After over a year’s gap, welcome back to Set to Rights, the series where I look at Red Dwarf‘s sets in mind-numbing detail. And having already looked at some thrilling wall sections and the Captain’s Office, we turn to what might initially seem an unpromising avenue for spectacular revelations: the Teaching Room in Series 1.
I think, however, you may be surprised. Because telling the story of this set leads us into some rather interesting areas which I don’t think have been examined before. As ever, we don’t have the paperwork handy to be able to check any of this: instead, we have to do some deduction, some guesswork, and leave some questions unanswered.
With that health warning, let’s take another trip through early Red Dwarf – as usual with these articles, in order of recording date rather than broadcast.
The End – Original Shoot
Of course, the very first time we see this set was in the original recording of The End – although this scene actually made it into the final broadcast version. Yes, it’s Rimmer’s exam unpleasantness:
Unique to the original recording of The End, however, is this footage of Lister walking through the set asking whether everybody is dead, which was later re-recorded:
Put next to one another like this, one thing immediately becomes clear: the set has actually been changed. The panel on the right – which originally had the Teaching Room sign and the coloured tapes – has been entirely removed, revealing the corridor set behind it.
In other words: in this latter scene, this isn’t supposed to be the Teaching Room at all, but an entirely different place on Red Dwarf.
Balance of Power
Onto the second episode recorded, and we have the Teaching Room back in action:
But the room Lister takes his exam in is clearly the same set… but as in the first recording session of the series, has the right panel removed for the latter scene:
It’s at this point that I begin to feel rather stupid. I’ve watched Balance of Power countless times over the years, and I never actually realised that the set wasn’t identical between these two scenes. I certainly never noticed that they removed that panel. For years I assumed that it was supposed to be the same room. I’m sure you all noticed, and are just itching to call me a twat.
There’s one further oddity. Take a look at this angle in the exam scene:
The idea that the exam room is right next to the bunkroom is frankly a weird one, and doesn’t really seem to make an awful lot of sense. On the plus side, once you see that, and notice that Rimmer wanders off into the bunkroom fondling his newfound tit, then that joke suddenly becomes infinitely funnier.
Waiting for God
Up until this point, things have been fairly obvious. Waiting for God, however, throws us a curveball.
At first sight, the Observation Room looks nothing like the Teaching Room set. But look closer. Ignore the huge additional wall in the middle of the set. Instead, look at Holly’s monitor, and the array of buttons underneath it. Look also at the door and the wall on the left. This is clearly the same basic set as used for the Teaching Room – admittedly with a fair few alterations, but the same basic set nonetheless.
Indeed, the Observation Room set is clearly in the same place on the studio floor as the Teaching Room set in the previous episodes. For proof of that, compare these two shots – the first from Balance of Power, and the second from the It’s Cold Outside documentary from The Bodysnatcher Collection. (Yes, the Series 2 documentary, not Series 1.)
That second picture… sorry, I need to go for a lie down for a moment. Back soon.
Come the next episode? Why, we’re back to the bog standard Teaching Room again, including its errant wall:
Now, we know that Red Dwarf‘s sets weren’t kept up all week in Studio A at Oxford Road – they were only ERECTED for the two days of recording each week. Still, I find it a fun revelation that the Teaching Room set wasn’t just put away wholesale between recordings – it was adapted into the Observation Room set, and then adapted right back to the Teaching Room set. And if you don’t find that interesting, I don’t know how you’ve managed to make it this far into the article, to be honest.
Confidence & Paranoia
Oddly enough, Confidence & Paranoia is the only episode of Series 1 not to make use of the main section of the Teaching Room set. So instead, a bit of bonus trivia for you. Where do you think we’ve seen that airlock door on the right before?
If that isn’t just the door to the inner part of the Observation Room painted red, I’ll… do something very complicated.
Not to fear, the set returns for Me²… but in a rather different form than we’ve seen it before. It’s the the double Rimmer’s bunkroom!
Again, there are a fair number of changes – in particular, the monitor has gone, to be replaced by a window – but the basic structure of the set is entirely the same. The lighting strips and central vents just above them are a dead giveaway that huge chunks of the same set are being reused here.
The above really changes the perception of this set significantly. To me, the Teaching Room set always felt a little odd – like something useful for the pilot, that then hung around a little longer than it should. But once you look at it closely, the Teaching Room didn’t hang around all series, but became the adaptable main third set of the show, depending on what that week’s episode needed.
The fact this wasn’t immediately obvious means that Paul Montague should get far more credit than he generally receives.
The End – Remount
And finally for Series 1 – the remount of The End. And for this, the set was transformed back into its Teaching Room guise – in fact, both different variants of it, as seen in the original recording of the episode.
So, as Lister learns that everybody’s dead again, the right hand panel is missing:
But when Lister and Rimmer recover from meeting the Cat – a scene originally set in the Drive Room with just Lister in the original recording – the set has transformed into the Teaching Room proper, complete with right hand wall and tapes:
This episode does give us a particularly good shot to compare the Double Rimmer bunkroom and the Teaching Room set, just to prove the basic structure of them is essentially identical – Me² on the left, and The End remount on the right:
And surely that’s where we leave things, yes? After all, Series 2 doesn’t have anything which looks remotely like this set, does it?
Yes it bloody does. And here’s where the history of this set takes a genuinely surprising turn.
First off, we all know how the Series 1 Drive Room set was replaced entirely for Series 2. The first picture is from the last audience session of Series 1 – the remount of The End – and the second is from the first audience session of Series 2, Better Than Life:
Haaaaang on a moment. I smell something fishy.
True, at first glance, the Series 2 Drive Room set doesn’t look much like our old friend the Teaching Room. The addition of all the monitoring gubbins makes it difficult to tell. But let’s take a closer look.
Most obviously, there’s the central pillar of the Holly monitor. But look to the right, and the view of the corridor:
The gap to the corridor outside, the lighting strip above the doorway, and crucially: the vents above the lighting strip, which are difficult to see properly in a still image, but are definitely there when you’re watching the episode. This is all in exactly the same configuration.
And finally, the clincher. Let’s take a look at the doorway on the left of the set:
I would be willing to stake money that the Series 2 Drive Room is the same basic set as the Teaching Room, and all its various other incarnations in Series 1. And very few people have ever noticed before, because they did a bloody good job of hiding it.
For more corroboration? Take a look at where the Series 2 Drive Room is placed on the studio floor, taken from It’s Cold Outside:
It’s exactly where the old Teaching Room set used to be: directly next to the bunkroom. Case, as far as I’m concerned, closed.
So I’ll leave you with one final exam question. The destroyed Hologram Simulation Suite in Queeg: part of this same set, or something completely different?
If anybody comments with “I am a fish”, I will kill you.