The documentary mini-series was originally supposed to broadcast in early April 2020, around the same time as the feature length special "The Promised Land". However, issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown delayed the post-production, and it did not air until August 2020.
The documentary is three hours long in full, broken up into three separate hour-long episodes. The first episode was broadcast on Thursday, 6 August, with each subsequent episode being broadcast every Thursday after.
- "Boys from the Dwarf" covers mainly the origins, writing and early years of the franchise.
- "In Studio Space No-One Can Hear You Scream" covers mainly the production and development of the television series.
- "Playing Pool with Planets" covers mainly the later years, and focuses on the impact and legacy of the series, with memoirs from the cast and crew relating to the production of specific, most difficult to make episodes.
In late 2019, the official Red Dwarf website announced that both preceding and supplementing "The Promised Land" is to be three hour-long retrospective documentaries focusing on the entire 32-year history of Red Dwarf, produced by North One Television. The documentaries will chronicle the story of the franchise from its inception until the present. The documentaries will also include rare footage and material not previously broadcast, as well as new interviews with the cast and crew.
On the same day that "The Promised Land" was broadcast, Doug Naylor announced via his Twitter account that the documentaries had been delayed due to restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic; however the documentaries were made available thereafter.
In June, the official Red Dwarf website has announced that The First Three Million Years would be broadcast on Dave in August 2020.
With the aid of the enlightening memories of these key contributors including all the main cast (Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge) we start by tracing the origins of Red Dwarf, from almost being cancelled while still on the launchpad due to a lengthy electrician's strike, to achieving lift off via spectacular viewing figures which ensured the commission of further episodes with unprecedented speed.
We also examine the aesthetic of the series as it developed from grey sets to special effects, modelling and costumes that wouldn't be out of place in a Hollywood movie, and analyse all the future science that Doug Naylor and Rob Grant predicted and ingeniously explained in classic episodes such as 'Backwards' and 'Gunmen of the Apocalypse'.
On the set of 'The Promised Land', the latest smash hit feature-length episode of the show, we gather the four 'Boys from the Dwarf' and lead them on a detailed trip down memory lane as they offer us the inside story on who was the most professional, who partied hardest and why starring in Red Dwarf is the best job they've ever had.Throughout the series we'll also be showing previously un-broadcast scenes and the best of the many and varied 'smeg-ups' of the last 32 years while leaving no kipper unsmoked in our quest to feature some of the greatest moments and funniest gags from the entire back catalogue of 74 incredible episodes.
The regular cast all participated - Craig Charles (Lister), Chris Barrie (Rimmer), Danny John-Jules (Cat) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) - along with both former Holly actors Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge. Frequent guest stars Mac McDonald, Tony Hawks and David Ross also appear.
Behind the scenes crew participating include Doug Naylor (franchise co-creator and co-writer), Ed Bye (frequent director), Mike Agnew (frequent production manager), Howard Goodall (music and que composer) and Howard Burden (costume designer), Mike Tucker (practical effects and models) and Andy Bowman (frequent visual effects designer).
Behind the Scenes
- Present day interviews with the cast and crew for the documentary were filmed during the production of "The Promised Land".
- This is the first time a retrospective documentary has been made about Red Dwarf for television since the BBC's Comedy Connections episode in 2004 (and which was later included in the Series VIII DVD); and before that, the Red Dwarf Night documentaries of 1998 (segments of which were distributed among various series DVDs).