Series II DVD Review

For the second time in just over four months, I set my alarm from half seven to make the journey to my local Woolworths; a journey that is as much spiritual as it is physical. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy. There was vomit on my sweater already – mum’s spaghetti. I was nervous, but on the surface I looked calm and ready to, um, buy a DVD. Something which I did with some gusto.

When I got home, I was once again treated to some excellent Animated Menus. I have a slight grumble about the menus this time – the first menu in particular. For the second series, the drive room was completely redesigned; yet this is not reflected in the menu. Okay, they’ve put in a few knick-knacks from Series II – the Holly Hop Drive, some letters from Better Than Life, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that the room is not the room we see when we press ‘play’. 1

Nevertheless, the menus still look brilliant. They’ve also got clever with the elements used in the background. On the main menu, they’ve made up a conversation between Holly and Queeg by taking bits of speech from various episodes. A similar technique is used on both menus on Disc 2, where Holly is made to look like he suffers from amnesia, and Holly and Hilly court each other.

In keeping with the first series, the main menu is once again split up into four options – ‘Play All’, ‘Select Episode’, ‘Commentary’ and ‘Subtitles’. When you press ‘Play All’, you get a big three-hour long version of all six episodes, like last time round.

However, this doesn’t seem to affect the picture quality at all. 2 It’s absolutely perfect throughout. Presumably it was recorded on a better type of videotape than Series I, and it shows. 3 You could broadcast the DVD and nobody would be any the wiser. Similarly, it sounds great. The re-mixed stereo makes the music, including Tongue Tied, sound great, and the dialogue is always clear.

So, extras ahoy!

Cast Commentary – Chris, Craig, Danny and Norm are all present; and they are all on top form. They’ve obviously become more comfortable since their first recording studio experience, so they don’t go quiet half as much as they used to. Danny continues his haircut contemplations and constantly picks on Norm – which can get a little tedious. Craig and Norm both tell a number of great anecdotes about the series; including David Ross having a luvvie fit and Norm becoming an honourary gangster in a Manchester night club.

Chris is once again spot on with his observations and impressions, which include a memorable Brian Clough skit. Overall, they are all much more informative than before, while still maintaining their whimsical approach. This is what we want from a commentary. One thing that disappoints me is that they all acknowledge the fact that Doug Naylor is present, listening in to what they say. Why on Titan couldn’t he have joined them in the booth? 4

You can expect my Cast Commentary Corrections page to be updated soon. 5

And so, on to Disc 2. The four items selectable are: ‘Bonus Material’, ‘Red Dwarf A-Z’, ‘Weblink’ and ‘DVD Credits’. By clicking on ‘Bonus Material’, we are taken by two skutters (one male, one female) to the Series II bunkroom. This has been updated far, far more than the drive room, and looks very authentic. The extras we find here are as follows:

Deleted Scenes (Rimmer’s Portrait) – This really is the business. Eighteen scenes plundered from the rushes. The episodes from Series II were of a much higher quality than those of Series I, so naturally the stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor was better too. Most of these clips could have made it into Series I. All of them could have made it into Series VII or VIII.

The first scene is a great little scene of The Cat singing a duet with The Toaster. The Toaster’s lines were never recorded, so they are given in subtitles on the disc. Other fantastic scenes were Rimmer lamenting about him being rejected as a Space Mason from Thanks For The Memory, and Holly’s line about how he is greater genius than the man who invented cling film in Parallel Universe.

A scene taken from Queeg shows some hilarious silliness from Chris Barrie. He launches into an array of silly voices that had me giggling like Michael Jackson in a primary school. The alternate shower scenes from Stasis Leak are fascinating. The set was simply terrible. It looked like what it was – cheap and plastic. Also, one of them features an old man’s saggy arse. Not pleasant.

Smeg Ups (Inflatable Banana) – Once again, all these clips were shown in Smeg Outs, but at least they’re from the right series this time. All the classics are here – Craig Charles’ terrible golfing skills, his terrible driving skills and his terrible managing-to-not-corpse skills. Chris Barrie’s total memory loss while remembering Lise Yates, and his gurning at a crew member from the same scene. And of course Norman Lovett swearing, Chris coming out of character after a long scene in Kryten, and David Ross polishing a boom mic operator.

Original Trailer (Vid-Screen) – Bit of a curiosity, this one. The BBC obviously decided that Red Dwarf didn’t warrant a trailer all to itself, as this taken from one of those ‘Autumn on BBC Two’ promos. It’s the dog’s milk scene from Kryten, bookended with little blue, red and green animations. It would have been nice if they’d have included the whole promo, so we could see the clip in context.

Incidentally, the dog’s milk scene is included five times over the two DVDs. Once in the series itself, once as a smeg up, once in the A-Z and once as a clip in the Doug Naylor Interview, as well as here in the trailer. The scene was recently described as the ‘Del-Boy-falling-through-the-bar’ of Red Dwarf II.

Doug Naylor Interview (Number Plate [DUG 1 – do you see?]) – This is brilliant. Doug Naylor in conversation with fans’ favourite Andrew Ellard, divulging plenty of secrets and anecdotes about the filming of Series II. This interview contains stuff that even I didn’t know about. Look out for tales of Doug’s frustration with his lack of power in Series I, Ed Bye’s fears about the casting in the series, and the reason why Red Dwarf is percieved as a cult hit. 6

Alternate Personalities Featurette (Pink Skutter) – First things first, GNP’s definition of an alternate personality is somewhat loose. I define it as an alter ego, a person from an alternative reality or a persona created due to some weird wobbley space thing. They define it as any time where a cast member is in unusual clothes. Hence, the Dibbley family from Back In The Red, the crew at the end of Tikka to Ride and even completely different characters, like the Data Doctor. 7

Nevertheless, this compilation is an improvement on the Drunk featurette from the Series I DVD. For a start, it’s a much better song – Little Green Bag, as used in Reservoir Dogs and, of course, Back In The Red (Part Two). The clips used go with the song much more, with it looking like the crew are miming or dancing along at times.

It’s a quite nice little feature, but it’s not going to change the world. Naturally, I’ll be doing a feature on it soon, Drunk style. 8

Tongue Tied – Uncut (Dream Recorder) – I’ve heard that song countless times in the past 15 years, and I still love it. And here we get the full length version of the song, with extra lines such as the classic “My trousers day-glo brown, girl”, but without the godawful claymation that was used in Smeg Outs.

Special Effects Raw Footage (Baby Skutters) – Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. A further four and a half minutes of loveliness. There’s an excellent shot of Nova 5, a couple of takes of Blue Midget taking off, and a few shots of Red Dwarf in orbit of a moon. There’s also what appears to be an animated ident from ‘Acme Engineering’, which is intriguing. Another odd thing is that the footage of Blue Midget in flight appears to have been ruined. There’s a strange wobbley black bit on the screen, which is hard to describe.

Isolated Music Cues (Guitar) – Fantastic. Breathtaking. Magnificent. It’s easy to forget just how many great pieces of music are in this series. As well as the excellent Tongue Tied, there’s Howard Goodall’s rendition of High Noon, Kryten’s cleaning music, Lister’s rock music and the romantic music that Rimmer hears in Thanks For The Memory. My favourite however, is the full-length version of the Observation Dome music from Better Than Life and Thanks For The Memory. It’s about three and a half minutes long, and is begging to be turned into a smash hit smoochey number.

There is also a few pieces of very strange music which aren’t from the series at all. There’s two alternate versions of Tongue Tied – a muzak version and a waltz version, and some strange versions of the theme tune in various guises – cowboy, electro, latin, etc. 9 For me, this highlights Howard Goodall’s unique ability to take a short piece of theme music and mould it into so many unique and distinguishable styles.

Talking Book Chapters (Jigsaw) – Another two of these, both taken from Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. There’s Kryten getting the Nova 5 girls ready for their visit (Part Two, Chapter Seventeen), and a passage about the game Better Than Life (Part One, Chapter Four). Once again, they make a good plug for the book.

Photo Gallery (Poster) – Oooh, a photo gallery. What have we here? Oh look, a picture of Hattie Hayridge from Series III! And, oh yes, a picture of Norman Lovett from Series VIII! The same one from last time! And look, they’ve helpfully omitted the original UK video covers! AAARGH! 10

Once you’ve got over the disappointment, you can click on the light to go back to the main menu and see some other extras.

Red Dwarf A-Z – As originally featured in Red Dwarf Night, and subsequently on the Series VII Byte Three video. A couple of people have moaned to me about the inclusion of this. They’ve seen it before, and it is not specifically about Series II. These people are obviously deranged. We can assume that it is GNP’s intention to include as much Red Dwarf-related miscellania as possible, in order to make the DVDs definitive. This is a commendable attitude, and I expect Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg and the superb Universe Challenge on future releases. 11

What they should complain about is the presence of cretins such as Eternal, Noel Edmonds and especially Gary Bushell. Also, there seems to be a bias towards Series VII. Is Kochanski crying in Duct Soup really a classic, when you compare it to notable absences such as Rimmer going mad in Quarantine or the unreality bubbles from Out of Time?

Weblink – Yes, www.reddwarf.co.uk is great. We get the picture.

DVD Credits – Look at all those people. Didn’t they do well?

Of course, as per last time round, there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied.

Easter Egg – Just the one this time. 12 On the main menu of Disc One, press down twice and you’ll have selected the Holly watch. Press Select and you’ll go over to the Holly Hop Drive. If you want to return to the main menu, press ‘Stop’. You can work out the rest of the controls for yourself.

The egg itself is another animated intro, with audio taken from the Six of The Best CD. Look out for the Polymorph easter egg on the Series III DVD.

Collector’s Booklet – Another mighty fine publication, written by Andrew Ellard. You’ve got your front cover, DVD Contents, Series Overview, each episode gone over with a fine tooth comb, a list of things to look out for, some Classic Dwarf moments and chapter listing on the back cover.

Unfortunately, the booklet rather lets itself down on the Classic Dwarf page. Firstly, there’s a nasty printing error. The first classic moment from Series I, Lister and Hollister’s meeting, is repeated. Also, Holly is misquoted as saying ‘or is it the white cable’ in Queeg, when the cable in question is in fact yellow.

The Cover – It’s absolutely beautiful. I love the way the paintwork on the back continues onto the spine, instead of being cut off like the first DVD. I now have a quarter of a Red Dwarf logo on my shelf, and it looks great. 13

Subtitles – Again, very well done, with few mistakes. They even dealt with the censored line in Kryten very well.

Given the high standard of the first DVD, this one could have fell flat on its arse. But it didn’t. The commentary is much better, the model shots are more varied, the smeg ups are all from the right series and the Doug Naylor Interview is enthralling. Not only that, but the series itself is one of the best series of Red Dwarf, no, of *anything* ever. The feature and the extras deserve five stars each, and any reviewer who thinks otherwise is a fool.

I cannot believe I have to wait untill November for the next one.

Technical Details

  • Subtitles: English SDH (Feature Only)
  • Sound: Stereo
  • Regions: 2 and 4
  • Screen Aspect Ratio: 4:3
  • Running Time: 174 mins approx
  • Certificate: 12
  • Language: Some mild
  • Sex/Nudity: Occasional mild references
  • Violence: Infrequent, mild
  • Theme/Other: None

Chapter Points

Kryten

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Androids
  3. Dogs’ Milk
  4. Call Me Ace
  5. Jane, Tracy & Anne
  6. Whadda Ya Got?
  7. Credits

Better Than Life

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Rimmer’s Cooking
  3. Your Father is Dad
  4. Better Than Life
  5. Dining Out
  6. Paradise Lose
  7. Credits

Thanks for the Memory

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Happy Deathday
  3. Triple Fried Egg Butty
  4. Four Days Later
  5. Lise Yates
  6. 12 Times a Night
  7. Credits

Stasis Leak

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Three Million Years Ago
  3. Rimmer’s Diary
  4. What is it?
  5. Back to the Past
  6. Already Married
  7. Credits

Queeg

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Cheating
  3. Malfunction
  4. Rude Awakening
  5. The Pea
  6. Showdown
  7. Credits

Parallel Universe

  1. Tongue Tied
  2. Wormdo
  3. Holly Hop Drive
  4. Parallel Crew
  5. Disco
  6. The Morning After
  7. Credits

Deleted Scenes

Kryten

  1. The full, uncut closing credits and theme tune for TV soap Androids.
  2. A deleted scene in which the Cat duets with the Toaster.

Thanks for the Memory

  1. A lengthy dialogue section from Rimmer’s ‘deathday’ party.
  2. The Dwarfers stagger drunkenly back to their rooms.
  3. Rimmer further expands on just how few times he has made love.
  4. Additional dialogue showing Rimmer remembering Lister’s past.

Stasis Leak

  1. Additional dialogue regarding Holly’s computer senility.
  2. Original shower scene 1
  3. Original shower scene 2
  4. An extension of Lister’s ‘already married’ lament
  5. Lister’s excuse for hanging around a hotel corridor.

Queeg

  1. A malfunctioning Rimmer impersonating many more of Red Dwarf’s crew.
  2. The full-length ‘wake up call’ discussion between Rimmer and Queeg.

Parallel Universe

  1. These guys have been alone in space too long.
  2. Holly’s pride at creating the Hop Drive.
  3. Whose flea is it anyway?
  4. Haven’t you ever seen a computer snog before?
  5. The two Rimmers gang up on a pregnant Lister.

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. A little, yet reliable, bird tells us that the company who made the DVDs would only make three different menus (drive room, bunk room and stasis booths) for the money they were given. GNP did want a new drive room for Series II, but they couldn’t afford one.
  2. Again, the episodes aren’t really stored twice on the disc. We bloody suck.
  3. Actually, it probably wasn’t; presumably, the source material is better than that for Series I, though.
  4. Apparently, Doug wasn’t keen on intruding on the cast commentary, and was not confident enough in his own interestingness to record a separate one. Gah!
  5. Indeed, it has been.
  6. It’s a pity the sound quality is rather poor when you hear Ellard’s questions; perhaps his side of the interview wasn’t meant to be heard originally? Pure speculation, there.
  7. We are told that a version of the featurette where only dictionary definitions of alternate personalities were included was made, but it only lasted a minute and a half. Hmmm.
  8. Guess what?
  9. Upon re-watching the series after hearing the cues, we can confirm that the strange pieces of music are used. Remixes of Tongue Tied can be heard in the restaurant in Better Than Life and the hotel lobby in Thanks For The Memory, and the odd muzak is the lift music from Stasis Leak.
  10. Once again, this was unavoidable, due to someone at GNP insisting that each cast member had their own publicity shot in the gallery.
  11. Sadly, considering the legal problems with the University Challenge format, it is unlikely to be used on future DVDs.
  12. With the appearance of the birthday cake in the menu for Disc 2, we can speculate whether another egg was meant to appear, but couldn’t be cleared, or something. Or, if the position of the cake is too obvious, perhaps it wasn’t even meant to be an egg. Alternately, it could just be there for no reason at all, of course…
  13. WHY did they get rid of this for the Region 1 releases? WHY?

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