Dimension Jump XXI

by Curtis Threadgold

Saturday

As Saturday morning came around and more than a few people came to realise that they now regretted the previous evening's beverage choices and bedtimes, things got up and running pretty quickly.

We were delighted to find that the photograph session with Danny John-Jules, Ray Fearon and Johnny Vegas had only been delayed by one hour, which, let's face it, in Danny John-Jules terms is practically an early arrival with time for coffee and a chat. The morning's main event, however, began immediately afterwards when TORDFC's Jez Harrison made the announcement that the brothers cat were arriving on stage in the main hall.

This was to be Ray Fearon's first convention, and what better way to ease himself in than with Danny by his side? The pair grew up near to each other and had wanted to work together for quite some time. They reminisced on stage about their time on Death in Paradise, with Danny telling a particularly gripping behind-the-scenes story involving snakes, hurricanes and flooded villas, before the conversation took the long way round with the pair bouncing between various topics including their respective appearances of Strictly Come Dancing, Danny's warm memories of the late Jaqueline Pearce, Craig Charles' inability to answer the phone, the cruelty of declining showbiz success, Dickensian beards, Jack Black lookalikes, and Chris Barrie's Eddie Waring impression.

It was at this point that Ray asked the audience a particularly pertinent question: "Aren't you supposed to be asking some questions?" There was a big laugh. The pair had talked for a good 40-minutes without taking a single question. And with that the floor was opened.

The first question was an old favourite; a request for a Tongue Tied rendition. In perhaps a tease to his filming duties in Manchester, from which the actor had driven to be here, Danny decided to sing it in the style of Oliver Reed's Bill Sikes, even adding in his own lyrics for good measure. It was a real treat.

Following this, the pair were asked about their comedic influences with Danny recalling his experiences working with Jimmy Tarbuck, and Ray reflecting on the decline of music hall entertainment and the enduring appeal of Tommy Cooper. In a sweet moment, Danny was asked to say a few words to Sarah, a DJ attendee who couldn't make it this year. Danny took the phone from the audience member and made an entire short video for her, featuring himself, Ray and the DJ audience. It's moments like that that make an hour in the company of Danny so special.

All too soon, it was time for Danny and Ray to leave. Fortunately, and adding a further layer of unpredictability to proceedings, Danny decided he wanted to stay for the next session, a live Zoom link with Chris Barrie.

While Danny's impromptu Zoom bombing may have led to a few technical hiccups, Danny and Ray eventually left the stage to rapturous applause after presenting Chris with a custom-made Ace Rimmer doll, something which seemed to both amuse and perplex him in equal measure. It was a strange start to the show, but one that Chris handled with good humour and charm. As the applause subsided, we were then treated to a much calmer hour of chat.

Beginning with a Kenneth Williams impression, he revealed his favourite episodes were Marooned, Dimension Jump and Twentica, while the mere mention of Demons and Angels was enough to raise a titter when he was asked if there were any costumes he was reluctant to put on. He spoke of his experience with studio audience recordings, stating that he thinks it's still the right choice for the show, and noting how it has impacted the casts' performances, sometimes adding a vaudevillian edge which he feels they have all learnt to reign in over the years.

This was a friendly and warm chat, with Chris reflecting on the previous year and telling us that he considers himself fortunate in the grand scheme of things. To get himself through difficult times he has focussed on his hobbies and interests, garden and dogs, and said he was keen to get back to live, in person appearances very soon.

Chris's hour ended almost as bizarrely as it had started, with one attendee asking him which Rimmer would fancy more, a female version of Lister or a female version of the Cat? With his trademark fair headedness, he decided that it would have to be a mix of the two.

It was a credit to Chris' relaxed style, and indeed the work, planning and rehearsals of the Fan Club that this part of the show went as well as it did. The unusual spectacle of a man communicating to a room of 360 people via a laptop in his living room was simply not a disruptive factor; the whole thing was an enjoyable and entertaining hour.

With that delightful chat over, it was time for convention attendees to make their way to the autograph room and meet with Hattie, Danny, Ray and Norman Lovett, before a select few lucky fans, chosen by ballot, were able to attend a private coffee lounge session with Danny and Ray.

And as is tradition, Saturday afternoon was also the time for fans to relax, socialise, visit the merchandise room, and take part in the Olympics.

Featuring a treasure trove of goodies including t-shirts, mugs, Smegazines, rare VHS's and books, this year, the merchandise room also included an assorted museum of original Red Dwarf costumes and props. It was also home to the launch of the previously announced collection of miniatures by Andrew from Recluse Studio and Ben from Master Crafted Miniatures.

With a limited set of 60 hand-numbered editions available, these were every bit as lovely and detailed as we expected. Given the success of this launch, we wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't the last we've seen of them. We'll bring you more updates as we have them.

Alongside the specialist ephemera and bargains, the merchandise room also had its own guests in the form of Smegazine artist Colin Howard and graphic designer Matthew Clark, both of which made themselves available to chat with fans about their art.

After the welcome return of the Red Dwarf Olympics, we were treated to another DJ favourite: the costume competition.

We're continually amazed by the quality on display here. These costumes really do seem to get better and better each year. From a line-up of participants that included Enlightenment crew members, diving suit cat, and "giraffes who were armed and dangerous," the judges, which included Hattie Hayridge, TORDFC chairman James Bull and reddwarf.co.uk editor Curtis Threadgold, chose the following winners:

  • First Place: Aimi Brear as Miranda
  • Second Place: Esme Gubbins as Greyscale Rimmer
  • Third Place: Lucy Hird as Rimmer's Mum
  • Best Child: James Warren as Beyond a Joke Kryten
  • Best Group: Dean and Lee Smith as Confidence and Paranoia
  • The Paul Giachetti Award for Attention to Detail: Caron Snowdon as Legion

It almost felt unfair to single them out, the standard being so high across the board. As we say, we're always hugely impressed with the creativity on offer here and can't wait to see what fans have in store for future shows.

After a short break, attendees were summoned back to the main hall for a special message from Doug Naylor.

Beaming in on a pre-recorded video, Doug wished the attendees well and revealed some new projects, including a Red Dwarf stage show at the O2 and Out of the Red, "a 90-minute film starring the guys as fictitious versions of themselves. It's a story about how they get involved in a worldwide conspiracy, made in the present day." He also confirmed that he's writing a new Red Dwarf special and has recently finished a brand-new science fiction comedy drama. We can't wait to hear more about all of them. We'll bring you more news when we have it.

After this news, it was time for the second auction, this time deftly handled by Dave-era warmup man and M-Corp's Steve, Ian Boldsworth, who put his audience wrangling skills to good use as he corralled the bidding war.

There were some choice items available once again, with Matthew Clark's collection making up another sizeable contribution. Other items included a signed copy of the Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg shooting script, an original Colin Howard artwork, and this time we were also treated to some screen used items including a pair of the Cat's cufflinks, a panel from Starbug's cockpit display, Lister's scarf from Series XI, and the head of the curry monster from Series IV's DNA.

Needless to say, the bidding was intense for each of the items on offer, and really benefitted for Ian's ability to turn the auction into a fun piece of entertainment in its own right. The lucky fans had made their purchases and we were pleased to learn that, as with the first auction, the money raised will be going to a good cause via the Fan Club's chosen charity, The Trussell Trust.

And then it was time for another DJ favourite: a stand up set from Norman Lovett. Originally intended to entertain us for a 20-minute set, Norman graciously treated us to a 40-minute routine that set the tone perfectly for the disco.

And then there were drinks. Lots and lots of drinks, which probably wasn't the best idea given how packed Sunday's activities were going to be.