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  • #214219
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Hey,

    Renegade Rob here. So as an aspiring writer I’ve taken it upon myself to dissect the shows that inspire me, and this of course includes Red Dwarf. I’ve bought the scripts and parsed through them and rewatched the episodes with a careful eye for scene and page length, as a true hack would. And I’ve made an observation. I don’t know if this is intentional or has ever been mentioned in a book or behind the scenes, but I thought it was cool when I saw the pattern:

    Red Dwarf episodes can be divided into seven relatively equal sections.

    I’m gonna go through them, using terminology from Joseph Campbell, Chris Vogler, Dan Harmon, Michael Hauge, Blake Snyder, and various other gits.

    1) ORDINARY WORLD
    2) PLANNING/DEBATE
    3) FUN & GAMES
    4) APPROACH
    5) BAD GUYS CLOSE IN
    6) DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
    7) CONFRONTATION

    Let me break the stages down since I’m an obsessive twat who likes to over-explain things:

    1) ORDINARY WORLD – This is the status quo at the beginning of the episode. It could be the Dwarfers dicking about in the bunkroom, Rimmer droning on with his Risk stories, or even them investigating a derelict. Inevitably, something will happen to end the sequence, ushering them to respond. This is the…

    CATALYST (1/7 – About 14%) The line between Stages 1 and 2, this is when Stage 1 ends and the Dwarfers switch gears to start dealing with their new situation. This could be when the crew decide to meet up in Starbug to discuss the Matter Paddle or have all hands on deck because there’s a swirly thing alert. This leads to…

    2) PLANNING/DEBATE – This is where the Dwarfers “posse” and have to figure out what they’re dealing with and how to deal with it. It could be a Simulant battle-class cruiser on intercept, a distress signal from the Nova 5, or a squid that wants to hump Starbug. Inevitably, the gang either comes up with a plan or is somehow overtaken by the enemy. A Simulant might knock them out with a laser for three weeks, or they might get captured by Nazis, or crash to awaken to Timothy Spall, or decide that they’re not “on the pull.” Either way, a threshold is being crossed, and as such, we have the…

    THRESHOLD (2/7 – About 29%) When the planning and debate ends one way or another and the Dwarfers are thrown into their new world, and it’s sink or swim. This line between Stages 2 and 3 is often when there would be a commercial break (at least when I watched it on BBC America). So now in this new world we have…

    3) FUN & GAMES – A term I borrowed from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book (which claims to be the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need, but really it should be the first book. Start there for the basics then move on, and quickly, to figure out how to be actually, substantively good). Basically it’s the “promise of the premise” where the audience has a lot of fun watching the Dwarfers adjust to their new situation. This could include putting on their least smeggy things for an upcoming encounter, playing around with the luck virus, getting their bearings in a prison where Winnie the Pooh is being tied to the stake, meeting Legion and getting a hard light drive, playing around with the timeslides for the first time, etc. There’s a descent here as the Dwarfers learn and explore their new situation, but there’s also sometimes exploration of concepts that will come in handy later. The luck virus is fun now, but it’ll be essential by the end. Once the Dwarfers get their bearings, we reach…

    ADAPTATION (3/7 – About 43%) An arbitrary term I’m using to denote the checkpoint between Stages 3 and 4. Sometimes the first commercial break happens here; it’s usually after Stage 2, but will occassionally be after Stage 3, but it’s definitely one or the other. This is, for reference, the point where the Dwarfers leave for the recuperation lounge and Andy goes “What a bunch of twonks!” and also the point where Lister is first drained of fear by the Polymorph after the whole boxer shorts fun & games. Once the Dwarfers get the fun and games out of their system, it’s time for them to delve deeper into their new situation…

    4) APPROACH – Joseph Campbell calls this the Meeting with the Goddess. Christopher Vogler calls it the Approach to the Inmost Cave (we’re not quite at the inmost cave yet, that’s Stage 5). I call it the part where the Dwarfers just hang out in their new world, usually with a guest character or two. A lot of screenwriting authors (Syd Field, Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge) talk about the midpoint as a threshold, but interestingly, the midpoint for Red Dwarf falls not at a threshold point between stages but right smack dab in the middle of Stage 4. If you think of it like a circle, proceeding clockwise from the top in increments of 1/7, the slice representing Stage 4 is right at the bottom, sagging like a limp groinal vaccuum cleaner. Stage 3 was the descent, and now we’ve settled at the bottom of the circle. With the adjustment out of their system, the Dwarfers settle into their new situation, usually having a chat and associating with some new characters. This is where they hang out with their High selves and call them hippies, dine with Legion, talk about the Church of Judas, discuss the state of Waxworld with Pythagoras, or learn about how their real name is Duane Dibbley. In some ways it’s kind of like a halftime break, after the exhaustion of Stage 3, but before the harder times to come in Stage 5. Sometimes, Stage 4 is a literal approach to Stage 5, like boarding the Blue Midget on the way to the Nova 5, or stealing a backwards-riding bike. At this point, valuable information and assistance can be found, such as the helpful Legion and High Dwarfers, the realization that Holly’s powered down Red Dwarf, identifying the Psiren threat, or having your resentment drained. The point is, once the Dwarfers adjust, they sort of reach a new status quo (not coincidentally opposite to the status quo at the beginning of the episode on the other side of the circle). It’s typically a pretty comfy stage, but one that exists to prepare the Dwarfers for the next stage…

    THE INMOST CAVE (4/7 – About 57%) The term I use to describe the threshold between Stages 4 and 5. Having endured Stage 3 then having received in Stage 4 what amounts to a halftime break with some relaxation, info, assistance, emotional support, resources, and preparation, it’s time for the Dwarfers to face the consequences of their new situation. This 57% demarcation represents the end of the cozy Stage 4 and the beginning of harder times (ex: leaving the High Red Dwarf to go to the Low Red Dwarf, or finally arriving at the Nova 5). This point is the point you’ve been heading for the entire episode.

    5) BAD GUYS CLOSE IN – This is another Blake Snyder term. Christoper Vogler calls this the Ordeal. Campbell calls it Atonement with the Father. I call it the “OH SHIT” stage. It’s where the Dwarfers meet their maker. Whereas Stage 4 represented possibly the good side of their journey, Stage 5 is where shit gets real and the bad side of their new world must be encountered (Demons & Angels is a very literal example of this). This is also the Cargo Bay sequence in Polymorph. Or the sequence with the Self-Loathing Beast in Terrorform. It’s where stakes are raised, complications are encountered, and where the enemy usually makes his move. Legion was cool back in Stage 4, but uh-oh, in Stage 5 he reveals himself to be their captor. There can be kind of a quid-pro-quo, with Stage 4 being the good cop and Stage 5 being the bad cop. A price is paid for being in this new situation; there’s no free lunch, and you don’t enjoy the perks of Stage 4 without taking your lumps in Stage 5. The High Dwarfers sure are cool, but now the time has come to deal with the Low Dwarfers. If you look at it like a circle, Stage 5 is horizontally the mirror opposite of Stage 3. If Stage 3 was “Fun & Games,” Stage 5 is “Shit & Oh Smeg.” The first half of the circle was an entertaining descent, but coming out of Stage 4 is an upward journey, and it’s gonna be a slog, because exercise is hard and going uphill is hard and exhausting as fuck. And lest you think this applies just to external threats, this can also be an emotional “OH SHIT” stage, such as having to choose between handing over a cat or going into stasis. Technically the saloon sequence in Gunmen is Stage 5 too, which is a more pleasant example, but it’s a tougher trial is the point. Basically, the Dwarfers get the shit beat out of them, physically or emotionally, leading to a final decisive low point…

    THE LOW POINT (5/7 – About 71%) Stage 5 kicked the Dwarfer’s asses in one way or another, and they’re not in a good place. Maybe Lister’s been captured by the Lows, or it could be lower stakes, like realizing the hot girl on board is actually just a Pleasure Gelf or realizing the Nova 5 crew are all just skeletons, leaving the crew saddled with a new neurotic mechanoid. There’s also usually the second commercial break here. At this point, things are at their worst, but the night is darkest just before the dawn, and the road to recovery is nigh…

    6) DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL – Another Blake Snyder term. Also known as Apotheosis, or The Reward, or as I like to call it, “The Dwarfers getting their shit together.” There’s a licking of wounds, possibly a battle plan or a speech involved. Drunk Sheriff Kryten is force-fed raw coffee. Rimmer vouches for his battle plan. Lister muses on how he gave Kryten a life to lose and works out a plan with the time gauntlet. Rimmer laments how he’s a “tosspot by royal appointment.” There’s usually an airing out of emotional unhappiness and insecurities followed by a resolution and rededication to take a decisive step to deal with the problem at hand, be it villain Wax Droids or arguing with the pub manager on why they’re fired. This leads us right into…

    FINAL PUSH (6/7 – About 86%) – This is the beginning of the end, the point between Stages 6 and 7, right where the Dwarfers (or one or more of them) enter the fray, having resolved to deal with the issue at hand. This is right when the Dwarfers escape quarantine, right when the Dwarfers step out of the saloon to confront the Gunmen of the Apocalypse, right when the others start enacting their plan to escape the Psi-moon by making Rimmer feel good about himself. (Don’t forget that more than one stage can take place in the same time/place/scene. In Terrorform, Stages 6 and 7 both take place in Starbug, with 7 immediately following 6). This leads into the final stage…

    CONFRONTATION – This is where the Dwarfers have their final confrontation with the biggest enemy, the threat of their special new situation. If there’s a cool concept or gimmick they’ve picked up over the course of the story, such as Stage 3 in particular, this is where it’s unleashed. Importantly, the climax point, where the decisive blow or action is made, is almost universally at the 95% mark, leaving just 5% for a quick epilogue to wrap things up. The end.

    THE END (7/7 – 100%) No shit, it’s the credits.

    So in summation:

    STAGE 1: ORDINARY WORLD (0/7 to 1/7 Catalyst – 14%)
    STAGE 2: PLANNING/DEBATE (1/7 to 2/7 Threshold – 29%)
    STAGE 3: FUN & GAMES (2/7 to 3/7 Adaptation – 43%)
    STAGE 4: APPROACH (3/7 to 4/7 Inmost Cave – 57%)
    STAGE 5: BAD GUYS CLOSE IN (4/7 to 5/7 Low Point – 71%)
    STAGE 6: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (5/7 to 6/7 Final Push – 86%)
    STAGE 7: CONFRONTATION (6/7 to 7/7 End – 100%, with 95% being climax point)

    So that’s what I’ve gleaned from studying Red Dwarf scripts. Interestingly, the percentages seem to hold very well from episode to episode, with maybe a 5% margin of error. (If you look at Gunmen [28 minutes, 28-page script in Son of Soup], you can easily see seven roughly-equal segments of 4 minutes/4 pages, making it one of my prime examples). There are notable exceptions to these things, of course. But, the numbers don’t lie, and there’s enough of a pattern for me to go “Holy shit, Red Dwarf episodes are built from a string of seven roughly-equivalent sequences.” Did we already know this? What do you guys think? Am I onto something, overthinking it, or spelling out something everyone already knew? Anyways, that’s it for now. Renegade Rob out.

    #214220
    srmcd1
    Participant

    This is absolutely fantastic.

    #214221
    Ian Symes
    Keymaster

    This is excellent work, and spot on.

    #214235
    peas_and_corn
    Participant

    Dark Night of the Soul sounds very goth metal.

    #214236
    Jonsmad
    Participant

    Lots and lots of Yes. And Very Very Good. Interesting stuff thanks.

    And now what about this being a comedy though. Where your model of thinking has Final Push/Confrontation and you almost dismiss epilogue. I would tend to use the phrase – The denouement. Red Dwarf, Is often more in search of a punchline. Or some times a Moral approach is taken. Ocassionaly a light return to the status Quo, But it’s nearly always reset because sitcoms thrive on same situation. Dwarf of course also pisses on that fact on a few ocassions and goes for the adventure of Cliff Hanger. And a cliff hanger surely interupt at a stage during the 7 point cycle leaving it incomplete.

    I expect that that pacing differs across the whole story of two or three part episodes in the series. Or do you see any mini archs within the smaller episodes?

    Also what do you think of episodes that have sub plots? How does that effect your timing analysis?
    Do then run concurrently through the same 7 stage at same progress speeds?

    Would you say stage five, not having any personified bad guys, it’s the threats in Marooned, duct soup of dear dave, that are The lack of Fire wood, the water arriving, or the unability to cope with the loss of the letter? what do you think?

    #214237
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    I don’t dismiss the epilogue. It’s just the tail end of Stage 7. Climaxes in Red Dwarf consistently occur at the 95% mark, leaving 5% for a quick epilogue or cliffhanger or what have you. I guess technically you could consider that it’s own stage, but really that amounts to just a page or so. Epilogues in Red Dwarf are remarkably short, and numerically I thought it made more sense to just incorporate that into the final stage.

    As for multi-plot episodes, I haven’t fully examined every single episode, like Fathers & Suns just yet, but if you look at The End, which has 2 basic plots (Rimmer’s exam and Lister’s cat), those plots both play out in parallel over each stage, though they can weave in an out with one plot taking more focus in a particular stage (Stage 4 is more exam based and Stage 5 is all about getting in trouble for the cat). I think the End fits the rubric pretty well, but I haven’t delved into Series I as much yet. Clearly the hard structure came as Red Dwarf grew into its adventure roots, becoming less of a standard meandering sitcom.

    Stage 5 is when shit hits the fan. Sometimes that’s externalized as a bad guy, sometimes it’s internal or emotional. The end of Stage 5 is a low point, and that can mean anything. It could mean Rimmer’s plight as a result of Lister messing with his memories. As Dan Harmon might say, the protagonists enter a new situation, adapt to it, get something as a result, and then they pay its price. Paying the price is Stage 5. It’s definitely not limited to external threats. It’s a function of the new situation, whatever the episode is about, having good and bad aspects. Having adjusted to a new state of affairs and then sampling the benefits, the Dwarfers have to face the consequences. Yes, it’s cool that Lister seems to be doing well as he studies for the chef’s exam, but there’s a cost: he’s becoming more like Rimmer. It was funny when we and the present-day Dwarfers realized Lister was trying to give Rimmer the “gift” of Lise Yates, but now there’s a cost as present Rimmer is humiliated after finding out the truth, while Lister in the past realizes that he treated Lise badly.

    Marooned is definitely an episode where multiple stages happen in a scene. Stages and scenes don’t have to match up. More than one can be inside another, or a scene could contain part of a stage and switch gears by entering another, or vice versa. In Quarantine, Stage 5 is the Dwarfers at each other’s throats, with Stage 6 being about crazy Rimmer and the gang escaping with the luck virus.

    Since I don’t acknowledge Series VIII as even existing, it would be hard to judge how multi-parters work within this model, but from a cursory inspection it would seem obvious that Back in the Red Part III would be the quintessential epitome of this consistent, coherent storytelling paradigm.

    One of my general points was that each stage in a Red Dwarf episode is its own contained comedy bit, and episodes are a string of seven related comedy bits. Polymorph has the autopsy bit, the trout bit, the boxer short bit, the twat it bit, the cargo bay bit, the alphabetti spaghetti bit, and the give quiche a chance bit. The End has the chicken soup bit, the Fiji bit, the MacIntyre bit, the exam bit, the Hollister bit, the everybody’s dead bit, and the cat bit. These contained bits work on their own, then you can zoom out and see how they work together.

    #214243

    Ah you got in before I could mention VIII, in which this structure loosely fits some of the episodes but in some cases is just torn apart in favour of larking about and gurning.

    Excellent post, anyway.

    #214249
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Thanks. It’s possible a single-parter like Cassandra might fit the rubric, but I really can’t see the Back in the Red 3-parter following it at all. But as I think about it, Back to Earth might be a better example of a multi-parter with actual structure. I haven’t done the math, but I imagine it roughly follows the general beats (as all good stories do. The 7-equal-parts thing is just an observation I noticed about Red Dwarf episodes in particular, but obviously any coherent story will hit the same general beats).

    #214252

    I was also thinking of something like Only the Good…, which feels like two half-developed episodes stuck together badly.

    #216014
    Renegade Rob
    Participant

    Hooray for necro-posting!

    So… funny story. I had based my initial seven-segment analysis on the Red Dwarf script books I’d purchased, but I expanded my data set to watching and timing other episodes while also analyzing unofficial online scripts (because I spend my free time wisely). And what I have realized is… I was close but a little off. Red Dwarf episodes actually work in four definite quadrants largely divided into EIGHT, not seven, segments. Look, guys. I was close. I was within the margin of error so smeg off. Obviously the four quadrants is the classic 3-Act structure (1/2A/2B/3). So my seven segments were largely right except that segment four, Approach, would be split into two segments. So then ultimately, based on a disgusting amount of analysis and research, what I have determined to be the EIGHT-sequence Red Dwarf structure is as follows:

    1) ORDINARY WORLD – This is the status quo at the beginning of the episode. It could be the Dwarfers dicking about in the bunkroom, Rimmer droning on with his Risk stories, or even them investigating a derelict. Inevitably, something will happen to end the sequence, ushering them to respond. This is the…

    CATALYST (Somewhere around the 1/8 mark, not exact) The line between Stages 1 and 2, this is when Stage 1 ends and the Dwarfers switch gears to start dealing with their new situation. This could be when the crew decide to meet up in Starbug to discuss the Matter Paddle or have all hands on deck because there’s a swirly thing alert. This leads to…

    2) PLANNING/DEBATE – This is where the Dwarfers “posse” and have to figure out what they’re dealing with and how to deal with it. It could be a Simulant battle-class cruiser on intercept, a distress signal from the Nova 5, or a squid that wants to hump Starbug. Inevitably, the gang either comes up with a plan or is somehow overtaken by the enemy. A Simulant might attack and arrive on board to eventually knock them out with a laser for three weeks, or they might encounter a Time Hole, or talk about being spontaneous right before they encounter a totally spontaneous easily-avoidable meteor and crash into an ice planet. Either way, a threshold is being crossed, and as such, we have the…

    THRESHOLD (2/8 – A hard 25%) – When the planning and debate ends one way or another and the Dwarfers are thrown into their new world, and it’s sink or swim. This line between Stages 2 and 3 is occasionally when there would be a commercial break (at least when I watched it on BBC America). So now in this new world we have…

    3) FUN & GAMES – A term I borrowed from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book (which claims to be the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need, but really it should be the first book. Start there for the basics then move on, and quickly, to figure out how to be actually, substantively good). Basically it’s the “promise of the premise” where the audience has a lot of fun watching the Dwarfers adjust to their new situation. This could include landing on a new planet only to find yourself in Hitler’s war room, exploring the high Red Dwarf, meeting Legion and getting a hard light drive, etc. The Dwarfers sometimes crash their ship at 25% and then spend the next 10% recovering and figuring out where they are. There’s a descent here as the Dwarfers learn and explore their new situation, but there’s also sometimes exploration of concepts that will come in handy later. Once the Dwarfers get their bearings, we reach…

    GETTING BEARINGS (Somewhere around the 3/8 mark, not exact) – An arbitrary term I’m using to denote the checkpoint between Stages 3 and 4. Often the first commercial break happens here; it’s definitely either here or Stage 2. Once the Dwarfers get the fun and games out of their system and get their smeg together, it’s time for them to delve deeper into their new situation…

    4) ADAPTATION – Joseph Campbell calls this the Meeting with the Goddess. I call it the part where the Dwarfers just hang out in their new world, usually with a guest character or two. With the adjustment out of their system, the Dwarfers settle into their new situation, usually having a chat and associating with some new characters. This is where they hang out with their High selves and call them hippies, discuss art with Legion, talk about the Church of Judas, or discuss the state of Waxworld with Pythagoras. In some ways it’s kind of like a halftime break, after the exhaustion of Stage 3, but before the harder times to come in Stages 5-6. At this point, valuable information and assistance can be found, such as the helpful Legion and High Dwarfers, the realization that Holly’s powered down Red Dwarf, identifying the Psiren threat, or having your resentment drained. The point is, once the Dwarfers adjust, they sort of reach a new status quo (not coincidentally opposite to the status quo at the beginning of the episode on the other side of the circle). It’s typically a pretty comfy stage, but one that exists to prepare the Dwarfers for the next stage…

    MIDPOINT (4/8 – Hard 50%) – In Stage 4, the Dwarfers were adapting to their new world or situation, possibly getting comfy. The midpoint represents the point where they start to receive an internal or external call or motivation to get back to business, which could likely be the main plot of the story. They were comfy playing with the Luck Virus, but then pissed-off Rimmer reemerges and puts in the override to send them to quarantine. They were comfy in the High Dwarf but now they have to get the other triplicator from the Low Dwarf and also receive an ominous signal from them to help (I still don’t get why the High Dwarfers were dumber and gullible). It’s time to get back to business.

    STAGE 5 – APPROACH/BACK TO BUSINESS – Christopher Vogler calls this point the Approach to the Inmost Cave (we’re not quite at the inmost cave yet, that’s Stage 6). Sometimes, Stage 5 is a literal approach to Stage 5, like boarding the Blue Midget on the way to the Nova 5, or setting up the AR Western game to mosey on into town. After the midpoint, the Dwarfers have started to receive the call to advance the plot, and this is them back on the case, confronting the consequences of their new situation, be it investigating the Low Red Dwarf or delivering the gizmo to Harmony de Gauthier in the speakeasy.

    ENTERING THE INMOST CAVE (Around the 5/8 mark – not exact) The Dwarfers have started facing the consequences of their new situation, but here is where the cost of the new situation is directly confronted. Stage 5 was the approach. But now they’ve arrived at the heart, the deepest, darkest pit of their new world…

    STAGE 6 – THE ORDEAL – This is the mirror opposite of Stage 3, Fun and Games. Christoper Vogler calls this the Ordeal. Campbell calls it Atonement with the Father. I call it the “OH SHIT” stage. It’s where the Dwarfers meet their maker. Whereas Stage 3 represented possibly the good side of their journey, Stage 6 is where shit gets real and the bad side of their new world must be encountered. This the Cargo Bay sequence in Polymorph. Or the saloon sequence in Gunmen, or the Nova sequence in Kryten. It’s where stakes are raised, complications are encountered, and where the enemy usually makes his move. Legion was cool back in Stage 4, but uh-oh, in Stages 5 and 6 he reveals himself to be their captor and now the Dwarfers are imprisoned in “cells.” If Stage 3 was “Fun & Games,” Stage 5 is “Shit & Oh Smeg.” The first half of the circle was an entertaining descent, but coming out of the midpointis an upward journey, and it’s gonna be a slog, because exercise is hard and going uphill is hard and exhausting as fuck, with Stage 6 being the steepest part of the uphill climb. And lest you think this applies just to external threats, this can also be an emotional “OH SHIT” stage, such as learning that everybody’s dead, Dave, or getting tetchy with each other after 5 days in Quarantine, or realizing that Camille is not a dream girl but a Pleasure GELF. In the new episode-based situation, things have to get worse before they get better, and this is them getting worse. Basically, the Dwarfers get the shit beat out of them, physically or emotionally, leading to a final decisive low point…

    THE LOW POINT (6/7 – Hard 75%) Stage 6 kicked the Dwarfer’s asses in one way or another, and they’re not in a good place. Maybe Lister’s been captured by the Lows, or it could be lower stakes, like realizing the hot girl on board is actually just a Pleasure Gelf or realizing the Nova 5 crew are all just skeletons, leaving the crew saddled with a new neurotic mechanoid. There’s also usually the second commercial break here. At this point, things are at their worst, but the night is darkest just before the dawn, and the road to recovery is nigh…

    STAGE 7 – DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL – Another Blake Snyder term. Also known as Apotheosis, or The Reward, or as I like to call it, “The Dwarfers getting their shit together.” There’s a licking of wounds, possibly a battle plan or a speech involved. Drunk Sheriff Kryten is force-fed raw coffee. Rimmer vouches for his battle plan. Lister muses on how he gave Kryten a life to lose and works out a plan with the time gauntlet. Rimmer laments how he’s a “tosspot by royal appointment.” There’s usually an airing out of emotional unhappiness and insecurities followed by a resolution and rededication to take a decisive step to deal with the problem at hand, be it villain Wax Droids or arguing with the pub manager on why they’re fired. This leads us right into…

    FINAL PUSH (About 7/8 – Reasonably hard 85%) – This is the beginning of the end, the point between Stages 6 and 7, right where the Dwarfers (or one or more of them) enter the fray, having resolved to deal with the issue at hand. This is right when the Dwarfers escape quarantine, right when the Dwarfers step out of the saloon to confront the Gunmen of the Apocalypse, right when the others start enacting their plan to escape the Psi-moon by making Rimmer feel good about himself. (Don’t forget that more than one stage can take place in the same time/place/scene. In Terrorform, Stages 6, 7, and 8 all take place in Starbug, technically in one large scene). This leads into the final stage…

    CONFRONTATION – This is where the Dwarfers have their final confrontation with the biggest enemy, the threat of their special new situation. If there’s a cool concept or gimmick they’ve picked up over the course of the story, such as Stages 3-4 in particular, this is where it’s unleashed. Importantly, the climax point, where the decisive blow or action is made, is almost universally at the 95% mark, leaving just 5% for a quick epilogue to wrap things up. The end.

    THE END (7/7 – 100%) No shit, it’s the credits.

    So in summation:

    STAGE 1: ORDINARY WORLD (0/8 to soft 1/8 Catalyst)
    STAGE 2: PLANNING/DEBATE (Soft 1/8 to 2/8 Threshold – Hard 25%)
    STAGE 3: FUN & GAMES (2/8 to soft 3/8 Getting Bearings)
    STAGE 4: ADAPTATION (Soft 3/8 to 4/8 Midpoint – Hard 50%)
    STAGE 5: APPROACH/BACK TO BUSINESS (4/8 to soft 5/8 Entering Inmost Cave)
    STAGE 6: THE ORDEAL (Soft 5/8 to 6/8 Low Point – Hard 75%)
    STAGE 7: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (6/8 to 7/8 Final Push – Reasonably Hard 85%)
    STAGE 8: CONFRONTATION (7/8 to 8/8 End – 100%, with hard 95% being climax point)

    A major takeaway is that viewed as a circle, the episodes take place in hard quadrants: 25% threshold, 50% midpoint, 75% lowpoint, with the “diagonals” being general trajectories of the quadrants. There’s a lot of flexibility, but often quadrants can somewhat evenly be divided into two sequences, with the transition point in the proximity of 1/8, 3/8, 5/8 etc. Only rarely does a quadrant represent a whole scene (like the 2nd quadrant of Back to Reality, stages 3 and 4, being the whole scene with Timothy Spall). The Dwarfers start in ordinary world and are pulled internally or externally towards a new situation (first quadrant). After the 25% threshold, they arrive in the new world/situation and get their bearings, eventually adapting and getting the hang of things (second quadrant) by the midpoint (50%). At the midpoint the Dwarfers, having adapted to the new state of affairs, are called internally or externally to confront the negative side of the new situation and possibly restore the status quo; the chickens have come home to roost, and these chickens are faced by the end of the quadrant and either achieve a victory or the Dwarfers win but narrowly escape somewhat scathed physically or emotionally at the low point (75%). In the final quadrant, the Dwarfers, having entered a new situation, adapted to it, and fought through the toughest bullshit, are now equipped internally or externally to put things right, improving or restoring their world. Thus this final quadrant sees them using the luck virus to restore the status quo, or buy Kryten time to create a dove program. In many good stories, the fourth quadrant is a culmination, a symphony of the previous three quarters paying off. A psi-virus killer hologram (1st quadrant) plus the luck virus (2nd quadrant) plus asshole Rimmer forcing Dwarfers into quarantine (3rd quadrant) all culminate in one of Dwarf’s finest 4th quadrants with the reveal of Gingham Rimmer, the luck escape from quarantine, the Flibble hex vision, and the luck virus defeat.

    To be more pretentious, I’ll try to go through my steps on the most recent episode: Twentica.

    SPOILER ALERT FOR TWENTICA BELOW. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ABOUT HOW THE DWARFERS TEAM UP WITH KILL CRAZY TO REBOOT THE DATA DOCTOR, STOP READING NOW:

    QUADRANT 1 (Steps 1-2): Starbug vs. Expenoids in Normal Time
    QUADRANT 2 (Steps 3-4): Alternate Time Earth Exploration
    QUADRANT 3 (Steps 5-6): Harmony’s Speakeasy/Einstein
    QUADRANT 4 (Steps 7-8): Speakeasy/Einstein vs. Expenoids = Return to Normal Time

    STEP 1: ORDINARY WORLD – The Dwarfers in Starbug. This is fast-paced but they’re dicking around in their normal space and time, bickering even as Expenoids mess with them.

    CATALYST – The catalyst, the thing that starts the chain of events leading to Twentica, is the mention of the subject of the trade, the Casket of Chronos (first mentioned at the 12.8% mark). The Expenoids demand a hostage trade using time technology, a transaction which puts the whole show’s plot into motion. (1/8 is 12.5%)

    STEP 2: PLANNING/DEBATE – After the trade the Dwarfers realize (thanks to an actually useful Rimmer) that the Casket of Chronos is a time amplifier and the Simulants are actually cliche-utilizing Expenoids who must be stopped before they change history. The Dwarfers set a course to follow them through time.

    THRESHOLD: In a dazzling sequence of effects, the Dwarfers surf the slipstream before getting hit with an electron wavelet and crashing in the desert on Earth. Time surf is at 22%, crash in desert is at 26% mark. (2/8 is 25%)

    STAGE 3: FUN & GAMES – Everything on Starbug before they Dwarfers actually start exploring Earth. Stages 3/4 largely involve exploring the new concept of the episode, and Stage 3 deals with the EMP wavelet’s effects. Kryten needs to be rebooted with the clamps. Rimmer comes online when they reboot the auxiliary drive.

    GETTING BEARINGS – Kryten explains how they’ve landed years after the expenoids and mentions there’s a township nearby. At the 34% mark they leave to explore the township. (3/8 is 37.5%)

    STAGE 4: ADAPTATION – This is the whole scene on the beautiful street, where Rimmer has no theories, they discover the year, and they realize toasters are banned in an altered timeline. They are soon given the gizmo and a club to bring it to.

    MIDPOINT – After receiving the gizmo and destination, at the 49% mark, they decide to fully adapt and change into 20’s clothes in a fist-pumpingly awesome sequence, then hotwire a car to leave for the club. They’ve adapted and now they’re on the case. (4/8 is 50%).

    STAGE 5: APPROACH/BACK TO BUSINESS – First the Dwarfers take several tries to enter but thanks to having a similar name to Joseph Lister, they enter the speakeasy where they meet best-guest-character-in-ages Harmony de Gauthier and they discuss science and the gizmo to take out the Expenoids.

    ENTERING THE INMOST CAVE – At the 68% mark, off Harmony’s tip, the Dwarfers set out to find Einstein to assemble the gizmo. (5/8 is 62.5%)

    STAGE 6: THE ORDEAL – At a dingy street corner, the Dwarfers find Einstein, a drunk wreck with string. After failing to impress him and promising not to touch his string, they take him with them.

    LOW POINT: At the 72% mark, the Dwarfers return with Einstein, their best shot to assemble the gizmo. They’re immediately informed that it isn’t actually Einstein but is just some random bum with string. Right as Bob the Bum decides to give it a try anyways, the police arrive to raid the speakeasy at the 76% mark. (6/8 is 75%)

    STAGE 7: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL – For the raid, the speakeasy is converted into a normal bar. The police confront Harmony and insult her and then turn their attention to the Dwarfers, who are trying the blend in.

    FINAL PUSH: At the 84% mark, Lister is found holding a flask and the Expenoids arrive to face the Dwarfers once again. (Typical episodes have the Final Push transition at 85%).

    STAGE 8: CONFRONTATION – The Dwarfers confront the Expenoids. At the exact 95% mark, Bob the Bum assembles the gizmos (one potato!) and blasts the Expenoids. In the epilogue (final 5%), the Dwarfers escape back to their timeline and after a brief but badass external shot of Red Dwarf, Kryten brushes Lister’s teeth. The end.

    I hope someone gets some enlightenment/benefit out of this. The thing I got the most out of this analysis (besides the fact that I’m a pretentious egomaniacal git with WAY too much free time) is that the important thing is the quadrants, and the diagonals are freer and looser in a good way. There are a million hack screenwriting books that give you exact page numbers or percentages for every exact point in a story, but I feel like something like this is a lot better and more workable: a balance of hard and soft thresholds. The quadrants are relatively hard, usually with the landmark changes spot on at the 25%-50%-75% marks. Having the rest of it be flexible I think is practical. Limitations can enhance creativity, but there also needs to be leeway for organic growth and potential. Or some smeg like that. Join me in three months time where I realize the above rant was brimming with wrongability and amend it to a NINE-sequence structure. Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.

    Renegade Rob

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