Series VI DVD Review

It’s big! It’s thorough! It’s stupidly late! It’s G&T’s Series VI DVD review! Hurrah!

Put simply, a stunning release. I can never decide which is my favourite series out of II, V and VI, but I think VI has a stronger claim to it that the others. Superb action sequences, a frantic mood and pace, and, most of all, fantastic gags. The Space Corps Directives were a great running gag, and every episode has a “changing the bulb” moment. And we even get the Cat saying “shit”. And here we get it in cleaned-up DVD quality picture and sound, as opposed to tatty decade-old VHS copies. Brilliant.

But we all know how good the series is. The extras, my friends!

Animated Menus

Fantastic. A new template for this release, the first since III. And it’s great. Starbug’s mid-section serves as the main menu, and it’s very accurate. Then we’ve got the cockpit for episode selection and the sleeping quarters for bonus material, which are similarly good. The main menus seem a little plain without Holly dialogue barking on, but at least it gives us a chance to get straight to the goods without being distracted. There’s a slightly odd pause on when you get to the door to the mid-section on Disk One. I wonder what that could be? Oh, and why is there a skutter in the bunkroom? Tsk. (This from the same person who told people to shut up about there being six stasis booths on the Series I and II menus.)

Cast Commentary

Sans Hattie, who, whilst being a pure loveliness, didn’t really add much to the commentaries. Craig’s back, however, after we had the severe fortune of him being ill for Series V. And, shockingly, he’s not that bad! I didn’t notice one dig to the fans; they even skipped the easy option of adding to the sci-fi convention joke in Emohawk. In fact, Craig gave me the biggest laugh of the whole track during Rimmerworld – “they don’t call him Naylor for nothing”. Plus, you’ve got Chris and Robert being as good as ever. By far the most entertaining and non-annoying commentary track to date, even if they can’t tell the difference between model shots and CGI.

Fan Commentary – Gunmen of the Apocalypse

Generally greeted with a big shrug. But this was better than the Back To Reality effort, I thought. The girls were a bit non-descript, but the lads were entertaining. Steve with his massive page of notes, and Keir gets a special mention for crowbarring in a CGI dig at the end. As with last time, however, the most interesting snippets and observations come from Teh Ellards. Oh, to have had a commentary with him and Doug. Oh, and one of the girls got a Sega Mega Drive mixed up with a ZX Spectrum. FOOL.

Disc Two, then.

The Starbuggers

I used to think Heavy Science was the best thing ever. Not any more. The Starbuggers takes that mantle with aplomb. Within three minutes, I was laughing my head off, in this case at Robert Llewellyn’s South African accent. Andy De Emmony and Justin Judd are both excellent talking heads, as is the utterly pleasant Stephen Wickham. And, of course, TEH RUSHESES! Particularly excellent in the Emohawk section (as previewed at DJ:XI), to illustrate Danny being nearly killed by Peter Wragg, and Stephen Wickham getting his horn on. The whole 75-odd minutes is fried gold, in terms of information and entertainment. More of the same for the last two, please.

Deleted Scenes (Anti-Matter Chopsticks)

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. I was chuckling away for the best part of three quarters of an hour, which is always good. Emohawk has the pick of the bunch – I love the notion of Cat’s left nostril being “unreliable and, frankly, difficult to work with”, as well as the repeated port/starboard confusion. Then there’s the legendary yo-yo dialogue, which is easily as brilliant as it was made out to be. Some very funny glimpses of actors coming out of character as well, such as Craig’s chili-relating gurning and Danny playing air guitar with the liquid nitrogen cannister.

Other notable mentions go to Robert Llewellyn’s brilliant sound effects, when Kryten is twatting Rimmer with a big lump of hollow plastic; Rimmer’s extended Robinson Crusoe bit; the special hole in Lister’s pocket; and, of course, “Smeg! I’m a hero!” How excellent it is to finally see that for ourselves.

Smeg Ups (Beinz Baked Beans)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “all from the right series, and I can’t see anything missing”. Series VI has some of the best out-takes – “computer-powered pussy” springs instantly to mind, as well as Robert Llewellyn stopping before he steps any further into a big pile of poo. As usual, it’s a shame that there’s no previously unseen out-takes included, as we know they exist. And even if they’re not very funny, we’d like to judge that for ourselves. But, on the other hand, there’s always a reason they weren’t included on the original tapes, be it guest star clearance, rudeness, etc.

Howard Goodall – Settling the Score (OG Unit)

Joy, from start to finish. The music has always been one of my favourite background elements to Red Dwarf, and Howard Goodall is a charming and entertaining man, as evidenced in his recent Channel 4 shows. The thing is beautifully-lit as well – lovely red tint in the background on close-ups.

As well as the sheer brilliance that is seeing the man himself playing Dwarf tunes on his trusty piano, there’s a great deal of exclusives. Most notably, the extra/alternative verses to the theme tune (I want some sand/Up my bum) and… HOWARD GOODALL’S DEMO OF TONGUE TIED! Shame we didn’t get the whole thing – maybe there were rights issues? Nevertheless, this glimpse was fascinating, and put the icing on a fantastic cake of a feature. Oh, and who else thought that we were going to get some original continuity to illustrate “someone talking over it”, only to be surprised by the “garbage pod” gag?

Sick Featurette (Oh, who cares?)

Shite. Just… just shite. A truly terrible song (Tom Jones is surely a candidate for euthenasia now?), with clips that are rather too VIII-heavy for me. And half of them are only barely related to the theme. Menstruation, pregnancy and shitting are not illnesses. And the potato virus? Do me a lemon. Three minutes of my life have been stolen and I want them back.

Return to Laredo (Cowboy Skutter)

A-ha-ha, that’s more like it! With the one and only less-than-perfect feature out of the way, we can concentrate on this gorgeous chunk of loveliness. Robert Llewellyn is one of the most entertaining human beings ever to exist, and his enthusiasm for the subject is a joy to behold. The cowboys themselves are good value as well – I chuckled verily at the ranger’s office being “moved over a foot” in a hurricane. Another hilarious moment was Rob putting his foot in it by saying “hehe, I take it nobody’s died here?” “Well, actually…” At ten minutes long, it’s short and sweet, and just perfect. At the end, I was shouting at the screen for Robert to fade out as he passed what would have been the ‘Existance’ sign… and he did! Hurrah!

Behind The Scenes Footage (AR Unit)

Crikey! It’s the rushes from a short-lived Making Of project! What a find. Lots of great footage of Paul McGuinness in a Psiren outfit, the crew (most of whom appear to be wearing flat caps) trying to work things out, last-minute rehearsals, and Craig Charles smoking a lot. It’s all fantastic stuff, and what a video it would have made. The shot of Craig lying down on crashmats and doing a big yawn would have been worth it alone.

Also included is the excellently-named Nick Kool’s 8mm footage of the model unit. It being monochrome and silent, it’s very odd to watch, but nonetheless entertaining, particularly slate Champagne. If models aren’t your thing, why not invent a WW2 newsreel-style commentary for the footage?

Interview with Andy de Emmony

In one long take, Andy describes his perspective of what the show’s all about, and what goes into it. Not much that hardcore fans won’t already know, but it’s a very handy introduction to someone who’s not really thought about behind-the-scenes on the show before. I like both Andy De Emmony; both in terms of his work and his talking-head abilities.

Trailers (vidscreen, just for a change)

Three none-too-remarkable contemporary trailers. It’s your usual couple-of-gags with a voice-over format. Number two starts off as a Star Wars parody, but bails out after a couple of clips – it wasn’t til Series VIII when we’d get a full trailer in this style. As ever, a worthy addition to the DVD.

Raw FX Footage (bazookoid)

Excellent, as ever. From the very first clip, I was moist – a failed attempt to superimpose the crew onto Starbug’s viewscreen! Technically, the shot from the front looks quite good, but from the side it’s a bit rubbish. Elsewhere, everything you’d expect, including some great alternate takes of the simulant ship being blown up. Plus, a great shot of Starbug crashing into Legion’s space station. Where’s the guidance beam when you need it? And, in full colour, slate Champagne, take 2! Lovely stuff.

Isolated Music Cues (Mr. Guitar)

Oh, man. VI had some of the best music, with each episode having its own feel. Industrial creepiness for Psirens, classical piano for Legion, erm, cowboy for Gunmen, you name it. Some of the additional pieces sound massive in scale. Big orchestral epics that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hollywood soundtrack. All hail Howard Goodall. Oh, how good it is to have the Gunmen theme and the honky-tonk music in clean, DVD quality.

Dave Hollins Radio Sketch (corn flakes)

It’s the pen sketch (this one) – actually the third sketch to be aired. There are three sketches that are as yet unreleased, so either one series will have two, or they’re skipping one out. If so, the one they’ve missed this time is NorWEB, as printed in the Omnibus and repeated verbatim in Me². Surely they can’t miss off the most Dwarfy sketch there is?

Photo Gallery (hard light bee)

Ah, lovely stuff. Masses and masses of pics, many of which are new to me, all ordered more or less by episode. And, for the first time, captions for pics of crew members. Marvellous stuff. I particularly like the pic of Peter Wragg chuckling away at a Smegazine. Plus, the hand peeking out under the beans can is hilarious. Oh, and there’s some great pics of the guys rehearsing on set in their normal clothes. And that one of Craig sat in front of the audience – is that Vic Reeves in the light grey anorak?

Weblink

Tsk. I reiterate – dwarf.htm should have a shitload of links, to every Red Dwarf-related site possible. Ah well. Here’s that link in full.

Easter Eggs

Full highlights of the Easter Eggs will be shown on Match of the Day after this bulletin, so if you don’t want to know the scores, look away now. Remarkably, as far as anyone can tell, all the eggs are on Disk One. It’s quite possible that GNP deliberately did this to make everyone search the second disk thoroughly for hours, thus completely wasting their time. And it worked. Bastards. Still, five of them! How can we be ambushed by five easter eggs?

Cockpit Footage – Stick your DVD in the machine. When the menus switch to CGI, you’ll soon come to the airlock door, the light on which should be flashing red. Press enter. You’ll be taken to a CG starmap on the scanner table. Coo! Select Starbug (labelled “You are here”), and you’ll be treated to the raw footage from the aforementioned attempt to impose the crew onto a model shot of Starbug. The cockpit on film! This is exciting.

SVC Footage (1) – Back to the starmap you go. Select SVC01 (across one and down one from Starbug), and you’ll be treated to a full-screen (nearly) version of Rimmer’s personality being loaded, from Psirens. Excellent!

SVC Footage (2) – Similarly, selecting SVC02 (bottom right) gives you the complete set of AR animations. Lovely stuff. There are a few other planets that are selectable, but don’t lead to anything. These are RD128, AJR01, AJR02 and LV246. They’re almost certainly red herrings, but I can’t help thinking there may be something more to them…

The Memory Man – From the main menu, go down to ‘Commentary’ and press left. You’ll have selected the airlock. Press enter to be given a keypad, to which the clue to the code is “ginger toupée”. A quick check of your favourite website tells you the directive in question is 1742. You are treated to a simply superb out-take from Heavy Science, in which Danny John-Jules displays the kind of Dwarf knowledge that would have him granted genius status on the offical webboard.

Animated Interview – Go to the chapter selection menu for Gunmen. On the first page, the sherriff badge (visible on all chapter pages) is selectable. So select it. It’s the sixth and final Six of the Best interview… with a difference. I don’t usually watch these all the way through, but the sight of Rob as a Mexican bandido, Doug as a red Indian and Ed as a saloon barmaid made me chuckle verily.

I was half-expecting to see the Comic Relief Bohemian Rhapsody performance in some form or other, but I can see why it’s not there. Brian May and Roger Taylor are greedy cunts, you see, happy to piss away their fine legacy and taint the memory of their deceased genius frontman for a quick buck.

I’m sorry, sir, I… I don’t know what came over me.

DVD Credits

Applaud them all. Go on. Do it. Tracey Brennan is thanked again, presumably for trailers. Thanks, Tracey. Thacey.

Collectors’ Booklet

Lovely stuff, as ever. Nicely organised, full of good info, and no glaring errors. Bugger – it seems that Ellard’s quite safe from me taking over for a while. I particularly like nuggets of info such as the cocoon in Rimmerworld being nicked from an Alexei Sayle series, and Cat struggling with a massive case in Emohawk being improvised. Also included is a jolly good limerick from Cpt-D. I hope that this theme of competition winners having something in the booklet continues for the final two series – if the Observation Dome film wins, I might write an essay about how shit Series VII and VIII are.

The Cover

An excellently-rendered CGI version of the Last Chance Saloon. It’s perhaps a little too brown, but the silver foil logo should make it stand out on the shelves. Again, I’m not too sure what Lister is painting, but it looks good and it keeps continuity, so that’s all that matters. I like the way that on the front cover, Lister appears to be grabbing the ’12’ certificate logo.

The Discs

The beautiful picture discs we love and admire. Lister on Disc One, Rimmer on Disc Two. Textbook. I wonder if Series VII will retain Rimmer on the cover and the discs, given that he’s only in half the episodes?

The Subtitles

I’ve not actually watched anything with subtitles on yet, but I imagine they’re as accurate and useful as those on previous releases.

The Sticker

Silver on red, it reads “International Emmy Award Winner!”, with the small-print of “Outstanding popular arts programme – Gunmen of the Apocalypse – 1994″ surrounding in white. Interestingly, the sticker is bigger in area to the one from Series V. And if that’s not interesting, I don’t know what is.

It’s kind of bitter-sweet that this will be the final absolutely perfect Red Dwarf DVD. While I’ve no doubt the extras for VII and VIII will be as stunning, if not more so, as we’ve had so far, but the first six releases have had a pretty faultless main feature to go with it. But enough negativity – let us celebrate the fact that one of the best series of the show has a DVD release to match. These are features to watch over and over again, and cherish forever. The amount of work that’s gone into them is impeccable, and, save for a few minor points, it’s hard to see how it could have been improved.

Where have I heard that before? Ah yes, the previous five releases.

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