Red Dwarf: "Back to Earth" Preview

“Remember: only the good die young.”
“That’s… never happened before.”

With those two sentences (and “The End”/”The Smeg It Is” slides), on 5 April 1999, Red Dwarf VIII faded away into Britcom history. Initially hailed as a return to form by many a fan, it’s reputation slipped quite a bit over ten years. By 2009, those that hated Series VIII loathed it. I consider “Krytie TV” and “Pete Part II” to be the worst episodes in British sci-fi history and British comedy history. Yes. Worse than “The Twin Dilemma”. Worse than The Wright Way. The only worthwhile episode in that entire piece of schlock is “Cassandra”, and even that’s held back by off pacing and awkward character moments.

Yet, at the time, it was popular enough to bring up a question: will there be a movie?

Wait, There Was a Red Dwarf Movie Planned?

Movie spin-offs of TV shows are relatively commonplace. Yet, it would be a testament to the power of Red Dwarf if there was an actual theatrical spin-off. Theatrical movies directly spun off from sitcoms are something of an unusual breed (correct me if I’m wrong), and almost unheard of when it pertains to Britcoms.

Ultimately, the film never really went through.

Actually, if Doug Naylor is to be believed, a script was written, and they had plans for production. However, setback after setback, false funding after contract failure, damned the project. The BBC didn’t feel the script was up to par for a theater. Maybe they learned their lesson from Series VIII. Or, maybe they were too busy concentrating on what appeared to be their new cash cow in the making, some little show called Doctor Who.

So, the project was going nowhere. However, between February and August of 2008, BBC Worldwide appeared to strike a deal with Naylor: produce a miniseries consisting of three episodes, at least two of which could easily be strung into something resembling movie.

Thus, Back to Earth was born.

So, How the Hell Was This Thing Produced?

Intended to be two episodes and Red Dwarf Unplugged, the movie was expanded to three episodes.

A big problem facing production? The thing barely had a budget. With the script’s plans, the writers decided to (yet again) kibosh the studio audience to save money they barely even had. By kibosh, I mean it was decided not to even bring an audience in to record their reaction as the episodes aired. Thus, for the first time in history, Red Dwarf was literally laughless.

Sets were done on the cheap: half of the sets were built out of things they found in the closet. Camera work was done to try and make it seem the thing had a bigger budget than it actually did. The crew was brought in to be extras. Yes, they didn’t have money for extras.

Speaking of which, the casting was, well, troublesome. Norman Lovett was told to clear his schedule for filming dates. Ultimately, it was decided that he wasn’t needed. Thing was, he was never informed that he wasn’t needed until it was too late. Infuriated, Naylor went on record to declare that, as far as his acting career went, the franchise was dead. (He appears to have since reconciled with Naylor.)

Chloe Annett was also asked to join up. It would appear that her experience with the movie went far more smoothly. Why? Well… they used a picture of her at the beginning, for one. The producers and her agent must’ve gotten along well.

This episode also seemed to eschew the “traditional” camera yet again, going back to a filmized-style seen in Series VII. This time, the red-camera system was used. Effects seemed to reach a happier medium, with a cross between CGI and models used. Red Dwarf, for example, had it’s model rebuilt (thank god).

So, what was the end result? Guess it’s time to watch.

It’s back to Red Dwarf.

It’s Back to Earth.

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