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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

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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