Monday, December 31, 2012

The Worst Year

Go to Facebook. Go on. What do you see? I bet somewhere in your timeline is a post bemoaning 2012. A friend declaring their hatred of the last twelve months and happy that a new beginning is arriving with the coming of 2013.

I usually hate these posts. Time is a creation of humans to rationalise the chaos that is existence. How on Earth does changing your wall calender magically reboot your life in a positive note? Life, I've always thought, is what you make of it.

All that changed on May 3rd of this year when my workplace was seriously damaged by fire. Utterly out of my control I faced a limbo while decisions were made about how to move forward. We reopened but it was tentative steps. We were damaged and uncertainty hung over us everyday. This continued until 19th September when it was announced we were to be taken over by a national company.

I tried to stay positive. I knew I'd miss working for a family owned business but surely a national chain would bring stability and investment? Sure enough builders moved in on day one to repair the fire damage and give the building a much needed re-fresh.

Three months on and I hate it. A head office 200 or-so miles away just can't relate to our needs. Every day brings a fresh battle against red-tape and paperwork. Everything we do has to be justified to the point where it's holding us back.

The knock-on effect is evident too. Out of work I've little enthusiasm or positivity for anything right now, when I get home I just want to withdraw and spend time to myself which isn't good for my fiancee or son.

So yeah, good riddance 2012. Tomorrow I will return to work. A building that was once filled with fun and happiness but now just a shell to what was but I will return knowing only I can change things. That fresh new calendar on the wall is a line drawn under the past. A line to step over, a starting gun in the race to find happiness again. Bring on 2013.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Get down Shepperton

It’s 16.47 on a cold January night and I’m stood in America’s deep west in 1855 excitedly tweeting that I’m about to board a spaceship.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Since 1998 in fact, when I last set foot onto Shepperton Studios backlot. It’s not the wild west - it’s an unknown film set on the edge of a carpark that marks the queue line for ticket-holders to the filming of Red Dwarf.

That night in 1998 is a very happy, hazy memory now. Visiting the set of the TV series you’ve grown up loving was such a barrage to the senses that I didn’t take it in. I just gazed open-mouthed at Lister, Kryten, The Cat and Rimmer, idols all there, right infront of me. If it wasn’t for the fact the DVD of Red Dwarf VIII is on my shelf I possibly wouldn’t be able to recall much of what I saw back when I was an excited 18-year-old in a geeky Red Dwarf baseball jacket.

Flash forward to 2012 and once again I’m wearing that jacket. Unfortunately it hasn’t developed a cider & Pringles belly like I have, so it’s slightly tighter but I don’t care. I’ve promised my self I’d savour every moment this time and not just gape. But walking onto Stage K at Shepperton my mouth plunges. The sets are stunning. They are brand new of course, a completely new take on the classic Red Dwarf bunk room. No longer stark-white or ocean grey but complemented with deep earthy tones, blimey they’re gorgeous. Perfect. I catch myself, pinch myself and start breathing again as our guide for the evening, Ray Peacock, introduces himself and the crew.

The cast step out in their new costumes. Again all new. Again so, so right. I love Red Dwarf, I’ll lap anything up if it claims to be new Red Dwarf but I’ll admit the recent Back To Earth special on Dave wasn’t quite right. Within minutes of ‘action’ being called I knew this WAS Red Dwarf. This was funny. Humour derived from the characters - the characters we’ve loved since 1988. It felt like early Red Dwarf with a long scene of dialogue between Lister & Rimmer. It could have come straight from Marooned. This is why I adore this show.

Despite being on a space ship 3 million years into the future you can connect with these characters. To me the crew of Red Dwarf have always felt much more real and raw than any incarnation of Star Trek has ever managed, and that’s a show that prides its self on exploring the human condition. The situations the Red Dwarf crew are put through might be bat-shit crazy but the characters have always remained grounded. It’s when the characters go 2-D, which happened occasionally in later series, that Red Dwarf loses its edge and goes a bit pantomime. (Lister, Kochanski & Cat Dibblying it up in Back In The Red and the whole Blue Midget/Cat dance were my personal lows....and I saw that being filmed!)

Through a stroke of luck I ended up seeing two episodes of Red Dwarf X that night. Episode One is very series V in feel and focuses on one character in a way we haven’t seen for a long time. It’s good, very good and the gag rate is brilliant. Meanwhile episode five feels closer to series II. Quite talky, some new character development and a revelation that made the whole audience gasp.
The night was wonderful and the cast all on top-form. Robert Llewellyn in particular plunged himself into Kryten’s character maintaining it even when cameras weren’t rolling. Peacock was a fantastic warm up. Some great interaction with the audience - stealing guests food and teasing the floor manager. I’d happily pay to see him again, let alone see more Red Dwarf.

All too soon the shoot ended, and we were abruptly ushered out into the real world and the glamour of a film studios left behind for the excitement of Sunbury Premier Inn.

So yeah, that’s it. I’d love to go into detail about what I saw but Doug Naylor swore us to secrecy and as co-creator of my favourite telly the least I can do is respect that.

If you’re a fan of Red Dwarf you are in for a treat when X airs on Dave in September.