It’s 3pm on the 25th December, and that can only mean one thing – the whole family gathering around for that old Christmas tradition of reading the Ganymede & Titan round-up of what’s happened in the world of Red Dwarf over the preceding twelve months. While 2018 was certainly a special year for the show in terms of its numerical significance, it was also the first year in four where no brand new episodes were either recorded, transmitted or both. As such, a quieter year for us, and so we’re eschewing the month-by-month format to instead give an overview of the big news and events that occurred, and a festive selection box of some of our own least shit features that we posted when there were no big news and events to keep us occupied.
So let’s start with the big 30th Anniversary celebrations, which really did go with a bang. There was a lovely long feature on Red Dwarf fandom on TOS, Gazpacho Soup posted a year’s worth of content in a day, and we presented the results of the massive Pearl Poll, in both gigantic article and video form. We went to great lengths to spread this survey far and wide, aiming to reach a broader range of fans than ever before to make it truly inclusive. The net effect was that the final results were a bit predictable and that the newer episodes seemed to be lower than they ought to be, so maybe we shouldn’t have bothered. All this and more was discussed in our Live DwarfCast 30th Anniversary Special, which also included a raucous phone-in session and a live commentary for The End.
A live commentary for The End also occurred at Dimension Jump XX, although theirs was arguably more impressive given that it featured Rob Grant, Paul Jackson and Ed Bye, all of whom were secret surprise guests at the convention, appearing alongside Doug Naylor, the entire main cast, anyone who’s ever been a series regular, and a few guest stars for good measure. And Dave Benson-Phillips. It was a truly incredible weekend, from which I’m still recovering and for which my cap will be forever doffed to the Fan Club for pulling off. On a personal note, I’m extremely proud to have helped put together this compilation of well-wishes from talent spanning all thirty of the show’s years, one of the best things I’ve ever worked on in any capacity. Plus, our DwarfCast from the event features the debut of the best celebrity ident we’re ever likely to get.
So the fans certainly did their part to make the 30th anniversary year one to remember, but let’s face it, it’s a little disappointing that there was no solid news of Red Dwarf XIII to mark the occasion. An announcement seemed inevitable at one stage, especially when a cavalcade of media outlets who should know better started taking gossip from conventions as official confirmation. Eight months later there’s still no news, and barely even any rumblings. Once again, it would seem that the momentum gained from Red Dwarf being back in production is in the process of being lost, and it leaves us pondering exactly what it is about this show that seems to make it so bloody hard to actually get made. 2019 marks a full decade since Back To Earth aired, and following its huge ratings success that had the commissioner desperate for more, a grand total of eighteen episodes have been made in ten years. Sure, luck is a factor and things can go wrong. But maybe we need to start asking why so many things go wrong.
Still, with new Dwarf on hold, at least the anniversary year saw the special Complete Series I-VIII Bluray collection released on the first of Octob… oh wait. Yes, Santa hasn’t brought any of us any new Dwarf stuff this Christmas, other than the last remnants from the online shop before it closes down completely, and we’ll have to wait until January to see whether all the fuss about the quality of the source material, the extent of the re-mastering, the divisive artwork and the debate about the extras was worth it.
But on the plus side, we did at least get new material from the other half of Grant Naylor this year, which has been a very rare thing indeed of late. The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, co-written by aforementioned DJXX guest Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall, was released both as a six-part Radio 4 series and an accompanying novelisation. Looking back now, if I was to recommend one version to any Quanderhorn virgins it’d be the book – they both do the same things and the book does them slightly better – but it’s nevertheless great news that a second radio series is coming next year.
Meanwhile, many Red Dwarf fans found themselves spending much longer than anticipated watching minor celebrities cavorting on Saturday night telly, thanks to Danny John-Jules competing on Strictly. Following a few early triumphs in the ballroom, it all ended rather sourly, as Danny controversially lost a dance-off in the same week that he was dogged, and indeed dog-whistled, by tabloid rumours of a behind-the-scenes feud. The still-ongoing and entirely evidence-free gossip campaign against him has long since veered into the inexplicable.
To be serious for a moment, I’m aware that my opinion on Danny at any given time has veered somewhat over the years. And I’m aware that I don’t know him well, but I know him well enough to know that the version of Danny depicted by The Sun and their ilk is not the man I recognise: the man who goes above and beyond for his fans; the man who uses his profile and influence to stand up against injustice wherever he sees it; and the man who decided entirely off his own back that he would hot foot it from a TV studio in Borehamwood to a hotel in Nottingham overnight, because he couldn’t bear to miss the thirtieth anniversary convention. Red Dwarf fans should be proud of Danny, and grateful for him.
Well, that’s enough being nice about other people, it’s time to be self-aggrandising about ourselves as usual. If you need any reading material over the festive perineum betwixt Christmas and New Year, why not take a dip into our features from the last twelve months? I evidently spent much of the year obsessed with production documents, resulting in an exploration of the extra material recorded for Back In The Red, and the piecing together of details from script extracts glimpsed online. Meanwhile, John was obsessed with the configuration of early Red Dwarf sets, with not one but two instalments of new occasional feature Set To Rights, covering a history of three specific bits of wall, and an attempt to pin down the ever-changing captain’s office. Between us, we also uncovered a new edit of Red Dwarf USA (which we still haven’t got round to covering properly), looked at the common factors between Red Dwarf and Survivors, and even found time to update the Complete Guide.
Plus, of course, there was our new regular feature G&TV, spewing forth a monthly treat from the television archives. The ten offerings in its inaugural year were an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Chris, Robert’s The Reconstructed Heart, Rob & Doug appearing on Biteback, a Belgian cover version of The Chicken Song, Craig hosting a promotional Nintendo video, Danny showing off his circus skills to Ian Wright, an early appearance by Craig, Chris and Paul Jackson on Open Air, Chris starring in a Spitting Image special, Chris again starring in Noel’s House Party, and G&T starring in Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Phew.
And now with all those links having been rounded up, it’s time for the traditional part where we attempt to give this feature some narrative structure by looking forward to the new year and making big promises about our plans for the future, hardly any of which end up actually happening. We’ll obviously be thoroughly reviewing the Bluray when it’s out next month, and we’ll be on standby for any news on a new series as and when it happens. But we won’t be holding our breath for that, and are preparing for the inevitability that we’re going to spend another year as a fansite for a former TV show rather than a current one. But that’s OK, because it allows us to take a little more time working on a few big features rather than lots of little ones, and we’ve got plenty of ideas in the bank.
And so as we head in to a year of uncertainty for the world (certainly our part of it) in general, and Red Dwarf specifically, let’s raise a glass to a thirtieth anniversary year that may have been lacking in news and official material, but didn’t fall short when it came to the efforts of the fans. A very Merry Christmas to all of our readers, listeners and commenters, and to each and every one of our fellow Red Dwarf fans. Well, some of them. Well, one of them. Maybe. Cheers everyone, and here’s to the next thirty years.