Digital Spy spoke to three of the show's four core players just before the series debuted, and this week we caught up with the Cat himself, Danny John-Jules, to take a look back on Series X.
You've all been playing these roles for over 20 years – how easy is it to slip back into character?
"We know the characters so well, and at this point we don't really worry about the script, because we just know Doug [Naylor]'s going to come up with good writing. Series X went down so well, but Doug was literally hamstrung with writing the scripts because of budgetary problems. Dave… it's not ITV, it's not the BBC, and a lot of the scripts had to be rewritten. So even with all that, you know Doug's going to come up with good scripts. We just know straight away, as soon as you read it, you know exactly what you have to do with it.
"We don't have to worry about things like characterisation, we start reading and it's there, let's shoot it. And it's evident in watching it, you know that these guys enjoy these characters, and so do the people watching. I always explained the success of Red Dwarf as: people enjoy watching the actors enjoy it, and that's basically what it boils down to. They enjoy the actors enjoying those characters."
The Cat had a huge amount to do in Series X, even compared to some of the original series – were you pleased?
"I've never… I mean, the moose gag was trending! How does a joke trend on Twitter? It's mad. When I read that script, I went 'oh my God'. I knew when I did that joke I'd have to stand up for a while, and just wait for the laughing to stop. To have that kind of luxury, knowing that you've got a hell of a gag, is great. But I was thinking 'I mustn't screw this up, if I screw this up this is gonna be devastating'. But my entire Twitter feed went 'It's a moose, it's a moose, it's a moose, it's a moose'."
How do you feel the show is treated on Dave versus how it was treated on the BBC?
"When we were on BBC2, I think the top figure was about 8 million viewers. I used to think 'this is crazy', because Friends were getting 4 million on Channel 4, we were getting 8 million on the BBC. It was like, is this real? You can get blasé about having a show that's doing very well. It had done very well for [the BBC], it had sold millions of DVDs, but whoever made the decision didn't think that there was the audience there for the show any more. And because we hadn't been on for about ten years, I guess someone thought after ten years, there's not gonna be the interest."
They don't know how devoted the fans are...
"But we did! That's the scary thing, we knew that that audience was there, because we're the ones getting the feedback. But I believe that now, we're pretty much nearly a BBC show again, because we're still BBC Worldwide. It's strange because it's still, behind the scenes, pretty much a BBC show. Dave's 50% owned by the BBC, and we do all our stuff for BBC Worldwide, what used to be 2 Entertain. It is a bit of a contradiction. But I don't suppose it will ever be a BBC show again."
What do you think about the BBC's more recent sci-fi output?
"Well, Doctor Who came along after Hyperdrive, which was the BBC's "new Red Dwarf". And hey, the guys in Hyperdrive haven't done badly for themselves – Frosty [Nick Frost], and Miranda Hart. You can get great people, but it's all about the show and the script isn't' it? On that level it didn't work for them. And now they've got their science fiction hit again in Doctor Who, and there's always only really one sci-fi show that a channel has and will push. Once Red Dwarf had left the Beeb, then it was meant to be Hyperdrive, and now Doctor Who is such a huge franchise."
Does it annoy you and Craig that your characters are meant to be these womanisers, but you never get any women? Rimmer gets all the action...
"I think that's why Cat and Lister get on and Cat and Rimmer don't! It's all about women, and what we don't get. But if the Cat actually did get the girl then his character's lost a lot of impact. The whole thing about the Cat is he sounds like this amazing lothario gigolo type, and then when you look at it he hasn't had any. The Cat is a virgin. I always said the Cat's a virgin, and that's what makes the character, because otherwise you'd be bored of it in an episode. Everybody wants Lister to get the girl, but nobody cares if Cat gets the girl. That's the difference! We're desperate for Craig to have Kochanski, whether it be this time or the future or the past, we just want him to have Kochanski. And it's never gonna happen, is it?"
What's your favourite moment from the entire run of Red Dwarf?
"There's a moment in 'Parallel Universe', a gag with no talking which got a huge round of applause. The Cat's skipping down the corridor with flowers, thinking he's going to meet his ideal woman, and it's a dog. That moment, that look with the eyes, and the audience were applauding even though I hadn't said a word. That might be the strangest example of a gag, but it's the setup again. Doug's so good at that – it's like the moose gag, it's the lead-up to that moment, and you have to wait all the way through the show to get to that moment."
It must have helped with Series X to be back in front of a live studio audience?
"Oh yes, that was what made it. We've definitely flashed back to BBC North West, Oxford Road, in 1987. If you look at the Making Of, you can see, there's that moment when we're first gonna go on and be introduced to the audience, and you can literally see people walking around like footballers, preparing to go out there. There were a few nervous faces, but as soon as you walk out there, it all goes away. But you can definitely see some nervous faces in the making of backstage. Lots of walking up and down. That's Red Dwarf, that is it. With the studio audience, it's like rock 'n' roll, it's like doing a live gig.
"And then you've got these faces in the audience who are just wide-eyed in front of you. 300 people. The website crashed straight away when they put the tickets up – Dave's server was just dead. It was great for the fans, because they'd been loyal for 15 years, they didn't let go, even though maybe some people had lost faith in the show. Those guys were the ones out there buying the DVDs, and watching the repeats. Even during all the disappointment of the movie, the loyalty was there. And then you saw it in their faces when they came to see it live."
Danny John-Jules reprises his role in BBC One drama Death In Paradise, which returns in January 2013.