I can hardly believe it, we’ve been working on Red Dwarf series XI and XII at Pinewood Studios since late October last year. We have somehow managed to make 11 episodes so far, the final episode is still a mystery to the cast. None of us have seen a script yet, we have no idea what we’ll be doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that the cast, crew, production staff and just about everyone connected with powering the behemoth that is Red Dwarf are fairly knackered. Everyone who works on the series, the 4 space bums, the camera crew, the sound crew, make up, costume, lighting, set builders, designers, editors, script secretary, producers, director all say ‘this is the hardest show I’ve ever worked on.’ The same phrase has been used on every series I've worked on. "Oh my God, this is just impossible!" Or "How the hell did we ever make anything!" So why is that? I mean, it’s just a telly series, there’s loads of them being made all the time. It’s no big shakes, handful of actors, studio, some sets, bit of costume and makeup, funny scripts, learn your lines, hit your mark, bish bash bosh. Done.
Why is it so hard? Well, if you take your average sitcom, say ‘Allo Allo,’ ‘Yes Minister,’ ‘The Young Ones,’ ‘Absolutely Fabulous,’ ‘Peep Show’ ‘Bottom,’ ‘Birds of a Feather’ or ‘Mrs Browns Boys’ they are all set in the world we know, either the present day or the distant past. They too require sets, costumes, make up, scripts, actors, cameras, lights, sound. They even have some special effects on occasion, but, having been a guest artist in a couple of the shows in that list, believe me they were a walk in the park in comparison to Red Dwarf.
There are so many things that can go wrong while recording a scene from the show. The comic and most obvious is me screwing up my lines, to be fair, we all do it on occasion but I definitely do more than my share. But also the complexity of the world we’re trying to create, the air locks, lifts with sliding doors, skutters with a mind of their own, the props that are impossible to hold with thick Kryten hands, the mind boggling stories we attempt to tell all add up to a heap of stress. The Gelf's, the complicated make up and inconceivable monsters, the endless problems with microphones getting lost in hair, costume, robot suits, weird sets the camera can't fit in. However, counter to all these things is the place Red Dwarf holds in the sitcom firmament. If it was easy to make, it wouldn’t have lasted this long or ever have been as popular. If the main cast didn’t get along, if we didn’t support each other in a surprisingly genuine way none of us would have stuck at it.
What makes being in Red Dwarf a truly magical experience as well as being ridiculously exhausting and difficult is how much we make each other laugh. Half my exhaustion comes from laughing all week, we all laugh a great deal, the in jokes, the comic references of 27 years of working together are impossible to record, daft, immature and often miniscule. Chris can raise one eyebrow and I'm in hysterics, Danny can come up with a little turn or phrase and we're all guffawing. Craig can just sit staring into space and we're all on the floor. I think, and Doug Naylor has confirmed this on numerous occasions, one of the reasons for the success of the show is the chemistry between the main cast. It’s a massive honour and privilege to work with them and when we finish in a couple of weeks, I know I’ll miss all of them.