2016 - The Year In Dwarf
Our run through the year that brought us Red Dwarf XI.
30 December, 2016
Only eleven years out of the last twenty-nine have seen brand new Red Dwarf episodes hit TV screens - so while there might have been some less-than-joyous things going on in the world in 2016, this was at least one positive we were able to cling on to.
What's more, this was the year in which the next series of the show was filmed, at the same time as post-production on the six episodes of XI was getting under way. Suffice to say, there hasn't been a month this year in which there hasn't been something going on on the Red Dwarf front - so let's have a run through everything of note (and there was a lot) that happened in 2016...
The opening month of the year was a relatively quiet one, as the much-needed Christmas break that followed the filming of Series XI extended into January. It wasn't until the last ten days of the month that the production wheels actually started up again in earnest - although the unique nature of the back-to-back production meant that at this stage, the eleventh series was still very much in the works, with additional and replacement scenes for Twentica and Can of Worms particularly notable among the pickups that were filmed on the slightly revised Series XII sets.
By the last Friday of the month, however, we were back into the live audience groove, with the first episode of Series XII going before cameras on Friday 29th!
Traditionally a festive month for Red Dwarf, as it brings with it the show's anniversary (28th in 2016). We celebrated with a Smegging Difficult Screenshots Quiz, which remains one of the most popular and fiendish pieces of trivia we've ever unleashed onto the internet. If you managed to get above 15 on it - well done, you are phenomenally nerdy.
This month also saw tidbits from the ongoing recording start to appear on Twitter. As the first series to be shot with social media really at its height in terms of sharing images - things weren't quite at the same level back in 2011 and 2012 - Twitter became a great outlet for releasing little bits and pieces to whet the appetite, in advance of the proper publicity cycle later in the year.
With the main production block ending in the first quarter of the year, things quietened down once more in March. But while we waited for Series XI, there was just time for Series X to get one last hurrah in the shape of a special limited edition Blu-ray steelbook re-release.
We also checked in with an utterly fantastic Red Dwarf LEGO project we had seen floating around the internet - it would be the first, but certainly not the last, time 2016 would see us cross paths with the popular Danish brick franchise...
To celebrate 1st April falling on a Friday this year, we elected against actually publishing some kind of false joke - we thought it'd be a bit unfair, with a series in production, to give any false impressions! - but instead we looked back at Red Dwarf's history of pranks, japes and false realities. Also in April, the cast were busy elsewhere - Robert Llewellyn launched a Patreon crowdfunding service for his Fully Charged webseries, and Craig Charles got a new Saturday night radio show on BBC Radio 2, in addition to his long-running 6music show.
And this was also the month that the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club announced the details of their next convention - Dimension Jump XIX, which will take place in Nottingham in April 2017. And, er, which has recently completely sold out, so we can safely say it's going to be a biggie.
If there was one thing that fandom was crying out to see from Series XI as post-production went on, it was a glimpse of our beloved green transport craft. So we were delighted to oblige in May, with the first photo of a (characteristically crashed) Starbug model! Those of you who've looked back at the picture in retrospect since the series aired will hopefully have been able to spot that the photo was taken during filming of the desert crash sequence in Twentica.
After the success of the Smegging Difficult Screenshot Quiz, we followed it up in May with a Smegging Difficult Quotes Quiz. It wasn't quite as difficult as the first one, but you can still give yourself a big pat on the back if you got fewer than five wrong.
The halfway point of the year was starting to feel a bit quiet - although we did bring you news of Robert and Hattie attending Dimension Jump, as well as Robert launching another Unbound crowdfunding campaign for his latest novel.
But at the end of June, we turned that feeling on its head, by bringing you the first official synopsis for Series XI. Five of the six episodes were represented in the synopsis, with only Samsara remaining mysteriously under wraps at the time.
We'd kept you waiting long enough - so in July, after a series of gradual social media reveals, we announced that the first episode of Series XI would be called Twentica - and better than that, we put out not one, but two first-look publicity photos of the cast!
(In fact, we actually put out three - the eagle-eyed may have spotted that the main crew picture changed slightly after its initial release, with a different version of Kryten substituted in to better reflect how he looked onscreen!)
LEGO made a return to these pages in July, with news of several fan-created "Ideas" sets, each seeking to reach a supporter target in order to potentially be produced as actual physical sets. As it would happen, later in the year one of them would actually achieve this goal - although of course, the road to production is still a long one, so we can't guarantee that it will ever see the light of day! It would certainly be nice, though...
We were also pleased to see our reddwarf.co.uk alumnus Andrew Ellard with a new comedy project this month, with his online comedy shorts Outsiders. Unfortunately, a hoped-for full series featuring the characters didn't ultimately materialise - but we're still hoping we can see more of them at some point in the future.
As the last month before the show aired, it was no surprise that August would see a flurry of Series XI-related activity. In successive weeks we announced the titles of the episodes, their broadcast dates, a massive new gallery of pictures, and - finally - the first trailer for the series, which aired during a repeat marathon on Dave on Saturday 27th August.
September 2016 will probably go down as one of the most significant months in the history of Red Dwarf. An event that fans had been chomping at the bit for for several years, which saw us go through months of back-breaking toil and creative endeavour, finally happened - yes, reddwarf.co.uk got a visual overhaul and revamp.
Oh, and Series XI premiered on Dave. That was quite big news too, we guess.
To celebrate the online-first launch of Twentica on 15th September - which we cleverly timed the site relaunch to coincide with - there was a brand new range of merchandise (the first in over a decade), and the first ever Official Red Dwarf Game for iOS and Android (a game that's still having new updates put out as we speak!).
The launch of Series XI also saw Red Dwarf get our first full-scale SFX magazine cover this century - and in fact, there were not one, not two, but five different variants (including the exclusive subscriber-only cover). Did you manage to catch them all?
And just in case there wasn't enough going on around this time, Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor was honoured by the venerable Starburst Magazine, being inducted into their Hall of Fame at their annual awards ceremony. Which was rather lovely.
A week after its online debut, meanwhile, Red Dwarf XI's opening episode aired on Dave proper, attracting consolidated viewing figures of almost 1.4million viewers, making it the most watched programme on the non "Big Five" channels for the entire week. It's safe to say: Red Dwarf has still very much got it.
The excitement of the Series XI launch continued through to October, what with six episodes to get through and all. We rounded up some of the fan and press reactions to the series, including a lovely message from the original series' lighting director John Pomphrey. And we revealed the cover art for the DVD and Blu-ray release, including that excellent and shelf-matching reversible DVD sleeve.
October was also the month that a classic piece of Red Dwarf lore made new headlines: one eagle-eared viewer on the forum of a popular Dwarf fansite noticed that the Series III-onwards opening instrumental music had a bonus hidden message - that is, a vocoded Howard Goodall singing the words "Red Dwarf". Nearly thirty years on, it turns out that the classic era of the show can still surprise us.
Almost as exciting as the release of new episodes on TV is their subsequent availability on DVD and Blu-ray with a whole host of extras, and that's what happened in November. We'll gloss over the unfortunate printing error that led to a sneak preview of what some of the Series XII episodes might (but equally, might not) be called; and otherwise take joy in the fact that some fifteen years after Red Dwarf started to be released on DVD, we still have new disc releases to get excited about.
This month, we also learned the surprise news that Red Dwarf would be featured in the hugely popular video game series LEGO Dimensions. A fantastically faithful rendition of the Series XI bunkroom, corridors and science/medical room in digital plastic bricks could be found if you bought the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them add-on - along with the already-iconic Snacky and a couple of skutters, to boot.
And as if that wasn't enough, Howard Goodall released four special compilation albums, featuring remastered versions of his Red Dwarf soundtrack score, going all the way back to the very first series!
Naturally, things would wind down a bit in the last month of year, but we still found the time to give you some new merchandise designs - including a Christmas jumper and several more Series XI-specific items. Keep your eye on the shop in 2017, as we hope to bring you much more in the way of exciting new goodies.
And because these things always become out of date after a few months, we gave you a roundup of all the ways you can find Red Dwarf to stream or download at the moment. We're nice like that.
And that just about brings us to the end of 2016! It's been an utterly Smegtacular year, and we're looking forward to bringing you more of the same in 2017 - from Dimension Jump XIX to Red Dwarf XII, and everything else inbetween. Once again, thank you for all of your support and the love you've shown for the series this year - you really are a unique fandom that has kept this show alive for nearly thirty years.
Have a very happy new year, from everyone at Red Dwarf and Grant Naylor Productions!