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Red Dwarf fans around the globe are a patient lot. Since 1988, when creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor introduced the sci-fi sitcom/satire to audiences on BBC Two, it's always been the oddball sci-fi show that was avidly embraced by its devoted fans, but not by its network, or most critics.
But over its 32-year life span, the series has been given fans12 seasons, even with several long hiatuses and a network change in 2009 to Dave in the UK. But fans have clamored for more — and they got it this April with the brand new movie, Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, which reunited Naylor with the cast including Chris Barrie (Rimmer), Craig Charles (Lister), Danny John-Jules (Cat), and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten).
Now U.S. fans can finally see it on the BritBox subscription service as it premieres stateside on July 26, 2020. While it's a unique format, feature-length, and it was shot in an equally unique way, Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, was unanimously praised by fans for its story and for the strangely hopeful place it leaves the characters.
SYFY WIRE has an exclusive clip from the movie, featuring Lister getting negged by Cat and Rimmer for his hoarder-style habits on the ship.
We also spoke with co-creator and The Promised Land writer and director, Doug Naylor, about shooting the return in such a unique way. "Dave (TV) wanted to try the feature film format, but also wanted to keep the audience," Nayor says of the film retaining the show's classic, live studio audience track. "The whole series had gone by with 50 percent of it shot and then played to a live audience, and then 50 percent [played] in front of the audience. We tried to keep that. But obviously, a single audience couldn’t see the entire shoot, so we split it in two. The first audience saw the first half and then the second audience saw the second half and we put the whole thing together."
Naylor says it was pretty seamless, from a creative point of view, but The Promised Land will always be remembered for a huge, behind-the-scenes scare. "Robert Llewellyn got quite ill and was in hospital for a few weeks, so a lot was shot without him. And we kept shooting but in the end, we threw out a lot of the stuff we shot without Robert. So, it was different in that way. But as soon as Llewellyn got back and got well, it felt like the old days. Certainly, the proof in the pudding was the reaction [from audiences] was terrific."
Usually a lot of Red Dwarf's comedy comes from the fact that these characters are abandoned, stranded or lost in space. But The Promised Land has a surprisingly positive vibe about it that feels rather comforting in these often dire 2020 times.
Naylor agrees, but adds, "The strange thing was we had no sense of [COVID} when we were making it. We had just finished the edit a few short weeks before the world went into lockdown. In that sense, it’s completely unaffected by COVID, but I do think it came out at the right time. Hopefully, people in the states will take it in the way that the folks in the U.K. did."
And if they do, there's a good chance fans all over the world can look forward to more stories as soon as production protoccols are worked out. "There are still so many areas we can explore," Naylor enthuses about future stories. "Everyone wants to do more. U.K. TV wants to do more. I’m working on a couple of things right now, and hopefully, when we come on the other side of this, we’ll start shooting it. The appetite is there so we’d like to keep going."
Red Dwarf: The Promised Land premieres on BritBox July 26, 2020.