of the crew creeping through the landing bay, but there’s no indication in the script and the set report that anything was played in on the night.
This continuous sequence is listed as seven separate items in the running order towards the front of the script, as it counts each cut between the Blue Midget set and the Ground Control set as a new scene, but it was recorded in one go; the script tells us that three of the four cameras were trained on Blue Midget, and the other on the Second Ground Controller, who is described here as “A MATRONLY TYPE WITH GLASSES AND A STRANGE HAT”.
Just a couple of notable differences between what’s in the script, what’s in the episode, and what appears in the deleted scenes. There’s a tiny bit of dialogue from the Ground Controller that only appears in the script:
GROUND CONTROLLER 2
Your name’s Reality Sucks? (laughs) [Were your parents drunk?] One second, Mr.Sucks, just checking my clearance list.
Those four words seemingly weren’t shot, as there’s no cuts during the version of the line that we see on screen, and no alternate take on the DVD. However, a tiny bit of Lister dialogue that’s not in the script did get recorded:
Look, just do another smegging dance and let’s get the hell out of here. [But this time, make it shorter.]
That renegade amendment made it as far as the cameras but was cut from the final episode, finally emerging as the last deleted scene from this session featured on the DVD.
INT. BLUE MIDGET
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 80
Effects sequences bridge that scene and this in the final edit, but again, there’s no indication that the audience were shown anything here on the night – recording will have continued on the same set after the tape break specified in the camera script. This is the scene that contains the notorious padding about the Theory of Relativity, but there is a major, major difference between what’s in the script and what was shot. At no point in the script is there the line about it being a theory you only tell you relatives. Instead:
What does it mean?
Well, it’s about relativity. Things being relative. The relativity of – things.
E equals MC squared what does that mean though?
E is energy. Energy equals MC squared. That’s M times C timesed by another C.
What is MC though?
What is it? MC?
MC -well, MC is obviously, uh, master of ceremonies.
Energy equals Master of Ceremonies squared?
He was very over-rated Einstein. That’s why he left quantum physics and went into the look-a-like business.]
It’s sad. He’s supposed to have an IQ of 6,000 I doubt he can even spell IQ.
Everything from Kochanski’s line onwards appears in the Series VIII script book in addition to the “only tell your relatives” gag, but if any of this made it before the cameras, it wasn’t included in the otherwise comprehensive deleted scenes. Perhaps someone came up with the alternate line during rehearsals, and it was decided – rightly or wrongly – that it was so good as to render the rest of the dialogue superfluous.
The rest of the scene plays out in the script as it does in the final episode, but stops for a tape break after Holly says he was “out thought and out manoeuvred”.
INT. BLUE MIDGET
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 83
At the break point, the script specifies that another VT sequence is played in:
VT SEQUENCE FOUR
HOLLISTER AND SMART HOLLY WATCH SCREEN
This is essentially just a cutaway within a continuous scene, so it must have been a pretty short insert – it’s not noted in the set report. The scripted scene continues on from before the cutaway, starting with Lister asking Holly “who by?”, and plays out exactly as it does in the final episode. The script indicates that the scene was followed by “PICK UP SHOTS FOR HOLLY AND GROUND CONTROL MONITOR”.
And that appears to be the end of the extra plot elements that were added when the story was extended. The original narrative would have cut straight from the initial escape from AR to Hollister and the egg-headed Holly passing judgement, omitting everything to do with Rimmer deciding to join our crew, the second Ground Controller, and the idea that the entire situation was brought about by Holly as part of his ongoing attempt to keep Lister sane. A rough cut of the original denouement can be seen as part of the deleted scenes, depicting Hollister watching the crew’s original escape instead of their conversation in Blue Midget, complete with an extra shot of the gang strapped to medical trolleys.
And so that’s it – both the script and the set report state that that’s the last of the material to be shot in front of an audience, and all that remained was to play the VT of the final few scenes. Except, the running order at the start of the camera script contains one more item:
INT. AR SUITE
BACK IN THE RED (3) – Sc. 85
Hmm. I don’t have an extra scene in my script – after the Blue Midget scene, the last page of the document is a description of the fifth and final VT sequence:
VT SEQUENCE FIVE
SCENES 85 – 89
HOLLISTER FINDS THEM GUITY THRU TO GOING TO PRISON.
Ooh, a cliffhanger! Before we get to that, note that the running order lists this hypothetical AR Suite sequence as “Sc. 85”, but the description of the VT sequence indicates that Scene 85 is in fact Hollister finding them guilty. That would tally with how the finished episode plays out – if that’s #85 and there are 89 in total, then Hollister arresting them in the AR Suite would be #86, the mug shot bit would be #87, the lift sequence #88 and Lister subjecting Rimmer to prison rape would be #89.
So there’s clearly a discrepancy here. It could be that an further bit of business in the AR Suite was originally planned as an additional/extended scene, got dropped during the course of the week, but remained listed as an item in the running order. Or it could be that this set’s inclusion in the running order is to do with the pick-ups that took place in that area earlier in the day, although it would be an odd place to list such activity.
Sadly, we don’t know for sure what was meant to follow “THEN POSSIBLE:” in the VT description. We can’t tell whether my copy of this script is missing a final page or two, or if they were all issued like this and the intriguing possibility was listed in error. However, we do know that on the night of the recording, the final scenes of Back In The Red were indeed followed by something else. Back to the set report:
The host comes back on and tells us that he wants to show us a scene that they recorded earlier today – the problem is they haven’t got a laughter track for it so it is screened. We join the posse on deck 13 where they’re being picked on by the prisoners. The Cat is shoved in a vending machine and has hot Bovril poured on him. Kryten somehow acquires a “Time Wand” and plays a variety of tricks on the other prisoners. I guess this is from the next episode so it doesn’t actually make much sense.
So in addition to the pre-records for Back In The Red, they also shot an extra scene for Pete (Part One)! And then played it to the audience without explaining what the hell it was. There had been an audience shoot for Pete (Part Two) a week before the Back In The Red mop-up session, but the first part was originally recorded as self-contained episode some weeks earlier (the original versions of these sequences can be found in the deleted scenes), so perhaps this was the only opportunity to shoot extra bits for the newly restructured Part One. There’s a whole extra story to tell here, as soon as I can get hold of the Pete (Part Two) camera script…
But for now, we’ll have to content ourselves with having successfully figured out exactly which bits of Back In The Red were shot when… except there’s one thing that neither the camera script or the set report mentions: Hollister’s long recaps at the start of the second two parts. Now, clearly they would have been shot in this final week of Series VIII’s production, but they weren’t done in front of the audience, and nor do they appear to have been played in for laugh track purposes at any point.
It’s entirely possible that not one person outside of the production knew a single thing about the “Dennis the Doughnut Boy” twist until the moment the episode aired. Considering the entire rest of the plot of Back In The Red was posted online immediately after the audience recording, you could see why they’d want to hold that bombshell back.
ADDITIONAL (20/05/18): Since this article was first published, bountyhunter, the writer of that 20-year-old set report, has been in touch with some extra information. Firstly, we’d like to clarify that said set report was in fact first published after the episode had been broadcast, so I apologise for besmirching our spoiler-respecting fandom forebears. Some additional titbits about the sets can be found in the comments below.
But even more excitingly, bountyhunter has kindly provided us with one more document from that fateful night in December 1998 – a scan of the call sheet issued to cast and crew, detailing the specifics of how the studio session played out.
This is such a lovely thing to see; nothing brings the past to life quite so vividly as mundane details such as knowing what time everyone had their supper, or that the guy who played the guard made his own way to the studio rather than being picked up by a production car. We also learn that Chris Howarth and Steve Lyons, who 1st AD Julie Sykes refers to as “two sci fi writers (authors of the Virgin programme Guide)”, were visiting the set that day.
There’s a definite end-of-term feeling indicated in this document; as well as the announcement that the bar will be open until midnight, note that this is apparently the 10,041,000th call sheet to be issued on the series. There’s also a jokey tone to the section at the end from line producer Jo Bennett (later Howard), with a reassurance that “most” of the crew would be invited back, an unknown on-set smoker being told to construct a dinosaur from cigarette butts as punishment, and what looks like an in-jokey reference to someone called Johnny Stewart, which I’m afraid is lost on me.
Sadly, it doesn’t shed a great deal of light on the mystery of the phantom extra scene. It’s listed as item 14 in the running order here, as indeed it was in the camera script equivalent, but note that the details of this scene are in bold, unlike any of the others. When I first saw this, I was leaning towards the theory that it had been taped as part of the “before we start dress run” filming, but going by the call times for the two guards in that scene – one played by Mark Flitton, the other an unnamed extra – that can’t be case; while the supporting artist was instructed to be on set for the dress rehearsal at 1600, Flitton wasn’t even in make-up until 1900, by which point the audience were already making their way in.
So unless any more new evidence comes to light, it would seem that poor old Mark Flitton and his friend Other Guard came all the way to Shepperton to record their scene in front of the audience, only for the scene to be dropped. And yet it’s definitely a scene that exists in the final episode. I’ve now settled on a theory that they shot a version of the scene for the original hour-long cut of Back In The Red, decided to replace it for the new three part edition, but then the reworked scene got dropped on the day of the shoot, and the original was used in Part Three after all. This is, of course, but an educated guess; without conclusive proof, the mystery continues…
Thanks again to bountyhunter, both for providing the call sheet, and for the original report all those years ago.