Red Dwarf: Season 2 DVD Review
PictureThe disc as a broadcast correct 1.33:1 full screen aspect that at least looks better than its VHS counterpart. Unlike the Doctor Who releases that have a dedicated team of professionals committed to binging the best quality they can from the old two inch quad tapes used by the BBC to store archive material, Red Dwarf has to make do with the 'in house' team. Practically this means there is not as much love and attention to detail given, and whilst the clean up is good, I wonder how good it could have been if such a dedicated team were allowed at the source material. As it is the picture is quite good, the colours are at least strong and bold, but, the reds especially, do suffer from motion blurring. Contrast and brightness are well set, Holly and especially Queeg have lovely deep black backgrounds, but occasionally there is a slight greying in places. The detail level is what really lest the side down, there is a fair amount of fluctuation but there are never any really hard edges, all remain firmly towards the soft side. This has the effect of making it look like video tape, which of course it is, but it looks like it.
Compounding this poor start there are a number of digital problems, first up there was some artefacting and pixilation as low level noise in some of the darker backgrounds as well as a little posterisation in some of the colours, particularly skin. Adding to the detail softness there are also instances of smearing during fast movement. Now all this paints a rather poor picture, however it must be taken in context, for a relatively cheap budgeted BBC sitcom show from nearly twenty years ago, plus this is an older DVD, authoring has improved since this was originally pressed. In all I was satisfied with the picture; it has probably not looked this good since its original broadcast.
SoundThe sound track is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, without thrills or spills. Tonally it sits in the mid to high range, with little in the way of bass, but never sounding tinny. The separation is reasonable but there is little in the way of stereo effects. It is a functional track, perhaps on the quiet side, and only suffers from background hiss at the higher end of the volume setting.
ExtrasThe first disc plays host to an audio commentary for all six episodes with cast members Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett. This is a riotous affair with all getting in on the ribbing. In amongst the mirth there are some behind the scenes information, and stories. A surprising amount of gaps though as the group sit back and actually enjoy watching the show. One of the few commentaries I've listened to more than once, very enjoyable.
Also on the first disc is an easter egg, from the main screen press down until the watch is highlighted and you will be treated to an animated interview with Naylor, Rob Grant and Ed Byrn where they discuss the episode Queeg.
The main meat of the extras is found on the second disc, starting off with the excellent Red Dwarf A-Z. This introduces us to all things Dwarf by clips, snippets and interviews for each letter of the alphabet. It is great fun and a rewatchable feature; includes contributions from Patrick Stewart and Stephen Hawkins. Though it does serve as an introductory piece, it does leave you wanting to see the future releases (not a problem now as they are all out) and I felt at the time that this might have been better served as a retrospective piece on the last disc. I can however see the appeal and reasons for its inclusion on an early disc and it never detracted from the enjoyment.
Doug Naylor gives his insight on various questions posed by an unseen interviewer. He is very forthcoming about his information and ready and willing to talk in depth when required. Subjects range from evolution of the series to more colourful sets and the inclusion of Kryten. Questions are punctuated by scenes from the series that also serve as chapter stops.
There are eighteen deleted scenes with a total run time of nearly twenty minutes. These are essential studio cuts with no effects or music added. Each scene is given a short line of text before it starts giving us context and reasons for its exclusion. Most were for timing and really add very little to the finished product, however more Dwarf is always fun.
The smeg ups portion is always fun, not least because being filmed in front of a live audience the cast never fail to make the most of a mistake, great fun.
The Alternate personalities featurette serves to introduce the various different personalities the cast have taken during the shows time, such as 'Ace' Rimmer or Dwayne Dibbly; I didn't get too much out of this one.
The uncut version of Tongue Tied is really a scene extension of the Cats dream song at the beginning of episode six. Danny (being a dancer) is having a ball while the other two look somewhat out of place, however its an enjoyable watch to see the whole routine.
The special effects raw footage is various model shots of the Dwarf, Blue Midget and Kryten's crashed ship, presented silent obviously.
The isolated music cues give one the chance to hear in all their glory and uninterrupted by dialogue or otherwise the music from the show. Also reprised are the cues from the series one. Enjoyable to some, I found it an interesting one watch feature, after that its better to hear them in the show!
The Talking Book chapters has Chris Barrie narrating a couple of chapters from the Red Dwarf - Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers audio book. More of an ad for the CD really, but never the less interesting.
The photo gallery contains a paltry twenty one black and white and colour photos of behind the scenes or promotional material. The shots themselves are embedded in a Dwarf consol making the photo itself quite small, rather poor effort I felt.
Finally there is an original TV trailer for the show.
Also included, but not an extra per sa is a collectors booklet that explains some behind the scenes info on all the episodes as well as 'dwarfisms' and other fan based information.
VerdictIn later years Red Dwarf may have looked better, sounded better, had vast monies and a bigger cast, but everything that the Dwarf became is due to the seminal season two. It is here where the acting gelled, the writing was crisp and the comedy never better. Now that the BBC have realised what a commodity they have in the Dwarf the DVD reflects their attitude. With a two disc presentation with enough extras to keep everyone happy for hours, this is how a set should be presented. Just a shame about the AV quality, though even that is easily looked passed by the fans, including me. Enjoy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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