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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 4/3/03



Red Dwarf: The Original Series 1 & 2

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

Angel: Season One

Red Dwarf: The Original Series 1
1988 (2003) - BBC America (Warner)

Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B-/B

Specs and Features

176 mins (6 episodes at approx 30 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 2 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), Amaray keepcase packaging, audio commentary (with Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett), Launching Red Dwarf featurette, The End dubbed in Japanese, still gallery, deleted scenes, outtakes (aka "Smeg Ups"), isolated music cues, audio book chapters, raw special effects footage, original BBC trailer, Easter eggs, 12-page collector's booklet, animated program-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (6 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


Angel: Season One

Red Dwarf: The Original Series 2
1988 (2003) - BBC America (Warner)

Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B-/B

Specs and Features

176 mins (6 episodes at approx 30 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 2 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), Amaray keepcase packaging, audio commentary (with Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett), Red Dwarf A-Z documentary, Tongue-Tied uncut, still gallery, deleted scenes, outtakes (aka "Smeg Ups"), interview with Doug Naylor, isolated music cues, audio book chapters, raw special effects footage, original BBC trailer, Easter eggs, 12-page collector's booklet, animated program-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (6 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


After refusing to disclose the location of his contraband pet cat, David Lister was put into the stasis brig for the remainder of the mining ship Red Dwarf's scheduled voyage. When he awakens, Lister finds that 3 million years have passed, the entire crew has been reduced to talcum powder, his cat has evolved an entire civilization in the cargo hold, and his only company is a holographic representation of Arnold Rimmer, his bunkmate and the most anal retentive man in the Universe. So begins the saga of Red Dwarf, one of the most hysterical shows ever to come out of England. Eight seasons and an in-production movie later, Red Dwarf has become an international phenomenon. And finally it's on DVD.

One must remember that Red Dwarf was shot on analog video some 15 years ago, on a budget of approximately 6 peanut shells and a walnut. Therefore, the video quality is not what most would call stellar. Video artifacts and an extreme softness are the rule of thumb here. However, I honestly don't expect the show could possibly look any better than presented on this DVD. Lots of detail I could never see clearly on TV broadcasts pops out here. Smearing and bleeding are kept to a minimum and, frankly, I don't think the master tapes look much better than this. Once you reach Series 2, the video takes a very noticeable jump in quality, along with the whole show's much higher production values. Gone are most of the problems associated with Series 1. All in all, Red Dwarf looks as solid as any other show for the most part.

The audio is of the standard sitcom variety, in Dolby Digital 2.0. Firmly locked in the front, it's a virtually mono mix and is nothing that can really be described as dynamic. Surround action, even with Pro-Logic 2 decoding is non-existent, as it probably should be. Fidelity is good, but the dynamic range is a bit stunted, resulting in the occasional muddy piece of dialogue. Series 2 demonstrates a slight improvement, but you really need to listen for it.

The disc's menu system deserves a separate mention. Both discs are based around a console on the ship's bridge, which is fine and easy to navigate. If you choose NOT to "Play All" (a much appreciated feature SORELY missing from many TV discs), the opening of the show is skipped when you select an episode, which is personally very annoying. Also, the animation which leads to the episode selection is almost painfully long. There really needs to be a 3-second rule in the school of DVD menu design. On the extras discs, the system is centered around Rimmer and Lister's quarters, which is again fine... except that nothing is labeled right off, so you need to hunt around to see if you can find the magic key-press that will expose the extra you want to watch. VERY annoying. Obviously, this was all in an attempt at artistry. But I really feel that style over substance was the watchword here, and not usability.

Finally, what we've been waiting for... the extras! First off, you get commentary on all the episodes with the entire cast. A MUCH underused feature on TV DVDs, the gang spends the whole time reminiscing and ripping each other a new one. It's almost a Kevin Smith-style track, just with English accents and slightly less swearing. But commentary isn't all that's here. For Series 1, we get Launching Red Dwarf - a brand-new 25 minute documentary on the launch and conception of the series. Virtually everyone involved is interviewed, making for a rock-solid documentary all around. For Series 2, we get the previously released Red Dwarf A-Z. WARNING: This documentary contains footage from future seasons and other general spoilers you need to watch out for. Of course, they probably (correctly) assume that most people buying these sets are fans already, so anything goes. Another half hour, A-Z has the cast and many, many celebrities discussing their favorite moments. Most notable is Patrick Stewart's tale about how he was in the middle of dialing Paramount's legal department when he realized the show was a comedy and not a Next Generation rip-off. Another spoiler warning comes in the "alternate versions" section, which has clips of all the different disguises and such that the crew has worn through all 8 seasons. Both discs contain approximately 20 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes, most of them very rightfully deleted, with the exception of the full-on version of Tongue-Tied which is hysterical.

Finishing up the video based extras are a small collection of "Smeg Ups" for each series, raw model shot footage, and the pilot episode dubbed into Japanese. Now... Monty Python did a similar thing with Holy Grail, poking fun at the inaccuracies of the translation. Here's the difference - Python actually subtitled their Japanese footage back into English. Here, it's just on the disc raw. So once the novelty wears off (approximately 10 seconds after Cat appears), you'll shut it off and never watch it again. Frankly, it's a waste of disc space in my opinion. Two Easter eggs are also included, both of which are accessed by pressing "right" or "down" randomly (never could get the exact sequence) until "4691" is highlighted. Click it and enter the number on the keypad you're presented with. Both eggs contain Flash animation commentaries by the producers. It's fun stuff, but definitely belongs as Easter eggs. Finally, there are chapters from several Red Dwarf audio books (read by Chris Barrie), trailers and isolated music ques. Whew!

After a five year wait (and one vocal complaint last year on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Red Dwarf has finally hit DVD. And these discs are loaded for bear. I personally couldn't be happier with the package, and frankly the only thing I AM unhappy about is that we have to wait until February 2004 for another 2 seasons. Oh well. In the meantime, be happy as a pig in slop, have some toast and watch some classic Dwarf in your home theater.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com


Red Dwarf: The Original Series 1


Red Dwarf: The Original Series 2


Red Dwarf: The Original Series 1 & 2 (box set)


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