The six episodes of the first series are:
1) The End – Lister is sentence to 18 months in stasis (a sort of suspended animation) for keeping a cat on the ship, but awakens to find it’s three million years later and the entire crew has been killed by a radiation leak. His only company is the ship’s computer Holly (Norman Lovett), a human/cat hybrid that evolved from his pet (Danny John-Jules), and the holographic representation of his former roommate: the uptight, bureaucratic Rimmer (Chris Barrie).
The first episode quickly introduces the viewer to the premise of the show and rather smoothly brings us into it’s futuristic world. The Odd Couple dynamic of Lister and Rimmer may seem like a sitcom cliche, but both actors take great joy in jumping into their roles and their interplay (and the deft script) makes for very entertaining viewing.
A rather standard episode, though it gives plenty of opportunity for the two leads to insult each other with the terms (Smeghead, gimboid, goit) the series became known for. Fun, but the episode feels a bit like a throwaway, which is rather disappointing when you’re talking about a brief, six-episode series.
4) Waiting For God – Lister discovers that he is considered God by Cat’s people and becomes distressed when he reads about the the violence that has been carried out in hi name during his time in stasis. Meanwhile, Rimmer becomes obsessed with a (unknown to him) garbage pod brought onto the ship and mistakenly believes that it may contain alien life.
5) Confidence And Paranoia – After Lister contracts a mutated for of Paranoia, his dreams begin to manifest in solid form. This includes living personifications of his confidence (played by Scottish talk show host Craig Ferguson) and paranoia (Lee Cornes). While at first pleased with the company, Lister soon finds that unbridled confidence comes with a dangerous price.
6) Me² – After the events of the previous episode, Lister finds himself having to deal with two holographic Rimmers aboard the ship. While at first they get along perfectly, they soon begin to despise each other. Eventually it’s decided that only one can stay, but how will they choose?
There have been a number of DVD releases of Red Dwarf, but I watched the BBC Warner DVD of the first series which includes the episodes as broadcast. These episodes (as well as those from series two and three) were later remastered with different special effects and editing for alternate broadcasts and DVD release. The full screen transfer looks strong, though a bit on the dull side since almost every set is painted a rather drab gray.
There are commentaries on every episode by Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Norman Lovett, and Danny John-Jules. The first episode also features a bonus commentary by Rob Grant, Doug Naylor, and Ed Bye. It’s almost a shame that this wasn’t reversed as the Grant/Naylor/Bye track on episode one is wonderfully informative. It details briefly what influenced the show, the casting, and where the names of the characters came from amongst other trivia. While the cast commentaries are fun, it’s obvious that the actors haven’t seen the episodes in a long time and spend more time watching and laughing at the lines than revealing any information.