Doug Naylor interview: Red Dwarf X, future episodes, and more...

Interview Jake Laverde 8 Nov 2012 - 08:08

To mark the last episode in the current series of Red Dwarf, we caught up with writer and co-creator Doug Naylor...

With Red Dwarf X drawing to a close this evening on Dave, we chatted to writer and co-creator, Doug Naylor about the new series, the Red Dwarf movie, filming in quarries, and what the future holds for the small rouge one...

I've been a fan for years and it's as good as it ever was. There's been a focus on character rather than concept this series, was this a conscious decision? 

It's a tricky question because we always wanted to do character. That's what Red Dwarf is about. We took a slight detour with series eight, the whole prison thing. The vibe was different but the intent was to return to character when we did the film but then it never happened and it looked like the end. 

However, the repeats on Dave were really popular and they wanted to do something for the twentieth anniversary. Originally it was going to be the guys in costume introducing episodes but it grew from there. We wound up with something that looked like a film that looked super expensive but wasn't at all, thanks to me calling favours from friends like Mike Seymour, the effects supervisor. He did a bunch of work with his team for the love of it mainly. We couldn't afford an audience and we couldn't afford that many sets so we based it on contemporary Earth with things like Coronation Street. We built a high concept story as a celebration of Red Dwarf even though we only had one Red Dwarf set. 

You look at the sets for series ten and the sleeping quarters alone took eight weeks to build. The pre-production work for Back to Earth was only three weeks which is insanely short. We were starting from scratch and that's hard on a comedy show and a science-fiction comedy show. We weren't in any position to ask for more money because we need this and that, unless we could prove that people would watch this series. 

When Back to Earth went out and got the incredible ratings it did, Dave were interested in doing a series. We went “great but we need to go back to thirty minutes.” That's really really important, you can't do a Red Dwarf episode in twenty-three minutes and I didn't want to do part one, part two etc. I've always hated that. We had to get the audience back as well and have it return to the four boys on Red Dwarf because that's where it at its best! 

Did any ideas or parts of the film make it into either Back to Earth or Series X? 

There were so many drafts of the film, thirty-five altogether, and they all had different stories in them. I was asked so many times to rewrite it to increase the budget first of all because the backers didn't feel it was worth their while getting involved unless it was a big budget. When they pulled out, different backers wanted me to reduce it so there were a lot of different budgets and stories. So I had a lot of bits floating that could be used. The opening scenes in tonight's episode with Rimmer were taken from the film. 

Audience sitcoms are now thought of as Miranda, Not Going Out etc. Red Dwarf is a show about big concepts. Did you have to put up a fight to get the audience back? 

Originally the audience wasn't part of the budget, for some reason that got overlooked. As a consequence, we lost two weeks of location filming so in a way that forced the series to be even more retro. We had one half-day shoot in a forest and that was the only time we left the building. Even on series two, we were able to go to quarries but we couldn't afford it for this one. It's a sorry state of affairs when a science-fiction show can't afford go to a quarry (laughs). 


Moving on to the last episode of this series, there's a big revelation for Rimmer. Do you think it could change how long term fans see him? 

It's not going to change your perception of Rimmer because he's always presumed something and acted accordingly. Now there's the question of: will this change his personality in the future, it may or it may not. Or it may be something else like a twist on top of a twist. In terms of does it change your perception of what happened in the past, no I don't think it does. But it could affect his behaviour in the future. 

One thing I loved in this episode was how you address the series eight cliffhanger! Did you have a chuckle to yourself when you were writing it? 

(Laughs) oh yeah we did. That was one of the things we wanted to address and we talked seriously about doing it in episode one. But then the danger is it becomes a big exposition-y start to the series and no one really wants that. So I thought we should leave it 'til later on but address it in some way. 


Okay, big question now. Is there a future for Red Dwarf

I think there is. You can never absolutely guarantee it because UKTV have to commission it, the boys all have to want to do it, then there's the contractual obligations. But in terms of how this series has been received, it's been very, very positive and the ratings have been terrific. Ironically, it's been the highest selling BBC title on iTunes as well. 

And would you want to return to doing the film? 

Craig said something interesting to me which was if we were to do the film, he wouldn't want to leave the TV series. Because that's where Red Dwarf really works best. Originally we were advised to do something with a really big budget whereas if we kept to a smaller budget we could have got something made. But at the time we believed the advice we were given. I could have got a big budget if I agreed to recast it but I absolutely refused. It wouldn't be Red Dwarf without the original cast so I just said nah (laughs). 

Doug Naylor, thank you very much!

The sixth episode of Red Dwarf X, The Beginning, airs tonight at 9pm on Dave. Read our reviews of the new series, here.

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Smegging Kickstart a movie pronto. Talk about a gold rush waiting to happen!

Movie.. It would be nice with big budget effects, but I just don't think it would work. Think of VII Xtended and BTE, moving towards a movie-esque feel. It just didn't quite work.

Let it die Naylor. You are flogging a dead horse. Either that or get Rob Grant back as Red Dwarf has been a shadow of itself since he left.

Nonsense, it's been a great series :)

Agreed!! I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far.

Rob Grant left. I'm sure Doug Naylor would welcome him back with open arms if he ever changed his mind. If you watch any of the stuff that Rob Grant has done since leaving Red Dwarf (The Strangerers etc.) you will realize that Doug Naylor is actually the funnier of the 2 of them. I, for one, am glad that Series 6 was not the last Dwarf. Why should something come to an end just because one whining baby decides he doesn't want to do it anymore? If Series 6 had been the last, we wouldn't have had "Tikka to Ride", "Stoke me a Clipper", "Cassandra", and "Krytie TV" (all classic eps as far as I'm concerned).
Also, if you remember when Red Dwarf 6 came out, everyone was up in arms and said they hated it because Red Dwarf and Holly weren't in it anymore. All these years later, it's considered a classic!

I don't think Rob Grant is a whining baby because he chose to leave the series. That's a bit harsh. It's not like he's ever tried to stop Doug carrying on with it. He'd had enough and he walked away and I don't see a problem with that.

No, seriously, if you enjoyed this series then you've been replaced by lizard people from some sick alternate dimension where comedy is an unknown element.

No movie. Just make another series or 3.

I haven't been overly impressed with BTE and X (apart from the stunning effects and production design) - and this is someone who loved VII and VIII - and that comment about the movie happening had they went with a smaller budget makes me a little sad, I've been saying for years they should have went for a 'Dwarf movie with a budget around the £5-6 million mark, and which was a direct continuation from the series... they could have expanded the unfilmed VIII finale episode 'Earth' into a proper 90-minute movie and considering the quality of the effects work on VIII, they could easily have pulled off one visually stunning 'Dwarf movie on a relatively low budget.

Give up. The new series is terrible.

I could have got a big budget if I agreed to recast it but I absolutely refused. It wouldn't be Red Dwarf without the original cast so I just said nah (laughs).

Top bloke.

I, for one, hope they do make another series. I enjoyed series "X" and although it may have come in for a bit of criticism from series 3-5 purists it did make me laugh and I felt that it was getting back to it's roots in terms of format and characters. I grant you that it may not be the strongest series overall but I'm very much of the opinion that the show was finding it's feet once more after the couple of lacklustre series that preceeded it.

I'm on the fence. Will have to give it another watch all the way through before making a decision but other than a few classic comedy moments, initially I am disappointed (although my expectations were so high!).

It really hasn't. You cannot tell me any of these episodes are close to Series 2-5.

My point, although not clear, is that they need each other to work. If you have read the books they wrote independently you will see the difference - Naylor is na in your face gag man and Grant is the more drawn out clever plot/slow burn humour. It is the mix of these that works the best.

I would say that Tikka to Ride and Cassandra are of the same quality as Seasons 2 to problem.

Yeah, you're right...that was harsh. The reason I say that is because whenever you see Rob Grant in an interview talking about why he left Red Dwarf, he sounds like a whining baby....his reasons for leaving don't really make any sense, and he always sounds overly negative about it. He almost sounds like he's embarassed. The best reason he can come up with for leaving is that he wanted to be known for more than just Red Dwarf. What a ridiculous thing to say considering Dwarf was only 6 eps per him lots of time to do many other projects. There's something more to this that we are not aware of...there must be. Yes...maybe too harsh...I will govern myself accordingly. lol

Yes, I have read all the books, and I mostly agree with your analysis. However, if I had to pick one person of the 2 of them who would make me laugh more, it'd be Doug. The fact is, I would rather Dwarf continue as it is than have no Dwarf at all. As I've said, Grant chose to leave. Possibly the stupidest career choice he will ever have made, but he made it....Dwarf lives on....and I still love it (Yes, there are some episodes of Season 7 that are a little lacklustre, but I think that's more to do with the absence of Chris Barrie and a studio audience than anything else). To be honest, it seems that Dwarf fans are so critical, it's very likely that they'll hate anything that doesn't involve Grant and Naylor together whether it's any good or not. The old episodes are still there for you to watch and enjoy on DVD. If people don't like the new stuff, they're welcome to change the channel.

Additional......These days Red Dwarf is as much Craig, Chris, Robert and Danny as it is Doug and we're still 5/6's intact. Be positive, people.

I was specifically referring to the current series but, to be fair, Tikka To Ride was pretty good. The whole of Series 8 should be deleted and forgotten in my view.

It sounds like you've watched every episode then. Can I just ask why you're watching it, Jim?

Sadly I'm inclined to agree. Having just watched series 1 through 3 before watching series 10, there's a huge difference. I think Doug has done his best but he needs a co-writer --- if nothing else, to bounce ideas off. So much of this series felt tired and I watched whole chunks of episodes without so much as a chuckle. Maybe it is time to end on an (almost) high.

I found series X to be a real gem. Not classic by any means and nowhere on the level of early Dwarf but a fantastic return to form. Although some of the Cat and Kryten dialogue seems to be a bit forced, Lister and Rimmer are acting probably the best we've seen in a long time. It feels like they've been stuck with each other for years and that chemistry is what's making it work.
For those that don't think its funny?
I bet you laughed when Cat said, "We're all going to miss you....apart from me and him and him!"
and if you didn't, then I challenge you to a duel a cross time and space.

Everyone has their preferences, I didn't much care for series 2, but series 3-5 were my *personal* favourites as I enjoyed the sci-fi elements. Series 8 for example no one could enjoy as it was just bad, but this series had a lot to like about it, not my favourite, but honestly I'd take it over series 2 (an exception made for Queeg, one of the best episodes of all time :))

I feel the same as Jim. We watch it because we are fans, we watch it because the next episode just might not be as awful as the last ep.

I actually didn't mind the last episode, I didn't like the rest - so waiting worked for me :P

i absoutely loved every episode apart form the first one...keep them comming pls..
10 more seasons

+1 for me i thought it was great. Im a dwarfer from way back like most of you are and i thought coming back after this long, and getting that kind of chemistry was fantastic. For me they just got better and better and would love to see them in series 11. Please make more!

Wheres the next series?

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