“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.
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.
For this month’s G&TV, we take a look at an old favourite: Rob and Doug appearing on BiteBack, also known as “Points of View but with a budget”. This was broadcast on the 23rd May 1993 – precisely 25 years ago today.
I should warn you: at 41 seconds in, they do a “Beam me down, Scotty” gag. I’m warning you now so your expensive phone or computer doesn’t end up through the nearest window.
Do you remember a time, a few years either side of the turn of the century, when the internet was mostly comprised of auto-playing midi files and non-HD porn? Back then, if you searched Yahoo, or Alta Vista, or Lycos, you could find tonnes of Geocities-hosted web pages for each and every one of your favourite TV shows, which invariably featured the same handful of low-res jpegs, lists of quotes, episode guides and those ubiquitous auto-playing midi files. Then blogging came along, and we all realised that we could just write about our opinions on our favourite shows, rather than trying to provide a comprehensive mine of information, given that new-fangled things like Google and Wikipedia could do that much better.
So things like episode guides disappeared from fansites. Not entirely, but they were no longer an essential component. It was only recently that we realised that G&T had nothing even resembling such a guide – not even a list of episodes anywhere. When we started, in 2002, we launched an ambitious project of producing detailed “capsules” for every episode, but, well, you can see how that went. We got to thinking that it might be fun to try and write an episode guide now, and see where it ended up. As it turns out, it kind of got out of hand…
Let’s be perfectly clear. Generally, when talking about deleted scenes – whatever the given TV show or film – the quality of the scenes themselves doesn’t actually matter. When I pop in a DVD, I don’t care how good they are. It’s how interesting they are which makes them entertaining. A scene can be absolutely appalling, deservedly cut… and still be one of the best extras of the lot.
This perhaps doubly-holds for Red Dwarf. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are with deleted scenes being included on the DVD releases; you only have to check your shelves to see which other sitcoms from 1988 include such things for the proof of that. (Mind you, sadly these days, budget cuts across DVD ranges mean we’re lucky to get them for a sitcom made today.)