Back To Earth: The Trilogy

The truth behind the decision to make the new story a three-part epic.

20 February, 2009

It's news that couldn't be contained. Well, not by Kryten actor Robert Llewellyn, anyway. On the blabbermouth mechanoid's Twitter feed he revealed that:

Red Dwarf latest. Have just heard since coming back from Norway that the unplugged live show is being postponed, we do 3 new eps instead.

The cat, there, being well and truly let out of the bag. (Robert would later add Found out today that I wasn't meant to say anything about the unplugged episode being cancelled, got a big mouth get me in trouble.)

Back To Earth: The Trilogy

So, yes, it's true. Red Dwarf: Unplugged - a planned half-hour of the lads playing classic scenes in a deliberately ramshackle format - is out, and Back to Earth - Part Three is in!

This all started with the script. Doug Naylor had, as ever, written Back to Earth's two-part story a little long - deliberately so, in fact, in preparation for a possible 'Xtended cut' on DVD.

Yet as the script evolved, it soon became clear that every scene in the show was necessary. There was no padding. And with later drafts maximising on ideas hinted at in the first versions, two 30-minute scripts (each already intended to be around 23 minutes, after editing, for broadcast on the a station that includes commercial breaks) slowly grew into a story that ran a total of around 70 minutes.

It may not seem a huge a difference, but the need to tell an epic story at the appropriate pace, plus the logistical demands of shooting so much material under a tight schedule, meant that Grant Naylor Productions and Dave have agreed a change of plans.

The two cast-and-crew days originally booked for Red Dwarf: Unplugged (one for script and tech rehearsal, one for shooting) have become the final two days of the Back to Earth production. This will be entirely location work, as the production will already have left the shooting stage - Studio D at Shepperton - and dismantled the sets.

While all this might seem unusual, Red Dwarf scripts have always been produced against the time pressure of production, feeding off the energy of impending production, not to mention the bright ideas sparked by having cast and crew close to hand.

In the case of Back to Earth the remarkable thing is how cleanly and deliberately the three parts came together. Careful rewriting has tidied up the structure, but this was always a three-part story cramming itself into two episodes. Now... well, now it can breathe.

Back to Earth is coming to Dave from April 10th.

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