Over at G&T, I got involved in a conversation about the Red Dwarf series one DVD, which was the first DVD I owned, and which is also ten years old this coming November.
I remember writing a very informative DVD review and sending it to the Fan Club magazine, Better Than Life. I found my hand-scrawled notes the other day, but have now dug out Issue 43 (Spring 2003) of BTL, and will now present you with what I thought of the Series One DVD way back then…
(I’m copying this direct from how BTL presented it, bold paragraphs and all the mistakes in punctuation and spelling that that entails…)
RD S1 DVD
(This may be a good time to grab a cup of coffee…sorr-ee!)
So despite me not actually owning a DVD player, I had to get this, didn’t I? And what can I say – Pure smegging genius…
The episodes are as funny as ever. I haven’t watched Series I for a while (saving myself for the DVD, I suppose), and I notice now things I never noticed before. For example, in Future Echoes (my favourite of Series I), despite seeing the episode probably well over a hundred times before (honest!), I’ve just spotted a sign next to a pay-phone. ‘This phone will not accept incoming Earth calls’!
These episodes are a lot better with hindsight – I didn’t start watching RD properly until Series III, although I’d seen snatches of the couple of series – and the interaction between Rimmer and Lister is superb. For a show, in it’s first year, to have characterisation this good is a testament to the brilliant writing of Rob and Doug. And now we’ve come to love these characters Red Dwarf I is much better than I had been led to believe before I got to see it properly in 1993.
All six episodes have cast commentaries.Here we are treated to fascinating and more importantly, funny, episode commentaries from the principle cast. Craig, Chris, Danny and Norman are all present and as they laugh along with the audience it’s like having them in the living room with you. They all appear to be enjoying themselves and are constantly telling us amusing anecdotes. Laughing at Mac McDonalds almost svelte figure (‘He looks positively anorexic’ notes Craig) and Chris Barrie’s severe side parting and seemingly alarming hair growth during the course of the series – indeed during the course of the first episode!
Me2 is worth watching as Chris remembers the sheer agony he went through, and Craig remembers the dodgy split screen effects. There are even laughs during the closing credits as the Boys from the Dwarf reminisce about past production team members. Great commentaries.
The ‘bonus’ commentary is from Rob, Doug and Ed and accompanies The End. This I have to admit is a little disappointing, as it is just the ‘Genesis of Red Dwarf’ part from the Six of the Best CD and not actual commentary at all. It is a shame that Rob doesn’t have an active interest in RD anymore. An input from him on these commentaries, as well as the movie, would be a nice touch.
Each disc has a ‘hidden’ Easter Egg, although neither is that well hidden. Click onto the clipboard on disc ones main menu and enter 4691 at the dispensing machine (not too hard to remember – 4691 is actually written on the clipboard!).
This will give you an animated discussion between Rob, Doug and Ed (again from Six of the Best) about Future Echoes. Although the speech is old material, the funny little ‘2DTV’ type animation is worth watching a time or two.
Disc two gives us the chance to see the original footage of the developing Polaroid from Future Echoes. To find it, simply seek out an untitled red square on Lister’s bunk in the bonus menu.
There are 12 bonus features on the second disc, really outstanding value for money.
First, there are the animated menus – beautifully created CG versions of the Drive Room and the Bunkroom, linked by a brilliantly realised CG Skutter. Once in the bunkroom, click on the various items to bring up the features.
Clicking on Lister’s posters brings up a photo gallery – quite a few nice pictures and drawings, although a zoom feature would be nice…
Hol’s screen brings us the original BBC2 trailer. Believe me, the BBC’s trailers have improved somewhat. Compare this to the great RD VIII trailer, there’s no comparison!
McIntyre’s canister is, for some reason,on Rimmer’s bunk and this brings us 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes from Series I. These include the infamous Funeral scene, alternative bunkroom scenes from The End, (which some might recognise from the pilot script published in the RD Omnibus), as well as the original Cat introduction scene.
The toilet contains the Smeg Ups. All of which, unfortunately, have been seen before, either on the Smeg Outs tape or Red Dwarf Night. Still nice to have, although they don’t hold up to repeat viewing.
Lennon and McCartney (or one of them at least) are swimming around in their tank on the floor. This brings up the Japanese version (the remastered version) of The End. A bit of a curiosity this one. It’s good for novelty value, hearing strange voices coming from the character’s mouths is odd. The funniest thing is when the occasional name you recognise pops up. (“Blah blah blah Rimmer, blah…”, “Lister! Blah blah…” – Even Gordon Bennett merits a mention!) Some English subtitles on this would have been nice though.
A can of Leopard Lager lies empty on the bunkroom floor, a nice link to the ‘Drunk’ featurette. Chumbawumba provide the soundtrack as all the alcohol-related moments from all eight series are gathered together. A fun way to spend five minutes.
Lister’s guitar provides all the musicfrom the first series, from the opening and closing theme, through Rastabilly Skank and Confidence’s space walk music. Plus all the other vignettes heard throughout the series, including an ‘additional’ section, which has pieces I’ve never heard (noticed?) in the show.
The Toaster provides two chapters of Chris Barrie reading ‘Infinity…’ (The chapters in question being Part Two: Chapter one (the ‘Everybody’s Dead’ chapter) and twenty five (the ‘Double Rimmer’ chapter). These are fine, but there’s not much to look at during the five minutes or so each chapter lasts.
Captain Hollister’s model of the Dwarf itself has found it’s way into the bunkroom and contains several shots of the actual Red Dwarf model. It’s pretty much all the same – camera runs down side of ship, camera runs down top of ship, camera runs down… you get the idea. The ‘dust storm’ from Confidence and Paranoia is included and it has to be said, looks very impressive. A little monotonous, but worth looking at.
Back at the main menu there’s a chance to see ‘Launching Red Dwarf.’ Now this is great – a 25 minute documentary on the Giant that is Dwarf. Although this is all new in the sense that it is unseen, a lot of it was obviously filmed when the interviews for the tenth anniversary shows were done. (Paul Jackson, Chris Barrie and Norman Lovett’s in particular stand out – Chris’s hair seems to fall out spectacularly when it becomes clear that he’s done more up to date interviews.) This isn’t a gripe though, it’s a great documentary and the kind of thing that should be included on DVD Bonus Features.
There’s also a weblink for DVD users, which completes the set.
This is truly a must for all Red Dwarf fans and a good reason, if like me you don’t have a DVD player, to necessitate buying one. I’m already saving my pennies for series II.
(Hope I haven’t bored you too much…)
So…yeah. That was what I thought back in November 2002. A wee snip of a lad of just 23 years old. A tad naive in some parts (that mention of the movie!), a tad bitchy in others (I can’t believe I scoffed so much at the model shots!). Oh well, what do I know?
Now, I recall writing lots of reviews and sending them to BTL, but, having looked though all the BTLs covering the DVD releases, only one more of my reviews was used – my review of Series III a year later, in BTL 46 (Spring 2004). I’ll post that up here in a day or two.
Ciao for now.