Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection review

A stunning Red Dwarf collection, although it's best suited to the die hard collector.

I can’t help wondering who I’m writing this review for. After all, if you’re a die-hard Red Dwarf fan who already owns all eight series on DVD and lots more merchandising besides, you probably had Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection on preorder for months before its release.

And if you’re not, all you need to know is it’s in no way a replacement for the ‘regular’ DVDs, and should not be purchased as an alternative way of getting Series I-III. And that’s all you need to know.

But, er, for the handful of readers who are still reading, here goes…

Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection is a superb product. ‘For die-hard fans and collectors only’ is usually a euphemism for, ‘this product is a rip-off thrown together to fleece the fanatics who must have everything’, but thankfully, that’s definitely not the case here. This four-disc collection has been put together with real care and attention, resulting in a great package at an acceptable price. Even so, it’s still for die-hard fans and collectors only…

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At the heart of Bodysnatchers are the remastered versions of Red Dwarf series I-III. Back in the mid-90s, attempts were made to bring Red Dwarf up to date to make them more marketable to foreign broadcasters. To this end, the cheesy model starships were replaced by CGI versions, post-production effects were added, the original picture was resized to offer a 14:9 widescreen aspect ratio and Holly’s close-up scenes were refilmed, with additional jokes thrown in.

Some scenes were trimmed too, such as hologramatic crew member George McIntyre’s speech in ‘The End’ and the discussions about the black and white cards in ‘Balance of Power’. The revised versions of all 18 shows are on offer here.

The remastered shows are not a replacement for the originals. Fans who grew up with Red Dwarf will likely feel the move to CGI is a backward step, with the low-tech, low-budget model shots better fitting the feel of the show. Many of the other edits are a step in the right direction, improving the overall pacing. Even so, the remastered programmes are not (and to be fair, were never meant to be) a replacement for the original releases, which are still the ‘true’ versions of the show. Even so, what they’ve done with them here is very interesting for die-hard Dwarfers.

Also very interesting is the eponymous missing episode, ‘Bodysnatcher’, which would’ve been part of the first series had it been filmed. As the scripts progressed and the show took shape it became clear to writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor that a lot of work would need to be done to bring it into the overall canon, so it was abandoned in a still-unfinished form and replaced by ‘Me2’, with several of its gags and concepts recycled in other shows. Grant and Naylor finished the script for this collection, 20 years after it was originally started and 14 years since they last collaborated on a project. It’s offered here in storyboard form, read by Chris Barrie. A great piece of Red Dwarf history, and a fascinating insight into the early stages of its production.

The other extras are equally well planned and executed, with commentaries from Grant and Naylor, documentaries fleshing out the history of the show, deleted scenes, raw FX footage and more. All great stuff, and a real treat for the serious Red Dwarf enthusiast.

Naturally, if you’re not a die-hard fan of the show, and the thought of sitting through a making-of documentary or creators’ interview makes you reach for the remote, The Bodysnatcher Collection isn’t for you – stick with Just the Shows. But for the hardcores, it’s great. The care and integrity that’s gone into putting it together has paid real dividends, and the result is a masterpiece for the collector. Definitely not for everybody, though.

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4 out of 5