Red Dwarf X: DVD Review

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  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: 2entertain
  • Region: Region 2
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
  • Release Date: 19 Nov 2012
  • Run Time: 178 minutes
  • Price: £20.42 RRP (DVD)/ £25.52 (Blu-Ray)

After what seemed like an eternity between the shooting and broadcast, Red Dwarf X is now available to own and touch in your own home on DVD and Blu Ray but is it worth your shiny coins?

Packaging

In the run up to the Dave screening of Red Dwarf X, it was hard to miss the promotional poster which could be seen at train stations, bus stops, on advertising hoardings and pretty much anywhere else where a poster can be stuck. So it’s no surprise that the cover is this photoshopped cast shot with the boys rather strangely fading into an asteroid belt with the newly cut down ship behind them. The Red Dwarf X logo is in the foreground, although the white text is not graded as with it’s on screen appearance. While not the most stylish cover, the ubiquitous nature of that image will alert any casual browser to the fact that this is brand new Red Dwarf.

On the back cover there is a nice shot of Blue Midget and three images as well as the typical descriptive text, episode and special features listings.

The real treat is on the reverse of the cover. For those who prefer their DVDs to all match up, this side features a cover to match those of series I to VIII with Lister and Rimmer foregrounding the new bunk set. On the back, as always, Lister is painting the ship. The character on the side spine is Jesus as played by James Baxter.

Unlike previous Red Dwarf releases there is no collectors booklet.

Menus

Red Dwarf DVD menus have always showed the CGI renders of the main sets usually covered with props with monitors showing either Holly or whatever graphic was cool that series.

Disc One, featuring the episodes, shows the drive room with Lister’s smoking kebab and some selections from the All Droid shopping network on screen. Options can be selected on a text menu. You can play all from here but by clicking episodes you are taken down the corridor to meet a series of dispensers, each representing a show. Select one and you animate to a close-up of the dispenser showing the various scenes that can be selected.

Disc Two has features the sleeping quarters with various items from the series including a large pile of toilet paper from Dear Dave, some lemons from Lemons and Lister’s guitar case as seen in Fathers and Suns. Again there are text selections for the three special features.

These menus are perfectly functional, however in the past much more time and attention to detail was put into these. This is evident from the moment the 2 Entertain logo fades away and you find yourself straight into the menu. In the past there was an animated section featuring music and model shots to take you into the ship but here it’s all fairly simple.

The past menus always incorporated the panels and props into the menus making most things clickable but here, only text serves that purpose. It’s doesn’t make a huge difference to the user experience but perhaps demonstrates that not everyone involved in the production of these discs has as much investment in the fan experience as in the past.

Episodes

You get six all new episodes or Red Dwarf as written and directed by Doug Naylor and Starring Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John Jules and Robert Llewellyn. Those are: Trojan, Fathers and Suns, Lemons, Entangled, Dear Dave and The Beginning.

The action is primarily ship bound and while the episodes vary in quality, there are some strong jokes and character moments throughout every episode, even if at times there isn’t a cohesive plot.

Primarily episodes take place on two sets, with set designer Michael Ralph having reinterpreted the Drive Room and the sleeping quarters and bringing the red colour scheme from the ships’ exterior inside. While Starbug makes a cameo in a couple of episodes, Blue Midget is the main shuttle on this occasion with the cockpit set being a smart redress of the Drive Room.

On the outside there is a return to models, with the film model of Red Dwarf finally getting to shine, although it has been cut down to better match the ship as seen in Red Dwarf I through V.

Howard Goodall is also back or score duty and these episodes feature plenty of re-workings of classic Dwarf stings as well as some beautiful new sounds.

Howard Burden once again dresses the cast and Rimmer’s uniform has never looked better.

All the ingredients are there for classic Red Dwarf. While the episodes don’t quite have the consistency of the original thirty six, they are far better than most fans would have hoped for, with Trojan and The Beginning probably being the best of the run. There are some missteps but overall it’s a return to form, if not quite a return to the glory days. However there’s enough good work and good will in these episodes to show at it’s best Red Dwarf can still be one of the funniest shows on TV. You can here our more detailed opinions on each episode on The Garbage Podcast.

Special Features

It would be so easy to focus on what it missing compared to other Red Dwarf shiny disc releases. There is no cast or director commentaries featured on the episodes. Previous discs have also gone out of their way to feature every last detail from music queues and isolated model shots. Well there’s none of that greatness here, nor is there any of the promotional material as done by Dave. It’s a shame the Red Dwarf version of the Dave ident isn’t present, and who wouldn’t have liked to relive the vindalunar campaign? Even without all that, there’s plenty of great content here.

Deleted Scenes

There’s almost thirty minutes of deleted scenes to be found here all with a commentary by Doug Naylor. While any commentary is welcome it only really serves as a reminder of what we’re missing with Doug’s commentary having been a particular highlight of the Back to Earth release. Among the many fascinating facts here, we learn that the food sucked at Shepparton.

It’s interesting to see some scenes abandoned for FX reasons as in Trojan but most have been cut for time reasons and are in no way missed, although many will be gutted to see that an extended version of the dentibot scene from Fathers and Suns didn’t make it.

We also get to see a version of a scene set in the Drive Room as shot on Blue Midget from the beginning to help the audience understand the show, as the sets had already been converted. Kryten really suits those reading glasses.

Smeg Ups

If you’ve seen Smeg Ups before then you’ll know what to expect here. The actors get lines wrong, make fun of each other and sometimes do Kenneth Williams impersonations. Hilarity ensues. There’s twelve more minutes of that gold here.

We’re Smegged: The Making of Red Dwarf X

This two hour documentary has access to all the key players during and after production and in some ways this makes up for anything that may be absent from this disc.

The title isn’t just a quote from the beginning, shoehorning in the word smegged just because that’s what fans want to hear. From the very outset it is clear that the production of Red Dwarf X was somewhat troubled and almost everything that possibly could go wrong, did go wrong.

With actors schedules and final deals not signed until the very last minutes, Doug Naylor, advised not to write scripts until all was in place found himself with a much reduced window to write the scripts. With that also came his insistence on a studio audience which had a massive effect on the already fixed budget, meaning that all location shoots would not be possible.

The series began with just four episodes written and just a short break for Doug Naylor to write the other two. This is clearly less than ideal especially given that Doug was also serving as the show’s director.

The documentary is broken up into sections with an introduction to the series and then a section covering each episode and a special section dedicated to the model shoot and another to the nightmarish post production period.

For anyone who likes technical details you’ll learn everything that you need to know about Red Epic cameras and shooting set-ups with interviews from all the technical staff.

You also get everything that you need to know about the set design with Michael Ralph describing how he made sets adaptable and dynamic as well as how household items from IKEA.

All the cast are genial and engaging and generous towards the scripts and almost all aspects of the production. It is fascinating to see and here exactly how they react to performing in the live environment and the nerves they all experience. These talking heads have added texture with some nice behind the scenes footage.

There are also some fascinating insights into the writing from Doug Naylor and script editor Andrew Ellard.

However the most interesting aspects of this show come from horrendous difficulties faced by the production and the battles fought by Doug Naylor, Richard Naylor, Charles Armitage and UKTV.

Hearing the contrasting points of view in particular between Executive Producers Charles Armitage and Doug Naylor are fascinating with both battling budget. Doug’s singular vision to give the fans what they want, shoot in front of an audience and also give the show a filmic look is admirable but with his description of the production of Red Dwarf X, you wonder what will bring him back for more.

The problems are perfectly encapsulated in the disastrous model shoot. Most interestingly the original hope that they could use the original series I and II model shots, as they were shot on film would still be fine for HD. It’s actually saddening to know this amazing footage has been lost.

So all they have left was the Re-Mastered pencil Red Dwarf, a Blue Midget and a borrowed Starbug. The first model shoot was a disaster, done without a director and with improvisation by the art department resulting in no usable shots. In the end, visual effects master Bill Pearson comes to the rescue, providing some great additional models. Doug was able to take control of the four day model shoot ably assisted by director of photography Deane Thrussell with the composites done by Miguel Caamaño.

To put that in perspective the early series of Red Dwarf were afforded a 21 day shoot with a motion control rig. That Doug and the team achieved shots to compete with those really is a miracle.

That we nearly had no quality visual effects shows just how close Red Dwarf X came to disaster. However there were problems far beyond this, with generosity, goodwill and favours all ensuring it got to air.

Television production is a battle and Red Dwarf has issues almost no other show faces, in particular with a belated remount like this. Nathan Cubitt’s fantastic documentary shows the disasters the production team had to content with and for so many reasons, it’s a miracle this series made it to screens, and despite it all, did so with a little bit of style.

Overview

We’re Smegged makes this DVD worth the price of the DVD alone. The frankness of the interviews, the behind the scenes footage and details of the production means it has plenty re-watch value, even for those who didn’t love the series. The production problems can perhaps make viewers forgive some of the weaker elements of the series although that hardly seems necessary given the overall positive reaction.

Despite the great things that are on the DVD, Red Dwarf fans are used to so much more. Whatever the reasons, this isn’t quite the complete package. Perhaps a special edition will follow but with DVD on its way out as a format, perhaps producers are less willing to invest in such lavish extras.

One day perhaps we’ll get a series with everything perfectly in place, with a budget that serves the vision of the series and no production problems to fight against. That wasn’t it but Red Dwarf lived, died and now lives again. Look out Earth, the slime is now available to bring home.

Red Dwarf X is available from all good retailers. And some really bad ones too.