Dimension Jump XIX

by Seb Patrick


Bleary eyes may be a standard feature of the Dimension Jump Sunday morning, but they're quickly banished the moment a member of the cast takes to the stage. And when that cast member is Danny John-Jules, there really isn't anything else to do but sit and listen.

Quite literally, as it happens - despite being on stage for around an hour, Danny only actually needs to take four questions from the audience. And they're not even all about Red Dwarf. Instead, we're treated to what's practically a stand-up set, as Danny ruminates on his career and interests.

"Would you do Strictly Come Dancing?" he's asked. "I wouldn't want to embarrass anyone!" is the quick reply, before a slightly longer and more in-depth answer pertaining to Danny's opinion of the BBC show's judges, and their qualifications to be commenting on the dancing of others. He also wouldn't want to play James Bond - "He's a twat!" - although he does recall with amusement appearing in a stage play with Daniel Craig, Dougray Scott and Andy Serkis in the early 1990s: "And I was the one who was off the telly!"

The mention of Bond also leads him on to an explanation of the real-life figure who inspired the name of Goldfinger, and who was most famous for designing London's Trellick Tower - which just so happens to be Danny's old stomping ground. "My mum still lives in there! My mum's house is a Grade II listed building!"

Veering around showbiz, Danny begins an animated assertion that he's linked to just about anybody the audience can name via "six degrees of separation". Names are thrown out in this entertaining remix of the Kevin Bacon Game, and a combination of the man himself, and some enterprising Googlers behind the mixing desk, manage to find an answer for such diverse names as Madonna, John Cleese, Boutros Boutros Ghali and Max Shreck. Even Neil Armstrong doesn't defeat him, drawing the simple response: "Spaced out!"

A lengthy discussion of the provenance of his famous pink motorbike - chosen deliberately as an updated model of the famous Yamaha Thundercat - takes care of almost all the remaining allotted running time - although not before Danny spots a familiar face in the front row, and recounts how the same fan was a special guest of his at the recording of Give and Take, but he only remembered after filming that she was a kidney dialysis patient...

With Danny's time up, it's on to our first double-act of the day. On the surface, the pairing of Hattie Hayridge and Stephen Critchlow might seem unusual - but it turns out the two have actually known each other for years, having first met on a staff training video recorded for Sony. "I was a bad customer!" Hattie declares gleefully.

Stephen's debut Dimension Jump performance shares a few things in common with that of Lucie and Suanne the previous day - not least when he too gets into some discussion about accents, given his role as a prolific radio and voiceover actor. And like his fellow Series XI guests, Stephen is absolutely delighted to be a part of Red Dwarf - a fan of the show himself, he's hugely grateful to the audience for the receptive welcome they've given him. Not for the first time, the words "Red Dwarf wouldn't be anywhere without you, the fans!" are spoken, to rapturous applause.

If Stephen has one regret from his time on Red Dwarf, though, it's that he didn't get to keep his Captain Herring face mask. "I wanted to use it on a bank job!" He's also pleased when Hattie suggests that in future years, Herring might be a subject for the costume competition. "All my life I've wanted an action figure!" he wistfully says.

With the Q&A over, Hattie has one more task before she can leave the stage - overseeing the weekend's second auction, alongside Danny. Yet more in the way of rare t-shirts, posters, books and other merch are up for grabs - along with a couple of very special items from the weekend itself. The UKTV promotional standee - complete with cut-out Lister and Rimmer faces - that's been entertaining convention-goers in the hallway all weekend prompts a frantic bidding war, as does the traditional selling off of the signed-by-all-the-guests DJ banner.

So with significant amounts of dosh raised for charity - especially once a vinyl copy of Tongue Tied goes for an eye-watering £275 - it's time for the keenly-anticipated Rimmer Brothers Reunion Qamp;A, with Chris Barrie and Mark Dexter. And it does not disappoint.

"What time did you get to bed last night?" is the first question, although it's tactfully batted away in favour of the next, in which Chris is asked where things are up to with a potential Brittas Empire revival. "Now that we're actually back doing Red Dwarf," he says, "the thing I get asked about most at conventions is Brittas!" Unfortunately, he says, development stalled on the version that was in progress a little while back, and at the moment he's not certain if it will start up again.

It's customary for Chris to be asked about impressions whenever he's up on stage, and the question is raised of whether he's added any more contemporary voices to his repertoire. Admitting that the field of politics isn't as ripe for caricature as it was back in his Spitting Image heyday, he does however treat everyone to a burst of Boris Johnson.

The first question of the session to relate to Red Dwarf finally arrives in the shape of one audience member asking why it is that Howard, despite being Arnold's older brother, "looks so much younger?" "Careful how you answer this!" Chris warns his colleague - but Mark is canny in his response. "I think that's one for Doug [Naylor] to answer!"

There's a similarly enjoyable piece of back-and-forth when Chris is asked the old "favourite episode" chestnut. "Well, actually, I think Trojan was one of my favourite ever experiences on the show!" The sentence is barely complete before Mark has pulled out a £20 note from his wallet and handed it over to Chris. "... I really think I did some great work on it," he finishes - only to see the cash whipped back away again.

Discussing his initial reaction to being cast in the role, Mark confesses to being surprised that he was picked out as a possible Rimmer brother. "I didn't realise I resembled Rimmer so much!" As Chris points out in reference to Mark's other famous role as David Cameron, however, it seems that Mark has "cornered the market in resembling cowardly gits!" It's at this stage that Mark finally, in his third onstage appearance of the weekend, gets to utter a certain famous T-word line from his episode...

Mark explains ruefully that he hasn't actually seen Trojan for a little while, as he lost it from his TiVo box - it's mentioned to him that maybe, just maybe, someone might be able to sort out a DVD copy for him. What's been his greatest joy and biggest regret? "Meeting Chris!" But there are kind words, too, in a novel spin on the old "Are you like the characters?" question. "No," Mark declares of Chris' resemblance to Rimmer. "You actually do some work!"

Finally, the question is put to the pair that, since Chris has now played Arnold and Frank, and Mark has played Howard... who would be the fourth Rimmer brother? Who would play John? Chris is unequivocal in his answer: "Well, obviously, there's only one man to play another Rimmer..." and with his on-screen brother leaning in and fluttering his eyelashes hopefully, he brings the house down with an emphatic "... and that's ME!"

It's a virtuoso double-act performance, delivered entirely off the cuff - you'd think Chris and Mark had been working together for years, rather than meeting for the first time on Trojan and then only encountering each other again this weekend - and seasoned DJ veterans are happy to declare it one of the greatest ever Q&As the convention has seen.

It would be the perfect way to round off the event, but there's still the small matter of an afternoon's worth of autographs to get through - and for those waiting in the main hall for their number to be called, the afternoon entertainment is once again a live stage spin on a popular game show. Where ITV has The Chase, DJXIX has... The Ace.

Four randomly-chosen fans get the opportunity to answer a mixture of Dwarf-related, and Dwarf-themed general knowledge, questions - battling to get enough correct not to be caught by the event's expert Chaser, or "Ace"... who is none other than this website's writer, Seb Patrick. In the interests of fairness, we'll say a very hearty "Well done" to the contestants, all four of whom manage to get through to the final round - despite a couple of very tense moments - and in the final showdown, their resulting four-point head start and a first-question stumble by the Ace on (of all things) the "Smoke/Stoke" catchphrase sees them triumph, with 11 points to the Ace's 8.

And with that, we're just about done. There's just time for the ever-present prize raffle to be drawn, with the winner having successfully navigated a tricky set of QR-code-related puzzles that tie directly into the McGruder narrative - and the Fan Club team are able to take a final bow, before a quick closing video that comes, for the first time, with its own post-credits sting.

It's been a phenomenal weekend, over far too quickly - as these things always are - and with a brilliant sense of inclusiveness and joy spread throughout the nearly-400 attendees. Red Dwarf fandom is in a lively and ever-growing place, with a particularly cross-generational feel to this year's attendance, including several families who've obviously passed the flame down.

And with a twelfth series just around the corner, as everyone makes their way to cars, trams, buses and trains, the hope is that we'll all be back sooner rather than later...