Hello everyone. When we last met, I guided you through a history of three wall sections used in Red Dwarf in 1988. This went down disturbingly well. You fucking weirdos.
With this in mind, let’s continue our in-depth examination of Red Dwarf‘s sets in its first couple of series with one of their most famous oddities: the disappearing and reappearing Captain’s Office. This article was intended to be a more general look at the Drive Room set, but believe it or not I have found enough to say about this single topic to make a full standalone piece. We’re not dumbing down our material. It’s always been this stupid.
As before, we need to take this one in recording order, rather than broadcast order.
The End – Original Shoot
So, the recording of Series 1 kicked off with the original version of The End. I’ll give a bit of the game away early on for the sake of clarity: it’s very important to distinguish between material shot for the original version of The End here, and material re-recorded in the final session right at the end of the series.
Luckily, it’s very easy to distinguish the two. Any material that shows up in The Original Assembly on the Bodysnatcher release is from this original recording session. And that includes Lister’s famed visit to see Hollister:
There’s the Captain’s Office. Hello there. Love you.
It’s also worth noting that Rimmer’s death sequence in Me² was also shot during the original recording of The End, to make use of Mac McDonald:
Until I started researching this article, I never really thought about this before: but surely it’s of note that Rimmer doesn’t die in the Drive Room, but actually dies in the Captain’s Office? There’s a great dramatic irony that the second lowest person on the ship, and the person who dreams some day of sitting in the Captain’s chair, instead perishes to death in a nuclear explosion in that very room.
If that’s purely an accident rather than a deliberate piece of writing, then it’s a very happy one. The script for Me² as published in Son of Soup proves that it was scripted this way, at least – while the scene itself is described as taking place in the Drive Room, we also get the following:
RIMMER: Gazpacho Soup…
SLO-MO: a glass paperweight (Red Dwarf in a dust storm) falls from the captain’s desk and shatters in front of RIMMER’s outstretched hand.
Anyway, enough of this tot. Back to the business in hand. Perhaps literally for some of us.
Balance of Power
The next episode shot was Balance of Power – and here, we have to be a little careful. The temptation is to look at the famous ‘Trout á la créme’ scene in the Drive Room… but considering this scene was almost certainly reshot later in the series to put Holly in vision, we can’t trust it as a representation of the set during the main Balance of Power session. (We’ll be talking more about these Holly reshoots in a future article, so we won’t get bogged down in that now.)
Luckily, instead we can use this scene near the end of the episode (just after Lister has buggered off to his Chef’s exam), which doesn’t involve Holly in vision at all, and so must have been part of the original recording:
WHERE HAS THE CAPTAIN’S OFFICE GONE, WHERE HAS IT GONE, WHY IS THERE A VENDING MACHINE THERE INSTEAD, I HATE MY LIFE, PLEASE SOMEONE WRITE SOME FANFIC TO HELP ME RESOLVE THIS.
It’s worth pointing out exactly why this happened. For the first three series of Red Dwarf, the set was rigged purely for the two days of shooting required, and then derigged afterwards; rehearsals happened back down south, at the rehearsal rooms in Acton. This meant that when the set was reassembled for the week’s recording, if there wasn’t a need for the Captain’s Office that week, it could be removed and the space given over to whatever other sets were needed for that recording.
Once the show moved to Shepperton for Red Dwarf IV, the set was rigged at the start of the series and stayed there.
Waiting for God
The set is in exactly the same configuration for Waiting for God, with no Captain’s Office to be found.
Fairly sure Lister’s just noticed there’s now a vending machine in the Drive Room instead of the Captain’s Office, and is wondering what the fuck has happened.
Next in recording order is Future Echoes, and… whoa ho ho, what’s all this? During the famous Double Rimmer sequence, and again when Lister expects to be blown to bits, we can see:
Oh, you’ve returned, Mr. Captain’s Office sir. Hello.
There’s a strong argument that the single most memorable moment in Series 1 of Dwarf is the shot above with Rimmer walking out of the Drive Room, and another Rimmer walking in. It’s worth noting then, that that shot simply couldn’t be done with the set in the configuration it was for Balance of Power and Waiting for God. Which is a little peculiar when you’re talking about one of your main sets.
Confidence & Paranoia
OK, so up to this point, we’re in fairly standard territory. The Captain’s Office is either there or not, depending on whether the production needs it. Fine.
Except now, when Confidence & Paranoia needed a proper Medical Unit (as opposed to the smaller Medical Room “set” knocked together for Future Echoes), we get this…
Hang on, that looks vaguely familiar…
…oh, you just repurposed the Captain’s Office set.
That in itself makes total sense – of course the ship would be modular in the same way as buildings are today, so bits of the ship would obviously look like other bits of the ship. I would suggest however, that including shots which reveal the Medical Unit is now bang next to the Drive Room is a trifle odd.
Still, at least they added a door to distinguish it from the Captain’s Office set. Which is actually a little odd in itself – from Rimmer’s movements in Future Echoes, it’s heavily implied that there is a door in that position. But we’ve never seen a door there until we get to this redress of the set!
Right, now we’ve got rid of the Medical Unit – at least for this series – what have we got now?
OH GREAT, THE CAPTAIN’S OFFICE IS BACK, AND HAS NOW GROWN THAT SAME DOOR. I WANT TO DIE.
On the plus side, this does clear up a little mystery from my first Set to Rights article. Remember we couldn’t figure out where the background to this shot in The Beginning Series 1 documentary came from?
The answer is now clear: that background is taken from rushes footage of Me². Which makes sense: there’s plenty of other rushes footage from this episode in the documentary, to demonstrate the Rimmer split screen stuff. Clearly, a nice shot presented itself, and they grabbed it to use behind Mac’s interviews.
Six weeks down, one to go. Surely there can’t be any more changes?
The End – Remount
The final recording session of Series 1 was the remounted version of The End – or, in any words, any footage which isn’t in The Original Assembly, but is in the broadcast version of the episode. This includes huge chunks of the programme, including key scenes such as the opening of the show, the first bunkroom scene, Lister’s entry and exit into stasis, and Cat’s introduction.
Crucially, any material with Mac McDonald wasn’t retaken during the reshoot, but was all part of the original session. I think you can guess where this is leading. So to clarify the point: on the left is the original version of “Have you any idea of the penalty for calling a deceased superior officer a smeghead?” moment, as taken from The Original Assembly, and on the right is the broadcast version of the same moment, as reshot during this final session:
Not only did they not erect the Captain’s Office set for this final session, but they didn’t even have the decency to stick a vending machine in front of the bare wall. In recompense, I would like the licence fee that my Dad paid in 1988 refunded.
There is something interesting about the reshoots here for The End; note that all the big sequences with a large number of extras (such as the pre-accident Drive Room sequence, or the scene in the refectory with McIntyre) are from the original audience session. All the reshoots are the cheaper stuff done with just our core cast members (and Robert Bathurst).
This is particularly interesting, as you get the distinct impression from various sources that nobody was very keen on the Lister/Kochanski flirting in the Drive Room… but it seems they didn’t take the opportunity to reshoot it here. They just chopped it down to the minimum needed, and moved on. Either it was deemed too expensive to reshoot, or Clare Grogan wasn’t available.
Anyway, we’re nearly there. There’s just one more episode where that original Captain’s Office is featured. Except… it’s not really the original Captain’s Office at all.
A flashback to pre-accident Dwarf. A plot involving the Captain. Surely if ever we needed the Captain’s Office, we needed it now.
Except… there’s a problem. Between Series 1 and 2, the Drive Room changes entirely, presumably because it was the set the production was least happy with. Lots more colour, movement, yadda yadda yadda:
What to do, then, when the Captain’s Office set was part of the old Drive Room set, and that’s been torn up between series and the parts used for other sets?
Answer: you cheat.
It’s less obvious than it could have been – the black and white obscures things to an extent – but the above most certainly is not the Captain’s Office seen in Series 1, with or without a door. In fact, it does an extremely good job of appearing to be something quickly and cheaply knocked up which roughly resembles the original Captain’s Office, with a few of the props chucked in there for good measure.
Onscreen, it works… but it’s definitely a cheat. You only have to look at the very last picture above, where the right-hand side clearly reveals the set to be pretty much just a wall section plonked in front of another set. (To be fair, on the programme’s original transmission, a lot of that would have been in the overscan area of people’s televisions. DVDs reveal a lot of things that viewers at the time wouldn’t ever have seen.)
And that’s your lot for now. (We’ll deal with the Captain’s Office used in Red Dwarf VIII, and the recreation of the original set we see in Skipper in a future article – in 109 parts time.) So I’ll leave you with one final thought. Take a look at the various incarnations of the Captain’s Office as pictured above – in particular, where various props are placed, and how the walls are arranged. Does any part of that room ever actually stay the same between episodes?
I think Rimmer goes in there, rearranges everything, and then plays at being Captain. And I think he used to do that before the accident. Go on, someone can definitely make a fanfic out of that.