Series IV DVD Preview: Byte One

Well, here we are – another completely uneducated guess at the upcoming Series IV DVD, padded out with completely irrelevant asides to camera. Mind you, I’m sure you’re all intelligent enough to distinguish between facts taken from a combination of the DVD Details articles and entries on the BBFC, and my OPINION ON STUFF I HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN.

The Cover

The Final IV DVD cover.After the usual nonsense, the final Region 2 version (bar the detailed BBFC descriptions) of the IV cover has now been released. Now, I appear to be one of only two people in the entire universe to have reservations about the cover; the other one being my girlfriend (YES, I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND AHAHAHA I’M NOT SAD I WIN). When the draft design was first released, I thought the cover looked too busy; when this version of the cover came out (whether it’s a draft, fake, or whatever) I really liked it; the removal of the cast pictures made it work (for me).

Now the final version has come out and the pictures are back; I can see exactly why they are on there (to identify the show better for people who don’t know the series that well), but I’m still not over-keen, to be honest. The backgrounds for Series I-III were simpler, and so could get away with the pictures; I just think the IV cover looks too busy and complicated. Maybe it’ll look better in the flesh, though, so I’ll reserve final opinion until then. And NOBODY else agrees with me, so I’m probably just being stupidly picky. I do love the concept for the cover, at any rate.

As for the Region 1 cover; eww eww ewwwwwwww. Not nice at all. The photos are far too big, and more importantly Rimmer just doesn’t look like Rimmer. It looks like a bad Rimmer lookalike. But hey, at least you get some nice extra trading cards; four to be precise. Why not stick them over the cover? It’d look better.

The Collectors Booklet

These are in general excellent, although I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out that I hope that no mistakes slip through this time. FYI, they are: in the second series collectors booklet the first classic moment from Series I, Lister and Hollister’s meeting, is repeated, and Holly is misquoted as saying “or is it the white cable” in Queeg, when the cable in question is in fact yellow. And in the third series booklet, the section on Lifestyles Of The Disgustingly Rich And Famous appears on the page for The Last Day, not Timeslides. However, enough whining: they are great. In particular, they are extremely nicely designed, and well-written. No “SMEG FACTS” here.

The Episodes

First broadcast between 14th February – 21st March 1991, your episodes are: Camille, DNA, Justice, White Hole, Dimension Jump, Meltdown. Original broadcast order. Hooray! I’m sure you don’t need a synopsis of the eps; if you do, there’s plenty elsewhere on the net.

Rob Grant has criticised the series, calling it “pedestrian”. He is WRONG. Each episode is great; I still stick to my guns in saying that for the first 36 episodes of Red Dwarf, there isn’t a weak episode. There isn’t even one episode I can really say is weaker than any of the others; I find it very hard to understand some people’s criticisms of some shows that I can’t see as being inferior to any other eps. Dimension Jump in particular, whilst being a brilliant episode, somewhat unfairly overshadows the series. You could take a five minute section of any of the episodes presented here, and it’ll contain a huge amount of wonderful stuff. The amount of people who say that Dwarf went rubbish after III is just ridiculous.

Comedy criticism in the form of “YOU DON’T LIKE IT? ARE YOU MAD?” You can’t beat it.

Release Dates

For the first time, America gets its release before the UK; the Region 1 release date is February 3rd 2004, whilst the Region 2 release is on February 16th. SELFISH BASTARDS aside, there are no complaints there for people in the UK; it’s only 13 days, compared to the extra three months that Americans have waited for the last three releases. Nonetheless, I suspect the hardcore fans will try and get an import. IAN.

The Region 4 release is on March 10th. Sorry buddy.

Animated Menus

The extras menu.See here. As my esteemed colleague Ian Symes says, it’s still incredible that the Dwarf releases are some of the few DVDs that genuinely deserve the menus listed as an extra, and yet is also one of the few that doesn’t actually have it listed. They’re just gorgeous.

The menus themselves will be pretty similar to the III release due to budget restrictions; it’ll mainly be just the props (and possibly some of the lighting?) that will change. Not that this matters at all; as the sets for III and IV are fairly similar to one another, it would be a complete waste of money to design two seperate menus. There is one slightly dodgy bit on the III menus; when the camera travels up the stairs to the Episode Selection menu, the wall next to the stairs is an incredibly nasty 2D texture. That really should have been fixed in some way; there are (AFAICT) no such problems with the Series I and II menus.

The problems that occured with the Series III release to do with the extras menu will be avoided; the IV release will have an alternate text menu (the same system that the re-released III DVD will have). Even if you haven’t got a problem with the menus on your DVD player, they’ll be useful; gorgeous though the extras menu is, it can be a bit of a bastard to navigate at times.

Some people have complained that the money spent on the menus would have been better spent on other things; the documentary perhaps, or another little featurette. It’s a point of view I can sympathise with to a point. But the menus look so gorgeous that I’m glad they spent the money on them, to be honest. I never try to skip them; I always sit through the entire thing, and enjoy it even after the 700th time. Maybe I’m just going strange.

Incidentally, at the time of writing, this is one of only two extras yet to be classified by the BBFC.

Enough of all this chitter-chatter. Now an official list of extras has been released, let’s go onto the really good stuff…

Cast Commentary

OK, OK. So it’s slightly annoying hearing the cast go on CONSTANTLY about haircuts. So it’s annoying when Craig Charles makes yet another derogatory reference about the fans. And yes, it’s annoying when they get their facts wrong. And YES, it’s annoying that we haven’t got a Naylor/Bye/Wragg commentary. AND YES, they’re far too silent at times, content to actually watch the episodes rather than say something interesting or amusing (which amusingly, they get shouted at for occasionally).

BUT, none of this negates the fact that not only do the cast come out with some hilarious stuff at times, but also that it’s simply a joy hearing them laugh at the episodes. One thing that the cast commentary does is make the hardcore fan who has watched the episodes a million times appreciate just how funny they are. Of course, those with FRIENDS to watch the show with might not need this. Hmmm. I should probably at least try to maintain some form of dignity when writing articles.

Built to Last (73m 13s)

The BBFC entry (unlike for All Change) also gives timings for each individual section:

  • Introduction – 5m 39s
  • Camille – 7m 49s
  • D.N.A. – 8m 18s
  • Justice – 6m 41s
  • White Hole – 10m 7s
  • Dimension Jump – 16m 23s
  • Meltdown – 18m 12s

Nice to see the much underrated Meltdown getting a huge section (three times that which Justice gets). Can you spot a pattern in this preview yet?

New interviewee for Built to Last is Andrea Finch (né Pennell) – head make-up person from IV onwards. It’s a pity that Clayton Mark and Judy Pascoe (and, indeed, Ruby Wax and Emile Charles for the III release) couldn’t make the recording dates, but never mind – there’s plenty of people anyway. As for the contents – our interview with Andrew Ellard reveals a couple of bits; as well as the stuff about the space mumps in Justice, we’re also told: “The full anecdote detailing Paul Jackson’s arrival on-set to direct White Hole had us falling about. But the discussion on race in Dimension Jump after it was decided not to have Danny play a slobby cleaner and on the media’s approach to war after Meltdown are two of the more serious bits.” All Change and Built to Last also use different model shots for the backgrounds, which is excellent. Incidentally, I can never decide whether the anti-war speech at the end of Meltdown is great or trite – I suspect both. It’s certainly in character for Lister, anyway…

With All Change, the main complaint I had with it is that it was too short – which if you’re going to have a complaint about something, is a pretty flattering one for the production team. Other problems included some slightly dodgy fades to edit the interviews; perhaps some more cutaways to other footage could have helped disguise some of the edits. (Shooting with two cameras, another way of disguising edits, wouldn’t have really been practical in this case; firstly, it would have increases the cost when the DVD extras are very tightly-budgeted, but also the model shot backgrounds would probably make cutting to a different angle look very odd.)

Another problem with the documentary was that it felt a bit claustrophobic at times, what with it soly conisisting of clips from the show and interviews. The A-Z had some convention footage and Dalek sketches to break things up a bit, and also the use of real locations for some of the interviews helped (not to say that the model shot backgrounds aren’t a great idea for the DVD documentaries; they look great, and are quite cheap into the bargin). The restricted budget is to blame for this, obviously. Perhaps some shots of designs from the show, or clips from the rushes, or something like that would help for the documentaries of the final four series. They’re still excellently put-together documentaries, though.

Deleted Scenes (20m 50s)

The extra I’m looking forward to most, I think. We are told that “Very few full scenes were excised, but a large number of trims were made instead. Scenes were shaved down rather than removed outright.” This is fairly similar to the III release; quite a lot of that was simply the odd line excised. Bits we’re promised include:

  • “the reason Suzanne Rahtigan was credited as ‘Kochanski Camille’ in Camille”
  • “the original ending to Dimension Jump
  • “a curious exterior scene from Justice – no doubt removed because it looks so much like a park in London”
  • “Holly’s “edited-out ‘What a guy’ line from Dimension Jump” and “a continuation of the maple syrup gag”

The Kochanski Camille mystery is actually revealed in the scriptbook Son Of Soup:

LISTER: Hey – the prospect of having to make love to a total stranger is just as galling to me you know. But it’s a vile and horrible obligation we’re just going to have to endure. We’ve got to be totally professional about it. Totally clinical and unemotional. You just stay there and take it easy, and I’ll go and slip into my Spiderman costume. It’s funny, you really remind me of someone. You’re so like her, it’s untrue.
CAMILLE KOCHANSKI: Was she special?
LISTER: Special? She was the one, true love of my life, if you don’t count lager milkshakes.
CAMILLE KOCHANSKI: So what happened?
LISTER: Oh, the usual. She took my heart and fed it through a car crusher. Came back about (makes small shape) this size with bits of an Austin Metro in it.
CAMILLE KOCHANSKI: She must have been insane.

RIMMER comes in.

RIMMER: Ah, Listy, I see you’ve met our ravishing guest. Have you seen Kryten?

Another interesting question about this sequence is brought up in the excellent Series IV Cast List on TOS – apparently, Tracey Brabin was the original Kochanski Camille, but was replaced. Will the original scenes with her featured make the DVD, or is it possible she hasn’t given permission for the footage to be used? A similar question arises with Peter Spraggon, who was the original DNA Computer Voice. And, indeed, Alex Tetteh-Lartey, who was the original Ghandi, and was replaced when it was discovered he was too frail to do the press-ups the script required; although we don’t know if any footage was ever actually shot using him.

We can guess on one other section, however. What about the full ending to Dimension Jump, where the kippers end up falling on Rimmer (as seen in the title sequence to Smeg Outs? And for those of you wondering why kippers are hitting the insubstantial form of Rimmer, this Time Hole article reveals the truth. No doubt a proper list of each deleted scene will appear on TOS soon.

I’ll tell you one thing that might be nice for the V – VIII releases – a commentary from Doug Naylor. It’s pretty clear he doesn’t want to do a 3-hour one for the series, but surely he could jot some notes down and do a nice half-hour one for the deleted scenes? He’s great in the interviews; hilarious and informative. We want more, dammit. (On the other hand, he apparently forgot that two sequences from III were ever deleted in the first place; still, him rambling on about anything tangentially related to the scenes would be fantastic.) At least we get the nice captions, which usually tell us why the scenes were excised.

Smeg Ups (10m 38s)

“Stone.” I love the audience reaction to this in the final episode; they titter at a completely unamusing line because they remember the mistake that was in the last take. Anyway, the usual story; it’ll be nice to have them on there in DVD quality, and we’d all be whining like fuck if they weren’t on there, but the actual Smeg Ups/Outs vids are more entertaining.

Interestingly, in the BBFC entry, we are told that “To obtain this category cuts of 0m 9s were required., some or all of these cuts were substitutions. The cuts were Cuts for Category. Distributor chose to remove all visual evidence of six instances of strong language being spoken in order to achieve a 12. An uncut 15 was available to the distributor.” This almost certainly applies to the Smeg Ups (I can’t see that any other feature would have bad language in, and Smeg Ups was originally a 15) – but the weird thing is, on the Smeg Ups for the first two series, bad language can clearly be seen visually; from Norman particuarly. Why did this get through as a 12?

“Lurve” Featurette (3m 0s)

OK. I don’t like the featurettes. I really don’t. I don’t find them interesting; I don’t find them amusing; and I don’t like the music; on the first three releases, anyway. Ian felt the same at first, but quite likes them now, the FULE. However, I think the new featurette has the capacity to be more entertaining than the last three, purely because it’s set to a good song for once (Dizzy Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff). Andrew has gone on record as saying it’s his favourite of the four featurettes so far as well. I probably won’t love it, but I suspect that I’ll enjoy it far more than the last ones.

There has been more debate about these featurettes than probably any other extra; with quite a lot of people disliking them. Certainly, it’s rare for me and Ian to disagree about anything. All I can say is that if you search on the net, then quite a lot of fans like them as well; and there should be room for features for everyone on the release. Dislike the featurette by all means; say why you don’t like it; but in the end, it’s difficult to come up with an argument for them not being on there when some people actually like them, when there are plenty of other extras aimed for other audiences. The DVD has to please as many fans as possible.

Ace Rimmer – A Life In Lamé (11m 10s)

“Holly charts the history of the inter-dimensional hero.” With new links (written by Andrew) from Hattie Hayridge as Holly, which makes it interesting to start with; we’re so glad that Hattie’s contribution is finally being recognised in these DVD releases, as our Hopping Holly article acknowledges.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether the featurette sounds exactly my kind of thing; I tend to be more interested in the production side of things, rather than fictional pieces about the show such as this. It’s the same reason that I’m usually not keen on the Talkie Toaster interviews, but love the Mr. Flibble ones. On the other hand, it would be extremely stupid to judge it before we’ve even seen it; I might end up loving it. Who knows? And again, the DVD extras are there for everyone.

Interestingly, in Andrew Ellard’s G&T interview, he reveals that the original version of the featurette was much different:

“Ace has become a pretty iconic Dwarf guest character, and we couldn’t let that pass without comment. I wrote a script for Hattie’s Holly that played almost like an I Heart Ace documentary – akin to those I Heart 1983 things. We shot the Hattie section and planned the clips, but it was all kind of linear. In the edit Doug felt it was all a bit slow and conventional, so he came up with a much whizzier structure. And cut out all the crap gags.”

It would be interesting to see the original version; I happen to be a big fan of crap gags. “The post’s arrived.”

Can’t Smeg Won’t Smeg

First broadcast on 14th February 1998 between 9:05pm – 9:35pm as part of Red Dwarf Night, this sees Ainsley Harriot and the crew COOK SOME CURRY, with hilarious consequences. (For a behind-the-scenes look at this, see Rick Mason’s excellent Red Dwarf Night Report.)

No doubt there will be the usual complaints about it having nothing to do with Series IV; this is patently ridiculous – it would be extremely silly to have both this and the A-Z on the Series VII DVD where they chronologically belong; there will be enough goodies for that release anyway, and it makes sense to spread things out. (It’s such a shame that the best show by far of Red Dwarf Night, the brilliant Universe Challenge, can’t be released on DVD for rights reasons with the format – but there’s no way round it, so complaining about it is pretty useless. But just imagine what an extended edit of that would have been like; we know from the report on Groovetown that the programme was cut down quite substantially.)

But what of the show itself? Well, it’s actually pretty good; although it does have it’s bad points. One of these is the fact that Danny appears to have temporarily forgotten how to play Cat; the first part of his performance seems like a bad parody of his Series 1 character. It’s like some idiot has blacked up and has done a bad impersonation. Luckily, he nails Duane much, much better. There are also some abysmal “Men and women are so different!!!1” stuff between Lister and Kochanski:

KOCHANSKI: Look, I’m afraid I’m not gonna taste anything today – I’m just not hungry. I mean, after all, it was only last week that I ate a stick of celery. I mean, look what it’s done to my bum. It’s massive. It’s like two hunchbacks arm-wrestling under a rug. Any bigger and it’d need a fire escape. Oh God, it’s so huge it’s like an American’s. Just look at it. Please, what do you think? Look. Huge. What. Tell me.
LISTER: I don’t want to make a rushed decision – give me a couple more hours.

She playfully hits him.

LISTER: Why do girls always do that? Why do girls always hit people when they can’t think of a witty retort? Why is that?

Having said that, she then hits him with a frying pan, which would have been quite amusing if we didn’t cut away so quickly back to Ainsley, so we could have seen Lister floored. In fact, a lot of the scripted stuff at the start isn’t hugely good, either not being that funny, or being slightly misplayed – although I do like the Harvester’s joke, and the James Herriot stuff. I’m sayin’ nothing man. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Luckily, it gets better later on; after the introduction, a lot of the rest is ad-libbed. You’d expect Ainsley Harriot to be quite irritating; but he really isn’t that bad at all. Apparently the BBC were quite keen on the idea of CSMW because at the time Ainsley was the Toast Of The BBC; yes, you can complain that it’s a bit silly doing something for Red Dwarf Night that really hasn’t got much to do with what Red Dwarf is about at all, and the BBC’s short-sightedness; but hey, it’s still a funny show. Craig’s “That’s not very professional, is it?” when Ainsley screws up being a particular highlight.

I suspect that when this gets a wider audience, it might split people down the middle; with some people declaring it “smegging great!!!!!!!!!” and other people bemoaning that it’s all that’s most irritating things about Dwarf condensed into 30mins. I really hope this isn’t the case; it’s better than that. In fact, it’s one of the few shows I’d say was never meant to be anything more than fun, throwaway stuff; and it succeeds in being that very well.

Trailers

Another two, again rescued from oblivion from some manky old VHS tapes. Now, not many people (quite rightly) appear to be complaining about the quality of the trailers on the III DVD per se; what has raised a few eyebrows is that quite a few people have said that they have better quality versions of the trailers themselves! On this thread on BTLi, Andrew Ellard says that “We asked several fans to have a look through their collections… Since then, people we’d never heard of have been contacting us asking why we didn’t call to use their, much better, tapes!” This is fair enough, although we would suggest that it might have been an idea to post a plea for this kind of thing as a news item on TOS.

Luckily though, he continues “The BBC seem confident of finding the proper trails for V and VI.” Excellent. However, he does mention that there’s “No news yet, though – so if anyone does have trailers for those seasons wants to drop a message on the reddwarf.co.uk webboard just in case, we’ll keep the details on file just in case.”

We hope to host better quality versions of the first two trailers on this site at some point. One final point – along with the trailers, it really would have been nice to have had some original continuity from Series III on that release; I suppose it’s possible there might be some on the IV DVD, but it seems unlikely from past experience. Whether this is from simply a lack of source material (again, a news article might have helped here), or that the producers of the DVDs just aren’t interested in that kind of thing, is unknown. Never mind – again, we hope to have some original continuity on G&T soon…

Special Effects Footage (7m 6s)

Amongst the treats we’re promised here is a closer-up shot of “the garden/park area on Justice World” shots that “lingers on Ace’s Ionian base”, and “Starbug firing its nuclear charge for the climax in White Hole“. Other set-pieces we can predict to see extended footage of is the crash onto the rocks in the ocean in Dimension Jump, footage of Ace Rimmer’s ship taking off; in-flight; and crashing into Starbug, and no doubt more lovely stuff that I’ve forgotten.

Again, we’re getting a compliation of the footage here; we’d still prefer to see the complete footage (you can read Andrew Ellard’s reasoning against this in his interview), but it’ll still be a brilliant extra regardless of this. And to think that some people think that it’s padding. Perhaps the sight of clapperboards just gets me a bit too excited.

Isolated Music Cues

Why the hell don’t more people appreciate these particular extras? They’re great! My only criticisms of them for the first two releases (also detailed in Darrell Jones’s D.V.Don’t article) are that for Series I and II, the opening/closing titles aren’t clean versions; they were taken from the actual episodes – and when we got the closing music on the Series III release, it was a clean copy of the version used for the first two series. Which is lovely to have, and I’m glad it’s on there – but we didn’t get a copy of the version used for Series III!

The ones for IV should be good; two extra different versions of the end theme (a mock-Hammond organ for Dimension Jump, and Mark Clayton as Elvis for Meltdown); some romantic music from Camille, and the excellent rip-off of Take My Breath Away from Dimension Jump. And, of course, the music for the planet pool sequence in White Hole; intriguingly, we’re also promised the original, quite different music written for this sequence. Hopefully we’ll find out why it wasn’t used…

Talking Book Chapters

Presumably, the relevant section from Better Than Life which was the inspiration for White Hole will make an appearance here. In Andrew Ellard’s G&T interview, he reveals the following:

“We were hoping to include extracts of the Backwards Talking Book, and he gave us his blessing, but as with Last Human these had to be dropped at the eleventh hour and 59th minute when it became clear that the rights to both had moved to a different publisher and out of our current reach. So neither will be used for III and IV though it’s possible that we’ll revisit that next year.”

Anyway, the usual argument here: they’re extremely unsatisfying to listen to, because you want to find out the rest of the story – they effectively act as an extended ad for the full talking books. Which no doubt we’ll get round to reviewing one of these days.

I always thought it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t get some of the Dave Hollins sketches from Son of Cliché on the Series I DVD; perhaps the budget was so tight that they couldn’t afford to pay the fees for it, or something. Never mind; the whole series is avaliable for download on The White Hole; or at least, it will be when Cappsy gets his downloads back up.

Photo Gallery

Yum. After the slightly disappointing gallery for I and II (not that there was much more that could be included; and to be fair, some lovely images like the skutter design and the bill for the Red Dwarf model itself), the III release saw a, to quote, “mighty collection of production, effects and behind-the-scenes images”. The III collection was a gorgeous set, and it’s amazing that the extras come to the three-hour mark, and then excludes all the time you could spend looking at this little lot. AND MASTURBATING.

There were a couple of complaints about the III gallery, though; firstly, they’re still a bit too small, with too much border round them. This was particuarly irritating on some of the design photos, where it was very hard to read the writing. Secondly, clever though the framing of them was, it gave a squiggly border to each of the photos that was slightly irritating – it makes you feel you’re missing something, however small. A way round this would perhaps be to give larger versions of the photos as a DVD-ROM extra? Maybe rights or cost are an issue, or something.

Weblink

Wah.

Subtitles

They’re subtitles.

Easter Eggs

Time to investigate this BBFC entry again; which includes the following:

00:01:40:18 | RED DWARF - DIMENSION JUMP
00:01:00:14 | BONUS FOOTAGE - COMIC RELIEF
00:01:42:06 | RED DWARF - EASTER EGG
00:00:33:16 | RED DWARF
00:00:38:04 | RED DWARF
00:00:32:22 | UNTITLED

Dimension Jump is pretty obvious; an animated egg with audio taken from Six Of The Best, just like the last three releases. Comic Relief is intriguing; the only thing we can think it could be is the Bohemien Rhapsody thingy, either the section of them miming to it from the studio tapes, or the complete section as transmitted on Comic Relief (see this Time Hole article if you don’t know what I’m on about, which incidentally contains the best ever story about Janet Street-Porter that has made me laugh at least once a month since hearing it a few years ago.) But then this would really belong on the Series VI DVD; and besides, the extra just doesn’t seem long enough at a minute long. What the hell could it be?

Easter Egg is the kind of title that is specifically designed to frustrate previews like this. As for the last three; we can guess that two of them are trailers, and the other one is another egg. Four eggs again? Excellent.

A long shot, this one – in Hattie Hayridge’s Mr Flibble Interview (link doesn’t work in Mozilla, for some reason; must contact the TOS about that…), she says that in White Hole for when her IQ returned, she was tested in a “bald skull cap and little round glasses, but they thought it looked too good”. Is it possible this footage might show up on the DVD as an egg? It’s probably not likely; we don’t know for definite they even shot anything, and if they did, whether it survived. But it’s an idea.

Conclusion

It looks great. Now, have I told you all how good Meltdown is yet?

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply