Czech The Difference

We take a look at the troubles caused by a Red Dwarf translation.

Red Dwarf is a huge international success, and one of the places its particular flavour of character-sci-fi-comedy has proved especially popular is the Czech Republic - where simple reports of a new series lead to TV coverage.

Aside from translations of all the novels, the series has, of course, been shown on TV and released on DVD in the country. Which means that, over a decade ago, a dubbed version of the show had to be created.

But what happens when the cultural references don't quite translate? When Rimmer refers to Jimmy Osmond? Well, some interesting - if not always brilliant - changes were made by the international team to suit their local audience.

So this is part cultural exchange, part time-travel. These are the decisions of a team working at the end of the 90s, and in a different country...

We are indebted to superfan Jiří Charvát in the compiling of this article. Jiří co-runs fansite cervenytrpaslik.cz and the Trpaslicon fan events - here he is on TV talking about the 20th anniversary of the show. Knowing the Czech version of the show better than anyone, Jiří was asked to help reconcile the DVD subtitles with the dubbed versions most fans were familiar with.

What does that entail? Well, for a start 'Kryten' has always been 'Kryton' to Czech audiences. But it's more than that. "Czech dubbing is sort of Sacred Wit here," Jiří says. "It became popular. People quote it, know it word for word. The Czech dubbing has played a huge part in the popularity of Red Dwarf here, and is considered as one of best Czech dubbings ever."

So what we have here is the difference between what British fans will, themselves, know word for word, and the Czech dub. Inevitably these are the biggest, most interesting examples - for the most part is seems the translations really are that good.

Series II, Kryten

English

LISTER: But I was breeding that mould. His name was Albert.

Czech

LISTER: But I was breeding that mould. Her name was Amáta.

The word Plíseň (Czech for "mould") is feminine, so in the Czech universe Lister's mould is renamed Amáta.

Series II, Thanks for the Memory

English

HOLLY: Look, there's a perfectly logical explanation for everything. With the possible exception of Little Jimmy Osmond.

Czech

HOLLY: Look there's a perfectly logical explanation for everything. Maybe except the number of members of the Kelly Family.

Poor Jimmy Osmond - apparently his fame never spread to central Europe. But back in the 90s the band Kelly Family was apparently a Big Thing. And they were also pretty weird. And numerous.

Series III, Polymorph

English

RIMMER: What about the Rimmer Directive which states, "Never tangle with anything that's got more teeth than the entire Osmond family?"

Czech

RIMMER: What about the Rimmer Directive which states, "Never tangle with anything that's got more teeth than the entire Addams family?"

Apparently the Czech Republic were able to resist the pull of every one of the Osmonds. But Charles Addams' black comic creation? No problem.

Series III, Polymorph

English

RIMMER: (sings) Love everybody. All you need is love...

Czech

RIMMER: (sings) We shall overcome. We shall overcome. We shall overcome one dayyy...

Handily ducking the cost of a Beatles number, in the Czech version Rimmer sings "Jednou budem dál" - apparently with an intensity than Chris Barrie could only dream of...

Series III, Bodyswap

English

LISTER: This hat is smeggin' stupid. I look like Captain Emerald.

Czech

LISTER: This hat is smeggin' stupid. I look like the gendarme of St. Tropez.

Apparently changed to avoid the problem that Czech audiences won't know who Captain Emerald is, it's possible that nobody told the dubbers - he doesn't actually exist. It's just a silly name.

Series III, Bodyswap

English

RIMMER: Oh, and I'll give you a little tip: Urine should only be green if you're Mr. Spock.

Czech

RIMMER: Oh, and I'll give you a little tip: Urine should only be green if you're a urologist.

Okay, look, the Osmonds we understand - but Star Trek?! So the translators of the time threw in "a urologist" as a replacement. Even today Czech fans dispute what translators really meant by it. The implication seems to be that a urologist would be the only person to regularly witness unusual urine colour...but it's bizarrely executed.

Series III, Timeslides

English

HOLLY: His own fault, apparently. He was making love to his fourteenth wife and he lost control of the plane.

Czech

HOLLY: His own fault, apparently. He was making love to his fourteen year-old wife and he lost control of the plane.

The most appalling translation of the lot, with implications for this alternative-history Lister that don't bear thinking about. One can only assume error...or one person in translation who thinks their own, more twisted jokes are funnier.

Series IV, Camille

English

KRYTEN: It's a small, off-duty Czechoslovakian traffic warden!

Czech

KRYTEN: It's an off-duty assistant of a Tasmanian traffic warden!

Well, fair enough - a Czechoslovakian traffic warden wouldn't sound particularly random for Czech viewers!

Series IV, Dimension Jump

English

ACE: Now, look here, Arnie. You can say what you like about me, but I won't hear a word against Skipper here.
RIMMER: Skipper?
ACE: A man like him deserves a nickname. I thought "Skipper" sat rather well.
RIMMER: "Ace and Skipper?" You sound like a kid's TV series about a boy and his bush kangaroo!

Czech

ACE: Now, look here, Arnie. You can say what you like about me, but I won't hear a word against Launchpad here.
RIMMER: Launchpad?
ACE: A man like him deserves a nickname. I thought "Launchpad" sat rather well.
RIMMER: "Ace and Launchpad?" It sounds like those kid's Disney series with that git Launchpad McQuack.

Actually, TV series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo had been broadcast in the Czech Republic, but Launchpad McQuack - Rampa McKvák in Czech - held a firmer place in the hearts of 90s kids.

Series IV, Meltdown

English

LISTER: No one wants to know some stupid story about how you beat your Cadet School Training Officer at Risk.

Czech

LISTER: No one wants to know some stupid story about how you beat your Cadet School Training Officer at dice.

It boggles the mind as to how this entire sequence could possibly work if Risk is taken out of it. While not a famous game for Czech audiences, the entire story is there to set up Rimmer's military aspirations. Apparently the war references in the scene don't make much sense...

Series IV, Meltdown

English

RIMMER: ...and into this bleak arena steps a man; the man for the moment.
KRYTEN: Who?
RIMMER: Me! Who did you think, Pat Boone?

Czech

RIMMER: ...and into this bleak arena steps a man; the man for the moment.
KRYTEN: Who?
RIMMER: Me! Who did you think, David Hasselhoff?

Oh come on, you must have seen this one coming...

Series V, Inquisitor

English

RIMMER: Well, thank you, A. J. P. Taylor.

Czech

RIMMER: Thank you for explanation, Schliemann.

A British historian is replaced by a German archeologist.

Series VII, Tikka to Ride

English

KRYTEN: My head is littered with unnecessary information, sir. The ability to sing the Bay City Rollers' greatest hits is no longer a priority. For most cultural purposes, crooning "Bye Bye Baby" is more than sufficient.

Czech

KRYTEN: My head is littered with unnecessary information, sir. The ability to sing the Lunetic's greatest hits is no longer a priority. For most cultural purposes, crooning "You Are My Mum" is more than sufficient.

First the Osmonds, now the Bay City Rollers - oh, what a cultural wasteland! Lunetic is a Czech pop-music boy band who cause a mania for a few years in the end of 90s. Their first hit was "Jsi moje máma" ("You Are My Mum").

Series VII, Epideme

English

EPIDEME: (Hums the National Anthem...)

Czech

EPIDEME: (sings) He fell asleep, slumbers. His little eyes are shut down...

Well, playing God Save The Queen at the closedown of a channel is something British audiences aren't really familiar with any more, much less their Czech counterparts. So instead we have the overly-cute 1981 song "Usnul nám, spí" ("He Fell Asleep, Slumbers") by Czech Normalisation star Hana Zagorová. It's about a little baby who falls asleep and is surrounded by his parents' love. Aww.

Series VIII, Only the Good...

English

LISTER: Those complimentary pens that the hospital guys were giving out - y'know. "Most accidents happen in the home, so be careful" ones? I accidentally stabbed myself in the head with one.
RIMMER: Where were you?
LISTER: I wasn't at home, so I didn't feel stupid or anything.

Czech

LISTER: Those complimentary pens that the hospital guys were giving out - y'know. "Most accidents happen in the home, so be careful" ones? I accidentally stabbed myself in the head with one.
RIMMER: Where were you?
LISTER: At home, so I didn't feel stupid or anything.

A pretty drastic failure to understand the joke, there.

Back to Earth, Episode 2

English

LISTER: Swallow & Cast. Waiting for taxis. Fan convention 2009.

Czech

LISTER: Swallow & Cast. Waiting for taxis. Trpaslicon 2009.

Trpaslicon is, of course, the name of Czech Red Dwarf fan convention. ("Trpaslík" is "Dwarf" in Czech, with "con" short for "convention" in apparently any language.) The organisers are, of course, chuffed to bits to be immortalised in their dub of the show.

Smeg

Ah, yes. Well this was bound to come up sooner or later. It seems there is no unified expression for "smeg" in Czech so it's been replace by various imaginative insults more familiar to its audience.

Apparently, instead of "Smeg" Czech dwarfers say: "Do kosmu" Which means "Into the cosmos". And in the Czech language nobody says "Oh shit!", instead they say "Do prdele!" which literally means "Into the ass!"

Jiří also has this to say on the subject of the novels: "I was also asked to supervise Czech translation of books but this time translators don't really listen to me. In our books characters talk in a more vulgar way than in the Czech dubbing. We are not used to it. In Czech dubbing the characters are able to insult each other without really being rough. But translator of books argue that things like 'smeggin' hell' are vile expressions."

For smeg's sake.

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