Dimension Jump XVI

by Rich Lawden

Friday Night

If, like your correspondent, you'd been in stasis since the last convention, you could be forgiven for thinking this was Day Four of Dimension Jump XV. At first glance, almost nothing has changed. Inside one of the Birmingham Holiday Inn's cargo bay-sized conference rooms, beneath that undeniably funky mood lighting, the big screen is back where it belongs beside the main stage, with a humungous new retractable screen now also built into the rafters.

With everyone comfy in their seats and mingling away, the Fan Club Team arrives from backstage to eager and hearty applause. Fan Club President James Bull struts his funky stuff in one of the eagerly-awaited, Cesar-produced, Cat fancy dress costumes, while Caz and Sharon also wow the crowd with the eerily-accurate Lister and Rimmer garbs respectively.

Nanoseconds later, and it's already time for the Red Dwarf Quiz. A much-loved mainstay of DJ, alliances are quickly formed between bustling tables of trivia-hungry attendees, resulting in the formation of some truly formidable teams coming together to battle for the coveted title of Top Smegger.

Natural-born quizmaster Hattie Hayridge takes to the stage. "Welcome to Dimension Jump XVI!" she says somewhat incredulously, almost in awe of the ever-increasing Roman numeral. "How many DJ virgins do we have here tonight?" she asks to quite a significant show of hands. "...And who's never been before?" And with that, the first woofer of the night, we know we're off.

Hattie rattles off fifty taxing questions specifically designed to shake even the most ardent Dwarfer's confidence. While our barely-legible answers are tallied backstage, Hattie swiftly returns for her Q&A. As is customary at such events, she opens by asking if anyone has the first question, but warns, "I can't answer any personal problems".

"Were you aware of Red Dwarf's fandom before you joined the cast?" someone enquires. "No." she replies simply. "It all started when I was on Friday Night Live, and they sent me the script for Parallel Universe. I was a child in those days." Shortly after this early TV appearance, a reviewer for Time Out magazine described her as being "like a female Norman Lovett" and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her chosen profession not exactly a lifelong ambition, Hattie tells of how she originally began her career as a secretary, but ended up going to university in the hopes of breaking into the heady world of international relations.

"I didn't exactly have a five-year plan", she admits with a slightly world-weary smile. Her only advice to anyone thinking of persuing a career like hers is, "Find another one!"

When was the last time she saw Norman Lovett? "A couple of months ago", she smiles. "We had coffee together. Because he's over 60, he gets to travel free, which is good for when we go touring! I try to make our entrances a bit more showbizzy, but he just says, "Nah, let's just walk on"..."

And with that, Hattie introduces our next, not-so mystery speaker as "Someone who can answer all your technical Red Dwarf questions..."

It's encouraging to know that in the highly competitive world of showbiz, someone with enough drive and determination can become part of what they have enjoyed and supported for so long. With that in mind, writer, Red Dwarf associate producer and general ziggurat-ascender Andrew Ellard steps forth for his very own Q&A.

"Hello! This is my... fourteenth Dimension Jump. First one was 1993." And with perfect timing, a photo of Andrew's costume competition entry from that very year appears on the big screen to laughs and even a few 'Awws'.

Perpetually restrained from giving details on the Red Dwarf movie script, Andrew offers a general overview. "I don't know if any of you read Marvel comics, but it's like how Ultimate Spider-Man is to regular Spider-Man - a kind of compacted, complete type of story that was really fresh with so much good stuff in it. I think a graphic novel or something like that would be good to see."

The enquiry, "What's the funniest language Red Dwarf has been dubbed in?" will surely go down as being quite possibly one of the most singular questions in DJ history. While Andrew can't quite admit to finding a particular voiceover accent comedic as such, he does admit to finding the Polish dubbing system - in which just a single voice actor re-records every character, as opposed to hiring different speakers for each voice - a particularly interesting choice.

To help confirm this urban showbiz legend, wouldn't you know it, the very next question comes from a Polish Red Dwarf fan who we're sure made the long trip just to verify Andrew's extraordinary claim. And they say only Backwards Universes make any real sense...

And that, aside from the reading of a spam email in an uncanny Norman Lovett voice (you had to be there) was that.

With the results of the quiz now in, Hattie returns to reveal the answers that have eluded us for so long. Cheers and groans signal both delight and disappointment from the teams as she encourages us to shout out the answers in sequence - with the most vitriolic response being that of Duane Dibbley's full, uninterrupted shopping list from Emohawk: Polymorph II - ending, of course, with that famous line, "...AND ONE TRIPLE THICK CONDOM!"

Before she makes tracks, Hattie thanks the crowd for getting the question about her right, and leaves us with the following sage words of advice: "Now, let's get completely pissed and sing karaoke all night!"

Some things in life you just can't separate. Rock and roll. Curry and lager. Chaz and Dave. And now Karaoke Night and DJ. This year, everything from The Darkness to the Weathergirls tested the mettle of us wannabe warbling DJ attendees. Our eardrums barely made it through.

With morale now at an all-time high, it was time for a quick deep sleep before we embarked on the longest and arguably most sober day (evening not included) of the entire weekend, almost universally described by attendees as... Saturday.

Midnight Snack: Sugar puff sandwiches.