It has been rumoured for some time, but Craig Charles has now confirmed that Red Dwarf will be returning for a new series in 2012. The cult sci-fi comedy was first broadcast on BBC 2 in 1989 and, following a long absence from our screens, was revived by Dave in the three-part Back to Earth special in 2009.
The full series of six half-hour episodes of will again be on Dave, which earlier this week announced it’s intentions to increase the amount of original content on the channel. The cast were told to keep details of the show’s return secret but Craig Charles, who plays slobbish last human Dave Lister, let the news slip during an interview with Real Radio.
He said “It did really well which was really quite weird because we all thought we were just doing it for a laugh. It got more viewers than BBC2 and Channel 4 combined on the night which is really good! So they’ve just commissioned another series of Red Dwarf. We’re gonna film at the end of November, December and January.”
When asked about the quality, he said “We’ve gotta recapture the highlights like series five, series six, that kind of stuff. If we can hit that mark then brilliant. There’s no point doing it if it’s a bit so-so.”
Which is an important point. The first five series of Red Dwarf were absolute classics, the sixth was also very good, but the seventh (which came after a few years off the air) was a huge disappointment, with the eigth and final BBC series having some good moments but stretched six episodes’ worth of material over eight. Likewise, Back to Earth seemed like a one-hour special spread over three half-hour episodes and I felt the lack of audience laughter had a hugely negative effect on the programme.
Luckily, Robert Llewellyn, who plays Kryten, has said on his blog that “at the moment, and this could change, the plan is that we record the new series in front of an audience.”
This is a very good sign that the new series might be able to recapture some of the magic of earlier episodes that had been lost along with the studio audience. While some might suggest that Red Dwarf is a sitcom that has never known when to stop (I imagine it would be so much more revered today had it ended after series five), it’ll be nice to be in the company of those familiar characters again.