With the two year anniversary of Red Dwarf XII rapidly approaching, it’s time to tidy up a few remaining bits of business here on G&T. Our retrospective DwarfCasts are already in the can and will be published before too long. But before those, there’s one thing which I’m sure you’d all hoped I’d forgotten about. Yes, it’s time for that sodding ad breaks article again.
A quick reminder of why I do these. When I first wrote this piece on Red Dwarf X‘s ad break placement, I did it because I was annoyed. It felt like Dwarf hasn’t even tried to adapt to being on commercial television, and its ad breaks were placed and presented in a most begrudging manner. However, this was almost entirely rectified with Red Dwarf XI, which did a pretty damn good job.
Seeing as Red Dwarf XII was made in tandem with XI, surely the same is true this time round? Let’s take a look.
WHERE: (11:30 / 29:16) RIGHT AFTER THE SELFIE WITH HITLER.
DOES IT WORK?: I think I find this moment an awful lot less funny than most people, although I admit I’ve warmed to it a little more recently. Either way, I can’t deny that it’s a hugely popular moment, and in terms of that, the show probably judged this pretty well. End on a big laugh, and people will come back after the break.
WHERE: (12:29 / 27:14) After Areto’s line “Defiance is, well impossible”, once the crew have been turned into mechs.
DOES IT WORK?: Very much so. It sets up the second half of the episode perfectly.
There is one odd thing about the broadcast/UKTV Play version of this episode. On the DVD, the ominous music comes in over the end of the scene with the crew turned into mechs, and continues over the shot of the SS Vespasian – which makes sense when the action is continuous. But the version with the break has the music come in at exactly the same point, cuts off as the break appears, and then continues when we rejoin. This seems weirdly messy; surely the music should only be present for the second half? It’s irrelevant to the first half if you’re immediately going to a break.
WHERE: (14:54 / 26:59) Right after the Crit Cop tasers the Cat.
DOES IT WORK?: Good a place as any, I guess. Can this episode go away now, please?
One interesting thing to note: we get slightly more of the music cue coming into Part Two on the broadcast version compared to the DVD, as it starts over the Red Dwarf XII logo. This is the single best thing about Timewave.
WHERE: (13:24 / 27:45) Just after the vending machines go on strike, and Cat kicks one of them. “You’ll pay for that!”
DOES IT WORK?: It works – the strike is a turning point in the episode. Although I wonder whether a better placing would have been one scene later, where Kryten and Rimmer decide to run for Machine President.
Here’s the really peculiar thing about this episode, though. The model shot we get after the ad break is completely different in the two versions!
I think the DVD version is far better; the broadcast version looks almost like a temporary shot which was left in by mistake.
WHERE: (14:47 / 26:49) On Cat, as he finds out Rimmer will only lose a month’s memory: “They build you up, then knock you down.”
DOES IT WORK?: The first outright failure of the series for me; ironically in what I consider by far the best episode of the series. The Cat/Rimmer dynamic in M-Corp is by far the weakest material in the show, and this is just a crap joke, recalling past glories while most certainly not living up to them.
As for where the ad break should have been: I don’t think there’s an immediately obvious placing, which perhaps explains the above. I’m tempted to suggest just after the crew disappear, and the promotional video states “M-Corp: We love looking after you”. It certainly makes you wonder what’s going to happen next. And Kryten disappearing with a ping is a far funnier joke than the Cat/Rimmer stuff.
WHERE: (14:51 / 27:56) Just after Holly first appears, with the accompanying cheer.
DOES IT WORK?: Definitely. The cheer is perhaps a slightly odd sound to go into the ad break with, but if anything was going to get viewers to stick around until after the ad break, it’s the return of a long-lost character.
…and here we come to the MOST EXCITING PART of this article. The broadcast and the DVD versions are significantly different here. In the broadcast version, Rimmer walks past the screen, we get the reveal of Holly and a huge cheer, the ad break, and then “Morning Arnold”, followed by a second cheer. In the DVD version, Holly says “Morning Arnold” as soon as he appears in shot, and there’s only one cheer; the episode seamlessly edits out the pause going into the break.
The best way to see this is with a video of both versions:
So, which is canon? And the answer is: if you care, go and stick your head in a ditch. The more interesting question is: which moment works best? I’m going to be an old stick-in-the-mud and say the DVD version – one cheer works OK, but two feels like it’s over-egging it somewhat.
Time for the usual number-crunching. With Series X, I thought only two out of the six episodes had ad break placings which really worked; with XI, I thought five of them worked well. With XII, again, five of them work pretty well. Though it is heftily ironic that the one I don’t think works is in my favourite episode of the entire Dave era.
Still, we’re on an upward trend, and my point is proved; as the series got used to being on a commercial channel, it got better at learning where to place the breaks. Which, as I’ve said before, is an important factor when the series lives on with commercials on UKTV Play.
So, Red Dwarf XIII, if you ever happen: I’m cutting you loose. If the ad break placings for Series X was the equivalent of a bad performance in your GCSEs, and XI/XII were college, where you figured things out but still had a teacher peering over your shoulder… you’re off to university now. You won’t have me to guide you, and this is the last of these articles. You need to get this right by yourself.
It’s taken 16 years of writing for this damn site, and I’ve finally come up with the ultimate patronising analogy. Maybe I have achieved something with these pieces after all.