If you go down to Shepperton today, you're sure of a BIG suprise
4th DECEMBER 1998 -*** WARNING THIS CONTAINS BIG BIG SPOILERS!***
At 18:00 Nicholas and I joined the front of the queue outside Shepperton Studios on the outskirts of London. Shepperton Studios was once a booming studio - it was where Casablanca was filmed - but by the looks of it, it hasn't been decorated since. By 19:00 the queue consisted of at least 500 geeks. A security guard appeared from the studio reception and told us to follow him. We traipsed a few hundred metres around the studio until we were greeted with 2 vans saying "BBC Resources" and a huge pair of doors with "B" on them. A camp floor manager slipped out of these huge doors and announced "Hello everyone welcome to Red Dwarf VIII we're sorry to keep you in the cold but we're just waiting for a suitable break."
So we were kept waiting another 10 minutes - half of the Q was told politely to smeg off as there wasn't enough room fortunately I wasn't in that half. Then the moment arrived the floormanager shouted "Follow me" and we entered studio B. Immediately inside the huge doors to the right was an old friend - Starbug 1 - we'll the cockpit anyway. Looking slightly blackened and charred I felt worried for the health of the spherical green one. Camp Floor Manager then led us to the right where we found the seating so Nick and myself went and got a good middle seat about 6 rows from the front. I glanced up at the monitor which had the RD logo on and a message telling us to be secretive about the show ending "big hugs and kisses - the Inquisitor".
There was then a long wait while the remaining 200 or so found seats and the crew ferreted about the set arranging props and adjusting lighting. The studio was very big but the sets were quite small. On the far left was a huge futuristic blue wall with lots of small flashing lights. Next to that was some sort of quarters with 2 bunks and a toilet. Perhaps Lister's and Rimmer's new residence I thought. To the right was an office looking similar to Captain Hollister's office from series one. Behind that was a long corridor then there was a collection of sets we couldn't see, except for a small cockpit which I guessed belonged to Blue Midget.
Suddenly the lights went down and the presenter came out. He was very funny and was there to guide us throughout the whole night often 'filling' when the filming stopped for various technical reasons. Ed Bye (Director) soon appeared while (unknown to him) a photo of him wearing a dress flashed up on screen. (There were a dozen monitors dotted around the studio.) Minutes later the MC announced "Would you please welcome Craig Charles & Chris Barrie. There was thunderous applause and there they were - in the flesh - the 2 unlikely heroes of my life. Wow. They were dressed in pale overalls and eventually when the applause stopped Craig spoke. "Hiya" he said casually before launching into 10 minutes of (very funny) stand-up. Chris disappeared while Craig went on about how Rimmer & Lister have been in prison for most of this series just to make him feel "at home" he then went on about Toilet tennis and mail order catalogues and fancying men before the producer told him to get on with it. So the first scene started on that weird "quarters" set. Lister was in top bunk while Rimmer sat at the table in true Red Dwarf One style. It turned out that these were quarters on a secret "Deck 13" aboard Red Dwarf, which contained prisoners being transported to a penal colony. Lister and Rimmer have been sentenced to spend 2 years in Deck 13 (The Tank) for stealing Starbug.
Lister's opening scene was perfect then Rimmer spoke. "Ahh but you see Lister I… oh shit." And there was the first of a lot of cock-ups throughout the night. The scene progressed as the two spoke of their misery of being in prison. There was a very funny joke with a 'privacy blindfold' and Gideon's Bible ("I think Gideon is following me around he's always leaving his Bible in places I go - hotels etc" - Lister)
The next scene was pre recorded so we watched it on the monitors. "Previously on Red Dwarf" it proclaimed as we were shown scenes of Starbug entering Red Dwarf - a Red Dwarf 5 times too big. "Uhh guys we have a problem here" shouted Cat. Then some new stuff came on. A fantastic CGI Starbug flying through an Airvent coming face to face with a rat… and then face to rear end with a rat. So Starbug goes shooting up the rear end and we see a jet-propelled rat go shooting down the airvent.
Holly: It's a good job there's no police around
Lister: How come
Holly: They hate it when drivers are Rat-Arsed.
Kochanski then proclaimed that Red Dwarf was shrinking - reverting to its normal size. It does and Starbug crashes to the Cargo Bay floor. Lister, Cat, Kryten and Kochanski all escape as the bug explodes only to be stopped by Red Dwarf crewmembers. As Lister gets up he recognises the crew.
Lister: Shelby, Chen Oh guys I've missed you!
Kryten: The crew's been recreated oh heaven, think of all that extra washing!
Captain Hollister then appears and arrests the posse…
A scene then takes place in the old series one bunk (you know the hideous grey one with the triangular window. Rimmer (Of course this is a series 1 Rimmer who hasn't spent the last 10 years with Lister.) breaks the news that Lister is to be charged with theft of company property and is to be placed in the brig. Lister asks Rimmer to search Starbug for proof that they have spent the last 10 years alone in space. Rimmer does and soon finds a CD with information on it and the Luck virus and Sexual Magnetism virus from series 5)
(NB All the crew are wearing the old beige series one uniforms)
Back to the live sets and Chris Barrie re enters followed by Mac MacDonald - Captain Hollister. They take position in the Captains Office and ACTION!
Chris starts with a very long Rimmer salute before suggesting that the Drive plate should be sealed in a different way or there could be a Cadmium II Radiation Leak. Hollister is very impressed he invites Rimmer to lunch. Rimmer in return gives Hollister a tube of pile cream and one fingered glove saying "one size fits all" (A very funny scene BIG round of applause) There are a number of cock ups in this scene requiring various reshoots. The MC then returns announcing that they have some footage of a Japanese Red Dwarf to show us - we soon see this as the crew set up the next shot. We then see a recorded scene of our posse minus Rimmer signing a contract that they will be put on trial the following morning they all lick and seal these contracts in an envelope.
The next scene is live but on a set at the back of the studio so it is relayed through the monitor. This scene features Lister in the Brig and Rimmer visiting him. Lister discovers that Rimmer has told the captain that he asked for him to help get him off the charge. Lister says he hates Rimmer and never wants to see him again. Rimmer thanks Lister for the Sexual Magnatism virus saying things between him and Yvonne McGruder have never been better. Lister tells Rimmer to smeg off - he does. The Lister laughs as he licks his finger and types a code into the brig lock. It releases. "Luck Virus" says Lister and leaves. This scene was complicated thanks to a variety of camera angles and props not working so it is filmed so many times we get sick of it!
At this point the make -up lady leans on the wall of the corridor out side the brig. The problem is the set crew had just painted it! The MC points this out but the make-up lady doesn't realise!
Back to prerecored. Rimmer goes to lunch with the Captain - all the other crew at lunch are female and thanks to the Sexual Magnatism virus they're all attracted to Rimmer. A lot of bonking in the broom cupboard follows in a very funny scene. (Some of the women are HIDEOUS!) Later Rimmer's bits are so sore he has to inject an anaesthetic into them. This paralyses the lower part of his body so he 'falls' around the ship while being chased by a variety of women on heat. Meanwhile the rest of the posse are trying to escape and they all disguise themselves as cleaners.
LISTER: Cat the disguise would work better if you didn't wear it UNDER you normal clothes.
CAT: Hey I gotta a better idea for a disguise (he reaches inside a cupboard and pulls out a black mop and places it on his head. He also puts something white (couldn't see) in his mouth.) We'll go as the Dibbley family. A number of funny shots follow featuring the Dibbley family and 2 Skutters running around the ship. They eventually end up in the Blue Midget hanger and try to steal one. Control sees the unauthorised boarding and asks for ID. The Cat talks to the Mission Controller (a beautiful woman) and woos her claiming he's authorised to pilot Blue Midget saying he's so good he can make it dance.
"Prove it" she says. He does and a fantastic routine featuring a CGI Blue Midget dancing with the Cat. Three other ships join in doing air guitar etc. The mission controller grants clearance and asks for a date.
Meanwhile we discover that the posse has been framed and when they licked the contracts it actually sent them to sleep. They are actually on trial in an Artificial Reality machine. Their escape is their trial and it is being watched by Hollister to see if they admit to stealing Starbug. Rimmer learns of this and is worried Hollister will discover that he agreed to help Lister. He sneaks into the AR Control and starts deleting any record of Lister mentioning this. The posse begin to notice that the environment is being manipulated around them and Kryten realises they're in AR. They try to escape which leads to a very weird scene done in the animated clay style like Wallace and Gromit!?
They do eventually escape and find Rimmer at the controls of the AR machine. While most want to kill him Kochanski comes onto him saying she wants his babies. She starts to chase him down the corridor.
The pre-recorded stuff ends there and the host finally says "it's time to meet the rest of the cast" and for the first time that night, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Chloe Annett all appear live. Yet again there was a thunderous applause and I swooned as I saw Chloe in the flesh. She looked gorgeous. Her hair was straight and longer than the last series and she was wearing a tight skirt and top. When she came out she did a belly dance much to my delight! Meanwhile Danny looked great wearing his long zebra print coat and Cuban heels while Robert looked amazing. The Kryten costume is in fact very flexible and not at all restricting - he even did a break dance to prove it. (It was at this point I realised that everyone in the Red Dwarf cast are quite tall!
The next scene was shot in the corridor and featured Rimmer apologising (after Kochanski had been injected with an antidote to the virus) and a long discussion followed. "Come on Rimmer join us. Ever since our Rimmer became Ace Rimmer we feel as if part of the team is missing. It's not the same. We'll take a Blue Midget and go off in search of Earth. The new Rimmer agrees and it is at this point I realise that this must be the first episode in the series not the last as the host keeps saying.
The posse head for the Blue Midget landing bay and attempt to steal one. The mission controller beeps in. "I need your name and clearance code." Of course she is nowhere near as attractive as the one on the AR machine,
CAT: You’re the mission controller ugh Reality Sucks!
Mission Controller: Your name's Reality Sucks! (starts laughing.)
LISTER: We haven't got time for this! (He launches Blue Midget forward crashing through Red Dwarf's hanger leading to a very funny cock up with the whole crew falling over.)
HOLLY: Wait a minute - that was far too easy!
And so they realise that they're still in the AR machine on trial. There is a positive side - Hollister realises that they telling the truth about the crew being killed and that they've been on their own for the last 10 years so he drops the charges and gives new ones. - 2 years on Deck 13 for lying to superior officers.
That was the last 'live scene' so the cast come and sit in the audience (Craig Charles brushes me - how cool, I'm never washing my jacket again.) Robert shouts "I'm on the telly!" and the final scene is played. We see the posse get locked in the tank with a variety of very hard evil looking prisoners. Cat winks at Lister as they inject Rimmer with the Sexual Magnetism virus again - the prisoners all start coming on to him the music plays and it fades out….
The host comes back on and tells us that he wants to show us a scene that they recorded earlier today - the problem is they haven't got a laughter track for it so it is screened. We join the posse on deck 13 where they're being picked on by the prisoners. The Cat is shoved in a vending machine and has hot Bovril poured on him. Kryten somehow acquires a "Time Wand" and plays a variety of tricks on the other prisoners. I guess this is from the next episode so it doesn't actually make much sense. The host then thanks us as the entire cast takes a bow and exit. We are then told to leave but as we do I sneak onto Starbug's cockpit. Inside I get a closer look at the charred remains (including the Blue Alert bulb!) And realise that Lister's guitar is on the dashboard so I strum it. As I leave I notice a pink piece of paper on the floor and pick it up. It is a call sheet for tonight's episode with all the cast and prop details on it. It says RED DWARF VIII - December 4th 1998. Shoot day 41. "Back in The Red" Back in the Red is the title published on the official website for the FIRST episode which confirms my suspicions but also adds an air of mystery. The website says the first episode is an hour long. The one we just saw was only 30 mins. Are they filming it in 2 halves? (They must have 'cos Friday was the last filming day.) Anyway as I leave (with the call sheet under my jacket the camp floor manager asks me if I enjoyed the show. "Fantastic" I reply I then ask about the movie to which he simply replies that "Everyone here is smiling" so it could indeed be go. He then adds that "You do realise that this is probably the last ever series." So I left Sheppeton Studios with a twinge of sadness realising that I may have just witnessed history - the last ever recording of BBC 2's longest running and most popular comedy.
Over all I'm now looking forward to Red Dwarf VIII. The decision to drop the sci-fi atmosphere of series 7 in favour of the comedy of series 4 is very wise as is the continuity to earlier series (i.e. Red Dwarf I & II) thanks to use of old sets, costumes and characters. (After all Red Dwarf VII was nothing like Red Dwarf II) With the show coming full circle it is a wise time to end the series in favour of movies. The show was funnier than ever and I'd like it to go out on a high note. Then again there are 6 other episodes I've yet to see so ultimately it could still be crap!
The recording was a bit disappointing as there were a few times when I felt bored (long set & lighting changes.) The cast was also disappointing. Robert, Danny, Chloe and Chris all practically ignored us - I'd say Chris was the worst, infact he appeared to be a bit arrogant. On the other hand Norman Lovett and Craig Charles were brilliant and they talked to the audience at every opportunity. They even did a 20-minute stand up routine.
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