Upstairs Downstairs-Series 2 (Universal)

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Released 22-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating ?
Year Of Production ?
Running Time 652:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (27:46)
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Parker
Derek Bennett
Joan Kemp-Welch
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Angela Baddeley
Christopher Beeny
Gordon Jackson
David Langton
Jean Marsh
Nicola Pagett
Simon Williams
John Alderton
Case ?
RPI $79.95 Music Alexander Faris


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After the success of the first thirteen episodes, of which we have only seen eight (the colour ones), the next thirteen episodes of Upstairs Downstairs were commissioned and produced. This time, as they are all in colour, we have the entire season on four discs. The practice of indicating the date that the episode is set in has stopped. According to a fan web site (http://www.updown.org.uk/) this is because TWT asked that the second series stay completely within the reign of Edward VII. As the first season had finished only a few months before the end of his reign, this left the writers with a problem. They solved this by simply moving the entire series back in time one year, ignoring all consequences and anomalies.

    The second season is even stronger than the first and has some great episodes. While there is still a definite undercurrent of social commentary, they are also somewhat stronger in the drama department. With the number of regular cast that are involved in this series, they quite often isolate a small number for a particular story and then the character may not be seen again for a number of episodes. This gives the show a wonderful variety as we follow the stories of so many people in the various stratas of this complex society.

2.01 The New Man. (50:26)

    Elizabeth and her new husband have returned from their honeymoon and are setting up a new household. Rose is on loan to the new household and Lady Margery has hired a good but simple cook on their behalf. Lawrence (Elizabeth's husband) also wants a manservant. Thomas Watkins is subsequently employed in this capacity and goes on to be one of the more interesting characters for the remainder of the season. Things are not happy upstairs in the new residence and get very interesting downstairs. On a totally irrelevant side note, from the minute that Thomas Watkins (John Alderton) opened his mouth I knew that I had heard him somewhere before, but for the life of me I could not put a face to the voice even though the character was right in front of me. After thirteen episodes, I finally realised both who he was and why I did not recognise his face. He provides the voice for the stop frame animated series 'Fireman Sam'!

2.02 A Pair of Exiles (50:20)

    We move from Elizabeth Bellamy's goings-on to that of her brother. James is entangled in some trouble with the regiment and even more trouble in his secret relationship with Sarah. This leads to a confession to his parents who are not exactly impressed with either of his problems.

2.03 Married Love (50:03)

    Elizabeth is not happy in her new marriage - things have definitely not turned out as she imagined. Her husband is always out and appears to be avoiding any type of physical contact with her. Lawrence seeks out a very unusual solution...at least what he thinks might be a solution.

2.04 Whom God hath Joined... (49:31)

    Elizabeth returns to her parents' residence for Christmas, without her husband. It is revealed that there are major problems and that they have separated. A divorce is planned but things are not so easy - this is very much in the days long before no fault divorce was even thought of. You need a cause, and in the laws and mores of the day these are fairly limited, and it would appear that Elizabeth does not qualify for the cause that they had hoped to use.

2.05 Guest of Honour (47:40)

    There are few things that will fluster a butler of Hudson's bearing, but one of them is the King coming to dinner. A perfect dinner is planned, along with a foil to protect the King from any boring conversation, and the servants plan out what will be the biggest event in the history of the house. Things go smoothly at the dinner but go awry when Sarah returns unexpectedly from the country where she had been sent in the second episode.

2.06 The Property of a Lady (50:27)

    It would appear that Lady Margery's lover from the first season kept all of her letters. These letters have unfortunately fallen into the wrong hands. A pair of hands is now outstretched for a rather large sum of money in exchange for their return. Thomas Watkins, who is now the Bellamy's chauffeur, acts as the middle man and also attempts his own little swindle. The ensuing back and forth makes for an interesting episode and an interesting study of some people's characters.

2.07 Your Obedient Servant (50:14)

    'Twould appear that Hudson has a brother, one who is a rather famous engineer and builds very impressive bridges at the outposts of the far flung British Empire. He is returning to London for a few days and apparently is not aware that Hudson is a butler. Hudson sets out to appear to be one of the upper classes by dressing the part and taking his brother's family to a show and dinner at the finest of restaurants. Unfortunately, this coincides with the visit of Mr. Richard Bellamy's brother, who is the most unpleasant of chaps (viewers of Yes, Minister will recognise the actor playing the brother). Richard's brother is convinced that the servants are all out to steal from the house and act up beyond their station and sets out to expose Hudson in his innocent endeavour to impress his brother.

2.08 Out of the Everywhere (49:55)

    A lady who acted as nanny first to Lady Margery then to Elizabeth and James and now to Elizabeth's new baby is going to be of quite an age. In fact, she is too old for the duties, but no-one but Sarah, who has been trained as a nanny's assistant, can see this, as the parents of the time seem to spend no time at all with their children, but rather leave everything up to the nanny. This is a truly strange time as far as parents of the upper class and their interaction with their children is concerned.

2.09 An Object of Value (50:17)

    Lady Margery's father has passed away and her mother has come to stay for a few days. She has brought with her a lady's companion, a very unpleasant woman indeed. When a valuable brooch goes missing from Lady Margery's mother's bedroom the entire staff come under suspicion. It would appear that servants are presumed guilty unless proven otherwise.

2.10 A Special Mischief (50:31)

    One of the most political and social commentary-oriented episodes in this season. Young Elizabeth is off with another activist group. This time it is the suffragettes, a group of women that are willing to go to great lengths to gain the vote for women. At a protest, Elizabeth is arrested, as well as Rose, who has followed to try and keep Elizabeth out of trouble. A dark mysterious stranger appears and rescues Elizabeth at the courts but Rose is sentenced to gaol. There she discovers the lengths that the male dominated government is willing to go to to try and suppress this movement.

2.11 The Fruits of Love (51:01)

    The dark mysterious stranger from the last episode turns out to be a social climber of the worst kind and is after Elizabeth as his next rung on the social ladder. When the Bellamys appear to be in some financial trouble due to the gambling debts of her brother, the inheritor of the estate after their father's death, the stranger steps in with an offer to help, one that comes with many strings.

2.12 The Wages of Sin (51:17)

    It would appear that Sarah is pregnant again and the father is a mystery to the upstairs residents of the Bellamy residence. The chauffeur, Watkins, steps up with a very kind offer to marry Sarah, thus saving the household any embarrassment. However, things are not what they appear as strings yet again are apparently attached to yet another offer of kindness.

2.13 A Family Gathering (50:21)

    The final episode of season two. James returns from India with a fiancé in tow, much to everyone's surprise. A family tea party is planned for Lady Margery's birthday party which is interrupted twice, the first time by the unexpected appearance of Sarah and Tom Watkins, and the second time by news from the palace.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    There are four discs in this season, the first with four episodes and the remaining three with three each for a total of thirteen episodes.

    Unfortunately, the image quality has not improved over the first season, and in some places it may even be slightly worse. The only improvement is in the location footage which is better than the first season.

    The transfer is presented at its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and of course is not 16x9 enhanced.

    As with the previous season, the sharpness is very poor indeed with the image very blurred. Shadow detail is not too bad for most episodes but some of the darker clothing, such as Hudson's suit (Ep.1 4:14) lack detail. There is a large amount of video noise which has triggered lots of problems, including low level noise.

    Colours are both muted and badly affected by chroma noise. The chair at Ep.1 22:10 shows this noise very clearly. There is also heavy shimmer on certain patterns such as Elizabeth's dress at Ep.1 11:23. There are also rainbows of colours present in any bright highlight such as the lights reflecting off the teapot at Ep.1 4:15.

    The level of noise in the video stream has lead to almost constant MPEG artefacts. Looking at the close-up of Lady Margery at 2:07 in Ep.1 shows a selection of the artefacts that are constantly present. There is blocking in the face along with posterization. There are also an array of video drop-outs and other image problems. Black lines with white spots along them plague Ep.2 - an example can be found at 6:14. The image jumps like a bad edit at Ep.10 22:03 and there is a rare artefact caused by loud noises in combination with video cameras called microphony at Ep.10 3:03. Film artefacts in the location footage have improved, such as the scene at Ep.1 13.37, but unfortunately in the same scene there is clear edge enhancement visible.

    There are no subtitles on these discs.

    The layer change on the first disc is in between episodes two and three. The layer changes on the remaining discs are: Ep.6 - 26:15, Ep.9 - 27:46 and Ep.12 - 26:57.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The single Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack has not changed substantially from the first series. There is some low level hiss and the occasional pop or other strange addition to the soundtrack, but these are not overly distracting.

    The dialogue quality remains good as does the audio sync.

    Again, the only music is that accompanying the opening and closing credits, and it will stay in your mind long after the last episode has been watched. While the melody is very similar, the theme song does seem a little different on these episodes.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are not used by this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

 

Menu

    A simple 1.33:1 menu with a static backdrop with a character from the series and no audio accompaniment.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It would appear that this release is identical across the world as far as content is concerned and pretty much the same for video and audio quality, though the R1 version also seems to suffer from some colour correction problems as well. Remember that in R1 the series is available in individual series and in a grand boxed set containing the entire 5 seasons. With the R1 suffering slightly more because of the PAL to NTSC conversion, R4 is the winner this time.

Summary

    As a period drama, this is an excellent show - the British always do a good job with the scripts but an even better one with the costumes, locations and backdrops such as the wonderful cars of the period. It is a shame the video quality is not better but this is still a very entertaining and occasionally educational show.

    The video is pretty bad.

    The audio is not too bad.

    The lack of extras is disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, July 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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