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Friday, 01 November







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Series I DVD Review


Cast Commentary Corrections


Series II DVD Review


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As we eagerly await the release of the original series on DVD, we look back at the short-lived re-mastered series and ask simply: why?


With the seventh series of Red Dwarf complete and the number of episodes up to 44, the fact that they were so close to the magical 52 episode mark played heavy on the minds of those over at Grant Naylor Productions. As soon as they reached 52, enough episodes for each week of the year, the programme could be syndicated and sold all over the world. This meant mega bucks for GNP, and of course a big budget for the proposed movie.


But there was a problem. The vast majority of syndicated shows are American. And in the good ol' U.S. of A., an average 'season' lasts for about 24 episodes, not the meagre six episodes we get in the UK. Of course, the length of the series means that the quality usually suffers in American shows, but given that 52 episodes of an American show come from just three seasons, the visual quality and production values are even throughout. Therefore, it was a problem that 52 episodes of Red Dwarf represent 8 series, made over a period of 11 years.


The way they deemed suitable to remedy this was by re-editing the first three series. This was not, however, a new idea. Shortly before the recording of Series Four, Rob and Doug were interviewed by then-Better Than Life editor Nic Farey. This is what they had to say about the possibility of releasing Series One on video:


Rob:  One problem we do have is that we think the production values aren't nearly as good as we'd like them. We were trying things and making mistakes, and we asked the Beeb if they'd give us the budget to re-edit some of the shows, and they said there's no money for it, so...

Nic: No, don't do it!

Rob: Just put it straight out?

Nic: They tried to do that with some of the Thunderbirds shows. They've re-edited the first couple of Thunderbirds tapes, and it's not as good.

Doug: Really?

Nic: People weren't pleased. The fans wanted to see it as it was originally shown.

Rob: Right, yeah. Fair enough. 

They'd obviously had a change of heart by late 1997, when the re-mastered videos were announced. The first glimpse we got of their handywork was as part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations on Friday, 13th February 1998, as BBC2 showed The End Re-Mastered, along with a short promo showing what they've done to the series. After another sneak peak in the A-Z the following evening, the first two videos were released on Monday, 16th February, with another video released every fortnight for five weeks.

The biggest change they made was converting the videotape to Field Removed Video (FRV). Whatever your opinion on the use of FRV in British television, you cannot deny that it looks crap on Red Dwarf. All shows that are shown in FRV, or similar techniches, including Red Dwarf VII, are lit in a certain way so the video resembles film as much as possible. Red Dwarf was lit for normal videotape, and as such the FRV picture looks dark and grainy.

One of the most notable alterations was the removal of certain dialogue. George McIntrye's speech in The End was barely a speech at all. The entire 'Black Card' sequence from Balance of Power, one of the best dialogues in the series in my opinion, was removed. One of the finest visual gags in Series II, Cat's mermaid girlfriend in Better Than Life was completely obliterated.

OK, you can argue that some stuff had to go as the shows were being kept short for American TV. But they were replaced by long CGI shots of the ship, which added little or nothing to the plot. One of the main reasons why it is argued that Series I has dated slightly is that the pace is slower than later series. Yet these CGI shots slowed the pace down immeasurably.

Another odd thing was that some of Norman Lovett's dialogue in Series I and II was re-recorded. Some of this was to remove any jokes with references deemed too English, e.g. replacing Felicity Kendall's bottom with that of Marilyn Monroe, and some was too add a bit of extra humour to the character of Holly, particularly in Series I. However, these extra jokes seem out of place and forced, and they are not particularly funny.

One of the good changes to have taken place in the re-mastered series was the improved sound quality. Due to the age of the programme, the sound was monoraul, as so would indeed look out of place next to the stereo sound of Series IV onwards. However, this was marred by a series of silly non-digetic sound effects that were pasted over the top. Some of these were very distracting, particularly when important dialogue was taking place in the foreground. Others were plain awful, such as an off-screen Rimmer crashing into what sounds like pots and pans in The End, despite his hologrammatic status.

Some of the minor changes made were totally inexplicable. Drawing new pictures for the Cat Bible in Waiting For God, for example, thus denying us of very good Bayeux Tapestry-style drawings. Re-dubbing the voice of Rimmer's Mum in Polymorph was also baffling, as well as totally out of synch in places. And as for the 'epilogue' at the end of that episode, I felt like throwing a brick at the telly.

After a while it became apparant that Series IV-VI would not be getting the same treatment. The videos did not sell well and the fans were not happy, just as Nic predicted back in 1990. When Red Dwarf VIII reverted to normal non-FRV video, the fate of re-mastered was in the balance, particularly in Back In The Red (Part One), when a reference is made to the ship changing shape. The ship in Series VIII was more or less the same as that in the Re-Mastered series, so if the ship has cahnged shape since Series I, the Re-Mastered series is not part of Red Dwarf continuity.

These suspicions were confirmed when it was announced that it would be the original series that will be released on DVD. The series has been retreated, however this is merely a process to clean-up the original picture and sound, which look a bit dodgy nearly 15 years on.

Wouldn't it have saved us all this trouble if they'd have just done that in the first place?

This page last updated: 2nd November 02

Website: © Ian Symes 2002

Red Dwarf: © Grant Naylor Productions


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