Ganymede and Titan

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If You're Going To Talk Garbage, Expect Pain

A Rebuttal to "You Jammy Goits" by Squidy, 19th January 2004.

I like you people, I really do. Anybody who goes through a shooting script of a series looking for changes in stage directions is okay in my book. But you all seem very tolerant of your favourite series' faults also, glossing over series seven and eight and smiling at potential movie investors. But at least these subjects ARE covered objectively, with differing and uncensored opinions splattered all over the site. But not so your coverage of the Red Dwarf DVDs if "You Jammy Goits" is any indication. If the discs were a glass and the DVDs' contents were milk, judging from "You Jammy Goits" most people reading this would look at this half-empty glass and go "Gosh, what a lot of milk. Aren't we lucky, Young Ones fans don't get this much milk. Thanks to the Grant Naylor cow for giving us such nicely-designed milk". I, however, look at it and would think "Yes, that milk is nice but look, that glass could be filled with so much more. More milk, or some Nesquik perhaps. And parts of it are really sour". Then Darrell Jones would probably complain about the pasteurisation process used, and Cappsy or someone would probably say it should be filled with Leopard brand lager, or that green stuff Lister drinks in Legion.

Lost the plot a bit now but anyway THE POINT IS: Yes, the discs are pretty good. Yes, Red Dwarf fans are treated well by BBC Worldwide, fantastically well compared to fans of, say, The Young Ones or Monty Python. But no, you shouldn't just lie back and go "Ah, isn't life dandy?" as you do for several thousand words in "You Jammy Goits". You shouldn't do this because, with respect, sir, you've got your head up your big fat arse. You should be constantly striving to get things released, to make things better, because for all your "No, what we've got isn't perfect" remarks you seem decidedly unkeen to point out what these imperfections are. So I’ve had a go.

For starters you say that the discs are moderated by people who care enough about the series to put effort into giving the shows worthy extras. Partially true, but let's look at the three people to which you refer who have made the discs what they are:

1) Doug Naylor, a man who has cut all ties with the man who with him co-created Red Dwarf and has gone it alone to create some of the worst episodes of anything ever.

2) Andrew Ellard, a fanboy elevated above his station with the idea of shoehorning his way into Red Dwarf history by writing new sketches for the DVDs instead of including genuine archive footage. Has also been known to lie about what exists or not, saying that certain out-takes are non-extant despite certain parties having them neatly labelled on a big VHS in their house.

and 3) Ross McGinley, a man who, when releasing a DVD of The Young Ones, seemingly couldn't think of ONE SINGLE EXTRA to place on the discs. A cretin, essentially.

This last one proves that it is the attitude behind the programmes' makers which matter rather than that of the DVD compilers (exception: Doctor Who), meaning that The League Of Gentlemen or Look Around You only has good extras because its cast/writers went to BBC Worldwide with a box of rushes and asked if these were of any use and could they could do some commentaries, please.

But there are two big problems with people who worked on the show itself wanting to create DVD extras - one, they can be overly censorous with the material, possibly with a view to rewrite their creative pasts, meaning that we don't see what we should. Some examples: the 16:9 cropping of the Look Around You pilot so as to match the series; the decision not to include the Knowing Me Knowing You pilot in full, ending it halfway with the current Talkback logo; David Jason's blocking of various lovely things (Do Not Adjust Your Set, Only Fools out-takes); and, closer to home, Robert Bathurst (or his agent at least) blocking the use of out-takes from The End.

There's evidence of this in Doug Naylor's work on the DVDs. His unkeenness to do a commentary, for instance. It's possible (although this is just a theory) that it may be his very deliberate decision that no Son Of Cliché sketches appear on the disc, possibly either being embarassed by his early work (it's known he's none too keen on series one - check his questionnare in the RD Quiz Book) or not happy about hearing old sketches he co-wrote with nemesis Rob Grant. It's also feasable that nobody thought to include them in the first place, but since they went to all the trouble of including the script of one in The Red Dwarf Omnibus (alongside the beermat that spawned the series, something else that’s missing from the DVD) somebody must have had the show on their mind. A stupid omission whichever way you look at it.

Andrew Ellard, then. On the one hand I love it when dumb fans are lifted from their underground world of 'zines and websites by the people they frequently publicly praise and get given the chance to making things GOOD. Jaz Wiseman is a great example; he started off writing a Persuaders fanzine and ended up finding out-takes of Roger Moore swearing in German trailers to put on The Persuaders DVDs. And look at the Doctor Who Restoration Team. Not literally, they're repulsive, but these are men who work hard for very little money on a series with limited appeal and not especially high sales, and thoroughly know their fanbase, what they want, and, most importantly, what to give them. Most of the extras on Doctor Who discs must have started off with discussions like "Hey, wasn't this episode once mentioned on Did You See??" or "I wonder if the Daleks ever appeared on Blue Peter" or "Remember that exhibition up in Blackpool? I have off-airs of the TV ads for that!", and because of their boundless knowledge and unending desire to see Valerie Singleton making Dalek cakes in broadcast quality the Who discs are among the finest television DVDs currently available. Andrew Ellard, it appears to me, doesn't seem to know as much about Dwarf as they do about Who, getting most of his rare material from really obvious sources (and I mean REALLY obvious, like the Smeg Ups tapes or the audio books). I bet it never even occured to him to think "I wonder if Dwarf was ever mentioned on Points Of View" or "They did a ten-second message for Amnesty’s Big 3-0 at the end of one recording, I wonder if the studio tapes of them looking really depressed about it are still about" or "Hey, didn’t someone once say that Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett did several in-character appearances on various shows around the time of series two?!" or "What was the name of that mid-nineties Radio Four panel game about science-fiction which featured most of the Red Dwarf cast as panellists at some point and had Norman Lovett answering incorrectly a really geeky fanboy question about the single release of Tongue Tied?" (answer: To Boldy Go, hosted by Kevin Day, produced as part of Radio Four's Sci-Fi Month and with me present at three of the four recordings).

It's worth pointing out here that most fans know nothing. Admit it guys, you wouldn't know where to find Stuart Maconie's review of series one in the NME even if you wanted to [although I'd suggest looking in a big cream envelope at Tanya Jones' house, Ian, should you wish to chase that up]. It's the same with most shows: a few genuinely passonate people and a bunch of chancers trying to emulate the style of their heroes (*cough* Andrew Ellard's 'I Love Ace Rimmer' featurette *cough*). A quick look at the PythOnline messageboard proves that abundantly. For every "Can someone tell me about edits on the R1 box-set?" there are a million "I know what's on the R1 box-set: a Penguin! SPLUNGE???? ;)"-type replies. From what I read it seems the Red Dwarf community is similar. No offense to the lovely lads behind G&T, who show genuine passion for the series and express it correctly, or the majority of the posters here, but it does appear that most RD fans, including Andrew Ellard, wouldn't recognise rare Red Dwarf material if it were underlined by a big red pencil (or even a spaceship which looked like a big red pencil). Spurned on by two Pythony incidents in which the whereabouts of rare material was divulged on messageboards yet was never asked about or for by the boards' contributors, a while ago I tried an experiment on all you G&Ters. During a discussion on (what else?) Red Dwarf DVD extras, I suggested that once the series run has finished an additional supplemental two-disc set, following in the style and format of the rest of the series DVDs, could be released featuring anything that was left off previous releases for completists to play with (which still seems a good idea to me, by the way, and I'm not sure why it was fobbed off with "well, let's be realistic"-type responses. Why is that unrealistic? It's entirely possible and it would sell by the bucketload. Anyway...). In amongst the list of potential extras was The 1987 Loose Ends Christmas Special. Anyone know why this is of tremendous interest to Red Dwarf fans?

Anyone?

No?

Then for Cloister's sake why didn't you ask? Many of you may have thought it a joke but surely the date would have been a clue: Christmas 1987, about a month-and-a-half before The End was first transmitted. But no-one noticed, no-one enquired and now you'll never know what Dwarfy goodness the episode contains.

Oh, okay then, here it is: Craig Charles is on Loose Ends as usual doing his mediocre poetry, and one of the guests on this festive edition is Chris Barrie, doing his impressions. At one point they have a bit of an old on-air chat about things. So what you have is the first transmitted material of Craig Charles and Chris Barrie in a room together giggling, a month or so before the first airing of Red Dwarf episode one.

Admit it, even the most fanatic of you didn't know that. Neither did I; I only heard it by chance at the house of a friend who collects Loose Ends shows, and he didn't acknowledge it as anything much of interest. I doubt even C. Charles or C. Barrie remember it. But it's around, it exists and it's not hard to research. A quick look in that year's Xmas Radio Times will supply an exact transmission date. Of course, in an ideal world Andrew Ellard would have found it himself and put it on an RD DVD at some point. But he didn't, because he is a monkey, employed primarily to digitise tape and catalogue rushes and has about as much right to create new Dwarf material as the skutters. Even the one that went absolutely mad. The Loose Ends appearance would have been an ideal inclusion or supplement to series one's Launching Red Dwarf documentary, alongside some Dave Hollins clips and a slow zoom in on that beermat, and a much better use of time and funds that making the Japanese episode of Red Dwarf Remastered available to the British and American masses. Which brings me onto rubbish extras.

From G&T's Andrew Ellard interview, here's Andrew discussing rubbish extras on his DVDs: "Some criticise something as being filler - the music cues, say...". Now, I've read a lot of G&T and as far as I can recall, NOBODY has ever critised the Music Cues as being filler. On the contrary - they often say "Ooh, Music Cues! The Observation Deck theme in full! Unheard Howard Goodall tracks! More please!!". Ellard doesn't seem to be able to say what people have really been criticing on the discs, so I will: it's those blasted Featurettes...

We've all heard it three million times before: some people like the 'Drunk/Alternate Reality/Food/Love Featurettes', others hate 'em. But the thing is they ARE a bad thing for the Red Dwarf DVDs. No, they are. Think about it: Model shots and out-takes are being shunted to make space for this and the time spent by researchers watching Dwarf for usuable shots, clearing music, and editing this complex little sequence could be better spent, well, doing anything really. Clearing rights to Son Of Cliché sketches, finding original script pages to scan in, making sure you don't leave off any out-takes, etc etc. The same thing goes for the lavish menus: they're nice and all (I do like the piece on series one where we see a skutter delivering popcorn in an event which occurs off-screen in Me²) but better time could have been spent on dissecting the undissected above. Packaging ultimately doesn't matter either: the discs could be delivered in a styroform box with a menu made out of newsprint as long as the correct material is on there (I note also that certain menus have buggered people's players meaning they have to get a replacement disc featuring static text menus with all the footage clearly labelled as "Deleted Scenes" and "Trailers" rather than having to randomly highlight a traffic cone or a robot goldfish icon. It's wicked to mock, so I won't). In short: how much of the time, money and effort that is currently going into producing an unlistenable "Fan Commentary" (presumably created for Andrew to show he hasn't forgotten all his old pals now he's a big name at Grant Naylor Productions) could go towards researching and uncovering something truly jaw-dropping to include on the DVD instead? I would argue all of it.

The Japanese episode is like this but worse. All that time and effort spent on putting it on the disc except that instead of three minutes of disc-space it takes up thirty minutes of disc-space which could be filled with, well, with something watchable, frankly. Luckily, they seem to have dumped this idea and have started putting on relevant half-hours or so of exclusive Dwarf material (The A-Z, Can't Smeg Won't Smeg, complete studio tape of Timeslides, guh, I mean Hattie's DJ Diary), which, even if they aren't very good or season specific, are at least different and rarish pieces for the collector (this further puts forward a case for my supplemental DVD idea - they could have put season specific extras on the correct discs and released the whole of Red Dwarf Night in one big chunk (give or take a Universe Challenge) when the run of DVDs came to an end, along with all manner of other clips and pieces. It would sell, Mr Ellard, how can you not see that? I won't ask for a commission from the idea, promise).

As I've said before on these pages I don't mind silly extras as long as the serious ones are there also (Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Lego? I'll just stick with my contemporaneous b-roll location footage and fifty minutes of Palin and Jones wandering nostalgically around Scottish castles, thankyouverymuch) but with Dwarf I can't help feeling that in the rush to create a compilation of explosions to the tune of Shaggy's 'Mr Boombastic' (just you wait, it’ll happen) no-one has even had the time to think "Hang on - I wonder if any Mugs Murphy survives as isolated rushes. Oop, no time to ponder that now, I have a parody of the I Love... format to write!". Yes, Red Dwarf fans should wallow delightedly in deleted scenes, music cues, raw FX shots, even talking book extracts, but fans should also shout at rubbish extras which take up valuable space and treat the buyers like idiots. Would Doctor Who fans (or 'Whovians' as I believe they call themselves) tolerate this? Would that The Talons Of Weng-Chiang omitted the studio reel for the first installment of the story dubbed into Japanese and a compilation of the Doctor fighting aliens to the tune of 'I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper' there would be sackings aplenty over at the DW Restoration Team. Then why does no-one take Andrew Ellard and co. aside and say "Those Featurettes, yeah? They're not funny, they're patronising, they're insulting to the viewer, go and find us some of Craig Charles' Time Out columns from 1989, there's a good chap". Is it because Red Dwarf fans really ARE idiots? I'd like to think not, and based on the evidence on and around this site they aren't, and clearly have a great respect and passion for the show which isn't always made mutual by Grant Naylor Productions.

However, you ARE all idiots for allowing one thing to happen: Ace Rimmer - A Life In Lamé. Dwarf material not written by Grant Naylor is inevitably awful (Proof: series seven, series eight, Last Human, the 1997 Log Diary thing, that horrible Survival Manual) and if something which started out as a parody of the I Love... series before being ordered re-edited by Doug Naylor because he thought it was too crap bucks this trend then the Corgi Starbug playsets are on me. I mean, an I Love... parody?! What next: a spoof of The Weakest Link with the post-video game characters from Back To Reality, or a parody of Big Brother with the crew stuck in their personalised cells from Legion (hey, that's not a bad idea actually. And I own the copyright, Ellard!). Firstly, if these have to be on the disc then why have Andrew "Have I written any comedy before? Not really, but I wrote an episode of Doctors once" Ellard get to write them when not only is actual real-life genuine Red Dwarf writer Doug Naylor overseeing the discs but lovely funny comedienne Hattie Hayridge has agreed to be in them. It's the same feeling I get whenever I see a producer doing a mediocre warm-up for a comedy programme. Why not just bring the comedians out and let them entertain the audience properly? And secondly, why even do make such a sketch at all? Ace Rimmer, like Duane Dibbley, has its fans and was well-done when first seen, but has since been done to death, appearing in pretty much every series since in mostly terrible ways which aren't so much for amusement but just help to move the plot along in a way that patronises old viewers and alienates non-fans (Blue springs to mind here). I used to joke that the series five disc would have a Duane Dibbley: Me And My Thermos featurette but if Life In Lamé is any indictation of Ellard's thinking I wouldn't be surprised if something like this actually happens. The characters of Dibbley and Ace were good ideas once, and the thinking behind them should be discussed, and to be fair probably will in the commentaries and interviews, but no more than that. Why not just stick a big picture of Papa Lazarou on the cover if they’re that desperate?

By my estimation, each DVD set is fairly equally balanced between good stuff (deleted scenes, out-takes, music cues, FX footage, trailers, thirty minutes of interviews) and totally wasted space (the Japanese episode, Backwards Forwards, Life in Lamé, Drunk etc. Featurettes, NINETY-minutes of interviews. Really, is Danny John-Jules THAT interesting?). The wasted space amounts to between thirty-five and fifty minutes per disc, which is time that can be taken up with....

Studio tapes! Lovely lovely studio tapes. Now, every time I've suggested this on this website the replies have always been off the "Oh, let's be realistic, people won't shell out for an extra disc" type. But I AM being realistic. Studio tapes won’t harm sales and won’t require an extra disc. They will, however, be fascinating viewing and will delight the discs' purchasers. How long is a studio tape exactly? Let's estimate: say half of an episode of Red Dwarf is recorded in a studio in front of an audience (the rest being pre-recorded VT, model shots, titles, credits and that).That's fourteen minutes. Two takes of this makes twenty-eight minutes. Add a generous ten minutes for retakes, pick-ups and between take activity, so we get a total of around forty minutes. The interviews alone on the series three DVD are ninety minutes, and a lot of that is clips from other shows. If that were edited down a bit tighter and the clips used were more selective, then a million fans could have the complete studio sessions for, say, Polymorph in their own homes to watch at their leisure. And, hey, if you like the interviews I won't stop you: just remove Backwards Forwards and the Food Featurette instead.

Is there really a case for keeping studio tapes off Dwarf DVDs? Hardcore fans will love them, moderately interested fans won't mind them, Dwarf-haters won't buy the disc anyway, and no-one, repeat, NO-ONE is going to think "Well, I WAS going to buy Red Dwarf series five because it's the best series and all the episodes are exceptionally good, but then I picked up the box and it said it included the entire fifty-minute studio tape of Back To Reality on disc two, WELL, I just had to put it down immediately and walked out of the shop!!". Others argue that studio tapes are too industry-based and 'in' for the general Dwarf-loving pleb to understand what they are. Balls. Even the stupidest, most smeg-quoting Dwarfie has a basic understanding of how television works. Everyone does (except those weird old ladies who shout at Leslie Grantham in the street, berating him for divorcing Anita Dobson), but Dwarf fans especially as they've read Joe Nazzaro's Making Of book and seen both Smeg Ups videos so a studio tape is hardly new territory for them. And if they don't know, hey, let's educate! Maybe Ed Bye or whomever could even be convinced to do a commentary, although I'd think the footage would speak for itself.

Rushes and such are entering the mainstream now with deleted scenes, makings of, and out-takes appearing on every DVD worth its salt, and in the past few months this has spread from primarily films to both comedy shows and science-fiction, which is lucky as RD is a bit of both. Science-fiction gets much because the guys in charge not only care about the programmes they look after but know that fans would exterminate them (ho ho) were they to miss off extras that are known to exist. Thus, The Talons of Weng-Chiang has a reel of rushes on its DVD and ninety minutes of Shada production footage gets shown at the NFT. Comedy, too, is getting more tolerant towards industry footage of this type. The Phoenix Nights DVDs are loaded with out-takes; Fawlty Towers features material from a hitherto unreleased BBC in-house Christmas Tape; the R1 'Allo 'Allo features not only the pilot but the pilot script which can be read in tandem with the episode playing out, a unique feature for a comedy show; the Hitch-Hikers Guide DVD has barrellfulls of out-takes and original continuity, plus a deleted scene, an unedited animation and a ten-minute studio tape extract; The Goodies DVD features continuity and a count-in clock, plus storyboards for certain scenes; the Blackadder documentary screened last weekend was full of studio tapes from the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth (which rather pisses on the "Rowan Atkinson Has Blocked All Out-Takes" story); and Sykes, get this, Sykes is to come out on DVD next month with, crikey, longer version of certain episodes, extended with the use of available unused rushes, in addition to a documentary called In The Studio compromising of fluffs and mid-seventies technicians with sideburned clipboards. Phwoar indeed. And this is for Sykes! SYKES!! Which has a fanbase of around two. If they can do it for that then they can certainly do it it for the million disc-shifting Red Dwarf.

So what's next in the "Comedy Show Which Releases Studio Tapes" race? Red Dwarf? Unlikely with such unresponsive robots as Naylor, Ellard and McGinley in charge. But what CAN the upcoming Dwarf DVDs do that will separate them from the rest, Phoenix Nights et al? Deleted scenes? Done. Out-takes? Seen it. Studio tape extracts? Mmm, good start. Fan commentaries? Fuck off. What I propose (and have proposed previously on this site) is that GNP and BBC Worldwide release the supplemental two-disc DVD suggested earlier. Disc one can contain whatever hasn't been included on previous series DVDs (which, you'll realise if you've read this far, is a lot more than anyone's admitting. 'Souper' is just the tip of an unresearching iceberg) while the whole of disc two can contain EVERY FRAME OF FOOTAGE SHOT for an episode. That would be, completely unedited, the 'live' studio tape, pre-recorded studio work, location footage, model shots and FX footage. This would be an amazing and revolutionary way to watch a familiar episode of a much-respected sitcom and would also be totally unique as, short of bootlegging editors, no-one has ever released footage like this in such an unrestricted way. GNP could even have a vote online or something, asking fans which episode it should be (although they may as well just decide on Back To Reality to save time). I think this is a marvellous idea (even if I do say so myself!) and if someone can rationally explain to me why this would idea would prove unfeasible or ridiculous I would be most interested to hear their reasoning. Especially if their name is Andrew Ellard. As an extra this footage urinates from a great height over fan commentaries and a compilation of Lister saying "Smeg!" cut to the tune of 'Unbelievable' by EMF, and don't try and tell me it won't sell; a million Dwarfies (Dwarfers?) would buy it for the packaging alone.

Right, that's that sorted. Maybe now we can finally take a good long look at The Young Ones discs...