Complete Guide

Writing

For the twenty-first anniversary of the show, Doug Naylor built a story that was part restatement, part reinvention and part celebration.

Early on it was decided to ignore the decade-old cliffhanger from the end of Series VIII. It hardly seemed fair to expect new audiences to play catch-up for an entire episode of resolution, and Doug also felt that the nine year (fictional) gap between shows gave the characters something they would benefit from later on - a brand new back-story.

Picking up the characters as they continue to drift through space, Back to Earth also functioned as a kind of in-continuity reboot. Rimmer is once more a hologram, the ship's crew are long gone, and Lister has lost Kochanski - essentially the same emotional condition we found him in at the end of, um, The End.

A direct sequel to Back to Reality, the story used a hallucination to put Lister through a specific character arc: returning to him a sense of 'mission'. To pull him back from the loneliness and give him back a mission, a direction.

The show was a celebration of itself, too, as the cast broke through the fourth wall into a universe where Red Dwarf is a TV show. Ultimately this would assist Lister in regaining his self-worth - We've got a fan club! - and allow a slew of anniversary-appropriate back-references.

In building a creations-meet-creator story, Doug found parallels to Blade Runner and embraced the chance to spoof the classic movie - one that's been cited as an influence on the show's creation. There's also something tragic about a set of characters discovering that their deaths are being used, not for emotional closure, but rather for a parody gag!

Sadly dropped from one scene was Kryten's line as the character meets the show's prosthetics artist: Swallow, if only you could have blown what I've blown with your nose. Somehow this seemed to carry a naughtier implication than intended!

Originally scripted as a two-part show, rewrites added more and more to the story but also increased the length. An early plan to have the 'Kochanski' subplot be exclusive to an extended DVD cut were scrapped in favour of giving the broadcast show a stronger emotional spine.

In early drafts, in fact, Kochanski herself was not going to appear at all - her appearance at the climax was a very late addition, worked out after the extension to three episodes. (And the budgetary difficulties of bringing back even regular cast members.)

Those early drafts also contained some other key differences. Initially the squid was without (hallucinated) dimension-hopping abilities, an element that was added to both remove the monstrous threat from the story early on, and to provide a convincing source of dimensional travel. (Initially Katerina simply adapted equipment already in storage aboard Red Dwarf.)

Katerina herself was left behind on the mothership and never seen again, until it was decided to give the character - who had become Rimmer's nemesis - a proper defeat. The idea to shove her into oncoming traffic came from associate producer Andrew Ellard, but one draft saw Rimmer persuade a security guard in the department store to have her arrested for causing damage to the store.

Craig Charles cunningly suggested that any reference to 2009 be removed from the script, instead simply stating the early 21st century. This small adjustment made the episodes less liable to date as they're repeated over the coming years.