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SFX Issue 181

April 2009


The Kryten Factor

Red Dwarf is returning over Easter weekend! Time to talk to co-creator Doug Naylor…

After a decade floating around the nether regions of deep space, the crew of the Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel Red Dwarf are back. Over the Easter weekend, Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat are landing on digital channel Dave, for an all-new story “Back To Earth” and a behind-the-scenes documentary. So why now? And why Dave?

“We were trying to get the Red Dwarf film off the ground for ages. It kept getting close and then we had the money fall through,” Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor tells Red Alert. “Then reruns were doing so well on Dave that they said, ‘Will you make the movie with us and turn it into a mini-series?’ There was some discussion about that, and then we said, ‘Actually, we’re coming up to our 21st birthday…’”

What started life as a clip show to celebrate the Dwarf ’s coming of age (the cast were to return in costume to provide a linking story) eventually evolved into something more ambitious. “I felt a programme that was half a story and half clips wasn’t going to work, because you’d be impatient with the clips to find out what’s going on in the story. What we needed to do is link all the clips into a clip show and all the story into another show. I didn’t think that would be a problem, but Dave don’t do clip shows.” So the decision was made to carry on the boys’ adventures in the three-part “Back To Earth” – early plans to do a no-sets, no-costumes, no-scripts Red Dwarf: Unplugged improvised episode have now been postponed.

“It starts nine years after the last show,” Naylor explains. “Kochanski has died and Holly is down – Lister left a bath tap on for almost nine years and then one night the floor gives way and a million gallons of water fall through the ship, and Holly hasn’t been dried out. That’s where it starts.

“Lister’s not in good shape, and there’s a general air of neglect and malaise. Rimmer, as he’s always done, thinks purely about himself, and because of this everything’s gone down the tubes. He has aged, even though holograms shouldn’t – he hasn’t had holo-services because he didn’t know about them.”

As the title suggests, the new episodes – which will be part of Red Dwarf canon – see the ship returning to Earth after three million years away. How that’s going to come about we’re not yet sure, but given the cast’s much-talked-about presence on the Coronation Street set, it’s not surprising that many onlookers are speculating there could be some fourth-wall bashing crossover with the real world. After all, Craig Charles (Lister) is now a regular at the Rovers Return.

“People have been guessing about what’s going to happen, and no-one’s got it right,” laughs Naylor. “I’d be very, very surprised if they do.”

Storytelling aside, Lister’s return to his home planet had some basis in necessity. Indeed, bringing Red Dwarf back ten years later proved to be an adroit suggestion with one minor drawback. “The original idea was born out of the fact we’ve got no ship because it fell off the shelf, we’ve got no sets, they’ve all been destroyed…” Naylor explains. “We were literally starting with nothing aside from some of the old model shots. So I thought maybe a way around that was to do something based on Earth, and the idea grew from that.”

Although Naylor admits the money behind the three new episodes is small, he does say, “people genuinely won’t believe the budget when they see the show, it will look like it’s triple or quadruple its actual budget”. “Back To Earth” will feature a battle with a monster, be shot on HD, and include production design from Quantum Of Solace art director Mark Harris who (like other members of the crew) agreed to work for less money than usual. But hang on a sec… with a new look and new sets, can it still feel like Red Dwarf ?

“You mean like season three was to season two, where we threw everything out and started again?” Naylor laughs. “I think if people go look at it and go, ‘Oh god, it doesn’t look anything like Red Dwarf ,’ that just means the script’s so bad no-one’s listening to what’s going on. This will certainly be the best-looking Red Dwarf ever, but it’ll also be one of the best-ever stories.”

So does “Back To Earth”’s arrival put the movie on ice? “This is entirely new stuff, so the film script still exists as a separate story. In fact the film script took the story from the beginning and then went off and did a whole story based on it. So that’s still there and it’d be great one day to make that script.”