DwarfCast 160 – Rob Grant Interview DwarfCasts Posted by Ian Symes on 21st March 2023, 15:24 Subscribe to DwarfCasts: RSS • iTunes “I’ve got a lot of Red Dwarf to give.” Well then, this is a little bit special. Fresh from the fantastic news that the Red Dwarf legal kerfuffle is officially resolved, we speak exclusively to Rob Grant himself – the co-creator of the programme, who’s now returning to the franchise after an absence of close to 30 years. We found out exactly what the legal resolution means for the future of the show, got clarification on the new status quo for Rob and Doug, discovered what new projects are being pursued, discussed possible collaborations with established cast and crew, and touched upon merchandise, continuity, technology, Marilyn Monroe, and much much more. This is not one to be missed. We strongly recommend listening immediately to hear all this directly from the man himself, along with our own reactions and post-interview analysis, but if you’re unable to listen right now, there’s a full transcript of the interview portion below. DwarfCast 160 – Rob Grant Interview (52.1MB) Show transcript Download transcript Ian: So the current state of play – correct me if I’m wrong – is that there are no longer any obstacles to new Red Dwarf being made? Rob: No, no, there aren’t. I mean, in fact, there are provisions precisely to make new Red Dwarfs all over the place. And it’s very exciting. We reached a resolution whereby Doug and I both have different exclusive exploitation rights. And I don’t want to second guess him by announcing, you know, what they are specifically between us, but we both have a right to a spin off on telly, and there are movie rights, animation rights, theatrical rights. And in addition to that, there are a number of rights that aren’t exclusive to us, but we can exploit, for instance podcasts, novels, radio shows, that kind of thing. And to top it all, then if a different kind of project comes along, we just have to get the other’s approval to get that off the road. So technically, everything’s feasible. I: It’s insane that we’ve gone from a bottleneck where everything was stopped, and now all of a sudden, anything is possible. Absolutely anything. R: Yeah, it really is, it’s mind blowing. And very, very exciting. I mean, of course, not all of these things are going to come off because you know… death. We’re not going to be around forever, but we want to be able to exploit what we can while we can. Cappsy: So this situation is essentially designed to avoid any toe-stepping, presumably? R: It was a very difficult and delicate negotiation, but yeah, that’s fundamentally what we had to try and do, yeah. C: That’s good, because that is a concern that we’ve seen some in the community say, like what happens if there is toe stepping? So it’s good that’s there, I guess that would be the first thing to resolve isn’t it? R: Yeah. I: Yeah we’re not going to be in a situation where you’re both pitching rival versions of Red Dwarf to the same people, it’s more that you will have your own areas divided up that you can do without clashing with each other. R: Yeah, I mean, there are lots of versions, for instance, of Star Trek currently on all over the place, and they seem to survive side-by-side without stepping on toes. C: Well, there’s been multiple continuities of Red Dwarf since 1989, so it’s something we’re used to! R: So yeah, it’s all good, I think. I mean, I’m very excited to see what Doug comes up with. I love the show and I want more of it. I did see that there’s some people commenting saying, “leave it now, it’s had enough and we don’t want to see a new cast”. And I just think, you know, I’m old enough to remember when we got the new Doctor, Patrick Troughton, from William Hartnell, who’d died, I think, so it wasn’t like there was an option. And the people were saying “oh no, you can’t have another Doctor”. And you can! You can have multiple Doctors. C: And I think history proved them right in the end! R: Yeah. And I get it, you know, we love the cast, of course we do. They’re a unique bunch of incredibly talented, funny actors. We really got lucky casting them because I thought they were all idiots. (Laughs) No, I didn’t, I didn’t). But you know, going over those performances, during the quarantine shows, I really began to appreciate just how talented they were. Craig and Chris and Danny, they light up the room, they know what they’re doing. And they were doing things I didn’t notice, you know, when I was shooting it, they’re very clever. But you know, we can’t go on with that forever. That’s got a limited lifespan, and hopefully, Doug will be able to get at least one more series out of them, or a special. I certainly hope so, we’ll have to see. C: Would it be fair to say then, given what we know about how difficult it is to get the cast all together at the same time, also some health problems that Robert’s had with the mask in the past, that it may be fair to say that Doug will be the one working with the cast, maybe in the short term and anything you’re doing would be sans cast, perhaps? R: Well, I think Doug certainly will be working with the main cast. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to break up that kind of continuity now. But you know, there is nothing stopping the cast making appearances in spin-offs. Like, you know, Spock was in bloody every spin-off, wasn’t he? So it’d be nice to have them there. There will be a place for them. I: And I suppose you’ve already mentioned radio, animation, things like that – there are things that you can do with the original cast that aren’t a TV show. R: Exactly, I’d expect to get most of them, I hope, in the animation, because then they don’t have to put on the makeup, they don’t even have to leave their home most of the time. C: Literally phone it in. R: They do these days! And that would be nice. So yeah, one thing I was actually going to put to the G&T mob is, I’ve seen a lot of people over the past couple of years talking about a Red Dwarf animation. And what are they looking for? I’d like to hear what kind of things they’d like to see. Do they imagine it like a Rick and Morty, or Below Decks, the Star Trek one, or an anime? Danny: Do you mind if I jump in? So I’ve seen a lot of shows where there’s been a lot of good… Have you seen Love, Death and Robots on Netflix? R: No. D: So that’s like a sci-fi anthology show. And I think what could work is an anthology show that might not always be every cast member in every episode, but it could just be like an episode that focuses on a single character. R: And what would they be, sequential or they’d be completely independent? D: They could be completely unrelated, they don’t have to have a continuity. They could have a continuity, that could also be a way it would work, but I was thinking it could be almost like stories within the universe of Dwarf, it doesn’t have to have continuation, but you could also have origin stories as well. I’m speaking rather selfishly, but this is the stuff that appeals to me is kind of extending the universe of Red Dwarf and seeing what Titan looks like and seeing what the universe of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers looks like. Like, that’s the kind of stuff that really appeals to me particularly, but that seems to be where a lot of shows tend to do these anthology shows where there’s a lot of scope and possibilities. R: Like Tales From The Dwarf basically. D: Yeah, Tales From The Dwarf basically, yeah! C: I think as well, one of the things that people really respond well to is kind of a grander realisation of those early ideas and early setups that you had. So for example, we’re going through the Smegazine at the moment… R: It’s quality stuff that! C: It’s brilliant! So right at the start, they adapted The End and Future Echoes, and script wise, it’s pretty much word for word but some of the evocative imagery that the artists managed to put in, like the scale. The first scene between Rimmer and Lister and just showing the kind of the huge area that they’re in, that really appeals, I think, to people for animation, like the almost… not the limitless possibilities, but just being able to push that out a little bit. I: Yeah, there’s definitely things that you can do in animation that you can’t do in live action without having a Hollywood budget. And there are so many ideas in Red Dwarf, like… So we’re going through the Smegazines and spoilers for Danny and Cappsy who haven’t gotten to this stage of their readthrough yet, but there’s spin offs for the Inquisitor, for Ace Rimmer, for Duane Dibbley, for Jake Bullet. There are so many ideas that you and Doug just burnt through in half an hour that haven’t been returned to since. C: Sometimes two or three in half an hour. R: Yeah I know, well that’s kind of why we went into the novels because we thought, you know, there’s a little bit more in this. C: Yeah. And that’s the big thing that everyone says they like about the novels is how they weren’t just novelisations, it was a whole new universe as well. I think that’s something that really interests the Red Dwarf fan group as as a whole is like the idea that we’ve been used to the fact that we’ve got two Red Dwarf continuities, like even thinking that different series would be in different continuities really if you think about it, like III and 2 don’t feel like they’re in the same show, you know, things like that. So like, anything that kind of exploits that and just starts right back from the beginning – could be the same characters, but just retell it slightly differently, like USA did, like the novels did. This is all kind of the points of excitement, I would say. R: Excellent, this is music to my ears, honestly. I feel like I’m interviewing you guys. Okay, so what can you bring to Red Dwarf? C: Are you up to speed with Doug Dwarf, as it were? R: Only in very broad terms. I mean, I have people who are very familiar with it, who would look at my stuff and say, “oh, actually, Doug’s done that.” I: Yeah, you did Into the Gloop a couple of years ago, a little sort of reintroduction to the world of Red Dwarf. My reading of that, in part, was that you were establishing a multiverse for Red Dwarf, like a point at which Red Dwarf could spin off and say, “well everything that happened after this is still valid, but here’s an alternative version…” R: That certainly occurred to me. I mean, at the time, it didn’t look like I could ever get it off the ground or anything, but it was kind of a thought experiment, really. I thought the fans did really well in it, didn’t they? [general agreement] R: It was a lot of fun. But yeah, that was kind of what I was thinking, Ian. I was kind of thinking “well, you could just split it”, and of course it’s science fiction, you can split off, you know, wherever you want. C: Yeah, exactly, and also at this point, you know, Red Dwarf isn’t totally too in love with its own continuity, it never has been really, so… R: I mean, I’m a continuity Nazi. Honestly. C: Yeah, this is what we’ve heard! R: And it was Doug who said ”look, if it’s gonna be a better show, stuff it”! And you know, he had a point, we would never have got the look from season three, if you’d gone with me and been compelled to keep things as they were. C: “The same generation nearly”. R: Yeah! So yeah, I am a continuity freak, really. It really interests me. I: What has prompted this return to the Red Dwarf sphere? Because presumably, you could have had a conversation at any point in the last nearly 30 years since you and Doug stopped writing it together. What made you want to return to the show after such a long break? R: No, I’ve wanted to return for a long time. And I kind of don’t want to rake over the coals of the past really, and I understand why you guys want to know that. But I really don’t want to rock the boat right now. I never left Red Dwarf in my heart. That’s all you need to know. I: OK. Have you been bubbling away with ideas for 30 years, basically? R: There was a period where I just had to shut it out and move on and do other stuff, and I kind of expected it to fade and die really, and it kind of did, it went away for a decade. But yes, you then go back and think, yeah, there was so much good about the setup, and so many more ideas to explore. And I’m really quite pumped now, I’ve got a lot of Red Dwarf to give. If only we can get a broadcaster to listen. C: Well, I guess what we’re all thinking is that there is a particular broadcaster that we would hope would be a perennial kind of partner. R: Yes, indeed we do. But we’ll see. We’ll see what interest there is. I’d have thought there’s a guaranteed audience out there… but that doesn’t seem to matter these days! Or that it’s funny or you know… you’re kind of in the lap of the gods, really. But something will come off, definitely. C: So, something we’ve been doing over the last couple of years is we’ve been revisiting all of the Red Dwarf novels, we finished that a while ago now. And so us and the community have had an opportunity to kind of re-evaluate things and we’ve almost surprised ourselves with how much we’ve enjoyed about it. And the community have even started their own reread of your books, the Rob Grant trilogy, and finding a hell of a lot to love about those. So I think if you were to ask anyone what they would be most excited about you doing next, it would probably be a Red Dwarf novel. Whereabouts is that in your mind or your list of priorities? R: My idea is that we get something off the ground – and again, I can’t be too specific about what we’re going for – but that would become the next novel, sort of in tandem. Which I always find it the best way to do it, because then the novel informs the series and the series informs the novel and you get… C: Like Quanderhorn. R: Yes. You get an explosion of ideas really. C: Fascinating. And would you continue – I mean, I don’t want to get too deep here – but I’m interested what you think about the way you left Backwards, the novel. You left it open ended, almost as if to say like, I could write anything after this. Is that still the intention? Or maybe would you wipe the slate clean? R: Again, I’d be giving too much away, guys! C: But you did say you were a continuity Nazi and continuity Nazis don’t throw away continuity, so… R: No! Oh, I’m giving away too many clues! C: Ok, point taken! R: No, I’m bursting to tell you, honestly guys. I hope very soon I will be able to. C: We’re just excited that there’s ideas bubbling and that, you know, this is even a conversation we could have in 2023, to be honest. I’m still shocked that the show came back in 2009, I haven’t got over that yet… R: Me too! C: …let alone what’s going to happen in the future now with both of you working on the show again. I: “Red Dwarf flying out of our buttskis” I believe was the phrase. R: I promised it, I promised it! C: You did, it has become a meme in the two years since you promised it! I: You mentioned a while back, literally two years ago, that there’d been an approach from an American company. It was shortly after Holly Hop and Into The Gloop, you mentioned yourself on the official website that there’d been an approach from an American company. Did anything come of that? You’re looking like you can’t even remember saying that… R: No, I can’t even think of what that was. I mean, these things happen all the time, you know? But yeah, America would be a place to exploit. And we are in a position where we can authorise new merchandise. The whole company now is me and Doug, so we don’t have to go to anyone else. I would definitely like to see a Red Dwarf beanie hat. I: That’s very specific. C: Do you get a cold head often, Rob? D: Can I offer a suggestion? Can I offer one with a ‘H’ on it? R: Oh, that’s not a bad thought, is it? C: That is a good idea. I: Now you’re gonna have to sign something that says you waive the rights to that, Danny. D: Yeah, I’ll happily give you one pound. R: I’ll give you a copy of the hat! I: I’m aware asking this that you may not be able to or want to answer in too much detail, but we did notice from the Companies House website that in the shakeup of all of this that Paul Jackson and Noel Gay are no longer involved in Grant Naylor. Is that going to help streamline things for you now? Is that an extra obstacle removed type thing? R: Well, it depends where you’re coming from really, it is a much cleaner way of doing things, just Doug and I have to agree on stuff. Hopefully not too much stuff. And Grant Naylor really is now, it’s not a production company any more. We go off to our own separate production companies and Grant Naylor basically administers the rights. That’s all it does. I: That makes a lot of sense. And so that wouldn’t preclude you presumably from working with Paul on projects in the future? R: Of course not. Absolutely not, I’d love to! And we actually, Paul and I, had a ridiculous lunch with Ed… C: I can imagine… R: Oh, you can’t! They had to pull us out of the restaurant, honestly. But we talked about our projects, and we’re all giddy with excitement and working, and Ed is available. He said he would definitely love to direct it, so… I: That would be a dream come true, it really would. R: It’d be squaring the circle. It’d be lovely. I: Again, through the Quarantine Commentaries, and everything there, we as a fan group have come to appreciate just how much Ed brought to the party. How advanced his techniques were, and how far he was pushing the limits of what he could do back in the late 80s. And yeah, I’d love to see the 21st Century equivalent of that. R: The thing about Ed is when I went into telly, the first director I worked with was Geoff Posner on Carrott’s Lib, and he never said “I can’t do that”. Never once in his life have I heard Geoff Posner say that. And I thought that’s how all directors were, and then I worked on Spitting Image, and I found out most directors are the exact opposite, they just rip up the script and say that’s impossible to shoot. And Ed was from the Geoff Posner school, he never said “no, you can’t run tape backwards through one of these, you morons!” He just did it. He found a way to do it. The confidence of ignorance! C: Also in those early series, working with technology that was already out of date… R: Yeah, yeah! C: …in the eighties, the one inch tape and everything. He was like “yeah, sure, I’ll do pioneering split screen on a sitcom. What else do you want?” R: It would be great to hook up with him again. I think he’s gotten even better since then. C: Well, the fan community definitely loves you guys as a trio, like, obviously, you know this, that the commentaries went down very well indeed. It was very heartwarming to kind of see you revisit old work and see those passions. I just love listening to Ed talk about how brilliant he is. He’s so good at it! D: And how difficult it all was. R: Yeah no, I enjoyed them tremendously. We were all a bit adrift, weren’t we, in that period. It gave a focus to the week. C: Yeah, it was so important for a lot of people. I: It was, yeah. You did a really good thing there. As Red Dwarf fans, it was good content, but also at that particular time, like you say, having some structure, something to look forward to each week, something to gather round as a community when we couldn’t see people, we couldn’t see our own families or friends. Thank you for that. R: No, thank you guys as well because we got the same from it. We got the same, it was this fantastic sense of community, the great feedback. We used to send all those comments up to all the guests and everything. And rekindled some old old friendships. I mean, it was lovely the episode with Howard, wasn’t it? I mean, what a genius. And David Ross and… I: Lee Cornes dressed as Hitler. R: Why not! C: I’d be more surprised if Lee Cornes wasn’t dressed as Hitler. Very Nazi heavy, isn’t it, this interview? R: I blame Gary Lineker. I: Well Hitler is one of the most recurring guest characters in Red Dwarf, he’s been in it so many times. D: He’s almost the sixth Dwarfer. R: We also had Marilyn on a couple of times. D: Can you explain what that was about? Like, why was Marilyn Monroe so prevalent in Red Dwarf? R: It was iconic figures really. And you know, in Red Dwarf there’s a lot of film reference, and so I guess that’s what it was. These people were icons. And Einstein, these were icons in our childhood, I guess. C: So I guess you were trying to go for things that would likely still be iconic 200 years later? R: Yes, yes, exactly. C: Berni Inn didn’t quite make the cut for that one, but… R: Cliff Richard didn’t make it either and he’s still here! I: Norweb doesn’t even exist. And why was Lister sending a photo to be developed anyway? What’s going on there? Why didn’t he just take it on his phone? C: It’s almost like he was living in the 80s. R: Okay, we didn’t get everything! C: We have kind of a group headcanon that the internet doesn’t exist in Red Dwarf. I: In the Red Dwarf universe they never invented the internet, and that explains why you have 80s technology basically in the far future. R: Ah, yeah. C: And it is a theme that’s continued as well to this day, you never really see anything internetty happening at all. D: It all comes through mail, it all comes through snail mail to the ship. C: 80s retro-futurism. R: Actual postmen, it’s snail mail in space! The Internet did change everything. I kind of remember when I first came across it, and I thought right then “oh, this is going to change everything”. I got a modem and bought an ISP space. And I was chatting to people in Australia and I was thinking, “oh my God, this is free, this is just brilliant”. This was in ‘93, and the internet went down one day, and it turned out that the guy I was buying it off was just a kid with an Amiga 64 in the attic, and he’d been hit by lightning, and he was waiting for his dad to get him a new computer. D: That is amazing. C: Wonderful. It’s still not massively more stable than that now, to be honest, as someone who works as a web developer. I: Well, we don’t want to get too bogged down in continuity and nerdy stuff because we can save that for a future interview, Rob. R: Get me for that when I commit the crimes, all right? I: But we do have one final question, a very important question. It’s something that has been divisive, controversial, something that has been splitting the Red Dwarf fan community in two, and we’re hoping you might be able to provide some clarification. Is Rastabilly Skank an artist or a genre? R: It’s a genre. C: Wow. D: Categorical. There you are, ladies and gentlemen, there’s your answer. C: That is seismic. You have no idea the effect that’s going to have. R: It was Craig who came up with it. D: Oh, that’s so cool. C: So it’s like rockabilly then? R: Yeah! D: So it’s a Jamaican rockabilly. R: With a bit of skank thrown in, yeah. I: Well, even if nothing actually comes of any of these fantastic ideas you’re putting out in the universe, then at least we’ve got the answer to that. This was all worthwhile R: OK! (laughs) Thanks guys, lovely talking to you and I hope I’ll be back with some definite news soon. C: Can’t wait. A huge, huge thank you to Rob for being so accommodating and generous with his time. All of a sudden, after such a terrible couple of years, this is a very exciting time to be a Red Dwarf fan. Watch this space. Show notes William Hartnell wasn’t dead by the time Patrick Troughton took over as The Doctor, but we’re too cowardly to correct the actual co-creator of Red Dwarf to his face. Rob’s now-forgotten mention of an American approach Rob soliciting for fan feedback on Twitter Doug’s Radio Times interview Two and a half hours on whether or not The Lion King is a rip off.