Here’s an incredible find that was first brought to our attention by Tom Selway on Twitter at the start of August, just a few days after it surfaced on YouTube. We immediately sprung in to action, opening our to-do list and pencilling it in for September’s G&TV. Which would have been fine if things like TORDFC’s newsletter and reddwarf.co.uk didn’t exist, both of which have featured it in the meantime. Nevertheless, it’s well worth sharing in case those two passed any of you by, as it’s not every day you get to see a fully-fledged broadcast programme all about Red Dwarf. Before Comedy Connections and The Making of Back To Earth, but after Red Dwarf Night, there was Smegheads in Seattle.
Produced and broadcast by KCTS, a local PBS affiliate serving Seattle and Tacoma in Washington, it features Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules on a visit to the eponymous city in May 1998. It’s a compilation of material from various sources: one main interview by KCTS’s Ken Vincent, another interview with Danny solo, viewer Q&As from two separate pledge drives for the station, at least two different convention appearances, plus a couple of specially-shot sections, which we’ll come to. After it initially aired, it did the rounds as a bootleg VHS for a while, along with another show from the same station, Swirly Thing Alert, but then disappeared and slipped from the memory, until now.
With the two year anniversary of Red Dwarf XII rapidly approaching, it’s time to tidy up a few remaining bits of business here on G&T. Our retrospective DwarfCasts are already in the can and will be published before too long. But before those, there’s one thing which I’m sure you’d all hoped I’d forgotten about. Yes, it’s time for that sodding ad breaks article again.
Here’s a lovely thing. Reader Jon Kearey recently got in touch to tell us about his visit to the BBC Visual Effects workshop in late 1997. Jon was doing on a project on Red Dwarf‘s model and effects work for his Design A-Level, and was invited along to take a look by the late, great Peter Wragg. This would have been at the time when the team were working on models for Re-Mastered, which would turn out to be their last major contribution to Red Dwarf for the best part of twenty years, by which time they’d gone freelance and set up The Model Unit.
On his visit, Jon was fortunate enough to meet Mike Tucker and Alan “Rocky” Marshall, who showed him not only their collection of Red Dwarf models and props from across the years, but also their work-in-progress new builds of Red Dwarf and Blue Midget for Re-Mastered. And he was allowed to take photos. Our deepest gratitude to Jon for sharing those photos with us, so that we could share them with you.
ED BYE: Rob and Doug and I made the decision that it’d be better to see Norman rather than just hear him, because he’s got a great lugubrious face. NORMAN LOVETT: Initially the money was low because it was a voiceover, so they can get away with paying you peanuts for that. ROB GRANT: Norman had been banging on from the start saying “Get my face on-screen, that’s the money… NORMAN LOVETT: So I kept moaning and whinging about this. I said “Why have I got to do a voiceover in a TV show? Why can’t you see this face, and why can’t this computer called Holly look like this bloke here?” By the time we’d recorded the third episode of the first series, it had been agreed that we would see Holly, and we’d go and reshoot some of the bits for the first and second and third episodes…
The Beginning, Series 1 documentary, The Bodysnatcher Collection
The above story – in endless slight variations – has gone down in Red Dwarf lore. Norm whinged right at the start of Series 1 that Holly should be in-vision, the powers that be eventually agreed, and they went back and did some reshoots to add his FACE to the early episodes. (The real horror arises when you consider that due to the electrician’s strike, where Series 1 was entirely rehearsed but never actually recorded, Norm was probably on his ninth week of moaning about this, rather than the third. Try not to let that shrivel your soul too much.)
However, what hasn’t been done is going back to examine those early episodes in detail, to see exactly how those reshoots worked. And when you do, you spot a few interesting details which haven’t been widely talked about.
Let’s take a look. Doing this takes a certain amount of extrapolation; without access to the proper production paperwork, we have to do a bit of stretching and join some dots along the way. But I think the below makes sense. Obviously, to get any kind of idea of how this worked, we have to take the episodes in production order rather than broadcast order.
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.
These days, it’s difficult to imagine the sheer unavailability of Series 1 of Red Dwarf. Broadcast in 1988, it was only released on VHS in 1993, and got its first repeat run in 1994. For five years, the series existed merely as fuzzy off-airs, passed around among fans with increasing generation loss. It’d be really odd if anything major linked to Red Dwarf was like that these days, wouldn’t it?
On an entirely unrelated matter, today’s topic is Grant Naylor talent agency sitcom The 10%ers. Which has never had a commercial release or a repeat run. And seeing as it’s 2019 and both are looking increasingly unlikely, we’re going to be a little cheeky. Today is the 25th anniversary of the start of Series 1, after all.
So here’s the pilot, broadcast as part of ITV’s Comedy Playhouse in 1993:
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.
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…
“Despite some last-minute shooting by Rob and Doug after the wrap party, Demons & Angels was felt to be the weakest show of the series by Rob and Doug, and so was placed 5th – the traditional place for what you think is your worst episode. (Despite D&A being great.) Nobody cares if you’ve got a duff ep if you’ve had four great ones before it, and end the series with a blinder.”
Over the years on here, we’ve often idly mentioned the idea that the worst episode of any given comedy show should be put in the fifth episode slot out of six. In fact, we’ve mentioned it so much that it’s almost become a truism, a cliché… and yet we’ve never really examined where it came from, or actually looked at whether it applies to Red Dwarf in any concrete way.
Hello. I am John Hoare, and I am going to take a look at whether this actually applies to Red Dwarf in any concrete way.
It’s 3pm on the 25th December, and that can only mean one thing – the whole family gathering around for that old Christmas tradition of reading the Ganymede & Titan round-up of what’s happened in the world of Red Dwarf over the preceding twelve months. While 2018 was certainly a special year for the show in terms of its numerical significance, it was also the first year in four where no brand new episodes were either recorded, transmitted or both. As such, a quieter year for us, and so we’re eschewing the month-by-month format to instead give an overview of the big news and events that occurred, and a festive selection box of some of our own least shit features that we posted when there were no big news and events to keep us occupied.