Red Dwarf Turns 30: Interview With Co-Creator Doug Naylor On The 30th Anniversary
2. Three Decades Of Dwarfing
First of all, happy anniversary! Three decades is a long time to remain on the air. Which of Red Dwarf's many accomplishments are you most proud of?
I guess just that
the fans love it and we’re still here. I’m proud of the fact we’re still going
and the show hasn’t aged in a certain sense. We don’t really think outside of
what it’s like to make it. Me and the guys just love working together because
it’s always such a great laugh. People still watching it and enjoying it is
almost a bonus for me, but if that wasn’t the case we wouldn’t get to do any
I reckon the chemistry between the main cast has helped the show stay popular over the years. What other factors do you think are behind maintain cult status?
You're absolutely right
about the chemistry. There’s such an energy between the guys. They’re all quite
different and they all bring different things to the party. They’re all
fantastically positive as well and they genuinely do love making Red Dwarf. The
teamwork between them is amazing - nobody is bothered about who gets the
biggest laugh, they’re only concerned about making the best show possible. That’s
a huge part of what has helped the show remain popular. There’s also the
fact it’s quite unusual. A lot of comedy shows have a single star and that
person wants the spotlight, but this is an ensemble show and the characters’
personalities and differing attitudes gives us a variety of ways to tackle
subjects, which helps enormously.
When you first started making Red Dwarf for the BBC, did you have any idea it would have such longevity?
Before we made it I
genuinely thought it would be a huge hit for around three seasons, and then we’d stop. I was convinced it was going to be a hit, but
when I first saw the set I thought ‘okay, this isn’t working in quite the way I
was expecting’. Then of course, I think five million people tuned in for the
first episode but they mostly turned off and we ended up with around two
million viewers. People wanted a science fiction show and I don’t think they
quite got what we were doing at first.
When season two
came out, that got between two and three million and was repeated. By then we
knew we were onto something good. Because Red Dwarf is science fiction, there’s
a wealth of stories we can do and there’s lots of original stuff to explore.
Storylines clashing with something from a rival show has never been a problem
If you could turn back the clock, is there anything you would do differently regarding Red Dwarf?
Oh god, yes, of course
but you do those things with the best intentions at the time. Often these
decisions don’t play out the way you expected, but on the whole, I can’t really
complain too much because we’re still here. If I had my time again I would
definitely do Red Dwarf VII with a live studio audience, but I totally bought
the argument at the time that we were going to make a film. In hindsight, I
wouldn’t have wasted 10 years of my career writing scripts for the movie
because that was a complete waste of time, but back then, I was told the
budget for the film was coming in, and I believed that.
Your fellow co-creator Rob Grant left the show after season six. Are you still in touch with him these days? Do the two of you ever discuss Red Dwarf?
Yeah, I saw him yesterday. He’s doing other things right now, but he may well want to return to Red Dwarf in some capacity down the line. He’s never mentioned the latest stuff and I’ve never asked him what he thinks of it, but if offered his opinion I’d happily listen. It would be different if the thing was a massive failure. I would want to know where he think I went wrong, but that isn’t the case since it’s been very successful.