Mr Flibble Talks To... The Sidekick Speaks
Giving in to the literally ones of people who requested it, Mr Flibble has relented and turned his hex vision spotlight onto Andrew Ellard - co-ordinator of and quite literally the penguin's right hand man.
22 June, 2001
Andrew Ellard
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered his first question to Andrew, "How involved has Doug Naylor been with the CREATION of the website?" Out of habit, Andrew tried to pass the question on to someone else - before he realised his mistake.

More than I was to start with! He had sections clearly in mind. Mr Flibble Talks To... was his idea, he even wrote the animated coming soon page himself. I don't know anyone who's that involved with their franchise. He always wanted the site to be content-driven, not just some pretty Flash graphics and sound effects. Not the kind of site you'd visit once and then never come back.

Were you an internet user anyway, pre-Dwarf?

Bugger, I knew you'd ask that one! (Laughs) Didn't have a clue. I'm learning now, but when I started I'd only just got around to figuring out email the year before. But that's okay; in fact I'm starting to see it as a bonus. The internet shouldn't be totally run by people who are technical - that'd be like stopping anyone but a skilled camera operator write a movie! So I write the stuff, figure out the basic layout, and then our technical people put it up as requested.

I'm also administrator on the webboards. I try to get into the chatrooms every so often to get some feedback and give people a chance to ask questions. It's important that we interact with the fans.

Mr Flibble has a very thick little black book full of celebrity names and numbers. How do you chase down INTERVIEWS?

People think it's easier than maybe it is - [just] write some questions and ask them. But if you wanted to talk to Brian Cox or Jenny Agutter, how would you find them? You need to track down their agents and go through them, and thankfully there are directories out there which will tell you who represents whom. Even then it doesn't mean they'll talk to us - it's not as if we pay them! Most say yes - I think because they've usually had such a good time on the show.

After that [I do] some research. What have they been in, who have they worked with - a quick working knowledge of modern TV and movies is invaluable. It's good to know the industry from the outside - which is where the readership mostly comes from, after all - rather than the inside. When an actor says they were once considered for such-and-such a role, something you couldn't have known about in advance or prepared for, it's a major bonus if you just happen to be familiar with the film they're talking about. Plus I need to know what they did in Red Dwarf - which is where being a fan helps!

What's changed in the current website REVAMP?

Most of the revamp is just moving things around so they fit better. Making sure people know where the shop and movie sections are, for example. We wanted to correct a few of the things that slipped through the net in the hurry to get the site launched last year and the sixth-month anniversary seemed like a good time to do it.

We're putting Mr Flibble on hold on the weeks that we add to the behind-the-scenes Time Hole section. I'm enjoying putting all the backstage information in one place - information being what the net's all about. For the same reason, I liked the Space Corps Database - most of the show's key reference points are in there, but it's basically a string of jokes. Somebody read one part and thought it was Grant Naylor Productions trying to plug the continuity gaps - woah, too late! (Laughs) The site's there to do what the show does, entertain.

Mr Flibble wanted to know why he was being booted out.

You're not being booted out - we're just doing something else for a few weeks.

Mr Flibble began to cry.

Listen, it's okay. You get weeks and weeks of free holiday time, meanwhile I do a stack more work. The site users get the entire history of the show, plus all the usual news updates - and you get to take a vacation.

Mr Flibble had, by this point, stopped listening and was packing a suitcase. Putting on his penguin sunglasses, he asked: Red Dwarf has had a net presence for years - what do you make of the FAN SITES?

They range from the excellent to the awful - like any media. I like sites that come up with new stuff. Picture galleries and show transcripts aren't worth basing a site around - partly because they rip off copyrighted material, but mostly because fans can get that stuff any time they want anyway. Watch a video or open a book. The trick is to do new things, go beyond the same old smeg - be new, inventive. If your site's just old news, transcripts and ranting... well, why would people be going there?

Of course, it's easy for me to say that - we've had terrific ratings since this site went online. But I can't believe they'd be coming back if we weren't still offering something.

Mr Flibble waved goodbye and, leaving the tape recorder running, asked "What have you got COMING UP" as he walked out the room?

More Red Dwarf, hopefully. The movie's going ahead and I'm going to be producing a 'making of' on the site as it happens - which is pretty much a new concept, and very exciting. Plus the behind the scenes stuff is coming up - hence the vacation time for Mr F.

As for me... well, I've got a radiodrama script in development with a production company - The Confession of Jack the Ripper. It's in development hell right now, actually, but I'm hoping it'll show up eventually. I think it's a decent script - like Cracker in the 1880's. Lots of psychological insight and mind games... plus a good, bloody murder every half an hour. (Laughs)

Mr Flibble is annoyed at his sidekick hogging the limelight while he had to ask load of dumb questions Andrew had written anyway. For that reason... Mr Flibble is very cross.