DwarfCast 170 - The Smegazine Rack - Issue #11 featured image
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“There’s two scythes to every story.”

In this very exciting instalment of our journey through all things Smegazine, Cappsy, Danny and Ian are joined by two very special guests – Chris Barrie’s nipples. Listen along as the five of us discuss neural networks, yuppies, Kochanski’s giant forehead, Norman Wisdom’s popularity in Albania, whether or not Back To Reality was actually any good, and how The Inquisitor is accidentally responsible for the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein.

It’s best to have the magazine in front of you as you listen. If you don’t have an actual copy, scans are available on archive.org or Stasis Leak, you freeloading bastard.

DwarfCast 170 – The Smegazine Rack – Issue #11 (110 MB)

Show notes

53 comments on “DwarfCast 170 – The Smegazine Rack – Issue #11

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  • Great Dwarfcast, not least for the early mentions of Bamboozle and Digitiser which took me back in time about 30 years.

    This issue was a good one again though. I feel like the magazine is definitely finding its feet at this point.

    I like having the news page upfront, and it’s funny to see some of these items with the benefit of hindsight – the item about Hattie is interestingly handled, and the rumour of a new character is one I’d never heard before. I wondered if it maybe prefigures Kochanski showing up in VII, and whether this had maybe been discussed around the time of making VI too and the Smegazine had somehow got wind of it. The “Explaining Red Dwarf” item is interesting too, I’d never heard about this but the intro to Psirens seems like a much more elegant way of handling it.

    Onto the Wetware strip, which I thought was pretty awesome, maybe the best strip they’ve had so far. The art was great (particularly the wild design for the derelict) and I thought the concept was really interesting – for me, it’s a mix of 80s virtual reality/digital avatar stuff like Tron mixed with standard sci-fi stuff about AI and artificial consciousness. Plus they did the “Holly with a body” idea! I didn’t know this had ever actually been realised anywhere official. I agree though that there maybe needs to be a stronger sense of the life that was created by the end of the strip, as I don’t think just using disembodied captions really conveys it.

    In comics terms, the book it reminds me of most is Ronin, which was a Frank Miller (yes him again, but he was massive in comics in this era) book from the mid-80s that involved an advanced computer mind that grew into an artificial consciousness through human contact. Like Wetware it had a mix of fairly grounded and gritty art for the real-world sections and more experimental/abstract stuff for the in-computer scenes. It also used disembodied voice balloons for the computer, Virgo.

    My final question about Wetware is: what’s the significance of all the board games being ejected from Red Dwarf in the opening image? Is it just to show that everyone on the ship has got bored of them, or what? It doesn’t seem to actually be referenced anywhere in the script, and the images look like photos pasted on to the art. Did they think the panel needed ‘funnying-up’ or something?

    Onto the Paul Jackson interview, which I thought was great, concise, pithy, and pleasingly Terminator-2 obsessed, as everyone was in the early ’90s. 

    The Judgement Day competition results were a bit nothingy, but all worth it to see a cartoon of Norman Wisdom being anally violated.

    (Thanks for the kind words on the Inquisitor/Dredd strip too.)

    Rimmer’s Angels is another one of those articles that was probably more valuable and interesting at the time, when we didn’t have all the shows available on hand to watch endlessly. It’s basically just a compilation of information on a given theme, but for fans in those days there were probably lots of details there that they might not have been aware of. Now it’s an interesting curio but not really a great read, for me.

    Read Any Good Books Lately feels more like an ad than a true feature, and Holly Grams is as enjoyable as usual (but at least is now presented in a slightly more legible background/type combination).

    On to the Inquisitor “Mirror Image” story, which again was a fun strip – nice art, and a decent Robert Maxwell gag. By the way, I have no idea what that hell-hound dog is a reference too – it doesn’t ring a bell from comics I know. All I could find was a (probably untrue) story that Maxwell said he was once so hungry he ate a dog, so I guess it could be a reference to that?

    The Series V retrospective feature with Rob & Doug is really interesting to me – I think they were ludicrously hard on themselves in places, but it gives an interesting insight into where their minds were at that time, and perhaps explains the motivation for some of the changes for VI – although the mention of giving Holly more to do made me wince a little.

    The Holly factfile is another one of those kind of nothingy factfile features that makes me glaze over a little bit, and the Jake Bullet strip feels a bit unfairly relegated to the back as I think it has a nice style to it – I just think it doesn’t have enough time to really deliver much of a story.

    Incidentally, the Sin City movie that Danny mentioned is definitely worth a look if you’ve never seen it, it’s maybe the most literal comics adaptation ever in terms of directly adopting the visual style of the comics for the screen. Even if you don’t like the story, the style is pretty striking. (The sequel was similarly stylish but less coherent, and the less said about Miller’s attempt to adapt The Spirit to the screen – again with a Sin City visual style – the better.)

  • Haven’t finished yet, but want to say bravo for the John Clarke reference near the beginning before I forget. Bravo for the John Clarke reference!

  • it’s funny to see some of these items with the benefit of hindsight – the item about Hattie is interestingly handled, and the rumour of a new character is one I’d never heard before. I wondered if it maybe prefigures Kochanski showing up in VII, and whether this had maybe been discussed around the time of making VI too and the Smegazine had somehow got wind of it.

    I love these type of forgotten speculations. Kochanski was a lead in Last Human in 1995, so maybe it was something they’d already discussed, part of the American influence and early movie courting?

    – I didn’t know Red Dwarf V was also nominated for the International Emmy. Absolutely Fabulous and Drop the Dead Donkey took it (Red Dwarf shared it with Absolutely Fabulous the next year).

    – Among the repeated jokes in the comic, I liked Cat making a litter tray.

    – The Starburst Smegazine slagging might have been in issue 165. I couldn’t find a scan, but it’s mentioned in the contents for their comics reviews.

  • Always great to hear another Smegazine Rack ‘cast, especially as the Smegazines themselves continue to only get better.

    – ‘Wetware’ was definitely the highlight of the issue for me, and it might well be the best Smegazine comic yet. It’s been a real joy reading these issues for the first time along with the Dwarfcasts, because it means I get to experience all this new Red Dwarf. Though I still have a couple of caveats – 1, that “What, like your legs?” line, because it just feels wrong for Lister to objectify or sexualise Holly, and 2, the ending wasn’t super clear to me. If it’s a water based computer, why would piss cause it to explode? If the piss was like the equivalent of corrupting the data or something, that would maybe have come across better.

    – I would be mildly miffed that you didn’t acknowledge my (admittedly not very good) entry in the Inquisitor contest and said that Dave had the only entry, but then you did shout out my articles, so I can’t feel too aggrieved. Also, considering what you said about the misogynistic contributions from readers back then, I don’t feel amazing about blaming Wilma Flimstone for her bad marriage, even if I was roleplaying as a supervillain.

    – It’s a bit strange to see it described as a “surprise” that a Red Dwarf home media release would present the episodes in broadcast order. I know the VHS range had some inconsistencies in this regard, but unless the broadcast order created some major continuity issues, I wouldn’t have thought you’d expect a reordering. Series IV doesn’t even have anything as egregious as Lister playing his guitar one episode and then discovering his 2-series-lost guitar in the next.

    – The quoted ‘Judgement Day’ submissions were mostly pretty bad, but I did enjoy the Norman Wisdom defence of “Not only does he possess the ability to fall down manholes amusingly, but he’s damned attractive to boot.”

    – Impressive that one of the competition winners was in North Carolina. Goes to show how long it ran for!

    – Small hiccup in ‘Infinity Welcomes Careful Readers’ where they call Rimmer a second technician. HOW EMBARRASSING.

    – The Holly-grams are really making it clear how much people were just openly horny for Rimmer from the beginning.

    – Obviously people are entitled to their opinions, but for ranking Meltdown as the then-worst ever Red Dwarf episode and for telling Rob and Doug that Back to Reality had a bad ending respectively, I think Steve Lyons and Joe Nazzaro should be tried in The Hague.

    – Fascinating, and a bit upsetting, that Doug deemed Holoship a failure because it didn’t move him. That’s quite a contrast with all the fan reactions to that episode that I’ve seen.

    – In ‘Rimmer’s Angels’ they totally forgot to mention the “spit on her wrist” incident. I know we only found out about that in 2017, but it still happened before Series V from Rimmer’s perspective, so it was gross negligence for the Smegazine to omit it.

  • As much as the Barry fans would have loved this cover, it’s a shame for the younger kids and teens who might have been embarrassed to take it to the counter or request it from their parents when they spot a Red Dwarf comic on their shopping trip and have to justify the comedy context (which is less clear on a shelf). I felt insecure enough at 12 when I asked to switch from Sonic to Star Trek magazine on a notably boobtastic issue, but I guess we knew what I’d be getting up to.

  • – Small hiccup in ‘Infinity Welcomes Careful Readers’ where they call Rimmer a second technician. HOW EMBARRASSING.

    I didn’t flinch, because I expect this from lazy 90s journalist scum. I just read the 1991 Back to the Future ‘Annual’ that claimed ‘The Power of Love’ is atypical on the soundtrack for being the only non-diegetic song in the movie. What about its counterpart ‘Mr. Sandman,’ you fucking idiot?

  • As much as the Barry fans would have loved this cover, it’s a shame for the younger kids and teens who might have been embarrassed to take it to the counter or request it from their parents

    You should have tried being a 2000AD reader in the 90s….

  • Aw man, the Teletext nostalgia is real. I used to play Bamboozle every day.

    Did you figure out how to cheat, too…? 👀 

  • Great Dwarfcast as always. Really enjoying it. 

    Looking at the dog. I don’t quite know why the inquisitor is in a skull filled dungeon, but i could surmise that his current method of inquisition is being paralleled in the art with the Spanish Inquisition style torture and death room (no one expected that, their chief weapon is surprise!) so I take the dog to be simply an over greedy cartoon mut who is tunnelling into the room underneath the pile of skulls in order to steal the mother load of bones for his own teethy amusement. 

  • Yeah I see now it’s more a painting image on the side of a boat full of skulls, your right. Not a tunnel insert picture. 

  • Cracking first DwarfCast of the year although I’m always a bit disappointed when there are no outtakes. Guys, just fake some if there aren’t any funny real ones.

    As for the Smegazine, they really do seem to be cooking on gas now, with only Ref Dwarf and the competition results seeming like filler in this issue. Oh and Androids is still shite. Putting it on the glossy reverse of the cover doesn’t disguise that I’m afraid. But apart from that I like all the strips and the eclectic mix of stories and art styles we get. Good point about the ending of Wetware being just one of several examples of that oddly blasé attitude to death that crops up in Red Dwarf stories every so often. Funnily enough it put me in mind of the sperm whale in Hitchhiker’s, briefly summoned into existence and then suddenly dead in a grimly comical way.

    Jake Bullet is my favourite again. Odd that he seems to be fully mechanoid, with Kryten’s hands and chest monitor, rather than half human like in BTR. 

    Front cover – meh. Back cover – phwoarr 

  • Did you figure out how to cheat, too…? 👀

    I dimly remember there being a way to do it, now you mention it, but not what it was. 

  • The wrong answers would all go to the same page number so, after you chose, you could hit “reveal” on your remote and see which page number it was going to… then you had time to quickly press every answer and see which one went to a different page number than the rest and, voila, that’s your correct answer!

  • – Small hiccup in ‘Infinity Welcomes Careful Readers’ where they call Rimmer a second technician. HOW EMBARRASSING.

    I didn’t flinch, because I expect this from lazy 90s journalist scum. I just read the 1991 Back to the Future ‘Annual’ that claimed ‘The Power of Love’ is atypical on the soundtrack for being the only non-diegetic song in the movie. What about its counterpart ‘Mr. Sandman,’ you fucking idiot?

    Fun Fact: When I was working on Little Big Planet 3. I am responsible for getting Mr Sandman onto the soundtrack as a direct reference to BTTF.

  • Was the “supertest” for those 14 killer PC setups for them to be picked up and shaken by a giant?

    I wanted to put a gif of the Amelia Bullmore Big Train sketch here, but I ran out of steam trying to make one. So just pretend I put one here and react accordingly..

  • Fun Fact: When I was working on Little
    Big Planet 3. I am responsible for getting Mr Sandman onto the
    soundtrack as a direct reference to BTTF.

    You worked on LBP3??? That’s amazing! Love that game.

  • You worked on LBP3??? That’s amazing! Love that game.

    I did indeed. I also cut my teeth on the Nightmare Before Chrstmas and DC DLC packs for LBP2

  • Brilliant. Well done for not contriving reasons to keep bringing that up in DwarfCasts, because I probably would.

  • Apologies for derailing the conversation. 

    Sorry there were no outtakes. They didn’t get past our lawyers.

  • On the subject of the Red Dwarf novels being lauded as superior to more standard novelisations, isn’t the Quanderhorn novel basically one of those, or is there more to it?

  • On the subject of the Red Dwarf novels being lauded as superior to more standard novelisations, isn’t the Quanderhorn novel basically one of those, or is there more to it?

    I read it, some after and some before listening, and I don’t think there was much more to it. More introspection from the characters (it might all be their first-person accounts?), but that’s the minimum you’d expect for a novelisation anyway. I don’t remember any details actually being changed or expanded, so if they were, they didn’t stand out. Since it was a radio series, it already had imagination on its side.

    I haven’t A/B tested the DW Target books, only reading them when filling in for missing episodes so that I didn’t have to watch recons or cartoons, so I don’t know how those tend to compare to the average movie novelisation, where you might have more extrapolation depending on the author’s whims and deleted/alternate scenes depending on how final the script was, but the Red Dwarf books clearly go beyond novelisation (in the more dialogue heavy scenes) into standalone remake.

  • OK, that’s good to know, thanks Warbodog. Minor shame that they didn’t give Quanderhorn the Red Dwarf treatment. I was hoping it might be a candidate for one of those forum readalongs, but probably not in that case.

    Clearly this is a sign that Doug was the true genius of the Red Dwarf novels all along! And he was the one who did all the sci-fi in Series 1-VI.

  • – Cover: going for a porno mag style this month

    – Androids. Seriously, so soon? It’s like they’re tying to discourage us from reading. I suppose they’re more easily readable by this point. Good to see they’re continuing the sex theme.

    – News. At the start! Good sense prevails. I wonder what the rumours about the new cast member could have been. I imagine the ‘explaining’ but turned into the start of Psirens, which makes a lot of sense. 

    Funny they hope the Red Dwarf movie doesn’t go the same way as the H2G2 and Doctor Who ones when they both ended up being made and Dwarf didn’t. 

    Virgin have asked Howarth and Lyons to promote a book written by Howarth and Lyons. Not gonna lie, that bit seems a little… disingenuous.

    And other news as well.

    – Wetware

    Cat marking his territory and Kryten saying “Mr David” combined with Hattie’s Holly. What a weird start.

    Has the Garbage Pod got this wrong, or is there a video article in the middle of the comic?!

    Pretty remarkable design. Comics are doing something the show could never do here, which is pretty good and feels like they’re using the medium to its advantage. 

    Love the “what the sme…” panel. 

    Holly in a red skin-tight PVC bodysuit. Was everyone super horny making this issue or something?

    So new life was made, dull philosophising was done, Cat pissed on it and they left. Jolly good.

    – Paul Jackson interview. So a lot of stuff we now know, but must have been absolutely fascinating at the time. Amusing that he takes full credit for the show getting commissioned. 

  • Has the Garbage Pod got this wrong, or is there a video article in the middle of the comic?!

    Must be a cock-up in the PDFing – video article is page 4, Wetware starts page 5.

  • No idea why that posted halfway theough

    – Judgement Day. A very good argument for the idea that liking comedy doesn’t inherently make you funny.

    – Rimmer’s Angels. Nothing here that’s not been written online many times since, but it’s a nice summary of the topic and reads better than some of the basic character description features in the past. Have to admit I did skip some of it though. 

    – Infinity Welcomes. Bold opening, criticising the Doctor Who Target novelisations which were well loved because they were, in most cases, the only way one could revisit old stories, most of which weren’t available on VHS by the time the book range finished. 

    Amusing that Jane Killick subtly criticises the episode and character summaries in the Official Companion… for doing exactly what those articles in the Smegazines do. She also praises the removal of Kevin Keegan, so I’m beginning to wonder if her Smegazine golden days are already at an end.

    Rob and Doug fell into the usual re-release trap, thinking it would be better value for money if they added some stuff rather than just released a plain omnibus. And, in the process, meant that fans now felt compelled to shell out for an expensive book for a few bonus pages rather than just saying “I don’t need to buy that.” It’s like when bands put a bonus track on a best of to make it worth it for fans when what they’re ultimately doing is asking those fans to shell out the cost of an album for a single’s worth of new material. 

    Jane Killick reappears to explain that some of the jokes in Robert’s book look like they’re probably jokes. Jesus.

    – Holly-grams. I sort of like the fact they printed the Jeremy Giraffe letter. It feels like something you’d read on one of those teletext letters pages (channel 4 had one I remember writing in to back in the late ‘90s). Otherwise, an especially uninspiring selection this time.

    – The Inquisitor. “Oh dear” might have provided my biggest laugh from a Smegazine so far. Superb. That really feels like one where the humour came first for once. And it really worked. 

    – Series V. Rob and Doug generally pretty good about Juliet May even at this point. Honestly hard to pick out any specific bits, but this really is tremendous. Having Grant Naylor in an open chat about the best and worst bits of V is absolutely fascinating and this issue is worthwhile based on this article alone. Amazing to hear the interviewer describe Back to Reality as a bit of a let down. 

    Amazed that Doug suggested that cutting the comedy down for more drama and story is something that would pay off in VI, which ended up taking the polar opposite direction. 

    “I certainly think we’ll be giving Holly a bigger part.” Oh, the cruelty.

    – Jake Bullet. What the fuck

  • I haven’t A/B tested the DW Target books, only reading them when filling in for missing episodes so that I didn’t have to watch recons or cartoons, so I don’t know how those tend to compare to the average movie novelisation, where you might have more extrapolation depending on the author’s whims and deleted/alternate scenes depending on how final the script was, but the Red Dwarf books clearly go beyond novelisation (in the more dialogue heavy scenes) into standalone remake.

    They vary – the very earliest from the mid 70s are often quite different and very much intended to be standalone – you even get a new intro for Jo Grant (in The Mind of Evil, if memory serves) and of course the total rewrite of an introduction in the ‘60s Dalek novel. Otherwise, Malcolm Hulke always comes up with a good prologue, Ian Marter’s contributions usually pushed how far one could go with a children’s book, and they start getting really interesting in the late ‘80s. The Edge of Destruction fills about 30 pages so there’s a huge load of exploring the malfunctioning TARDIS added in which is amazing, and the season 25 and 26 ones are really good. Remembrance of the Daleks is basically a proto-New Adventure, complete with flashbacks to ancient Gallifrey and chapters from the perspectives of Daleks.

    Anything in between those is likely to be pretty basic, although I recall The Space Museum being surprisingly character-forward.

  • Rob and Doug fell into the usual re-release trap, thinking it would be better value for money if they added some stuff rather than just released a plain omnibus. And, in the process, meant that fans now felt compelled to shell out for an expensive book for a few bonus pages rather than just saying “I don’t need to buy that.” It’s like when bands put a bonus track on a best of to make it worth it for fans when what they’re ultimately doing is asking those fans to shell out the cost of an album for a single’s worth of new material.

    I think this is one of those “a feature, not a bug” things.

  • It’s interesting to hear the stuff about length of sitcoms – six probably did seem a lot at the time, but from the ‘90s onwards they began to run that long quite often. OFITG, six series. 2point4 Children, eight. Brittas, seven. My Family, about a billion. My Hero, six. Two Pints of Lager, nine. Peep Show, nine. Not Going Out, 13. Birds of a Feather, 12. Ab Fab, six. Still Game, nine. As Time Goes By, 10. I know there were others in the past, but it definitely seemed to become a lot more common around this point. 

  • I think this is one of those “a feature, not a bug” things.

    Which is why I dislike it when the artist claims it’s there as a bonus for fans, or in this case, something to justify the purchase. I get it from a publisher / record label sales perspective, but the creator trying to justify it is irritating.

  • Funny that despite being such a huge success in terms of viewership, Mrs. Brown’s Boys has only just had its 4th series. And that series only had 4 episodes.

    Although it has had TWENTY-SIX goddamn specials and a feature film, so it should probably still be an honorary member of the 6+ Series Club.

  • Although it has had TWENTY-SIX goddamn specials and a feature film

    Two feature films, although one of them was a prequel with Billy Connolly and Judi Dench that probably isn’t considered canon any more and frankly seemed to be more preoccupied with Queen Victoria.

  • 100% true fact: there is actually another film version of Mrs Brown’s Boys that existed before the television series. Agnes Browne [sic] was released in 1999 and adapted from Brendan O’Carroll’s novel The Mammy (itself based on a radio series, the first iteration of Mrs Brown). In the film Mrs Brown(e) is played by Anjelica Huston (who also directed and produced the film), and the cast also includes Ray Winstone and Tom Jones (playing himself).

    In case you’re curious, here’s the IMDb page, and here’s the trailer.

    I don’t know if that information will ever be of use to anyone (maybe in a thoroughly-researched pub quiz …), but I learned this last year and feel compelled to share the fact that the first onscreen Mrs Brown was Oscar and Golden Globe winner Anjelica fucking Huston.

  • That’s a remarkable number of specials. A lot of mainstream comedies seem to retire to the festive specials format (amazing to think OFAH limped on for almost 13 years after its final full series ended, while literally half of the Vicar of Dibley’s episodes are specials), but it’s bizarre to think a show had that many. 

    I’ve never seen a single episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys, and long may that continue.

  • I’ve never seen a single episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys, and long may that continue.

    Nor have I, but my dad, who’s a fan of Red Dwarf and The League of Gentlemen, raves about it, so it must be great!

  • It’s interesting to hear the stuff about length of sitcoms – six probably did seem a lot at the time, but from the ‘90s onwards they began to run that long quite often. OFITG, six series. 2point4 Children, eight. Brittas, seven. My Family, about a billion. My Hero, six. Two Pints of Lager, nine. Peep Show, nine. Not Going Out, 13. Birds of a Feather, 12. Ab Fab, six. Still Game, nine. As Time Goes By, 10. I know there were others in the past, but it definitely seemed to become a lot more common around this point.

    And prior to those you obviously have your Last of the Summer Wines and your Allo Allos. But the vast majority of these examples are BBC One, very mainstream, with established actors and/or writers. The point I think I was trying to make on the podcast was that five or six series would have been considered a fantastic achievement for what’s on paper a much more niche sitcom, one where absolutely zero of the cast or crew were household names before it started. Peep Show is probably the most relevant modern equivalent. (Although I am aware that I’ve just used the word “modern” to describe something that started more than twenty years ago)

  • These DwarfCasts’ scene-setting introductions are just abstract archive news until they mention The Animals of Farthing Wood or Astro Farm and I’m in 1992 on the living room carpet flicking through Dinosaurs! magazine.

  • Sorry to be a bit off topic but didn’t know where else to post.

    DJ will be sometime later this year? New series etc will be announced like before? Hopefully trumps 2015 when two series were announced but also this time a special or two as well. Though prefer the series format.

    Doug said in the Radio Times interview he has ideas that they can’t do yet so he is thinking ahead.

    What a mind. What a guy.

    Hello by the way.

  • Hello!

    The last DJ was in 2021. Back when I was (semi-officially) involved with the team, it was very unusual to go more than a few months after an event before announcing the next one. There has not been another one announced. There’s not even been a newsletter since May 2022, and the last magazine was Spring 2019, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  •  – Fascinating, and a bit upsetting, that Doug deemed Holoship a failure because it didn’t move him. That’s quite a contrast with all the fan reactions to that episode that I’ve seen.

    #NotAllFen

  • I never got the Demons & Angels hate, that ep is honestly in my top 5! My favourite Dwarf is always when it has a bit of horror thrown in. 

  • Like the Backwards novel and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, the grim unpleasantness of Demons and Angels somehow appeals more as I age. Craig’s especially good in it, getting yanked around convincingly and making Low Lister completely repulsive.

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