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    INTERVIEW | Red Dwarf writer and creator Doug Naylor

    Interviewer: What do you think of Red Dwarf slash and fanfic in general?
    Doug: I don’t read any fanfic or any RD scripts that are sent to me for legal reasons.

    I’m not a legal expert nor am I even remotely educated outside Blue’s Clues. Why exactly can’t Naylor read fan-submitted RD scripts? Is it cause a fan could sue Doug if he makes an episode remotely similar to a fanfic he read?


    It’s a standard thing I’ve seen other writers and comedians saying they don’t do for a long time, so people can’t claim being ripped off. I’ve read that US TV studios send obviously script-shaped packages back to the sender unopened with a legal disclaimer added to make sure they can’t sue if a generically similar idea shows up years later as a B-plot in S07E11.

    There might have been exceptions, since I know the 1990s Star Trek series had a policy of accepting unsolicited scripts, like that bloke who submitted ‘Thanks for the Memory’ with different character names. I don’t know any example of people suing for this, only that J. Michael Straczynski reckoned the whole Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premise was a rip-off of the Babylon 5 pitch he’d made to Paramount executives and was angry about it, but couldn’t be arsed to take legal action.


    So the ‘idea for an episode’ thread has all been for nothing.


    I nominate this for Hall of Fame status

    Ben Saunders

    Did the Star Trek people accept those scripts more as pitches, with the possible intent of producing them if they were good enough? I think Saward and/or Cartmel did that with Doctor Who, but I’m not entirely sure exactly what the process was. They were pretty desperate for good scripts, apparently.

    It could be a slightly different case since if you were intending to possibly use the “unsolicited” script, the writer might at least get some credit or money?


    A mixture of pitches and scripts. ‘Clues’ (Thanks for the Memory) was a script that was heavily rewritten by the staff writers, I would love to see the original. Some of the best Trek writers started out by submitting spec scripts, like Ron Moore (The Bonding) and Rene Echevarria (The Offspring).

    It’s not too early in the morning for Star Trek crap in my time zone.


    I misunderstood the question. I think any old sod could send scripts in and it was someone’s job to read them and work out if they were good. One of the animated series episodes was based on a high school child’s story, because those were desperate times.

    Plastic Percy

    It happened on Babylon 5.

    J. Michael Straczynski was all ready to move on making the episode ‘Passing Through Gethsemane’ in the second season, but a fan posted a very similar idea on GEnie. Legal steps had to be taken with the fan that pushed the episode back until the third season.

    As he put it on his website:

    <<The probelm is not just one fan. People are *constantly* suing because they
    think their idea – sometimes just that, an idea – was stolen. Steven
    Spielberg was sued by *three people* each one independently claiming that ET
    was based on their story. Obviously, that three different people say the
    same thing means they’re mutually contradictory… it can’t be based uniquely
    on all three. Two of them have to be wrong at minimum (and as it came out,
    all of them lost). But they were True Believers.

    And yes, 98% of these cases are nonsense, and are eventually won by the
    original writer; but the process of defending such a case can literally
    consume *years* of your life.

    Here’s an example of this, btw. On another service, someone without
    considering what he was saying (not his fault, it just happened) said, in
    essence, “What if somebody on B5 found out that he had been mind-wiped, and
    used to be something awful previously?”

    Well, I’d had ‘Passing Through Gethsemane’ on the wire at that time, but when
    I saw this, I had to scuttle the story. It lay there, untouched, for over a
    year, until I could finally meet the fellow and get a signed release
    indicating what’d happened. If that fan had not been fair and reasonable,
    that episode – which many consider one of our best – would never have been
    made. >>

    Ben Saunders

    That’s very interesting. It is a bit of a minefield, who owns a concept. Steven Moffat has written into his scripts for Doctor Who ideas I have had previously, but for me to insinuate that he was copying me would be absurd, not least because I don’t think I ever vocalised the ideas, lol. I don’t get angry when I see an idea similar to one of mine played out by somebody else, I find it interesting and rewarding and it convinces me that this is exactly the kind of thing I want to see. Also it saves me the bother of writing it myself… heh. But I guess Doug has to operate on a “better safe than sued” philosophy. At least it protects him from the swathes and swathes of very explicit Rimmer/Lister slash fic out there.

    Ben Paddon

    Again, it’s a pretty standard industry thing. I have friends who write for a few shows here in the US who, as much as they’d love to, absolutely cannot look at fanfic for the shows they write for.


    I mean, anything you post on the official site’s forum belongs to GNP, so I think Doug can read fanfic over there.

    That said, are we going to copy idea for an episode over to there or not?

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