Sci-fi geeks the world over are rejoicing as news is spreading of a brand new series of cult comedy classic Red Dwarf.
Craig Charles, who has apparently been turning a buck by appearing on something called 'Coronation Street' for the past few years, let slip the shock announcement that he would be returning to his role as the last human being alive, grubby, curry-loving space slacker Dave Lister, later in the year.
The 46-year-old actor, who dropped out of public life for a while after being falsely accused of rape in 1994, will return to the mining ship Red Dwarf (or possibly Star Bug depending on the new plot) alongside a creature which mutated from the ship's cat played by Danny John-Jules, a rubber-headed android with a cleaning fetish played by Robert Llewellyn, and a hologram of Lister's cowardly former crew-mate and all-round smeg-head Arnold Rimmer played by Chris Barrie.
With any luck, the bird who played Kochanski won't be back because, quite frankly, her character was one of the main reasons the last two series' of the popular space comedy went off the boil in our book.
The other reason was that the producers decided to spend more money on cheesy CGI effects than on writers under the misapprehension that Sci-fi geeks would rather see giant monsters and big explosions than hear carefully-crafted gags penned by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.
That reliance on digital trickery could, with any luck, become a thing of the past for Dwarf fans as news has emerged that the new series will be shot in front of a live studio audience, something which hasn't happened since the nineties.
TV Channel Dave - which is usually home to interminable (but worryingly watch-able) repeats of Top Gear - has decided to commission six 30-minute episodes of the show, no doubt on the back of the three 21st anniversary special editions it broadcast in 2009, pulling better viewing figures than BBC2 and Channel 4 combined.
According to Robert Llewellyn, the new series was originally commissioned back in late 2010, Doug Naylor has been working on the scripts since then, and everyone involved had been sworn to secrecy.
As it turns out Craig Charles, who is well known for being a bit of a blabbermouth, didn't pay any attention to the memo.
Apparently, Llewellyn was doing some voice-over work and didn't know that Charles had let the news slip in a radio interview. It wasn't until all hell was let loose on Twitter that the Kryton actor got wind of the leak.
"I get back to my trusty lappy and there’s a great slew of tweets telling me that Craig has once again spilt the beans," he says in his blog (opens in new tab). "You’ve got to love him, he knows how to spin the scoop. I’ve just spoken to Craig, he was as usual gloriously funny about it. He said, and I quote. ‘I did a radio interview and it just sort of slipped out'."
And Craig Charles and his flapping gums aren't the only security issue causing concerns in the Red Dwarf camp. Once the shooting starts, keeping a lid on the can marked 'secrets' is going to be a running battle, especially if the live audience rumours turn out to be true.
Way back in 1989, live audiences were asked nicely if the wouldn't mind not letting any cats out of the bag by posting spoilers to the fledgeling Internet, but this was before Hi-Def cameras in phones, before YouTube, before Twitter. If you're lucky enough to get a ticket for a live taping, don't be surprised if you are asked to submit to a cavity search.
"The fear among the producers now is that it’s impossible to imagine an audience of around 400 people at the recording of a TV show like Red Dwarf, where nobody does a bit of a hint on Twitter, or sneaks a picture on Facebook or posts a bit of badly-shot video on YouTube," says Llewellyn. "It’s just too tempting, it’s too easy."
Shooting for the new six-part series starts in November 2011 and will last for three months. The shows will be broadcast on Dave some time in 2012.