Doug Naylor has shared the sad news on Twitter that John Pomphrey, Red Dwarf‘s original lighting director, has passed away.

A staffer at BBC Manchester, he took on the task of injecting drama and depth to those original grey sets, and stayed with the team throughout the show’s golden era, seeing through such changes as the Series III revamp, and indeed the move to Shepperton from Series IV onwards. Whether on location or in studio, John was there to bring vibrancy to Red Dwarf‘s world – the cast fondly remember his proclivity for a good gel to tint each and every shot. He was every bit as integral as the likes of Paul Montague, Mel Bibby, Rocket and Ed Bye in establishing and developing the look and feel of our favourite show. And he truly gave his all to his craft, including the time he, in his own words, “fell arse over tit into the lake” whilst shooting Terrorform.

He didn’t return to the show for Series VII onwards, but he kept on working well into the 2010s, and over the course of a career spanning four decades, gained such credits as Jossy’s Giants, 8:15 From Manchester, Filthy Rich & Catflap, The Mrs Merton Show, This Is Your Life, Total Wipeout and Pointless. He was kind enough to grant us a luxuriously lengthy interview, discussing his career in depth with John Hoare back in 2004. If I remember correctly, John H spotted his name in the credits of Watchdog, took a punt that he might have a firstname.lastname BBC email address, and got lucky. Well, we all got lucky really, as thanks to John P’s generosity with his time, we have his fascinating account to look back on.

John left one last gift to Red Dwarf fandom in recent years, when he visited the set of Series XII and chatted on camera to his modern day counterpart Ed Moore. The two men are clearly huge fans of each other, their camaraderie and mutual respect making for perhaps the most wholesome and heart-warming DVD feature of the Dave era. John was a man of great knowledge, experience and warmth, who made the world a brighter place in every possible sense.

Red Dwarf was brilliant, it was very innovative. All the early ones when we went up in the lighting gantries, that wasn’t allowed, you needed special permission for that, we had to talk to lots of high-up people to go up there … I fell into Red Dwarf because no-one else wanted it and I happened to be in on that day, and I’m really glad I did…  I hang around Smiths, and say “I’m on that DVD” (laughs) “Do you want me to sign it?”

– John Pomphrey


4 comments on “John Pomphrey RIP

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  • Lovely tribute to somebody who was undoubtedly a very important figure in the glory days of Red Dwarf. And that interview from 2004 is absolutely brilliant. Personally I like the “soppy blue light” :)   RIP  

  • I *seem* to recall that I actually emailed the Watchdog email address, and they passed my email across to John Pomphrey’s personal address. Not that it matters, a very similar story, and I still can’t believe it worked!

    That interview was nearly 20 years ago now, which is ridiculous. Waiting to meet him at a pub near Teddington was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life, I was horrendously nervous. Needless to say, he was absolutely lovely, and at one point stopped the interview to ask whether what he was saying was the kind of thing I wanted.

    Of course it was. And he didn’t need to give his free time to me, who had no experience of anything back in 2004, but did so just because he was kind. I seem to recall he said even more once the recorder was off, but of course I can’t remember any of it now. Bugger.

    As Ian says, his work on Red Dwarf was absolutely extraordinary. Red Dwarf stands out on the screen – perhaps even more than it used to, now that we’ve for whatever reason decided that comedy has to look boringly “realistic”. (Whatever that means, but it seems to translate as “dull”.) Flick through the channels, and those damn gels grab your eye and refuse to let go.

    How wonderful that with the BBC’s recent uploads to iPlayer and the BBC Two repeats, his work can be enjoyed by people all over again, by people who have either never seen it before, or haven’t thought about the show in years. The beauty of working on a show like Red Dwarf is that your work lives on… if not forever, then well over three decades and counting.

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