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I'll keep the introductions brief for Series Two of Red Dwarf since you'd only be here if you really like the show ... or are you one of the curious bunch whose opinion may have swayed towards this show by now?  You must have read my first review then!  I'm hoping to turn things full circle by bringing in the people who loved Galaxy Quest and especially Farscape to come back in time and experience what us Dwarfers have enjoyed for forever it seems.  One of the earliest attempts at science fiction comedy was probably Dark Star in 1974, as it was this movie that the producers of Red Dwarf were initially inspired by to create this now legendary TV Series.

"What happened to me room?"
Episodes
Series Two begins the slow evolution (or de-evolution according to some fans) into snappier comedy than what Series One was able to achieve, mainly due to the much lesser reliance of establishing characterisation and letting the actors have more freedom to just break loose into the situations that they face, all with its unique blend of Dwarfer humour.  And it also marks for the first time in an episode, Better Than Life, where the characters get to go outside of the confines of the ship and into the real world (or a virtual-reality equivalent of it).  In real life however, this kind of thing would be practically implausable considering how many years have passed since Lister emerged from his stasis booth, but this is why they call shows like this Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) - you can make up any smegging thing that you like when you are the master of your own universe.

WARNING!  Spoilers will ensue :-

2.1 Kryten
As Rimmer vainly attempts to master the Spanish language, a distress call is picked up by Holly from a marooned ship called the Nova 5.  A service mechanoid by the name of Kryten establishes contact with the Red Dwarf crew and the robot provides them with medical data on the surviving persons aboard the Nova 5 ... who just happen to be three females.  A sudden surge of chivalry envelopes the male members of Red Dwarf in which preparations (of the fashionable kind) are underway to rescue these fair maidens from a fate worse than loneliness.  To say anymore than this will spoil it for the newcomers, but I will say that the Kryten in this episode was initially a one-off character for the writers, but thankfully he was reborn as the neurotic and domestically insane robot we all know and love, played out by newby Robert Llewellyn in Series Three and beyond.

2.2 Better Than Life
It has taken a while, but the postal pod has finally caught up with Red Dwarf ever since the ship turned around and headed back to Earth.  Apart from the odd Inland Revenue tax invoice, the pod also contains an extremely sought-after video game entitled "Better Than Life" where its claim to fame is that of Total Immersion in whatever situations you fantasise about, as though you are really "there".  Everyone including Holly gets to live out their heart's desires ... and for a while, it was good ... and then came Rimmer ...

2.3 Thanks For The Memory
Celebrations are in order as Rimmer's first death-day arrives, Holly finds a planet with a breathable atmosphere so the crew land there, party on down to Groove Factor 5, get drunk and eat lots of sausages.  Sometime later, a nasty hangover sweeps over the crew as Rimmer feels the need to reveal his innermost feelings to Lister, although Lister would rather that Rimmer not say anything lest they both regret it later and tries in vain to ignore him by continuing on with his jigsaw puzzle.  Then for some strange reason they all wake up to find that they are missing the last four days with both Lister and Cat sporting plaster-casts on one leg each, the ship's black box being half-inched and the jigsaw puzzle completed.  Rimmer's theorises (yet again) that this all is the work of aliens, but they are soon to discover something that they would rather have left well enough alone.

"I'm gonna eat you, little fishy!"
2.4 Stasis Leak
As we witness a flashback to the days when the entire Red Dwarf crew were alive and well, Rimmer is reporting Lister to the Captain for having fed the aforementioned Rimmer a large quantity of Magic Mushrooms.  Sometime afterwards, Rimmer sees a version of himself (with an "H" on his forehead) rise out of a table to tell him that a Stasis Leak has helped bring H-Rimmer back from the future so that H-Rimmer can help avoid the deathly tragedy that befalls Rimmer later on ... however, Rimmer still feels that this is yet another hallucination brought on by Lister's batch of funky fungi.  Meanwhile (another 3 million years from now) Holly reveals to the surviving crewmembers about the Stasis Leak down on Level 16 to which they must travel the lengthy "Gone With The Wind" express lift down to where the stasis booths are housed.  Paradoxes and timeline skews abound.  Note :-  The key to watching this is to be continually conscious of Rimmer (the alive one) thinking that everything he sees is the result of having consumed the radical root-bulbs beforehand, so he feels that this is all just in his head, otherwise some of the jokes won't seem to make any sense - just a tip for even the most familiar of fans!

2.5 Queeg
You've heard of having a backup for everything on your computer, well this is one with a difference.  After Holly manages to go a little more senile than usual after having travelled 3 million years in space, the backup program "Queeg" appears out of nowhere to take control when Holly is no longer able to function properly.  The crew are initially welcome to the idea of Queeg's efficient reign, but they soon realise how much more demanding that this new program is on them, particularly Rimmer.  Holly seeks solace as a night-watchman roaming the corridors and finds support from his human counterparts who are increasingly resentful of Queeg's domination of the ship.  An inevitable face-off ensues between the two warring programs, but who will be the victor, and why?

2.6 Parallel Universe
The Holly-Hop Drive ... says it all, doesn't it?  No?  Well, apart from being simpler than a game of two-up, this device with its Stop and Start buttons has the ability to transfer any object instantly to any other point in space ... or at least that's the theory.  Instead, when activated, the crew discover that a ship has appeared not unlike their own which just happens to be inhabited with versions of their gender-opposite selves ... the Holly-Hop Drive is indeed a parallel dimension transmitter.  The initial thrill of meeting their perfect alter-ego's soon wears away as they discover that everything about themselves is not as desirable as they once thought they were to other people.  In this alternative universe, the male crewmembers realise that they are no longer the dominars of the human race, and indeed discover all too late that their anatomy apparently IS capable of feats never before imagined possible!

Video
In short, this transfer is a slight but noticable improvement over the image in Series One.  The most striking development is the deeper shadow detail and black levels that were previously lacking in Series One.  Sharpness of detail though is virtually on par with a slightly soft focus throughout, the blame for this being attributed to the interlacing method of video recording at the time of production.  The colours are more, er, colourful this time around due both to the improved filming conditions as well as the further vibrant hues within the set design which include inflatable bananas and equally garish yellow bicycle-lycras.  MPEG-blocks make a rarer appearance, tho.

I don't know Cat, this is the best I can get the picture to look.
This is definitely a recipe for brightening up the old grey-matter upstairs and no doubt we will continue to see a marked development in quality as further Red Dwarf Series DVDs are released.

Audio
Again, this is the original stereo mix that is honestly as good as that in Series One.  The most important thing here is that the dialogue comes through as clearly as possible since, most of it was recorded on-set although to this day I cannot say for certain that any of the Better Than Life episode was ever ADR'd when they filmed all the exterior locations - if it was, then there is no discernable difference in spatial quality for the voices, unlike the soundmix from a future Series episode called Bodyswap (fans will know what I'm talking about).

Extras
The menu system is similar in navigation to Series One and it has the same good and bad quirks within - the visuals are nice to watch but the aural sound clips could have done with some more variety as it tends to feel horribly like déjà vu every few seconds ... no, I'm not going to quote the line here, that was in Series One!

Disc 1
The cast commentary is actually more interesting than in Series One (both being recorded on the same day).  I reckon that the cast managed to find their feet this time in the recording booth, just like when filming Series Two itself as they got more comfortable with their characters.  Some of the revelations they come up with will make you wonder why you were never able to pick up on them before, even though they're right in front of you (one of them includes Norman Lovett's face, his nose in particular, and maybe his hair).  Hopefully as each Series comes out on DVD we will be graced by even more entertaining commentaries like this ... no doubt the addition of Kryten (er, Robert Llewellyn) will help to pick up the pace just as it did when he appeared in Series Three.

The easter egg is much easier to access and again it is an animation of the three blokes responsible for the shenanigans of Red Dwarf - Rob, Doug and Ed.  They discuss the episode Queeg this time.

Disc 2
The smeg ups is again a collection of outtakes from this particular season and unfortunately there is nothing new for hardened fans to enjoy on this outing.  Next is the photo gallery which is barely a morsel's worth of around a dozen location/set pics and the VHS cover-sleeves from the original video releases in the UK, US, and Oz.  The trailer is the original 30-second TV-spot that thankfully at the time used the infamous "Dog's Milk" scene for its promotion, a great way to bring a semi-interested audience back to the show.  The cream of the crop is the very entertaining 30-min The A-Z of Red Dwarf which was produced somewhere around Series Seven or Eight and is hosted by Star Trek: TNG's own captain, Patrick Stewart.  His input as well as those of many other celebrities is intriguing to say the least, although much of it is interspersed with various clips from the show.  Everyone will enjoy this featurette even if much of the referencing still gets lost on the newbies, but trust me it's fun!

"That joins up with the white cable ... or is it the yellow cable?"
The Doug Naylor interview is a healthy 17 minutes long and kicks off by asking how he felt when Series Two was given the green light.  It's nice to hear from the man who probably felt that Red Dwarf would never get past the pilot episode stage, let alone go on to a full eight Series (and through judicious fiddling of the number of episodes per Series to make up the magical syndicative number of 52, fans should know how this occurred).  All the isolated music cues are here although some people have commented that this is an unnecessary or redundant feature, but personally I adore hearing the tunes by themselves which complement each scene they belong to.

The deleted scenes are again interesting in the "wouldn't miss 'em in that episode" kind of way, but the one which tickled my funny bone was the extended "Rimmer Impersonations of the Crew" when Holly went haywire in the episode Queeg - this is a great example of seeing someone believably changing their voice and personality which is usually very hard to pull off for an actor - most thespians usually have trouble convincing us that they are trying to convey just one identity in a whole production.  The Tongue Tied music video is Danny John-Jules' (aka Cat's) attack on the charts reaching number 17 on 23rd Oct 1993 (thanks Jit Singh!) in the UK Top 40 - this is the uncut non-claymation laughtrack-less version with the less-than-desirable 60s-style girl-dancers using lots of hairspray to set their hair in place.

The alternate personalities music video shows the main characters in various "alternate personas" from nearly all eight Series of the show which isn't all that bad to watch, but I feel the greater benefit of this montage is that it gives us a taste of what the visuals will look like when the remaining six Series will finally reach DVD (or whatever else it is that has superceded the format by then).  The model shots are the aurally-silent raw camera-passes without all the added little extras like fire-effects etc - this also includes the "Blue Midget piloted by a drunk Lister" sequence that was later replaced by a poor CGI equivalent in the Remastered Editions which consequently lost the original humourous aspect of the original FX.  Finally, there are the talking book chapters of Chris Barrie (Rimmer) narrating some more of the Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers novel - are we going to get the entire recordings on the DVDs to come or are they just a promotional push for the audio tape/CD itself?

"Bedurble diggle doggle dooby doggle durgle day"
Summary
Ah, these were the days when limited budgets didn't mean a limited quality of entertainment, however it was a time when the shoe-string finance fund was often mispent on items that should not have been given such a sizable chunk of the dosh - such as the two Skutters that apparently cost as much as a Porsche each, according to Doug Naylor in his interview.

As each Series of Red Dwarf came into being, the progression of its comedy seemed to steer further away each time from its roots in thoughtful character arcs towards something more akin to slapstick with more and more witty one-liners for the sake of, well, witty one-liners.  Some fans feel that this was always a step backwards in their enjoyment of the show, whereas I feel that it had allowed itself to branch out into different areas that would have otherwise only made itself more stagnant and predictable.

Expect the unexpected because there is more of this to come in a few months time (Series Three is scheduled for release on DVD in November 2003) and you will finally get to see what has to be the most infamous (and controversial) moment in Red Dwarf's history when Kryten saves Lister from a pair of incredibly shrinking shorts - I can't wait to hear what Robert Llewellyn has to say about this moment in his performance career!


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