Red Dwarf – Series 1-8 – Blu-ray Box Set Review

Cover of the Red Dwarf Series 1 to 8 Blu-ray box set. The logo consists of large capital letters saying Red Dwarf, one line above the other. All letters are white, except for the letter D on each line, which is red. Those 2 letters are connected by a red ring at a diagonal angle, passing behind the word Red and in front of the word Dwarf. This is all against a dark blue-ish purple background showing various coloured planets in space.

Red Dwarf is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. I’ve had the DVDs of series 1 to 8 from the BBC for quite some time, along with Blu-rays of the newer episodes shown on Dave. But when they released a Blu-ray set of series 1 to 8 in January, with extra material I hadn’t had before, I decided it was a good time to upgrade and bought it.

I’ve been happily binge-watching the set over the past month since then. It’s been a while since I last watched those earlier shows, so it’s been great to revisit them, and they’re still very enjoyable. So I thought I’d do a review of the set, along with an unboxing video to go with it. I’ve added a few short opinions of the Blu-ray sets for the Dave shows produced so far at the end as well.

The set cost me £37.72 from Amazon, though the price has since gone up at the time of writing. I bought it with my own money, and I’m not sponsored by or affiliated with anybody connected with the product. I just wanted to tell you about it now I’ve finished watching it all. So all opinions are my own.

Series Overview

I’m not going to review the episodes themselves, because if you love the show, then you’ll know what they’re about and have your opinions already, and there’s far too many to talk about. But if you somehow don’t know the programme, I’ll describe it very briefly.

Red Dwarf is a sitcom set on a large spaceship of the same name. It centres around a man called David Lister (played by Craig Charles), a low-ranking member of the crew and a bit of a slob, who discovers that he’s the last human being alive after a radiation leak wipes out everybody else on board. He only survives because he’s locked in stasis when the leak occurs (meaning time is frozen for him), as a punishment for sneaking a cat on board.

He’s let out 3 million years later, when the radiation is at a safe level, by the ship’s computer Holly (Norman Lovett). Holly resurrects one of the crew members in hologram form, Lister’s supervisor Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie), to keep Lister company and retain his sanity (which is difficult given that Rimmer is full of his own self-importance). They are also joined by Cat (Danny John-Jules), a human-like being that evolved from Lister’s pet over the past 3 million years, who is always obsessing over his appearance like cats do. From series 3 they are joined by mechanoid servant Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), who develops increasingly human traits thanks to Lister breaking his programming.

Circles with multi-coloured borders, 4 containing images of the crew of Red Dwarf, and one featuring an image of Dave Lister in his spacesuit as he paints the outside of the ship with a large roller.

That is a very basic way of putting it, because the series evolves significantly as it progresses. Series 1 is very basic and clearly made on a tight budget, but sets up everything nicely, particularly the relationship between Lister and Rimmer. This is the heart of the show. The interactions and conflicts between them are brilliant, especially in the bunk room scenes, or indeed any scene where it’s just the two of them together (the episode Marooned is a prime example). Holly the computer is also a great character. He doesn’t usually have a big role to play, but when he is involved he makes it count.

Series 2 has slightly more colourful sets, and saw the crew venturing off the ship to other locations for the first time. There is then a big step change from series 3 onwards, with new faster-paced opening titles, heavily redesigned sets, the addition of Kryten (after a brief guest appearance by a different actor in series 2), and the Holly computer character changed from male to female (Hattie Hayridge). I wish they’d kept Norman for Holly, but Hattie was still good too. That series, along with series 4 & series 5, was a particularly good period for the show I think, as it really settled into its stride, especially as series 1 & 2 had laid solid foundations for the characters, and creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor were able to do much more of what they wanted.

The front covers of the 2 flipbook cases inside the Red Dwarf Series 1 to 8 box set, the left case for series 1 to 4 and the right case for series 5 to 8. In each case, below the Red Dwarf logo, a ship flies towards us from a large orange planet or sun. The series 1 to 4 case shows Red Dwarf, while the series 5 to 8 case shows the smaller green Starbug ship.

Series 6 saw another change, as Holly the computer was removed altogether, Rimmer became a ‘hard-light’ hologram so he could physically touch things at last, and the entire series was based on their small green transport vessel Starbug, with a story arc about them trying to find Red Dwarf having lost it. This was also a really good series, with a big cliffhanger at the end of it too. Not having their main spaceship gave a real drive to the plot, and it’s up there with series 3 to 5 in terms of quality.

That seemed to be a peak though, as series 7 was easily the weakest in my view. It’s still watchable, but certainly not its best. Writer Rob Grant had left the show so other writers were called in, Rimmer was only in half the episodes as Chris Barrie wanted some time away, the shows were not filmed in front of a live audience (so the actors couldn’t ‘ride the laughs’ and it just felt wrong), and the episodes were treated to look like they’d been produced on film. Rimmer’s absence was made up for by the addition of Lister’s ex-girlfriend Kristine Kochanski (Chloë Annett) – well, an alternative version of her from a parallel dimension to be precise – although I never really warmed to her in that series.

Series 8 was better – still not at its very best perhaps, and I know some fans seem to hate it, but I personally like it overall, because it does have some fun stories and great moments. The characters return to the main Red Dwarf spaceship, which now has the crew fully restored (it makes sense if you see why). Rimmer is back full-time and there’s a return to the bunk-room style scenes with him and Lister. The original male version of Holly the computer also returns, and Kochanski stays on as the 5th member of the team (and I like her better in this series). And it’s filmed in front of an audience again, thankfully.

As the show is science fiction as well as comedy, there are also plenty of spaceships, planets, monsters and other characters that the crew encounter. There are also numerous occasions where they come across other versions of themselves, due to time travel or dimension jumping, so there’s a fair amount of split-screen work. In the early shows the special effects are quite simple, but they get better in the later series – although the addition of basic CGI couldn’t replace the charm of the hand-made models. The music composed for the show by renowned composer Howard Goodall is also brilliant.

So it’s a great show altogether, with lots of laughs and adventures throughout, and I’m very happy to own them all. So let’s get on to what’s in the set itself.

The Package

Cover of the Red Dwarf Series 1 to 8 Blu-ray box set. The logo consists of large capital letters saying Red Dwarf, one line above the other. All letters are white, except for the letter D on each line, which is red. Those 2 letters are connected by a red ring at a diagonal angle, passing behind the word Red and in front of the word Dwarf. This is all against a dark blue-ish purple background showing various coloured planets in space.

The design of the set is very consistent throughout. The front of the box has the show’s logo against a dark blue space background, with planets floating around it. This imagery is carried throughout the set, including on each of the disks themselves. The top section of a large orange planet or sun sticks up from the bottom, and contains white text that says “Complete Series I-VIII” on the front of the box, or on the discs it states the series name and disc number. The only other difference between each of the discs is that there are slightly different planets floating around for each series, which isn’t particularly noticeable at a glance if you’re just flicking through.

I do prefer the previous artwork on the original DVD releases to be honest. Each series had a different colour and background, with different images of the cast on each, and when you had all 8 series the spines of the DVD cases would make up the logo on your shelf. It was very satisfying.

DVD covers for the original Red Dwarf series 1 to 8 DVD releases. Each cover has a large silver version of the Red Dwarf logo against a different coloured background, with different characters from the show in the bottom right corner.

The spines of the original DVD covers for Red Dwarf series 1 to 8. Putting them together reveals the show's logo going across them.

This Blu-ray set’s artwork feels rather basic and less special in comparison, and it would have been nice if the discs for each series had stood out from each other in a more interesting way. I have also noticed a few people posting that the logo isn’t quite right either, though I can’t see anything wrong with it personally, I’m happy with it.

Mind you, seeing as I store my discs and booklets in large binders now anyway, to save an awful lot of shelf space (which I’m hoping to do a video about soon), I won’t be keeping the box itself. I still have the sleeves and booklets from the original DVD releases, so I’ll keep those, as the booklets had a lot of good trivia about the making of the show. The key thing for me about the upgrade was the content of the new discs themselves, in terms of upgraded episodes and extra features I’d never seen before.

Back of the box for the Red Dwarf series 1 to 8 Blu-ray box set, featuring a brief description of the show, coloured circles featuring photos of the characters, and technical details about the set.

The back of the box has a brief description of the series, and 5 circles containing small photos of the crew from the different series (without the original Holly, sadly). 4 are group shots, while the other is of Lister painting the outside of the ship as seen in the opening titles. And there’s all the usual technical details of course. The aspect ratio is 1080i 4:3, the main soundtrack is English DTS HD MA Stereo, the feature length is 1,466 minutes (over 24 hours, and that’s not counting the copious amount of extras), the episodes have been upscaled from standard definition (because they weren’t filmed in HD at the time), the extras are just in standard definition, and there are English subtitles available on the episodes and extra features.

There is no audio description, which is a shame but not at all surprising. I can see things well enough personally, as I have a nice big TV and can sit close to it, but for those who need audio description, it’s all too common that it’s not included on DVD and Blu-ray releases, even when it is included when broadcast on TV (as is the case with Red Dwarf). To be fair, the show’s co-creator Doug Naylor replied to a visually impaired viewer about the lack of audio description on the Blu-rays, saying he tried to get it on there, so this is an issue with the publishers. It’s not like they can’t do it, because all the Doctor Who releases have it.

Series 1 Disc 1 in the Red Dwarf series 1 to 8 Blu-ray box set. The disc features the Red Dwarf logo against a blueish-purple background with planets floating around. The white text Series 1 Disc 1 sits over the top of an orange planet or sun sticking up from the bottom.

The 19 discs are housed within 2 cases, with 4 series in each one. Each case contains 1 plastic tray for each disc, arranged like pages in a book so you have to turn the pages to get to each one. So it’s nice and compact considering the large number of discs. The episodes themselves are all on Blu-ray discs – 1 disc each for series 1 to 6, and then 2 discs each for series 7 and 8, because there are a few multi-part episodes for which extended and remastered versions are included (as noted in the next section).

Every series also has a bonus features disc, and they’re all standard DVDs, being straight copies of the extras discs from the original DVD sets. However, in a separate cardboard sleeve, nestled in the inside front pocket of the series 1 to 4 casing, is also a bonus Bodysnatcher Blu-ray. This contains even more extras that were only available in an old DVD box set that went out of print ages ago. And as I never owned that Bodysnatcher set, I was excited to get these new features, which I’ll get on to later in this post.

The pocket in that first case also contains a booklet listing the episode titles and extra features available on each disc. It doesn’t contain any trivia like the old DVD booklets, hence I’ll be keeping those too, but it gives a handy overview of what’s on each disc.

Episodes

Menu for the Blu-ray of Red Dwarf series 1. In the centre of the screen is an image of the huge Red Dwarf spaceship flying through space. To the left, in white text on a dark background, are options for Play All, Episode Selection, Commentaries and Subtitles. On the opposite side of the screen, again in white on black, is the list of episodes, with each represented by a thumbnail image from the show, as well as the episode number and title.

As stated above, the episodes are all on Blu-ray discs. The menu system for these is actually rather nice, because it looks good and I find it easy to read. The central portion of the screen has sliding doors that open to reveal clips from the show while the theme tune is playing. To the left of this are all the key options – Play All, Episode Selection, Audio Commentaries, Subtitles, etc. Although the text isn’t large, it is presented in white capital letters against the dark door frame, so it stands out well. The cursor is the red ring from the logo, which contrasts fairly well with the text to indicate what you’re selecting. Red on black is never a good combination, but it does stand out here because it goes over the white text.

If you want to select a particular episode or a commentary, then clicking the relevant option will bring up a list in the opposite part of the door frame on the right of the screen, complete with thumbnail images on the episodes menu. There are no additional scene selection menus for each episode, but they are divided into chapters that you can skip through.

The episodes have been restored and upscaled for this Blu-ray release, and as far as I’m concerned they look and sound great. There is only so much they can do with the earlier episodes of course, but as you go through the series the quality does appear to get better, and I haven’t noticed any problems.

That said, however, I’m not an expert on picture or sound quality. I can’t deeply assess picture quality with my slightly dodgy eyesight, and I’m not a professional audiophile. They look fine to me, but opinions may vary. Indeed, it turns out there’s a de-interlacing issue for some episodes in series 3 & 5 that apparently makes the picture look a bit grainy or blurry. I can’t see the issue with my vision, but many people can. So after many complaints the BBC have finally located and acknowledged the source of the problem, and are now offering replacement discs (link updated 28 June 2019). So I have requested the replacement discs to ensure I have the best possible quality, even if the difference isn’t obvious to me personally. (Update: I received the new discs on 17 July 2019.)

Close-up of the episodes menu on the Red Dwarf series 1 Blu-ray disc, showing thumbnail images from each episode above its number and title.

We must also be careful when using the word remastered here. For series 1 to 3, you’re getting the original versions here, upscaled and cleaned up to make sure they look as good as they can. They are not the remastered episodes created in the mid-1990s for possible sale overseas, which had new CGI effects and other adjustments. UK fans weren’t happy with those remastered versions, and they weren’t intended for us anyway, so we didn’t get them on the original DVD releases. It is better having the originals, so I’m glad we’ve got them in that form. That said, the remastered episodes do become relevant on the bonus Bodysnatcher disc, which I’ll discuss later in this post.

Just to confuse things though, this set does include an optional remastered version of Tikka To Ride, the first episode in series 7. But that’s a different situation, and it had already been on the series 7 DVD release. Writer Doug Naylor and visual effects producer Chris Veale were never happy with the CGI produced for series 7, as they were severely limited on time and budget. So, for the DVD release of that series, new shots were produced for the first episode to give a flavour of how the series should have looked in their eyes. It’s quite interesting to watch and compare the two.

In fact, you can watch that episode in 4 ways – the standard version, the extended version, the remastered version, and the remastered extended version. There are also standard and extended versions for Ouroboros and Duct Soup as well. For those 3 episodes, however, because series 7 wasn’t filmed in front of an audience, the extended versions don’t have a laugh track. They weren’t shown to an audience for a laugh track to be recorded, whereas the standard versions were. Watching Red Dwarf without audience laughter feels very strange. For some shows, it can be annoying, but it feels like an integral part of this programme. Nevertheless, it is good to watch the extended versions to see what’s been added.

In series 8, meanwhile, you can watch the stories for Back To Earth and Pete in their original multi-part formats or as complete feature length episodes. As these were recorded in front of a studio audience, their laughter is retained in the longer editions.

Extra Features

There are an absolutely massive amount of extras across this set, which I think are all carried over from the original DVDs. Which is fine by me – why fix what isn’t broken? With most sitcoms you get barely any extras, but for Red Dwarf they’ve always gone the extra mile.

Episode Discs

Red Dwarf 1 Blu-Ray Commentaries Menu

The Blu-ray discs containing the episodes have a few special treats:

  • Cast Commentaries – These are available for every episode and are brilliant. The cast seem to having a lot of fun reliving their experience on the show, revealing little insights while having lots of good banter and laughs in the process. It’s great to hear them all getting along so well.
  • Production Commentary (The End) – Series creators Rob Grant & Doug Naylor, along with director Ed Bye, give an entertaining and insightful commentary on the very first episode of series 1. Production commentaries can be dry and boring for some TV shows and films, but these guys are good to listen to. It’s a shame we couldn’t have commentaries from them on every episode as well. But they do make great contributions in the documentaries, and pop up in other bonus features to give their feelings about certain episodes, as I’ll mention later.
  • Fan Commentaries – These are commentaries by competition winners on one episode each for series 5 and 6. There isn’t really a lot of point having these to be honest. The participants are perfectly nice, and occasional bits of trivia pop up, so they’re worth listening to at least once. But there’s nothing overly noteworthy about the discussions. Fair play to them though, they were very lucky to get that opportunity, I certainly don’t begrudge them doing it.
  • Identity Within – Disc 1 of series 7 contains this lost episode from the series, about the Cat having to lose his virginity to save his life, which was written but never filmed, as it was deemed too expensive to shoot. So instead you see specially created storyboard images for the show, with the script read by Chris Barrie. And he’s great, because he does wonderful impressions of all the different characters. He’s narrated the Red Dwarf audiobooks as well for that reason, which I’ve heard extracts of but have never bought them, and I really should! They’ve also included sound effects and music to help bring the story to life as best they can. So it’s really nice to have this script as an extra bonus.
  • Fan Films – Disc 2 of series 7 includes a couple of competition winning fan films. Like the fan commentaries, they’re not great and not essential, so you probably won’t watch them more than once. But, again, fair play to them for their work.
  • Comedy Connections – This was a great BBC documentary series, concentrating on one sitcom for every episode, showing how all the actors and other key personnel came together to make the programmes. It would often reveal interesting pieces of history, such as obscure TV programmes people were in during their earlier careers, as well trivia about the sitcoms themselves. So the Red Dwarf episode is included on Disc 1 of series 8, and I’m really glad it’s here.

Extras Discs

The extras DVD menu for Red Dwarf series 1. The screen shows the bunk room where Lister and Rimmer sleep, and by moving around the screen you can select various items to access different features e.g. the guitar, toaster, model of the ship, computer screen, etc.

The extra features discs for each series are a direct copy of the DVDs from the previous releases. Which isn’t a bad thing, as they did work very well.

There are animated menus for each disc which get better in quality with each series. In each case, the main menu allows you to select the documentary for that series, along with subtitles, a weblink and credits.

There is also a link for the other bonus material, which transports you to another room on the ship, where you can select various items within the room to access various features. For the earlier series, the text overlaid on the screen in these rooms can be hard to read, but then they did make it easier by using text boxes with contrasting backgrounds in later series.

Also, because the menu options aren’t in a strict grid layout, you have to be a little bit careful when moving around to ensure you find everything. For a few of the later series, there is also the alternative option of a plain text menu, which just lists everything in regular text over a background image of the room, but it’s less fun that way.

The extras DVD menu for Red Dwarf series 6. The screen shows a room with metal walls, some panels of buttons, and a floor made of blue squares with white borders. Moving around the screen allows you to select various items to access different features, including a broken guitar, a skutter robot and a bazookoid gun.

The selection of extras is broadly similar for all the series, though every series also has one or two unique features as well.

The primary feature on each disc is the documentary. Series 3 to 8 all have feature length documentaries that go into extensive detail about the making of the show. They start with a general overview of that particular series, discussing how it came about and their overall approach to it, followed by dedicated chapters for each episode in turn. Doug Naylor and the members of the cast are regular contributors, and they’re also joined by guest stars and other members of the crew too.

These documentaries are all very comprehensive and interesting, with lots of behind the scenes footage and information. They’re also very honest about the problems that were encountered along the way. For some TV shows and films, documentaries can just be promotional pieces where everybody is really nice, claiming that everything was perfect. But they don’t need to do that here, so you actually feel like you’re getting a true insight into the experience of making the programme.

Series 1 and 2 didn’t have those documentaries on the original DVDs. Making DVDs was a very new process for the show’s DVD production team, so they were learning about what would work best. In a way, it reflects the main TV show, with series 1 and 2 laying good foundations, before there’s a big improvement from series 3 onwards.

So instead, for series 1 you get a shorter documentary about launching the show – which still has man of the key people involved and is very interesting. Then for series 2 you get Red Dwarf A-Z, a compilation featuring clips from the show and a few behind-the-insights, which is nice but not substantial.

However, proper documentaries for series 1 and 2, in the same style as the others, were made later on, and are included on the Bodysnatcher disc, as noted later.

Other extras on the bonus discs include:

  • Deleted Scenes – Every series has a collection of deleted scenes, and there are an increasing number with each series, so these sections get quite long. Every scene has a text explanation on screen as to why it was removed e.g. because the show was too long, or they tried something that didn’t work, and so on. So they’re very interesting to watch.
  • Smeg-Ups – Outtakes are included for every series, which are often quite amusing.
  • Model Shots & Special Effects – Silent video of all the model shots and special effects that were recorded for every series, often including footage that was never eventually used.
  • Storyboard Sequences – On the series 8 DVD you can see a side-by-side comparison of the storyboards with the actual footage for some special effects sequences.
  • Photo Galleries – Lots of photos from the production of every series, including production images, special effects, promotional shots, merchandise and personal photos by the cast and crew.
  • Isolated Music CuesHoward Goodall is an amazing composer, and his work on Red Dwarf is fantastic, adding a great atmosphere to every episode, and even a few songs too. So here you’re able to listen to the theme tune, songs like Tongue Tied and the Rimmer Munchkin Song, and lots of the background music cues. The only disappointment here is that there’s nothing for series 8 other than the theme music and 2 very similar mixes of the Blue Midget theme. But for all the other series, this extra is a delight to have. And if you do like his music for the show, I recommend you look up the 4 Red Dwarf soundtrack albums he’s created, covering series 1 to 11. They contain additional material not included in the music cues on the DVDs. You can also find an extensive interview with Howard on the series 6 bonus disc.
  • Musical Featurettes – For each series there is a short compilation featurette, with clips from the show based on a particular theme (drunkenness, food, love, driving, etc), set to a relevant song. So they’re non-essential but fun extras to have. Note that all of these compilations combine clips from all 8 series, not just the series that it’s included with.
  • Trailers – Available for each series, these are often sourced from fans’ VHS tapes, as it’s the only way to get hold of them. They’re a brief bit of nostalgia in terms of how the BBC used to advertise the shows, and remind you of the old channel logos too. These sections occasionally contain other treats as well, including episode introductions by the cast, special channel idents and a Children In Need sketch. So even if you couldn’t care less about watching trailers, it’s still well worth looking in this section of each bonus disc to see what pops up.
  • Talking Book Chapters – Clips of Chris Barrie reading from the Red Dwarf audiobooks, which are a good advert for the books and well worth a listen. As I said earlier, he’s a master at doing impressions, so he voices the characters really well.
  • Son Of Cliché Dave Hollins Sketches – These are an important piece of history, as this was the original radio show by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor, starring Chris Barrie, which formed the basis for Red Dwarf. So you’ll recognise iconic moments from the TV show in these radio sketches, which are quite funny. I’ve never actually listened to the full radio shows, so it would be good to do so at some point.
  • Interviews – Some of the bonus discs contain additional interviews with people involved with the show, including creator Doug Naylor, composer Howard Goodall, model makers, effects creators, and a tribute to production designer Mel Bibby.
  • Video Diaries – Hattie Hayridge shares some footage from a fan club weekend, and Robert Llewellyn takes us behind the scenes on the filming of the show, in these entertaining little features.
  • The End – Japanese Version – The very first episode as broadcast in Japan, if you’re curious to see how the boys sound in that language.
  • Tongue Tied – Uncut – This is the full song and dance number that appeared in series 2. It’s a silly song, and not everyone is a fan of it, but I rather like it, because it’s very catchy. What would also have been a nice inclusion is the music video for the single released by Danny John-Jules. Granted, I prefer the version in the series, but still, it would have been a good bit of promotion to include it, as you can still download the single online these days.
  • Backwards – Forwards – In this series 3 episode, the crew end up on a version of Earth where time is running backwards, so a lot of the speech and action is backwards. This feature therefore runs the entire episode in reverse. so you can see hear what all the backwards speakers were saying, and see how all the backwards action really looked. It includes chapter points allowing you to jump to all of the key reverse moments, if you don’t want to sit through it all. It’s particularly worth watching to hear the rant by Arthur Smith, though I won’t spoil it by saying why.
  • Ace Rimmer – A Life In Lame – A compilation of clips, with new narration by the female Holly, of Arnold’s much more dashing and brave alter-ego. What a guy.
  • Can’t Smeg, Won’t Smeg – A special edition of Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, where Ainsley Harriott tries to show the crew members (including Cat’s alter-ego Duane Dibbley) how to make a meal, which Kristine Kochanski is not keen on tasting! It’s pretty good fun. I wonder if Ainsley knew what he was letting himself in for!
  • Return To Laredo – A featurette in which Robert Llewellyn returns to the country and western town where they filmed Gunmen Of The Apocalypse. It’s interesting to see more of the place and to hear interviews with some of the residents.
  • Dwarfing USA – A documentary about the failed attempt to make a version of the show in America. There are plenty of clips from the awful pilot episode that was made, which they haven’t included in full on the disc, but you can find it on Youtube.

Bodysnatcher Disc

As if all of the above wasn’t enough, this extra Blu-ray disc gives you even more extras. These were originally included in a box set called The Bodysnatcher Collection, which went out of print quite a few years ago, and I never got it. So this is the first time they’ve been available for a while, and I’m delighted to have them.

Menu for the Red Dwarf Bodysnatcher Blu-ray disc. Against a dark blue background on the left are options in white text for Bodysnatcher, Extras, Bonus Material, Audio Commentaries, Easter Eggs and Subtitles. The Bodysnatcher option is selected, revealing a large text box over a starry space background, with white text explaining the options for viewing the episode in its standard form with or without commentary, or a longer uncut version.

The focal point of this disc is Bodysnatcher, a lost episode from series 1 that was scripted but never filmed. So, like Identity Within above, you’re presented with storyboard images with wonderfully voiced narration by Chris Barrie. Having never seen this before, I really enjoyed it. You can actually watch it in 3 ways – the original edit, or the full uncut script, or the original edit with an insightful commentary by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.

This disc also includes proper feature-length Series 1 & 2 Documentaries, to make up for the fact that they weren’t on the original series 1 & 2 bonus DVDs. So these are just like the documentaries for the other series, being just as detailed and informative.

Another key aspect of the original Bodysnatcher DVD box set were the remastered episodes for series 1-3, which were made in the mid-1990s with new CGI effects and other tweaks, as explained earlier. I never watched those as I never had that box set – and you don’t get those episodes in this new Blu-ray set either. But you do get the Re-Dwarf documentary about how those episodes were produced, which is very interesting and does include some clips from them. And there are couple of promos that were used to advertise those episodes too.

You also get the audio commentaries that were recorded for 6 of those remastered episodes (2 per series). Most feature Doug Naylor & Ed Bye, but the first features Ed Bye with other contributors. However, because the episodes themselves aren’t included, you can’t see what they’re referring to (all you get on screen is a static background image), which makes a lot of the commentary rather meaningless. Which is a shame, as they are entertaining commentaries. Even if they didn’t want to include all 18 remastered episodes, I would have gladly have settled for an extra 20th disc with just these 6 remastered episodes plus commentaries.

Also, because you’re not getting the remastered episodes, this new set doesn’t include the text track that I understand was part of the original Bodysnatcher Collection, detailing the differences between the original and remastered episodes. So the bottom line is, if you have the original Bodysnatcher Collection and like the remastered episodes with their related extras, you’ll need to keep hold of it.

I’m not upset about not having the remastered episodes, because I’m happy that we have the original episodes, and for the normal casual fan like me, that’s all that matters. And seeing clips from those remastered episodes in the documentary and promotional trailers gives a glimpse into what they were like. It just feels a bit pointless having the commentaries without the episodes to look at, as I have no frame of reference to appreciate what they’re discussing properly. So I quickly gave up on listening to those.

Overall though, the Bodysnatcher disc is a great treasure trove of stuff. As well as the lost episode and the documentaries, you also get many other bits and pieces:

  • The End – The Original Assembly – This is the first version of the very first episode that was recorded, the vast majority of which was removed and reshot to make it work better. So it’s very interesting to see it, and I’m glad they changed it to the version we know and love. There’s also another great commentary by Rob & Doug available for this too.
  • Deleted Scenes – A few bonus deleted scenes that didn’t make it on to the original bonus DVDs.
  • CGI Effects Footage & Model Shot – The CGI footage created by Chris Veale and a shot of the re-designed model of Red Dwarf.
  • Tongue Tied – You can listen to the original song from the Son Of Cliché radio show, and Howard Goodall’s full demo of the version he wrote for the TV show.
  • Most Embarrassing Interview – A cringeworthy interview with Rob Grant & Doug Naylor on Alan Titchmarsh’s chat show. You can also listen to an audio commentary by the pair as they watch it back.
  • Peter Tyler 8mm Reel – Behind the scenes footage for the model effects in series 4 & 5.
  • Red Dwarf Mobisode – A very brief animated clip to show what people could download to their mobile phones. Not essential and not particularly interesting.
  • Script Extracts – These are a few ideas that were never filmed, which are fun to watch. Again, like the lost episodes, Chris Barrie provides narration, voicing each of the characters, while you see storyboards for each sequence. You can also listen to an audio commentary by Doug Naylor on all of these extracts. There appears to be a typo in the menu for this this section as well. For the first (and longest) sequence, called Dad, the text says “Potentially the first episode of Series III, picking up the pregnancy cliffhanger of Series III.” I know Red Dwarf dabbles in time travel a lot, but the first episode of series 3 doesn’t follow the end of series 3. It should say the cliffhanger of series 2!

Close-up of the script extracts menu on the Red Dwarf Blu-ray box set Bodysnatcher disc, with white text on a dark blue background. Titles include Dad, Lister's Father, Infinity Patrol and Rimmer's Dummy, plus options to play them all together, with or without audio commentary.

Easter Eggs

Finally, as if you still haven’t had enough, there are various hidden extras as well, carried over from the original DVD releases, and they’re well worth digging out.

Because new episode discs have been produced for this Blu-ray set, they no longer include the easter eggs from the original DVD episode discs. So instead, those easter eggs have been included in a menu on the Bodysnatcher Blu-ray disc, so you don’t have to hunt for them any more. This menu also includes the 2 easter eggs from the original Bodysnatcher DVD itself too.

However, because the bonus discs for each series in this set are copies of the original DVDs, they do still include the easter eggs in their original locations. The Red Dwarf website has instructions for finding all of the easter eggs on the original DVDs, so the instructions for the bonus discs still work, if you want to cheat.

Amongst those easter eggs you’ll find animated versions of Rob Grant, Doug Naylor and Ed Bye having brief discussions about a few key episodes, which are pretty cool. There are also a couple of video clips of the cast in the audio commentary booth, a Comic Relief video, a movie-style trailer for the show voiced by Gary Martin who played the Epideme virus,  a music video for Clear by a band called Intro2 starring a few members of the Red Dwarf cast, footage from Chloë Annett’s audition to become Kristine Kochanski, bonus interview material, outtakes, and lots of other things.

Later Series

I do also have the later Blu-ray releases of the shows that have been made for Dave. The mini-series Back To Earth is good, though again not Red Dwarf at its best. I don’t mind the whole thing of it appearing to break the fourth wall, as it’s pretty obvious why that seems to be happening if you know the show well and pay attention near the beginning, And the consequences of them discovering they are just characters in a TV show is a fun premise that results in some good moments. But, like series 7, it suffers from not being filmed in front of an audience, and in general it just doesn’t quite feel like show in its prime. There’s plenty of extra material for this release as well, including cast commentaries on each of 3 parts, Doug Naylor’s commentary on the feature-length director’s cut, a 2-part documentary and other featurettes.

Series 10, 11 & 12 are much better, and feel much more like proper Red Dwarf episodes, with enjoyable stories and plenty of laugh. It feels like series 10 helped them to find their feet again properly, and then in series 11 and 12 they’re properly back on form  There were even some cool guest appearances at the end of series 12, harking back to the earlier days of the show.

As for extra features for series 10 to 12, we don’t get audio commentaries any more, which is a pity. But we still do get documentaries about the making of each series, with a nearly 2-hour feature for series 10, while the documentaries for series 11 and 12 are just under an hour. Deleted scenes and smeg-ups are also included on every series as per tradition. That’s all you get for series 10, but for series 11 you get the addition of visual effects footage, model shots and a photo gallery, and for series 12 there’s quite a variety of featurettes on various aspects of the show in addition to the main documentary. So you’re still getting a pretty good look behind the scenes for these more recent series.

And now I’m looking forward to series 13 & 14 and the live stage show that are reported to be under development. That would all be very cool.

Conclusion

Overall, the Blu-ray box set for series 1 to 8 is great, because there’s so much material in it. Sure, the design isn’t as good as the old DVDs, the remastered episode commentaries without visuals feel out of place, and the de-interlacing issue on a few episodes may bother some people. So it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for me, I’m happy with it.

Is it worth the upgrade from the original DVDs? That’s going to be a very individual choice really. I’m very glad I upgraded, because I think the episodes do look and sound better, and it’s nice to have all the extra Bodysnatcher extras that I never owned before. Plus it cost me less than £2 per disc, which is pretty good value. I will keep the sleeves and booklets from the old DVDs as well though. But if you’re perfectly content with the original DVD releases, and you either have the original Bodysnatcher Collection or aren’t that bothered about it, then you might want to stick with what you’ve got.

So I’m very pleased I got the box set, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my lengthy review of it. Well done if you did make it this far, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you for another post soon. Or as Ace Rimmer would say – smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast! 🙂

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

2 thoughts on “Red Dwarf – Series 1-8 – Blu-ray Box Set Review”

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