Dimension Jump IX

Saturday Celebs

Mac McDonald took to the stage bright and early to face the questions of a demanding audience - as well as provide a photo opportunity for his delightful backside. Early on he gave his gave his opinion of the idiotic Rimmer salute. "The one in series eight was brilliant. It was like a leaf falling." How did he keep a straight face during that scene? "I didn't!"

What about that one-fingered pile-cream glove prop, what happened to that? "I'm sitting on it right now. No, I did ask for it. I think it was appropriated by someone for their own use. It'd be good for cake decorating, don't you think?"

So how did Chris and Craig perform the time-delayed fight? "They were killed. Didn't anybody tell you?" This was swiftly followed by a demonstration of a 'movie punch', featuring a petrified volunteer. "It will look as if I'm hitting you," Mac proclaimed, then added to his victim in a whisper: "I am going to hit you." Needless to say, no fans were hurt in the making of this convention. But a few had hangovers...

Regaling the crowd with Tales From the Human Jukebox, Mac told of his chance to sing with Dolly Parton. But, despite hundreds of reporters snapping away, he never asked for a copy of the picture. "That's the only regret of my life. That and Mary-Lou in '63..." he added with a smirk.

Has he been to any conventions aside from the one in the UK? "I went to the last one, on Pluto. It was really 'uzn-zeep-tvee' as they say there." Then an interruption - Mac's mobile phone. "Oh, you're the person who called last year! You're imaginary? It'll get a big laugh? It's not working..."

Mac was joined by Lee Cornes, who took yet more questions. Lee complained about people who come up to him with comments like, "I'd like to be an actor, but I can't learn lines." He suggested they try mime. Lee's own physical prowess was best described in a fairly bloody anecdote from his Dr Who appearance. It turns out he had been a casting replacement for dancer Wayne Sleep!

Lee went on to discuss his writing on the new Mr Bean animated series, as well as demonstrating how a Brummie accent can change into South African-Jewish during the course of an audition. And who would he love to work with? "Max Wall. But he's dead, so that'd be a bit of a problem."

Following an apologetic email message from Hattie Hayridge, the crowd parted - pretty far, as it goes - to make way for the imposing figure of Graham McTavish, 'Nicey' Ackerman himself. "Yes, he finally made it!" went the introduction, referring to Graham's non-appearance last year, having got the wrong weekend.

"I was very, very, very embarrassed," he explained. "Mortified. I kicked myself for about a day and a half." Graham, it transpires, was set to be a pilot before he became an actor. But is there anything more that can be done with Ackerman? "The possibilities are endless, because he's so strange..."

Expressing an interest in seeing Ackerman piloting a spaceship, it became a question of design: "What would his craft be? And how would he kit it out? What would be the soft furnishings...? He probably has a large collection of helmets from World War Two."

Graham's favourite scene was, it turns out, one that was never filmed for the section of Pete where the crew are seen frozen in time. "Craig came up with it. I was going to be seen in the Batman costume having sex with the science officer's wife - dressed as Wonder Woman. I don't think they could clear the copyright on the costumes."

Is he enjoying the celebrity status that Red Dwarf brings? "I always thought I'd be very cool if I got recognised. I was walking past a tube station, past some lads. They pointed and said 'It's Ackerman!'...and I ran away!"

After a packed morning, it was time to welcome Mr Chris Barrie onto the stage. Finding a fake carrot waiting on the table, he looked up, "What the hell's this?!" Thankfully, he wasn't told its significance until later.

Following confirmation that - to the chagrin of the female populous - Chris is still happily married (and that he has a second member of the Barrie clan on the way), and an impression masterclass in Kenneth Williams, Tony Blair and Bob Geldof, Chris moved on to more burning issues. Such as what it was like working on Tomb Raider with... Noah Taylor?

"Usually people ask what it was like meeting Angelina Jolie! Noah Taylor's a top actor. He said an important thing. 'I'd rather be an actor who does small parts in lots of things [than the star] - you can sit outside, read your book and enjoy the sunshine."

Would Chris like Rimmer to have a friend? "I'm sure he has got a friend... the skutters?" Of course, there's always Mr Flibble! The celebrity penguin popped up, on request, at the back of the room and took his bows. "All right, Flibble, don't milk it," snorted Mr Barrie.

Did Chris enjoy kissing Craig in Blue? "I think like any sexual act..." he paused for the laughter, "the build-up is more than the actual moment. Craig will be upset that I found his kiss an anti-climax. That moment between lip impact and tongue release - although it was only 15 seconds - felt like 3 hours." Chris also described the portraying Ace as, "a big release after playing weasel-y Rimmer." Although he did admit that, "He's been the central spine of my career."

Back to getting rude with Craig - the nude scenes in Pete. Doing an outstanding Doug Naylor impersonation, Chris described the writer's approach: "'It's gonna be tasteful nudity.' Craig and I were thinking, 'What's tasteful nudity?' Is this fully nude? 'Fully nude, yeah - but tasteful.'"

Then came the impolitic 'Out of all the Red Dwarf cast, are you the richest?' "With Brittas and Rimmer both on for the better part of seven or eight years, people must have thought I was raking it in. But they were on the BBC!"

Finally, does he ever check out the fan sites on the internet? "The words 'get a life' come to mind... But, no, enthusiasm for something can only be a good thing. I take a look at the official site, of course, see what's going on... then call my agent."

On to the autograph sessions, with Chloë joining Chris, Lee, Mac and Graham meeting the fans one-one-one. It was a chance, too, for Mr Flibble to press the flesh in his penguin way - and even sign the odd autograph himself.

For the second day running, Mr Flibble was very happy! And we hadn't even started the disco and costume competition yet.