Commentary Collaboration

V and VI Begin - by Andrew Ellard

20 February, 2004

On an auspicious morning - Tuesday, February 3rd, coincidentally the date of the Series III and IV release in the USA - the cast gathered once more to kick off the new DVD production run with their Series V commentary recording.

Commentary Collaboration

Despite being short a decidedly under-the-weather Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge were poised and raring to go. All the usual sillyness was present and accounted for - Chris could be heard asking, "Where is Hattie of the Hayridgity?" - and Danny was keen to discuss Peter Wragg's enthusiasm for wetsuits when on location: "He couldn't wait to get snorkelled up!"

But how was the chemistry going to be affected when one key player is tucked up with a bottle of Night Nurse? The answer surprised us all. The Red Dwarf V commentary has a different feel to the last two - but that, I think, is going to prove to be part of its charm. Without the presence of one of the more dominant personalities, the others emerged with a new and different energy. The vibe is different, but just as compelling. Plus, of course, everyone had a go at impersonating Craig in his absence...

Commentary Collaboration

The session itself threw up the usual mix of interesting trivia and Mickey-taking. During filming on The Inquisitor, for example, Danny was suffering from an abscess in his mouth that caused swelling and forced them to favour the left side of his face to the camera. Hattie had him sussed, though: "Abscess? I thought it was absinthe!"

With six episodes-worth recorded, there was time for a quick photo shoot. Hunched over the sound engineer's console, Danny burst into Bohemian Rhapsody-style song: "I'm just a pony boy leaning on a sound desk..." ('Pony', it seems, is the negative-word du jour, no doubt in tribute to how often the writers used it back in 1991 when Series V was recorded, and Danny is determined to make maximum use of it.)

Which brings us to the fan commentary. Four competition winners were brought to the studio to record their thoughts about Back to Reality. In no particular order they were: Aussie cop Jason Mercer, beardy ISP manager Simon Wigg, student teacher Claire Thompson and former BTL illustrator Ruth Latchford.

Commentary Collaboration

Grimacing their way through a quick photoshoot, the guys chatted to the cast before filing into the booth. Following a quick introduction, they were away. Really fast. One smegging take. These guys could teach our lot a thing or two! (As could visual effects genius Mike Tucker, who popped in to record a special voiceover for his Series V behind the scenes footage. Anyone who saw this stuff at Dimension Jump will know how exciting it is, and how chuffed we are to be able to feature it on the DVD.)

Commentary Collaboration

A week later, we reconvened for Series VI. With Craig Charles back on form, and wearing a probably-cutting-edge hat-cum-tea-cosy, we were back to a full crew - though there was a touch of sadness as we lost Hattie all over again. Bagels, bacon sarnies and coffee kept energy levels up - though they mostly fuelled debate over the result for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Commentary Collaboration

Back in the fish-bowl, Chris was having headphone trouble. "I can't hear the episode," he complained - until somebody pointed out that the cans were a spare set that had never been plugged in. This explained a lot for Mr Barrie, "I've been using these for five series!"

Perhaps spurred on by the way his day was going, Chris's comments became the highlight of the final episode commentary for Out of Time - trying to assess how many lines he had that were funny rather than just exposition or feed-lines. The count did not go well. Having waited a while for a good Rimmer line to finally arrive, his character on-screen was soon demoted to setting up other characters again: "Oh, back to Freddy Feed!"

Commentary Collaboration

Another day, another fan commentary. This time Gunmen of the Apocalypse fell under the scrutiny of the wonderfully-named Cleo Peacock, cowgirl-in-waiting Mandi Neary, the far-too-good-looking Keir Shiels and honorary webboard daddy Steve "Captain Darling" Harris.

This was another slam-dunk - no re-takes, no removals for libel. I'd like to think this was down to excellent hosting on my part, but of course it wasn't. These guys were prepared - hell, Steve Harris had a set of notes on index cards! Puts my scribbled-on-the-back-of-an-envelope introduction to shame, doesn't it?

Commentary Collaboration

Finally, we have to give a special mention to Steve Rogers, the former Fan Club chairman who dragged himself in two weeks running to sit on the sidelines as substitute. As an extra thank-you for his support Steve was invited to contribute to an Easter Egg that will feature on Series V. But that's all we're saying.

With Craig lined up for a recording session later in the year - which is being developed into something extra-special and currently top-secret - this is the start of two brand new and spectacular productions...

Commentary Collaboration

This is the first instalment of reddwarf.co.uk's production diary for Series V and VI from the perspective of the DVD Associate Producer. Between now and the release, you can expect a series of pieces detailing every aspect of production. Stay logged on!

DVD Details diaries for Series I & II and Series III & IV are still available here.

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