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).
SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL EPISODE OF RED DWARF X HERE
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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