“ Genre: Television - Red Dwarf / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Ed Bye / Actors: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Norman Lovett, Doug Naylor ... / DVD released 2002-11-04 at 2 Entertain Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Red Dwarf is a science fiction sitcom set aboard the city sized starship of the title, and features a small crew of misfits who struggle to get along together in the depths of deep space. The crew is made up of one surviving member. Dave Lister, a man who happens to be the biggest slob in the universe. It is also speculated that he is the last surviving member of the human race. Lister was once placed in suspended animation as punishment for smuggling a pregnant cat aboard the ship, but woke up three million years later to find the rest of the crew dead. Now his only companions are a hologramatic recreation of his dead roommate Rimmer, and a lively fellow who seems to have descended from Lister's pet cat. There's also the ships computer Holly, an A.I intelligence with the same intellect as 12 million P.E teachers.
If you have ever had the good fortune of seeing an episode or two of Red Dwarf then you may be surprised at how humble its origins actually were. The first series had an extremely low budget as the show had not yet proven its longevity. This means that you can forget high concept alien killing machines as the show had to focus more on establishing the personalities of the individual crew members. This does mean that the show misses out on some of the hysterical concepts that it would grow into, but fortunately meant that the writing and dialogue were kept very sharp. Some of the incidental characters who weren't popular enough to survive get a much loved showing here. It's not always easy to cope with the very drab visual style forced on the show by its budget, but all is forgiven whenever Lister's toaster starts complaining.
What the writers lack in budget though, they more than make up for in imagination. Fans of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy will love the random; though often sneakily satirical, nature of the writing in each episode. Some of the smaller arguments between characters are hysterical, and you will be quoting some of the best lines for years to come.
- Episodes -
The first episode The End is set on Red dwarf mostly before the accident. It explains holograms, why Lister survived, and where The Cat came from. This explanatory nature slows the pace right down and prevents it from being the best. However Lister's awakening and the Cat's introduction are hysterical. 3.5/5
The next episode Future Echoes is a classic episode and my favourite of this series. In it the ship hits Light speed and the crew start seeing glimpses of their own futures. It has some absolutely hilarious writing, particularly the banter between Lister and Rimmer. 5/5
Balance Of Power sees Lister get fed up of the loneliness and so applies for a promotion to Chef. He will then outrank Rimmer, and can thus order him to switch off and swap places with the girl of his dreams. This episode is a perfect showcase for all of the characters as Cat obsesses over some fish, and Holly has a lot of fun at Rimmer's expense. 4/5
Waiting For God has Holly announce to Rimmer that he has discovered a Pod. Rimmer thinks it's Aliens with the technology to build him a new body, but Lister is a little distracted. He has recently learned how to read Cat books, and come to the realisation that he is their god. Satire against organized religion is rampant in this episode, and Holly is on top form. 5/5
Confidence and Paranoia is my second favourite episode of the first series. Lister gets sick but Rimmer is more concerned that it's raining Herring in their room! Then the Mayor of Walsall suddenly appears and spontaneously combusts in the corridor! This all culminates with the appearance of two new individuals who are claiming to be the embodiments of Lister's Confidence and his Paranoia. The guys playing Confidence and Paranoia do very well, and there are some classic moments with The Cat. 5/5
Me2 is the series conclusion and sees Lister's worst nightmare come true. He is alone in deep space with two Arnold Rimmers. The question is, will it be a permanent arrangement, or will Rimmer's personality clash with himself get too much? Great stuff in this episode as Lister views a video recording of Rimmer's death while Rimmer has a blazing row with himself. Plus the ending is soup-er. 4/5
- The Disk -
There's a commentary on the first episode with Charles, Barry, and Jules. They seem to have a lot of fun insulting each other over the series hair styles and costumes. There's also a hidden Easter egg on the disk. On the main menu you'll see a clip board with the numbers 4691. Click on that to go to the food dispenser and punch in 4691 to open an animated interview, but it's nothing special.
The first thing you find on disk 2 is a big documentary on Red Dwarf. It's one of those documentaries you always get with a cult classic where the crew sit around talking about how it nearly never happened and the difficulties they faced getting the show made.
There's a photo gallery for those of you who buy DVDs for the pictures. I find them dull personally. If that wasn't exciting enough the next extra lets you watch a photo of Lister and two babies slowly develop. Then more pictures, this time photos of the model ships used throughout the series. Absolutely riveting stuff!
It does pick up. There's a little feature called Drunk, which is basically a music video featuring clips of the characters drinking alcohol.
The different musical scores used in the series are available on the disk and are always fun to listen to.
They've also included clips from the Red Dwarf audio book, but this feels like a cheap advertising ploy actually.
Click on the toilette to gain access to a few outtakes from first season. To be honest I'd already seen them on my Smegups and Smegouts videos, but if you haven't then they're a good laugh.
There are some deleted scenes that are not too bad, but most of them are extended scenes that were cut for a reason.
In fact the leaflet inside the case is probably the best feature as it tells you about making the series in general. It expands this info into a making of description of each episode, and the last two pages point out some of the goofs the crew regret.
Finally; and someone please explain the point of this to me, disk two is home to the Japanese pilot. It's not a different episode it's the British pilot in Japanese and it would have been far easier to just include a Japanese track on the first disk. That would have left space for the American pilot for a series that never got off the air. Sure it was rubbish, badly acted, and recycled jokes from the British show, but if it had been on the dvd then I wouldn't have wasted time trying to find it!
- How does the DVD look? -
The picture quality is fine. It's not earth shattering or anything but it's certainly above average which wasn't difficult considering the lack of colour in these early episodes. As an older TV show it's only available in 4.1 though.
- How does the DVD sound? -
Sound is good but nothing special. It comes through clearly, but is only available in Stereo. Once again this is because the series is so old.
- Overall -
Red Dwarf is my favourite comedy series ever. This first series isn't as good as the later series but it's a nice start. The disk sadly is a waste. You can get the 'Just the shows' boxed set a lot cheaper than the individual series, and all you miss out on so far are a few worthless features.
1. The End
2. Future Echoes
3. Balance of Power
4. Waiting for God
5. Confidence & Paranoia
Red Dwarf was the most unlikely of sitcoms, featuring a heavy science-fiction slant in its premise. Dave Lister is the last man alive, after being kept frozen in time over 3 million years, on the mining ship known as Red Dwarf. He awakens from stasis to discover the crew all died in a radiation leak and his only companions are: Rimmer, the hologram of his direct superior and quite possibly the most irritating person to be trapped alone in deep space with; The Cat, a humanoid life-form that evolved from the common cat in the same way that people evolved from apes; and Holly, the computer-senile AI system that controls the spaceship, and is responsible for keeping Dave alive.
It's quite an ambitious concept and while the set isn't the most convincing space-craft you'll ever see, the energy and the witty script make up for any visual shortcomings. Shown originally on BBC Two, the show soon gained a cult following for its blend of science fiction comedy and more contemporary humour. Despite being set in the future, there are plenty of references to "our time".
The first series features six episodes, beginning with "The End", which introduces the complicated set-up to the series in less than half hour, including complicated science fiction ideas that weren't commonplace at the time, such as: Holograms representing the dead, Stasis fields that 'froze time' and the evolution of felines to a humanoid form. These aren't concepts you see appearing in comedies, especially sitcoms which are intended to be simple and accessible. As such, this unconventional approach to the story helped the show reach its cult status.
The rest of the episodes rely on building up the relationship between the four characters, focusing mainly on Lister's yearning to be reunited with his deceased girlfriend via hologram, at odds with Rimmer's desire to remain as the ship's sole hologram. The Cat seems to be a one-note joke here, playing up to some of the personality traits of felines, such as: 'claiming ownership of things, eating fishies and grooming himself.' Rimmer and Lister seem more developed and share an odd-couple relationship between the slob and the neat freak, which allows for some funny one-liners and banter between the pair.
This first series is rather bland, in comparison to the later episodes which would include more action-packed plots. The show tried to avoid the sci-fi tropes of aliens and androids, which it would eventually bring into the show in later series but in a clever and subversive way. The scenery indulges in the grey too much, and there is a in-joke in the final episode where Rimmer paints the set a different shade of grey, which is identical to the original shade, but using a different name. Knowing that future episodes take place outside of the confinement of the ship and introduce more visually interesting characters and situations, I did find myself frustrated with these earlier episodes. While I recognise that the show needed to gain its following before it could branch out into some of the more ambitious episodes that would come.
The DVD has a wealth of bonus features on its second disc, such as a very interesting documentary about how the show was made, and the challenges they faced in getting it onto screen. The menu screens are animated like the ship and you can make your way around key elements and locate Easter eggs and special features, such as: Deleted Scenes, Smeg-Ups and audio book chapters for the novel based on the show.