Set to Rights: The Captain’s Office

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:

Wide shot of the Drive Room, including the Captain's Office The Captain's Office

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:

Rimmer getting killed

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:

A shot of the Drive Room without the Captain's Office

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.

Lister at the vending machine in the Drive Room

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.

Future Echoes

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:

Rimmer walking in from the captain's office Lister farting about with the navicomp

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…

Medical Unit The Medical Unit, again

Hang on, that looks vaguely familiar…

Shot of the Medical Unit from the Drive Room Another shot of the Medical Unit from the Drive Room

…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!

Me²

Right, now we’ve got rid of the Medical Unit – at least for this series – what have we got now?

Cat rollerskating into the Captain's Office

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?

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

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:

Rimmer with the Captain's Office in the background Rimmer with the Captain's Office not in the background

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.

Stasis Leak

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:

Wide shot of the Drive Room, including the Captain's Office The Series 2 Drive Room

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.

Lister and Rimmer in the Captain's Office Close-up of Rimmer

Lister and the Captain Wide shot of the Captain's Office

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.

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34 Responses to Set to Rights: The Captain’s Office

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  1. So *that’s* the Captain’s Office.

  2. This was great again though John. I never liked the Stasis Leak set as it was obviously so different and they all feel a bit crammed in, but I never noticed a lot of these other variations.

    Even stuff that seems obvious now, like the redressing as the medical unit, completely passed me by originally. It just shows how strong the power of suggestion and a few prop changes can be.

  3. G&T Admin

    Thanks Dave!

    It’s odd. There are SO many things which I never noticed before either, before sitting down to research these articles. You actually have to specifically pay attention to figure this stuff out. Which means that… the sets did their job.

  4. 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.

    As I’ve bleated about many times before, I still think there are several Drive Rooms, the ‘main’ one with the Captain’s Office attached, the others – maybe nextdoor, maybe a deck below – that have a medical room, vending machine, plain wall, etc. in their place.

    I also believe what we see in the series 2 drive room is simply the unseen fourth wall of the original one.

    Excellent article, anyway. When’s the ‘Interior of Starbug’ one coming?

  5. I never noticed A SINGLE ONE of these, including where that vending machine had suddenly appeared. I feel like I’ve been Derren Browned and have to start paying more attention in life, amazing.

    I knew they changed Holly from voice over but never considered the need for reshoots with an audience, were those scenes just shoved into later recordings then?

    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

    I thought Me² didn’t exist as a concept until after the original recording, because they were still planning to film Bodysnatcher at the time before the strike happened?

  6. G&T Admin

    I thought Me² didn’t exist as a concept until after the original recording, because they were still planning to film Bodysnatcher at the time before the strike happened?

    No, the strike happened before ANY of the recordings actually took place. Me2 was written in-between the abandoned recording dates that never were, and the actual recording dates.

  7. In my head, the parts where there’s no vending machine but a wall over the captains office hole, that’s a door. The captain should surely be able to say fuck off to the crew and do captainy things in his office. Can’t be there talking to Todhunter about how you’re going to have to caution a flight engineer while he’s just outside your office faffing about on his Dragon 32.

    It would be a massive door though.

  8. I’m surprised that this article didn’t mention that the doorway over the Captain’s office is only actually half of a doorway (see the Balance of Power and Future Echoes pictures for what I mean). That’s always looked really weird to me

  9. I think it’s less a door way and more a wall way … I.e. a wall sized door. We only see the right hand side of it but it extends across to the unseen other side

  10. Rimmer is obsessed with painting military grey into ocean gray. Or back the other way or what ever. So long as he has got skutters to be in charge of, he will alter anything. He is clearly rebuilding and changing the ship around a lot and changing it back. Starting with his plans around the captain office, which he can finally do now holister isnt in the way. He is adding doors and vending machine to obscure the fact he is secretly sitting in there pretending he is an officer now, as a new hobby.

  11. G&T Admin

    Rimmer is obsessed with painting military grey into ocean gray. Or back the other way or what ever. So long as he has got skutters to be in charge of, he will alter anything. He is clearly rebuilding and changing the ship around a lot and changing it back. Starting with his plans around the captain office, which he can finally do now holister isnt in the way. He is adding doors and vending machine to obscure the fact he is secretly sitting in there pretending he is an officer now, as a new hobby.

    This is now canon.

  12. > In my head, the parts where there’s no vending machine but a wall over the captains office hole, that’s a door. The captain should surely be able to say fuck off to the crew and do captainy things in his office.

    I thought the same thing. The captain’s office doesn’t afford him much privacy. What we can see through that other, smaller door just looks like a corridor, but maybe it leads to Hollister’s quarters or a more private inner sanctum where he can work in peace. Rimmer says he’s been in the library in Future Echoes, after stepping into the Drive Room from the office. The captain’s private library?

  13. This is fantastic. Really good detective work, and I don’t doubt that every theory is completely correct. I think I’d be more aware of this kind of stuff watching the show now, but I never twigged that geography of the ship in the first season was so utterly screwed up. A bit of the blame can be placed on the reshoots, but some of it just seems downright careless.

    I HATE the Series 2 drive room, though. Far too much crammed in. It’s one extreme to the other.

  14. What I don’t like about the Series 2 drive room is that it feels like there’s barely any space to stand, for the characters to walk around and interact. Series 1 was more basic, but it felt like a proper 3D space in a way that the Series 2 drive room doesn’t – it feels almost like a 2D stage set.

  15. Where the fuck does Rimmer come from exactly when he walks out of the “library”/Captain’s Office in Future Echoes?! He’s just standing behind a bit of wall waiting to come into the scene, obviously, but there’s nothing there, is there? What was he waiting for? Or does he just phase through the wall, the library actually being next door to the Captain’s Office? Questions I’d never even considered until this article

    Edit: You may have just been discussing this

  16. Where the fuck does Rimmer come from exactly when he walks out of the “library”/Captain’s Office in Future Echoes?! He’s just standing behind a bit of wall waiting to come into the scene, obviously, but there’s nothing there, is there? What was he waiting for? Or does he just phase through the wall, the library actually being next door to the Captain’s Office? Questions I’d never even considered until this article

    Edit: You may have just been discussing this

    Suppose it doesn’t matter if the Library is 200 floors below if you’re a hologram, save resources by just asking Holly to put you somewhere. Seems a bit daft to use a turbolift to transport photons.

    I like Clem’s Captain’s Library idea though.

  17. “the sets did their job.”

    The comedy and actors were doing their job brilliantly, too, which also accounts for us not noticing.
    Fantastic article. And I’m looking forward to the Holly one you mentioned.
    I don’t like the series 2 Drive Room set either. It’s far too cluttered. It’s more like a Post Room.

  18. I would be fine with it if it was meant to be Holly’s control centre or something.

  19. >I don’t like the series 2 Drive Room set either. It’s far too cluttered. It’s more like a Post Room.

    Do they ever actually say it’s a drive room in Series 2? I was under the impression that it was “the science room” or something, but thinking back they don’t ever seem to call the room by any sort of name.

  20. I didn’t know that was supposed to be the drive room in II either, I thought it was a science lab where the Holly Hop Drive was assembled rather than where it was taken and plugged in, doubling up as a post room and anything else they used it for. Probably because we can’t see any windows(?), it feels deeper in the ship.

  21. G&T Admin

    I can answer this: look at the script for Kryten included in Son of Soup.

    It’s called the Drive Room.

  22. G&T Admin

    Oh, and thanks for the kind comments about the article everyone.

    Next up: the main corridor set in Series 1/2…

  23. I always thought of the Series II room to be a Scanner Room/Comms Suite as it’s first initial use is to answer Kryten’s SOS message.

  24. I always thought of the Series II room to be a Scanner Room/Comms Suite as it’s first initial use is to answer Kryten’s SOS message.

    Big screen too for taking calls and displaying scanning data.

  25. Watching those scenes again from Kryten and PU, I can see how it’s intended to be the Drive Room now. Except in BTL, where it doesn’t feel like it. The mail is on some kind of pallet(?) labelled ‘Section 14 Maintenance Personnel.’ Maybe that’s where it arrived and the Skutters brought it up to level 1 or wherever that Drive Room is. I’m not as good as this set-spotting thing. There’s a really glitchy monitor behind Lister in that scene too, LOL.

  26. if no one thought the series ii drive room was the drive room, it isn’t

  27. G&T Admin

    Probably the way to look at this is:

    a) I need to call each set the same thing for the sake of consistency.
    b) The *only* official documentation we have access to for Series 2 calls it the Drive Room.
    c) Therefore, for the sake of these articles, I’m calling it the Series 2 Drive Room.
    d) But others can call it what they like. Half the point of these articles is to indulge fan theories.

    FWIW, I think I’ve always called it the Drive Room, but I know others have called it the Science Room. (I save that for the Series III set…)

  28. RIMMER: I’ve just been in the library, thinking.

    Subtitles: I’ve just been in the Captain’s Office, masturbating.

  29. >(I save that for the Series III set…)

    Isn’t the Series III (and IV-V) set given multiple different names over the course of the series though? Off the top of my head it’s called the science lab in Bodyswap, the scanning room in DNA, and then I think it’s called the drive room at some point too.

  30. I’ve just been in the Captain’s Office, masturbating.

    If Rimmer spunked on the floor, would it phase through into the next deck, through any unsuspecting passers by, and eventually out into space?

  31. >I’ve just been in the Captain’s Office, masturbating.

    If Rimmer spunked on the floor, would it phase through into the next deck, through any unsuspecting passers by, and eventually out into space?

    I think there’d need to be a little hologrammatic projection cage from the hull to infinity.

  32. Do each of his little holo sperms have their own little light bee?

  33. I’m getting a vivid memory of a previously had conversation about holojism, particularly the damage hardlight jizz could do to you.

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