With the departure of Rob Grant, there were two choices available to remaining writer Doug Naylor. He could cut and run, leaving a rapidly growing fan-base and a 'To Be Continued' ending; or he could continue and build towards the often discussed (but at that time never greenlighted) Red Dwarf movie. Red Dwarf VII - subtitled 'Back From the Dead' - was the result.
Chris Barrie, disappointed with the chaotic schedule of series VI, had insisted on a smaller involvement with the show, agreeing to do four of the eight scheduled episodes. In fact, the Rimmer character was written out after two to enable the incoming Kochanski character to develop over time, rather than appear half-way through the run. Rimmer instead appeared in two further episodes in flashbacks and dream sequences.
Concerned by the massive responsibility of coming up with eight episodes-worth of new material - especially on his first solo flight for the show (he had already written alone on episodes of The 10%ers) - Doug brought in a small team of new writers to work on Red Dwarf VII.
First up was Paul Alexander, another Jasper Carrott writing regular. A genre fan himself, Paul showed an aptitude for Red Dwarf which led to his position as script editor - moreover, he was the only new writer to work on more than one episode (he is, in fact, credited on three).
Paul's Epideme episode was based on an idea he'd had for a Jasper Carrott routine - if your flu could talk, wouldn't it insist that it was only doing its job? Stoke's opening, meanwhile, was rewritten from its original concept of a simulant attack to instead be located during WWII.
Nanarchy proved to be perhaps the most problematic script. James Hendrie was unavailable to do any rewrites and so, before Doug's final polish, Paul was asked to do one of his own. It is the only episode to date with three credited authors. Kim Fuller, writer of Spiceworld, also came on board for Blue - one of two episodes designed to play down the SF aspects.
Robert Llewellyn's prolific writing skills - from plays to novels - were also put to good use. Robert had repeatedly asked for the chance to write for the show, and was already famous for the stories of each season's shoot he would write for cast and crew for the rap party. Beyond a Joke was written, in part, as an antidote to British TV's insistence on making so many costume dramas. With Rimmer-like cunning, Robert tried to write Kryten out of the middle section of the script entirely - only for Doug to put him right back in - and discovered that he was writing as much for the actors as the characters. Ultimately, Robert admits to writing about 30% of the final episode.
This was the situation of Red Dwarf VII. Having nervously handed out the creativity of the show to a select few, Doug found himself uncomfortable with the delegation. Along with Rob, he had been responsible for every line in the show - relinquishing that was not a comfortable experience. Despite the massive workload it presented, Doug took to rewriting the others' episodes in line with the show's creative history.
The changes to the show's writing team actually masked much more significant changes in the approach to its format. Doug had tired of the formulaic shape of series VI and attempted to stir things up, balancing string SF stories (Ouroboros) with more sit-com style ones (Duct Soup). Kryten's expository role was exchanged for more comic and character moments, and the 'monster of the week' format was abandoned, along with regular 'swirly thing alerts'.
Duct Soup was the last episode written, and with good reason. The series had, as ever, stretched the budget about as far as it could go, and a 'cheaper' episode was needed to replace a more expensive one. The discarded story (with an early draft, in production terms, written by John McKay) would have seen the reappearance of Duane Dibbley, and the cat having to have sex or his testicles would explode! The initial storyline also included Rimmer.