Complete Guide

Writing

As he began work on the first full series in over a decade, it was no surprise that Doug Naylor was able to pull out of his pocket various story ideas that he'd built up in the intervening years. And he needed them: for the first time in the show's history, a full set of episodes (notwithstanding the prior, but shorter, Back to Earth special) was the work of a single writer. This did, however, place arguably greater emphasis on the contributions of script editor Andrew Ellard and co-producer Richard Naylor.

An early hint as to the direction of the series came at the same fan convention at which the series' commission had been announced - in a special "coffee morning" Q&A session with a handful of lucky fans, Doug outlined a couple of plot ideas he was already chewing over. Talk of a meeting with one of Rimmer's brothers - at the time speculated to be the infamous Frank, but in fact ultimately the Howard appearance in Trojan - along with the exploration of Lister's self-paternity that would become Fathers and Suns, demonstrated that the two lead characters' family backgrounds would play an important part in shaping the psychology of the new series.

There was a clear intent to give the series a "back to basics" approach - hence, the episodes would be set largely on Red Dwarf itself, and centre almost entirely on the main four characters. Indeed, two episodes - Fathers and Suns and Dear Dave - would be set on or around the ship in their entirety. Meanwhile, Lemons continued the show's tradition for mining humour from time travel stories, while both Entangled and The Beginning brought new spins to classic antagonists, whether genetically-engineered or malevolent simulant.

The early shape of the series took place quickly, with Trojan - originally titled Slow Rescue, but renamed when it became apparent that it hardly suggested a dynamic opening for a new series! - introducing the high-tech derelict ship that would provide plot seeds in a number of the episodes that followed. Despite this, Fathers and Suns, by virtue of one of the show's strongest ever plot-twisters and a magnificent lead performance by Craig, was briefly considered a possible alternative opener - which could have been easily explained by removing any reference to Pree's retrieval from the derelict, but may also have thrown off the balance of the series.

This strong opening was capped off by Lemons - despite initial reservations that a humorous slant on a certain Biblical figure might not play well in the more conservative United States. Eagle-eyed fans may well have noticed Doug discussing the writing of the episode on Twitter back in 2011, as he gathered assistance from the social network on how to go about finding galvanised nails in AD23 India...

As production of the series drew on, however - with time and budgetary constraints meaning that, in now-familiar Red Dwarf fashion, writing was forced to continue even as shooting of the early episodes had begun - the second half was constructed in a far more "on the fly" fashion. The original plan for a final pair of episodes that would see the reintroduction of Kochanski - bringing to the fore a subplot that had bubbled throughout the series - had to be ditched, with replacement stories found at short notice.

This meant that the conclusion of Entangled was written and shot after the main audience recording session, while Dear Dave had also run short and so required an entire subplot to be constructed and added during the show's pick up week and later greenscreen shoot. Fortunately, as a quieter, "Series II-style" affair in the first place, it was probably the one episode in the series that could actually stand up to being put together in this way.

For the final episode, ominously titled The Beginning in reference to the series' very first story - although originally written under the equally ominous moniker Death Day - part of the story had existed for a good while longer. Although Doug remained coy on exactly which elements were drawn from early drafts of the Red Dwarf movie script, it was telling that the episode's opening act included a character by the name of Hogey the Roguey who had been previously referenced while the aborted film was in production.

Quite aside from the plot surrounding Hogey and the villainous simulants attacking the ship, however, the main purpose of the series finale was to round off the series' predominant theme of the characters' unconventional family backgrounds. Having earlier cast doubts on everything Rimmer thought he knew by revealing that his brother Howard was an equally lowly technician, Naylor threw a bigger spanner into the works with a huge twist concerning Arnold's own parentage. This allowed the series to end on a line of dialogue that beautifully called back the show's very first episode - and reflected Rimmer's newfound acceptance of his place among the crew.

As with Back to Earth, the series was intended as a clean break and a fresh jumping-on point - harkening back to the classic episodes while remaining an accessible way in for new viewers. As such, the resolution of the infamous Series VIII cliffhanger, as well as the question of which version Rimmer was now onboard ship, was deliberately swerved - by way of a couple of cheeky references in the final episode!

Furthermore, rather than ending on a similar cliffhanger itself, Series X presented an emotionally satisfying conclusion - wrapping up the individual series neatly while providing a solid launchpad for potential future adventures...