Series I-VIII Bluray Review Addendum

On 17th July 2019, just over six months since the Red Dwarf Series I-VIII Bluray set was first released, replacement discs for Series III and V finally fell through the letterboxes of complaining customers. On the original release, the entirety of the third series and the second half of the fifth were rendered in the wrong frame rate, resulting in blurry movement and grainy pictures, basically the equivalent of accidentally applying a film effect. This subject rather dominated our original review, which lead to a minor lobbying campaign for a fix. The BBC acknowledged the mistake in February, and assured us that new discs would be ready in “approximately six weeks”. Twenty weeks later, were the new editions of these nine episodes worth the wait?

As before, I’ve watched one sample episode from each series, side-by-side with the DVD version to compare the differences. And upon sitting down to watch Polymorph, my first impression was that this was a genuine improvement, with much richer colours than before and a less washed-out look overall, the only cost being some loss of detail in the darker sections of the screen. This only really applies in the officers’ quarters though, as the results are mixed whenever the gang are in the science room. In the initial movie-watching scene, Rimmer’s hair looks unnaturally auburn, whereas when the lighting’s much brighter in the later post-Polymorph-attack scene, his skin is far too white and lacking contrast.

It’s another mixed bag with the cargo deck scenes – much less grainy than the DVD version, but everything’s much darker, so less can be made out. The bits we can see do have crisper detail, so it’s a score draw overall. The only other notable difference is that peacenik Rimmer’s beard is darker than before, the mundanity of this observation perhaps indicating that while on the whole it’s a decent attempt at bringing the always lower-quality Series III up to scratch with the rest of canon, there’s not much to write home about.

Series V seems to be the same story; the first three episodes already looked decent on the initial release, and I can report that Quarantine follows suit – subtle refinement here and there, rather than anything too radical. The grade brings out more detail in the “Moosebase Alpha” model sequences, which is obviously a welcome touch. Holly’s background acting is also improved by the increased contrast making her facial features easier to pick out. Lanstrom’s hex-vision is a much brighter red, making her eyes less visible behind the effect, while the green of the quarantine suite is much more lurid, which helps to present it as a deeply unpleasant space to live in. Lister’s black eye looks a lot nastier too. And Chris Barrie’s make-up-disguised coldsore is a lot more noticeable in a higher resolution.

So does any of this change the conclusion to our original review? Well there’s certainly a lot less wrong with the set now that this enormous error has been fixed. The majority of the series can now be classified as either being an improvement on or at least equal to previous versions, and the only major quibbles now are questionable design decisions and the odd mistake and/or inconsistency. While it’s frustrating that the cock-up happened in the first place, which is only exacerbated by it taking so long to fix, there’s now less reason to be hostile towards the endeavour, but on the other hand there’s still nothing to get too excited about.

Now that it contains the full fifty-two episodes at a serviceable quality in addition to all the extras, we’d now say that it’s worth getting if, for some reason, you don’t already have all the DVDs. But if you do, then this really is just for the collectors – there are improvements in quality, but also corresponding issues in places, so it still can’t truly be considered a “definitive” version of the series. But at least it’s not actively worse any more, so there’s that.

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30 Responses to Series I-VIII Bluray Review Addendum

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  1. I will be looking out for the cold sore from now on. I do have a blu ray player now but can’t afford the set just yet. One day when I’m flush I’ll get this and Hitch Hikers in one wallop (est. 2023)

  2. One thing I did notice while watching the Netflix version of Queeg the other day is that the infamous Series I-II ‘wibble’ in the opening sequence is present on the old DVD versions too, just slightly less pronounced.

  3. The whole box set just leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be honest. Late, marginal improvements, typos, plenty that’s considerably worse needing corrections, which were late again, stuff that’s worse and won’t be corrected.

    After being told it was definitely worth it, definite improvements.

    And the box art.

    The antithesis of the DVD releases. BBC worldwide can suck my thermos.

  4. One thing I did notice while watching the Netflix version of Queeg the other day is that the infamous Series I-II ‘wibble’ in the opening sequence is present on the old DVD versions too, just slightly less pronounced.

    The issue isn’t that this version wobbles during the mix like it always did, it’s that it’s been digitally treated with deshaker technology (which in restoration is used mostly for stabilising film bounce, it can’t unpick a double image like this) so looks even worse.

  5. I will be looking out for the cold sore from now on. I do have a blu ray player now but can’t afford the set just yet. One day when I’m flush I’ll get this and Hitch Hikers in one wallop (est. 2023)

    Genuinely, I’d just get some proper Blurays instead if I were you. If you’re looking for cult TV upgrades, Python’s out in October, done properly with all the animation and some location stuff (and even some physical VT) rescanned and restored in HD, and about 15 minutes of stuff missing from previous releases painstakingly put back in. And outtakes/deleted scenes on top. And other things that will become clear a week on Monday. Oh, and not a BBC Studios release so probably won’t involve a replacement disc farce.

    Or literally anything else but these lazy, no-effort SD Bluray things. They’ll stop doing them if people stop buying them.

  6. Is there any way of knowing if the boxset that ship now have the corrected discs? I want a set as a collector, and returned the set I had at the time due to the issue and as a sort of protest.

  7. As I understand it they’re not reissuing the set with corrected discs, the only way to get them is to apply direct to the BBC.

  8. The issue isn’t that this version wobbles during the mix like it always did, it’s that it’s been digitally treated with deshaker technology (which in restoration is used mostly for stabilising film bounce, it can’t unpick a double image like this) so looks even worse.

    Oh it’s worse on the Blu-Rays for sure, I just hadn’t ever noticed it on the original before.

  9. As I understand it they’re not reissuing the set with corrected discs, the only way to get them is to apply direct to the BBC.

    Seriously???? I was thinking of getting a copy in a year or so when it was cheaper and this had all supposedly been fixed. Now I’m wondering if they won’t even bother with another disc printing beyond the first run.

    It’s crazy really. This set reeks of laziness. I know physical media is dying out, but if any fanbase is guaranteed to pay up for a premier box set with lots of lovely new extras it’s Red Dwarf. Instead we get some slightly polished (and for a large portion inferior) rips of the DVDs.

  10. slightly polished (and for a large portion inferior)

    I think this is slightly unfair. As the review above says, it’s more the other way around – mostly it can be considered a marginal improvement (with certain series showing a clear improvement over the DVDs), but there are also a couple of flaws unique to this set that mean it falls short of being a definitive version.

  11. Quinn Drummer, you could try eBay for the replacement discs. They might be on there.

  12. I’d say there’s a legitimate point that a lot of the regrading choices are unwelcome artistic decisions that disregard the original lighting and colour designs of the show. There’s a lot which goes beyond boosting the saturation and contrast on the faded bits of the old masters, which was all they needed to do from a colouring standpoint. These may be preferred by some viewers but they’re not objective improvements, nor are they archival source upgrades, nor are they actual restorations. They are Re-Mastered 2, just an insidious version of such.

  13. Quinn Drummer, you could try eBay for the replacement discs. They might be on there.

    Who is going to go to the effort of getting replacement discs and then selling them on eBay? And who would pay? If I were to buy the set again I’d request replacements for free like everyone else

  14. >Or literally anything else but these lazy, no-effort SD Bluray things. They’ll stop doing them if people stop buying them.

    The Hitchhikers one is the only recent one that I’d describe as lazy. The Classic Who Blu-Rays are incredible. The Red Dwarf ones have had a fair amount of remastering work (whether it is wanted or not). The Quatermass Blu was great,

    The old New Who Blu-Rays were an abomination in that they presented the entire show at the wrong frame rate.

    I just wish they could have members of The Doctor Who Restoration Team advise on all of the Blu-Ray releases done by the BBC.

  15. Problem is there’s nothing to restore. No original content at all for these Blu-rays, just the DVD masters.

    It’s like trying to get the egg back out of a quiche after you’ve baked it.

    Even with such poor source material though there are things they could’ve done, remaking the opening titles of V so they’re not blurry shimmery mess? An attempt to fix the CSO nightmare in Marooned?

    Some would say that’s a bit remastery but they’re a bit remastery, may as well fix obvious errors.

  16. As with any of these projects, a lot of this comes down to personal preference, and there are now enough variations out there for Red Dwarf that it becomes a bit of a pick-and-mix of what you want to see.

    To move away from Red Dwarf specifically (because frankly we’ve discussed this set to death by now), you can look at stuff like Star Wars and see elements of the Special Editions where they have definitely improved the original (fixing compositing bodges, correcting effects etc.), but then by definition you are watching something that is not the original, something other.

    Generally for me I will always favour the original version of anything over subsequent changed versions, even if the changes can be considered improvements.

    So for me these Blu-Ray remastering projects are never going to replace or outdo the originals, they’re always going to be at best interesting alternate versions.

  17. People should just think themselves lucky.

    What for? They weren’t supplied for free.

    Unless you mean lucky that they’ve been fixed at all, then yeah, probably.

  18. People had to pay for the replacements?

  19. People had to pay for the replacements?

    No for the original box set, which I think is what we should be feeling lucky for, based on the comment previous talking about remastered Blu-ray boxsets.

    I don’t feel lucky, I feel disappointed and mildly ripped off, with a hint of disgust when I look at the box art.

  20. People already paid for the replacements, it’s the faulty ones that were free.

  21. That’s a much prettier box. Can we have that one please?

  22. Seconded.

  23. I want this Blu-ray set just for the novelty of seeing the show with a different visual look, but I certainly don’t want it enough to have to file for fucking replacement discs after I bought it.

    And of course, pirating is a poor solution because it’s apparently against the internet’s religion to upload a video at a framerate that isn’t 24/25p.

  24. Have they even started putting the fixed discs in the box set? Have they done another run of the box set since replacements started going out? Has there been more than the initial release anyway? Seems like it’s not as popular as they thought it would be. Have they announced that the new discs will be going in the box sets?

    If they don’t know, who does?

  25. The link says “we don’t know”.

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