Scrumping for Sets

I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me.

Come back in time 30 years with me, to Manchester. (I’ll have to use the Series VII Time Drive rather than the VI version, unless I’m willing to take the bus up there.) Red Dwarf Series 2 finished shooting on the 3rd July 1988, with Queeg. The first audience recording session for Series III was on the 5th September 1989 – although there must have been location shooting before this date. Regardless – in the 13 months between those dates, Red Dwarf underwent a great number of changes.

Some of those changes we still don’t really know an awful lot about. For instance, Rob and Doug became producers on the show, but the conversations which lead to that remain largely a mystery. Still, one of the most immediately obvious changes came from the ousting of Paul Montague as production designer… and the instatement of Mel Bibby. And the on-screen effect this had on the show has been endlessly talked about, at least.

But my mind keeps wandering. Because those sets for Series 1 and 2 would surely have been put into storage for any potential Series 3. And once Series III was finally commissioned, and Mel Bibby joined the team… there came the decision made to create entirely new sets. And believe me, I’ve stared at those sets long enough to know that they really were entirely new.

Old bunkroom from Queeg New bunkroom from Timeslides

Which means: those Series 1 and 2 sets would be surplus to requirements… and dumped. Exactly where, and exactly when, I have absolutely no idea. But at some point between July 1988 and September 1989, they were gone. Possibly sitting in a skip outside BBC North West.

And just imagine. Imagine if you had loved those first two series at the time. And imagine you found out exactly where and exactly when those sets were dumped. And imagine you could have gone and rescued those sets. And imagine that suddenly, you owned that famous grey bunkroom.

Because you’d be the owner of one of the most amazing pieces of Red Dwarf memorabilia in existence. And – give it a few years, maybe – one of the most valuable. If only you’d known exactly what day to go scouting around a certain bit of Manchester. If only you’d known. You could have made thousands of pounds from it in the mid-nineties. Or – if you’re more sentimental – you could pop down to your garage any time you wanted, and lie on Lister’s bunk.

All you needed to know is the date, and the place. It was there for the taking. If only you’d known.

I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me.

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21 Responses to Scrumping for Sets

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  1. Maybe the bunkroom set was never junked. Maybe it just went missing, making replacements for series III necessary. And maybe it went missing because you will go back (RDVII timedrive probably the best bet – TV sets are notoriously difficult for getting home on public transport) and take it from BBC North West once filming for series 2 is over and done with.
    Heck yes.

  2. I was in Hadfield in 2002 during the middle of series 3 of League of Gentlemen airing, and there was a big skip on the high street with all the signs and fake frontage etc from Royston Vasey, including (from what I could see on the top layer) Joke Shop and Spit & Polish (which hadn’t aired yet). It was a bit broken up and splintery though and piss-wet through, it wasn’t worth it. Nothing recognisable in one piece which I could reach in and grab. Plus I’d have looked like a right tramp foraging through a skip.

    Anyway, this may go part of the way to explaining why even the time machine daydream might have flaws.

  3. Just checked and I can date my visit to 10th October 2002, when ‘The Medusa Touch’ premiered (on BBC Choice – no-one remembers now the crap way s3 was broadcast). So to those with time machines, I’d get some gardening gloves.

  4. This is the plot of Seinfeld S09E06

  5. Oh bloody hell it is! The first one I saw in fact, after an episode of Paul Merton: The Series on Paramount.

  6. Parallel Universe was *broadcast* on the 11th October 1988 – the final recording session for II was Queeg, on the 3rd July.

    That reminds me of how odd it is that Parallel Universe wasn’t recorded last when it clearly *has* to go out last, and my little theory connected to the very strange “alternate ending” glimpsed on It’s Cold Outside, where it turns out Lister isn’t actually pregnant…

  7. Also: Is there not something a little odd about Series II being filmed during June and July, when I and III-V were all recorded in autumn/winter, and VI in the Spring?

  8. G&T Admin

    Parallel Universe was *broadcast* on the 11th October 1988 – the final recording session for II was Queeg, on the 3rd July.

    Bloody hell, thanks. Corrected. Luckily, it doesn’t affect my point, but it’s so annoying to get that wrong. I even specifically looked it up… but read the wrong line!

  9. G&T Admin

    This is the plot of Seinfeld S09E06

    This is proof that I should be writing my amazing and brilliant sitcom about TV after all.

    The series finale is about a royal obit.

  10. G&T Admin

    I was in Hadfield in 2002 during the middle of series 3 of League of Gentlemen airing, and there was a big skip on the high street with all the signs and fake frontage etc from Royston Vasey, including (from what I could see on the top layer) Joke Shop and Spit & Polish (which hadn’t aired yet). It was a bit broken up and splintery though and piss-wet through, it wasn’t worth it. Nothing recognisable in one piece which I could reach in and grab. Plus I’d have looked like a right tramp foraging through a skip.

    There’s a wider article to be written about all this, which is how stuff which could be of value or interest is dumped all the time when making television, because things need to be done quickly, and preserving exactly what you made yesterday in case it’s interesting takes time and effort.

    Case in point: I chuck away paperwork every single shift in my job playing out [an important TV channel]. Continuity scripts, live transmission forms, schedules, programme sheets, the lot. I really should preserve more of it. But… it’s TV, things are done quickly, and at the end of the day, it’s all “worthless” and needs getting rid of. Plus. I can’t just bung it all into my bag when I leave work: the next shift still needs some of it.

    Relatedly, I remember one year I wanted to write a proper diary detailing a year in TX. But I’ve never managed to write it, because when you get home after a long shift, the last thing you want to do is write about what you did that day. You just need sleep.

  11. There was an urban legend about Ted Danson’s contract stipulating that the Cheers bar had to be installed inside his house after the show finished. It’s bollocks, but I’ve just looked it up to make sure I had the details right and see if I could find out how it started, and found out that Peter Jackson really did have the Bag End set installed in his backyard.

  12. A lot of it was just stuff off the period though and you wouldn’t look twice if you saw it in a skip, even if you were a Red Dwarf fan at the time. A couple of Argos sleeping bags, an inflatable banana, a metal folding chair, some grey plywood and a sink. Could be student accommodation getting cleared out.

    Unless you saw something in one huge piece like a full bunk the only really recognisable parts of the bunkroom is that hydrant thing next to the bottom bunk and sink, and the window.

    Also the plywood thing, I imagine some will have been reused, it’s just grey plywood, nothing stopping it making a lovely crate.

  13. There’s a wider article to be written about all this, which is how stuff which could be of value or interest is dumped all the time when making television, because things need to be done quickly, and preserving exactly what you made yesterday in case it’s interesting takes time and effort.

    This is true once-removed as well. My friend thought I was insane photographing a skip in 2002 (on film!), my Facebook friends thought I was insane scanning and posting a photograph of a skip in 2008, yet here we are in 2019, where those photographs are now interesting and relevant evidence in a conversation, and legitimate TV history.

  14. i know what’s wrong with you – you’re a humee

  15. G&T Admin

    In other news, I am now pondering exactly what date the truck took the Series III sets down from Manchester to Shepperton, in preparation for Series IV.

  16. Here’s an interesting one for the what-if machine.

    How would Red Dwarf have turned out differently if Mel Bibby had been involved since day one?

    Maybe Series I and II look less cheap, and so Series III, IV, and V keep the same aesthetic.

    If the precedent for changing the look of the show hadn’t been set so early, would modern series still be taking place in a lavish recreation of the original Series I bunkroom?

  17. That’s an interesting idea.

    I sometimes wonder how different those early series would have looked if they hadn’t been produced at BBC Manchester, which was a bit of a backwater as far as TV sci-fi was concerned. I imagine we’d see a lot more recycled props, costumes and sets from Doctor Who/Star Cops etc.

  18. One thing I’ll say for VIII is that blended the two previous looks for the ship nicely – grey corridors leading into grungy white plastic sections.

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