Ah, Red Dwarf VII. Plans for the series began in 1993. Taping began three whopping years later. So, the question of the day is…. what happened?
Shortly after VI went to air, Rob Grant departed the show. Apparently, their relationship was disintegrated during the production of The Ten Percenters, a sitcom on ITV that was produced by some Red Dwarf alumni and future writing staff. This left Doug Naylor with an option; either leave the show for dead, or press on with other writers. No prizes for guessing the right answer. Again, he brought along some of his friends to write for episodes, such as Paul Alexander, James Hendrie, and Kim “SpiceWorld” Fuller. (Oh boy. The writer of Spice World is doing Red Dwarf. This season is going to rock).
Filming was also pushed back in 1994. In July, Craig Charles was accused of rape, apparently by one of his ex-girlfriends, and was denied bail. He was only granted bail after he was attacked by a fellow prisoner in jail in October. He was cleared of the charges March 1995.
Then, another dilemma. After two seasons of production troubles and troubled shootings, the lure of the small rouge one had been broken for Chris Barrie, and he demanded to have his screentime effectively halved. The writers responded by writing out Rimmer in one of the first episodes of the series, and bringing him back for flashbacks/dream sequences/whatnot.
So, who could possibly replace a character that many regarded as the heart of the show? Who could possibly stand up to the plate to try and keep the audience interested?
Well, they had a plan in mind. Rumours persist that to get funding for a Red Dwarf film, they needed to add a female to the cast. So, why not bring back a supporting character from the first two series?
…as portrayed by Chloe Annett.
You see, Claire Grogan was deep into her role as a talk-show host at this point. Therefore, she couldn’t make filming. Instead, Doug brought on Annett, knowing her from an audition of The Ten Percenters. In comparison to Grogan’s spunky take on the character, Annett portrayed her in a more posh manner (not even bothering to imitate Grogan’s Scottish accent).
Production began in 1996. Filming was radically different compared to other series. Red Dwarf VII eschewed the live studio audience in favor of showing the series to test audiences. This did allow for the sets to have four walls, allowing for more camera angles.
Another radical change came in terms of special effects. The first six series used models 99% of the time for special effects. CGI became cheaper and easier to use between VI and VII. This became the first series to use CGI, which became standard in VIII.
The series also brought back a familiar face at the end of the series. Who is it? You probably know, but hey, a little suspense never killed anybody.
Lastly, the scriptwriting also changed. While Series V dealt with character comedy, and Series VI was more of a sci-fi sitcom, Series VII edged closer to a comedy-drama, with more drama and intense plots, as well as the continuation of the “Find the Small Rouge One” arc of Series VI.
Red Dwarf VII premiered in January 1997. The ratings were high, peaking at 8,000,000 viewers. However, the current reception has not been too kind to the series. Reaction since its premiere was that it was the worst series. Only recently has it been removed from that position, partially due to re-evaluation, and partially because Series VIII was worse according to fans.
Of course, we have to take a look at the “menu” for the next few days/weeks/months. This time, we have eight- count them, eight- episodes to dissect.
- Tikka to Ride: Lister wants to use the time drive again. Why? To get some curry. He and the rest of the crew inavertedly save JFK… and cause the demise of the USA.
- Smoke Me A Clipper: Shot in the chest by a Wehrmacht soldier (long story), Ace Rimmer (what a guy) has mere hours to find a replacement. He manages to come across the smeghead we know and love, to try and get him to finally change for the better.
- Ouroboros: A temporal disturbance connects to an alternate universe where Lister was a hologram and Kochanski got six months in stasis. The rift is attacked by a GELF warship, causing an incident that traps Kochanski on the side she was not from.
- Duct Soup: Trapped on the other Starbug, Kochanski and her relationship with the rest of the crew is not immediately helped by having to go into the ducts to fix an error on the shuttle.
- Blue: Lister becomes nostalgic about Rimmer… even to the point where he begins thinking he might be in love.
- Beyond a Joke: Kryten’s poor anniversary of being rescued by the crew is not helped by the presence of his evil twin.
- Epideme: An incident on an old derelict causes Lister to contact a virus… one that has intelligence. This virus might lead to Lister having to make the ultimate sacrifice… maybe… sort of.
- Nanarchy: OK, Lister doesn’t die. But, he does need some parts of his body reconstructed. The crew decide to use nanobots to reconstruct the arm. Thus, they have to go all the way back to the ocean planet that they were on before they lost Red Dwarf.