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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Red Dwarf 1
Red Dwarf 1
Warner Bros. // Unrated // February 25, 2003
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted March 18, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

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. I am a sci-fi fanatic, so I took to this show right from the start, but 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 One Episodes:
Here you'll find all six of the original episodes that appeared in Series One. These are the original episodes, not the re-mastered versions with upgraded special effects. I'm glad to have the original untouched episodes because it better compliments the overall look of the series. Series One was the experimental stage of Red Dwarf, and the old hokey sets and lame props actually heighten the comedic feel of the show. I truly feel the improved special effects better compliments the later seasons, and seem out of place in Series One.

Episode 1: The End
Episode 2: Future Echoes
Episode 3: Balance of Power
Episode 4: Waiting for God
Episode 5: Confidence & Paranoia
Episode 6: Me2

Red Dwarf - Series One is a fantastic DVD release. The special features are plentiful and the audio and video quality are much better that I was expecting. Fans of the show would have bought this set even if it were horrible, but I also encourage people new to the series to give it a try. It's unlike anything you've ever seen, and it will make you laugh. What more could you ask for?


The DVD

Video: Red Dwarf is presented in 1.33:1 full screen. Considering the age and budget of this show, Red Dwarf looks fantastic on DVD. It is my no means a reference disc, as tons of pixelation can be seen in the background, but it still looks substantially better than I remember seeing it years ago on TV. The picture is very sharp, and the print is cleaner than I would ever have thought possible. I expected to see tons of spots and blemishes on this transfer, but there was none. For Series One, colors are something you won't find in abundance here. The entire series is grayish, and has a dingy, industrial look to it. Because of this, flesh tones looks awful and the rare appearance of color looks anything but bright. But this is the way the show originally looked, so the DVD is merely reproducing the episodes as accurately as possible. I was very impressed with this video transfer, and aside from the pixelation, the end result is more than adequate.

Curiously the video quality on the "Smeg Ups" special feature looks unmistakably better than the actual episodes. These scenes must have gone under a re-mastering process. It would have been nice if the episodes had been given this same treatment, without the inclusion of the updated special effects.

Audio: Here we have a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track, and just like the video transfer, the audio is excellent as well. Again we're not talking reference grade excellent, but excellent considering the condition and budget of the original show. Dialogue is clearly heard most of the time, but can be occasionally hard to understand. The music on this disc sounds great, and is very clean and free of any distortion. The crispness of the sound is most easily apparent in the "Isolated Music Cues" special feature. Overall this is an excellent sounding DVD, considering the source material.

Extras: There are a ton of extra features on this two-disc set. And if a total goit like me can find the hidden Easter eggs on this set, so can you.

Audio Commentaries: Disc 1 is where you'll find all of the audio commentaries. The original cast of Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, and Norman Lovett gives a lively and humorous inside look to the making of the entire first series of Red Dwarf. All six episodes have a commentary on them, and all six of them are worth listening too. This is great stuff.

Also included on Disc 1 is a bonus commentary given by co-writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and Producer/Director Ed Bye. This is a laid back yet highly informative commentary for Episode 1 - The End, that gives a sarcastic yet brutally honest look at the problems they had to endure to get Red Dwarf into production. Grant and Naylor are two of the best writers in the business, so this commentary is something you just can't miss.

Deleted Scenes: Here we get to see several scenes that never made it into the final episode of Series One. I loved seeing Red Dwarf scenes that I had never seen before, so this was a great treat. Although after watching them, it's clear that these they were cut for a good reason. Before each scene a brief text message explains why the scene was cut.

Smeg Ups: This is the most enjoyable feature on this disc. Every single one of these outtakes is hilarious. I wanted them to go on forever. It makes me impatient to have to wait to see the rest of the Smeg Ups for seasons two through eight. If you're a diehard fan of the show, this feature is worth the purchase alone.

Original BBC Trailer: It was interesting to see how they chose to market the show in this trailer. It's definitely not the way I would have gone, but it must have been effective because the show took off after the first season.

Launching Red Dwarf - Documentary: (25:30) This is a fascinating featurette that takes us back to the conception of Red Dwarf, showing us step by step how Red Dwarf was given the green light for production and how the first season went. Any fan of Red Dwarf will simply salivate at the information given here. This featurette is well edited and packed full of interesting information.

Japanese Version of "The End": A goofy addition no doubt, but funny nonetheless. This is the Japanese version of the first episode, "The End." Interestingly, this version is also the re-mastered version with updated special effects. This is a good way to compare and contrast the two different versions of this episode. If you're like me, you'll probably prefer the original version to the updated one.

Model Shots: Here you can see several panning shots of the camera cruising past the original Red Dwarf model. This was in interesting and welcome addition to this package. In later seasons the Red Dwarf ship actually changed, which is unfortunate because I undeniably preferred the original model.

Isolated Music Track: This was a very nice feature, and I am thrilled that it was included on this DVD. Here you can listen to all the main music used in Red Dwarf - Series One, such as the main title, and character music. Very nice.

Audio Book Chapters: Here you get to listen to actor Chris Barrie read a couple of chapters from the Red Dwarf books. I found it odd that only a couple of chapters were included, but it was nice to have any at all.

Photo Gallery: Here are various photos you can toggle through of the cast during the shooting of Series One. Nothing fancy here, but a nice addition.

Rounding out the rest of the extra features include web links, 12-page Collector's Booklet, Red Dwarf trading cards (I especially dug these), and a few hidden Easter Eggs. There's one Easter egg in particular that definitely warrants viewing. This Easter egg uncovers a 5-½ minute audio track given by writers Grant and Naylor and producer/director Ed Bye. In this audio track they talk about one particular episode, "Future Echoes." The funny thing about this track is that it is illustrated in cartoon-like caricatures of Grant, Naylor, and Bye. See if you can find it.


Final Thoughts

I have been dreaming of the day Red Dwarf would be released on DVD, and now that the first two seasons are out, I can honestly say it was well worth the wait. Armed with marvelous special features and a decent video and audio transfer, this set is an essential addition to anyone's collection. Every true fan of Sci-Fi needs to own these discs. And if you don't like Sci-Fi I'd still check it out because you'll probably appreciate the witty humor found throughout the entire run of this show. So unless you're a brainless git, you'd better rush out to buy this DVD lickity split.

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