Set to Rights: From Supply Pipe 28 to Floor 592

When I say to random people “Hey, what do you remember about the sets of the first two series of Red Dwarf?”, they back away from me and look for the nearest exit. Before they manage to escape, however, they usually mention the bunkroom. They might stammer out an anecdote about a yellow banana. Really cool people might mention how the Drive Room changes between series, or how the Observation Dome is a perfect combination of live set elements and special effects.

Still, all those stories have been told. I want to dig a little deeper, and I don’t care how boring things get in order to do so. With that in mind, Ganymede & Titan proudly present: a history of three wall sections, used at BBC Manchester in 1987-88.

Enjoy.

Balance of Power

For reasons that will become apparent, I’m going to be telling this story in recording order, not broadcast order. And the first time we see the particular walls we’re interested in – though a fuzz of video noise which seems extreme even for an ageing Studio A at Oxford Road in 1987 – is in the second episode recorded of Series 1, as Rimmer stalks the corridors. We’re talking about the grey walls on the right, with the pipes:

Rimmer walking down a corridor

Gaze on that for a moment. We’ll be seeing a lot of it.

We also get a brief look at part of either the same wall, or its friendly duplicate, later on in the episode. (More about that duplicate in the next section.) Take a look to the left:

Rimmer walking down a different corridor, honest

Have you noticed the difference? Can you see the refinement in the funnel ed- wait, sorry.

Still, in Balance of Power, it’s difficult to get to grips with exactly what we’re supposed to be looking for. The views are so fleeting, and we don’t get to see all the sections we’re interested in at once. This is about to change, however…

Waiting for God

Here we go, then. We’re only just getting started. Let’s take a look at the early part of Waiting for God, where Cat and Rimmer have one of their trademark awkward encounters, and we finally get a decent look at one of the wall sections:

Rimmer and Cat Rimmer and Cat, again

Later on, we see it in the same configuration, when Lister is learning all about the fate of the Cat People:

Lister and Holly

And then, when we go and see Cat visiting the Priest on the lower decks… whoa ho ho, what’s that I spy in the background?

Cat and the Cat Priest

Finally for this episode, when we cut to Lister making his way through the bowels of the ship – the very next scene, in fact:

Lister in the bowels of the ship Lister still in the bowels of the ship

That would appear then, to be the same wall sections used three entirely different ways, all in the same episode. Including in two consecutive scenes. Excellent.

It’s worth taking another look at the pictures of Lister travelling down into the bowels of the ship above, as it actually gives us the best look at what we’re dealing with in this article: two longer sections of wall running at the top and along the right side of the set, with a smaller section joining the two in the corner. This is the first time all three parts of the set actually appear on the screen at once. (This will become useful in identifying them in future episodes.)

Future Echoes

Just a single use of one of those wall sections in this episode, in exactly the same configuration as seen in the second instance in Balance of Power:

Lister on his spacebike

Confidence & Paranoia

Again, just a single use in this episode – the wall outside the medical unit:

Lister and Rimmer in the medical unit

Me²

Here’s something I bet you haven’t noticed before. So: that cinema in Me²? Yes, a huge chunk of it is made up of these pipe wall sections:

In the cinema Still in the cinema

All three of the wall sections are used here: one large section is the wall outside the door of the cinema, and then the other large section and the small section make up the wall inside the cinema. In fact, we seem to be seeing the reverse of these latter two sections compared to every instance previously – if you look closely at the diagonal struts, they’re on the opposite side to usual, with the pipes obscuring them.

Incidentally, if you were wondering whether we see these wall pieces in the cinema in Balance of Power, the answer is no. Me² on the left, and Balance of Power on the right:

In the cinema In a different cinema

The two episodes use entirely different sets, which is difficult to notice unless you’re directly comparing them. (Hey, it’s a big ship. We get a third cinema in Camille. Presumably the Officer’s Cinema…)

The End (remount)

So, remember I said these wall sections only showed up in the second recording for Series 1? That’s because the first recording was for the original version of The End, and – as shown by The Original Assembly on the Bodysnatcher DVD – our favourite little wall sections were never actually used in the original version of the episode.

However, they do appear – briefly – in the final version of The End. The remount was the seventh and final audience session for Series 1, and hence earns its place here. And they appear during the remounted version of Lister and Rimmer’s first encounter with Cat:

Lister in a corridor Lister and Rimmer in the same corridor

And with that, the walls were carefully stored away. I bet at least one rat had a crap on them.

Six months later, Series 2 started recording. Oddly enough, the set doesn’t make any appearances in the first two episodes shot: Better Than Life, and Thanks for the Memory. However, the week after…

Stasis Leak

One section is briefly seen outside the door as Lister and Cat interrogate Kochanski’s roommate:

Lister, Cat and Kochanski's roommate Lister and Cat buggered off

But hey, buried here in the centre of the article, it seems like a good place to bring up a mystery which I haven’t been able to solve. So: the Series 1 documentary The Beginning on the Bodysnatcher release. Remember this?

Mac McDonalds being interviewed with the Captain's Office behind him

Ah, there’s our favourite little wall section in the background. But… I don’t remember seeing that in any broadcast episode. And sure enough, if you check The End or Stasis Leak, that doorway is entirely missing from both episodes:

Seires 1 Captain's Office Series 2 Captain's Office

So, clearly the background used for the Mac McDonald interview was taken from the rushes, not a broadcast episode. But why the set is different, and exactly which episode recording it was taken from, remains a mystery.

Just how deep are we in the rabbit hole at this point? Let’s try and come up for some air. Briefly, anyway.

Kryten

The only time one of these wall sections appears in the finished episode is during Cat’s hero pose:

Cat posing like an utter twat

But if we nip over to the deleted scenes on the Series 2 DVD, we can also find one of the sections in the cut scene of Cat and The Toaster’s duet – in the corridor outside the refectory:

Cat in the refectory Cat still in the refectory

Clearly, the section used here is the smaller one, not one of the two bigger sections: the diagonal struts being that close together gives it away.

Parallel Universe

What’s that? They show up at the disco?!

Cat dancing The Cat and The Dog

Presumably, the set required for this scene was so big they dragged every single set element they could into commission: I would suggest that these wall pieces aren’t the first thing you’d choose to use for a recreational area.

Incidentally, it’s been difficult to tell up to this point because of the lighting, but this episode proves that the pipes themselves have been painted blue, instead of the grey colour as in Series 1. Everyone talks about stuff like the banana in the bunkroom being added in order to give Series 2 a bit more colour, but this clearly extended to every single part of the set in one way or another.

These walls also have one more use in this episode – behind Lister and Cat during the final pregnancy test scene:

Rimmer waiting for the test result

I would be willing to bet virtually nobody would spot the set reuse here… unless you were looking for it. And so these pesky pieces of wall manage to show up in the very final scene of Series 2.

But not the final scene shot. Parallel Universe was actually the penultimate episode recorded for Series 2. And the final episode perhaps makes the greatest use of these wall sections of any episode.

Queeg

Ah, Floor 591. By now, you’ve probably worked out where these wall sections are going to show up. And it’s in yet another configuration that we’ve never seen before:

Lister and Cat Rimmer reattaching his legs

The corridor

It’s worth comparing this scene with Lister’s trip down to the bowels of the ship in Waiting for God: it’s very clear exactly the same three sections are used: two large, one small. You can even see the exact same dirt marks along the top on the right-hand section in both episodes!

Lister's trip to the bowels of the ship Lister and Cat on Floor 591

And yet with a lighting change and a few of the elements swapped round, the two sets look entirely different. Excellent stuff.

We then enter Floor 592, which effectively involves rounding the corner into the same set used for Floor 591. Thanks to some clever direction by a certain Mr. Bye, it doesn’t feel at all odd:

Cat, Lister and Rimmer Rimmer being a twat again

For the first and only time, you actually get to see one of the edges of the wall sections here. I’m presuming you’re interested in this fact if you’ve managed to get this far down the article.

Finally… what the bloody hell do we have here?

Cat kicking a dispenser Lister and Cat cleaning the floor

Our famous little wall sections now make up the background to the corridor with the vending machine. (The struts, as ever, give the game away.) This is brand new; think back to how this corridor looked in Series 1 on the left, followed by Series 2 on the right:

Lister standing by the dispenser Cat kicking a dispenser

All of which means, in Holly’s moment of glory in Queeg… that background may look rather familiar to you now.

Holly on his monitor

OK, so is there actually any point to all of this, aside from satisfying a deeply worrying part of my personality? I would suggest yes, and here’s why.

I doubt any single person reading this article has noticed every instance of these wall sections being reused. You may have noticed some, but I was spotting brand new things I’d never seen before while writing this. Moreover, the general audience isn’t going to notice any of the above whatsoever. Whether you love or hate the Series 1 and 2 sets, I think the above is a testament to how much the production did with the money they had. They were constantly swapping things round to make the ship feel as big as possible. The result is a huge success: the same pieces endlessly reused, but it being far from obvious that’s what the production was doing.

In short: Paul Montague deserves a little more consideration than merely jokes about grey paint. However funny those jokes are.

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27 Responses to Set to Rights: From Supply Pipe 28 to Floor 592

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  1. Excellent detective work.

  2. (Weirdly, I got an email notification that this had been posted earlier this morning, hours before it actually showed up. Anyone else?)

  3. G&T Admin

    (Weirdly, I got an email notification that this had been posted earlier this morning, hours before it actually showed up. Anyone else?)

    Note to self: be more careful when testing.

  4. Ah, that explains it. I thought maybe it had been pre-set to go up at a certain time or something.

  5. Anyway, it’s weird seeing these images and realising how much I wasn’t aware of, even when the evidence is right there on the screen. Not just the reused walls, but stuff like the two cinemas being different. I’ll be constantly thinking of this while watching Series I and II now.

  6. G&T Admin

    Anyway, it’s weird seeing these images and realising how much I wasn’t aware of, even when the evidence is right there on the screen. Not just the reused walls, but stuff like the two cinemas being different. I’ll be constantly thinking of this while watching Series I and II now.

    Yeah, this is exactly what I found, too. I thought I knew those series like the back of my hand, and then when you really laser focus in on something, so much stuff comes out that you never even thought of.

    And I spent ages writing the article, nearly published it, and then suddenly – hang on, what’s that in Confidence & Paranoia? It’s that bloody set again, which I’d never noticed before despite scanning the episodes with a fine toothcomb looking for it!

  7. >there’s our favourite little wall section in the background. But… I don’t remember seeing that in any broadcast episode.

    It’s in Future Echoes, Lister goes through the little doorway in it at one point.

  8. Love this sort of production trickery. I think they’ve done QUITE a good job with the NEW corridors but I’d still like it if they made a couple more one off sets, just through reusable walls and lighting and such. There are a few scenes across XI/XII where you think “why is this scene in the science room/bunk room”?

  9. Also, no idea why Butler’s ship corridor and the Red Dwarf Officers’ Corridor weren’t lit differently (or re-painted). It’s especially noticeable that it’s the same set with Officer Rimmer/Krysis being back to back.

  10. G&T Admin

    It’s in Future Echoes, Lister goes through the little doorway in it at one point.

    I’ve just had a look, and I can’t see any bits where he walks through it on-screen! Where does it happen? (I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’ve gazed at these episodes so long my eyes have glazed over…)

  11. I went and had a look myself, and couldn’t find it either. Which is bizarre, as I remember doing a marathon of Series I a couple of weeks ago and noticing that the Captain’s office had a weird little doorway that wasn’t normally there. Maybe it’s in another Series I episode? I would have to check.

    Oddly enough though, although it’s not visible onscreen that doorway must have been a part of the set for Future Echoes- Lister goes into the Captain’s office (around 10 minutes in, when he’s holding a box of stuff) and then walks through an exit that we don’t see- later on, during the Double Rimmer scene, Rimmer enters the drive room through the Captain’s office, entering from the right through a door that we don’t see. So it had to be there, otherwise Lister’s little exit would have just been him walking into a wall. And I definitely remember seeing it at some point in Series I

  12. G&T Admin

    Oddly enough though, although it’s not visible onscreen that doorway must have been a part of the set for Future Echoes- Lister goes into the Captain’s office (around 10 minutes in, when he’s holding a box of stuff) and then walks through an exit that we don’t see- later on, during the Double Rimmer scene, Rimmer enters the drive room through the Captain’s office, entering from the right through a door that we don’t see. So it had to be there, otherwise Lister’s little exit would have just been him walking into a wall.

    Yeah, I did notice that just now when I checked. That doorway is definitely IMPLIED, regardless of whether we can find it actually on-screen anywhere.

    Maybe the rushes footage took an unused shot from Future Echoes – there’s plenty of Future Echoes rushes in that documentary to show the split screen, etc. Or maybe we can find the elusive shot actually in the broadcast episodes…

  13. G&T Admin

    The shot in the documentary is actually the Captain’s Office from Skipper, which UKTV accidentally leaked nine years before they filmed it.

  14. The way the corridors are arranged, shot, and lit, makes I and II seem as expansive as the ship has ever been. The reuse of loads of shapes actually makes it seem more realistic to me, with the idea that there’s a kind of pre-fab structure to it, with lots of similar shapes throughout, even if they are for different things. A look into it at this depth is a wonderful reminder of just how good the set designers were. We certainly wouldn’t get anything like this for, say, X. Lovely article John.

  15. I remember Lister walking through the captain’s office, too. Thought it was one of The End, Future Echoes or Waiting For God.
    But if done that there ‘checking’ that’s so popular with the kids these days, then I’m obviously wrong.

  16. I miss that angled, circular archway. Nice bit of set design.

    One of my favourite little details in Red Dwarf II is that they went to the trouble of repainting the rivets on the wall in the bunk room in order to add more colour.

  17. Do you think the tomato soup in Kryten (along with the wall paper) was Rob and Doug writing in response to the lack of colour in the first series. If they won’t give us anything but grey will just have to write it in ourselves!

  18. That tomato soup looked delicious, but Kryten is a cunt because he forgot to give them bread to dip in it, which is an essential part of any soup

  19. but Kryten is a cunt because he forgot to give them bread to dip in it, which is an essential part of any soup

    He was rebelling!

  20. I really like the series 1 and 2 sets. Those sets were great. (Greyt?)
    Also I liked the investigative style article. Investigating things we’ve seen zillions of times and hardly ever noticed.
    Also also, the use of the word “rounding” has reminded me of a great bit from Fantasy Football.
    Splendid.

  21. Hello, wall!

  22. All this set recycling yet when you’re watching the episodes it NEVER feels that way. Also, the ship in general seems so huge, somehow…. Compared with the recent episodes (not wanting to slate the set design and production in general, which has been awesome, no question!), where it does feel like 2 rooms and a corridor.

  23. All this set recycling yet when you’re watching the episodes it NEVER feels that way. Also, the ship in general seems so huge, somehow…. Compared with the recent episodes (not wanting to slate the set design and production in general, which has been awesome, no question!), where it does feel like 2 rooms and a corridor.

    I feel like a significant part of that is the lighting. The article shows how much the variations in lighting in Series 1 and 2 helped the same wall sections to look entirely different, even leaving aside the different corridor configurations completely.

    In comparison, the lighting in the Dave series seems much brighter and flattens everything out to look pretty much the same no matter how much you change around the corridor layouts.

    It has its advantages – it makes everything feel consistent and very visible, and you can appreciate the details a lot better – but it does feel like something is lost when everything is so brightly lit.

    I feel like Series V was a happy medium – obviously a lot of corridor reuse, but the different angles and lighting made the same spaces feel very different for different episodes.

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