Save Page 61 Features Posted by Flap Jack on 25th November 2022, 08:00 Previously on G&T: Regular reader Flap Jack put us all to shame with his incredibly detailed examination of the changes between hardback, paperback, Omnibus and audiobook versions of the four Red Dwarf novels. Now he’s back to finish the job, with an examination of the abridged audiobooks. Imagine: it’s 1993, and you’re excitedly rushing home after picking up a copy of the newly released Red Dwarf Series 1 VHS. You heat yourself up a bowl of alphabetti spaghetti, grab a Leopard Lager from the fridge, and start up the tape to watch The End. But part way through, you start to realise something’s wrong. What happened to the subplot about Rimmer’s exam? Wasn’t there a scene where you see Lister with Frankenstein before he gets in trouble with the Captain? What’s going on? You double check the VHS sleeve, and realise to your horror that it doesn’t say “Series I Byte One” but “Series I Abridged”! You try to scream, but discover your mouth is sealed shut. You run to the door, but behind it is just a brick wall. You look back at the alphabetti spaghetti: all ampersands. Thankfully, that could never be the reality for home media releases of Red Dwarf, the TV show. But for Red Dwarf, the series of novels? Back in the 1990s, all of them were subjected to the then-standard practice of heavily editing down books for their audiobook versions, in order to make them fit on to a commercially viable number of cassette tapes. Mercifully, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life did receive full, unabridged audiobooks as well, but Last Human and Backwards were not so blessed. With any abridged audiobook comes many creative decisions that need to be made. Not just in terms of what gets cut and what stays in, but often also in terms of how the surviving sections are edited to compensate for whatever is missing. What did they do in order to cut down Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s dense sci-fi epics to a meagre 2 or 4 cassette tapes each? Those changes are exactly what we’ll be looking at today. Going forward, keep in mind that whenever I refer to a “change”, I’m only referring to text that’s been added, reordered or replaced. Text that’s simply been removed, as is par for the course in an abridged audiobook, will be referred to as an “omission”, “cut” or “skip”. Changes will be considered in detail, while omissions will only be summarised, and only when significant. [Note: Just as with the unabridged audiobooks, the abridged audiobooks are full of unremarkable and slight changes to wording, some of which are in aid of them being abridged and some of which are not. As these changes are so numerous and do not invite commentary, they will not be covered here, but they are listed here for posterity.] Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers Written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor; Read by Chris Barrie Many novels don’t even get audiobooks, but Infinity and Better Than Life are just so awesome that they received 2 of them each: the original audiobook release (available in both abridged and unabridged form), and the later Radio Show version, produced for the BBC World Service. The original abridged audiobooks cut the Grant Naylor novels down to 3 hours apiece, while the Radio Show ruthlessly cut them down even further to just 2 hours and a half each (across 24 episodes in total) – but tried to make up for this blatant injustice by getting Chris Barrie to do partial re-recordings, and by adding in music and sound effects. As the Radio Show version of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers – produced by Laughing Stock Productions and abridged by Chris Wallis in 1995 and 1996 – is the more radical edit of the original story, let’s scrutinise that first. To begin, the Radio Show skips over anything related to either Frank Saunders or George McIntyre, and understandably decides to kick things off in Part One, Chapter THREE, the chapter where we actually meet Lister and Rimmer. However, as this chapter was not originally written as an opening, they chose to shift things around a little bit. A passage describing Mimas from the middle of the chapter is extracted and brought to the very beginning, with a new clause added on to more clearly establish the setting, and the summarising sentence is moved to the end. This works pretty well, I think. Book A typical Saturday night on Mimas. The thick air hung heavy with the smells and noises of a hundred mingling cultures. The trotters, Mimian slang for ‘pavements’, were obscured by giant serpents of human flesh as people wrested their way past the blinking neons of casinos and restaurants, the on-off glare of bars and clubs; shouting, screaming, laughing, vomiting. Astros and miners on planet leave going wallet-bulging crazy, desperate for a good time after months of incarceration in the giant space freighters that now hung over the moon’s shuttle port. Radio Show Under the Plexiglas dome on Mimas, Saturn’s fifth moon, the thick air hung heavy with the smells and noises of a hundred mingling cultures. People wrestled their way past the blinking neons of casinos and restaurants, the on-off glare of bars and clubs; shouting, screaming, laughing, vomiting. Astros and miners on planet leave going wallet-bulging crazy, desperate for a good time after months of incarceration in the giant space freighters that now hung over the moon’s shuttle port. A typical Saturday night on Mimas. After this, we move through the story of how Lister and Rimmer met, and how Lister signed up for the Space Corps, all while skipping over such apparently trivial details as: what Lister’s life on Mimas is like, the whole chapter wherein we meet Denis and Josie and learn of their addictions to Bliss and ‘Better Than Life’ respectively (and Denis mugs Lister), and the Shore Patrol coming to pick Lister up from his luggage locker residence. The next change of note occurs in Chapter TEN, during Rimmer’s speech to Z Shift, right after Lister nails him with his “But he’s not usually in charge, sir.” remark. Book This was a tricky situation. Rebellion, a loss of respect. It had to be stamped on, it had to be crushed. Radio Show Rimmer gripped the podium tightly, and surveyed the members of Z Shift. This was a tricky situation. Rebellion, a loss of respect. It had to be stamped on, it had to be crushed. A curious addition, considering that this section was not so trimmed that this was needed to understand what was going on. It works fine, but I’m just thinking of those precious seconds that could have been used to avoid cutting a sentence somewhere else. Next, in Chapter ELEVEN, we get to hear about the goings on at McIntyre’s death disco. Except it’s not McIntyre’s death disco, because McIntyre is no longer in this story. So it’s just a disco. Book There was a loud scraping of chairs as people stood up and guided their partners onto the already packed dance floor. A huge, multi-limbed beast rippled, ebbing and flowing, contracting and expanding to the gentle sway of the music. Radio Show There was a loud scraping of chairs as people stood up and guided their partners onto the already packed dance floor. # … just press your lumps, against mine… # A huge, multi-limbed beast rippled, ebbing and flowing, contracting and expanding to the gentle sway of the music. Of course music pops up frequently in the Radio Show, but in this case the narration actually pauses briefly so we can hear Johnny Cologne’s Press Your Lumps Against Mine’s one and only lyric, which I assume they pulled an all-nighter to write. I hope you enjoyed it too, because that’s what you get instead of Phil Burroughs’s ordeal with peer pressure and Petersen telling Lister about his house on Triton. Next, in Chapter TWELVE, we find out all about Rimmer’s exam preparation woes. Book In all, he’d taken the exam eleven times. Radio Show In all, he’d taken the exam twelve times. Oh my God… they actually did it. They actually made a version of one of these novels where the number of times Rimmer takes the astronavigation exam is completely consistent! I think I’m going to cry. Anyway, after the Radio Show skips over such details as Rimmer recalling his “I am a fish” incident and Lister opening up to Kochanski about losing his father, we’re onto Part Two, Chapter TWO. Lister is reintroduced to Rimmer in his new hologramatic form, and Chris Wallis realises that he never introduced holograms, and so hurriedly does that now. The following two sections were lifted from Chapter ONE and Chapter SIX of Part One respectively, and they’re now placed right after Lister says “You died in the accident” and Rimmer replies “So I did”. Book He was dead, but he was still here. His personality had been stored on disc, and the computer had reproduced him down to the tiniest detail; down to his innermost thoughts. Radio Show Rimmer was dead, but he was still here. His personality had been stored on disc, and the computer had reproduced him down to the tiniest detail; down to his innermost thoughts. The hologramatic illusion of Saunders’ body was provided by a light bee. The light bee, a minute projection device the size of a pin head, hovered in the middle of his body receiving data from the Hologram Simulation Suite, which it then transmitted into a 3-D form.The effect was so convincing, so real, that all holograms bore a two-inch high, metallic-looking ‘H’ on their foreheads so they could never be mistaken for living people. The stigma of the Dead. Not the mark of Cain, the killer, but the mark of Abel, the slain. The hologramatic illusion of Rimmer’s body was provided by a light bee. The light bee, a minute projection device the size of a pin head, hovered in the middle of his body receiving data from the Hologram Simulation Suite, which it then transmitted into a 3-D form.The effect was so convincing, so real, that all holograms bore a two-inch high, metallic-looking ‘H’ on their foreheads so they could never be mistaken for living people. The stigma of the Dead. Not the mark of Cain, the killer, but the mark of Abel, the slain. It’s a deviously simple change. Just take the descriptions of holograms for Saunders, and make them about Rimmer instead. This does mean that Rimmer becoming a hologram is no longer a pay off to an early set up, but hey, that’s the kind of luxury the Radio Show does not have the time to indulge, and the result is pretty seamless. After this, a couple of days pass before Lister asks Holly why he chose to resurrect Rimmer of all people, and this segues into another paragraph of hologram exposition lifted from Part One, Chapter SIX. Specifically, it plays after Holly says “and it turns out Rimmer is absolutely the best person to keep you sane” and before Lister replies “But Rimmer?? Anyone would have been better than Rimmer”. Book Hologram simulation of a full human personality took up forty percent of the computer’s run-time, and burned up enough energy per second to illuminate Paris for three years, which was why Red Dwarf was only able to sustain one hologram at a time. Radio Show Hologram simulation of a full human personality burned up enough energy per second to illuminate Paris for three years, which was why Red Dwarf was only able to sustain one hologram at a time. Next, the Radio Show starts to get a bit impatient. All of Rimmer’s self-reflection on his new status as a hologram and his frustrations with cohabiting with Lister are omitted, and his conversation with Lister about his plan to go into stasis again is cut down heavily (no longer referring back to their first meeting on Mimas, or including unfortunate comparisons to Cain and Abel). Once we’ve met The Cat, we hear all about the history of his species, but skip over the descriptions of what Holly was doing at the same time. Then, as the cherry on top, once Lister and Rimmer have finished questioning their new friend, it skips over the entirety of the plot of Future Echoes, including Lister’s fish being established. Here we get Holly’s interruption from the end of Part Two, Chapter FIFTEEN, but instead happening at the end of Chapter SEVEN. Book ‘Look,’ said Holly, suddenly remembering why he was there, ‘you’d better come down to the Communications suite. We’re getting an SOS call.’ Radio Show ‘I don’t want to interrupt your little tête-à-tête,’ said Holly, ‘but you’d better come down to the Communications suite. We’re getting an SOS call.’ Sorry to all the Jim and Bexley fans out there, but we don’t have time for all that. Instead, we go straight into the adaptation of Kryten. But not the part where Rimmer is practising his Esperanto, or Holly is inventing Hol Rock, or Holly admitting to himself that they’re lost, or Rimmer thinking that the SOS call might be from aliens, because there’s no time for that either. The SOS call takes us directly to the crew getting in contact with our favourite mechanoid for the first time, in Chapter SIXTEEN. Book ‘Thank goodness, thank goodness. Bless you!” Kryten clapped his hands together. Radio Show ‘Thank goodness, thank goodness. Bless you!” it said, clapping its hands together. Whoa, hang on, calling Kryten “it”? That is bang out of order! However, there is a justification for this change. In the written book, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to the Nova 5 and its crash before the one where Red Dwarf receives their SOS call. In the Radio Show, that chapter is still included, but it occurs immediately after Kryten’s introductory line, so because the listeners have not been introduced to Kryten, the narration doesn’t name or gender him yet. Aside from the difference in grammar, I find this reordering to be quite effective, as it adds in an extra element of mystery to the SOS call. Who is this mechanoid? Well, you’re about to find out! Once the Nova 5 backstory, aka Chapter FOURTEEN, has been recounted, we cut back to the video call with Kryten, with an extra sentence added to aid the transition. Book ‘I am the service mechanoid aboard Nova 5. We’ve had a terrible accident. Seven of the crew died on impact; the only survivors are three female officers, who are injured but stable.’ Radio Show Lister, Rimmer and The Cat stared at Kryten’s angular features on the screen over the Communication console.‘I am the service mechanoid aboard the Nova 5. We’ve had a terrible accident. Seven of the crew died on impact; the only survivors are three female officers, who are injured but stable.’ Next, in Chapter EIGHTEEN – after a cut down telling of them getting ready – Lister, Rimmer and The Cat board the Nova 5, and are brought to meet its skeleton crew. Book Without looking where Kryten was beckoning, Rimmer bent down on one knee, and swept his cap in a smooth arc. ‘Cârmita!‘ he purred. Radio Show Without looking where Kryten was beckoning, Rimmer bent down on one knee, and swept his cap in a smooth arc. ‘Enchanté!‘ he purred. Rimmer still hadn’t closed his mouth from forming the final vowel of Cârmita. Rimmer still hadn’t stood up from his sweeping bow. If only Esperanto had become as dominant in real life as it does in the future of Red Dwarf, there would be no need to make these changes. While I think there is enough context to get the gist of what Rimmer means even with Esperanto not being set up in this version, there’s clearly no longer any benefit to using it over the more recognisable French. I’m not too sure why the focus is now on Rimmer’s arm motions instead of his mouth movements though. Perhaps the way your mouth looks when you finish saying “Enchanté!” just isn’t funny enough. Following this, the story proceeds as normal, except that everything related to Rimmer duplicating himself, Me²-style, has been surgically excised. We hear one effect of this omission in Chapter NINETEEN, when the pieces of the Nova 5 are brought back to Red Dwarf. Book It had taken them a week to transport the two broken halves of the Nova 5 back to Red Dwarf. Radio Show It had taken them a week to transport the two broken halves of the Nova 5 back to Red Dwarf, and now the service droids had the salvage operation fully underway. Without a second Rimmer around to help him, Rimmer doesn’t even attempt to take charge of the Nova 5 restoration project, and leaves it all to the service droids. That’s probably for the best. To fit with the omission of the Two Rimmers plotline, the three separate sections where Lister is repairing Kryten are fused into one, meaning he implicitly boots up Kryten successfully for the first time when Rimmer is still there, with not so much as as a chicken marengo-related interruption by The Cat. This makes it just a little strange that Rimmer stops doing or saying anything once Kryten’s awake, and that Lister doesn’t gloat about his success after Rimmer doubted him. Following this, Lister no longer instructs Kryten to chill out, presumably because him going down to the Copacabana Hawaiian Cocktail Bar is too tied in with his encounter with the Rimmer twins, so moreover Kryten also doesn’t do a transformative clean of Lister and Rimmer’s quarters. “OK, so no duplicate Rimmer. Fine. But we still get to hear about Lister’s thorium mining expedition, right?” I hear you desperately plead with Chris Wallis of 27 years ago, but no, sorry, there’s no time for that either. Lister still goes mining, but we don’t follow him or get any further details. On top of this, he doesn’t take Kryten with him, so it’s just him and the Cat. You’d think this would make the mining work even more of an ordeal, but whether or not it was, we skip forward to all the work being done, in Chapter THIRTY-ONE. Book Nova 5 was fuelled and ready to go. The small band of skutters they’d brought back from the mining expedition were making the final checks and loading supplies. Radio Show The two halves of Nova 5 had been welded together, and the ship made space-worthy. It was fuelled and ready to go. The service droids were making the final checks and loading supplies. So instead of getting the epic saga of the two Rimmers catastrophically failing and then eventually succeeding to repair the ship, we just discover that the service droids got it done, no big deal. And because Rimmer didn’t destroy all of them in the process, there’s now no need to specify that the ones who went with Lister are the ones doing the final checks. You may have noticed another odd change – any time the skutters come up, they’re always referred to as “service droids”, and this is the case throughout Infinity. I guess Chris Wallis crunched the numbers, and found that including the clause where it’s explained that service droids are also known as skutters would cost them more seconds than referring to them by a shorter name later would save. The final major change in the book occurs after Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten have returned to Earth in Part Three, although Chapter THIRTY-FOUR of Part Two – in which the crew’s return to Earth is briefly described – is skipped over. In a similar vein to holograms only being introduced after Rimmer has become one, our heroes find themselves trapped in a game of ‘Better Than Life’, yet the Radio Show listeners have no idea what that is. To resolve this critical issue, the ‘Better Than Life’ exposition dump is lifted from Part One, Chapter FOUR (the Denis and Josie chapter) and placed here, after Lister tells Rimmer the truth of their situation, in between Chapters FOUR and FIVE of Part Three. Book Across her brow gleamed the metal band of a Game head. Underneath it, needle-thin electrodes punctured the skull and burrowed into her frontal lobes and hypothalamus. The Game started out actually as a game. It was intended to be the zenith of computer game technology. Tiny computer chips in the electrodes transmitted signals directly to the brain. No screens, no joysticks – you were really there, wherever you wanted to be. Inside your head, your fantasies were fulfilled. The Game had been marketed as ‘Better Than Life’. It was only a month after its release that people realised it was addictive. ‘Better Than Life’ was withdrawn from the market, but illicit electronic labs began to make copies. It was the ultimate hallucinogen, with only one real major drawback. It killed you. Once you entered ‘Better Than Life’, once you put on the headband and the needles wormed into your mind, it was almost impossible to get out. This was partly because you weren’t even aware you were in ‘Better Than Life’ in the first place. The Game protected itself, hid itself from your memory. Your conscious mind was totally subverted, while your body slowly withered and died. At first, well-meaning friends tried to rescue Game heads by yanking the headset out of the skull, but this always resulted in instant death from shock. The only way out of the Game was to want to leave it. But no one ever wanted to leave. Radio Show ‘Better Than Life’ was intended to be the zenith of computer game technology. A metal band was placed across the forehead, and underneath it, needle-thin electrodes punctured the skull and burrowed into the frontal lobes. Tiny computer chips in the electrodes transmitted signals directly to the brain. No screens, no joysticks – you were really there, wherever you wanted to be. It was only a month after its release that people realized it was addictive. ‘Better Than Life’ was withdrawn from the market, but illicit electronic labs began to make copies. It was the ultimate hallucinogen, with only one real major drawback. It killed you. Once you entered ‘Better Than Life’, once you put on the headband and the needles wormed into your mind, it was almost impossible to get out. This was partly because you weren’t even aware you were in ‘Better Than Life’ in the first place. The Game protected itself, hid itself from your memory. Your conscious mind was totally subverted, while your body slowly withered and died. At first, well-meaning friends tried to rescue Game heads by yanking the headset out of the skull, but this always resulted in instant death from shock. The only way out of the Game was to want to leave it. But no one ever wanted to leave. On the one hand the decision to leave out Denis and Josie means that ‘Better Than Life’ is no longer Chekhov’s AR Game, but on the other hand the lack of foreshadowing makes this into a much bigger twist. I’m willing to bet that a few people whose first experience of this story was the Radio Show didn’t even figure out that they weren’t in reality until it was revealed. Not bad. So that’s what the first volume of the Radio Show is all about, but what about the original abridged audiobook released in 1992, also produced by Laughing Stock Productions, but abridged by Tim Binding? How is that different? Is it essentially the Radio Show, but slightly longer and with fewer bells and whistles? Is it? IS IT??? Well, kind of, yes, but also, no. The most major cuts from the Radio Show are largely the same ones that were made for the 1992 abridged Infinity audiobook, but on the whole the abridging was a lot more conservative. There are virtually no unique changes that were not also present in the unabridged audiobook, there was no extra text added to better bridge gaps, and, outside of a few rare instances, there was no creative reordering of events. This leaves two types of occurrence that are of real interest in the original abridged audiobook: the few instances of reordering that were also used later by the Radio Show, and the major sections which were left in, but were later cut out of the Radio Show (or vice versa). These are those changes: ▪ Frank Saunders is still in! Which means the original start of the story, and also the original context for the explanation of holograms, is also still in. Everything related to George McIntyre is gone though, just as it would be later, so perhaps Saunders remained Red Dwarf’s hologram right up until the accident in this continuity. ▪ In the chapter where we’re introduced to Lister and Rimmer, the line “A typical Saturday night on Mimas” follows the description of Mimas’s nightlife, instead of preceding it as it does in the book. This is the same as in the Radio Show, albeit without the additional text at the beginning. ▪ Denis and Josie are still in! So the listener still learns about ‘Better Than Life’ at this point, and Lister still gets mugged by Denis. ▪ At McIntyre’s death disco (except, again, not a death disco in this version), we still hear that Lister tells the others how he came to be on Red Dwarf. This actually creates a continuity error that wouldn’t be replicated by the Radio Show, because Lister says that the Shore Patrolwomen seduced him, but him being picked up by the Shore Patrol was cut out in both versions. ▪ The section before Red Dwarf receives its distress call from the Nova 5 is still in here, though greatly reduced. Rimmer is still learning Esperanto and he still learns that Lister went to art college, but he doesn’t learn that he dropped out, and the surrounding Hol Rock, dog’s milk etc. bits are removed just as they later would be. Of course, as Rimmer is still learning Esperanto, he still speaks that, and not French, once he gets to the Nova 5. ▪ Part Two, Chapter SEVENTEEN – which is the brief chapter where we see Kryten preparing the Nova 5 crew for the Dwarfers’ arrival – is surprisingly gone from the abridged audiobook, even though it would be added back in for the Radio Show. This means the original abridged Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers audiobook is the only version of the story of Kryten where the audience finds out that the Nova 5 crew are all dead at the same time as Rimmer, Lister and The Cat do. I am fascinated to know what this was like for people who had this as their first experience of that story. ▪ The description of Lister, Cat, Rimmer and Holly clumsily piloting Blue Midget down to where the Nova 5 is? It’s in the Radio Show, but it’s gone from the abridged audiobook. ▪ Cat still interrupts Lister’s Kryten repairs with his delightful chicken marengo hijinks. So there you have it. The Red Dwarf Radio Show didn’t just cut down the existing abridged audiobook even further and give it some extra music and sound effects. It also restored sections that the original audiobook cut out, added in bits and pieces of original content, and ambitiously reordered some sections too. I’d say that qualifies it as a wholly unique product. Better Than Life Written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor; Read by Chris Barrie As with Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, I’ll be looking over the changes in the Radio Show version of Better Than Life first, which was produced by Laughing Stock Productions and abridged by Chris Wallis in 1996. First things first: the opening, and the Radio Show decides to play it safe in that regard. Instead of jumping straight into the morning after Rimmer’s virtual stag party (if you’re wondering, yes, just as with the unabridged audiobook, the Prologue is not included), the entirety of Part One, Chapter TWO is expanded and brought forward to the beginning. This works well to ease the listener in by clearly establishing what’s actually going on. Book Three million years out in Deep Space, a dilapidated mining ship drifts pointlessly round in a huge, aimless circle. On board, its four crew members sit in a horseshoe, trapped in the ultimate computer game: a game that plugs directly into the brain, and enables them to experience a world created by their own fantasies. The game is called Better Than Life, and very few ever escape its thrall: very few can give up their own, personally sculpted paradise. Radio Show Three million years out in Deep Space, a dilapidated mining ship drifts pointlessly round in a huge, aimless circle. On board are its four crew members: Dave Lister – Technician Third Class and the last human being alive, Rimmer – a hologram of Dave’s dead bunkmate, Kryten – a service mechanoid, and Cat – a humanoid creature evolved from cats. They sit in a horseshoe, trapped in the ultimate computer game: a game that plugs directly into the brain, and enables them to experience a world created by their own fantasies. The game is called Better Than Life, and very few ever escape its thrall: very few can give up their own, personally sculpted paradise. After skipping over the section where Rimmer arrives at his wedding and is mobbed by his obsessed teenage fans, we’re onto Chapter THREE, with Lister and his family in Bedford Falls, and his virtual life is about to be changed forever by the arrival of a certain destructive vehicle. Book Lister squinted against the glare, and made out the shape of the rogue juggernaut. Radio Show Lister squinted against the glare, and made out the shape of a roe juggernaut. Hmm, there’s something fishy about this change. If anyone has any idea what “roe juggernaut” could possibly mean, please let me know, but otherwise I have to assume this was a recording or editing mistake. Next, in Chapter FOUR, we cut back to Rimmer, who’s gearing up for his second wedding. Book Rimmer gazed down from the balcony windows of his colonial mansion at the blur of black-suited waiters who dashed frantically about with increasingly elaborate flower arrangements. Radio Show Arnold Rimmer, the richest man in the world, gazed down from the balcony windows of his colonial mansion at the blur of black-suited waiters who dashed frantically about with increasingly elaborate flower arrangements. The elaboration strikes me as pretty unnecessary, given how precious time is for the Radio Show, but sure. This is a detail which was included in the book version too, only it was in the part of Chapter ONE that was cut out, where Rimmer is arriving at his wedding. I guess Wallis considered it vital that we learn that Rimmer is in fact the wealthiest man on the planet, and not merely the third wealthiest, as he was in Infinity. Meanwhile, in Chapter EIGHT, after the Radio Show skips over the part where Rimmer actually gets married (still in shock from hearing that Juanita and his brother Frank are a couple), Holly is getting pretty lonely out in reality, and is contemplating how he might acquire some companionship. Book But who? The skutters – the claw-headed two-feet-high service droids who glided around on motorized bases – were very little use. Radio Show But who? There was no-one else on the ship. The skutters – the claw-headed two-feet-high service droids who glided around on motorized bases – were very little use. The added sentence making it extra clear that there were no other potential friends on Red Dwarf is so-so, but hooray for the Radio Show finally calling them skutters! Next, in Chapter TWELVE, as Rimmer is being hauled away for his debt to Solidgram International, a piece of his dialogue is brought forward slightly and combined with the previous paragraph. This is pretty seamless. Book But the nearly impossible happens sometimes, Rimmer reflected as he bounced around in the back of the armoured truck, manacled to Mr Mongolia circa 499, and it was happening to him right now. ‘What will they do to me?’ Radio Show ‘What will they do to me?’ said Rimmer as he bounced around in the back of the armoured truck, manacled to Mr Mongolia circa 499. By Chapter THIRTEEN, Rimmer has been extracted from his body, and is taking part in an ambitious group escape from soundwave jail. Book Tonto whirled the dial on the amplifier’s tuner, and locked in on the prison security frequency. ‘All points,’ he was hearing, ‘repeat, All points: we have voice breakers isolated…’ Jimmy, Trixie and Rimmer zipped into the guard’s walkie talkie and sped along its transmission frequency. They were escaping as radio waves. Jimmy led, followed by Rimmer and Trixie. Somewhere, they lost Trixie, and just Jimmy and Rimmer hurtled on at the speed of sound. ‘… in Security Central.’ Radio Show Jimmy, Trixie and Rimmer zipped into the guard’s walkie talkie and sped along its transmission frequency. They were escaping as radio waves. Jimmy led, followed by Trixie and Rimmer. Somewhere, they lost Trixie. Tonto whirled the dial on the amplifier’s tuner. ‘All points: we have voice breakers isolated in Security Central.’ This change is kind of disappointing, because the way it cut away in the middle of the guard speaking into his radio to describe Tonto listening in on the signal was a pretty stylish way to communicate the plot point. But the simpler way the Radio Show goes with still works. Moving onto Chapter FIFTEEN, iconic ‘Better Than Life’ NPC and all-around scumbag Tonto Jitterman meets a sticky end. Book Five bullets thudded into his chest, and he slithered down a car. Radio Show Five bullets thudded into his chest, and he slithered down to the ground. This is a sensible edit, because honestly the original text is a bit odd. Tonto isn’t even described as being near any cars before he gets shot, so saying that he slithers down one just overcomplicates the scene. Unless “slithering down a car” is an obscure idiom that means “dying painfully”, in which case I retract my comment. Tonto also doesn’t quote Young, Bad and Dangerous to Know before he dies, and the earlier reference to that as an explanation of how Rimmer’s mind came up with the Jittermans was also cut out. It’s quite a small omission, but it does make Tonto’s exit more unceremonious. In Chapter SEVENTEEN, we catch up with The Cat and Kryten in Cat’s golden Danish island castle. Here the Radio Show condenses and reorders the dialogue where Kryten tells Cat what happened to the Valkyries. Book ‘They formed the “Valkyrie Sex-Slave Liberation Movement”, and left for the mainland. You just missed them.’ ‘They what?’ ‘Yes, they were sick and tired of bowing to your every whim and desire.’ Radio Show ‘They were sick and tired of bowing to your every whim and desire. They formed the “Valkyrie Sex-Slave Liberation Movement”, and left for the mainland.’ After the gang have escaped The Game, we start getting some more major omissions. Kryten and Rimmer no longer even try to get Red Dwarf’s engines back up and running before the planet hits them, they just go straight to the ‘abandon ship’ plan… except they don’t actually go straight to it, because they still have just 12 hours left when they give Holly the news. I guess they just took 3 weeks to pack. We’ve all been there. Then, once Holly’s plan to divert the planet is put into motion, we don’t hear about Starbug’s difficult take off, meaning the presence of the black hole is no longer foreshadowed. This brings us to the next major change the Radio Show made, in Part Two, Chapter FIVE, when Lister is preparing to play pool with planets. Book He was halfway through his third can before Rimmer broke his vow of silence. Radio Show He was halfway through his fourth can before Rimmer broke his vow of silence. Don’t worry, this change is just to cover for the fact that Lister finishing the third can and opening the fourth is cut out of the Radio Show, it’s not because the standards of what constitutes “nicely drunk” drastically changed throughout the 1990s (although obviously that did happen). It also means that Rimmer is 40% more spineless. After the Radio Show has the sheer temerity to skip over Lister and Rimmer’s discussions about distress calls and virginity from Marooned, as well as the Eurovision-esque way that Earth was selected to become Garbage World, it takes us to the end of Part Three, Chapter ONE. Here we find out what we were all wondering: how Earth ended up in this situation. Book The blast triggered off a thermo-nuclear reaction in a thousand discarded atomic-power stations, and the Earth tore itself from its orbit around the sun, and farted its way out of the solar system. Radio Show The blast triggered off a thermo-nuclear reaction in a thousand discarded atomic-power stations, and the Earth tore itself from its orbit around the sun, and blew its way out of the solar system. NO. How could they do this? How could they take such a poetic and poignant passage, and turn it generic? What a downer. Next, the onslaught of acid rain that destroys the crashed Starbug and Lister’s escape from it are entirely omitted from the Radio Show. Thus this section from the end of Part Three, Chapter TWO – when Lister is out in the rain, wearing his homemade armour and helpless in a rapidly melting stacker truck – is repurposed to take place at the end of Part Two, Chapter EIGHTEEN, when Lister is first noticing that the planet’s ice age has ended. Book Bizarrely, insanely, it seemed to be composed of broken bottles. He looked around. The whole of the mountain appeared to be glass. Radio Show The snow and ice had disappeared, revealing the terrain beneath. Bizarrely, insanely, it seemed to be composed of broken bottles. He looked around. The whole of the mountain appeared to be glass. It’s a real shame to lose one of the most tense and dramatic sequences from the book, but I guess the extra added sentence makes the skip work well enough. After Rimmer, Cat, Kryten and Talkie Toaster successfully escape a black hole (skipping over the part where they’re counting down and having a last second conversation about spaghettification) and go to rescue a 34 years older Lister, the Radio Show gives us the most infamous omission of the whole programme: none of the events of Polymorph are included. This means we don’t hear Kryten and Talkie’s side of the search for Lister, or hear any of the GELF backstory. But most importantly, Lister no longer dies of a heart attack after being attacked by a polymorph… he dies of a heart attack after choking on a kebab. The way the Radio Show achieves this incredible feat is to take two separate sections from the book, modify them slightly, and play one immediately after the other. The first section is from Part Three, Chapter TWELVE, when Lister is being strangled by the polymorph in kebab form. Book He catapulted back and crashed to the ground in his chair; his desperate fingers clawing at the choking kebab; his legs kicking and bucking. Kryten turned from the wash basin at the sounds of Lister’s agonized writhing. He shook his head and tutted, ‘Are you seriously telling me you like them that spicy?’ Lister gagged. His face started to blacken. Radio Show Kryten turned from the wash basin at the sounds of Lister’s agonized writhing. Lister gagged. His face started to blacken, his desperate fingers clawing at the choking kebab; his legs kicking and bucking. Next, we immediately cut to the section where Lister dies at the end of Chapter TWENTY, almost unchanged. Book ‘Lister?’ Rimmer crouched over Lister’s immobile form. ‘Lister?’ he called again. Kryten hurried over and knelt by his side. He looked down at Lister’s grey face. ‘Is he OK?’ ‘He’s had a heart attack.’ Kryten gently rolled Lister’s head to one side, and felt the side of his neck for a pulse. ‘Is he OK?’ Rimmer said again. Kryten reached forward and his open palm closed Lister’s eyes. Radio Show ‘Lister?’ Rimmer crouched over Lister’s immobile form. ‘Lister?’ Kryten hurried over and knelt by his side. He looked down at Lister’s grey face. ‘Is he OK?’ ‘He’s had a heart attack.’ Kryten gently rolled Lister’s head to one side, and felt the side of his neck for a pulse. ‘Is he OK?’ Rimmer said again. Kryten reached forward and his open palm closed Lister’s eyes. More like Shami Kebabs Diabolus ex Machina, am I right? Seriously, it is not possible to overstate how awkward and anticlimactic this edit is. I don’t know what the alternative would have been given the time constraints, but I have to believe there was a better way. After the Radio Show gives us one more major skip (we no longer hear Rimmer hurrying the others to chase after Lister’s coffin in White Giant), it also gives us one last change – in Part Four, Chapter FOUR, after Lister has been brought back to life on Backwards World, and he’s trying to figure out what’s going on. Book A thought struck him, and he turned to the seirautibo column. And there he was: Retsil Divad. It took him a while to translate the accompanying text: ‘David Lister, aged 61, joyfully brought to life on Thursday, the 21st, at eleven-thirty p.m. (see personal column).’ Radio Show A thought struck him, and he turned to the obituaries column. And there he was: Retsil Divad. It took him a while to translate the accompanying backward text: ‘David Lister, age 61, joyfully brought to life on Thursday, the 21st, at eleven-thirty p.m. (see personal column).’ The Radio Show said “Look, I think they get the point. We don’t need to spell ‘obituaries’ backwards. Let’s give it a rest.” and honestly I respect that. So that’s the second volume of the Radio Show done with, but what about the original audiobook version, abridged in 1994 by Tim Binding for Laughing Stock Productions? Well, just as with Infinity, the abridged audiobook largely cuts down the book in the same way as the Radio Show would end up doing, but with some notable differences, as well as a few bits of reordering that the Radio Show would also end up going with: ▪ Just as in the Radio Show, Chapter TWO of Part One is brought to the beginning (sans embellishment), so the general premise of the story can be established before jumping into Rimmer’s stag party. ▪ Rimmer’s arrival at his wedding, and him being mobbed by his adoring fans, is still in. ▪ In the Radio Show, we hear about the many “What?”s that Rimmer exclaims during the call he receives informing him of his bankruptcy, but in the abridged audiobook, it cuts to the next chapter right after he picks up the receiver. ▪ Rimmer’s “What will they do to me?” dialogue with ‘Mr Mongolia’ is rearranged in the same way as it would end up being in the Radio Show. ▪ Tonto Jitterman’s origin as a character in Young, Bad and Dangerous to Know is still in, which means that he also still quotes it as he dies. ▪ The dialogue in which Kryten informs Cat about what happened to the Valkyrie sex slaves is rearranged in the same way it would end up being in the Radio Show. ▪ Lister’s attempt to go outside and dig out Starbug after crashing onto the ice planet is cut out, but the Radio Show puts this section back in. ▪ Lister’s death by Polymorph is Frankenstein-ed into a death by kebab in exactly the same way as it would be in the Radio Show, except that Part Three, Chapter NINETEEN (the short chapter that flashes forward to them lamenting an unspecified person’s death) occurs in the middle of it, whereas in the Radio Show, this chapter was just cut. The chapter feels pretty redundant in its new context – after all, it’s not much of an intriguing tease if Lister is already choking on a kebab before it, and he dies straight after it – but the break does at least make it less weird that Rimmer is suddenly there. The 1994 abridged audiobook for Better Than Life may not be quite as different to its Radio Show counterpart as Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers was, but it’s still clear that the two abridged versions are very much distinct creations. So if you’re down the pub with your mates one day, and someone says “Hey, wasn’t the Red Dwarf Radio Show basically just the abridged audiobooks again, but with extra music?”, you can confidently say “NO! Well, I mean, yes, but…” and then spend the rest of the evening explaining everything that’s written about it in this article. Last Human Written by Doug Naylor; Read by Craig Charles The abridged audiobook for Last Human was produced by PolyGram Record Operations Limited in 1995, meaning that unlike the Grant Naylor novels, fans got the chance to hear this story officially spoken aloud in the same year as the print version was released, which is nice. When it comes to this audiobook, it’s tempting to just scrutinise the performance – What accent was Craig even going for with his Kryten voice? Why didn’t they either edit out or retake his frequent “um”s and “er”s? Why does he pronounce it “Retrekrebn” when it’s spelt “Reketrebn”? Would it legally be considered torture to make someone listen to the voices he does for the GELFs? – but we need to keep our eyes on the prize here, and focus on what has been changed or omitted when compared to the original text. Last Human had the fortune of having five hours to play with across four cassette tapes, compared with the previous books only getting 2.5-3 hours across two tapes. This gave them a lot more breathing room, and so only one plot detail of any significance got cut, and all the other omissions are of the ‘little and often’ variety. The first significant omissions come early in Part Two: Kryten no longer explains to an amnesiac Lister why Kochanski is into him, Rimmer no longer recalls how he missed out on the Encyclo brain chip that was granted to his older brothers (no, stop… come back), and the crew no longer have a discussion about what they ought to do with the grievously injured alternate Kochanski in the Deep Sleep unit. Then, at the end of Chapter 2, the first notable change occurs, when Kryten comes in to inform the others that the alternate Kochanski has died. Book Kochanski’s eyes widened. ‘What’s happened?’ Audiobook ‘What’s happened?’ This is an unusual change, because you can only tell what it is if you’re actually listening to it. In the book it’s Kochanski who says this, as indicated by her eyes widening beforehand, but in the audiobook Craig Charles does not use his Kochanski voice when reading this line, which suggests it was actually Lister who said it. I guess they figured that Kochanski just had way too much dialogue and Lister way too little… or Craig made a mistake. Next, in Chapter 3, we skip over all of the cockpit changeover and supper interactions during their journey to find alternate Lister, creating the need for the following change. Book The Cat turned from the scanner screen. ‘I hate to go all technical on you, but all hands on deck – Swirly Thing alert.’ Audiobook The Cat leaned in from the cockpit. ‘I hate to go all technical on you, but all hands on deck – Swirly Thing alert.’ A simple change in setting. If they skip over the part where they’re established to all be in the cockpit with The Cat, then Cat needs to poke his head through to the mid-section to tell everyone about what he’s seen. Not a big change, but it’s good they realised. As our heroes get familiar with Blerios 15, the audiobook skips over Kryten recalling the system’s history, and also skips over Chapter 6, the one where we cut away (or actually, flash-forward) to Lister being accidentally sent to Mr. Capote’s Cyberhell instead of his own. Then, I’m sorry to say that the next couple of changes occur in Chapter 8, the “Lister gets sexually assaulted by a GELF” chapter. The fact that this chapter wasn’t cut out or even particularly cut short is surely one of the most baffling decisions in Red Dwarf history. Book Lister pulled the blanket up around his chin and heehawed nervously. Audiobook Lister pulled the blanket up around his chin and yawned nervously. Considering that Lister is meant to be attempting to feign tiredness, it seems kind of strange that he’s making donkey noises in the original book. A solid edit. Next, when Lister awakes intoxicated and confused, he is understandably trying to delude himself that it’s actually Kochanski on top of him, she’s just wearing a gorilla outfit or something. Book Why would she be doing that? Had she ever done anything like that before? Not really. So why now? Audiobook Why would she be doing that? Had she ever done anything like that before? No. No! So why now? Lister is now a lot more certain that Kochanski never did ape roleplay with him, which is arguably less funny than this being something Lister isn’t sure about, but it does slightly better suit the seriousness of the horrible situation he’s in. It’s a very minor improvement in an absolutely rancid chapter, but I’ll take it. Next, Lister has escaped the Kinatowawis, parachuted down to Lotomi 5 without any of his crewmates (the explanations for which are omitted), and both rescued and subdued his more-evil-than-expected counterpart. In Chapter 13, parallel Lister escapes his bonds via quite a painful method. Book Unnoticed, his other self shuffled over to the fire and thrust his legs into the flames. Audiobook Unnoticed, his other self shuffled over and thrust his hands into the fire. In the book, evil Lister burns off his leg bindings first, then rolls around in the fire until his hands are free too. In the audiobook, he burns his hand bindings first, and it’s not clear how he frees his legs. This change is obviously just to save time, but it does make book evil Lister seem like a fool for not realising he could just untie his legs if his hands were free first. Next, in Chapter 14, after skipping over evil Lister reflecting on his decision to be adopted by the Thorntons rather than the Wilmots, Kryten is explaining how the Mayflower had the genome of all known DNA on board. Book ‘Or to use its acronym, G.O.D.’ Audiobook Or to use its acronym, G.O.D. God.‘ OK, I think we get it. Next up, in Part Three, Chapter 1, we get the backstory of the Mayflower, the introduction of Michael McGruder, and the origin story for this novel’s ‘animal fusion’ type GELFs, and it’s here that the biggest omission the abridged audiobook makes is seeded. Book The three Professor Longmans have created a virus which is quite remarkable. Basically, it eats lava,’ Sabinsky began. Audiobook ‘We have created a virus which eats lava,’ Sabinsky began. ‘Nothing that we’re really proud of… ‘ they said, remembering the Snugiraffe. ‘Nothing that we’re really proud of… ‘ he said, remembering the Snugiraffe. That’s right, in this version of the story Professor Michael Longman and his 2 clones do not exist, so Sabinsky gets all the credit. This also means that they don’t come back as mutated monsters later in the book either. This is an acceptable omission, but given that it has the side effect of making Kryten’s tenure as a human even more ridiculously brief than it already was, I’d prefer it if the Longmans were kept in and the GELF rape was cut out. Next, in Chapter 3, Lister is getting to know the symbi-morph Reketrebn ahead of his deployment to The Rage’s planet. Book The bouquet of flowers turned in on itself and metamorphosed into Kochanski. Audiobook The yak dung turned in on itself and metamorphosed into Kochanski. Purely for the sake of time, Reketrebn doesn’t go through as many transformations in the audio version, going straight from poop to Kochanski. If I were Lister I wouldn’t be quite so attracted to someone who was literally a pile of faeces just a few seconds ago, but each to their own. In Chapter 4, we flashback to Michael McGruder midway through the Mayflower’s voyage to a new galaxy, and find out where it all went wrong, when the GELFs all escaped. Book Something was wrong. They’d been de-animated. Must be some kind of temporary electrical fault. Audiobook Something was wrong. They’d been re-animated. Must be some kind of temporary electrical fault. He looked in at the pen. The Simulants were all de-animated too. He looked in at the pen. The Simulants were all re-animated too. This change makes so much sense to me. Why would the prefix be “de” if they’re going from not moving to moving? Or is this like a flammable/inflammable situation, where de-animating something is the same as animating it? Let me know. After we’ve heard all about Lister and Reketrebn’s daring escape from Cyberia (except for the part where Reketrebn turns into a horse), we cut back to Starbug, where Kryten discovers that the Lister on board is not the right one, right before he’s taken away by the Kinatowawis. This brings us to our next major change, in Chapter 7, when Kryten wakes up the rest of the crew to tell them about the fires. Book ‘Oh, there is some about Mr Lister, sir.’ ‘What about him?’ […] ‘How long before we regain control?’ ‘Just a matter of… ‘ Audiobook ‘I’ll tell you about Mr Lister later, sir.’ Kryten’s like “There’s no time to explain, we’re in an abridged audiobook here!” This is fine in isolation, but it accidentally creates something of a plot hole, because the rest of the crew never find out about the evil Lister situation, yet they reference it later. I guess Kryten just told everyone in between chapters. In Chapter 8, we hear all about Rimmer’s brief relationship with Yvonne McGruder. Well, not all about it, because Yvonne’s side of the story is cut out, but we hear Rimmer’s recollection of it anyway. Book Of course Lister had taken the smeg out of him, saying she was only dating him because she thought he was someone called Simon. Audiobook Of course Lister had taken the smeg out of him, saying she was only dating him because she thought he was someone called Norman. I’ve no idea what this change was about. Was Doug worried that by keeping it as “Norman” as it was in Confidence & Paranoia, it would sound too much like a dig at Norman Lovett in some way, so he changed it to “Simon”, but then for the audiobook they were like “screw it, Norman is a funnier name”? These are the things that keep me up at night. After Lister and Reketrebn have met Michael McGruder and his cohort of friendly GELFs on The Rage’s planet, and they’ve skipped over Lister and Reketrebn almost but not quite having sex with each other on their first night together there, Chapter 10 cuts back to the rest of the crew on Starbug – and Kochanski is testing out the luck virus. Book For several minutes she strolled across the lab, carefully studying the floor. She stopped and thrust her hand into a mountain of tiny vials and emerged with one. Audiobook She strolled across the lab, studying the floor. Then she stooped, thrust her hand into a mountain of tiny vials and emerged with one. I mean, I guess Kochanski must both stop and stoop to perform this action, but was this an intentional rewrite, or was Craig just lucky that his misreading happened to also be correct? We may never know the truth. Before the next significant change, we get a few Kryten-related omissions. He no longer speaks to his spare heads after becoming human, the brief history of Homo sapiens at the beginning of Chapter 13 is gone, and he no longer reflects on his newly gained mortality. The next change comes near the end of Chapter 14, when the crew are using the luck virus and hoping that randomly writing down coordinates will tell them where Lister is. These are the coordinates everyone comes up with. Book 25°, 46′ – 80°, 12′ – 34°, 54′ Audiobook 25°, 46′ – 8°, 12′ – 3°, 54′ Hang on, only one of these sets of coordinates can be correct, yet both the book and audiobook have them turn up in the same place? I call shenanigans! What makes it even weirder is that Kryten’s “Johnstone’s elliptical” coordinates are the same in both versions. After the audiobook has skipped over Kryten smelling the Kinitawowi corpses before he finds them, we reach the point where Michael McGruder gets to meet his dad, Arnold Rimmer, and finds out the horrible truth of what his rank on board Red Dwarf actually was. He learns this in Chapter 17, then he and Rimmer both reflect on it (in Chapter 18). Book You’re a technician?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What class?’ ‘Third,’ Rimmer mumbled quietly. ‘That’s beverage maintenance.’ Audiobook You’re a technician?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What class?’ ‘Second,‘ Rimmer mumbled quietly. ‘That’s beverage maintenance.’ A third technician, for God’s sake. A zero. A second technician, for God’s sake. A zero. He would still be a third technician, he’d still be a nobody who had never navigated his way up the ziggurat of command, but at least in some small way he’d have proved himself in front of Michael. He would still be a second technician, he’d still be a nobody who had never navigated his way up the ziggurat of command, but at least in some small way he’d have proved himself in front of Michael. This is a noble attempt to correct an infamous error in the book. So it’s a huge shame that they still forgot that in the continuity of the novels, Rimmer is meant to be a first technician, not second. So close! Although, even if they had got this correction right, that still wouldn’t explain why beverage maintenance is recognised as being the responsibility of people of Rimmer’s rank only, when Lister also does it. To think, they could have just made this about being part of Z Shift and saved a whole lot of trouble. As a minor point of this part of the audiobook, McGruder no longer thinks about his presumably long dead best friend and girlfriend, Ben and Mercedes. The final change of note is actually quite a subtle one, and it occurs later in Chapter 18, when Kryten and Rimmer have been locked up by evil Lister, and Rimmer asks Kryten if he’s already checked for possible routes of escape. Book ‘Twice, sir.’ Kryten shrugged. What else was there to do? Audiobook ‘Twice, sir.’ Kryten shrugged. ‘What else was there to do?‘ In the book, “What else was there to do?” is something that Kryten just thinks to himself, but in the audio version, it’s something he says out loud. I guess it’s OK. It just seems like a totally arbitrary change to make, and possibly was only read this way in error. Following this, we get just one more significant omission, which is that in the audiobook, after evil Lister has been killed, Lister doesn’t reflect on his probable sterility in the context of his life goals any more. They just get on with the business of Rimmer sacrificing himself to defeat The Rage. Backwards Written by Rob Grant; Read by Rob Grant Rob Grant’s Backwards is a longer book than Last Human, so appropriately its abridged audiobook – produced in 1996, also by PolyGram Operations Limited – was afforded a slightly longer running time of five and a half hours. But will that be enough to keep all of its key plot points intact? Read on to find out more. We join our heroes on the Backwards World, where they’re desperately hoping to find their friend Retsil Divad, so they can all get back to a reality where free will exists. After the audiobook skips over the news of the Berlin Wall being un-dismantled, we get our first notable change in Part One, Chapter TWO. Instead of Cat suggesting they should leave without Lister and having that translated into backwards-speech by Kryten, Rimmer suggests it instead. Book ‘”This place is too disgusting,”‘ Kryten translated. ‘”We’ve got to get out of here.”‘ ‘Seconded, thirded and motion carried,’ Rimmer stood. ‘If we go now, we can make it back to the Bug before morning fall, or whatever the hell it is that happens here.’ Audiobook ‘I say we go,‘ Rimmer stood. ‘If we leave now, we can make it back to the Bug before morning fall, or whatever the hell it is that happens here.’ Next, in Chapter THREE, we check in on Lister, who, among other things, is reflecting on what his life has been like in this bizarre dimension. Book For most of that time, more than a quarter of a century, he’d had Krissie, at least, to keep him company, but she’d been like the rest of them: remembering only the future. Audiobook For most of that time, more than thirty years, he’d had Krissie, at least, to keep him company, but she’d been like the rest of them: remembering only the future. Why is it that Backwards is unable to escape issues of chronology? I know that time is going in the wrong direction, but it shouldn’t make the duration of it much more complicated. Unfortunately, this is an outright mistake the audiobook is introducing here. We know that Lister has been on Backworld for 36 years, and we know that he un-met Kochanski 9 years ago, so he’d been with her for 27 years. 27 is not more than 30, I’m fairly sure. In Chapter FIVE, the audiobook skips over Kryten noticing the Earth’s beauty to more promptly set up the action of the reverse car chase. Lister arrives just as Kryten is un-disturbing some bushes and trees. Book Just as he was re-affixing the last leaf, the pick-up truck tumbled over the crest of the track and screeched to a stop neatly in the pre-cut tyre tracks. Audiobook Just as he was re-affixing the last leaf, the pick-up truck tumbled over the crest of the track and screeched to a stop nearby in the pre-cut tyre tracks. Given the idea is to demonstrate how perfectly the effects of this world lead to their causes, “nearby” seems like a downgrade from “neatly”. File this one under “Maybe a mistake???”. Later in the same chapter, Rob deftly takes a trimming of detail and turns it into an opportunity to describe a police car in an even more colourful way. Book After a few seconds, the dustball vanished, the black-and-white killed its lights and siren, and reversed swiftly off the track, through a gate which led to a small farmstead, where it seemed to park. Audiobook After a few seconds, the dustball vanished, and the blue light reversed swiftly off the track, through a gate which led to a small farmstead, where it seemed to park. Next, in Chapter EIGHT, the gang finally get back to Starbug, and Lister has quite an emotional reaction. Book He hadn’t seen the dirty green insect-shaped ship-to-surface vessel in almost forty years, but he’d dreamed of it plenty. Audiobook He hadn’t seen the dirty green insect-shaped ship-to-surface vessel in three decades, but he’d dreamt of it plenty. The indecisive chronology of Backwards strikes again! Thankfully, this one is still correct after the change, but surely “almost 40” is a more precise description of 36 years than “three decades”? Next up, I hope you’ve developed a taste for counting years, because we have another example slightly later in the same chapter. This time Lister is reminiscing about his twin sons, Yexleb and Mij. Book More than a decade had gone by since the boys had been pushed back into their mother. Audiobook Almost a decade had gone by since the boys had been pushed back into their mother. OK, seriously, why? The audiobook still has Lister and Kochanski’s un-meeting as being 9 years ago, so this edit changes their pre-pregnancy courting period from being a few years long to being a few months at most. It’s not an outright contradiction or anything, but it seems like an odd detail to include if we’re not going to hear about how Lister felt to lose Iksnahcok so soon after losing his sons. After the audiobook skips over Lister and The Cat searching for Starbug’s missing landing jets in the house of the local mountain dwellers, the next change is in Chapter ONE of Part Two, in which Billy-Joe Epstein has just won a bar fight against an officer who would later be revealed to be a parallel version of Rimmer. Book He caught a glimpse of something glimmering in his right hand. He opened his palm. A St Christopher medal. He must have grabbed it during the fight. Audiobook He caught a glimpse of something glimmering in his right hand. He opened his palm. A St Christopher medal. He must have grabbed it during the fights. Wait, how many fights was that? Struggling to count the years is one thing, but struggling to count to one is another… or more likely Rob just misspoke here. Next, we hear all about Ace Rimmer and his good friend Dave “Spanners” Lister uncovering the mystery of why a duplicate of their own spaceship has appeared with a fresh Ace Rimmer corpse inside it. The audiobook omits the chapter dedicated to recounting exactly what happened to the ill-fated craft, FIVE, and cuts to Ace explaining the truth to his boss, Peter Tranter, in Chapter SIX. Book ‘Here’s the theory: almost every day, we all make decisions that affect the course of our lives. Thousands of decisions: should we take the job or hang on for something better? Audiobook Ace tugged on his cheroot. ‘Here’s the theory: almost every day, we all make decisions that affect the course of our lives. Should we take the job or hang in for something better? I get it. It’s just a chapter with a bunch of talking, so you add in some exciting cigar action to spice things up. The kids these days don’t have the attention spans they used to, what with their yo-yos and their Atari Jaguars and their dial-up internets. A bit later in the same chapter, Tranter is not feeling too jazzed about this one way trip to another dimension Ace is planning to go on. Book But what possible benefit can we educe from a drive that can traverse realities? I mean, could we, for instance, aim for a dimension, say, where time travel has been perfected and bring the technology back?’ Ace exhaled a thick, blue cloud of cheroot smoke. ‘No. ‘Fraid not, Admiral. Audiobook But what possible benefit can we educe from a drive that can transverse realities? I mean, could we, for instance, aim for a dimension, say, where time travel has been perfected and bring the technology back?’ Ace shook his head. ”Fraid not, Admiral. Between this and Psirens, Rob seems to really want to use his influence as a writer to make “transverse” into a verb. A quarter of a century later, I’m sorry to report that it hasn’t caught on. Which just leaves us to ponder, why would Rob add in Ace doing something with his cigar, only to take away Ace doing something with his cigar immediately afterwards? The mind of an author is truly impenetrable sometimes. In Chapter EIGHT, after acting quite insubordinate towards Vinegar Drawers, Spanners finds himself locked up with an old acquaintance. Book Petersen’s laugh rattled the mesh in Lister’s cell. ‘Haaaa! That’s my old buddy, all right. We’re in some kind of prison, is my guess.’ Audiobook Petersen’s laugh rattled the mesh in Lister’s cell. ‘Haaaa! That’s my old drinking buddy, all right. We’re in some kind of prison, is my guess.’ Really, that’s all Lister is to you, Olaf? Not a full friend, just someone you used to drink with?! OK, that’s probably fair. Regardless of the dimension, Lister is no Lewis Pemberton. Petersen also talks about his house on Triton at this point, which is a detail that was cut out of both abridged versions of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, so for the abridged audiobook-only audience, it’s no longer a callback to anything. After the audiobook skips over the revelation about there being another officer called Tranter whose records accidentally got swapped with Bungo’s, Tranter firing a gun in his office, and the inclusion of Mellie as a character at all (poor Hattie Hayridge, as if the absence of female Holly wasn’t bad enough), we get to the next change in Part Three, Chapter ONE, where we rejoin our heroes on Backworld. Book The Cat’s features were still curled up in disgust from the sexual nightmare he’d just subjected himself to. If he wasn’t careful, he was going to spend the next ten years squinting like Mr Magoo. Audiobook The Cat’s features were still curled up in disgust from the sexual nightmare he’d just subjected himself to. If he wasn’t careful, he was going to spend the next twelve years squinting like Mr Magoo. Oh dear. This was one of the many references to the gang being trapped on Backworld for 12 years which was corrected to 10 years for the paperback, but it looks like this one in particular slipped through the cracks for the audiobook. Later in the chapter, some of Lister’s dialogue is tweaked in the conversation about what they’re going to do next. This is likely to account for the fact that, in the audiobook, Lister doesn’t bother to argue against Rimmer blaming Kryten for them missing the flight window. Book ‘Well,’ Lister smiled. ‘Now that’s out of the way, I guess we’d better sort out the work plan. First off, we have to remove the landing jet we just attached, and sneak it back to the hermit’s shack.’ Audiobook ‘Fine. The point is, we’ve got to sort out the work plan. First off, we have to remove the landing jet we’ve just attached, and sneak it back to the hermit’s shack.’ Following this, the Backwards audiobook gives us a most generous and merciful gift – the Cat sex chapter, Chapter THREE, is completely cut out, and so are all the references to it from Chapter FOUR. I would have been willing to keep it in if it meant that the far worse Lister sex chapter from the Last Human could have been cut out, but I’ll take what I can get. The last change of any significance in Part Three is in Chapter FOUR, and it’s just that some Rimmer dialogue is moved around to streamline the descriptions of the characters preparing to un-crash land. Book ‘There’s one thing bothering me about this take-off.’ Kryten turned. Rimmer was peering up at the ripped metal around the engine housings. He looked towards the distant peaks through the cave’s entrance. ‘It looks like Lister’s prediction was right. We come in low over those mountains and skim across the treetops. What I’m wondering is why?’ Audiobook He peered up at the ripped metal around the engine’s housing. ‘There’s one thing bothering me about this take-off. It looks like Lister’s prediction was right. We come in low over those mountains and skim across the treetops. What I’m wondering is why?’ Moving onto Part Four, the Dwarfers find themselves without a Dwarf; they’ve lost Red Dwarf and are stuck with Starbug as they try to find it. After the audiobook skips over a dedicated section of Rimmer dwelling on how crap this situation is in Chapter ONE, they come across all of Holly’s hardware floating in space. In Chapter TWO, Lister does an extremely dangerous space walk to retrieve Holly (which was cut out of the audiobook), and they endeavour to power him on to talk to him. The audiobook skips over them discussing the possibility of turning Rimmer off to achieve this, and goes straight into one of the most baffling changes it makes. Book Neon blue bolts of static cackled along the tangled cables. Rimmer’s transparent image wavered in and out of sight. Audiobook Neon blue bolts of static crackled along the tangled cables. Rimmer’s opaque image wavered in and out of sight. Putting aside the change of “cackled” to “crackled” (which was probably just a typo to begin with, unless Grant intended to describe the static as laughing) – I’m sorry, opaque??? To be clear, Rimmer’s image becoming less solid due to being in low power mode is not a detail that was cut from this audiobook, and it still describes him as “transparent” a number of other times. Even if Rimmer weren’t in low power mode, describing him as “opaque” seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it? This change crops up a couple more times: once in Chapter FIVE when Rimmer is learning from Kryten about the agonoids, and once in Chapter SEVEN when Ace is pointing out Rimmer’s light bee. Book What little colour remained in Rimmer’s transpicious face dribbled down to his see-through boots. Audiobook What little colour remained in Rimmer’s opaque face dribbled down to his see-through boots. Ace squinted at Rimmer’s transparent form, ‘I think I can see it buzzing around in there.’ Ace squinted at Rimmer’s opaque form, ‘I think I can see it buzzing around in there.’ The fact that one of these examples featured Rimmer being described as “see-through” in the very same sentence suggests that Rob Grant thought that “transparent” and “opaque” were synonyms. Let that be a lesson, kids: always bring your dictionary to the recording booth. In Chapter FOUR, we hear the backstory of the bloodthirsty agonoids. Book Driven by monomaniacal lust for vengeance, the rag-bag caravan of captured vessels had roamed the universe in search of survivors. Audiobook Driven by an almost monomaniacal lust for vengeance, the rag-bag caravan of captured vessels had roamed the universe in search of survivors. No, no, I think you were right the first time. The agonoids’ lust for vengeance is pretty firmly monomaniacal, not just “almost”. The next change comes in Chapter TEN. Lister is repairing Starbug’s hull after it sustained damage from the Wildfire crashing into them, and Rimmer won’t stop complaining to him about Ace. After the audiobook skips over him discussing his own counterpart, Spanners, Lister has had enough. Book ‘Can I make a suggestion, Rimmer?’ he smiled pleasantly. ‘Can you shut the smeg up?’ Audiobook ‘Can I make a suggestion, Rimmer?’ he smiled pleasantly. ‘Can you shut the smeg up, you useless sheet-stain?’ Damn, no need to sugarcoat it, Audiobook Lister. Tell us how you really feel. The next few chapters don’t have too many changes, outside of the audiobook omitting Ace mentioning that he opposed the agonoid project in his universe, but we get one in Chapter FOURTEEN, when Lister has gone outside of the ship to free Kryten. Book He’d have to cut around the edges of the hole to enlarge it, and slice through the girder securing Kryten before he could be dragged clear. He checked the oxygen supply. Three hours. Should be plenty. Audiobook He’d have to cut around the edges of the hole to enlarge it, and slice through the girder securing Kryten before he could be dragged clear. He checked the oxygen supply. Ninety minutes. Should be plenty. A warm welcome back to our good friend, confused chronology. You might think this change was made to account for later sections taking place over a shorter amount of time due to cuts, but nope, it’s completely arbitrary. Nothing major is omitted from Pizzak’Rap’s attack, and after it the oxygen supply is down to seven minutes in both versions. Next up, Part Five, where the biggest omission of this abridged audiobook becomes quickly apparent – except for the fact that they get attacked by simulants agonoids, everything at all related to the adaptation of Gunmen of the Apocalypse is gone. There is no Apocalypse virus, and therefore nobody goes inside a Western themed AR game to fight it. On top of this, all the pipe-laying done for this plotline in Part Four – Lister spending so much time in the AR machine, Kryten reading a Western novel – is cut out too. But even that isn’t quite enough, as the audiobook makes one more significant cut in Part Five: Chapter THREE, the chapter in which Kryten is floating in space after being thrown there by Pizzak’Rap, is omitted. Because of this, after Kryten is brought back by Djuhn’Keep in Chapter FIVE, he makes an extra clarification. Book ‘I’m most awfully sorry, Mr Lister, sir,’ Kryten fumbled with his fingers. ‘He linked up to my CPU via my SCSI socket and dragged the access code out of me.’ Audiobook ‘I’m most awfully sorry, Mr Lister, sir,’ Kryten fumbled with his fingers. ‘He scooped me up in deep space, linked up to my CPU via my SCSI socket and dragged the access code out of me.’ Moving onto Chapter SIX, the lack of virtual wild west shenanigans makes its impact. Instead of being killed by the Apocalypse Boys, Rimmer meets his end during the encounter with Djuhn’Keep, when Kryten fails to catch his light bee as it’s getting sucked out into the vacuum of space. Book The bazookoid tore out of his hand and tumbled through the hole. Kryten snatched hold of a gantry girder and yanked at Rimmer’s light bee, holding it safe. Audiobook The bazookoid tore out of his hand and tumbled through the hole. Kryten snatched hold of a gantry girder and yanked at Rimmer’s light bee, but he was too slow, and Rimmer’s translucent form was flung wide-eyed out of the ship into the permanent silence of deep space. His last words, perhaps not as poetic or as majestic as he would have liked, were lost in the howling scream of escaping oxygen. For the record, they were: ‘Nice plan, Kryters, you brontosaurus marital aid!’ Damn. On the one hand, this is a huge improvement over the similar change made for Lister’s death in the Better Than Life Radio Show, because there’s actually new writing added to account for the episode’s worth of plot that’s missing. But on the other hand, man, what a way to go. At least Lister got resurrected, but this is the last we see of Rimmer. (Or at least it’s the last we see of this universe’s Rimmer, anyway.) In the book version, Rimmer dies saving Lister and The Cat, but in the audiobook, he’s accidental collateral damage from Kryten saving Lister and The Cat, which is far less fitting a fate. Not to mention the bleakness of Rimmer probably remaining conscious in deep space while he waits to power down for good. Just, damn. Immediately following this, the audiobook makes a small, seemingly arbitrary change. Book On the negative side, the huge bulk of collapsing metal might very well crush one, or both of them to death. Audiobook On the negative side, the huge bulk of collapsing metal might very well crush one, or all of them to death. In the book this was obviously just concerning Lister and The Cat, but with Rimmer – the only one who was not originally in danger of being crushed – out of the picture, a swap of one word means this is also talking about Kryten, in doing so seeding the idea that he may not be A-OK. Next up, the audiobook makes a couple of additions which don’t really change anything, other than to make extra clear that the previous dangers are sorted out now. Book Suddenly, there was silence. Audiobook Suddenly, there was silence, save for the laboured hum of the oxygen regeneration unit. Lister opened his eyes. The collapsed gantry was wedged into the hole. Lister opened his eyes. The collapsed gantry was wedged into the hole, sealing the hull. After this, it’s not long before Rob Grant gives us a second punch in the heart. Book He grabbed the girder and pulled. He moved it just enough to see that the arm had been severed. Audiobook He grabbed the girder and pulled. He moved it just enough to see that Kryten was crushed beyond repair. Damn. No new final lines for Kryten; he’s just dead. At least he still gets to go out in a heroic fashion, but it’s quite a downgrade from his dramatic self-sacrifice in the book. Next, the audiobook skips straight to Chapter THIRTEEN, and tries its level best to convince us that there wasn’t a big ol’ Western adventure occurring in between. Book Lister nodded. ‘Worse. Kryten and Rimmer are both totalled. Question is: did Kryten cure the virus in time to save the NaviComp?‘ Audiobook Lister nodded, eyes stinging. ‘Worse. Kryten and Rimmer are both totalled.’ But before Lister could even begin to assimilate the appropriate emotion, the siren awooga-ed its red alert warning. The Cat shot out of the room. Lister slipped Kryten’s skull piece back reverently, and then bounded down the stairway after him. The Cat yelled, ‘Now what?’ Lister slipped Kryten’s skull piece back reverently, then hobbled over to the NaviComp terminal. He stabbed at the keypad. ‘Smeg!’ he hissed. ‘Now we’re in trouble. The agonoid programmed the ‘bug to head full thrust towards a major collision risk, with less than seventeen minutes to impact.’ ‘Major? How major?’ ‘Cat, man, it’s a planet.’ Lister slid into Rimmer’s navigation station, trying not to think of the fact that Rimmer was gone, that Kryten had cured the virus and, instead of ridding himself of the infection, had chosen to save the navigation computer. Lister slid into Rimmer’s navigation station, trying not to think of the fact that Rimmer was gone, and so was Kryten. A solid effort, and I applaud the extra sentences and paragraphs that were included to patch this up, but the climax doesn’t make much sense in this new context. When and why did Djuhn’Keep program Starbug on a collision course, if not by way of a computer virus? He was planning to take them back to Red Dwarf, and then he was blown out of the ship! And why don’t they even discuss the possibility of preventing Starbug from crashing, if there’s no computer virus keeping them locked on course? There were also some things that were left unchanged in this chapter that created plot holes. The audiobook still includes “They’d been constantly accelerating, now, for several hours” and mentions how critically low on fuel they are, neither of which should be true in this new continuity. Emotionally, it feels somewhat off too. Lister remarks that Kryten and Rimmer have been “totalled”, which may be true for Kryten, but it would be more accurate to say that Rimmer was “gone”. No interest in looking for Rimmer’s light bee then, which is still out there, Lister? No? OK then. On top of this, the observation that “Yet another friend had sacrificed his life for Lister” remains intact in the audiobook, even though neither of them actively sacrificed themselves in this version, and especially not Rimmer, the one who is primarily being referred to. Following on to the very end of the story, Lister and Cat Rick And Morty their way to a universe where they’ve died but Rimmer and Kryten are still alive. This leads to another possible plot hole that comes from not changing a detail from the book – Lister still says “I know gazpacho soup is served cold” to prove to Rimmer that he’s the real Lister. But neither abridged version of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers kept in Rimmer telling Lister about that, so there’s no way he could have known. Oops! Overall, these audiobooks featured some considerable differences, both compared to their original texts and compared to each other. Last Human’s audiobook managed the incredible feat of only losing one minor subplot (the Michael Longmen), while Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life lost a lot more of substance, but they have the unmatched vocal talents of Chris Barrie and the added value of the music and sound effects in the Radio Show to uplift them. This leaves Backwards somewhere in the middle, but with the added advantage of not having to compete with its own unabridged version. All things considered, do Red Dwarf’s abridged audiobooks succeed at boiling down the novels to their essential elements, or do they cut out so much good stuff – or fail to cut out enough bad stuff – that you’d find it difficult to recommend them?