Dimension Jump XIX

by Seb Patrick

Saturday

After a customary buffet breakfast, those who've bought tickets for the day's photoshoot session are up nice and early to grab snaps with the Saturday guests - posing in front of a new-for-2017 space-themed (and easter egg-laden) backdrop. For others, there's a first opportunity to check out this year's merchandise room - selling all manner of new and classic Red Dwarf and Fan Club merch, including the widest selection of old VHSes you'll find outside of Battersea Car Boot Sale.

The merch room also offers the chance to meet long-time Dwarf artist Colin Howard, who's here not only showing a selection of his portfolio pieces (including Smegazine and Beat the Geek covers), but signing a brand new print commissioned especially for this event.

Gradually, though, everyone starts to file into the main hall - where, as ever, a constant stream of Red Dwarf episodes and DVD bonus material plays out whenever there's a gap in proceedings - ready for the first Q&A session of the weekend. And there's an old hand at the tiller, as Robert Llewellyn - needing little introduction or even impetus to kick things off - takes to the stage.

Unsurprisingly, the very first question asked of Robert relates to the show's future - but all he can say at the moment is that he's excited to see the thirtieth anniversary coming up next year, and that should the cards fall the right way, the cast are all very keen to work on a potential thirteenth and/or fourteenth series. "Although," Robert says, "by then the GELFs will need to be quite slow-moving!"

Asked what characteristics he shares with Kryten, Robert refers to "neurosis" and "an obsession with laundry. I'm a mother hen - our children basically have two mothers." Keen to reassert his masculinity, he declares that "I can chop wood, though," before adding with expert comic timing: "I had to watch a YouTube video first."

"Captain Bollocks!" is the emphatic declaration when asked about favourite lines from recent episodes. Krysis is also, unsurprisingly, talked of as having been a particularly fun episode to do. "The new mask is a hugely improved process - I could actually eat while wearing it! In fact, I porked out... which did lead to one person on Twitter commenting that Kryten had 'downloaded one too many apps.'"

Going back through older episodes, DNA is mentioned - filming without his mask on, though, was actually a more difficult and nerve-wracking experience for Robert than working in full makeup ever was. The question of a certain Polaroid photograph also comes up, answering for possibly the first time a quarter-century-old question: "Yes, it was a real photo. We don't know who it was."

Robert's recent work outside Dwarf, including his upcoming autobiography Some Old Bloke and long-running Fully Charged YouTube series, comes up. "Apparently the average watch time for Fully Charged episodes is 6 minutes 49 seconds. YouTube tell me that's very good!" Sadly, it seems unlikely that Car Pool will make a return any time soon - not least thanks to the popularity of a certain US-based singing series featuring James Corden, which Robert mentions with playful bitterness. "To be fair, if I could have got Michelle Obama on Car Pool, we probably would have done some more!"

Does he have any regrets? While it ultimately worked out okay, the fact that he nearly said no to doing something Red Dwarf is something he'd "like to go and beat up my past self for!" There's an intriguing answer to a question about storylines that never happened: "There was talk of an episode where Kryten had to raise a baby droid!" He also admits that the episode he wrote, Beyond a Joke, was "an entire episode built around the fact that I knew a bloke who had a tank!"

A couple of showbiz anecdotes - one involving getting excited on a red carpet by photographers shouting "Robert!" before realising that My Family star Robert Lindsay was standing behind him, and one involving meeting Helena Bonham Carter during filming of Series VII wearing only his Kryten mask and a pair of underpants - and then it's time for Robert make way for the next panel.

Lucie Pohl and Suanne Braun are our first Series XI guests, and as such are DJ debutants - but as both have plenty of experience in front of audiences (Lucie as a gigging standup and Suanne as a stage actress) it doesn't take them long to settle in. Lucie - as a German-born American - talks of discovering Red Dwarf for the first time only when being asked to audition, and only realising it was a big deal when asking her Scottish boyfriend if he'd heard of it.

Suanne, meanwhile, has experience working elsewhere in sci-fi - on Stargate: SG1 and Starhyke - and talks fondly of how the enthusiasm of fans like those gathered in the hall are exactly what makes these shows what they are. She also wonders if her repeated casting in sci-fi series is indicative that people "think I look like an alien!"

There's some fun chat about accents - South African Suanne poking gentle fun at how people perceive her own native voice, while Lucie confesses to not being able to understand Northerners. The comedian also shares her favourite ever response to a heckle; one that, unfortunately, we can't repeat here due to the language used, but rest assured it's a belter...

In learning about both guests' previous careers, we discover that Lucie can't decide whether appearing in a UTI advert was her finest hour or biggest regret; and the surprising revelation that Suanne was down to the last two for the lead role in the movie Evita, losing out to some little-known singer or other...

And before we realise it, it's time for lunch - and the guests are ushered off the stage to take part in the weekend's first Coffee Lounge session. Now an established Dimension Jump tradition, these additional sessions are a great opportunity for those hardy souls who were up early enough to queue for the very limited tickets on offer to get to spend a while sitting around having a chat and a hot beverage with the weekend's guests. It's a lovely, relaxed atmosphere as the guests rotate from table to table, sharing further anecdotes from their careers and patiently answering questions.

As ever, Saturday afternoon is given over to the first of two mammoth autograph sessions. But before the signing session can start, we have to wait for one more guest to arrive: Chris Barrie won't be available to sign on Sunday, so although he's yet to appear on stage, he makes his debut in the signing room. Or he will, as soon as he gets out of a traffic jam...

While the start of the session is delayed - and will hence cause a bit of a knock-on effect to the evening festivities to boot - there's still plenty else to occupy attendees while they wait for their Crew Member numbers to be called. The Dimension Jump Olympics have been happening since before some of this year's participants were even born - but 2017 might be one of their most popular years ever, with large queues forming for a go on events such as Cat Golf, Bullet Drop and Junior Angler.

But as the games wind down, and the guests' pen-signing hands scribble their last, it's finally time to move on into Saturday night...