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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 April 2005
It's easy to dismiss this as not the 'best' of Red Dwarf - the characters, situations, production quality, and the writing all become more confident and more exuberant in future series. But this is the starting point. Without these ground-breaking and scene-setting episodes, there would have been no more.
The BBC was highly suspicious of anything with a 'science fiction' cachet - and couldn't accept that space travel, in the company of a dead man, could be funny. You wonder at this reluctance. Previous SF ventures - like "Dr.Who", "Blake's Seven", "Quatermas" - had become cult classics.
But the dominant television SF was American - clean-cut, moral, highly educated crews, travelling in clean, highly sophisticated space craft with the most advanced technology known to the imagination, wearing clean clothes (mini skirts and tight, tight uniforms), and pursuing a clean, glamorous lifestyle in which they made throw away allusions to science and scientific theory (and fantasy).
Red Dwarf is a mucky great space freighter ... the sort of thing you could imagine getting stuck behind just when you were planning on going into warp speed. It was crewed by misfits and rejects. No sane person on earth would employ these people, so they ended up as the crew of this hulk, enduring the boring routines and hazards of space. The best their technology could manage was a talking, existential toaster ... and other devices which made an art out of dysfunction (not least, the ship's computer). This is the working class in space - mucky slobs, boiler suits, not a Shakespearean Company accent in earshot ... and a real Scottish engineer who beamed beautifully.
The potency of Red Dwarf lies in its claustrophobia and the iconoclasm of its setting and theme. We're aboard a freighter the size of a city, wandering alone (?) in the vast infinity of space ... and we have a slob who doesn't appear to have a change of clothing, sharing a cell and bunk beds with a dead man. It stands in marked contrast to the glitz and glamour of other images of space travel.
This is a low budget production - tight sets, no special effects, small cast. "Don't make it look like a space ship", the BBC told the writers, as if a mainstream audience might be convinced it was 'legitimate' comedy. It's strength is in the interplay of the characters. Episode by episode, they will grow, become transformed. Episode by episode Grant & Naylor become more confident, more outrageous. They take the tension between Lister and Rimmer (and the two actors didn't exactly get on, off camera), and stretch it to comic extremes. What starts as a comedy of space-manners will, in later series, push the boundaries of science fiction and make ironic commentary on its themes and settings.
But there is complex science and philosophy from the outset. We start with two inept technicians - Lister the slob, Rimmer the pretentious jobsworth - who struggle even to maintain a soup dispenser ... yet we're aboard a spaceship which has the technology to restore life to the dead, to capture consciousness in a computer and keep the deceased alive as a hologram. The 'science' and the conceits which will make the series work are introduced early.
Television channels are reluctant to invest in science fiction - it sounds like an expensive adventure into special effects, and most people wouldn't understand the science! Red Dwarf proves that SF does not need special effects ... and that the television audience is more intelligent and more sophisticated than the programming experts are prepared to admit. Children and adults, alike, had no problem coping with the fantasies and 'science' of Red Dwarf.
Situation comedy is the hardest form of writing. It demands the creation of a believable situation, believable characters (who can be pushed to the extremes of behaviour yet still retain our sympathy and our conviction that they are, somehow, 'real' people), and enough variety of situation yet continuity of setting to maintain momentum and keep the audience involved. The situation can be pushed to extreme, can be utterly surreal, but as long as the audience is given a chance to identify with the situation and pick up its momentum, you can have classic comedy.
And classic comedy is precisely what you get. Superbly written, a fine, ensemble cast, and comedy which breaks out of the box.
The DVD extras? Well, the commentary is excellent - the cast talk you through the episodes, giving you a lot of insights into the making of the show. The rest of the extras contribute little, very little. But the show's the thing. Utterly riveting television which can be watched again and again and again.
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on 3 November 2002
So it's finally arrived on DVD, how does it shape up all these years on? Well the sound and picture quality are fine, much better than the Blackadder DVD's which were not well mastered. The series is presented in its original form with the original 'model shots' which i think are a lot more evocative than the later CGI footage that was plastered over the remastered videos. Also Holly's dialogue is the original and the episodes just seem to flow much better without all the changes that were made to the remastered versions.
Special features are EXCELLENT!! The menus are well designed in close attention to the set design of the series, navigating menus can get tedious with some dvd's but a lot of care has been taken and it shows. The commentaries are funny and interesting, they don't just retrace ground already covered by TV specials. One slight disappointment is Rob Grant's absence from the 'Launching Red Dwarf' featurette.
I haven't checked out the DVD-rom features yet but for the sheer quality of the special features, cast, design and of course the wonderful episodes themselves this is a must have for any Red Dwarf fan, old or new.
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on 8 January 2003
Being someone who had only viewed the first series remastered, I must say that this is startling more impressive than the updated version. The grey set and original model shots make Red Dwarf look more ordinary, adding to the comic atmosphere. It's also nice to see them in original format - it shows you what the cult grew from more accurately.
The episodes are viewable either individually or as a combined unit, allowing good flexibilty, not unlike most other DVD releases. The introduction animation and title menu is particularly special, showing a great variety of objects and entrance aboard the ship.
However, the thing that truly separates this DVD from the rest is it's individual extras disk. Only Red Dwarf could come complete with an entire episode in Japanese! The outtakes and smeg-ups have been previously available in the main, but the superior quality of the DVD really brings Red Dwarf to the present.
An excellent DVD of the entire first series, and extras that are impressive to say the least. Entertainment at its finest in your own home from Grant Naylor and the BBC.
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on 10 August 2005
This is the first, and, in my opinion, the best Red Dwarf series. I remember watching this when it first aired on BBC2. I hadn't intended to watch it, it just happened to be on and I remember thinking it would be rubbish. Shows how wrong I was.
Ignore the low budget sets and old fashioned `special' effects and ignore the fact that the cast comprises unknown (at that time) actors. None of that matters with such a wickedly funny script played in a wonderfully over the top manner by its stars.
The Red Dwarf is a mining ship millions of miles from home. Dave Lister (Craig Charles) is about the lowest ranked member of crew possible, senior only to the tiny robotic Scutters. Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) is only one step above him but is highly ambitious and opinionated (as well as totally deluded about his abilities), and just loves to pull rank over Dave. The two despise each other and swap insults with unfailing regularity. When Dave is found to have smuggled a cat on board he is threatened with stasis for the remainder of the journey if he doesn't hand the creature over for extermination. Dave opts for stasis and this is where the saga of Red dwarf really starts. When he comes out of stasis he finds that something has wiped out the entire crew of the ship and he has been in stasis for 3 million years. His only company is the ships computer Holly, a holograph of his deceased, neurotic, room mate come enemy, Rimmer, and a self obsessed, humanoid creature, simply called Cat, who has evolved from Frankenstein, Lister's smuggled cat. The humour mainly focuses on the banter and sarcastic comments between Lister and Rimmer, two people who loathe each other but are forced together for company. Holly and Cat, in this first season, play low key parts but have some brilliant one liners.
This two disc set not only contains the entire first series but also a myriad of extras including deleted scenes, `smeg-ups' and commentaries by the cast. You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy Red Dwarf, just a fan of quirky, `off the wall' comedy.
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on 28 February 2003
Series 1 : Red Dwarf, this is how it all began. I'd been awaiting this release for a long long time since collecting the number of video releases over the years - and this DVD doesn't disappoint at all. The menus are great and the extras included on series 2 are well worthy of any fans attention. The picture and sound quality is also excellent and included are the original special effects and model shots as opposed to the CG re-mastered shots seen on the most recent videos. The comedy is excellent and is easily one of the best brit comedies to ever come out of the BBC. Different from the later series, series 1 (and 2), have more emphasis on character to character conversations and interaction and so the comedy is raw. If you are a fan of Red Dwarf, this is a MUST own. If you have never seen Red Dwarf before, you have the good fortune of seeing the very first series for the very first time in brand spanking new DVD format. And for fans of the show, the DVD episode commentaries by the entire cast are worth the full price of the DVD alone. ... end review.. OFF.
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on 26 October 2002
Red Dwarf Season 1 on DVD is still as funny as it was back in the 80s, there's no doubt about it! This edition isn't the remastered episodes that were launched on video in the late 90s, either. Instead, they are the original episodes, sharpened up, with the colours and sounds touched up, to make them look as good as new. I know people are complaining about it being in a 4:3 format, but that's what it was filmed in, and there's nothing that they can do about that, as it would just make the episodes look untidy! The cast commenteries are not to be missed - you just know that Craig (Charles) and the gang had a great time recording them, back in June.
It's great to finally see this classic commedy on DVD - it's well overdue!!!
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on 31 July 2005
Over the past eight years there have been two comedies that i have grown up with and generally i cannot find any other shows as brilliant as Bottom and Red Dwarf. Whilst both have distinct differences the British cultural references make them so unique that they can never be topped.
Red Dwarf had everything a comedy could ask for, great storylines, memorable characters, fantastic gags and of course without it you wouldn't be hearing the word 'smeg' from so many people.
Of course Series One wasn't exactly what the writers had intended the show to be like, and when you look at the grey sets here compared to the more colourful areas on season three, you can tell what they didn't want.
For the fan or newcomer however, this is an essential purchase, showing all six original episodes (no remastered versions)along with a booklet giving a behind the scene insight to each individual episode. Then you have the main cast commentating which is a brilliant feature for the big fan.
The bonus disc has over an hour and a half worth of bonus features such as the outtakes (Smeg Ups) deleted scenes, a drunk featurette, trailers and a 25 minute documentary on 'Launching Red Dwarf'.
Once you have purchased this dvd, go out and buy the dvds in order and just see how much they evolve throughout. Red Dwarf has always been a classic and now is the time to relive those moments :-) Ya Smeghead!
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2007
As a massive 'Red Dwarf' fan since always, I was in a dangerous state of delight when the show was released on DVD and, naturally, Series 1 was one of my first upgrades from VHS. Firstly, I should mention that the DVDs are great and packed full of extras which will satisfy Dwarfers the world over. But I always prefer to focus on the actual meat of a DVD, which is the programme or film itself. And, I'm happy to say, 'Red Dwarf' is still great!

True, the sets are a little dated and look a far cry from where the show has ended up but this simply adds to the charm. Episodes like 'Future Echoes', 'Balance of Power' and 'Me2' remain absolute classics, and of course 'The End' gets the ball rolling nicely. 'Confidence and Paranoia' is a cleverly twisted episode, though I never really liked 'Waiting For God' but, hey, it's 'Red Dwarf'! I do think the show becomes far more funnier from Series 2 onwards (before the laughs disappear alarmingly in Series 7) but I love this series and it's still far more amusing than most other 'comedies' currently knocking about. The nice thing about Series 1, and 2 as well, is that they focus more on the story of 'Red Dwarf' than the later ones do and this makes the show something a bit more than just a sit-com. The cast are great with the central dynamic between Chris Barrie and Craig Charles as potent as ever (surely one of the best comic pairings ever seen on TV?) and are well supported by Danny John-Jules and Norman Lovett.

A retro treat for all fans of this terrific comedy and one you will want to own. So, prepare to go 3 million years from Earth all over again...
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on 6 November 2002
I've been aware of the pending release of this for ages and I'm not disappointed in the final product. The DVD features all six original episodes enhanced for DVD, and it's worth noting the episodes are enhanced versions of the original episodes-not the less popular 'Re-Mastered' versions released on video about a year ago. The audio commentry is a very entertaining one (Craig, Chris, Danny and Norman, not Robert because Kryten isn't in series one) which is always gratifying, almost constant conversation. The secondary commentry however is the audio of the CD available from the 'Six Of The Best' box set (now deleted) which is a disappointment for anyone who has it already. The deleted scenes vary from interesting to boring-I'm afraid, with only one being worth watching (the much talked about 'funeral' scene where Lister ejects Kochanski's remains into space), some deleted scenes are more like extended takes. All the deleted scenes are remastered to DVD quality. The Smeg Ups are series one outtakes from the 'Smeg Ups' video. These observations need to be made. If you haven't seen any Red Dwarf before and are a fan of Sci-Fi (unlikely as it may be)then this is a worthwhile purchase, even if you don't find it funny. Which you should. This is because the Science-Fiction is enough alone to entertain, featuring time conunderums, holograms, a species of human/cat spawned from a black tabby and radiation leaks. The Commentry extends the life of this DVD (to fans at least) three-fold. Reasonable price too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 January 2015
Despite its budgetry constraints this first series was absolutely wonderful with stunning, wacky story lines and hilarious wit.

At the time it was a risky series to put out but its success proves the producers right.

A wonderful fresh approach to comedy.

And Rimmer...... perfect.
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