Series 1 DVD Review

After months of waiting, hours of speculation and discussion and plenty of intriguing announcements on the official site, Red Dwarf Series I has finally arrived on DVD. And it was worth the wait.

Before examining each feature individually, a word must be said about the delightful menus, which genuinely help the discs to flow. This is the first BBC release I’ve seen where ‘Animated Menus’ isn’t listed as an extra, but it’s certainly the only release I’ve seen where the animated menus deserve such an acknowledgement. After the statutory copyright warning and BBC logo, we see the beginning of the opening titles, which dissolves seamlessly to new CGI footage of an airlock opening and you as the viewer travel though Red Dwarf’s corridors in first person, before ending up in the drive room. With each selection you make you travel to a different part of the ship, and each menu contains Red Dwarf paraphernalia and audio elements from the series.

From a technical point of view, these menus are the best I’ve ever seen. The switch from animation to the more static selection screens is pretty seamless, and there is always something going on to grab your attention. The colour scheme and lighting fits the series perfectly, and captures the mood of the feature like nothing before.

It’s not just the menus that look excellent. The picture quality for the series completely humiliates the VHS version. The master tapes have obviously undergone a clean-up process, and they look so much better as a result. The sound has also been re-mastered, and is now presented in stereo, which gives the series a depth that was never present in mono.

Warning: First minor gripe coming up soon. The episodes are divided into seven chapters, two of which are the opening and closing credits. The chapters are well thought out and usually start with a memorable or popular scene. The minor gripe is that each episode is included twice: once individually and once as part of one big three hour title, which you get when you select ‘Play All’. This is a waste of disc space and it affects the bitrate, which means the episodes play at a slightly worse quality than they would if they were only included once. However, this has become fairly standard for BBC releases of late, but in a perfect world, it wouldn’t happen for Red Dwarf.1

Now we’ve got all the technical stuff out the way, we can get on to what we really bought the disc for – the extras!

Cast Commentary – Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John Jules and Norman Lovett give their thoughts on the series, some of them watching it for the first time since the recording, it would seem. Although they are a bit quiet at times, their observations are often hilarious. Danny takes the role of fashion consultant, constantly analysing Chris and Norm’s hair, the latter being compared to a mohican paint brush. Norman discusses which of Craig’s expressions he hates the most, and Chris talks about his collection of motorcycles. All four of them participate in a good old bitching session about Mac McDonald’s waistline, and they each take the mick out of each other throughout. Three mobile phones go off during the six episodes; each time Danny mistakes the ringing for a sound effect and each time Chris requests that the interruption is edited out!

This commentary is a joyous and whimsical affair, but it highlights the only major problem with this release – the lack of a Writers/Director commentary. I’ve been banging on about this for months, but it would have been utterly perfect if we’d had an informative and detailed piece recorded to counter-balance the humour in the cast commentary.

Bonus Commentary for The End – Taken from the bonus CD that was included in the Six of the Best box set released in 1995. This is both informative and humorous, but most hardcore fans will have heard it all before. Nevertheless, it is edited very well, and the omissions are only apparant to those who are familiar with the original CD. This commentary is better than nothing, but throughout it I couldn’t help but think about how great it would be to have a new commentary recorded for the series. That’s the last time I moan about that, I promise!

The remainder of the extras, (apart from one, which I’ll come back to later), are to be found on Disc Two. The menus for Disc Two start in much the same way as Disc One. They are so similar I thought that I’d been given a duplicate of the first disc by mistake. But by the time you get into the Drive Room, you notice the four options, which originally read: ‘Play All’; ‘Commentary’; ‘Subtitles’; and ‘Episode Selection’, now read: ‘Bonus Material’; ‘Launching Red Dwarf’; ‘Weblink’; and ‘DVD Credits’.

Chosing ‘Bonus Material’ leads you down another coridoor to the bunkroom. By using the arrow buttons on your remote, you select different props from the series, each one representing a different feature.

Deleted Scenes (McIntyre’s Cannister) – Twelve deleted scenes from every episode, apart from Future Echoes. From a comedy point of view, they are almost all rubbish. You really can see why they were removed. But that doesn’t stop them from being interesting and compelling. This is essentially ‘new’ Red Dwarf footage, for the first time in nearly four years. The scenes from The End are particularly interesting, as they are mainly alternate versions of scenes from the episode, filmed seperately and with dialogue that bears little resemblance to the broadcast version.

The infamous ‘Funeral Scene’ from The End is absolutely engrossing, despite, or perhaps because of, it being “disastrous on every level”, according to the preceding caption. However, Holly’s line: “…has evolved into the lifeform who is currently jiggling around with one of my terminals”, is sheer genius.

Also included is an extra part of the cinema scene in Me², which finally shows us why Lister seemed to pick the ‘wrong’ Rimmer for deletion. The complete list run as follows can be found below.

Smeg Ups (Sink/Toilet) – A minor disappointment here. Not only have all the clips been seen before on the Smeg Outs video, they appear in exactly the order they appeared on the video, and not in episode and scene order as the deleted scenes were. The compilation of Norman Lovett gaffs even included two clips from Series II, and one or two out-takes that were on Smeg Outs aren’t on the disc.2

Original Trailer (Vid-screen) – This is a joy to behold. It displays some very dated freeze-frame effects, very long edits which are in stark contrast to the rapid pace of modern trailers, and the old BBC Two logo, circa 1988. This was a really good find.

“Drunk” Featurette (Lager Cans) – I must admit that when I first heard about this featurette, I thought it was going to be embarrasingly puerile. A four-minute compilation of the crew drinking and being drunk, taken from all eight series, set to Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. However, the piece is well edited and displays an element of wit. The length of clips fit in well with the pace of the music. The clips selected were good and often raised a smile. The piece finishes with the music fading out and being replaced by the crew singing ‘Show Me The Way to Go Home’ from Thanks for the Memory. It really is quite a nice feature.

Japanese Version of The End (Fishtank) – I can take or leave this feature, to be honest. Interesting though it is to see strange Oriental voices eminating from the mouths of our favourite actors, the novelty wears off after about thirty seconds. The poor old Japanese have to make do with the Re-Mastered series, and the combination of Field Removed Video 3, the conversion from PAL to NTSC and back again and the imposing audience laughter makes Red Dwarf resemble a VHS copy of a cheap 1950s American sitcom. Strangely, their closing credits only lasts about twenty seconds, and they get two ‘Written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor’ captions in English at the beginning.

Special Effects Raw Footage (Red Dwarf Paperweight) – Five minutes worth of footage straight from the rushes, with no sound or editing 4. I was in geeks heaven. Included here are several ‘beauty’ shots of the ship in space, and a few versions of the dust storm from Confidence & Paranoia. An interesting note is that the person who did the clapperboard for some of these shots appears to be suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. How he got a job operating delicate minatures of spaceships I’ll never know. 5

Isolated Music Cues (Guitar) – This is quite simply brilliant. No less than 45, count ’em, 45 pieces of incidental music recorded for Series I. Almost all of them are much longer than the versions featured in the series, and some of them weren’t used at all. The way that Howard Goodall created so many different moods and emotions by varying a few bars of theme tune is nothing short of phenomenal. The highlights here are full length versions of the ‘Space Walk’ music from Confidence & Paranoia and Rasta Billy Skank from Balance of Power. The latter sounds like a bizarre combination of ‘Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones and ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley and The Comets. And I am quite sincere when I say that I want to Space Walk music to be played at my funeral.

Talking Book Chapters (Toaster) – Two chapters from Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers as read by Chris Barrie. These are: Part Two, Chapter One, regarding Lister’s emergence from stasis; and Part Two Chapter Twenty Five, about the two Rimmers’ new regime. These have been included partly because they relate to episodes in Series I, but mainly to advertise the novel, still availiable from all good book shops, folks.

Photo Gallery (London Jets Poster) – A small, yet thorough collection of publicity shots, video covers and concept art, as well as an invoice for the 8 foot model of Red Dwarf. One of the photos, that of Norman Lovett as Holly, is actually from Series VIII, as you can see from the shape of his face and his further lack of hair. 6 The small number of publicity shots is probably due to the small amount of publicity that the series recieved. Despite this, this is a very nice collection of stills.

Upon clicking on the light switch, you are taken back to the Drive Room, with three more options still to select.

Launching Red Dwarf – A very nice half-hour documentary about the early days of Red Dwarf. This covers the writing of the pilot, the influences of Executive Producer Paul Jackson and Commisioning Editor of BBC Manchester Peter Risdale Scott, the casting of the main crew members and the shooting of the first series. Some of the interview footage was evidentally taken from the interviews recorded for the A-Z. However, very little footage included in the A-Z is used here. Other interviews, including those of Doug Naylor, Peter Risdale Scott, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie and Danny John Jules was recorded specially for this documentary. Yet some footage of Craig and Chris from the A-Z sessions is used as well, which results in these two appearing to change clothes and haircuts in the middle of filming!

Weblink – Yup, this link goes to a website alright. No prizes for guessing that the website in question is in fact www.reddwarf.co.uk, which is also given a plug on the front cover, on the back of the Collector’s Booklet and on the back of the BBC leaflet that comes inside the box. Do them a favour and visit the website.

DVD Credits – More people worked on the DVD than on each episode of the series. 7 And they all did their jobs brilliantly.

So, you’ve selected every option on every menu on both discs. But that’s not all you get for your money.

Easter Egg #1 – On the main menu of Disc One, go down to the ‘Episode Selection’ option and press right. You will now have highlighted the number ‘4691’ which is written on the clipboard. Press enter and you will be taken to a vending machine with a numerical keypad. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that the password is indeed 4691. Enter this and you’ll be treated to another extract from the Six of the Best CD.

This is very good. Never mind the fact that we’ve heard it all before, the key aspect is that we get an animation of Rob Grant, Doug Naylor and Ed Bye sitting in the cockpit of Starbug. They talk about Future Echoes and the reviews that Series I recieved, while only moving their lips by a couple of centimetres. However, coupled with the occasional well-placed eyebrow movement, this can prove hilarious.

Easter Egg #2 – This one is not so well hidden. Go onto the ‘Bonus Material’ menu on Disc Two, and press right. You will have highlighted a polaroid on Lister’s bunk. Press enter, and you will see this photograph, from the end credits of Future Echoes developing in real time. Even I, a certified geek, found this boring. Still, it was nice to see the effort to find stuff that we haven’t seen before. 8

Collector’s Booklet – A 12-page accompaniment to the series. Page 2 gives details of the bonus features, including details of the easter eggs. Sort of defeats the purpose of easter eggs in my opinion. Page 3 gives an overview of the series, while Pages 4-9 details the making of each individual episode. Page 10 tells us of continuity and production errors to look out for, and Page 11 has a list of ‘Classic Dwarf’ moments. Finally, the back cover tells us of the chapter points for each episode, as well as giving a plug for the website and the fan club.

The booklet was written by website editor and Red Dwarf superfan Andrew Ellard, and is informative and thorough. My only minor gripe is that the booklet, as well as the cover, has only one tiny picture of The Cat and no pictures of Holly at all. Still, these parts were not the major plot elements they became in later series, so their exclusion is understandable.

BBC Leaflet – This is not an extra in any way shape or form, but I’m being thorough! It features plugs for current and forthcoming BBC releases, a questionnaire-cum-competition and a big advert for the official website.

Cover – In the interests of completeness, I feel I must cover this (no pun intended). It features as its backdrop a beautiful CGI close up of Red Dwarf, and the logo, as well as the legend ‘The Original Series’ embossed in silver. The spine of the cover features one eighth of the Red Dwarf logo, and a tiny picture of Rimmer, both of which will presumably form part of a bigger picture when the other seven series are released.

Subtitles – The subtitles are very good. I didn’t notice any mistakes, and they included as much dialogue as was possible.

The fact that this review is so long as has taken me nearly two hours to write demonstrates perfectly what an excellent release this is. Packed to the brim with extras, consistant in its technical and artistic quality, and every single aspect of it looks beautiful. A few minor imperfections aside, this DVD is a model example to all of how to treat a classic show with the respect it deserves. Even the most savage of critics would be forced to give it the full five stars. 9

Technical Details

  • Subtitles: English SDH (feature only)
  • Sound: Stereo
  • Regions: 2 and 4
  • Screen Aspect Ratio: 4:3
  • Running Time: 174 mins approx (feature only)
  • Certificate: 12
  • Language: Infrequent mild, implied strong (bleeps in Smeg Ups)
  • Sex/Nudity: Infrequent, mild references
  • Violence: None
  • Theme/Other: Mild drugs references (Marajuana gin)
  • (c) BBC Worldwide 2002

Chapter Points

The End

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Technicians
  3. Five Year Plan
  4. George McIntyre
  5. Where’s the Cat?
  6. Everybody’s Dead Dave
  7. Closing Credits

Future Echoes

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Black Coffee
  3. Lennon & McCartney
  4. Light Speed
  5. Double Rimmer
  6. Lister’s Death
  7. Closing Credits

Balance of Power

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Irradiated Haggis
  3. Flashback
  4. Shiny Things
  5. Fish
  6. The Exam
  7. Closing Credits

Waiting For God

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Confidential Files
  3. Yo-Yo
  4. The Pod
  5. Fuchal
  6. Cloister Returns
  7. Closing Credits

Confidence and Paranoia

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Interruptions
  3. Night Sweats
  4. One of Those Days
  5. Confidence & Paranoia
  6. Cha Cha Cha
  7. Closing Credits

Me².

  1. Opening Titles
  2. He’s Leaving Home
  3. Courting
  4. Driving Mr. Rimmer
  5. A Bit of a Tiff
  6. Gazpacho Soup
  7. Closing Credits

Deleted Scenes

The End

  1. An alternate version of part of the opening Rimmer-Lister scene.
  2. An alternate version of the very first bunkroom exchange.
  3. An extended scene of Lister flirting with Kochanski.
  4. The lost ‘funeral’ scene showing Lister bidding farewell to the crew’s ashes, Rimmer giving his own eulogy, and the original introduction of the Cat.

Balance of Power

  1. An extended version of Lister boozing with Chen, Selby and Petersen.
  2. Additional dialogue as Lister prepares to enter the chef’s exam.
  3. The full-length version of the exam scene, featuring a larger role for C.P. Grogan as ‘Rimmer’ inside Kochanski’s body.

Waiting for God

  1. Additional dialogue regarding Rimmer’s ‘aliens’.

Confidence and Paranoia

  1. Rimmer and Lister further discuss Confidence and Paranoia.
  2. The Cat further explains the method for cleaning his clothes.

Me²

  1. Lister asks the Cat to move in with him.
  2. Lister outside the two Rimmers’ quarters.
  3. The extended cinema fight between the two Rimmers

Footnotes

Since the publication of this review, we have noticed some errors, and found out some new information. Rather than alter the original review, capturing as it does a particular moment in time, we list these corrections here.

  1. This is of course bollocks. The individual episodes are just a shortcut to the relevant part of the three-hour title, and each episode of only encoded once. To coin a phrase: “Whoops!”
  2. We’ve spoken to DVD Associate Producer Andrew Ellard about this, and he said that they did try and edit the compilation of Norm’s cock-ups into two sections, but it didn’t quite work. Having Series II Smeg Ups on the Series I disc is still annoying, yet understandable.
  3. Not actually Field Removed Video; this would involve cutting half the picture information out of the episodes, and they aren’t that bad. A ‘film effect’ is a more appropriate term.
  4. Well, we say no editing – in fact, this is not strictly true. Some footage was cut out to prevent the feature from becoming “boring” – which explains why some takes are missing. We personally find this rather disappointing; only geeks will want to watch this anyway (including us), and if you’re that geeky, you want to see all of the footage…
  5. This would presumably be because the camera is running at an odd frame rate. But never let the facts get in the way of a good joke.
  6. Apparently, somebody at Grant Naylor Productions insisted on at least one publicity shot of each main actor – and they were forced to use one from VIII, as there weren’t any publicity shots of Norm for I. Again, irritating, but understandable.
  7. This is probably not true. At all. But you know what we’re getting at, so shut up.
  8. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to have included some different raw studio footage, like on the Hitch-hikers DVD…
  9. Or chainsaws. Or slop-out buckets. Ho.

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3 Responses to Series 1 DVD Review

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  1. Over eight years later, I’ve just re-read this. Very good. It’s astonishing to think of a time when we didn’t have every episode to hand on DVD. Indeed, this was the first DVD I ever bought – didn’t even have a DVD player at the time, had to watch it on my brother’s PlayStation.

  2. G&T Admin

    Bloody hell, footnotes. We used to care if something on the site was wrong, rather than just ignoring it and hoping for the best…

  3. G&T Admin

    Although, my 2003 was evidently happy with the sentence: “The complete list run as follows can be found below.”

    I’m amusing by my complaint that this 2500+ word piece took “nearly two hours” to write. I should have spent more time on it, evidently.

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