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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Red Dwarf: Series 3
Red Dwarf: Series 3
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // February 3, 2004
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted March 27, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie

(Intro written on Jan. 2003)

For most people, it's very difficult to pick just one movie that they consider to be their favorite movie of all time. This is why most just compile a list of their favorites, so as to avoid having to commit to just one title. I too fall into this category and cannot name just one movie I like best, so I've created a top-ten list of my favorite movies. I've then continued on to make another list of ten, to round out a top-twenty list. However, when it comes to TV shows, this is not the case. There has always been just one show that infinitely stands out as my absolute favorite TV show of all time. This show is the British sit-com Red Dwarf.

Red Dwarf is a show that almost never got made. The script had been proposed and rejected several times by the BBC network. But eventually persistence and shear luck allowed writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor to see their quirky creation become a reality.

The first episode aired in 1987. Red Dwarf was considered a gamble at the time because network executives believed a sci-fi comedy just wouldn't work. And they probably would have been right if the show severely lacked that special something to make it truly unique. Fortunately, Red Dwarf was anything but ordinary. The show stood out because it was a comedy first and foremost, and used science fiction to drive the story forward. If the show would have got caught up in all the sci-fi theory and science, it would most definitely have bombed, but because it was very funny, and unique, it quickly became a cult phenomenon.

If you've never seen the show, and I'm sure many of you haven't, then you're in for a real treat, because this show is the funniest sit-com you're ever likely to see. Although, I am a sci-fi fanatic, so I took to this show right from the start. Many of you who aren't into sci-fi as much, may have to watch the first three seasons before you get totally hooked. Now the first season is a classic, and is essential to knowing the backgrounds of the main characters, but the show really takes off in the 2nd and 3rd seasons.

So, I'm sure you're dying to know, "what makes this show so damn good?" Well I'm glad you asked. Red Dwarf works so brilliantly because it is the perfect marriage of excellent writing, hilarious characters, and unyielding imagination. Take for instance the plot: Dave Lister (played by Craig Charles), is a lowly chicken soup machine repairman who gets in trouble for bringing a non quarantined cat onto the enormous deep space mining ship, Red Dwarf. As punishment, the slobby, curry eating, low life is forced to remain in suspended animation, forgoing all wages until the end of their mission. When Lister is woken from suspended animation, he finds that he is the only remaining member of the crew still alive. A devastating radiation leak had caused all the crew to die, and as a consequence, Lister remained in stasis for three million years until radiation levels reached a safe level. Now the only people left to keep Lister company are Holly (Norman Lovett) a daffy supercomputer with the collective IQ of 6,000 P.E. teachers, Arnold Rimmer, (Chris Barrie) a holographic image of Lister's annoying, self indulgent roommate, and Cat, (Danny John-Jules) a humanoid life form that evolved from Lister's now ancient pregnant cat. If this group of madcap characters can't make you laugh, then there truly is no hope for you.

Now the show could have done just as well with these characters alone, but thankfully the superbly written episodes make Red Dwarf even funnier. Grant and Naylor really take advantage of the creative liberty this type of show can give them, and as a result, we see this dysfunctional crew undergo situations that are exotic, intelligent, and always side splittingly comical.

If you like science fiction, and you like comedy, then you'll fall completely in love with Red Dwarf. This is the funniest and most entertaining TV show I've ever seen, and will always remain as my absolute favorite. Owning the episodes by themselves is worth double the price alone. So I'm thankful BBC Video has given us this excellent two-disc set that all hardcore Dwarf fans have been begging for. Red Dwarf has finally arrived on DVD, and it's about smegin' time!

Series 3

BBC Video has been making us wait an entire year between releases, (which is a little heartless if you ask me) but if the DVD's keep turning out as brilliantly as these latest editions, I'll gladly sit on my bum and count my chicken vindaloo recipes for another year while waiting for seasons 5 and 6. Not only are seasons 3 and 4 as good as the first two DVD releases, but this time they've stepped it up a notch with improved video quality and content. In short, these DVD's are a collector's dream.

Series 3 marked a major turning point in the comedy series with three notable changes. The first and most obvious change was with the cast. Robert Llewellyn joins the team as the despicably courteous android Kryten. The character of Kryten was introduced in an earlier episode in Series 2 but was played by another actor. And usually when a character actor is quietly swapped on a cult show, the fans aren't very happy, but having watched Llewellyn work his magic throughout the years, it's impossible to imagine ANYONE playing the part better. Also joining the cast for Series 3 is Hattie Hayridge, who replaced Norman Lovett as the loveable yet daft ship's computer Holly. This cast member change was a little harder to swallow mainly because Lovett's dry humor was so brilliant in the first two seasons, but given Lovett's departure, Hayridge was a good choice as she played Holly's female counterpart "Hilly" in an episode in Series 2. Not to mention she's actually quite funny.

The second notable change was the inclusion of Mel Bibby as the new set designer. Bibby drastically changed the look of the show despite having no money to do so. Gone were the life-sucking grays and cheap rickety sets of the Red Dwarf series. And in its place we saw bright white accents, more character appropriate costumes, and (gasp!) some actual color. The late Mel Bibby had an uncanny knack for turning nothing into something. And to witness the fruits of his labor all one needs to do is compare any episode in Series 2 to one in Series 3. The improvements are inexplicably apparent and very much appreciated.

The final change comes with the writing. Now it should be noted that the writing in the first two series was outstanding, but in Series 3 creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor began to step outside the box with complex plot lines, such as the reversing of the Big Bang (Backwards), mind swapping (Body Swap), and the discovery of wacky dimensional portals (Timeslides). Not only did these stories push the limits of what the average viewer might normally comprehend, but it allowed for non-stop laughs as well. And seeing that this was a sci-fi comedy after all, what more could you ask for?

Series 3 consisted of six episodes. Here's a brief breakdown of each:

Backwards: Rimmer (Chris Barrie) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) get sucked into a parallel universe where everything runs backwards. They find themselves back on Earth in the 1980's and quickly set up shop as a variety act where they do everything forwards. This episode is a fan favorite and concludes with the memorable "barroom tidy" scene. Also, at the end of the show we get to enjoy one of the funniest gags The Cat (Danny John-Jules) ever performs. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but let me just say you may not be able to sit straight afterwards.

Marooned: Rimmer and Lister (Craig Charles) get marooned on an ice planet with no food or means of communication. Most of the episode takes place inside their ship with them trying to keep each other company. The dialogue is witty and hilarious, and as a result "Marooned" is Chris Barrie's second all-time favorite episode. There are tons of memorable lines and scenes from this episode, and is consequently a fan favorite as well.

Polymorph: In this episode a genetic mutant experiment gone wrong invades the inner confines of Red Dwarf. The grotesque mutant (which looks like something straight out of a Stephen King novel) feeds off of human emotion, and has the ability to change into any form it wants making it difficult for the crew to kill it. This is a great episode because the actors really have fun with their newly transformed attitudes. Just imagine Lister without fear, the Cat without vanity, Kryten without guilt, and Rimmer without anger, and you can visualize the comedy to follow. Great stuff.

Timeslides: Kryten discovers that a mutation in his photo developing chemicals has caused his photographs to come alive in their frames. When he turns the photos into projector slides, the crew finds they can literally step into the photograph and interact with the subjects. Lister uses this discovery to his advantage by convincing a younger version of himself to invent the "tension sheet" so that he can become rich and famous, thusly never finding his way to the coffin-like Red Dwarf. When he succeeds, Rimmer does what he does best, namely, he screws everything up.

The Last Day: Kryten learns that his expiration date is nearly up, and that he must terminate himself before his new and improved replacement arrives. However he isn't sad because he knows he'll be going to a better place, silicone heaven. But after the crew throws him a rockin' going away party, Kryten suddenly has a desire to continue living. This leads to a hilarious standoff between the crew and the seemingly invincible android replacement. This is probably one of the weaker episodes in Series 3, but there are some funny moments.

In addition to the wonderful content, it just so happens that the DVD is pretty darn great as well. Picture quality is substantially better, and the arrangement of special features is also improved. So, if you're a fan of the show this DVD must be added to your collection. 'Nuff said.


The DVD

Video:
Red Dwarf Series 3 is presented in its original 4x3 full screen aspect ratio. Picture quality is significantly better than the first two seasons with pixelation noticeably improved. This is good since pixelation was the only thing that really bothered me about the first two DVD's. Also, picture looks to be little sharper as well. I can't say for sure if the improvement is a result of the transfer or the newer source material, but my hunch is that the source material for this series was in better shape than the first two seasons. But whatever the reason, I'll take it.

Audio:
As with Series 1 & 2, this DVD comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The sound on the first two DVD's was excellent, and the trend continues here. Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, and the music and special effects sound every bit as fresh as they did when they originally aired over the BBC network.

Extras:
I was so happy with the extras in Series 1 & 2 that I found myself completely satisfied. However, BBC video went the extra mile to give us even more wonderfully entertaining behind the scenes features that we would never had seen otherwise. Here's a rundown of what's to be found on the special features disc:

Audio Commentary: Here we have audio commentary on every single episode given by actors Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, and Hattie Hayridge. Usually when you bring in a group this large for a commentary session you end up with a lot of voices overlapping fighting for time to be heard, and that's exactly what happens here. But despite not being able to hear what's being said all the time, it's still very enjoyable. The actors are extremely proud of what they did on the show, and just LOVE to talk about themselves, which makes for some very funny discussions.

I had no difficulties whatsoever listening to every commentary on this disc. I'm positive fans of the show won't either.

Deleted Scenes: Here you'll find 26 minutes of deleted scenes from Series 3. Naturally some of the scenes are more entertaining than others, but for true fans of the show this featurette will be pure eye candy. For example you'll see a slightly extended version of the now famous "Wilma Flinstone" speech, eight jokes from Holly that were rejected for the opening scene in "The Last Day," and the original footage of the full uncut growth of the nasty Polymorph. Good stuff all around.

Gallery: This is huge collection of production stills and behind the scenes photos. If you love the show, you'll eat these things up.

Trailers: These are two trailers that were recovered from "lost" BBC footage.

Mel Bibby Tribute: As I mentioned earlier, Mel Bibby was the set designer for Red Dwarf. He is no longer with us today, but his efforts shall always be remembered, and this is a nice little tribute to him and his work. Here we get insight to what he accomplished with a laughably modest budget, and the cast members thoughts of him. (8:00)

Music Cues: This is still one of my favorite features and I'm thrilled that these continue to find their way on these discs. Here we have several of the music cues used throughout Series 3. If you're a fanatic fan like I am, then you can picture any number of scenes when you hear the songs cue in. In many cases just hearing these songs make me smile. Yes, I'm a sick man.

Hattie's DJ Diary: This is a wonderful (9:00) home video made by actress Hattie Hayridge during one of the MANY Red Dwarf conventions. This was hugely entertaining because we get to see what goes on behind the scenes of a convention. And if you're thinking the attendees of these conventions must be similar to those found at say, a Star Trek convention, you'd be dead right. But Red Dwarf fans have something that a lot of other sci-fi fans do not: an acute sense of humor. Hattie does a fantastic job taking us around the facility and incidentally makes some very funny jokes of her own.

Model Shots: Here you'll find video footage of the models used on the set of Red Dwarf Series 3.

Backwards Forwards: Now this was an unexpected treat. This is the full length "Backwards" episode played exactly as the inhabitants of the infamous planet would have viewed the show. In other words, it's played backwards. Well, backwards to us, and forwards to them. Get it? Watching the show in this manner teaches us some interesting facts. Such as what the club manager actually says when he chews out the Red Dwarf crew in their dressing room. His speech is hilarious and worth a watch for that alone. Also, I found it interesting that the subtitles used for the young couple during the bicycle-stealing scene were in fact different than what they were actually saying. I don't know why the words were changed, but it makes for interesting viewing now. You may want to fast-forward (or would that be fast-rewind?) during the slow parts to get to the good scenes, but this feature is worth a look and I'm very glad it was included.

Smeg Ups: Like the first two DVD's here we have a collection of scenes where the actors screw up their lines. Although I have to believe with this oddball crew of actors there must be more footage than this sitting around somewhere. Anyway, these are ALWAYS funny and I'm very glad these continue to make it into the DVD for each season. Keep 'em coming! (5:36)

Audio Book Clips: Here are snippets from the Red Dwarf audio books "Marooned" and "Polymorph", both read by Chris Barrie. These are interesting to listen to, but aren't nearly as entertaining as watching the actual episode. These are worth a listen, but you probably won't give them a second look afterwards.

Food: This is a funny little featurette showing us all the various times food was used throughout the show's run. This is extremely entertaining to watch and worth a look. You may even find yourself coming back for seconds. (3:36)

All Change: This was a pleasant addition to the disc. This 80-minute feature packs in a wealth of actor, writer, designer, and producer interviews to give us insight to the making of Series 3. This featurette is simply fantastic, giving us a look at the friendship and behind-the-scene stories that only the makers of the show could tell. After the lengthy 25-minute introduction, they go into specifics about each episode in Series 3. You'll learn things like how the snow in "Marooned" was actually soap shavings that burned Robert Llewelyn's eyes, and caused Craig Charles to spit bubbles for hours afterwards. You'll also learn that Craig and Danny John-Jules spent a little too much time partying when the cameras turned off. This is great stuff. Check it out!


Final Thoughts:
This is the season where I feel the show really started to take off. The story lines grew more bizarre and complex, and the situations grew even funnier. If you liked Red Dwarf seasons 1 & 2, hold onto your hat because you ain't seen nothing yet. If you're a fan of the show, buy this disc. It's the best way to enjoy this fantastic British comedy series. Highly Recommended

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