'Red Dwarf' is back on Dave, and it goes 'like a rocket'

The cast of the classic sci-fi sitcom chats about filming series XI, and finally finding out what Kryten was moaning about.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Stand by for more fun, fun, fun in the sun: the boys from the Dwarf are back!

"Red Dwarf" series XI blasts onto TV screens on 22 September, and you can watch the first episode "Twentica" online at UKTV Player.

Once again, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn play slobby last human Lister, holographic gimboid Arnold Rimmer, style-obsessed feline the Cat and rubber-headed mechanoid Kryten as they totter from one sci-fi shenanigan to another.

Twenty-eight years after the show first began, the cast took the stage in London this week to preview the new series and answer questions from press and fans. The four joked with each other, finishing each other's sentences as they reminisced about filming over the years. "We've got thirty years of in-jokes -- when we're together we talk in code," said Craig Charles.

So what brought the crew back together again? "I'm a bit skint," joked Chris Barrie.

Luckily, the Dwarfsome foursome enjoyed the experience. "I laugh a lot when I'm with these three," Llewellyn said. "Or sometimes I hear laughter when I'm leaving the room..."

The show appeared to have run out of rocket fuel when the BBC dropped it in 1999. A planned movie failed to materialise in 2005, but the cast finally looked set to reunite for a mooted clip show. That turned into a short series of three episodes before a full series was agreed on.

The return of "Red Dwarf" on digital channel Dave in 2009 was the UK's most successful nonterrestrial original broadcast. Series X followed in 2012, and the team has now shot two more series back-to-back. After the new run of episodes starting this month, series XII will air in 2017.

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Despite the big gap between the BBC and Dave episodes, the crew quickly got back into the swing of things. "Once you get the H slapped on and into the old uniform -- which I can just about get into -- it was good," Chris Barrie said. "Once the dialogue starts rolling the nine years just evaporated."

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"Red Dwarf" began in 1988 and is now on its 11th series, with a 12th in the can.


"Before we started I was in quite a state," Llewellyn admitted. "I was thinking 'I can't do acting' because I don't do it anywhere else. But you get in that costume, you get with these guys, and it's literally like you're sitting on a rocket. It just goes whoomph!"

Ah, those costumes. John-Jules recalled Llewellyn joking that he was "60 with a condom on his head...I'm 55 and I look like Tina Turner!"

Speaking of the heavy prosthetics required to bring the robotic Kryten to life, Lewellyn said that "only a moron would do it." But during the filming of the new series, the rest of the cast wore prosthetics on both their heads and hands for a couple of days.

"We all used to take the mickey out of Rob moaning," Charles recalled. "Then I wore the mask for three days and it was the most uncomfortable thing. It was so bad I thought I was crying but I wasn't -- I was sweating out of my eyes."

The costume is so hot that when in make-up Llewellyn could tilt his head and pour sweat out of his ear. "They used to make me do it in front of the audience!" Lewellyn lamented.

Regarding the prosthetics, Barrie mused "Two and a half weeks ago I had a hernia operation, and I'd rather go through the hernia operation again."

Nearly three decades and three million years on, series creator Doug Naylor rules out the idea of neatly wrapping up the show with a pat finale. Pointing to the disappointment of the final-ever episode of "Seinfeld", Naylor said he had no intention of bringing things to a climax. "When people die you don't get any warning. I don't want to write that final episode...."

But with two series still to enjoy, there's plenty of life in the old Dwarf yet.