Back in the Red

Long-Serving Red Dwarf director Ed Bye is back for Season Eight. Interview by Jane Killick

selected from Starburst #248

Red Dwarf producer/director Ed Bye is under pressure. "It's all a bit of a panic because the first one goes out the day after tomorrow and we haven't quite finished the show yet!" he admits, taking a break for a spot of lunch in the BBC canteen in mid-February. He's been locked in a dubbing suite until 3am every day for the last fortnight trying to get the series finished and is looking, to tell the truth, a bit dishevelled. But if his body is tired, then his enthusiasm is not. Despite being involved in planning, shooting and then editing Red Dwarf VIII since the middle of last year, he's still excited by it.

Kryten, Rimmer and the Cat"You know I'd say this, but I think it's the best yet," says Ed. "What we learnt from series seven was that there was a more sophisticated way of making the show by shooting it more the way you would shoot a film. That worked incredibly successfully... But the down side was that it was difficult for the performers to react. We'd shoot it all and then show it to an audience and get the laughs from that, and I found myself taking 50 percent of the laughs off, because they were much bigger than the performers had allowed for.

"We thought the only element which was missing from series seven was the way the performers react to the live audience, so we brought that back in. As a result of that, the reaction between the performers and the audience is much better, so it's got a much more interesting chemistry to it. But at the same time we've managed to retain the filmy look. It's an interesting hybrid, because I don't think it's been done before, where you have a very filmy-looking show - which I think works well for Science Fiction - but at the same time we've kept the comedy at top notch. The scripts that Doug has done are really, really good..."

Ed Bye is one of the veterans of the Red Dwarf team, having been the first director to tackle the challenge of bringing it to the screen. He took a short break for the fifth and sixth series, then came back for the seventh, just as the writing partnership of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor split up. It's meant his input is even more invaluable now than it used to be. "In the early days I used to be more like a regular TV producer and just go, 'Where are my scripts?! I haven't got any scripts, I can't shoot this!' In the process of shooting it, it was my job to say, 'I don't think this works', or 'Let's change this bit', but not as much as I do now. We sit down at the beginning of the series and sort it out, decide what we want to do, how we make it better."

Now writer/executive producer Doug Naylor will bring Ed into the creative process a lot earlier and they will kick around the stories, discuss scripts and think up jokes together. "It's the most creative time, I think. There'll be moments when we're sitting in a room and we'll come up with an idea and then we expand on it. We kick creative ideas around the place and then they get mutated.

"I'll give you an example. Doug will very often do a first draft and that gives me something to work with. I remember I was doing a breakdown of the first episode and I got to the point where they crash. It went, 'Well, that's that part of the story and we move on', and I thought, 'No, I think this crash should be huge because it's farewell to a very famous craft [Starbug], so it should go out with a bang'. And it does! I've never seen anything like it. I said, 'Don't you think it should be a bit more than that?' and a bit more has turned into something massive!"

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Read the full interview with Ed Bye by getting Starburst 248.
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