Location, Location, Locations

A history of Red Dwarf going out and about

Considering that Red Dwarf is set three million years into deep space, it turns out that an awful lot of it has actually managed to make use of humble, everyday locations here on planet Earth. From Welsh quarries to bustling Northern city streets, fields behind the studios to RAF bases, and crumbling hotels to modern department stores, the show has been up and down the UK over the past three decades in the quest to bring all manner of interstellar planets, artificial realities and historical settings to life.

With the first series taking place entirely on the confines of Red Dwarf itself, however, it would take a little while before the show was able to cast out beyond the walls of the BBC Manchester studios. In future years, external locations could be a fertile hunting ground for suitable ship interiors - particularly the Dwarf's grimy underbelly - but for Series I, the furthest the show made it outside the studio was in the occasional shot of a lighting gantry.

For Series II, however, the interior sets were already extant, so the budget was finally able to allow for some exterior filming. In the proud tradition established by Doctor Who and various other UK sci-fi productions, a quarry in North Wales proved a suitable base for the habitable moon that played host to Thanks for the Memory's "Deathday" party - but a much more tropical location was required for the paradise surroundings of Better than Life. As such, the crew duly packed their bags and headed for... North Wales.

Yes, it was a beach in Rhyl that infamously played host to the outdoor scenes of BTL - perhaps not quite the Caribbean paradise that Rob and Doug may have had in mind when writing the episode. Post-production techniques were required to lighten up the sky from its characteristic grey, while another outdoor sequence was left on the cutting room floor entirely due to the inability to hide just how cold and shivering Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules were!

For indoor scenes, meanwhile, Sacha's hotel in central Manchester was the location for the distinctive BTL restaurant - fans may wish to note that the interior décor of the bar used hasn't actually changed all that much since 1988! - while the same city's rather grander Midland hotel doubled as the Ganymede Holiday Inn.

Series III opened with an episode set almost entirely outside of Red Dwarf, and Backwards' contemporary Earth setting allowed for the most extensive location filming yet. The streets around the BBC Oxford Road studios in Manchester were used for establishing shots of the gang's arrival, while the lake into which Starbug crashed was in Tatton Park, near Knutsford.

For the first time, an external location was also used to double for interior shots of Red Dwarf - Padiham Power Station, in east Lancashire, is perhaps most obviously visible during Bodyswap. Meanwhile, the alternate timeline Lister's "Xanadu" mansion in Timeslides was Lyme Park, later made famous as the location of Mr Darcy's estate of Pemberley in the BBC Pride & Prejudice adaptation.

In Series IV, the show made its first visit to an oft-used location, with the Kempton Park pumping station, near Sunbury, doubling as the titular space station in Justice. It would then be used for extensive scenes in not one, but two episodes of Series V: Quarantine and The Inquisitor. Closer to the show's new studio home of Shepperton, meanwhile, a field over the back of the studios served as the base for the outdoor scenes of Meltdown - with the location's proximity to Heathrow Airport causing distinct noise issues throughout filming!

Shepperton also served as a handy base for exterior scenes the following year in both Emohawk and Rimmerworld, while the show returned to filming in quarries for a scene in Psirens. But one of the most memorable location jaunts in Red Dwarf's history also came in Series VI, with the trip to the Wild West recreation town of Laredo in Kent giving an unmatchable backdrop for Gunmen of the Apocalypse.

Laredo has at least survived to this day, which is more than can be said for Marco Polo House - once the headquarters of British Satellite Broadcasting and then shopping channel QVC, the distinctive postmodernist office building served as the interior of Legion's space station, but was demolished in 2014.

For Series VII, RAF bases were the order of the day, with Northolt serving as the home of the alternate universe Ace Rimmer scenes at the beginning of Stoke Me A Clipper, and the roads at Farnborough allowing for a brilliant and eerie recreation of 1960s Dallas in Tikka to Ride. Just down the road from the latter base, meanwhile, Hawley Lake played host to Pride & Prejudice World in Beyond a Joke - with the resulting gazebo explosion causing consternation even in an area noted for military training!

Series VIII once again saw the crew confined indoors for practically an entire series, although the cavernous setting of the Tank prison complex did require an external location to pull off - the Gallions Reach area of London's Docklands duly provided, as did an aircraft hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire to house the T-Rex scenes.

When it came to making Back to Earth in 2009, the opposite problem from that usually faced by the show was in play. Rather than having to make use of interior sets as much as possible, there was only one ship interior - the main bunkroom - to use. Just about everything else required by the episode, aside from the odd bit of CGI greenscreen, would need to be found elsewhere.

Of course, the plot of the special meant that this was less of an issue than it might otherwise have been - so with the Dwarfers seemingly finding themselves on twenty-first century Earth, they were free to once again tramp contemporary streets, just as they had twenty years earlier. A department store in Kingston was redressed as "Price Smashers", while in nearby Richmond a famed comic shop appeared under its then name of They Walk Among Us (it's now known as Raygun and, name aside, looks largely the same if you want to visit!)

There was, of course, also the tabloid-pleasing visit to the cobbled set of Coronation Street, back up in Red Dwarf's spiritual home of Manchester; while in the show's current home, extensive use was made of the Shepperton studio lot, with the bus stop used in Part Two an actual stop used by film crew.

With a whole new batch of sets to be built for Series X, the show once again found itself in a position where there was little room for exterior filming - although Lemons did at least make a trip out to the same patch of Shepperton woodland that had featured in Rimmerworld a couple of decades previously. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking that there was an exterior element to the Indian market scenes - however, it was all done in-studio!

The combined production run of Series XI and XII, however, did allow for location work to be spread across both series. There was a welcome return trip to Sunbury, with the trusty pump house appearing in Siliconia; while the fantastic surroundings - all dials, switches and pipes - of Fawley Power Station, near Southampton, gave various scenes in Give & Take a striking backdrop.

Red Dwarf's unique aesthetic - a sci-fi future that's nevertheless rooted in twentieth and early twenty-first century technology and look and feel - means that despite its way-out-there setting, location filming has always been an integral part of the show's production. So next time you're walking around the streets of Manchester, Rhyl or Richmond, stop and look around - you might just be on the Red Dwarf Posse's turf...

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