DWARF STARS

We sit down for a chat with Rim­mer, Lis­ter, Kry­ten and the Cat

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red Dwarf Xi -

How long does it take you to slip back into your char­ac­ters?

CHRIS BARRIE (RIM­MER) I think they’re kind of with us now af­ter 28 years – it doesn’t take long to click back into it. ROBERT LLEWELLYN (KRY­TEN) That was some­thing we no­ticed when we did Back To Earth, when it would have been, I think, 11 or 12 years since any of us had done any Dwarf. BARRIE Even then it didn’t seem to take long. LLEWELLYN The first day we were all on the set, in the cos­tumes, ready to go, I think we all had the same feel­ing, like we’d had a long week­end off.

do you think that peo­ple feel af­fec­tion­ate about Red Dwarf not just be­cause it’s a good show, but be­cause it’s sur­vived so long?

CRAIG CHARLES (LIS­TER) I think the long­est break was be­cause we were try­ing to make a movie; that went on for 10 years.

BARRIE Ev­ery 18 months, the phone would ring, and some­one would say, “Don’t do any­thing for the next three years be­cause...”

LLEWELLYN “...we’ve got the money!” BARRIE Then the building blocks seemed to fall away. But the fans were al­ways there to say, “We want more.”

CHARLES Now, with Dave re­peat­ing it, it’s got to a much younger au­di­ence. Peo­ple that come to the con­ven­tions and stuff like that, they’re not all old farts like us.

LLEWELLYN No, they’re kids. Some of them weren’t born when we made the last se­ries for the BBC in ’98.

BARRIE I think the ma­jor­ity now are way, way younger than us.

DANNY JOHN-JULES (CAT) Some of them weren’t born at the time, but watch it now, and they’ve brought their kids. There’s a third gen­er­a­tion be­ing dragged along.

The show has al­ways ap­pealed to a young au­di­ence. Why do you think that is?

JOHN-JULES Wild aban­don­ment! The first let­ter I read was from a 13-year-old. I thought, “What are they do­ing up at this time?”

LLEWELLYN There’s cer­tainly a sec­tion of young peo­ple that just ab­so­lutely love it, who are now 13, 14, 15. It doesn’t date, that’s the bizarre thing. Watch­ing Red Dwarf from 1993, there might be a cou­ple of jokes where we re­fer to peo­ple in the news at that time, but they’re so small.

CHARLES I think with it be­ing set in the fu­ture, it gave it­self a bit of legs. Whereas if you go back to The Young Ones now, which was so firmly set in the ’80s, it’s so dated.

do you think Red Dwarf would have a chance of be­ing com­mis­sioned to­day?

CHARLES It was a freak that it got com­mis­sioned in the first place. Imag­ine go­ing to a BBC ex­ec­u­tive and say­ing, “Great idea for a show. One guy – he’s three mil­lion years into deep space. Ev­ery­one else is dead. His only

It’s al­most pri­mar­ily for fans be­cause they’re beg­ging for more Red Dwarf

com­pan­ions are a holo­gram and a life form evolved from the ship’s cat.”

BARRIE So to an­swer your ques­tion, no, I don’t think we’d get com­mis­sioned.

The char­ac­ters must be bril­liant cre­ations, be­cause they still work 28 years later, and you’ve never re­ally had to re­tool them...

LLEWELLYN It’s enor­mously down to the writ­ing. Doug [Naylor] doesn’t like us say­ing so – he al­ways gets em­bar­rassed – but that’s the rea­son that I think it’s lasted, be­cause the qual­ity of the writ­ing is so ex­tra­or­di­nary.

CHARLES There’s a chem­istry be­tween us that is un­usual. If you did it with four dif­fer­ent ac­tors, you’d have a very dif­fer­ent show.

LLEWELLYN There’s quite a lot of un­spo­ken un­der­stand­ing of each other’s per­for­mances. I don’t think you can achieve that with­out hav­ing done years and years of it.

CHARLES And we’re ma­ture enough now to give each other lines as well. It’d be like, “That line doesn’t work for me, but it’d work for you.” You swap the lines around some­times.

LLEWELLYN I’m al­ways des­per­ately try­ing to give my lines away. “I have a re­ally com­pli­cated speech on page six. Chris would do that bril­liantly.” [Laughs]

do you all have an idea of what you think good Red Dwarf is?

LLEWELLYN In a way, the joy of it is, it is a sit­com. So in a sense, ev­ery episode is a fresh start. It’s still a naff, guilt-rid­den, rub­bish mechanoid. A vain Cat. A slobby Lis­ter. And an up­tight Rim­mer. Those ba­sic el­e­ments are still there. But there’s so many vari­ants of that within it. That’s what I love about the scripts.

CHARLES I think good Red Dwarf is very much char­ac­ter-based. It’s a gang show. It’s about the char­ac­ters’ dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions to a cer­tain event, or some­thing like that.

LLEWELLYN There’s tiny lit­tle things that any of us can do that will crack the rest of us up. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a script thing. It’s a look, it’s a lit­tle pause, a beat, a de­liv­ery, or some­thing like that. Danny’s en­trance or exit... JOHN-JULES Por­ridge, Ris­ing Damp, that kind of “four char­ac­ters stuck in a place” thing. Those were the kind of shows we wanted to be in.

did get­ting the au­di­ence back for se­ries X feel like get­ting back to the early days?

LLEWELLYN Yeah, we all wanted that. CHARLES Then again, it’s care­ful what you wish for, be­cause they’ve been try­ing to get us to make a Red Dwarf movie for years, and a Red Dwarf movie would be very like se­ries IX in many ways. You’ve got no live au­di­ence, no laugh track... LLEWELLYN It re-found its home as a sit­com – a sit­com recorded in front of an au­di­ence. CHARLES We’re nat­u­ral show-offs. As soon as the au­di­ence come in, the per­for­mances pump in. How much of a pri­or­ity is Red Dwarf for ev­ery­one? do you do what you can to clear your di­ary to make sure it hap­pens? LLEWELLYN The thing is, it’s lit­er­ally years in ad­vance that we’re plan­ning it. So it’s not like, “Could you do next month?” BARRIE Meet­ing fans at var­i­ous things, it’s al­most pri­mar­ily for them, be­cause they’re beg­ging for more Red Dwarf. JOHN-JULES Beg­ging. Ev­ery time you talk to them, they’re beg­ging. Craig, you had to quit Coronation Street to do se­ries Xi and Xii. Was that a big de­ci­sion? CHARLES It was a big de­ci­sion be­cause of my 10 years on that show. My fam­ily are all there. My kids go to school there now, so yeah. When I asked them if I could have some time off to make it, they said, “We’ve given you so much time off to do other things, Red Dwarf X and [I’m A Celebrity…] and all that. No.” It was a case of it’s ei­ther them or us, re­ally. And I’ve known these guys for 28 years. JOHN-JULES What we’d say in our au­to­bi­ogra­phies, that’s why he came back! CHARLES Red Dwarf is, I have to say, the defin­ing mo­ment in all of our ca­reers. I can’t turn my back on it. BARRIE Ab­so­lutely. LLEWELLYN Oh god, yeah. JOHN-JULES You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

We’re re­ally look­ing for two things: funny ideas and cool science fic­tion ideas

if you look back at where the Cat’s come from, then there is a de­vel­op­ment in his arc. But it’s not within this se­ries. It’s within the whole oeu­vre [of Red Dwarf].

“We’re re­ally look­ing for two things,” he con­tin­ues. “Ob­vi­ously funny ideas, cool science fic­tion ideas, then try­ing to get the guys in sit­u­a­tions where char­ac­ter is ex­posed.”

Few sit­coms (or in­deed sci-fi shows) are as hun­gry for high-con­cept ideas as Red Dwarf, and Naylor – who, af­ter se­ries XI and XII, has ei­ther writ­ten or co-writ­ten all 73 episodes of the show – admits he col­lects them as he goes.

“I’ll jot it down in my note­book and keep it there,” he ex­plains. “In fact, I got an idea for se­ries XIII last week! You are col­lect­ing them all the time, be­cause you al­ways want to avoid that sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing no ideas and just sit­ting there [when you write].”

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, how­ever, he says he’s not con­stantly work­ing his way through other sci-fi on the hunt for ideas.

“I think it’s some­thing Terry Pratch­ett said where he didn’t read that many nov­els in his genre – he sort of ig­nored them and just wrote what he wanted to write. That’s kind of what I do – if you sat­u­rate your­self with ev­ery­thing sci-fi and you’re too knowl­edgable you won’t write any­thing. You just have to go for it.”

and… ac­tion!

It’s three days later, and we’re back in that same Pinewood sound­stage – though now it’s buzzing with over 200 fans ea­ger to see their first new Dwarf in three-and-a-bit years. It’s the sec­ond record­ing in the run, and it’s a special thing to be a part of. Yes, there’s plenty of laugh­ter – both dur­ing the scenes and the bits in be­tween when warm-up co­me­dian Ray Peacock keeps ev­ery­one cheer­ful – but also a sense of be­ing part of a priv­i­leged club who gets to see new Dwarf first. That’s pos­si­bly why ev­ery stu­dio au­di­ence in the so­cial me­dia age has been so bril­liant at keep­ing plot de­tails un­der wraps. There’s also a chance for one lucky Red Dwarf fan/ex­pert to give a good enough ex­pla­na­tion of the con­cept of “hard light” to win him­self an ex­clu­sive crew t-shirt (not for eBay!) – and a pitch-per­fect Ken­neth Wil­liams im­pres­sion from Chris Barrie.

So when you’ve got a fan­base who are so knowl­edge­able about the show, how do you stay on top of the show’s near-three decades of lore?

“I have very good peo­ple around me go­ing, ‘You’ve al­ready made that joke,’” admits Naylor. “‘Re­ally? When?’ “‘In ‘Episode…’ “‘Re­ally? I have no rec­ol­lec­tion.’ “‘No, you did ex­actly that joke.’ “‘God, that’s aw­ful.’ And in terms of ‘that con­tra­dicts that’, that’s pos­si­bly why it stays fresh for me, be­cause my mem­ory’s so lousy!’”

Red Dwarf XI airs on Dave from 22 Septem­ber. The first episode will also be avail­able on UKTV Play from 15 Septem­ber.

You know you’ve missed them.

Didn’t a fa­mous West­ern end a bit like this…?

Well, who needs sci-fi­type guns any­way?

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