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The Official Red Dwarf Companion

First published 27th June 2003.

Price: 6.99
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 96 pages
ISBN: 1-85286-456-7
Release Date: October 1992

This book was a turning point in the history of Red Dwarf publications - the first reference book to be released, narrowly beating the Programme Guide by a couple of months. Indeed, it was the first non-novel to hit the shelves, paving the way for a number of excellent books later on. It was written by serial biographer Bruce Dessau, features plenty of great colour photographs, and would be brilliant if not for a few small problems.

The book opens with an excellent introduction by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, which, like their later efforts for the Making Of and Doug's Red Dwarf VIII books, are wonderfully irreverant. They discuss the inspiration for Rimmer, late scripts for Son of Cliché, meetings with BBC executives, and finally getting the blasted thing made. Not sure whether it's all true, particularly the Rimmer story, but it's all very funny. Rob and Doug are the king of forewords.

We then go into the character section - a few pages each for the four mobile characters, and a mere single page for Holly. As well as little factoids about the characters, there are quotes from the actors, and from Rob and Doug, giving away behind the scenes snippets and amusing anecdotes. The layout is very good - the text in two columns, with an extra column featuring pictures or quotes from the series. This format is the same for the rest of the book, and it looks fantastic. There's an additional page for the guest stars; it's far from complete, but has some good little snippets about the backgrounds of some of the actors. To omit Tony Hawks is ludicrous, however.

Next up is the episode guide - a load of synopsi covering all thirty episodes of the show that existed in 1992. Each episode from Series III-V is given its own page, which follows the format of the previous section - two columns of text, one of quotes, interspersed with pictures. However, Series I and II are only given one double page for each series, meaning three episodes are squeezed onto one page. This is daft; it almost suggests that the early episodes were not as worthwhile as the later ones, and only deserve a third of the space. This is not the case. Some of the Series II plots in particular were jam-packed, and are much more complex than, for example, Marooned, although that's not to say that the simpler episodes aren't excellent. It's also odd that Series I is only brushed upon, considering that the episodes weren't repeated or released on video until 1994, and hardly any Red Dwarf fans knew anything about them. Therefore, there'd be more interest in the first six episodes than any of the following twenty-four, yet all the information is crammed into a double page.

There are no behind-the-scenes tit-bits at all in the episode section; just brief plot summaries. However, the book comes into its own in the Behind The Action section. Six areas are covered in this 36-page chapter: scripts, production, design, visual effects, costume and make up. As well as interviews with the main protaganists (Rob & Doug, Paul Jackson, Mel Bibby (RIP), Sir Peter Wragg, Howard Burden and Andrea Pennel respectively), there are some excellent, rare photographs, including a shot of the Despair Squid, which didn't feature at all in the final edit of Back to Reality. Also featured are shots of Starbug being assembled, Norman Lovett playing around with a model of the set, Robert Llewellyn with a partially-applied mask and some of Howard Burden's original sketches for Series V costumes. Our only gripe is the revisionist nature of some of the prose - Paul Montague (Series I and II Designer), Jacki Pinks (Series I and II Costume Designer), Suzanne Jansen (Series I Make Up) and Bethan Jones (Series II-III Make Up) aren't mentioned at all.

The book finishes off nicely with a double page feature entitled 'The Future', covering Red Dwarf USA (which, incidentally had no future at all), the forthcoming sixth series, the novels and plenty of merchandise. There's also a double page spread of Production Credits, detailing credited guest cast and the main behind-the-scenes folks. The Official Companion is a great book for those who require a basic knowledge of the making of the show, and handy reference points for the series. However, it's a little simplistic for our tastes, and falls by the wayside compared to Howarth & Lyons's Programme Guide and Joe Nazzaro's near-perfect Making Of.

Errors

Apologies for the pedantry, but this has to be done. Okay, the book was published over ten years ago. Okay, Bruce Dessau is a hugely successful biographer and probably doesn't give two squirts of piss what we think. But we must put it on record that not everything you read in the book is accurate.