Series V DVD Review

The vast majority of us have had to wait until the actual release date before getting our grubby little hands on this DVD. It’s a fucking disgrace. But while we’d all prefer our letterboxes to be stuffed first thing on a Saturday morning, there is something to be said for getting up at stupid o’clock, waiting outside your local video shop for it to open, and running home with glee as soon as the £20 note has been handed over. It’s an exciting process, and it makes us appreciate what we’ve got even more.

I’m watching this DVD on a laptop with shite speakers, so I can’t really comment on picture and sound. But it seems fine! Let’s move on to the obligatory comments on the series, even though we already know how great it is. The production values are superb; the gelled lighting combines with great costumes and impressive locations/sets to create a dark, moody atmosphere. The acting is excellent too; from Chris Barrie’s sinister lunacy in Quarantine, to Robert Llewellyn’s magnificent trial with himself in The Inquisitor. Even Craig has his moments of proper acting, particularly as Sebastian Doyle. Oh, and the jokes! Cat’s one-liners throughout the series are great, and the physical humour in Quarantine and Demons & Angels is very nicely done. V manages to get the balance of humour and sci-fi just right, with each episode anchored with a heavy sci-fi concept.

Enough of this chitter-chatter; let the extras begin.

Animated Menus

Hurrah! They start off pretty much the same as the previous two releases (other than “SERIES V” on the door, obviously), but when the skutter gets to the end of the corridor, he collapses in a shower of sparks. We’re then taken into the Low Drive Room, which is in a right state, I tell thee. This is a very effective method of differentiating between the series, as the main aspects of the menus are identical. The main menus plenty of non-Holly elements, such as bits of radar, footage from Machine 16 and even the blue lights from Holoship. Again, this disguises the fact that Holly didn’t actually have enough lines to fill an animation. The only major difference in the menu design is the Bonus Materials menu, which is split into two halves of the bunk room this time. This is much better – less cluttered and easier to navigate – but a text-only option would have been nice.

Cast Commentary

I’ve not had time to listen to the complete series yet, but it’s more of the same – not terribly much insight, but a fair few laughs. Craig Charles isn’t really missed, thanks in part to Chris Barrie infrequently conducting conversations with his impersonation. This is very funny, and some of the comments seem strangely accurate to what Craig would actually say. But if you still feel you’re missing out on his contribution, slap yourself in the face at frequent intervals. This has pretty much the same effect.

Fan Commentary – Back To Reality

Interesting one, this. I wonder where they got the idea from? An awful lot of controversy surrounds this extra – waste of time, effort and money? Well, not really, given that it took very little of any of those. But is it any good? Well, the very first behind-the-scenes tit-bit is in fact wrong; it’s in The Inquisitor that a model from Dimension Jump is re-used. Much of the commentary is laughing and “I like this bit”. This is fine; if people weren’t interested in what fellow fans thought, they wouldn’t be reading this review. Oh. But the really interesting bits are along the lines of “look out for this strange thing” and “did you notice that error”. The majority of these come from the boy Ellard, who benefits from having watched the rushes, and indeed from working for Doug Naylor. We could have done with a lot more of those comments, and a lot less of “ooh, I like his hair”.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to the second disc we go.

Heavy Science

Wahey! This is just the best thing ever. Ever. There’s two things that the previous two documentaries really needed – for the clips to be more integrated and excerpts from the rushes to be used. And guess what? The clips from episodes seem to be much shorter, and work much better as cutaways, with the audio from interviews continuing over them or coming in before the end. This means the documentary seems much more professional – aside from the length, it wouldn’t look out of place on BBC TWO. And, yes, rushes! !!!, frankly. We get unseen out-takes, different angles of familiar shots and footage of the crew working. This is fantastic – the only chance most of us get to access this footage is dodgy bootlegs. To have this genuinely exciting material in DVD quality is amazing. “CRAIG, DON’T BUGGER ABOUT!”

Juliet May comes across very well, even if she didn’t know what a POV shot was. Mike Tucker makes a good replacement for Wraggy. I do like Peter, but you have to say Mike is much more charismatic. Doug Naylor is fantastic. I want one. I also want a Robert Llewellyn – even without make-up, his face is made of rubber. Even Craig and Danny are entertaining in this documentary; they definitely work best in smaller doses. I’m finding it very hard to criticise; the best I can offer is that some of the cutaways are too literal. “We were very tired”, followed by a clip of Lister being tired. Amusing, perhaps, but that’s not very professional, is it?

Deleted Scenes (Mr. Flibble)

Holy Mary, mother of God. 48 minutes of the bastards! This time round, we’ve got a sub-menu that allows you to select an episode. All the scenes are still on one title, however, so if you select Holoship, you get the lot. Plus, they’re all still chaptered individually. BUT ANYWAY. We’re familiar with an awful lot of these trims, thanks to the scripts to Holoship and Back To Reality being released in books, and extracts from The Inquisitor and Demons & Angels were once available on some website or other. But there’s nothing like seeing them for yourself.

Highlights include: Captain Platini hamming it up ridiculously (he shits Shatner); Rimmer doing a silly salute-based joke on the Enlightenment, which is about a thousand times funnier than the joke in Back In The Red (Part Two); one of Hattie’s best performances in the series, when she stalls Rimmer in his mission to find Kryten; an appearance of the orangutan joke from Infinity; Kryten’s faith making a re-appearance, with time-code in vision!; Jack Docherty’s scary face; Cat reluctantly telling Rimmer that he’s “an OK kinda guy” – one of Danny’s best ever performances; Holly being very furry; Craig Charles being utterly RUBBISH at firing a bazookoid; Rimmer trying to tell a joke, which is simply fantastic; and finally, a rubbish 2D computer effect, foreshadowing Series VII by five years.

Smeg Ups (virus syringe)

All from the right series, and I can’t see anything missing. Some of these clips are classics – Chris Barrie falling off his chair still makes me laugh, ten years after I first saw it. It’s interesting to note that a fair few “shit”s make it through unbleeped – it was the same in the original Smeg Ups tape and all. I was hoping we’d see some more out-takes that weren’t used in the videos, given that GNP seem far more keen to use rushes footage. I’m guessing there’s got to be a reason why they’re not used. It’s a great loss that the “Captain Bollocks” out-take from Terrorform will never be released.

Dwarfing USA (triplicator)

This is simply fantastic. As recently as last year, it seemed impossible for any footage whatsoever of the US pilot to be released. No idea what’s changed, but clips have now been shown on American TV and on a ruddy great DVD! Bloody hell, we’ve got DVD-quality footage of something that’s only ever been seen on dodgy Xth generation copies. You can actually see the sets and the actors’ faces and everything. Aside from the clips, it’s great to hear Robert and Doug talking directly about their experiences. The stories about “The Wave Of Negativity” and Linwood Boomer’s stubborness. Also, the visual comparisons between the English and American versions are a nice touch. Shame about the lack of NBC pilot, but if it can’t be cleared it can’t be cleared. Nice to see the convention footage from Smeg Outs making an appearance at the end too. Kryten’s mask looks RUBBISH.

Bad Guys Featurette (Most Gross Danger sign)

This is awful. Truly terrible. I’ve stuck up for the musical featurettes before, but this is just poor. They seemed to run out of bad guys half way through, and switched to general violence, or just falling over. Seriously, in what way is Cat fainting in Epideme even remotely related to the theme? Also, the music is mixed way too low – you can’t hear it over sound effects most of the time. And some of the cuts are too quick to register, particularly the fainting compilation. The song fades out half way through, which is a mixed blessing. It means the feature is nearly over, but also means that we’re “treated” to the “hilarious” “ending” to Only The Good… on more time. The only genuinely poor extra.

The SFX of Red Dwarf V (Kryten’s hand)

Ah, excellent. How lovely to be able to see this sort of thing anywhere other than a graveyard slot at Dimension Jump. Lots of amazing things in here, such as the making of Barry, the Red Dwarf explosion in real time and Starbug falling off its strings onto a landscape. The Mike Tucker commentary can’t be turned off, but I don’t think we’re missing anything. A lot of the video is silent, and Mike goes quiet when someone addresses the camera. “I’m faking this organism!” It’s a great feature – it’s the only time we’ve seen the actual making of the visual effects, rather than raw versions of the finished project. And Mike’s commentary adds loads – lots of little insights that simply don’t get told anywhere other than conventions. I really hope this book of his happens.

Trailers, Idents and Episode Intro (vidscreen)

Four trailers! And a strange man with large teeth. The first is an extract from a longer trailer, presumably a “Spring on BBC-2” type thing. The second, complete with a great little ident at the beginning, is comprised of clips from Back To Reality, with the brilliant tagline “it’s mega”. This is odd – it’s always been very rare for the BBC to trail a programme so late in the run. Could it be that this trailer was made when Back To Reality was supposed to be the first episode? The third one is a bit nuts. It’s a combined video trailer for Dwarf III, Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who. The Dwarf bits feature some ludicrous audio-splicing. “Don’t give me this Star Trek/whacko-jacko”. “Well done/Mr. Spock”. Whuh? And the Spock ears on Holly – why? The final trailer is the classic Red Dwarf/Hitchhikers one, which is ace.

Next up, the Best Ever introduction, with some ridiculous drunk acting by Craig Charles. I like the way that he only nibbles a tiny bit off the bread; nowhere near enough for the entire episode title to be removed. And finally, we’ve got the Red Dwarf Night idneatsf. The continuity announcer is not included; perhaps it would have been nice to have two versions. Why not replicate the announcement by exclaiming “ooh, blimey, Charlie. Don’t let them distract you, Patrick” at the appropriate juncture?

Raw FX Footage (bazookoid)

It’s a veritable visual effects vault on the V DVD. You really can tell the difference between the old and new Dwarf models when you have raw footage of both in this quality. Highlights of this include: the Enlightenment folding, which doesn’t really work; impressive footage of Dwarf exploding; Starbug leaving the doomed Dwarf’s cargo bay, complete with falling girder; a POV shot of the scouter, and it being released from Starbug’s underbelly; and footage of the face-hugger-esque despair squid. Look out for hands as well – be they holding bits of tentacle to the back of Starbug, or igniting the crashed ship with a cigarette lighter.

Isolated Music Cues (*clicks fingers* The lithium carbonate!)

Lovely stuff. As with the deleted scenes, they’re split into episode sections this time round, which makes a lot more sense. There’s also “additional” sections, which makes it easier to pin-point the unused stings. I particularly like the version of the end theme music that turns into something completely different after the “cold outside” bit. There’s no cues for Terrorform, but the replacement is a very nice touch! The music used for the battle scene was library music; it’s a pity it wasn’t included.

Dave Hollins Radio Sketch (taranshula)

Hurrah! A great addition to the DVD, more so than the talking book chapters were, for the simple reason that Son of Cliché isn’t, and never has been, commercially available. Which is a damned disgrace, frankly. The sketch here is this: the first ever Dave Hollins sketch, from the second episode of the first series; the rest of the sketches will appear on future DVDs. “Oh, a neffron”.

Photo Gallery (Charm gravestone)

Of course, there is an inherent problem with DVD photo galleries, which is excellently dealt with in this article by John. But I’ll ignore that, and admire all the excellent photos in this expansive section. The behind-the-scenes pics are great, and there’s many of them that I don’t recognise. Some lovely visual effects designs too – I could sit and study these for hours on end. The highlights have got to be the rejected Enlightenment designs; some of them are just nuts. As for the self-loathing monster designs, H.R. Giger is currently shouting “Oi!”. Oh, and where appropriate, the production pics are in episode order, which is handy. Man, I’ve just been reminded how bloody awful the original video covers were.

Weblink

MOHH. I’m amazed that this is listed on the back of the DVD, actually. Who’s going to pick it up and think “hmmm, there’s about 200 minutes worth of extras on this, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Oh, look! A weblink! That’s sure to be good; I’ll take ten copies”? Especially considering the URI is printed just below. Dear oh dear. What would be worthwhile is if dwarf.htm contained a load of links; not only to TOS, but to all the shops, cast and crew sites, merchandise, events, even fansites. Yes, you’ve guessed it – I just want G&T to be on a future DVD.

Easter Eggs

SPOILERS! Oh.

Disc One
Animated Interview – Get thee to the episode selection menu. You’ll notice the time gauntlet lurking below the “back” button. Select it, and you’ll be taken to the input screen. You need to enter the code that fires stuff at The Inquisitor. The first bit is there for you, as a clue – “Gamma Delta…” For those of you who can’t be arsed to check the episode or a script, it’s 145. Here you get your standard animation of Six of the Best. Look out for Ed’s reaction when Rob and Doug pick on him.

Alien parody – This is rather amusing. Go to the chapter selection menu for Quarantine, and you’ll see Mr. Flibble carved into the locker. Click on him, and you get camcorder quality footage of the Series VI commentary session. I don’t want to spoil the gag, but you can probably guess which bit of Alien it parodies, with fantastic ham acting from the boys. The highlight, however, is Craig’s one-liner about sushi…

Disc Two
The Accent Question – very well hidden! Go to the subtitles menu on Disc Two and press up. A hitherto completely invisible Holly is now highlighted. In this minute-long piece, Doug Naylor argues that Jane Leeves got the idea for Daphne Moon’s Mancunian accent from spending time with him and Rob Grant. Hmm, it’s a bit contrived. It’s almost like suggesting that DVD companies get ideas for extras after seeing them on fansites.

DVD Credits

Complete with suitably heroic music. Caroline Noonan and our former winged-news-monkey-in-chief Tracey Brennan are thanked – was this for providing trailers? Get in touch, if you’re reading.

Collectors’ Booklet

Fantastic. I always read the booklet before watching the DVD, primarily because buses tend not to have DVD players. But it’s also a very effective way to whet your appetite for what you are about to receive. Just flicking through it produces plenty of “ooh”s and “aah”s – both reminding you how good the extras are going to be and giving you new things to look out for in the episodes. The best one of these has got to be the Blipbloop from Terrorform. Ace! The booklet also features an excellent cartoon by Ruth Latchford. Not content with appearing on the DVD, she has to muscle in on the bloody booklet and all. The “Classic Dwarf” page is amusing, because in many cases it’s impossible to convey just how funny something is in written form. “The crew hallucinate a high-speed car chase.” That’s sure to be good. Sadly, there are no glaring errors in this booklet, which is very boring.

The Cover

Lovely stuff. I was worried that the Esperanto isn’t iconic enough; we only see a tiny bit of it in the first five minutes of one episode. But it looks so lovely, I’m not bothered. I think the massive silver logo will let everyone know that this is indeed Red Dwarf. I was surprised that Mr. Flibble doesn’t feature anywhere on the cover; I was expecting a spammy parrot scenario. Interesting to note the little “overall category raised” notice below the copyright stuff on the back. I’ve seen this on other DVDs, but it’s not on any of the previous Dwarf ones. With every release, the set of spines looks more and more impressive. Cat looks lovely next to Kryten, and I now have five eighths of the Red Dwarf logo on my shelf!

The Packaging

Let me start by noting that the style of the case has changed – there’s a separate flap for the extra disc, rather than it being on the inside left. This is a good move; never again will the booklet fall out every time you open to box. Of course, the most interesting bit of packaging is the Special Edition Gift Set. It looks good enough to hump. It almost looks too good – I don’t want to break the packet to get the Starbug toy out. Surely it would have been better to come up with a way of getting it out without ripping the card? My limited edition number is 24202. What’s yours?

The Discs

The beautiful picture discs we love and admire. Lister on Disc One, Rimmer on Disc Two. Textbook.

The Subtitles

I’ve not been watching much with the subtitles on, so I can’t tell you about any glaring errors. It’s worth noting that the only extra not to have subtitles, except for the Raw FX Footage and Music Cues, is the Dave Hollins sketch. The only extra that is completely worthless without audio. Hurrah!

The Sticker

“Includes NEVER RELEASED footage from the Red Dwarf USA pilot”. The capitalisation is justified, I feel. Silver on red. Very nice. It sort of matches with the “2 Disc Set” logo and, to a lesser extent, the GNP one.

Overall, then, a simply fantastic release. Series III and IV were just about perfect, but they still managed to top them. The rushes footage is a great addition to the documentaries, all the visual effects stuff is just great, and there’s more deleted moments than ever before. How fitting that the best series of Red Dwarf (in my opinion) has been given the best release to date.

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