Another Life

Talk to the Hand

Yes, Randall and his buried best buddy are back for a new series. Cult Times decided to pay its respects to the cast and crew...

Feature by Gareth Wigmore

• From Cult Times #73

It might be The Avengers, but for the massive blue screens that completely dominate the studio. In front of them are two large electric chairs, Bob Mortimer strapped into one (with a hand free for a crafty cigarette) and Emilia Fox strapped into the other. A camera and a few bustling technicians stand to one side of them, stepping carefully around the edges of a giant chess board. In a corner, a clown and a policeman chat conspiratorially 10 feet up in the air (they’re on stilts).

A space hopper sits temptingly just in front of a collection of shop window dummies, the heads of which are all adorned with pictures of Mortimer’s face. In a television studio, nothing is quite what it seems; even the friendly-looking large red fire hose wears a sign saying, ‘This is not a fire hose’.

Emilia Fox as JeannieWelcome to the set of the second season of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)... In these studios in Perivale on the outer reaches of west London, two episodes of R&H are being made at once. While Mortimer and Fox are literally tied up in one studio – he plays Jeff Randall, the half of the detective duo who’s still alive, and she plays Jeannie, his dead partner’s fiancée – next door Vic Reeves and Tom Baker are busy with more blue-screen work. Reeves plays Marty Hopkirk, ex-detective newly incarnated as ghost, with Baker as his ghostly mentor, Wyvern.

“Did you have the custard pudding?” Mortimer asks when we’re up in his and Reeves’s dressing room after lunch. “It was beautiful.” Half-way through the interview, he will be delighted when someone mistakenly brings him a second one. He seems to be having an easier day than Reeves, who comes across as rather tired – almost as though he’s had a big night out. Reeves soon perks up when talking about the improvements to the show in its second season.

“The plots are better. They’re ludicrous in that way that you get in a plot in The Avengers,” he says. “There is still a bit of a problem with them not making any sense,” admits Mortimer sheepishly. “The first one this year’s terrific, whereas the first one last year...” He and his partner have had free rein to make the odd amendment to the scripts here and there, but their input has been confined to small details. “Bob and I looked at the scripts and wrote in little things for ourselves to do,” Reeves tells us. “All Marty had to do before was blow, really, but now I can shrink shoes, which saves the day.”

Mortimer adds, “We wanted to graft in a few more skills that are incidental and don’t just advance the plot. Like cheating at cards, just using the ghost for a little bit more fun, doing the sort of things that everyone would do if they had a ghost.”

Happily eating his second helping by now, Mortimer explains that the action content has been upped this year, especially the fights. “There’s a good fight in the episode with Derek Jacobi, when none of us can feel any pain. There’s this really big actress and Milly [Fox] trading punches – fantastic, really vicious – and in the background is Dervla Kirwan having an orgasm on a sex machine. In the middle of the jungle.” Maybe they’re taking this Avengers thing a bit far...

One thing about R&H that Fox has really enjoyed is her status as “action girl”, and she says she’d leap at the chance of another such action role. She even starts enthusing about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the possibility of wire-work stunts. And she provides a little taster of what the second season will bring. “I had about 40 orgasms the other day, on a supersonic stimulator. I was exhausted! I do some great swordfights, I’ve been possessed by a ghost, and I’ve had to drink beer which I really hated. They gave me some of that non-alcoholic stuff, which nearly killed my brain!”

As our day on the set comes to an end, the final word goes to producer Charlie Higson, without whom Saturday night drama would be bereft of its most bizarre addition to the schedules. “It’s the sort of thing where you can almost do anything. The BBC will say, ‘Make sure it’s a comic detective show’ – but I’ve got Reeves and Mortimer, and one of them’s a ghost, so I don’t really want to make The Bill!”

Gareth Wigmore

Cult Times #73• More from Vic and Bob, Emilia Fox, Tom Baker, Charlie Higson and writer Gareth Roberts on the new season in this issue.
Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) Season Two premiered on BBC1 on September 29 at 21.00

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