Review: Red Dwarf V DVD (2004)

DVD review for Film Focus film magazine
Written on Nov 5, 2004 by Blake Neale

Red Dwarf V: The Entire Fifth Series [DVD]

Cast: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge

Feature: The fifth series of Red Dwarf saw drastic changes to the production team, most notably in losing Ed Bye as skilful producer-director of the previous four series to instead helm wife Ruby Wax’s upcoming chat show.

Hilary Bevan-Jones replaced Bye as producer and a new director was found in Juliet May, who, after directing the bulk of only four of the six episodes, stepped down due to the overwhelming complexities of the science fiction elements of the series.

Despite these big changes to the production team, scene rewrites minutes before being filmed, and writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor themselves left to direct the last two episodes, Red Dwarf V is probably the strongest of the eight series made to date.

There is not a single weak episode among the six, each one offering something new to the ongoing saga with an excellent blend of science fiction and action – not to mention hearty belly laughs all round.

Holoship readdresses Rimmer’s lifelong ambition to become an officer in seeing him join an elite hologram crew of superior intellect. Here, not only does he have to endure twice-daily sex as a health requirement (holograms can touch each other as established in Series II of course), he also falls in love with the hologram he is to replace – akin to Kryten’s tragedy with Camille in Series IV.

The Inquisitor is one of the show’s darkest episodes which sees the eponymous character seeking out worthless beings and deleting them from existence. With rich pickings to be had aboard Red Dwarf, it spells grave consequence for the crew as we know it.

Terrorform revisits the instability of Rimmer’s psyche, explored via the safety of virtual reality in Series II, but is far more threatening here due to his actual physical imprisonment on a moon made up of his own subconscious.

Quarantine is the more dialogue-centric episode of Series V and along with Back to Reality (both of which were directed in entirety by Grant and Naylor), this is Red Dwarf at its absolute, rip-roaring best. But to say precisely why, certainly with the latter episode, would be sacrilege…

Demons & Angels lies between the two and, while surprisingly disliked by most of the cast, really shines as a character study in particular. It also features a truly magnificent model shot depicting the destruction of the mothership which is not to be missed.

Extras: Grant Naylor Productions have surprisingly amassed an even bigger offering of supplementary content than we’ve already been spoiled with on previous series’ releases. Among the usual inclusions of deleted scenes, outtakes and the likes, here we are presented with a superb 75 minute documentary, a 30 minute behind-the-scenes look at the incredible visual effects, and a rare insight into the infamous US pilots.

These are definitely extras for the fans but also for anyone even vaguely interested in the making of television: the documentaries offer an invaluable (and candid) insight into all aspects of production – from conception through to broadcast.

Final verdict: Each newly released series of Red Dwarf on shiny disc greatly improves upon the last and Series V is no exception. The quality of the episodes is stronger than ever, packed to the brim with great stories, cracking dialogue honed and performed with aplomb, beautiful incidental music (just listen to the Enlightenment strings), and perhaps some of the best special effects to date.

A definite must have for Quarantine and Back to Reality alone – but with four other cracking episodes and a fine haul of special features to boot, you’d be a gimboid to miss it.

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