High & Low: Holly Scenes

Behold! Former G&T regular feature High & Low, in which we compile both the top ten and the bottom five of a particular Red Dwarf topic, is back, just three years and ten months after the last one. That’s about average for a second-class fansite. We’re no longer attempting to make it a monthly occurrence, but we fancied bringing back the format as an option to use from time to time. And as we not only promised back in 2015 that the next edition would be Holly Scenes, but even went to the trouble of getting Hattie Hayridge herself to pick one of the entries, we’d better finally crack on with it…

10. “This is an S.O.S. distress call…”

Future EchoesQueeg

Now I know, technically speaking, that’s ten scenes, but what better way to set the mood than with the narrative device that served just that purpose for the first two series? The jokes vary in quality – my favourites being the Shake n’ Vac one, the singing potatoes and “still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?” – but even without them, I’ve always loved the doom-laden tone the distress call gives to proceedings when combined with the original titles, and the way it’s always instantly undercut by a silly gag. They provide a reassuring familiarity to the early episodes, which now invokes such strong nostalgic feelings of warmth for those of us who have grown up with the show.

9. *bonk* *bonk* *bonk*

White Hole

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moment selected by Hattie Hayridge herself as her favourite Holly scene, back when I interviewed her for a DwarfCast in April 2015:

I think I’ll do the banging my head on the screen. Danny had the line, you know, “she can’t count to three without banging her head on the screen” and I said “I’ve never banged my head on the screen”, and they went “oh it doesn’t matter”. So I said “well, why don’t I just bang my head on the screen and then it makes sense”. It’s probably why they got rid of me, going “oh God, can’t she just shut up”!

I don’t think I knew prior to this that she’d suggested the call-back herself, which is one of the best examples of a quick yet high-quality throwaway gag in Red Dwarf, along with Holly fainting upon meeting Ace in Dimension Jump, which was also suggested by Hattie. Between this and things like her constantly reacting to dialogue even when she’s just on a tiny screen in the background, and attention-to-detail like ducking when the bomb goes off in Timeslides, Hattie brought far more to the role than she’s given credit for.

8. “I’m in there”

Parallel Universe

I genuinely find it very hard to decide which is my favourite Holly of the two. It often feels like you’re putting the two actors in direct competition, which isn’t constructive, and it’s also not a like-for-like comparison when you take into account the variations in the writing and the character dynamics across Red Dwarf‘s run. That’s why I could have picked any scene from Parallel Universe, where you can simply enjoy them both working together, effortlessly becoming the best male/female equivalent pairing of the episode. Their initial meeting is the chosen representative in this list, for the way Hattie’s spot-on imitation instantly sells the concept, and for Norman’s punchline, quoted above.

7. “Oh, that’s easy, easy peasy”

Queeg

It won’t surprise you if I reveal that this isn’t the only scene from Queeg to make the Top 10, given that it’s the one episode where Holly is so central to the plot throughout. Others have him or her kickstart the story before focus shifts to one or more of the “main” characters, but Queeg is unique in making Holly the permanent protagonist, driving the story from beginning to end. After a few scenes exploring the impact of Holly’s replacement on the rest of the crew, this scene puts him front and centre again, moving the story towards its denouement by sowing the seeds of the rebellion against Queeg. And it’s also extremely funny, with Norman feeling more than ever like part of the ensemble, the delicious visual call-back to the Junior Encyclopedia of Space, and the amusing night watchman uniform.

6. “Oh gawd, now the siren’s bust”

Marooned

Considering she’s barely in it, Holly steals the show on a number of occasions in Marooned, somehow using a very brief amount of screen time in what’s otherwise a two-hander packed full of classic Lister/Rimmer dialogue to provide some of the most quotable lines of the whole episode. Along with various descriptions of the basic colour of things, we get both “this is not a drill, this is a drill” and the iconic “awooga” in the space of one short opening model sequence, the latter of which became one of the most enduring UK TV catchphrases of the 90s, thanks to John Fashanu on Gladiators via Craig Charles on Cyberzone. A masterclass of both Rob and Doug at their economical best – heavy exposition disguised with superb comedy, taking mere seconds to tee up the whole episode – and Hattie making the most of limited opportunities to shine.

5. “Strike a light, it’s Gordon”

Better Than Life

It’s rare that we see either incarnation of Holly interact with anyone other than our main crew. Whenever guest characters turn up, he or she is usually either left behind or lurking quietly in the background, and on the few occasions when they do get involved, it’s usually for exposition rather than comedy. Therefore the brief postal chess scene really stands out, as not only does it give Holly the chance to be funny with someone other than his fellow regulars (even though he and Gordon don’t technically talk directly to each other), but it’s his friend that pops up. Salkilld’s memorable performance is undoubtedly the highlight of the scene, but it’s a character that only exists because of Holly, both in its conception and execution.

4. “You left a light on in the bathroom”

Me²

And not forgetting of course the interactions that Holly has with the main crew. I’ve always been a fan of the dynamic between Lister and Holly in the early series; back when the relationship with Rimmer was at its iciest and most toxic, Holly was the closest thing Lister had to a friend, relying on him to vent his frustrations and chat through his feelings. The two of them feel like a team, working together to Lister’s benefit and occasionally Rimmer’s detriment, all feeding in to Holly’s overarching duty to keep Lister sane. The NorWEB April Fools gag is a tiny action in this ongoing mission, but the scene showcases the pair’s early relationship beautifully, highlighting just what Holly can be when he’s not merely delivering exposition or kick-starting a plot point, popping up with a solid comedy performance and acting as a light-hearted foil for our main protagonist, like a neighbour or colleague role in a more conventional sitcom. And it also give Rob and Doug the opportunity to recycle some old material, which is absolutely fine when it’s performed so well.

3. “Strike a light, I’m a genius again”

White Hole

Into the Top Three now and – spoiler alert – this is the highest placed scene to feature Hattie’s Holly. This is obviously in no way a reflection on her, but of the way the character rapidly fell by the wayside in favour of Kryten pretty much from her second series onwards. White Hole was in many ways the last hurrah for Hattie, and for Holly in general until later comebacks, and while it’s unfortunate that she spends most of her equivalent to Queeg switched off, it’s a faultless performance which provides one of only a handful of alternate versions of the character. Her increasingly terse and tetchy responses to Rimmer’s babbling later on could easily have made the list, but I couldn’t not plump for the scene which also includes one of the best (or indeed the best, according to the Twitter World Cup thing we did) guest characters of all time. Talkie could have stolen the show, but Holly gives as good as she gets and the scene is a perfect two-hander, albeit between two characters with no hands.

2. “Everybody’s dead, Dave”

The End

Another scene that’s impossible not to include due to its iconic nature. Mention that you’re a Red Dwarf fan to anyone with the vaguest of memories of watching the show back in the day, and odds are that if they reference anything, it’ll either be “smoke me a kipper”, “do you want any toast” or “everybody’s dead, Dave”. Doug knew this when crafting Holly’s cameo in Series XII’s Skipper, which may have made the list itself if I were able to look past the character’s resemblance to a big blue scrotum. It’s a scene that’s endured for 31 years and counting, perhaps because it’s the very first time that Red Dwarf really shows off its idiosyncrasies. The crew being wiped out marks the end of the preamble and the start of the series proper, and what could be a very dark and heavy event for the audience to process is seeded with humour, yet without being played for laughs itself. Bleak subject matter taken seriously but mined for comedy, with laughs coming from the use of language, the peculiarities of the characters and the absurdity of the situation. That’s the very essence of Red Dwarf right there, in the middle of the very first episode.

1. “We are talking Jape of the Decade”

Queeg

Yes, as inevitably as Back To Reality winning the next anniversary poll, one of Red Dwarf‘s best ever closing scenes, the punchline to one of its best ever episodes and featuring one of its best ever guest characters, takes the number one slot. It shouldn’t work, of course, given that it’s an ending that was plucked from thin air after Rob and Doug had written themselves into a mess they couldn’t resolve, but the twinkle in Norman’s eye, the joy in the audience reaction and the sharpness of the dialogue all add up to a huge triumph. Even before the rug pull though, it’s one of those rare Red Dwarf scenes that invokes a genuine emotional response – Holly’s goodbye speech, and the other characters realising too late what he means to them, can still put a lump in my throat, even on the thousandth viewing.

It should be clear by now that I absolutely adore the character of Holly, but I’m not one of those who’s clamouring for his or her return in a hypothetical future series of the show. After all, it’s been tried once before, and if you need a reminder of how that went, it’s now time for the Low section of our rundown…

5. “We’re getting some lift”

Terrorform

But first, let’s start with a memorable and well-loved scene that’s widely regarded to be one of the funniest it its episode. I am of course a big fan of the pretending-to-like-Rimmer scenes in Terrorform, but looking at it from Holly’s perspective, it’s emblematic of the character’s decline. Having largely been completely absent throughout the episode, her only contribution to the big comedy denouement is to commentate on Starbug’s take-off procedure and give updates on its altitude. Everyone else gets to do funny character-specific things to provide laughs and resolve the plot, while she’s doing neither. Of course it’s a brilliant scene in its own right, but its inclusion here is as a manifestation of the way both Holly and Hattie became increasingly sidelined throughout Series IV and V.

4. “Become a dog”

Cassandra

So obviously when a regular cast of five is too many to satisfactorily sustain, and the difficult decision is made to drop one of them entirely, the next logical step is to bring them back for a series where you’ve added an extra two regulars, a load of recurring guests, resurrected the entire original crew and invented a whole new prison population for good measure. If there wasn’t enough material to go round in Series III-V, there definitely wasn’t in VIII, which means that in order for the much-vaunted returnee to have anything much to do, we get extraneous, irrelevant and ultimately inconsequential scenes like this, awkwardly tacked on to unrelated stories. Which might be alright if it was funny, but it isn’t.

3. “It’s the theory you only tell your relatives”

Back In The Red (Part Three)

Not everything that Holly does in VIII is bad. I like the useless pre-warning he gives ahead of the cell inspection, and the long and short versions of his take on the dinosaur situation, and I’m even starting to warm towards the moon impression, which makes me feel slightly dirty. It’s just that the misses far outweigh the hits, and some of the one-liners that make up the bulk of his contribution to the series are woeful. Such as this notoriously bad gag about the Theory of Relativity, which has the added indignity of being part of the same sequence as the baffling plot-twist that Holly secretly masterminded the events of Back In The Red for the lols, and is in turn followed by the woeful and inexplicable egg-head version of the character.

2. “The Nostrilomo”

Back In The Red (Part One)

But at least most of the worst Holly bits in Series VIII are fairly stand-alone – either isolated vignettes at the start of unrelated scenes, or quick-fire gags that can easily be ignored. This utter nonsense, however, comes along to interrupt and utterly derail a previously exciting action sequence, killing the pace stone dead and halting the momentum of the new series within minutes of it starting. And it doesn’t even work as a charade. The film’s not named after the ship, and that’s not what the ship’s called. The worst thing about Holly in VIII – and this is the ultimate example – is that there’s nothing of his original character in there, he’s just a generic idiot. The whole point of Norman’s Holly was that this supposedly all-powerful futuristic supercomputer behaved like a slightly dour, put-upon, middle-aged bloke. Now that he’s mugging and smirking and playing for laughs, the deadpan charm is completely gone.

1. The Re-Mastered Replacements

Re-Mastered

Yes, I know. It always feels like a bit of a cheat to cite Re-Mastered as the worst of something, as it’s such low-hanging fruit. But come on. It’s one thing to write new material for a character and for it to not live up to the old stuff, it’s another thing entirely to discard the old stuff and replace it with something worse. There are many levels on which the new Norman material in Re-Mastered doesn’t work. There’s the fact that something that was done to introduce consistency across multiple series results in the character looking completely different in wide shots and close-ups within the same scenes. There’s the uncomfortable revision of UK-centric cultural references to supposedly more universal ones, which is guaranteed to rub people up the wrong way. Then there’s the extra gags that are inserted into pre-existing scenes, hampering the pace and rhythm of the original versions. But mostly, it’s the performance that ties it all together with a ribbon made from rotten fish guts. With ten years having passed and no audience or fellow cast members to play off, Norman was never going to be able to recapture the essence or energy of his late-80s Manchester vintage, which rather begs the simple question: why bother?

Because the vague conclusion we can draw from all of this is that Holly was a wonderful character throughout the first few series of Red Dwarf, portrayed by two actors who both deserve to have their contributions to the show recognised and lauded. But then the show changed, and the sad consequence of that is that there’s no longer a place for Holly in the dynamic, beyond possibly a guest appearance now and then. It would be impossible to recapture the magic that produced so many highlights in the early years without reversing the evolution that resulted in the character being dropped in the first place, and if Red Dwarf has a future, it shouldn’t try to live in the past.

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33 Responses to High & Low: Holly Scenes

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  1. So we can agree that “yes, god?” is A Bad Thing? Good.

  2. >The whole point of Norman’s Holly was that this supposedly all-powerful futuristic supercomputer behaved like a slightly dour, put-upon, middle-aged bloke. Now that he’s mugging and smirking and playing for laughs, the deadpan charm is completely gone.

    This. “Let’s get Norm back and give him funny things to say!” Unfortunately, the appeal of the character was slightly more complex than that. It’s the same as the clamour for more “bunkroom scenes”.

  3. Honourable mention to the deleted scene from Holoship, where a panicked Rimmer runs back onto Red Dwarf as the mind patch runs out:

    RIMMER: Kryten – where is he?

    HOLLY: “Hello, Holly, how are you?” “Fine thanks, Arnold.” “You haven’t seen Kryten, have you?” “I have actually, he’s in the sleeping quarters…”

    Rimmer races out.

    HOLLY: … “Thanks a lot, Hol.” “Not at all, Arn. See you.” “‘Bye.” What a charming man.

    That was one of the episodes whose script I read in Son of Soup (where the above text is copied from) before I saw the actual episode, and I was always disappointed that they had to edit that scene out. Seeing it as a deleted scene on the DVD was nice, but it never quite lived up to the version I’d imagined when I first read it.

  4. High: The beginning of the Brylcreem joke

    Low: The end of the Brylcreem joke

  5. Hattie has really decent range, I can see that she might have been annoying for the writers with her suggestions but it’s all for the good of the character.

    A more mature Rob and Doug might have seen this and not been as quick to bin her off but at the height of Dwarf’s success they probably had a lot on and needed weight off their shoulders.

  6. Is Holly supposed to be doing the Alien theme in his charade? It doesn’t sound anything like it.

    The scene starts out funny, interrupting the critical action with such an inappropriate and bizarre request, nicely worded too. But diminishing from there as it goes on and on and on. “Good, innit?”

  7. I’m glad his long & short dinosaur reactions are at least given a positive mention, as they might be my favourite VIII joke. Hard to argue with anything in this list, anyway.

    So we can agree that “yes, god?” is A Bad Thing? Good.

    One of the very, very few good things about Remastered. The pause is so odd without it.

  8. I like the “become a dog” joke, but it is so clearly put in there to give Norm something to do

  9. So we can agree that “yes, god?” is A Bad Thing? Good.

    A bloody love that bit :( It actually annoys me there is NO response from Holly in the original, just a pause as if there should be a line and Lister talking again.

    That line feels natural and funny, poking fun at Lister for having just revealed to Cat that he is the dude his people have worshipped for millennia.

    On another note, I sorely miss shots the like of the landing bay shown next to the Marooned entry.

  10. Surprised Dog’s Milk didn’t get a mention. Great joke, great delivery.

    Great to have another entry in this series. Can’t believe it’s been so long since the last one! Time flies. Still hoping for a high/low for XI scenes and XII scenes, as was done with X. I actually don’t think there’s as much crap in those two series though. 5 worst scenes from XII? The majority would have to be Timewave, really.

  11. Thats my fear about Holly appearing in any more new series, its the idea that they NEED to give Norman something to do and these sketches will be made for Norman within an already busy story. personally, i have no issue with Norman/holly coming back but the character works best with the restrictions, even if that doesn’t work best for the actor.

    With series 8 Doug said Norman just wanted to do jokes and not the explaining stuff.

    The great thing about Hattie is that her presence still added something to the show, yeah she didn’t always get the strongest material but she still felt like an important aspect for the show.

    I know its been said Rob and Doug didn’t want Hattie’s holly to take on a dumb blonde stereotype and so they were always careful with her material, which probably made it abit harder to write for her.

  12. >the woeful and inexplicable egg-head version of the character.

    Why the fuck is his head like that anyway? It annoys me every time I see the episode. I mean obviously they had to add some sort of effect so the viewer could tell which Holly was which, but why the egg-head. Is it because he’s meant to be the smart version of Holly? Well, before the accident in The End his head wasn’t like that, so no. Also, being smart doesn’t give you a fucking stupidly shaped head using a video effect that’s off-centre almost all of the time

  13. I have only just realised that the “any urine found cheating will be expelled” line from The End Remastered makes no fucking sense, as it is meant to be *before* he goes senile.

  14. Maybe urine in the 21st/22nd/23rd (delete as appropriate) centuries has gained sentience.

  15. killing the pace stone dead and halting the momentum of the new series within minutes of it starting.

    Agreed. Although the actual Rat-arsed joke is funny.

    Surprised Dog’s Milk didn’t get a mention. Great joke, great delivery.

    Definitely.

    I think the problem with Holly ’97-’99 is almost that Norm has forgotten how to be Holly, and is trying just to be…

    Oh, just re-read this bit:

    The whole point of Norman’s Holly was that this supposedly all-powerful futuristic supercomputer behaved like a slightly dour, put-upon, middle-aged bloke. Now that he’s mugging and smirking and playing for laughs, the deadpan charm is completely gone.

    …which was pretty much what I was going to attempt to say.

    The Holly in Skipper is actually a bit better. But I definitely wouldn’t want Holly back full-time, because like you say, and as most people (though not necessarily Norm) realise, there’s just not enough material for Holly to warrant him being there.

  16. One of the very, very few good things about Remastered. The pause is so odd without it.

    I always liked that pause for effect, as it gives the ending of the episode a bit of gravitas. Filling it with a joke didn’t work for me, but as Remastered goes it’s fairly inoffensive.

  17. Oh, come on. It looks really good.

    It looks like a disastrous attempt at combining a Peanut M&M with a human being

  18. I personally think that Norman’s version of Holly could work alongside the rest of the crew, but only if the writing were spot on.

    Quite a few of the great Holly scenes from the first couple of series were simple conversations on board ship, mainly with Lister, and these type of interactions could still work.

    I do appreciate that Kryten did take a lot of Holly’s role away though…

  19. Holly is the ship’s computer and thats very much his/her purpose on the show.

    On a plus we may not get silly ideas like the JMC computer if Holly comes back.

  20. I guess it’s overshadowed by the Cat and Lister stuff that immediately follows it, but warning Lister about the “tarantula” in Terrorform is a nice little conversational scene for Hattie’s Holly. Telling that the character is brought into service with Kryten unavailable. Lister even asks “What does Kryten think?”

  21. > Honourable mention to the deleted scene from Holoship, where a panicked Rimmer runs back onto Red Dwarf as the mind patch runs out

    Reading that again, it makes me wonder which Holly is having a go at more: Rimmer himself, or the crew’s dependence on Kryten making her obsolete.

  22. The Patrick McGoohan style-irony there is that Rob and Doug were actually having a go at themselves for not giving Hattie any lines and knew it would end up being cut.

  23. I like the become a dog bit.

  24. No dogs milk? barking up the wrong tree with this one.

  25. Hopefully with Holly in the next series they do a lot of that Hattie style reacting to stuff in the background.

  26. It would be hilarious if they got Norman back just to do reaction in the background acting and no lines.

  27. I’ve been thinking, technology being where it is, everyone’s smartphone will quite happily project a face over your face and track your eyes, mouth, eyebrows and shiz. Surely Hattie could come back with a few dots on her face for tracking purposes and they could digitally make her look exactly as she did in V. Maybe add an effect over the top like III if it looks weird.

    I say Hattie because she looks pretty much the same as she did, Norman doesn’t.

    It’d be interesting to see if such a thing could be done with machine learning too like that Friends gif where everyone is Nic Cage.

  28. I’ve been thinking, technology being where it is, everyone’s smartphone will quite happily project a face over your face and track your eyes, mouth, eyebrows and shiz. Surely Hattie could come back with a few dots on her face for tracking purposes and they could digitally make her look exactly as she did in V. Maybe add an effect over the top like III if it looks weird.

    Kryten: Or we could use the wig.
    Doug Naylor: Or, at a pinch, we could just use the wig.

  29. Snapchat stuff is all proprietary and not actually as good as you think it is, you’d be essentially creating a CGI Holly on your own time and money, and it would take far too much of both to even consider

  30. Snapchat stuff is all proprietary and not actually as good as you think it is, you’d be essentially creating a CGI Holly on your own time and money, and it would take far too much of both to even consider

    I’m not actually suggesting using snapchat haha

    Google AI is used for the more nefarious uses of such tech and that’s open source.

    Besides, Doug loves pissing money up the wall, see: VoxelJet Starbug.

  31. If Doug was told tomorrow that there was a cheap way to do the whole new age de-aging effects, you know he would use that in the next series. even if its for like 5 seconds.

    The whole old age make up in M-Corp looked good but was really unnecessary. and I’m still not sure why Lister had aged at all.

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