Yesterday I flew to Edinburgh for the day….. as I normally don’t do but this was a bit special.
I was there to attend the first public showing of Red Dwarf XI episode one.
It was organised by the lovely folks at UKTV who run the DAVE channel that Red Dwarf will be shown on in the UK.
I sat in the packed auditorium of the Filmhouse on the Lothian Road in the middle of Edinburgh next to Craig Charles and Doug Naylor. Chris Barrie was sadly unable to attend and Danny John Jules was in Guadeloupe making another series of ‘Death in Paradise.’
(I’ve still never had the chance to be murdered in that show, I have begged and pleaded but they just don’t want to kill me.)
Anyway, we watched the new Red Dwarf episode on a huge cinema screen with a great sound system and it was, and I know this is going to sound weird, but it was brilliant.
It is so dense, so packed with ideas, crazy concepts, bizarre characters, uncanny but instantly recognizable settings and truly brilliant model shots.
I could easily have watched the episode again immediately afterwards.
Even though I was there when we made it I still felt I missed a dozen lines, gags, concepts and theories that are fired out of Doug Naylor’s Gatling gun mind at a terrifying rate.
I’ve been asked hundreds of times why I think Red Dwarf survives after 27 years, it’s an impossible question to answer but I think it must have something to do with density.
It’s not a sit-com with few gags thrown together in a vague storyline, it’s a massively super dense intergalactic body with its own gravitational pull.
I was literally sucked in while we watched it, occasionally part of my mind would recall the hours we spent shooting a particular scene, how all the special effects worked in rehearsal and then failed spectacularly during the shoot. All normal stuff on the small rouge one.
But it went far beyond that, I was utterly engrossed by the story, the interaction of main cast and guest artists, the rapid fire dialogue and the mad but plausible logic of it all.
You have to work hard to watch Red Dwarf, it’s complicated, it’s challenging and there are many layers to each scene.
As Doug has often pointed out when I wax lyrical about the series long running success being dependent on his writing, while this is largely true he always says it’s because of us lot. It's because of the chemistry between the cast, without that he says he couldn’t write Red Dwarf.
That chemistry was very much on display in TWENTICA, 4 performers who have such a long history working together and such an incredible spirit of support between us it’s very hard to describe.
All of the rest of the cast of Red Dwarf make me laugh, all the bloody time. It’s exhausting just being in the room with them, but while I have known many comics over the years who make me laugh, I have noticed a kind of desperate competition to be ‘the funniest’ when they gather together.
Not so with the Red Dwarf cast. I think it maybe to do with age, but we simply can’t be bothered, no one tries to be funny as we work on the show, they just are bloody funny.
Craig and I hadn't seen the finished TWENTICA episode, (Doug had seen it 500 times in the edit) obviously we knew what happened, but we made it in November last year so there were loads of beats, scenes and lines of dialogue we’d forgotten all about.
When the episode ended we took part in a Q&A session and of course Craig was very funny, as he always is, I said something, can’t remember what, and Doug had to answer all the questions we get asked but never know how to answer.
Will Kochanski come back, will Holly be in the new series, will there be a series XIII, etc.
As I flew back south that night I mused on how lucky I’ve been since I performed in my odd little play in Edinburgh in 1988 and was first made aware that I might get to join the crew. I nearly said no, Kryten could have been played by a proper actor. I might not have spent thousands of hours covered in rubber.
I’m so privileged to be involved, I still feel I don’t deserve it, it’s such a brilliant series and none of us, not even in our wildest dreams would have thought we'd still be doing it now.
Red Dwarf starts on Dave in the UK on Thursday 22nd September, you can watch it online on UKTV play from 15th September.
Overseas releases? I’ve got no idea, I’m sorry.
DVD/Blu-ray release. I’ve got even less idea. Sometime after.
Netflix? Global release? I wish I knew. I’m sure it’ll get out eventually.
Well dodgy Russian illegal video download site with porn pop-ups and built in hacking code that invades your ‘puter and steals everything to sell to the NSA?
About 10 minutes after it’s finished being broadcast.
I hope you enjoy the new series, I know I will.