Red Dwarf DVD – Series III Review

It’s been a year since the release of the very first Red Dwarf DVD. It was revolutionary and seemed almost perfect. It seemed like that the standard set by it would remain the constant throughout the rest of the series. I was wrong.

If Series I and II were revolutions, then Series III is a full blown evolution that would bring a tear to the eye of even Charles Darwin. Every single aspect of the previous DVDs have been built upon to a whole new level of excellence.

Anyway, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

DISK I – Episodes I to VI and commentary

The episodes have all been given the trademark DVD clean up job. As always, this is done very well and the stereo sound is all very nice indeed. The commentaries were always going to be very interesting due to the fact we are losing Norman and gaining the quite fantastic Robert Llewellyn and the lovely Hattie Hayridge. At first I thought having five members of the cast all vying for our attention would feel somewhat cluttered but this doesn’t happen.

Craig is, as always, a great source of information, anecdotes and even the odd dig at us fans (see episode ‘Polymorph’), Hattie was very good at going “Awww” and giggling a lot and Robert was good at making me laugh like a demented fool. Finally, if you fancy a drinking game, have a shot of your favoured spirit every time the cast make a ‘ham’ joke. You’ll be totally twatted by episode 3. To sum up the commentary I would say it wins by a nose over the previous two, purely for the inclusion of Robert. Norman is a great loss to the commentary, though. However, his inclusion on the Series VIII commentary track may just render the episodes watchable.

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Very much in the same vein as the previous DVDs with a montage of some stock footage of Starbug flying towards the lovely model of Red Dwarf (fuck you re-mastered) and then docking, before changing to CGI for the route into the new look drive room.

Once in the drive room we are greeted with a loop of Holly (now in the female incarnation) spouting various lines from the show. The episode selection screen is a bank of 6 lockers, one for each episode. Look out for an Easter egg on this screen. The scene selection has been vastly improved with the clever use of Polaroid photo’s for different scenes and the inclusion of the pointer already being at the ‘Play episode’ option. Hooray!

DISK II – The extras

All Change
The main feature of the second disk, featuring interviews with all of the main cast of the series along with a large chunk of the production team; Doug Naylor (still no sign of Rob, unfortunately), Ed Bye, Mike Agnew (Production Manager), Howard Burden (Costumes) and Peter Wragg (Visual Effects). On top of that there is more than a passing mention to the late, and much celebrated, set designer Mel Bibby. I could go as far to say that Mel made Red Dwarf as popular as it is by creating a look which matched the Red Dwarf image perfectly, but we will get to him later.
The documentary itself has 7 parts to it. We have the introduction where the series as a whole is discussed, including Robert and Hattie recalling their first auditions and rehearsals. The oft’ told tale of Kryten’s silly walks is as funny told here as it is to read in his book; ‘Man in the Rubber Mask’. It’s all well and good listening to the cast reminisce about the show but the real meat to this documentary is the production staff. Mike Agnew stuck out above the rest in my view, with his story about Lister and Craig joy riding being one of the highlights.
Going back to my ‘evolution’ analogy, this really is the next step up from the ‘Launching Red Dwarf’ documentary, seen on Series I, and an absolute mile away from the Doug Naylor interview seen on series II. Without doubt the highlight of the whole DVD.

Deleted Scenes
Moving on a step – and I hope no one thinks that I’m setting myself up as a self-elected chairperson, just see me as a facilitator.
With the series III scenes we get the same 20 minutes we saw with the previous series and they really are quite nice. With series III I can safely say they were at a stage with the writing of the show, in which all of the filmed material was good, it was just a matter of what to keep and what not to keep, to allow the show to fit the time slot. Hence, the scenes are very good and could have been used quite easily in the final edits.

Among some of the most interesting scenes are the 8 episode openers, recorded by Hattie. The intention was to have these inserted at the start of each episode, in the same way Norman was used for series I and II. I suppose it is indicative of the amount of changes made to the series that these were dropped in favour of more time with the rest of the crew and getting on with the episodes story. Another interesting example of the deleted material are the scenes dropped from the episode ‘Bodyswap’. If nothing else, they serve as a great insight into the impressions Craig and Chris were doing of each other. I would have liked to see the whole episode shown this way, but you can’t have them all.

Building a Better Universe – Tribute to Mel Bibby
In 2002 the designer Mel Bibby died. Mel was originally set to work on Series I and II but couldn’t make it due to other commitments. When he finally arrived on the show (for Series III) his new, fresh look launched Red Dwarf into the mainstream. Gone were the grey (yet very lovely) sets and replaced with the vibrant look of the officers quarters, dingy atmospheric feel to the cargo and engine decks and a vast improvement in props. ‘Building a Better Universe’ is GNP’s touching tribute to this man. The feature itself is very nice and makes up for not having the man himself feature in the ‘All Change’ documentary. At the end you get a very special treat, the only known recording of Mel talking about his work on Red Dwarf. He describes his main influence, Alien and how he implemented inspiration from this film into his sets. A most worthwhile extra and a touching recognition to this genius designer. Mel Bibby – RIP.

Hattie’s DJ Diary
This feature is quite obviously the worst extra that has ever been on any DVD ever. GNP obviously failed to recognise that I should have been on this. I even said ‘Smegtastic’ and made myself look a git in front of Hattie to get on this thing! Of course, jesting aside, this is a very good extra with some great memories attached to it. We see allot of Hattie wandering about, playing with sheep, and talking to weirdos. What more could you ask for? Apart from me, that is.

Backwards – Forwards
This wins the award for the most interesting and at the same time the most ‘hit or miss’ feature on the disk. When I heard about this extra I thought the idea is genius, which it is, but it serves only to expose the various plot holes within the episode. It’s worth it for all the naughty words they sneak in to the backwards speak though! Hehe, that man said ‘bastards’.

Smeg Ups
All previously seen Series III take outs are all present and correct here. Unlike Series I, certain clips did not just ‘fall off’ at the last minute. It’s always good to see these every now and again but the video compilations are much more satisfying to watch.

Trailers
The trailers for the first two series have been beautifully archived and were recovered for use in the appropriate DVD. For some monged up reason all the series III trailers have been lost in the black hole of incompetence known as the BBC Archiving Department. Courtesy of a ‘dedicated fan’ we manage to see two of these lost trailers, both of which had been archived on VHS by the aforementioned ‘dedicated fan’. One of which is for the original broadcast of the series and the other is for the series II and III videos.

Food
Food is great. So great, in fact, that it is the topic for this DVDs musical sing-a-long featurette. This happens to be the much better of the three currently released featurettes, mainly because it is forced to use relevant clips (unlike the travesty of ‘Alternate Personalities’) and the editing is very good indeed. ‘Lurve’ is penned in for Series IV.

Photo Gallery
Now this is more like it! Gone are the disappointing collection of snaps from series I and II and in come a mass of professional snaps done, in the main, by the wonderful Paul Grant. Presented on Polaroid (in a reference to the episode ‘Timeslides’) you get a wonderful selection of production shots of the cast, including some of Rob Llewellyn in make-up look more than little terrifying. Other pictures include shots of the ship models, some great concept and design drawings and the cover art for all regions of the series III VHS release.

Raw FX Footage
Beautiful. Just beautiful. These clips show some wonderful alternate shots of the big three ships; Red Dwarf, Starbug and Blue MIdget. The highlights being those taken from the Bodyswap chase between Starbug and Blue Midget and some great Starbug hanger sequences.

Isolated Music Cues
The usual stuff such as theme tunes and incidental music is present and correct here. But the main draw to this feature is the full length versions of ‘Cash’ sampled in ‘Timeslides’, ‘Heroic Intro’ from ‘Backwards’, ‘Rock Guitar instrumental’ from ‘Backwards’ among others and finally ‘Party Time’ and the ‘Hudzen theme’, both used in The Last Day. All of which are brilliant to listen to.

Talking Book Chapters
A very nice idea and a great way of giving the less Dwarf educated audience a taster of the alternate version of Red Dwarf. Good to see they have continued to pick clips relevant to the series rather than just lumping any old chapter in, willy nilly. One of the main reasons to listen to these is to listen to the excellent Chris Barrie do a range of marvelous impressions.

In summary then. Red Dwarf III on DVD is quite simply perfection. With a sticker

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