The second recording for the first of two new series of Red Dwarf has now been and gone, but not before we had time to catch it and form our thoughts on what we saw. Below, you can find our spoiler free set report, but if you would rather listen to an audio version, you can find one on the latest edition of Channel 27 News on our own podcast, The Garbage Podcast.
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[DISCLAIMER: This is a spoiler free set report on the recording for episode 2 of Series XI. As per our spoiler policy, it will not mention any details on plot or dialogue, and no elaborate descriptions of any sets will be provided. Only where sets or other details details have been revealed publicly by Doug, the cast or the production will any details in included in this report.]
With the second week of recording on Series XI, it was always going to be interesting to see if anything changed after the first audience recording last week. As the audience filled in to the studio, and bumping into both David Jason and Geoffrey McGiven if entering at the right moment, the answer came surprisingly quickly.
You may remember that in our last set report we described how the audience were greeted by the curtain covering the stage while they filled in, and music playing that was at first from Red Dwarf, but later sinking to the depths of Cheryl Cole. Not so this week, as the music was from start to finish taken from the show’s music cues, this time featuring things such as music from Timeslides and Rastabilly Skank.
It was a minor amendment to what had happened at last weeks recording, but it was enough to make it an even more enjoyable experience. In many ways, this was to be a good metaphor for the night, as the production seemed to be even more sure of itself than last weeks with its potential first night nerves and hold ups.
Aside from far less retakes throughout the night, the cast seemed in particularly good moods throughout the recording, and would often come out in between takes to talk to Ray Peacock (back on warm up duties again this week) and the audience. This included Chris’ impressions, Craig talking about wearing his dreads home and allusions by Danny to the cunnilingus equivalent of the sex scenes in the Backwards novel in every way you might expect that story to go…
We even had an appearance from Doug at the start of the recording to request the audience didn’t spoil the shows and to explain that the VT they played in would’t have final model shots. While we in no way expect him to do so, it was definitely nice to see him before the start of the recording, and his enthusiasm for what was to follow seemed very genuine, with his assertion that he believed this episode was a very funny one.
But was his excitement well placed? Well you’ll be delighted to hear that has every reason to be pleased with himself. If last weeks episode was the equal of anything in Series X (save possibly The Beginning), then this episode is easily the equal of that. While the opening few minutes of the show suffered from a few line fluffs that make it hard to say how the final edit came out, the scene still had a good visual gag, and by the time we moved to the second scene, the laughs started coming thick and fast, and included one particularly great gag that subverted an expectation from the show’s past.
The hit rate for the jokes remained petty much constant through the episode as per last week, and unlike last weeks which had some of its biggest laughs being visual based, this weeks were heavily dialogue based. One joke in particular is possibly the rudest, double entendre laden line the show has ever used, so much so that I still have to question if it was an ad-lib from Craig or not. The scene was duly retaken with said line removed, and while I can see that it pushes the boundaries of what would normally be in the show, I have to admit a part of me would be disappointed not to see it used.
A four way back and forth, the second scene established the direction the episode is taking, but manages to make it far less exposition based than may have been expected, and benefited hugely from the cast bouncing off of each other and mostly running through the scenes without hiccups. As such, the retakes to get full coverage of the cast allowed for a lot more developing of the takes than last week, and some particularly strong comic performances grew over the multiple takes.
Particular note must be made for Danny John Jules’ performance in this episode, that saw him delivering some of his best work in the character of The Cat. Combined with a seemingly slightly amended make up job, he was a joy to watch throughout the episode. I would also extend the same sentiments to one of this episodes guest stars, who, while not having the largest amount of scenes, managed to perfectly grasp what was required of the role and play it exactly in the manner required for this particular script.
With regards to the nature of the episode, it was as was always going to eventually be the case, one of the episode ideas that has been talked about publicly by Doug and by some of the cast as coming up in this series. While to detail which and what the take on it is would potentially be delving too far into spoiler territory, it’s worth saying that the consensus after the recording was that the nature of the story was dealt with in a way that we didn’t expect, and indeed far surpassed my own expectations of how this particular episode would play out.
One scene late in the episode also does a good job at subverting what we expect the plot will be, though it did surprise some of the audience that such a scene would feature. On reflection however, it is not the first time a scene of this nature has appeared in an episode, the last being in Series VII, but it will be interesting to see how people react when the episode airs.
To equate it to things previously, there are once again a couple of elements that definitely bring to mind episodes from III, IV and VI, and in some ways even lead on from these. Surprisingly, these elements are also used far more effectively than one might expect at first glance, and develop along nicely as the plot progresses to more than justify their inclusion.
Once again, it was also an episode that required some degree of location filming which was played in on VT with some older model shots and footage from a well known Red Dwarf-inspiring film used to illustrate something else. The location shooting once again brought the expanse of the universe of the show back in a way that X could never hope to do on its limited sets and lack of OB shooting. Smoke machines, low lighting and a greater use of colour lighting all helped bring the location to life, and potentially made greater use of its location work than last weeks recording did.
It also required a couple of extra new sets; one of which appears to have been hidden out of view of the audience last week, and one which required a quick redress of a set. The later was hastily arranged towards the end of the recording, and manages to fulfil its objective on remarkably little. Again, the improved lighting as mentioned last week aids this significantly, and in the rest of the episode, it once again evoked an atmosphere more akin to V-VI.
The main take away from this episode though should be that the first two episodes are of consistent enough that it’s very hard to say which is the better of the two. Even with my appreciation of Series X, there are some flaws to that series that really do seem to have been ironed out with this run to the improvement of the overall shows. On the basis of what we saw at this recording and the last, I feel fairly comfortable in saying that I haven’t felt as enthused by the prospect of seeing more new episodes as I do right now in some considerable time.