Dimension Jump XVI

by Rich Lawden


Breakfast: Hot lager with croutons.

And so the biggest - certainly longest - day of of DJ had finally begun. And what a day it would turn out to be, too.

Never to be assuaged by the dreaded "Due to unforeseen commitments..." blurb that usually signals the inescapably frustrating absence of an announced guest speaker, thanks to the wonders of Skype the ludicrously busy Robert Llewellyn was able to join us in an experimental, Total Immersion Videogame-inspired web chat.

Not only could the audience see Robert projected at an alarming size on the big screen, but we could also hear what he was saying and he could hear what we were saying and everything! The future, Smeggies, is here.

As Robert opened by apologising profusely for his unavoidable non-attendance, you couldn't help but share his genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the wondrous technology that was making this digitised Q&A possible.

"There's a slight delay. I think this is going to make for one of the more interesting Q&As..." quips the man otherwise known as everyone's favourite, half-chewed, rubber-tipped pencil.

Before long, the first and quite possibly most wide-ranging question ever asked, anywhere ever, is uttered: "What was your favourite thing about playing Kryten?"

Somehow, Robert knows the answer before the question has even been asked: "It was the shower that I had after we recorded. That truly is tantamount to a genuine erotic experience. No, the truth is, working with the cast and crew was just the best fun - we really get on very well. I can never remember another job I've done where I've laughed so much - where I've had to lie down on the floor because I can't breathe. Everyone cracks me up on that show - it's just so much fun to do".

"During your time on Carpool, have you ever got lost before picking up a guest?"

A self-confessed petrol... sorry, hydro-head, Robert chuckles before responding, "Well, the classic, most recent example was for a charity Carpool special for Twit Relief and we were driving and talking for about twenty minutes and I hadn't switched the cameras on."

Robert has now clocked up an impressive 104 episodes of Carpool and is already in the process of making a new series for our favourite digital TV channel, Dave.

Intriguingly, a 'lost' episode of Carpool is said to exist chronicling the travels of the in-costume Kryten, Rimmer and Cat at some point during the busy Back to Earth schedule. Robert tells of inevitable health and safety concerns if he as Kryten were driving, as the mask severely reduces his peripheral vision - not to mention, the shock of other road-users on seeing a square-headed mechanoid driving a car. "There's some really funny stuff like me and Chris sitting in the back arguing about petrol over electric engines. It's a weird one because we're in costume, but not in character. If we did it again in character, then Craig would be driving, which would be quite worrying."

"What was it like playing opposite your lovely wife, Judy Pascoe in Camille?" By the slight look of fear on Bobby's face, he understandably needs to tread very carefully in answering this one. "There's a sequence where I slipped off a gantry and she had to grab me and pull me up. She is extremely strong, and was a gymnast in the circus when I met her."

Almost certainly not what he had originally intended, when Bobby goes 'hands-on' for a demonstration of how his harness and safety rope were fitted for that episode, he inadvertently streams a physical double-entendre all the way from his house that causes the audience to go into meltdown.

When the two second delay finally catches up with him, at last, Robert realises the unintentional duality of his mime and confesses, "There was a certain amount of strap and male tackle confusion there. I was doing a lot of grunting and moaning. The crew had been very sympathetic and understanding - my missus on the other hand: 'Don't make such a fuss and get on with it!' It was just like being at home."

At that point, rather unexpectedly, and with microphone primed, co-star Chris Barrie arrives to gatecrash Robert's Q&A: "Hi, Bobby. How are you, mate? Why the bloody hell can't you get here?"

"Hi, Chris. Oh, I don't want to bore you with the logistical details." replies the fifteen foot-high Mr. Llewellyn on the big screen.

"No, they're suitably bored enough already. I get the picture, you just couldn't be bothered. Was the battery on your electric car flat, or something? Buy diesel. There's a bit left in the world - use it!" Chris teases, before making a discreet exit to wait his proper turn.

On the subject of yet another of his innumerable literary canon, The Man in the Rubber Mask, Robert announces that the publishing rights have now reverted back to him since the book was first released back in 1994, and he now plans to write a follow-up at some point in the near-future. "It all depends on what we do on Red Dwarf. I'm not saying anything." Nicely rescued, sir.

"Do the cast on Red Dwarf play pranks on each other on set?" This evidentially, is something of a thorn in Bobby's side - least of all as when, "the lovely Mr. Charles" asks for his copy of the script whilst he's still in the process of learning and annotating it, then promptly takes it over to the nearest bin and sets fire to it. "He's done that at least four times in every series we've done".

As a fitting end to this highly-enjoyable web chat, the final question concerns how Robert might like the series to finally draw to a close. "I'd quite like it to end somewhere cold, because I'm most comfortable in Kryten's outfit when everyone else is really miserable and freezing - I'm all nice and toasty. So, I'd like them to land in the Antarctic in the middle of winter."

"There are two big TV projects I'm working on this year, neither of which I can confirm or talk about. I've nearly finished my first science fiction book that I'm really proud of. I hope you look out for that in a few months' time. And the other thing, I can't say anything. I know I'm not allowed to say anything."

"I promise to come next year - it's all my fault, I blew it and I'm very sorry, and I'm sure Chris, Craig and Doug will take the piss in the appropriate way which is good because I'm just a guilty, wet liberal apologist."

When Chris Barrie gets up on stage, everybody sits up straight and pays attention. Somehow, the man who brought humanity and pathos to old Alphabet Head exudes a sense of command not entirely dissimilar to another leading role he was born to play, Ace Rimmer - a natural disposition which brings out both attention and respect from everyone present. It's time to listen up, squires, because The Barrie is about to speak.

Speaking in those warm, cottage-fireplace tones, Chris asks, "Good morning, everyone. How are we?"

Somewhere deep in the audience comes the first question, "In Back to Earth, which Rimmer were you playing - original Rimmer brought back, or future Rimmer who left to become Ace?"

"...I couldn't care in the slightest! That's not true. I care deeply about every syllable I utter as Rimmsey, but I didn't spend all day wondering which version it was. Ask Doug tomorrow!"

Naturally, the topic steers towards another of Chris' much-loved characterisations, Gordon Brittas of The Brittas Empire.

"I enjoyed Brittas, but with Red Dwarf, we knew we were making something that was going to last for a long, long time. With Red Dwarf, we'd be at some pumping station in the middle of January, and Doug would be going, 'Yeah, no, yeah, no. Chris, would you mind the water being up to here?" indicating a dangerously high water level just beneath his chin. "Yeah, no. Now, just stand there for an hour..." he as Doug continues, "...while I decide if it's funny."

"Which character do you identify with more - Ace or Arnie?" Chris' posture naturally reconfigures into Ace's, as he suavely responds, "What do you think, baby?" before adding, "So, in other words, am I a complete and utter dork, or a smooth winner who is brilliant at everything? I'll leave it for other people to work out."

"What would you prefer to sit through - twenty-four hours of diesel engines slideshows or twenty-four hours of telegraph poles slides?" "Don't get me wrong. I like telegraph poles." Chris instinctively replies. "But the slideshow would be diesel engines. Might have the odd telegraph pole to break up the monotony."

Time now for Chris' impromptu auction, and with just a £50 start, he manages to work his magic with the crowd, securing a very impressive £270 for a rare, black bomber jacket with the patch 'Ship's Smeghead' embroidered on the front.

Out of the main hall, guests took place in a photo shoot with eager fans, and then met with even more eager (eagerer?) fans with a special limited-access coffee lounge. A chance to get some one-on-one time with the celebs. No touching.

Meanwhile, it's only a matter of time before the IOC formally begin to acknowledge the special games on offer at the DJ Olympics and start incorporating them into future events. Yet, despite repeated requests to the movers and shakers over in Lausanne, Switzerland to consider shoe-horning 'Planet Pool' or 'Pin The Pointy Stick On The Weathergirl' into their oh-so precious schedule, we've still yet to receive word either confirming or denying their inevitable inclusion. Thankfully, all these events, and more, are available to try out at DJ while everyone else is taking a breather, grabbing a bite to eat or joining the ever-bustling autograph queue.

Onwards to the action-packed evening!