Complete Guide

Genesis

The now-familiar story of Red Dwarf's teething troubles is enough to cheer any would-be writer. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor had been writing comedy sketches for several years, contributing material to shows starring Roy Hudd, Bernie Cliffton, The Grumbleweeds, Bob Monkhouse, Jasper Carrott, Three of a Kind, and Little and Large. Despite this, they were considered to be promising writers. They were also doing their own radio shows - Cliché and Son of Cliché, plus old folks home sit-com Wrinkles.

Rob and Doug became the head writers for ITV's satirical puppet comedy, Spitting Image - a kind of live-action Punch cartoon. They had turned down the show four times before accepting, and with good reason - their eventual remit was to double the viewing figures within six weeks! (Needless to say, they succeeded.) Image, famous for its closing musical numbers, had a number one hit with The Chicken Song, the lyrics for which were penned by Grant and Naylor.

The Red Dwarf pilot script - based on Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, a recurring sketch from Son of Cliché - was offered to Blackadder producer John Lloyd and The Young Ones producer Paul Jackson in 1983. (The name Hollins was changed when a footballer of the same name came to prominence.)

The script was subsequently shopped around the Beeb and was, by the writers' own admission, rejected by pretty much everyone with any power whatsoever. The comedy was no problem - but science fiction? Get out of the office. Having elected to fight for a slot on the BBC, the show was steered away from ITV (whose shows had shorter running times in order to fit in advertising breaks) and also from the prospect of a Film on Four. Eventually - in 1986 - the BBC asked Paul Jackson for a second series of Ben Elton's Happy Families; the only problem being that the show was a self-contained, six-episode story, complete as it stood.

Red Dwarf was offered up as an alternative to BBC North's Commissioning Editor, Peter Risdale-Scott, and eventually got off the ground a mere three years after the pilot was written.

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