Red Dwarf (1988)

Red Dwarf is a comedy sci-fi series from the BBC; the first episode The End was edited by Ed Wooden and directed by Ed Bye.

The episode opens with shots of the ship itself; the transition between the shots of the ship are a slow fade. It works well with the slower music used to introduce the first episode.

The fade is used once more to introduce the first scene, which is a sensible transition considering the previous scene was that of space.

There is a laughter track put into the edit; this could’ve been recorded if the show was performed in front of a live audience, or could be ‘canned laughter’ which has been pre-recorded and has been placed in the edit wherever there is humour, to show the audience what is to be found funny and clarify the type of comedy this show will be.

The cuts are cut into movement; the first to second scene are cut so that when Lister (Craig Charles) is about to leave the right side of the shot, the scene then cuts to Rimmer (Chris Barrie) entering from the right to the forefront of the shot. This cut is particularly efficient because the audience’s eyes don’t have to move so the cut isn’t jarring and the continuous movement means that the cuts flow easily together.

As there are only the two men in this scene, the edit cuts between two closeups, one of Charles and one of Barrie; this simulates the way an onlooker would view a conversation and draws the audience in. The closeups are used during the dialogue-heavy portions so that the audience are focusing on the speaker before cutting to the wide so that the audience can see how the pair interact together onscreen.

While these scenes only have three different angles to cut between, it is still interesting, due to the swift cuts between the closeups so they don’t linger if the speaker is finished and that the wides are used only if one of the pair is moving so that the action remains the focus and this is reflected by the continuous cuts into motion. For example, the pair move from one location to another and so the transition is shown by having them leave one side of the shot and reenter it on the same side, then move down the corridor before doing the same cut into motion so that the audience follows the movement and the flow is natural enough to not be jarring.

This next scene has about five different angles from which to choose from, most likely due to the addition of the extra character, Todhunter (Robert Bathurst). The edit cuts between these different angles often, never staying on one angle for more than a few seconds; sometimes the fast pace can be a little disruptive as the visual is constantly changing before the audience can fully appreciate it. However, this fast pace helps the comedy element of the edit flourish as the quick cuts allow the audience focus on humorous lines from particularly characters via the closeups or amusing body acting that is shown in the wides.

The next transition is a little jarring as it cuts from a mid-shot focusing on Barrie to a wide of a group of new characters; the continuity of Bathurst walking onto the scene from the right after leaving the previous scene on the same side does help the scene a little as there is a recognisable character and the cut is then explained as the audience following Bathurst now rather than Charles and Barrie. There is the addition of music to this scene, added as the audience’s laughter is faded out, a slower piece that adds to the atmosphere of the scene as it shows the funeral of a crew member.

The funeral scene cuts to a slow zoom out of the speaker, from a close-up so that the audience fully focus on him before the pulling out shows a mid-shot of the crew member’s ashes being ejected into space, on top of which a sound effect was added, probably a gust of air that was recorded to mimic the propulsion of the container. The scene then cuts back to the wide so that the entire crew can once more be seen as the requested song is played, an upbeat pop song that juxtaposes the grieving atmosphere previously built up, thus creating the comedy element.

The song is then used to cut back to Charles and Barrie for the next scene; it continues to play over the cut and the stars previously mentioned become a focus point to the audience as Charles mentions the character now deceased to maintain the flow of the story as the edit changes.

The scene in Charles and Barrie’s bunk is comprised of closeup and wides again but this time the cuts are motivated by the speakers, for example when Barrie is speaking, the mid-shot of him is shown, but if both are speaking then the mid of both of them is cut to. The cuts are close to seamless, as the cuts are timed to the flow of the conversation and any movements that are shown in both cuts are fluid so that there isn’t any jarring or repeating motions that throw the audience’s attention.

This scene takes up a good portion of the show so that edit’s pace and swift cuts mean that the audience keep watching which is a sign of a successful edit.

The introduction of a new character, Holly (Norman Lovett) is signalled by a foghorn sound, and prompted by this noise, the edit cuts to a black background with just Lovett’s head to show that this is the computer AI that runs the ship. An effect has been placed on Lovett’s face to pixelate his features, which is an effective way of communicating to the audience that he is the computer program, rather than explicitly say it.

The scene then cuts back to the bedroom, with Lovett on the television screen inset into the wall and the richness of the black background against the wall suggests that the footage of Lovett was placed in during post production, rather than film a television screen, as the refresh rate can often interfere with the picture quality.

This wide pan of the pair leaving the room then fades out to the exterior of the ship travelling through space with the opening music used and this sequence echoes the opening scene. It then fades to a busy canteen and the music continues over a short montage of those in the canteen. The shots of the exterior of the ship seem to have no use in the edit as a fade could’ve been used to go straight to the canteen instead. The music covers the foley that of a busy canteen, so it may have been used if the sound recorded wasn’t good enough and to justify the music, the shots of the ship had to be used again before cutting to the canteen and continuing the story.

The canteen scene features very little foley of a busy room and whatever used is very quiet; while this makes sense, so that the audience can instead focus on the dialogue, it does imply that the room isn’t as full as it might be and so the wides that show the filled room seem rather odd as a result. This scene is comprised of cuts that use wides and mid-shots to introduce characters and situations, such as the Charles and his friends, before cutting to closeups to show their individual actions or let the audience focus on their dialogue before cutting back to the wides to show the characters’ in the canteen’s reactions to the speech. A lot of the speech in this scene appears to not have been levelled correctly; while some comments might’ve been meant to be quieter in the scene, the lack of volume on the edit means that the audience don’t hear what was said and they can lose out on a joke or lose their focus on the piece by straining to hear what was said.

The edit abruptly cuts from showing Charles, his friends and Barrie to a shot of a leg with writing on. This sudden cut, usually unorthodox because it does break the audience’s concentration, works in this edit as the sudden change to an unusual visual adds to the comedy. Barrie’s voice is then heard as a voiceover a few seconds later and this continues the comedic element as the camera pans to the rest of his body as the audience can then recall in earlier scenes Barrie’s character having writing on his arm.

However, this cut lasts too long, as Barrie starts to speak about another part of his body and his arms move out of the shot, yet the edit stays on a visual of nothing happening before cutting to a wide, which shows movement and provides context to Barrie’s speech.

This scene in the bedroom is comprised of fewer shots than the previous scene in the bedroom was and this could be because, rather than use a lot of different angles, the camera instead pans to follow a good portion of the movement and the edit uses these longer pieces of footage rather than use a variety of angles. The only cuts are to show a character from a mid or closeup, mostly so that the audience can fully focus on them for comedic purposes. Lovett is introduced with a foghorn again before he is heard as a voiceover to prompt Barrie’s exit and the cut from a wide of him to a wide of Charles as he moves.

There is another rather abrupt and jarring cut from the wide pan of Charles moving through the bedroom to a mid of him interacting with his cat.

The cut does make sense, as the previous angle meant that furniture would block the action that audience needed to see, however the cut is so noticeable that it does jar the eye a little. This could be because the angle of the camera doesn’t move around far enough, or that the timing of the cut is a few frames out.

During this scene, a piece of music is put under the dialogue; the slower music helps portray the sweet scene between Charles and the cat he cares so much about, as well as help show how ridiculous his views are, reinforcing the comedic element of the show.

This scene then cuts straight to Barrie taking an exam; the transition could be considered a match cut as it cuts from the mid shot of Charles centred to Bathurst with his back to the screen but also centred and his movement away from the camera draws the audience’s eye to Barrie, who is the focus of the following scene.

As Barrie is the focus, the edit cuts to a mid-shot of him, as well as cutting to a wide of the room so that the audience can see others in the room. Closeups are also introduced into the edit as Barrie attempts to cheat on the test and fails; the closeups are effective in ensuring the audience are focusing on the right aspect of the story, as well as letting them see the hilarious aspects of the scene.

The scene cuts once the action is finished, in this case, Barrie fainting and no one reacting, to a busy control room. This wide establishes the new location before cutting to a mid-shot of Charles entering and changing angle once so that the audience can fully see the interaction between Charles and the other female character, Kristine Kochanski (CP Grogan).

The interaction between the Captain (Mac McDonald) and Charles are comprised of mid-shots and closeups, cut to the dialogue so that the speakers are always seen. The ultimatum is given to Charles to go into stasis or give up his cat and this prompts a quick fade to Charles and Bathurst approaching the stasis booths.

Once more, the cuts are used to cover the camera’s changing angle to better see the actors; only two cuts are used and as Charles enters the stasis pod, music starts to play, a drum beat to show the gravity of the situation that plays under Lovett’s voiceover as the stasis process occurs. The image of Charles is then frozen for a few seconds before fading out once more to the exterior of the ship while the music keeps playing. The showing of the ship solidifies its role as a way of showing time passing in the story quickly without wasting time of the edit, which is very effective.

The image of Charles frozen is then faded back in as the music is faded out and the motion resumes as he is brought back out of stasis and the story continues. Lovett’s voice is once more heard as a voiceover to explain Charles’ movement through the ship and the resulting cuts, each to show him in the new location. At the news that “Everybody’s dead, Dave” a new piece of music is introduced, a heavier piece to show the shocking twist, as well as to juxtapose the way Charles can’t comprehend the information, creating humour out of the dire news.

During this exchange, the edit cuts to once more show Lovett as just a head against a black background, perhaps to let the audience fully see his facial expression as he delivers the news. The cut also means that the edit can then cut to a new location without having to show the travel, which speeds up the pace of the edit. During Charles’ travel down the corridor, the edit cuts back to Lovett, so it mimics the usual format of a conversation, switching between two angles to show the participants of the conversation, but is altered to suit the different circumstances of a conversation between a computer and a person.

Once in the drive room, the edit is again comprised of a mid-shot of Charles and the occasional shot of Lovett, as well as brief closeups of certain items of discussion, such as the piles of powder that are the members of the crew. Lovett then mentions that Charles isn’t alone and this prompts the cut to show Barrie entering the scene as a hologram. The edit then follows the ‘conversation-format’ of switching between close-ups of the two speaking, in this case Charles and Barrie. The edit then cuts to a mid-shot of the pair to show Charles interacting with the ‘hologram’ of Barrie.

While today, the shot of Charles putting his hand ‘through’ Barrie looks glaringly fake, with the colours being too rich and there is obvious light from the green-screen being reflected back onto Charles’ skin. However, his arm still passes through at a reasonable speed and Barrie’s ‘reaction’ is in time with the movement, so it is an impressive effort to convince the audience of Barrie’s ‘hologram’ status.

Returning to the shot of the pile of powder halfway through the ‘conversation format’ is a little strange.

While it is only shown for maximum three seconds, it appears long enough to disrupt the flow of the edit of the conversation, and by extension, the dialogue itself.

The introduction of the final character, Cat (Danny John-Jules) is shown via a wide that cuts to a close-up so that audience can see more details about him and as the close-up is shown, a short piece of music begins to play that covers the shots that show him entering the corridor and stop as soon as John-Jules begins to speak.

The scene that shows their meeting is once more comprised of close-ups that show each party’s reaction, but there is a drum roll added to the edit to add to the suspense of the events, as well as make the resulting physical comedy funnier due to the climax.

Their second meeting features green screen once more, with Barrie running ‘through’ John-Jules in an attempt to attack him. This again, isn’t as believable as it could be made today, perhaps, but his image doesn’t become translucent enough to believe he is a hologram.

There is then an abrupt cut to the bedroom; both the characters and their positioning changes, so it cannot even be a match cut. There is no explanations in the dialogue either, so the cut is pretty jarring. The scene continues, only using mid shots or wides occasionally and still favouring using closeups of each character and switching between them to keep the pace of the edit the same as the conversation. The scene ends with a still, with text appearing via a wipe effect and the beginning beat of the music starts before fading out to the credits scene.

Overall, this episode, while making an admirable effort in special effects that still look good despite their age, it does show an obvious lack of coverage, as it is nearly all close-ups. While this does allow the audience to familiarise themselves with the characters, it does mean that a lot of the comedy of body movements are lost; this does mean that there’s more of an emphasis on the dialogue and the written comedy, which is a major part of show’s appeal.

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