Red Dwarf [1992]

Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
It's brown alert time all over again for Red Dwarf fans with the fifth season of the much-loved U.K. sci-fi/comedy series. Episode-wise, it's business as usual for the crew of the Red Dwarf--that is, if one considers encountering an alien squid that squirts a despair-inducing hallucinogen ("Back to Reality," later voted the best episode of the series by British viewers--and Stephen Hawking!), evil (and not particularly bright) versions of the crew ("Demons and Angels"), a virus that causes insanity ("Quarantine"), and a trip to a moon created entirely from the mind of the insufferable hologram Rimmer ("Terrorform") business as usual. In short, it's six hilarious episodes, highlighted by the typically terrific writing of creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (who also direct two episodes). As with the previous deluxe DVD releases, Series V features a wealth of supplemental features, the most intriguing of which is a look at the failed attempt to recreate the show in America (with U.K. cast member Robert Llewellyn and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Terry Farrell as Cat). Also included are cast and fan commentaries, featurettes on the show's "science" and villains, special effects tests, blooper reels, and a sampling of Grant and Naylor's BBC 4 radio sketch "Dave Hollins, Space Cadet," which served as the inspiration for Red Dwarf. Dedicated DVD owners will also be rewarded by Easter eggs lurking throughout the menus. Series 6 is possibly the most eagerly awaited of the Red Dwarf DVD sets, due to its acclaimed third episode, "Gunmen of the Apocalypse," which earned the program an International Emmy Award in 1994. However, the five other episodes in the series have their own share of absurd laughs, and the two-disc set features enough supplemental features to keep even the most demanding RD fan happy. The crux of series 6 is that the Red Dwarf has been stolen (no thanks to Lister, who can't remember where he left it), and the crew must recover it; their pursuit brings them in contact with brain-consuming aliens ("Psirens," with guest star Jenny Agutter), a polymorph that turns Rimmer and Cat into their alternate identities from Series V ("Emohawk--Polymorph II"), the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse tricked out as gunslingers ("Gunmen of the Apocalypse"), an army of Rimmer clones ("Rimmerworld"), and finally, their own future selves, who turn out to be particularly awful (worse than the present-day ones, that is), and cause a cliffhanger ending that just might spell the end for the Red Dwarf crew.... In short, series 6 more than earns its popular status among Red Dwarf's fanbase, thanks to its sharp writing (sadly, it would be the last series to feature scripts by co-creator Rob Grant) and energetic performances. And the double-disc set matches the quality of the programs with some terrific extras, including commentaries by the RD crew and fans (the latter on "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" only), and featurettes on composer Howard Goodall and series director Andy de Emmony; these are rounded out by the usual collections of "smeg-ups" (bloopers), deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and another episode of the "Dave Hollins, Space Cadet" radio sketch that inspired the show. And again, the most patient of viewers will find Easter eggs on the menus (happy hunting). --Paul Gaita

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