VII DVD Reviews: Mags

Starburst cover - issue 331 TV Zone cover - issue 196Oh, it’s that time again, when we ruthlessly pick apart magazine reviews. If I were you, I’d go and read something actually worth reading elsewhere on the site. I swear, there’s at least one interesting article if you look hard enough. On the other hand, if you do read the following, a couple of disclaimers: I’m not saying people can’t give their opinion, I’m just giving mine, and feel free to disagree with me heartily below.

TV Zone first, then:

Red Dwarf VII: Season Seven
Released by BBC DVD, £19.99. Reviewed by Anthony Brown.

This is the run of Red Dwarf that many fans thought would never happen, partly because of the time Craig Charles was unavailable while on remand, facing charges that were ultimately proved false,

RAPE

Seriously, the the slightly coy way people refer to this just annoys me.

and partly because Red Dwarf VI had left people feeling that the show had run its course, and had become over-reliant on variations of the same catchphrases, jokes, or set-pieces.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: yes, VI was quite formulaic. But if the formula is that good, it doesn’t matter. And we’re talking about six episodes – some shows run for hundreds of episodes like that. I don’t think six episodes is long enough to complain too much about it…

So, it’s goodbye to co-creator Rob Grant, with a handful of jobbing guest writers joining Doug Naylor in a less than entirely successful attempt to mimic the American writers’ room system. Chris Barrie, having become increasingly frustrated by the lack of rehearsal time on the last series, also drops out after two episodes and a few cameos, with Chloe Annett joining as an alternate reality Kochanski (in the process abandoning the last remnants of the show’s original concept – no women, just two guys who hate each other).

Oh, hooray, more bleating on about “the show’s original concept”. Series V is far, far removed from Series 1 – but that doesn’t stop it being fantastic. Oh, see this article and this article for more. Kochanski was badly introduced, in my opinion, in all sorts of ways (I can’t help thinking the basic concept of the character is wrong – it needs to be something more like Last Human) – but as an idea, its fine. And certainly not against the spirit of the show. Since when did it have a “no wimmin” mantra? It was “no other humans”. (I can’t help thinking that, without Rimmer, the show was effectively stuffed, though – I can’t see a way round that.)

Gone too, at least for some of the time, are the award-winning FX team, unwisely replaced by distinctly primitive CGI.

Erm, it’s nothing to do with wisdom – production problems caused it. Have you seen the documentary? (On the other hand, I can’t help but feel some of the more appalling generic shots should have been replaced with earlier model stock footage.)

On the other hand, original director Ed Bye returns, bringing with him audience-free recording and (unfortunately) the abomination that is ‘filmized’ video.

That’s rather unfair. These days, filmized video, when done well, is nearly indistinguishable to film for all but technical audiences. Indeed, less and less drama is being shot on film – for instance, Casanova was shot on 16mm, but the new Doctor Who was shot on video, then treated to look like film. When done well, with decent lenses and lighting setups, it looks fine.

Whether it’s suitable for Red Dwarf is another matter – and I personally can’t stand it being plastered all over pretty much every sitcom these days (see Black Books) – but I don’t see anything wrong with the technique when used on the right kind of programme.

It’s only a borderline success – the cast swaps go as well as could have been hoped and there’s something rather wonderful about Ouroboros,

Now there’s a sentence I never expected to see.

but for every area that’s been an improvement, there’s a balancing weakness (Blue and Beyond A Joke both settle too easily for lazy jokes and set-pieces).

The problem with Beyond A Joke is that it settles for having no jokes at all, beyond the opening Jane Austen World sequence. I still maintain Blue is a more successful episode than Stoke Me A Clipper, though. Must. Write. Episode. Reviews.

But there’s no complaints to be made about the massively comprehensive extras – there’s the previously released ‘Xtended’ versions of three episodes, an option to watch both versions of Tikka to Ride with new and better CGI, a full show of all six of the cast for the commentaries… Documentaries, promo spots from the time, video diaries, even the original Dave Hollins sketches from Son of Cliché. Plus, Chris Barrie performs an abandonded script, complete with storyboards. An average season then, but a class package. 10 (for the extras)

Excellent summing up of the extras. Well done. Give yourself a good pat on the back.

Starburst, then:

Red Dwarf – Series VII
Starring: Craig Charles, Chloe Annett, Danny John-Jules

Poor Robert. And poor Chloë too – neither review spelt her name correctly.

Director: Ed Bye
Picture: 1.33:1
Sound: DD 2.0
Cert: 12
Year 1997
Released: November 7th
Price: £22.99
Distributor: BBC

The Verdict
Red Dwarf lives on, minus co-creator Doug Naylor, with Rob Grant now partnered with new writers.

Erm, sorry?

Red Dwarf lives on, minus co-creator Doug Naylor, with Rob Grant now partnered with new writers.

…?

Red Dwarf lives on, minus co-creator Doug Naylor, with Rob Grant now partnered with new writers.

SDFIOJKSDFOIJASDFOIJAS

Red Dwarf lives on, minus co-creator Doug Naylor, with Rob Grant now partnered with new writers.

Well, I’ll be sure to take this reviewer very seriously then, having made such a stupid mistake in the opening sentence. As you will see, this stance shall prove useful.

The BBC’s confidence clearly hasn’t been dented – it commissioned a longer run of eight episodes – but this is a very patchy year indeed. Key player Chris Barrie takes his leave in Stoke Me a Clipper and his replacement (Chloe Annett) struggles to fill the void, the show is now shot without a live studio audience and feels a little hollow, and the scripts really aren’t all that funny.

Sadly, I can’t disagree with any of that. I always baulk slightly at criticism of Dwarf in reviews – not because I hate people criticising the show, but because I think the criticisms of the previous six series in reviews have been nearly all wrong and unfair – but I’m afraid with VII I can’t disagree with any of that. (Having said that, the fact that Body Swap worked perfectly without a studio audience whilst some problems with VII are blamed on it indicates it would have been less of a problem if everything else had worked.)

Bad taste jokes (the Dwarfers involvement with Kennedy’s assassination, Lister’s loss of an arm) and inevitable costume gags indicate a series nearing the end of its creative life. 2/5

Bull pats. The lack of good jokes and some dodgy characterisation is the problem. But none of the above is.

I don’t know – maybe I’ve just watched enough disgusting stuff to be desensitized. But the only slightly “bad taste” stuff to do with Kennedy’s assasination in Tikka is how they kill Lee Harvey Oswald. The main assasination scene is done completely straight. And as Doug says in Back From The Dead, the only complaint the local Dallas PBS station got is about… the cannabilism scene. And besides, the amount of what could be considered tasteless jokes compared to everything else in the show is tiny. But no, as always in these reviews, they just pounce on odd scenes and try and judge an entire series on them.

And even if you don’t buy any of that… since when was “bad taste” stuff indicative of a show at the end of its life anyway? If it’s done well, since when was it anything other than… erm… funny? See: Python.

As for costume gags… this complaint has been made before in Starburst. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. Is it simply referring to Cat gags, or about the cast dressing up in different costumes? BE CLEAR! If it’s the former, I admit they’re getting tedious by now (although “Co-ordinates! Thank-you!” is still one of the best jokes in the series); if it’s the latter, I fail to see what’s wrong with them. Although I am the kind of person who laughs at Are You Being Served?, so, erm, errr, argh.

Having said all of that – I can’t really disagree with the series’ final rating.

Viewing Options
An astonishing commitment to restoration sees some episodes presented in as many as four different versions. Tikka to Ride, for example, can be seen as an Xtended edition, remastered edition… or both!

Commentary
The gang’s all here, on every episode.

Deleted Scenes
Lost sequences amounting to 45 minutes of new material.

Don’t sound too excited, please. A fantastic extra, tossed off in nine words. Even just an added “excellent” would have done.

Behind the Scenes
The documentary Back from the Dead looks back over a turbulent year, with surprisingly candid discussion of the Grant/Naylor split.

Indeed. Although it’s hardly surprising – the Juliet May stuff on the V disc gave a pretty clear indication they would deal with it properly.

Other Extras
The ‘lost’ script Identity Within, written by John McKay, is presented with illustrations, with all parts played by Chris Barrie. Plus raw effects, video diary, music featurette, still, and the inevitable ‘Smeg Ups’. The fan films are just as excruciatingly embarrassing as you’d expect. 5/5

Wah! See now why I’m happy they made that ridiculous mistake at the start of the review? Still, a thoroughly-deserved rating for the extras.

Many apologies for all that. I now return you to normal broadcasting. But be warned: the new SFX is released next Wednesday…

31 Responses to VII DVD Reviews: Mags

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  1. >The fan films are just as excruciatingly embarrassing as you’d expect.

    I agree and I’ve not even seen it yet. John, I’m going to work out exactly how much of the DVD price, by minute, belongs to your fan film and DEMAND a refund.

  2. Well, here’s my thoughts…

    Tikka to Ride: 4/5 (Great plot and some decent gags)

    Stoke Me A Clipper: 4/5 (Great but for such an important episode regarding the removal of a main character, I feel its a bit too action driven.)

    Ouroborus: 3/5 (I like this episode. I do like a few of the jokes and I really like how Chloe Annett looks when she initially gets pulled up from the non-space void – it’s a really nice view)

    Duct Soup: 3.5/5 (Yeah some nice character jokes that would have worked so much better in front of an audience though maybe the opposite is true for Lister’s claustrophobia. :) )

    Blue: 3.5/5 (Works very well and the kiss is fantastic, but the more I see the more I think the Munchkin Song is more inappropriate. Though thinking about what I just typed, I think I might be wrong.

    Beyond a Joke: 1.5/5 (Ew. 1.5 for the Pride and Prejudice section. The rest is best left forgotten.)

    Epideme: 2/5 (2 based on my initial reaction. I do like it more now but at the time, nah. The voice of the Epideme virus is in my opinion very poor and ruins what is such an intriguing idea. Of course, the writing also ruins what is such an intriguing idea. The idea of the virus having to do what it does to survive like a human is fantastic and if only the virus was played straight. I don’t mean we have to be on its side but come on. What a complete waste.)

    Nanarchy: 2.5/5 (I would have given it 3 if it hadn’t been for the tiny bug CGI at the end. I really didn’t like that).

    24/8 = 3/5.

    Extras: 5/5, duh.

  3. For more entertainment, check out the new one from DVD Review. It’s a pleasingly positive write-up, I’m not complaining – but they have chosen to focus the bulk of their (rather brief) review on just one extra…and it’s not one you’d expect to be a focus point.

    P.S. Congrats to the OD guys for the Hotdog write-up. Great stuff.

  4. It’s at this point that I should probably explain that we wouldn’t have got that write-up if the Hotdog staff writer who also does their indie cinema section wasn’t one of my best friends from uni… but even so, it was nice to get the piece done ;-)

  5. and (unfortunately) the abomination that is ‘filmized’ video

    You know, for all the criticisms that can be levelled at series VII over plotting, writing and lack of good comedy, and ignoring the obvious deficiencies in model shots/CGI… one thing that I think deserves to be praised about the series is that it looks bloody fantastic. While it may be disconcerting seeing the actors leave pauses for audience laughter that isn’t there (for that reason, I find it really hard to watch the Xtended versions – I really think that, with the pauses there, even canned laughter would have been preferabe), I really think the single-camera format suits the programme. Ed Bye was clearly having a ball with it (he says as much on the DVD), and some of the shots are really stylish, while a lot of the lighting is just beautiful.

    I’m talking mostly about the stuff on Starbug here, because as we know there are a lot of effects shots that let it down (although that said, the Ace Rimmer James Bond sequence, dodgy bluescreening aside, looks great, and the Dallas stuff is wonderful). But on the whole, I think the single-camera format, improved lighting and – yes – the “filmifying” effect, give it a real sense of class, looks-wise, that really could have been taken somewhere had it not been held up as indication of the show’s struggling direction and ditched in favour of video cheapness for series VIII.

  6. I really like the look of VII from a purely asthetic point of view. Agreed, some of the shots are gorgeous. And the Dallas stuff is just incredible.

    But I’m just too in love with traditional sitcom not to prefer the “video cheapness”. And it does worry me that so many series these days seem to be going for it over and above what suits the programme. The fact that there are no *good* trad sitcoms worries me – because you can sometimes feel removed from the comedy when a series is shot filmically. There’s something about video that can make the right kind of series funnier. The fact it feels more *real*, perhaps.

    But, then, I think Man About The House was wonderfully directed and looks great, so perhaps there’s no hope for me.

  7. Having said all that, I think VIII feels cheap in ways it shouldn’t feel cheap. The effects, for a start – the ship CGI (yeah, I know, unavoidable) – but also stuff like the Time Wand effects as well. (The one freezing Baxter in the canteen is just rubbish.) And the virus-eating-the-pod effect in Only The Good… is just embarrassing.

    But also the sets. I love the main bunkroom set, for instance, but like I’ve said before, the set for S.S. Manny Celeste is just a bit rubbish. Time and/or money pressures I guess, but it’s a shame, as I’ve always loved Mel Bibby’s stuff.

  8. > I still maintain Blue is a more successful episode than Stoke Me A Clipper, though

    Well…maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. I definitely find the Ace Rimmer opening hard to stomach now, even with the class plane model, and also the flying carpet scene…But…oh fuck it, you’re probably right. I think every time I watch Stoke I’m blinded by the beauty of Sarah Alexander and so don’t realise what a piece of pish the medieval sequence is. And tell me again where Lister got the knight armour for the Rimmer fight? I wish they’d kept in some of the deleted details from Ace. But is Blue really better? The Munchkin song is burned into my brain and I hate it!!! I didn’t used to.

  9. See, I would have agreed about “the abomination that is ‘filmized’ video”, but not because it doesn’t look convincingly like film, just because I couldn’t stand it being used for Red Dwarf. I do find it interesting that the reviewer felt that the jokes in Blue were lazy, when that’s one of the Series 7 episodes I least despise (along with Stoke Me a Clipper).

    As far as the accused rape issue, I imagine they pussy-footed around it because even when someone is acquited for something like that, people tend to wonder; I mean, *I* know he was found innocent, and I *like* Craig, and I still find myself wondering occasionally when the subject is broached whether they determined he was definitely innocent, or they just didn’t have enough evidence to convict him. I think the reviewer was merely trying to avoid tarnishing someone who was found innocent with the taint of the crime they were accused of, rather than being unduly prudish.

  10. I really like the Munchkin song… but it *only* works within the context of the episode, rather than used as a clip elsewhere. The same applies to nearly all Dwarf, though.

    I take the point about the rape stuff, bewtifulfreak. I just have different ways of writing stuff than most people. Erm, as you can all see. Frequently. I’d rather just attack things head-on, and point out it was all a load of balls.

  11. I understand the rape point from the reviewers point too – it’s just considered good manners not to mention crimes someone was aquitted of, because they didn’t commit them, therefore they don’t matter.

    Good to see you here bewtifulfreak!

  12. I understand the rape point from the reviewers point too – it’s just considered good manners not to mention crimes someone was aquitted of, because they didn’t commit them, therefore they don’t matter.

    Now, now. You seem to be saying reviewers are supposed to be *professional* about things, or something.

  13. I still find myself wondering occasionally when the subject is broached whether they determined he was definitely innocent, or they just didn’t have enough evidence to convict him. I think the reviewer was merely trying to avoid tarnishing someone who was found innocent with the taint of the crime they were accused of

    Well, as for the first sentence, what I thought was that the girl in question actually admitted that she’d made it up once the case fell apart. So there really shouldn’t be any doubt, I don’t think.

    On the other hand, your second sentence is a very good point. A lot of people out there know that Craig Charles went to jail on rape charges; however, I doubt all of them actually know that the case completely fell apart. They may think there was just lack of evidence, they may even think he served time for it and just got out eventually. Because the accusation against him was made public, some people will always associate him with it. cf also Matthew Kelly – even though the allegations against him were clearly proven to be complete and utter evil bollocks, he’s always going to have to suffer people making jokes about him being a paedophile, simply because an accusation was made. “Mud sticks”, so they say.

    I know that Craig is a very strong campaigner for the rights of those accused of rape to anonymity until they’re found guilty, and to be honest I can completely see where he’s coming from.

  14. Indeed.

    I think I *forget* that people often don’t think the way I do on things like that. My thought process:

    Found Innocent
    Therefore not guilty

    Mud just *doesn’t* stick in my mind. And I also know the facts about the case. Sadly, that’s not the case for a lot of people – so yeah, I can kind of see why people wouldn’t want to mention it in reviews. In an ideal world, my way would be a better way of dealing with it, but… it isn’t.

  15. Christ, that sounds superior. Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.

  16. hi huns am heidi from liverpool luv the site u no but am just droppin a line 2 say luv red dwarf 7 its the best series in my opinion

    luv u all heidi xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  17. Heidi my parents are away this weekend. Call me.

  18. I must say though, I think Matthew Kelly’s career is going very well at the moment.

  19. Just following on from my OUTRAGE at the dismissing of 45 minutes worth of deleted scenes above… the new Doctor Who Series 1 Boxset has… no deleted scenes. And no outtakes, either.

    So, let’s get this straight – Red Dwarf manages to get a decent package of deleted stuff from 1988, and the Who people can’t do it for a programme broadcast this year?

    Ridiculous. Although it just proves how lucky we are with the Dwarf DVDs…

  20. *waves* Hi, Kirk! :)

    > what I thought was that the girl in question actually admitted that she’d made it up once the case fell apart. So there really shouldn’t be any doubt, I don’t think.

    Ah, that’s good to know…actually, now you mention it, I do vaguely recall my hubby telling me that, but I had totally forgotten. I never really got the whole story so I wasn’t all that clear about exactly what transpired, which definitely supports the reasoning behind not mentioning it.

    I know what you mean, though, John; it would be nice if we lived in a world where we all weren’t so quick to judge (and where people didn’t do such awful things often enough to make it all too easy to assume the worst).

    Can’t believe they were so skintsy with The Doctor, *boooo, hiss*!

  21. I too don’t get why there were no deleted scenes on the Who set. Some are even mentioned on the commentaries, and some outtakes that sound pretty funny, but we get neither. Maybe they want you to buy the Shooting Scripts book, although I don’t own it so I don’t know what, if any, deleted material is in that.

    As for the rape thing. Craig would be getting a raw deal if the charges were brought up every single time his name is mentioned. Even if it’s ‘Corrie star Craig Charles, who was acquitted of rape, etc’ there’s only one word that sticks in people’s minds, and it isn’t ‘star’…

  22. The fact that the Who set is fucking expensive and takes up too much shelf space doesn’t help, either. How will they market series 2 and will it result in the re-packaging of series 1 to match it? They can’t keep going with the tardis theme if they plan to keep making the programme, rendering this release of the first series a bit of a novelty. Hopefully with series 2 the definitive version of series 1 will be released. The classic series of Who usually get a pretty good DVD treatment.

  23. re Dr Who – I assume it’s one of these things where they assume that “Only the minority will care”, so they don’t bother.

  24. Surely it’s the case that only the minority will want a tardis shaped DVD box on their shelf – it’s a novelty item for fans only. Since they’ve already released the vanilla sets they should know they’re dealing with people who want something better than that.

  25. I think the Doctor Who set should have been a fold out pack, with an outer slipcase looking like the TARDIS. Still looks good, but doesn’t take up as much shelf space.

  26. Even if it’s ‘Corrie star Craig Charles, who was acquitted of rape, etc’ there’s only one word that sticks in people’s minds, and it isn’t ‘star’…

    Nor ‘acquitted’, for that matter…

  27. From the amazon.co.uk website:

    “Swapping discs is irritating, December 3, 2005
    Reviewer: A viewer from United Kingdom
    The design of this DVD package is very irritating. Usually I watch the extras just once, but I tend to watch the series regularly, and like to use the play all feature. The fact that the actual programmes are spread across all 3 discs, and you keep having to get up and chage the disc is very irritating.
    I hope series 8 will not be released in the same format.
    I usually pre-order Red Dwarf, but will wait to see the format before buy this time. .”

    I like the way he has to “keep having to get up” over the four hours running time. I’d like to hazard a guess that this Red Dwarf fan is fat and has a relatively pasty face from not getting outside often enough to photosynthesise properly. He seems to think we’ll identify with his plight though, which is frustrating. I’m inclined to post a reply on amazon saying that not all Red Dwarf fans are lazy and have soapy faces. Would be best if I don’t explain the root of the outburst, I feel.

  28. More to the point, he’s totally wrong. The ‘actual programmes’ (presumably he means the episodes) aren’t spread over 3 disks at all, they’re spead over 2.

    Still, ignorant fuck-wits always crop up on Amazon. I find it best to ignore the reviews.

  29. Sounds like a cocksucker. Doesn’t he understand how DVDs work? 6 hours or more on one disc and the picture quality starts shooting straight down the pan. People would be saying series VIII looked like field-removed video all of a sudden if it was spread thickly over one disc. “That Red Dwarf Series Eights was Shot on Film but it Looks LIke the entire thing ‘as been done on Field Rmeoved Videos.”

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