Friday 10 March 2023

RED DWARF rights split between its original creators

In an interesting move, it's been announced that the rights to venerable British SF sitcom Red Dwarf have been split between its two creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, as part of a legal agreement. This clears the way for the return of Red Dwarf to television and possibly its debut in other areas.

Red Dwarf celebrated its 35th anniversary last month. The live-action sitcom started airing in 1988 and depicted the misfortune of Dave Lister, probably the last human being alive in the universe. Lister is put into stasis as punishment for smuggling a pregnant cat aboard his mining ship, the gigantic Red Dwarf. Unfortunately, during his confinement the ship's crew are killed by a lethal radiation leak and the vessel's sentient AI, Holly, orders the ship out of the Solar system to prevent further contamination. Unfortunately, it takes three million years for the radiation to disperse and for Lister to be released safely. As well as Holly, Lister is soon joined by a holographic recreation of his dead superior officer, the mind-numbingly tedious and arrogant Arnold "Judas" Rimmer, and the last survivor of a humanoid species which evolved from his cat. Later seasons add Kryten, a service mechanoid rescued from a derelict spacecraft, and occasionally Kristine Kochanski, Lister's ex-girlfriend whom, in a parallel universe, survived instead of him.

The show aired six seasons in rapid succession from 1988 to 1993, becoming one of the biggest shows on British television. Co-creators and co-writers Grant and Naylor split up their partnership after Season 6, and Naylor returned (first with other collaborators, then solo) to produce two additional seasons in 1997 and 1999. Naylor was then side-tracked into trying to make a movie which never came to fruition, so returned with a three-part special in 2009, followed by new, full seasons in 2012, 2016 and 2017. The latest bit of Dwarf to air was a TV movie, The Promised Land, in 2020.

In 2021 it was revealed that Naylor had either been fired or forced to resign from Grant Naylor Productions, the production company he had set up with Rob Grant to produce the show. Although Grant had left in 1993, the show had continued with his permission as a co-director of the company. The reasons for Naylor's departure were disputed, with Naylor claiming he'd been forced out and Grant claiming that work had been underway on two further TV specials with Naylor slated to write. Grant subsequently confirmed that he was planning to return to the franchise to write for the first time since a 1996 spin-off novel.

Today's agreement suggests that both Naylor and Grant will proceed with different Red Dwarf projects, potentially both involving the original castmembers. The cast themselves, now all in their late fifties and sixties, have expressed doubt on how long they can keep playing their roles, leading to speculation that the future of Red Dwarf may lie in a possible reboot, maybe on a streaming service. A previous attempt to adapt Red Dwarf to the American market in 1993 resulted in two pilots which never made it to series, but the show's longevity and the increased American demand for streaming product may tempt them to revisit the idea.

Whether this means that the two previously-planned TV movies involving the original cast can now go ahead is unclear.

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