The G&T Review of the Year 2020 Features Posted by Ian Symes on 31st December 2020, 13:03 What a very strange year. It seems to have lasted for several millennia, but 2020 is finally over, pending any last minute shenanigans, which we can’t entirely rule out. By now you’ll have already read a dozen depressing round-ups cataloguing what a horrible anus it’s been for the world at large, so let’s focus instead on our small corner of it. The trials and tribulations of Red Dwarf may seem insignificant in comparison to the fucking atrocious circumstances we find ourselves in, but it feels more important than ever to find distractions and positives wherever we can, and it’s actually been a pretty busy year for a show that’s rapidly approaching its mid-thirties. Let’s go through some of the highlights, and inevitably some massive lowlights, topic-by-topic, starting with The Promised Land, which yes, really was only this year. It had its hastily-rearranged second and final recording back in January, and our set report was one of cautious optimism, along with complaints about how the large gathering of fans were handled, which really does seem like it took place in a parallel universe now. It wasn’t long before the publicity juggernaut started trundling along, with first look pictures followed by the synopsis and guest cast details, and a teaser containing lots of big spaceships and explosions. In true UKTV style, the title was accidentally leaked slightly early, but this was followed up by a suitably intriguing shot of Rimmer in what we’d later know is his Mighty Light costume, and the truly excellent poster. The TX date of Thursday 9th April (see, it wasn’t even that early in the year) was announced alongside the trailer, which we naturally analysed the shit out of. Inevitably the news came thick and fast in the last few weeks, with a dozen new photos, press coverage and social media teasers, a preview of the pre-titles sequence, and details of the Bluray/DVD release. We’re well aware that we still owe you a proper review of that. Real life got in the way of that one, and it continues to conspire to deny us the necessary free time to give it the going-over it deserves. Next year. It’s on next year’s annual goal list. Eventually the big day finally came, and for the first time since 2012’s Series X, the entirety of Red Dwarf fandom watched it as one as it went out on Dave, with no pesky UKTV Play premiere to split the audience. This coming together couldn’t have come at a better time than in the midst of the most restrictive national lockdown so far, and the sense of community made for a very special and memorable night. We picked the bones of it in our live DwarfCast the following evening, and then Cappsy took on review duties. To summarise, us G&Ters were pretty much delighted with the episode overall, save for a few quibbles which always seem to come hand-in-hand with the Dave era, and the feature-length format is an exciting one for any future endeavours. But a continuity-heavy emotionally-satisfying ninety minute special wasn’t all that Dave had in store for us this year, with The First Three Million Years, a 3x 60-minute documentary series purporting to tell the definitive story of Red Dwarf, mostly, as it turned out, via the medium of clips from the DVD extras. Having been on the cards for a while, the first firm details came in June, with the reveal of the title alongside a quite rubbish logo. July brought a much better logo, although bizarrely it was the original version that ended up being used on screen. Then came the trailer, which provided one of the best headlines of the year, if I do say so myself. For reasons that we’ll come to, our coverage of August’s broadcast wasn’t quite how we originally planned, but nevertheless there were lively discussions about each episode: the first was pretty good, the second was pretty poor, and the third was kind of in the middle. We rounded up our thoughts in DwarfCast form a few weeks later, and concluded that while there were a few annoying omissions and a quite frankly appalling treatment of archive material, you have to bear in mind that the series wasn’t really aimed at us hardcore fans who’ve seen all this stuff already, and it did a decent enough job for a more general audience. One unexpected additional treat that was most certainly aimed squarely at the hardcore was Red Dwarf Quarantine. In the very first few days of lockdown back in March, Rob Grant wanted to do something to lift people’s spirits, and so the man who had previously all but completely disassociated himself from the show for years at a time wondered whether there’d be any interest in him getting together with his pals Paul Jackson and Ed Bye over Zoom to provide live commentaries on old episodes for a viewing audience. There was. The journey from idea to announcement to the first broadcast was swift to say the least, but to date the boys have covered every episode from the first three series, with guests including Chris Barrie, Norman Lovett, Hattie Hayridge, Mac McDonald, Lee Cornes, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith and Gordon Kennedy. Thankfully, they’re all preserved on YouTube too, and we remain hopeful that they might consider carrying on the watch-through at some point. An off-shoot of this activity was Lockdown Theatre, a non-Dwarfy enterprise from the same trio in aid of the Royal Theatrical Fund to help entertainment professionals affected by lockdown. From relatively humble, but still damn impressive beginnings whereby the likes of Robert Lindsay, Martin Kemp and Chris Barrie read through a previously-unmade script by Nanarchy co-writer James Hendrie and Rob’s semi-mythical Cruel Aliens, things kind of escalated. Before long, the company started putting on higher profile events involving Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley, Emma Thompson, Simon Callow and Jennifer Saunders, among many others. It culminated in the quite ludicrous line-up of Sir Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Ian McKellen gathering for a bit of a chit-chat, raising £320K in the process. A ridiculous turn of events. (Oh, we should probably mention Doug/UKTV’s attempt at a “live” commentary, in the lead-up to The Promised Land, but we won’t say much as this isn’t the time of year to be unkind.) There’s one more bit of Red Dwarf material left to round up. Any guesses? Nope? Well, we had completely and utterly forgotten about this until we want back through the archives for the purposes of this article, but Smart Breakdown, the second of the AA adverts, launched in March. Cappsy’s review was a positive one, but it seems unlikely that there’s any more where it came from, with the AA having subsequently moved on with other, unrelated campaigns. What else? Well, there was a new series of Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall’s Radio 4 sitcom Quanderhorn, having dropped the “The” and “Xperimentations” from the title. The series is never terribly widely discussed on here, but I’m a fan – there’s a stellar cast (one of whom, John Sessions, sadly left us this year), brilliant production values and suitably bonkers and mind-bending plots. Elsewhere, Craig & Danny were among the benefactors of broadcasters frantically scrabbling around to prove how not-racist they were in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, narrating ITV’s Funny, Black and On TV documentary, which bizarrely didn’t cover Red Dwarf in its history of Black representation in British comedy, despite hiring two of its stars. Dimension Jump got postponed twice, for obvious reasons, but the Fan Club announced a stop-gap online event, Holly Hop for February 2021, which will feature a brand new Red Dwarf script written by Rob Grant, which kind of makes up for it. And our old pal Kris Carter launched Drive Room, a new free fanzine covering the making of the show and more. Plus there was a load of stuff we didn’t get round to covering, due to us either being incredibly busy or incredibly shit, depending on how kindly disposed you are towards us. Andi Osho discussed Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers on BBC Two’s book club style programme Between The Covers. Craig Charles continued his assault on ITV’s schedules by appearing on reality show Don’t Rock The Boat, in which he was filmed simultaneously vomiting whilst shitting into a bucket. Paul Jackson presented a tribute to Nicholas Parsons on Radio 4, and Robert Llewellyn appeared in the latest film by YouTuber Ashens. Considering how television production and live entertainment was basically non-existent for vast swathes of the year, we’ve had plenty to be getting on with. And just as the year ends, news reaches us that Craig has started dropping hints that more specials are being planned, which we’re of course taking with our usual pinch of salt but nevertheless welcome the optimism. Undoubtedly though, 2020 will not be a remembered as a good year, and even in our little Dwarfy corner of comfort, we as a fandom were not safe from tragedy. Bill Pearson, model maker extraordinaire and superb raconteur, passed away in March. Then, on the 2nd August, my world was turned upside down by the sudden loss of Seb Patrick, writer, podcaster, reddwarf.co.uk editor, former G&Ter and one of the best friends I’ll ever have. I think I can speak for Cappsy, Danny and myself when I say we’re still nowhere near coming to terms with it, but we’re pleased that our tribute DwarfCast resonated with a lot of you, and at least covered some tiny percentage of all the things he means to us. What we do know for sure is that the support we received from our own small but wonderful community was a genuine help, and the tributes and donations received from far and wide remain a great source of comfort for his family. Thank you again. The ongoing grieving process is one of several factors – alongside the arrival of a second G&T baby and, you know, *gestures at the outside world* all of this – that have lead to our G&T content ending up somewhat different to the norm in 2020. It started off typically enough, with John Hoare providing a glimpse at the Parallel Universe camera script and the latest instalment of his Set To Rights series covering the Teaching Room… before picking a brilliant moment to fuck off entirely after nearly seventeen years, along with Tanya Jones. Other than the aforementioned reports, reviews and news stories, these would turn out to be our only in-depth written features of the year, which is a bit of a disappointment, although in fairness to us, we did manage to tidy up the site and add a bunch of features, including proper mobile support nearly a decade too late. We also found time to play some games, bringing you video features on ancient fan effort Red Dwarf G.A.G. and almost as ancient official release Simulants Revenge. However, very few people would have predicted that 2020 would be the year that DwarfCasts would finally step up a gear, with a regular and mostly reliable release schedule for the first time in its fourteen year history. While it’s regrettable that this site has basically become a landing page for a podcast at times in the last few months, the fact is it’s been much easier to commit to a couple of hours of ramblechat most weekends than to find time for a properly researched and thought-through article, so it’s this or nothing. But besides which, we’re pretty proud of the quality and quantity of the output. For a start, we finally finished our longstanding quest to commentate on all 52 episodes of the original series, polishing off Parallel Universe, Duct Soup, Cassandra, Blue and Marooned. And so we moved on to the Dave era, covering the whole of Series XI by the end of the year, while also starting an accompanying regular feature Waffle Men, in which we discuss any old Dwarf-related nonsense suggested by our loyal listeners-slash-readers. And if that wasn’t enough, we were also very pleased to launch the DwarfCast Book Club, an idea we’d been wanting to do for years, in which we discuss and dissect each Red Dwarf novel part by part. We’ve finished the first two books so far, with the two solo efforts to follow in the new year, and we’ve been delighted to see so many of you joining in, reading and commenting with us as we go. Again, we can’t thank you enough; with everything we’ve had to deal with this year, collectively and personally, these recordings have been the best possible therapy for the three of us, and we can only hope you’ve enjoyed the results. And finally, G&TV continued to provide us with an easy monthly update and you with a regular dose of Dwarf-related archive telly treats… at least until October, after which we finally dropped the ball on our longest-running regular feature ever after an uninterrupted run of 32 editions. Sorry about that there. It will be back at some point in the new year – we’ve got plenty of great ones in the bag, it’s just, as we may have mentioned by now, it’s been hard to find the time. Still, if you missed any of this year’s videos, they were: Arthur Smith and Tony Slattery on Just A Minute; a special 20th anniversary retrospective on The Strangerers; the Red Dwarf Quarantine commentary for Future Echoes; Craig presenting 90s sci-fi documentary Beam Me Up Scotty; Hattie appearing on Friday Night Live; Norman’s pilot Lovett Goes To Town; the cast’s panel at Comic-Con@Home 2020; the masterpiece that is A Prince Among Men; alternative comedy classic Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams; and a Halloween special featuring four small spooky scenes starring our main cast. So what does 2021 hold? For the world – fuck knows, although the result of the US election and the development of Covid-19 vaccines give us some hope that it will at least be better than 2020, even if there’s still a long way to go before we get to that small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. For Red Dwarf – fuck knows about that too. In normal circumstances, considering how well The Promised Land was received and how well it performed for Dave, we’d be sure that more new material would be on the way. But the TV industry has been hit harder by this pandemic than may be immediately apparent. It’s operating far from full capacity, as Covid safety measures have meant that everything now takes longer and costs more, and there’s going to be a long queue for studio time as more productions get back on their feet. We’re just going to have to remain realistic and patient as we await further news. As for G&T, we know better than to make promises about what we’re going to do in 2021, especially considering how askew our plans went this year. But we’re definitely hoping to continue with the current pace of DwarfCasts, and have got plenty of ideas for what to do next when we’ve run out of episodes and novels. And we want to get back up to speed with the written stuff too; the desire to spend all day every day bollocking on about Red Dwarf has never left us, it’s only boring things like jobs and childcare that prevent us from doing so. There’s a huge backlog of planned articles just waiting to be made flesh as soon as we find the time. We can’t guarantee when we’ll be able to retrieve that time from behind the fridge, but we’ll continue to do our best. And so as we say goodbye to this utter fucking shitshow of a year, we raise our glasses to the cast and crew of Red Dwarf, past and present, who have done so much to keep us entertained in the most difficult of circumstances. To absent friends, whose memories will stay with us in all we do. And last but not least to you, dear reader, for choosing to spend time with us, for your patience and understanding when things have been quiet, and for continuing to be part of this stupid little sweary, pedantic, wilfully obtuse Red Dwarf fansite that celebrated its eighteenth birthday this year, and has never felt like more of a blessed relief from the real world. However you’re spending it, we wish you a Happy New Year, and health and happiness in 2021. Salut.