Red Dwarf Remastered was an attempt in the mid-1990s to bring the Red Dwarf television series up-to-date. A collaborative effort between BBC Worldwide and Grant Naylor Productions, it was hoped that remastered versions of the episodes would prove more appealing to broadcasters in international territories.
The remastering project received polarising reviews from critics and the fan community alike; mostly negative. Showrunner Doug Naylor decided to put the project on hold and wait for technology to catch up with their vision.
Some of the changes made for Red Dwarf Remastered included:
- All videotape work being given a full colour grade, and filmized.
- A clip from "Polymorph" showing the before and after picture regrading.
- Cropping of the top and bottom of the original picture to leave a 14:9 "widescreen" picture. (Some versions only.)
- Trimming of some scenes, such as the shortening of George McIntyre's speech in the pilot episode, the removal of Cat's fantasy mermaid girlfriend in "Better Than Life", and the "black card / white card" discussions in the episode "Balance of Power". Performed partially for pace reasons, and sometimes due to dissatisfaction with the writing or performance quality.
- Occasional close-up scenes with Holly in Series I being re-filmed with actor Norman Lovett. New jokes with the character were also added to several episodes. Hattie Hayridge's performance in Series III remained the same as the original, however.
- Most other model shots of crafts in space being likewise replaced with computer generated special effects. These included Red Dwarf itself, along with shuttles such as Starbug and Blue Midget. For Red Dwarf and Blue Midget, these modifications amounted to a complete redesign, and matched those that would appear in Series VIII. The CG version of Red Dwarf has a much more vibrant red, has a smoother exterior, and is elongated into a "pencil" shape instead of the "box" shape of the original. Blue Midget has legs resembling that of the hoppers, replacing the caterpillar tracks of the original. Both of these redesigns were kept for Series VIII, which was explained as having been recreated by the nanobots. The Remastered espisodes also had a slightly redesigned Starbug, which has a smaller viewscreen, and legs that would tilt backwards. All the cargo bay/hangar bay scenes aboard Red Dwarf remained in model form for the Remastered episodes, however.
- All new computer generated special effects of Red Dwarf flying through space. Whilst the original series simply featured Red Dwarf flying through unadorned starscapes, the Remastered version added backgrounds such as burning suns, icy moons and coloured nebulae. A model dust storm was recreated in CG, and in addition to the typically sedate movement Red Dwarf was shown, in appropriate scenes, racing through space.
- Replacement opening credits for Series I, II and III. These retained the initial image of Dave Lister painting the outside of Red Dwarf as part of his PD, but featured a new attempt to realise the original intention to pull-out from a close-up of Lister to the entire ship in one uninterrupted shot. This was followed by a new fast-paced opening montage similar to those created for Series III to VIII.
- Additional post-production video effects. Including a malfunction effect being laid onto the hologram Arnold Rimmer in "Queeg", monitor displays, transitions and (in close-up) borders being altered or added. Most significantly the starscape outside the windows of the ship interiors was edited, where possible, to match the new special effects. Due to technical restrictions this was possible only when the camera was static.
- Further computer generated additions and replacements. Including an extended sequence of the polymorph travelling through the Red Dwarf air ventilation system, a "Time Hole" journey to backwards Earth, the entire chase sequence between Starbug and Blue Midget in "Bodyswap", and various shots of elevators in lift-shafts. Other minor CGI alterations include those laid over existing live-action scenes, such as a grey opening and closing 'hatch' being laid over what was, in the original scene, a flip-top bin in the original Drive Room.
- Additional bluescreen elements being applied to particular scenes, especially during the first episode "The End". These included skutters placed in the foreground of an early scene, and more attendees being added to the foreground of the McIntyre funeral scene.
- A previously unseen deleted scene featuring Rimmer in the Cat's body was added to the end of "Bodyswap". This was generally regarded as one of the few positive additions of Red Dwarf Remastered.
- Replacement music and audio effects being applied to all scenes: the show in general was given a more detailed soundscape, a new stereo mix (replacing the original mono) with fully remastered foreground and background effects. The audience laughter track was similarly remixed and adjusted. Changes were specific as well as general: Rimmer's mother was re-voiced by a different actress in "Polymorph", for example; Rimmer was heard to crash into objects after falling through the Cat in "The End" (despite his holographic status); and in the same episode the Cat was supplemented with a hissing noise as he made himself "look big".
For the release of the Series VII DVD, the first episode "Tikka to Ride" was remastered. This only consisted of replacing the original last-minute CGI effects from the original 1997 broadcast with up-to-date, 2005-standard CGI. The original version was also included on the DVD. The result was almost universally considered an improvement.
Non-UK DVD releases
Remastered episodes have found their way onto DVD in continental Europe as the official series releases. Localised releases in Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all contain the Remastered episodes. The Remastered episodes were also released in Japan in their shorter NHK broadcast edits featuring significant edits, different title and credit sequences and Japanese dubbing. The Japanese version of remastered pilot episode "The End" was included as a bonus feature on the English language DVD release of Series I.
The changes received a mixed response from existing fans. Design changes, in particular to Red Dwarf, were generally disliked, and the shift from models to CGI was not seen as an improvement. There was an outcry at the changing of some dialogue, particularly with regards to the removal of certain popular sequences (such as the aforementioned "black card/white card" joke). Showrunner Doug Naylor himself stated that he was slightly disappointed with the results, as the technology required for the ambitious remastering wasn't available at the time. Naylor did however joke that it united fans and gave them joy in tearing it apart.
Internationally, Red Dwarf Remastered was sold to Japan, South America and other countries with significant success — finding fresh audiences who were unaware of its remastered status. The availability of isolated audio tracks for language dubbing allowed the programme to reach more foreign-language broadcasters.
No further series were remastered after the initial three series. Most recent UK repeats and the DVD releases of the show have been of the original untreated versions, although appearances depend on a channel's individual archive — in early 2003 the remastered "Marooned" incongruously appeared during a repeat run of the series on UKTV Gold that otherwise consisted of the original versions; and they have also popped up from time to time on UKTV G2 in addition to Virgin Media's On Demand service.
Despite the poor reception of the Remastered episodes, Series VIII retained the CGI model of the ship created for Red Dwarf Remastered. This was acknowledged in Series VIII with dialogue about how the ship had changed shape, recreated by the nanobots, thus retaining series continuity.
The ship subsequently changed shape again to a slightly altered CGI model that was more loyal to the original in the Back to Earth miniseries, and CGI models were dropped entirely in favour of conventional modelling for Series X. The Series X model was created to be identical to the Back to Earth model by cutting the Series VIII model in three, discarding the middle part, and joining the front and back together.
The Bodysnatcher Collection
The Remastered episodes of Series I, II and III were made available on DVD in the UK on 12 November 2007 as part of The Bodysnatcher Collection with an identical release in Australia following on 7 May 2008. The box set includes all eighteen episodes, alongside documentaries concerning the remastering project. A text track is also included, detailing all changes between original and Remastered versions.
Notably, there are also in-depth documentaries concerning the making of the original Series I and II; "The Beginning" for Series I and "It's Cold Outside" for Series II. These documentaries were absent from the original DVD release of these series, which had been less complete for budgetary reasons and had instead contained the features "Launching Red Dwarf" and "The A-Z of Red Dwarf" (from 1998s Red Dwarf Night) on the Series I and II DVDs respectively.
The special features in the Bodysnatcher Collection include what has been called the "original assembly" of the first episode of Red Dwarf, plus a lost episode, known as "Bodysnatcher", which has been created in the same style as "Identity Within" for the Series VII DVD. The title for the box set has been announced as The Bodysnatcher Collection after this feature. There is also another "lost episode" included, "Dad", which was to be the sequel to "Parallel Universe" and the first episode of Series III. The release also features commentary and interview contributions from Rob Grant, co-creator of Red Dwarf, marking his first direct contribution to the DVD releases. The region 1 release is to be announced.
The Bodysnatcher Collection, although considered a must-have for Dwarfers for the unique bonus content alone, is no longer available to buy as new. This was due to a warehouse fire that destroyed remaining stock, and industry financial woes put paid to an immediate re-release. The fan clamour for a reissue has never gone away, however.
Much of the unique behind-the-scenes included in the now rare Bodysnatcher Collection are due to be included in a new, upcoming collection, Blu Dwarf.