Past Echoes

Despite Red Dwarf‘s futuristic off-world setting, it’s always been a show deeply rooted in reality. Rob and Doug drew their inspiration as much from Steptoe and Son and Porridge as Blade Runner and Alien, deriving humour from workplace antics, characters being trapped together and the good old British class system, all things that are far from alien to the viewer at home. As such, it’s always been intrinsically linked to the time and place in which it was made, and the fact that this time and place was up to 31 years ago now makes for some interesting anomalies between the future as predicted in the late 80s and early 90s, and what we now know about how society and technology has developed since then.

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The Boys Are Back In Town

Well, then. We’ve been fairly cynical about the prospect of new Red Dwarf happening any time soon. Everything went very quiet for a very long time, and it seemed like once again, circumstances had somehow conspired to kill off any momentum and put the show back into the past tense again. We refused to get excited a couple of months ago when the cast went for a curry together, given that it’s not too unusual for a group of people who’ve known each other for thirty odd years to meet up for a bite to eat, but Danny John-Jules has tweeted a picture today, and…

Yep, it seems like something is happening. All four cast members present and correct (I’d recognise Robert’s bald patch anywhere), in what looks suspiciously like a production company meeting room, with bits of paper in front of them. Doug’s even there, although he doesn’t look massively thrilled about it. Now, this isn’t necessarily Series XIII. There’s still been no official announcement about that, despite what less reputable sites like Den of Geek or Digital Spy will tell you. It could be something to do with the long-proposed live show. It could be a meeting about future merch or something. It could just be them going for a coffee in the world’s worst-decorated Cafe Nero, and we’re reading too much into it. But finally, things are starting to look a little more positive…

High & Low: Back To Earth

Back in 2008, when Red Dwarf turned twenty, it was very much a former television programme. The last new series had finished almost a decade earlier, fans had finally accepted that the long-proposed Movie was never going to happen, the regular DVD releases had come, gone and done a lap of honour with The Bodysnatcher Collection, Dimension Jump attendance had fallen off a cliff, and while there were still regular updates from The Official Site and the odd dribble of merch every now and then, the general feeling was that Red Dwarf was a show that should be talked about in the past tense. And that was sort of ok. We’d come to terms with it, although we were all more than a little worried about what the fan community would look like at the next milestone anniversary without any fresh stimulus to keep us going.

But when Red Dwarf hit 25 in 2013 and 30 in 2018, the landscape could barely have been more different, thanks to what happened towards the end of that twentieth anniversary year.

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Scrambling in a red alert situation, a new record time…

…two months and nine days. That’s roughly the time elapsed between the frame-rate problem on the Blurays first being noticed and today’s TOS update, which represents the first time that the controversy has been acknowledged by an official Red Dwarf source. Snark aside, there are a million reasons why things like this take a while to get addressed – they have to wait for the manufacturers to investigate and put solutions in place before they go steaming in – but even so, it’s been a long wait.

There’s not a great deal of new information since the BBC finally got their arses into gear about this just under a month ago, but it’s nice to see confirmation that such a dramatic change to the source material was never the intention of the boxset. An apology might have been an idea, mind. The word “sorry” does at least feature in the BBC’s response quoted in the article, which is a slightly more official-sounding version of the email that was previously sent to complaining customers. The crux of the message is this bit:

Details of how to obtain your replacement can be obtained by e-mailing BBC Studios customer support line at DVDSupport@bbc.com

If you have already purchased the set and wish to replace the two faulty discs, you can do so at the address above; while we understand that replacement pressings of copies still in shops will be issued as soon as possible.

Good and interesting news that rogue copies in the wild will indeed be replaced. Spare a thought for the poor bugger who has to organise that.

Misleading Red Dwarf VHS Ad Voiceovers

It feels like there’s infinite possibilities for misleading Red Dwarf VHS ad voiceovers that could be constructed by chopping up unrelated lines from the series.

“Marilyn Monroe… What a bastard!”

– Dave, March 10th 2019

A stupid idea has sprung forth from its natural habitat of our forum and come to life in video form. Last week, there was a thread about Michael Jackson which was mercifully derailed early on by Warbofrog posting a link to an old BBC Video promo that lifted the audio of Lister saying “whacko jacko” and used it to create a bowdlerised version of his line about Star Trek. This led Dave to ponder on the possibilities for similar edits, as quoted above, and the suggestions spewed forth. The thread later got rerailed and went serious again, but not before planting the idea that it might be amusing to fire up Premiere.

Many thanks to the original posters in that thread, as credited on the video.

G&TV: Space Cadets

We’re going back 22 years for this month’s G&TV, a fact that will no doubt unsettle any readers who remember watching it at the time. Not to be confused with a completely unrelated Channel 4 show called Space Cadets, which involved tricking gullible young people into thinking they were going into space when in fact they were just in a big warehouse, this Space Cadets was a 1997 panel show dedicated to science-fiction, following in the wake of other single-topic shows like They Think It’s All Over and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. It was hosted by Greg Proops, with team captains Bill Bailey and Craig Charles.

It wasn’t very good. The format was pretty run of the mill – a what happened next round, then a picture round, a bit of Call My Bluff with sci-fi props and a final quickfire trivia round – with nothing particularly unique or memorable to set it apart. The shows were often shambolic, with panellists shouting over each other and Proops coming up short in keeping control, the editing slapdash and the production values failing to disguise the evidently low budget. Although I did like Greg’s Davros-inspired chair. The first episode is available in full on YouTube, complete with original in-vision continuity announcement, and one of the guests is another familiar Red Dwarf face:

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Bluray Re-Mastered (in a good way)

It’s fair to say that the long-awaited release of Series 1-VIII on Bluray was a controversial one. Reaction to the bulk of the content has varied, but the one thing that everyone agreed on is that Series III and half of Series V were utterly ruined due to some sort of de-interlacing error that rendered the episodes in the wrong frame rate. Since we published our not-entirely-positive review, a small but noisy campaign for replacements and/or refunds started, thanks to the likes of Andrew Orton and his tireless emailing, and George Martin of Which?, who teamed up with perhaps the most intelligent and sexy Red Dwarf fan in the world in his reporting of the issue.

And today, that campaign has paid off. Those who have emailed the BBC to complain have finally received a satisfactory response, the pertinent bit of which is:

After a comprehensive review with all our suppliers involved in the manufacturing of this product we have now identified the source of the problem. De-interlacing did occur at tape to digital capture stage with one of the suppliers. This was not part of the Blu-ray authoring process as we originally had reason to believe.

The mastering of this release was a multistage process involving three separate suppliers. We hope you will understand that it would be inappropriate for us to say specifically where this fault occurred as we are remedying this with the company concerned.

We have started the process of recreating the masters and re-authoring these discs which will take approximately six weeks.

This is great news, obviously, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results, whilst not holding our breath bearing in mind that we weren’t keen on the rest of the Bluray versions in the first place. But after a frustrating few weeks in which official Red Dwarf sources have been silent and the BBC initially refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong, this is a big win. Well done and thank you to all those who fought for this.

High & Low: Holly Scenes

Behold! Former G&T regular feature High & Low, in which we compile both the top ten and the bottom five of a particular Red Dwarf topic, is back, just three years and ten months after the last one. That’s about average for a second-class fansite. We’re no longer attempting to make it a monthly occurrence, but we fancied bringing back the format as an option to use from time to time. And as we not only promised back in 2015 that the next edition would be Holly Scenes, but even went to the trouble of getting Hattie Hayridge herself to pick one of the entries, we’d better finally crack on with it…

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Rob Grant’s Nether Regions

In somewhat unexpected news, Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall are doing another radio series, one that isn’t The Quanderhorn Xperimentations. Tickets have just been made available for The Nether Regions, along with a description that frankly defies neatly summarising:

Welcome to … The Nether Regions: a place where the laws of physics and even time itself take a day off, put their feet up and watch daytime television in their underpants.

This is our world, today, though not quite the today we know. And not entirely the world we live in. But nearly.

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Red Dwarf: Series I-VIII Bluray Review

Oh boy, where to begin? This is comfortably the largest Red Dwarf release ever, containing not only 71.2% of all episodes ever (or Series I-VIII, as most people refer to it), but all the extras from the original DVD range, including The Bodysnatcher Collection. Not only that, the episodes have been restored, upscaled to a high-definition resolution, and given what’s been officially referred to as an “extensive” colour grade. It’s a release that was rumoured for a very long time before it was finally announced, and one that’s only now arriving some three and a half months later than the original release date.

Our attitude towards the release during that time has ranged from ambivalence to open hostility, but now that it’s finally here, is it indeed the ultimate collection of Red Dwarf – the definitive version of the episodes, packaged with all the extras you’d ever need – that it has the potential to be?

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