Dimension Jump XV


Breakfast: Chilled vindaloo sauce. Two indigestion tablets.

The impossibly-cool Danny John-Jules appears on stage singing Tongue Tied - and suddenly all our hangovers become a thing of the past.

"Craig phoned me this morning and left a message on my voicemail", which of course, he then plays through the microphone... Craig's weary voice comes through, loud and clear, asking for the hotel's postcode to put in his sat-nav back in Manchester.

It isn't long before a serious contender to the John-Jules legacy insists on being lifted up onto the stage...his son. "He's like a Jack Russell, ain't he?"

The first question, "How come you stopped doing M.I. High?" compels Danny to remind us, "Uh, this is a Red Dwarf convention. Apparently, I was sorely missed. I really enjoyed doing that, actually."

The prospect of a fabled, Cat-centric Red Dwarf episode once again rears its stylish head. Danny explains how the foyer of a Manchester-based hotel was set to make an appearance as the character's dream wardrobe once, long ago. He later attests that Red Dwarf, being an assemble piece like Dad's Army, probably wouldn't suit an episode that just centred on one character. But the willing crowd are still more than keen on the idea.

"The character aged along with the writers. They matured, the show matured, so the character matured. I made him a bit more catty for the specials". Still slightly peeved at the deletion of a bunkroom-based pratfall he was particularly proud of, the crowd encourages Dan to recreate the dropped scene live, and on doing so, he rightly receives a round of applause for his trouble.

The reaction is only trumped by the removal of the traditional John-Jules headgear - revealing a balder pate than any of us would have guessed. Oh how the flashbulbs, erm, flashed.

Dan goes on to discuss his charity work (particularly with the Willow Foundation, and Stepping Stones), whilst singling out certain members of the audience with whom he has worked alongside on various projects over the years.

"What is it with John-Jules' and stages? Can't get 'em off!" he asks as his daughter decides to follow in her big brother's footsteps. But this particular John-Jules is more vocal than her quick-stepping sibling, and after stealing Dan's microphone, she keenly demonstrates her burgeoning vocal talents to the captivated crowd.

Danny responds to a question concerning any diva-ish behaviour that has ever occurred on set with, "Mine is I don't wanna eat next to Craig. And I don't want to park next to Chris 'cos he's always got a fancy car. Never want to wear Bobby's costume... or Chloë's wig."

Speaking of which, moments later, in true Back to Earth style, special surprise guest, Chloë Annett appears and joins Danny on stage!

Despite the overwhelming difficulty in pronouncing 'Sesiumfrancolithicmixialibidiumrixydixydoxydexydroxide', after just a few attempts, Chloë nails it, and her expression is nothing less than ecstatic.

She and Dan discuss Black Wednesday during the filming of Blue, "Where everybody had their 'series-tantrum' at once", and how family life has impacted on her career.

Well, they say good things come in threes, and at 11:52 precisely, Craig Charles arrives to one of the biggest applauses yet. Feverishly checking and counting the pattern on the carpet ("I've got OCD"), he comments on Chloë bringing him a cup of tea, "How the mighty fall..."

"Favourite poet?" someone asks. Craig speaks of his admiration for such writers as Roger McGough and John Cooper Clarke, though the poem he chooses to recite contains more swearwords than can be posted here (for reasons of bandwidth more from anything else).

Discussing Robot Wars, Craig claims fan-favourite Hypnodisc was among the many reasons the show ended - because, like so many other high-tech entrants, it was becoming too dangerous even for a robo-total-destruction-type show. "The show burned brightly, then crashed and burned...like me!"

Soon joined by Danny, Chloë and Hattie on stage, Craig ventures out into the audience and fields some questions in person. "You've got an 'H' on your head - anyone tell you that?"

Asked how difficult it was getting back into the part of Lister after so many years, Craig explains how the costume itself helped bring back most of the memories. Much to the audience's delight, on noticing a member of the winning team who won last night's costume comp' (still in full 'Lister' garb), he brings him up on stage and trades jackets, "Watch it, my cigarettes and phone's in there."

Pilfering a glass of water from a willing fan in the front row, he assures, "...I'm gonna wake up in a minute". "Did you plan your career?" "Purely accidental," Craig remarks. "Though I've been on TV since I was seventeen".

On the subject of crying in Back to Earth, Charles is refreshingly frank about what he used for motivation: "Thinking about Chloë in the dressing room beforehand and how she said 'no'." And perhaps, more accurately, recalling the recent death of his father and the framed photograph of friend and colleague, Mel Bibby beside Kochanski's memorial. Not to mention imagining "forthcoming unhappiness to come".

Mentions of sci-fi comedy panel show, Space Cadets, Liverpool, and nicking props from Red Dwarf follow, before Craig reunites with his fellow cast members on stage and leaves us with one final poem.

More signings, photos and queues take place while we wait for the raffle and auction to begin. Prizes are assigned, thanks are given, and the weekend is finally at an end.

What a weekend. You can just imagine the handful of sick notes soon to be handed in to bosses nationwide come Monday morning, and all of them declaring 'Exhaustion from Excessive Fun' as being the primary reason for absence.

With the announcement of next year's Dimension Jump XVI, the weekend ended on yet another up. If you've never thought of attending before, give it a go - you might just find it more fun than hugging the event horizon of a black hole then loop-de-looping round a spinning singularity at twice the speed of light before slamming the engines into reverse and blasting out of an exploding nebula.

Though, contractually speaking, the above description may vary, person to person.