Rob Grant Interview
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Rob Grant Interview

How long did it take you to write Backwards?

Well the short answer is it took me from April to November, at the same time I wrote a new T.V. Pilot and put together the scripts that are coming out in September, Son Of Soup. I got the idea for Backwards years ago before the pilot was transmitted, so from actually getting the idea to writing it was a long time.

Is this The Red Dwarf book you always wanted to write and how happy are you with it?

Well, I was quite happy with the other two. I like them bit I always thought even when I read them now, Oh God, I don't like that bit, I wish I hadn't done that and in a way that's always the way it is when you're working in any kind of Co-operation, you have to make compromises otherwise you'd never write the first word. So with Backwards there are still some bits I wish I hadn't done in it but it's the book i'm most pleased with.

On the back cover of the book you say that in writing this book you've achieved the first of your two lifelong ambitions- What's the second ?

(Laughs) Penguin books thought it would be best if I didn't print that one, it was actually to pass myself off as one of Jodie Foster's liners!!!

Have you read Dougs book?

I read it in proof form a long time ago.

What would you say are the main differences in your books?

That's a hard one. It wasn't quite the way I wanted to take Red Dwarf is the short answer to that one, particularly including Kochanski as a character destroyed the chemistry that Red Dwarf is really all about. So at that point i'd put bits and bobs down off Backwards and that was when I made the decision to make it follow on from Better Than Life.

So overall what did you think of The Last Human, Did you like it?

Well no, I didn't think it was the direction we should go.

Regarding your own book, will there be a talking book version?

We're talking at the moment about the possibility of a talking book to coincide with the paperback which should be out by Christmas. We haven't approached anybody as yet to read it, but i'd really like Chris to do it as he did a good job of the other two books, or maybe even Robert Llewellyn.

What did you think of Craig's reading of The Last Human?

I haven't actually heard the speaking book version yet.

Do you have a favourite character?

Actually, I haven't been asked that question before (pauses) um, that's a hard one, I like them all, aah, I think Kryten's the most likeable character...... he's just thoroughly nice, but in terms of writing Rimmer's best because he's such a screw up, it's fun to write because there's that much wrong with him.

What do you think of Chris Barrie's departure from the next series ?

The latest i've heard is he's going to do four, I don't know maybe they'll talk him into doing more. The thing Red Dwarf has always been about is the particular chemistry between Lister and Rimmer and to have Steptoe and Son without would be different. I think that what we're gonna get really is a different show, it might be better, it might be worse.......

Do you have a favourite episode or scene?

I have several favourite episodes, one that seems to stick out in my mind is Legion. I think that's the funniest start to a show we've ever done, it's got some great set pieces in it, the chopsticks scene. But I think the show that's really for me is Back To Reality 'cause that was a show I was sorta in the Directors chair for and personally it's a gobsmackingly good show in terms of RD shows. Obviously the scene from Polymorph, that really rips me up.........

Where would you like to see Red Dwarf going in the future?

Well from my point of view I intend to write at least one other Red Dwarf book in the future. I really enjoyed writing Backwards on my own and I've got really good feedback from people who've read it. It would be hard for me to turn my back on Red Dwarf completely, I've put so much of my life into it, I mean there was this nine year old boy called Sam in the queue at my first signing and I thought, Oh my God, you weren't born when we first went on air, so it must be such a long long time I wouldn't say goodbye to it altogether, but I'll keep up the mythos by writing more books.

Do you see yourself working with Doug again in the future?

The way I work I'm always right there from the beginning, writing the scripts, seeing the shows recorded, directing, sitting through the edits, so I really like it hands on. I don't like to just hand it over and sort of say, Do what you can with that and so I don't feel I can contribute to Red Dwarf in that way in this series and let someone else take my scripts and do what they will with them. In the future though if there were to be a Red Dwarf movie that would be something I'd have to think about again, but having worked on my own, it's nice, just to decide things for yourself...

Do you prefer the sci-fi or comedy side to Red Dwarf?

That's another hard one...... I like thecomedy because that's where I come from. I grew up with comedy but then Science Fiction was my hobby. When I first started getting into Sci-Fi you had to be really straight and you couldn't talk about it too much to other people and you could only get hold of the books in specialist bookshops, if you really think back before Star Wars was a hit StarWars brought a lot of credibility to Science-Fiction and started the whole ball rolling where Sci-Fi became the idea of incorporating Science-Fiction into something I was writing only came later on. And when we first sold Red Dwarf we were advised by Paul Jackson our Producer to play down the Sci-Fi aspect of it. When we first talked about doing the Sci-Fi thing in a Pub in Battersea, he said, do you want a bit of advice,Don't!  T.V. execs get a glazed look in their eye's when you talk to them about Science-Fiction, what it is I don't know. So we played down the Sci-Fi certainly in the pilot scripts, we didn't do any special effects or anything in the first show.

It seems the Sci-Fi element became more prominent in later series.

We didn't really write, in my opinion, a very bona fide Science Fiction show until the fourth show we wrote which was Future Echoes. I remember when we wrote Future Echoes thinking, this is what I want, this is where it should go. The short answer to your question though is I like them both.

What do you think of the shows fans?

(Laughs) It's a curious thing. I get this from Radio stations and what they want you to say is that theyt're all bloody loonies. Craig, I think, has actually said that they all look like they've just shot their mothers! I think it's an awful thing to say about people who come to see you,even if it were true, which it isn't. In the early days we tended to get weird people coming to the signings. I've not had a single person turn up with an H on their head this time round. I think it's because it's nearly a decade on and the people have grown upwith the programme and feel a kind of affection for it.

So, how have the signings been going ?

Very well indeed. The evening sessions are great because you have a big question and answer session and meet a whole bunch of people. It surprises me that people are often too shy to come up and ask you the questions they want to ask. It's fair enough I suppose, I'm as shy as them. Sometimes people say don't you get sick of all those questions, well I don't, It's very nice. When you're working on a series or particularly on a book you're there in a room on your own. The only people you get to see are like newspapers and friends and it's almost like it's not real, then when you go out and you meet the people who liked the thing it makes it seem worthwhile. Also you can ask them questions, well what didn't you like or what would you like to see more of ? and you either agree or disagree. For instance Ace Rimmer's in this book and I particularly adore Ace Rimmer. A lot of people say he's a bit of a pain in the arse and I thought, Oh my God, that's who I want to be Also I love Duane Dibbley. I remember when Danny came out of makeup when he was first playing Duane. I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting that. I just laughing. I literally fell on the floor! I'm glad we brought him back in on Emohawk.

What do you think of the fan clubs and fanzines that have grown up round Red Dwarf ?

I'm very happy with them. The fanclub in the UK at the moment has 4,000 members. I'd say you can't really argue with that. I really like Better Than Life magazine. I used to really like the Smegazine, I think it was certainly getting better and better until it was withdrawn. I don't understand why it was cancelled. It's nice that it had a life outside.... if something is a success the fans have a right to it and they've got a right to explore it in ways you would never imagine. I quite like it having that life, I enjoy the fanzines.

What are your plans and projects for the future?

I've formed my own production company and I've got a project that Doug and I Co-created called Tales from Weird City, fans probably heard of it way back when, It's a sort of comedy Twilight Zone or a spoof self contained high concept Science-Fiction. One is about a scientist that cures Death. The other one's one that I wrote on my own called The Strangerers about aliens coming to Earth.

Was it difficult trying to avoid the use of aliens in Red Dwarf?

Some say that Gelfs and Polymorphs are aliens.

Finally, if you met the Inquisitor how would you justify your existence?

Bloody Hell.... do I have to answer this? (laughs loudly and spends considerable time thinking...) I'd say..... aah, I think you'll have to ask me again in 20 years mate!