The Brittas Empire. Gordon Brittas (Chris Barrie). Copyright: BBC.

Chris Barrie

BCG Features

Press Clippings

Red Dwarf was very nearly the most A-list sitcom of all time. Imagine this: Hugh Laurie as the prissy, uptight hologram, Rimmer.

Alfred Molina as his stand-in. And Alan Rickman playing Lister, the last living human and the biggest slob in the universe.

That's the Alan Rickman who was the Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince Of Thieves and Professor Snape from the Harry Potter films.

Hard to picture him with dreadlocks, eating ice cream out of a tub with his fingers.

But as Red Dwarf: The First Three Million Years (Dave) made clear, the show has never lacked ambition.

Writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor conceived it as a cross between Sigourney Weaver's Alien movies and The Odd Couple, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

And why not? I've got an idea for a costume soap opera that combines Pride And Prejudice with Are You Being Served? -- about a Georgian department store, where Mr Darcy is in gentlemen's outfitting and Miss Bennet sells ladies' underwear.

But I'm not mad enough to suppose the Beeb would turn it into a series.

The difference is that Grant and Naylor really did believe their show could work. They kept believing it, despite being turned down three times at the BBC.

Rickman refused the part because he didn't fancy doing sitcom in front of a live studio audience.

He might have been right -- archive footage of the pilot episode revealed the jokes were met with baffled silence. It was so bad the show had to be rewritten and recorded again.

Instead of the all-star cast, the creators ended up with a performance poet (Craig Charles), a mate who did the voices on Spitting Image (Chris Barrie), and a dancer from Lena Zavaroni's backing group (Danny John-Jules).

And when they finally got the go-ahead to start filming, the studios were shut for 12 weeks by a strike. If ever a show seemed doomed...

Yet Grant and Naylor never stopped believing in it -- and 32 years later, despite a hiatus that lasted more than a decade and a switch to the backwater Dave channel, Red Dwarf is still going.

In fact, as the recent feature-length special proved, it's funnier than ever. That's the real significance of this three-part documentary celebration of the series.

Its details were sometimes interesting -- for instance, the discovery that John-Jules based the Cat's walk and screeches on Godfather of Soul James Brown.

But what matters is the endless determination and self-belief of the writers. Anyone wanting encouragement for their own dreams will find it here.

Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail, 7th August 2020

The Red Dwarf chronicles - Series IV

In a series that saw Series III's dramatic changes bed in, the boys from the Dwarf were now convinced that they had a hit on their hands.

Jazzy Janey, The Comedy Blog, 17th June 2020

TV review: Red Dwarf - The Promised Land, Dave

Judging it on what we actually got, it mostly worked.

Alex Finch, Comedy To Watch, 10th April 2020

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land review

Dave's feature-length special is fun but far from purrfect.

Mr Josh, The News Trace, 10th April 2020

Red Dwarf review

Red Dwarf (Dave), the sci-fi sitcom that's been running almost since the ­beginning of the universe, switched format to record a feature-length episode, a full two hours. Even Dad's Army couldn't ­manage that. And it was funny. Not just catchphrase funny, more than simply in-joke, fan-favourite funny, but loaded with some great gags.

Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail, 10th April 2020

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land review

Not a triumph then, this feature-length special, more a fond rehash of some former hits.

Chris Farnell, Den Of Geek, 9th April 2020

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, review

In this space sitcom no one can hear me laugh.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 9th April 2020

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land review

This feature-length space odyssey sees the gang reunite to fight a bunch of evil felines, in an adventure that's great fun for fans and perfectly watchable for everyone else.

Rebecca Nicholson, The Guardian, 9th April 2020