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Back to the Tapes - by Andrew Ellard

15 April, 2005

On the up side, this will be the last time we have to do this. The last time the tapes get called out of storage. The last time a Beta cassette snaps just as a key piece of footage is discovered. The last time we discover any more of Red Dwarf's deleted scenes.

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I'm mostly kidding, of course. It's been a ridiculous privilege to be the first person - the first fan - to view these victims of the edit, these Avid casualties, in years. And how much weirder, having watched Series VIII as one of the studio audience, to look at these episodes pretty much as they appeared to us on the monitors back in 1998.

It's weird to think that, before the advent of DVD, the glimpse of even one unseen piece of Dwarf was quite an experience. That Series VI original ending, for example, or the original first scene from Marooned - they went out on Smeg Up/Outs tapes years before it became de rigueur. They're so expected at this point that people forget just how cool an extra they are to have, what they mean to our DVDs. It's not just about new gags and performances, it's a glance inside the production process.

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It's usually fairly obvious to tell why sequences would be removed, trimmed or even re-shot. Issues of length, issues of quality, of storytelling, of repetition. As ever, we'll be adding captions to better explain, but... well, they pretty much speak for themselves.

So - Series VII and VIII. First things first - we're looking, once again, at over 40 minutes of recovered scenes for each, with VIII possibly containing the most ever. This is partially down to reshoots, to older versions of scenes that ultimately made the cut in a rewritten, re-filmed form.

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For example, there's Rimmer's salute from Back in the Red Part 2... which was never in the first filmed version of that scene. Both BITR and Pete have a number of reshoots included (caused mostly by the splitting of the stories into multi-parters), and in one notable instance the reshoot was actually rejected in favour of the original! But you'll have to wait a while to find out which one.

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Still, there's a lot of new stuff to see from both series - some of which you may have read in the Series VIII scriptbook. There's a great moment from Cassandra where Lister realises that, while Canaries are eligible for conjugal visits, the prison doesn't provide the partner; some more of the 'animatronic' AR crew seen in Blue; and a lengthy scene from Stoke Me a Clipper which reveals the new Ace's dark history.

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Plus, naturally, many, many more - including several from Tikka to Ride, Ouroboros and Duct Soup (even though much had already been reinstated for the Xtended versions). Original Series VIII ending? Sure, and the one from Epideme, too. But my favourite so far is Back in the Red's 'hearing' scene, as the crew begin their trial before the captain.

In the final episode, not an especially noticeable scene. In the first incarnation? It's not just longer, it's way, way funnier - in fact, it's the very scene I remember laughing so hard at from the studio audience in 1998.

You'll have to wait 'til February '06 to see if you feel the same. We'll have full lists on later in the year - so keep watching.

More DVD Details will follow soon...

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