Being born in 1981 in the UK, there is a certain… comfort I have from watching Red Dwarf. Despite being set three million years into the future, I understand everything. Not only with jokes about Eastbourne or Topic bars; the visual language of Red Dwarf is warm and familiar. A cross between The Young Ones and Chock-A-Block.
And part of that visual language is how BBC2 looked and felt in the 90s. Those classic idents, a bold, chunky 2. Whizzing across the screen as a toy car, flipping in the air like a fluffy dog, or being blown up by fireworks. Despite only actually launching during the initial broadcast of Series IV, for an entire generation, Red Dwarf became inseparable from those wonderful pieces of film. (Many, many years later, I got to play with those idents on air on BBC Two for real… and that toy car ident became the most metaphorical ident in the world.)
But today isn’t a day for comfort. At least, not for me. Because a big part of Red Dwarf‘s story was its overseas sales, particularly to PBS stations in America. It’s something which is so easy to forget from a UK perspective: that there is a whole language of television connected with Dwarf that I never got to see.
So let’s take a look at… Mike Frisbie’s Sci-Fi Friday Night, on Iowa Public Television. Starting in the early 90s, this was a weekly line-up of various science fiction shows, including Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, and… oh, hello, Red Dwarf. And each show was introduced by Mike Frisbie in his own inimitable style.
While we’re all working on bigger things for G&T behind the scenes, it’s left to me to keep the front page updated. And what better way to do that than foist some unpleasant off-cuts from an old article onto you?
Here is your plate of raw offal, then. A couple of months back I posted this piece, on the reshoots required for Series 1 to put Holly in-vision. There was one thing I was never quite able to nail down, however, and going after it seemed like an annoying diversion in an already faintly annoying article, so I pretended not to notice and hoped everyone else would happily ignore it as well. Still, perhaps you’re cleverer than me, and can figure out the below mystery. And it concerns a very important scene in the development of Holly.
On 17th July 2019, just over six months since the Red Dwarf Series I-VIII Bluray set was first released, replacement discs for Series III and V finally fell through the letterboxes of complaining customers. On the original release, the entirety of the third series and the second half of the fifth were rendered in the wrong frame rate, resulting in blurry movement and grainy pictures, basically the equivalent of accidentally applying a film effect. This subject rather dominated our original review, which lead to a minor lobbying campaign for a fix. The BBC acknowledged the mistake in February, and assured us that new discs would be ready in “approximately six weeks”. Twenty weeks later, were the new editions of these nine episodes worth the wait?
This month on G&TV, let’s take a look at something we’ve been meaning to cover for ages. A shade over two months after Series 1 of Red Dwarf was first transmitted, Children’s BBC show Take Two asked kids what they thought of the series.
Which is automatically a very interesting little time capsule. After all, whether given by kids or by adults, contemporary opinions of Series 1 are as rare as hen’s testicles.
Here’s one that’s been doing the rounds lately – a full, decent-quality (in technical terms at least) episode of Cyberzone has recently been uploaded to YouTube by Red Dwarf fan Chris Toone. The short-lived virtual reality game show was notable for several reasons. It was a new format from the brain of Tim Child and his production company Broadsword, in the same vein as their technologically-groundbreaking and hugely entertaining Knightmare. Cyberzone only duplicated that success in one regard, but it will always have its place in fandom folklore thanks to the presenting style of one Craig Charles, who adopted Hattie’s cry of “awooga” from Marooned as a catchphrase, which was in turn “borrowed” by footballer-turned-presenter John Fashanu – a guest on the first episode of the series – as his own catchphrase on the much more popular Gladiators.
The show saw Craig as the “Zone Warden”, guiding two competing teams of two through a series of virtual reality challenges set by arch-villain Thesp, a hybrid of the GamesMaster and Knightmare‘s Lord Fear, played by James Grout. One team comprised two members of the public, taking on a pair of sportspeople, in this case world rally champions Louise Aitken-Walker and Tina Thorner, in the second episode of the series, aired 11th January 1993:
This month’s G&TV is short and sweet. No prolonged, tedious analysis. No choosing something purely so I can rant about something which has been annoying me this week. Just a little something you almost certainly haven’t seen before.
With many thanks to Gary Rodger for the clip, here is Mac McDonald appearing on Tyne Tees kids music programme Razzmatazz in 1981.
RICHIE: Maybe it’s a producer with a wonderful part. EDDIE: Oo-er! RICHIE: Eddie, I said wonderful part, not attractive willy.
When talking about Filthy Rich & Catflap, there’s many routes I could have taken. I could have focused on it being an ahead-of-its-time dissection on the nature of celebrity. I could have talked about alternative comedy butting heads with the old showbiz. I could mention the endless fourth wall breaking – done far more than The Young Ones or Bottom ever did.
Or I could start with a knob gag. OK, fine, I’ll go with that.
Of course, Filthy Rich & Catflap and early Red Dwarf are very much sister shows. Both were part of Paul Jackson’s pot of money at BBC Manchester, and were both recorded in BBC Manchester’s Studio A at Oxford Road. And both shared many of the same crew. As you take a look at this video from the very end of the series – featuring the show gleefully knocking down the last remaining barrier between them and the viewer – see how many people who also worked on Red Dwarf you can spot.
But that isn’t why I’ve chosen this video for this month’s G&TV. Here’s a fun fact: did you know you can see the outside of Red Dwarf – that is, the hull of the ship itself – in those closing moments of Filthy Rich & Catflap? Despite it being recorded a year before Red Dwarf?
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.
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:
Any self-respecting Red Dwarf fan has a few standard facts at their disposal. The first recording dates for Series 1 were cancelled due to an electrician’s strike. Robert Llewellyn was electrocuted on his first day at work. Meltdown was put back in the episode order due to worries about the Gulf War.
Slotting in among these standard set of facts is that the village scenes in Emohawk – Polymorph II were shot on an abandoned set for a series called Covington Cross. And that’s… kinda it. That is The Fact, done, ticked, off we go.
I don’t think that’s good enough. Let’s take a proper look.