Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth
Genre Comic science fiction
Created by Doug Naylor
Written by Doug Naylor
Directed by Doug Naylor
Starring Chris Barrie
Craig Charles
Danny John-Jules
Robert Llewellyn
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 3
Executive producer(s) Charles Armitage
Doug Naylor
Producer(s) Helen Norman
Running time 25 mins approx
Production company(s) Grant Naylor Productions
Distributor UK Gold Services Limited
BBC Worldwide
Original network Dave
Dave HD
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Surround
Original release 10 April (2009-04-10) – 12 April 2009 (2009-04-12)
Preceded by Red Dwarf VIII
Followed by Red Dwarf X
Related shows Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (also referred to as Red Dwarf IX) is a three-part miniseries continuation of the British science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf, broadcast on UK television channel Dave between 10 and 12 April 2009[1] and subsequently released on DVD on 15 June 2009 and on Blu-ray on 31 August 2009.[2] It was the first television outing for Red Dwarf in over ten years, and features the characters Rimmer, Cat, Kryten and Lister. The storyline involves the characters arriving back on Earth, circa 2009, only to find that they are characters in a television series called "Red Dwarf".


"Part One" begins on Red Dwarf, nine years after the events of Series VIII. Kochanski (Chloë Annett) is dead and Holly is out of commission because Lister (Craig Charles) left a bath running in the officers' quarters for nearly nine years and the Skutters still have not finished drying him out. Rimmer also appears to be the original hologram Rimmer from series I to VII, rather than the series VIII human Rimmer. The crew have noted water supplies are low, and discover the cause—a giant squid in their water tank—after they go to investigate. After they barely escape from the encounter with their lives, the squid proceeds to vanish, and Katerina Bartikovsky (Sophie Winkleman), a former Red Dwarf science officer, materialises. Informing Rimmer (Chris Barrie) he is to be switched off in twenty-four hours, she uses the ship's equipment to analyse the leviathan's DNA and manages to turn a mining laser into a dimension cutter, in the hope of opening up a portal so that Lister can find a mate and restart the human race.

"Part Two" begins with the discovery that the Red Dwarf crew inhabit an "invalid dimension". Zeroing in on the nearest valid reality, the portal sucks the crew to Earth in 2009, only to find that in this world, their adventures have been a fictional television show called Red Dwarf. As a result of the discovery they quickly accept that they themselves are merely fictional characters, and find a DVD of the "Back to Earth" special. They are alarmed to discover that they are to die at the end of the final part. They resolve to track down their creators and plead for more life. While on a bus, Lister meets two kids who are fans of the show and who reassure him that, despite all of his faults, he is a heroic and cool character to them. They also share a theory about Kochanski's fate - since Kryten was the only person who actually witnessed her supposed 'death', it seems likely that Kochanski simply tired of Lister and left Red Dwarf, with Kryten telling Lister she had died to spare his feelings. Lister later confronts Kryten about this and Kryten admits that the children are correct.

In "Part Three", the crew track down actor Craig Charles on the set of Coronation Street and ask him to reveal the location of their creator. After they locate him, the Creator (Richard O'Callaghan) reveals that he intends to kill off the crew, having tired of them, but he is himself killed by a now-keen-to-remain-alive Lister. Shortly afterwards, the crew discover that they are in a shared hallucination caused by a female relative of the despair squid that uses joy, rather than despair, to subdue victims. Kochanski appears before Lister, tempting him to remain behind, but having discovered his Kochanski may still be alive in his own reality, he chooses to wake up and return with the others. As the crew head back to their sleeping quarters, Cat (Danny John-Jules) admits that he brought the female despair squid to Red Dwarf, and they reflect on the ridiculous idea that anyone could consider them fictional characters.


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
531"Back to Earth: Part One"Doug NaylorDoug Naylor10 April 2009 (2009-04-10)1
Lister's day of annoying Rimmer is cut short after the discovery of a dimension-hopping leviathan in the ship's water tank. This leads to the appearance (as a hardlight hologram) of deceased science officer Katerina Bartikovsky (Sophie Winkleman), who begins to make plans to permanently remove Rimmer and to assist Lister in restoring the human race.
542"Back to Earth: Part Two"Doug NaylorDoug Naylor11 April 2009 (2009-04-11)2
Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and Cat appear on contemporary Earth and discover that they are fictional characters from a television show called "Red Dwarf". They find a DVD box for "Back to Earth" and discover that they are to die at the end. They decide to track down their creators to plead for an extension, in a parody of Blade Runner. The DVD box also refers to a series X that does not actually exist yet. Katerina arrives via a second portal, but is quickly killed by Rimmer after she makes the mistake of telling him that taking the life of a hologram is not murder as they are already dead. A discussion between Lister and two children on a bus reveals that Kochanski may not be dead.
553"Back to Earth: Part Three"Doug NaylorDoug Naylor12 April 2009 (2009-04-12)3
Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and Cat use the car they take from the President of the Red Dwarf fan club, made out to resemble Starbug. They go to the set of Coronation Street, where they question Craig Charles about how much time they have left. Charles tells them they are down to their last episode, as well as giving them the address of "the creator", before joking that he needs to go back to the Priory (a reference to the actor's real life drug problems). They find the creator, in a scene heavily referencing Blade Runner. He tells them that their deaths cannot be undone, but they will at least die gloriously. In a struggle Lister manages to kill him, before finding that this was scripted by the creator. Lister then burns the creator's script and rewrites their own ending. They then discover that the typewriter is not determining their actions. The small origami sculptures left by the Cat turn out to be squids, leading the crew to realise that they have been drawn into an alternative reality by another despair squid. Rimmer, Kryten and Cat have formed resistance to the Despair Squid through their previous meeting, but Lister chooses to stay in the false reality where he gets together with Kochanski, despite the knowledge that she isn't real. After a period of time with Kochanski Lister decides to head back to his own reality, with a renewed sense of his own self-worth, determined to find the real Kochanski and win her back. The episode ends with the four laughing at the fact that the fans of Red Dwarf created by the Despair Squid's hallucination (i.e. the viewers) will think that their reality is the real one, and the Red Dwarf reality dependent on it, as opposed to the other way round.


In August 2008, Robert Llewellyn appeared on Seattle public television station, KCTS 9. In an interview, he revealed that BBC Worldwide, in collaboration with another party, had invested in 72 minutes of new Red Dwarf to be filmed in early 2009.[3] Grant Naylor Productions announced that it had been "on the cards" since February 2008.[4] It subsequently transpired that UKTV channel Dave would screen four new 24-minute specials to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the series.[5] The new episodes form part of an effort by Dave to screen more original programming, instead of just repeats.[6]

It was subsequently announced in January 2009 that the new special was to be a brand new two-part story titled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, broadcast over the Easter weekend of that year along with a "making of" documentary and a one-off entitled Red Dwarf: Unplugged, which was intended to be an improvised episode.[7] On 20 February 2009, it was announced that Red Dwarf: Back to Earth would now be a three-part special and that the "unplugged" episode had been postponed.[8] Unplugged had been described by Craig Charles as "just the four of us—and some chairs—trying to improvise, or rather trying to remember, classic scenes".[9]

Back to Earth itself was not filmed in front of a studio audience due to budgetary constraints. Although this was not the first time this has happened (series seven was filmed entirely without a live audience), it is the first time a laughter track was not added for broadcast. It was also the first time Red Dwarf was filmed in high definition, this time using the Red camera system. It is shot at a very high, 4K resolution.[10]


On 13 March 2009, SFX magazine announced that they had released a limited edition of issue 181 onto the newsstands. This edition was limited to 50 nationwide and featured the cast of the Back to Earth series instead of the standard Doctor Who cover. The magazine also plays an important part in the episode itself; Dave Bradley, editor of SFX is quoted as saying, "Our cover plays a key part in the storyline."[11][12] In the series, the magazine cover helped to illustrate the fact that Red Dwarf was just a television series, and it also led Lister to investigate the nature of Kochanski's disappearance after seeing an article about the actress who plays her.

Dave started a viral marketing campaign in March 2009, when was introduced to the public. The site shows a postcard, and reveals minor details of the series to the viewer. Dave also released several videos on their site, including a mock-advertisement for the "Carbug", a modified Smart Fortwo to fit the shape and style of Starbug. On-set videos also were released, along with short teasers (under ten seconds), with some 30-second teasers as well. Cast members have also written for the Dave blog, releasing small bits of information about the shows. The viral campaign went on to win a Broadcast Digital Award for Best Use of Digital Technology.[13]


Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was broadcast over the Easter weekend of 2009, along with a "making of" documentary.[8][14] The episodes were televised over three nights starting on Friday, 10 April 2009.

Guest stars

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth featured the following guest actors:[15]

Actor Episode(s) Character
Sophie Winkleman Part One, Part Two Katerina Bartikovsky
Chloë Annett Part Three Kristine Kochanski
Richard O'Callaghan Part Three Creator
Jeremy Swift Part Two Noddy
Simon Gregson Part Three Himself
Michelle Keegan Part Three Herself
Richard Ng Part Two Swallow
Charlie Kenyon Part Two Boy on the Bus
Nina Southworth Part Two Girl on the Bus
Tom Andrews Part Two Salesman
Karen Admiraal Part Two Woman
Jon Glover Part Two Man
Julian Ryder Part Two Bus Driver


According to Red Dwarf's official website, 4 million people watched Part One over the 4-day Easter weekend.[16] Part Two attracted an audience of 3 million[16] whilst Part Three earned a rating of just over 2.9 million.[16] The Making of Back To Earth was watched by 1.5 million people.[17][18][19][20] The broadcasts received record ratings for Freeview channel Dave;[21] the first of the three episodes represented the UK's highest ever viewing figures for a commissioned programme on a digital network.[22]

It has been noted that the final episode in particular is heavily influenced by Blade Runner, "the film that inspired series creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor to put pen to paper in the first place," though questions have been raised over the artistic success of this homage.[23][24]

Channel head Steve North reported some months after the event that the Dave network was "delighted with how the new shows have gone" and responded coyly to rumours that a new series had been commissioned.[25] In June 2010, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie confirmed plans to produce further series.[26][27] In April 2011, a six-episode series X to be broadcast in October 2012, was officially announced;[28] principal photography for the series took place in December 2011 and January 2012.[29]

Red Dwarf X, the tenth series, was broadcast on UK television channel Dave between 4 October 2012 and 8 November 2012.

Series XI and XII have also been announced since the success of Series X, and will be broadcast in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

DVD release

The cover art for the Back to Earth DVD.

Back to Earth was released on DVD on 15 June 2009. The cover of the DVD is a replica of the one featured in part 2 of the specials, with a few cosmetic changes, such as replacing "Coming Soon" with "Director's Cut" and the addition of the plot synopsis read by Lister, which was absent on the prop.[30] There are two methods of viewing the specials, the broadcast episodes as shown on Dave, and a new "Director's cut" in which all three episodes have been edited together into a single feature length programme, with a few lines of dialogue trimmed, such as Rimmer's bemoaning it being a three-parter, but no extra scenes or dialogue were added with the exception of "The End" being typed on a typewriter following extended end credits. There is also a Smeg Ups compilation (outtakes) and featurettes, including the broadcast "making of", and a new-to-DVD Part Two, which is nearly twice the length of the first.[31][32][33]

Continuing the metafictional theme of the storyline, during one scene Lister is shown reading the back of the DVD case for Back to Earth—what he reads is similar to what is printed on the real-life DVD case, and the two-disc clamshell is formatted the same way (although the inner labels are different).

A Blu-ray Disc version was released on 31 August 2009, containing the same material as the DVD but all in 1080i except for a few features (it was encoded in 1080i rather than 1080p to preserve the original play-speed of the broadcast and DVD version)[34] followed by a US DVD & Blu-ray release on 6 October 2009.[35]


  1. Back To Earth: The Trilogy
  2. "Dave Episodes' DVD Date Revealed". Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  3. Parker, Robin (27 August 2008). "Red Dwarf rumoured to return". Broadcast Now. EMAP. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  4. Ellard, Andrew (1 August 2008). "KCTS Gets Anniversarial". Grant Naylor Productions. Retrieved 28 August 2008.
  5. Thompson, Jody (28 August 2008). "Exclusive: Amy Winehouse, Big Brother & more in's Thursday gossip round-up". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 28 August 2008.
  6. Holmwood, Leigh (17 September 2008). "Dave to feature John Cleese, Johnny Vaughan and new Red Dwarf". London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  7. "Red Dwarf to return in new series". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  8. 1 2 "Back To Earth: The Trilogy". Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  9. Whose Dwarf Is It Anyway? | Ganymede & Titan. Retrieved 13 February 2009.
  10. "Red-Through: A high-definition start to the new Dwarf production.". Retrieved 13 February 2009.
  11. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. "SFX Magazine's 'Golden Cover' Promotion | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
  12. "the leading science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine". SFX. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
  13. "Red Dwarf Wins Broadcast Award". Official Red Dwarf Website. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  14. "Red Dwarf to return in new series". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  15. Red Dwarf: Back To Earth at
  16. 1 2 3 "Back To Earth Natterings".
  17. "TV Review: Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Part 2), Dave, Saturday 11 April, 9pm". TV Scoop. 12 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  18. "TV Red Dwarf: Back to Earth". Total Sci-Fi. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  19. "TV review: Red Dwarf: Back to Earth". Liverpool Confidential. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
  20. "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth review". Den of Geek. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
  21. Holmwood, Leigh (14 April 2009). "Multichannel TV ratings - 10-12 April - TV ratings: Red Dwarf brings Dave record audience". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  22. "Back To Earth Ratings". 17 April 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  23. "'Red Dwarf: Back To Earth' - This Weekend's Essential Viewing". NME. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  24. "TV Review: Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Part 3), Dave, Sunday 12 April, 9pm". TV Scoop. 13 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  25. Red Dwarf Series V. "How Happy Are Dave? | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  26. "Radio 2 Programmes - Janice Long". BBC. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  27. 7 June 2010, 16:32 BST (7 June 2010). "Cult - News - Barrie, Charles confirm new 'Red Dwarf'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  30. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (24 April 2009). "Back To Earth DVD Cover Art | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  31. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (24 April 2009). "We're Making The DVD Now | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  32. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. "Back To Earth Unseen Material | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  33. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. "Content Confirmed | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  34. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. "Blu-ray In The UK | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  35. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. "American Date Set For DVD And Blu-ray | News". Red Dwarf. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
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