Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles-Tophet Campaign (1999)

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Released 19-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Audio Commentary-Technical Commentary
Gallery-Photo
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles-Tesca Campaign
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 96:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Chris Berkeley
Alan Caldwell
David Hartman
Sam Liu
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Pat Allee
David S. Clark
Steven Melching
Timothy Schlattmann
Greg Weisman
Jon Weisman
Clancy Brown
Elizabeth Daily
David DeLuise
Bill Fagerbakke
Nicholas Guest
Jamie Hanes
Tish Hicks
Case ?
RPI ? Music Wayne Boon
Nathan Furst
Jim Latham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 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 English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Hindi
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Russian
Swedish
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Volume IV of this series contains Episodes 11 through 15 of Roughnecks - The Tophet Campaign.

    There are some very interesting episodes in this section of the series, both from a story point of view and from a technical standpoint. Two of the episodes, 12 and 13, were amongst the first episodes that were made, initially by a studio that then withdrew from the overall production. They show the difficulties they had in getting this show to air in what turned out to be an impossible time frame. The animation, while showing the promise of what was to come, is somewhat jerky and does not have motion blur applied which (as I have learnt as these reviews have followed one another), really is necessary to producing a life-like (OK, film-like) image on screen. The other three episodes were produced later and the difference is really noticeable: the animation is smoother, they had ironed out the bugs of the motion capture, motion blur was implemented, the models had improved and there were many other improvements along with a big dose of experience which at times brings this animation close to life.

    The storylines, in particular Episode 13 and 15, are very well written and as opposed to the previously reviewed Episodes 6 through 10 from the series have more depth and at times build quite a bit of tension, gluing you to the screen. Episode 13 is referred to in the commentary as 'a boy and his robot' and also as a Heinlein-type story - so too Episode 15. This is reasonably true, as instead of just blasting bugs, we explore a little bit of simple science fiction. In this story we see a new character, a robot with artificial intelligence, which we see start as a mindless machine and evolve as it interacts with the troopers. There are lots of references to movies like Terminator and 2001 here but that just adds to the fun. This story is similar in feel to Heinlein's early teenage-targeted novels. The fifth episode involves a storyline that closely parallels another of Heinlein's novels, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The Puppet Masters, though of course in this case the mind control creatures are another form of bug rather than a different creature. This episode finally explains the back story of the material that we saw in volume two where T'Phai appears and the team is not happy about this addition to their team.

 

    We open this story arc with a landing on a new planet and are soon introduced to the third major species that inhabit this particular Heinlein universe, the Skinnies. They are a humanoid race in appearance but do not breathe the same mixture of gases that we do. Initially they appear friendly but underneath not all is what it appears and things quickly change complexion. It is interesting to note that while it is OK in this time slot (Saturday morning kids TV) to completely obliterate the bugs in as many and varied ways as possible, killing a humanoid character is not allowed.

    Next up is a nice little story where we gain some background information on Lt. Razak and attempt to add some depth to the character of Higgins, our resident camera buff and reporter. The two are on a reconnaissance mission when they are shot down and need to travel cross country to try and make it to a safe haven.

    Following on is the story involving our robot friend and then we find our intrepid troopers in big trouble - the Skinnies have used a new weapon to capture the team and they are scheduled for interrogation, brain bug style. The final episode rounds out the story quite nicely with some great writing, direction and animation.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    I do wish that they had not produced the opening credits in widescreen, as this only reminds us of what we would have liked to have had. The show itself is not in widescreen but is presented at its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

    Sharpness is as rendered by the animators as is the shadow detail.

    There are some wonderful colour palettes used in these episodes and they come to life beautifully on the screen, free of any artefacts other than the dot crawl that we have seen before.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present in the transfer. The previously mentioned dot crawl is prevalent in some scenes and an interesting artefact turns the stone steps leading up to the Skinny main building into a strange-looking escalator (8:38).

    Subtitles are easy to read and accurate to the dialogue.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change placed at 66:34. It is mildly annoying in its placement.

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

Audio

    It is difficult to know how to score the audio on this show. I used to make allowances for weekly shows until Farscape came along with a full-blown movie soundtrack on every episode. This show is one step further along in difficulty in that it was intended to be a daily show rather than weekly, making the time factor even more difficult.

    There is a single Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack containing the main English audio along with two Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks containing the two commentaries. They are joined by a further five Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks containing French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Russian soundtracks.

    Dialogue quality is good as is the audio sync.

    Considering the time frames mentioned in the commentary for the composer to score these episodes, the music is great. We continue our rock/techno feel and it works very well for this series.

    The surrounds get a reasonable work-out, as does the subwoofer, though it could have had more impact in many scenes.

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

Extras

Menu

    Our 1.33:1 menu remains the same as we have seen before with the spaceship window theme - this time the picture on the right shows a group of Skinnies. There is no audio.

Film Makers Commentary.

    Audu Paden again hosts both the commentaries on this disc. In this commentary he is joined by story editor Tom Pugsley, senior VP of creative affairs Bob Higgins, director (ep. 11) Jay Oliva, director Alan Caldwell, voice actor for T’Phai Steve Staley, and sound engineers Robert Duran and Bob Poole. Not everyone is present at the same time but they move around during the episodes. This is a good commentary with some interesting information. Some of the background information is starting to repeat from the previous commentaries but this does not detract from an entertaining and informative session.

Technical Commentary.

    Again hosted by Audu Paden , this time he is joined by a number of animators, technical directors and others from the animation teams at Flat Earth and Foundation, the two companies responsible for the animation in these episodes. This commentary, like the previous technical commentary, does slow at times. Audu's insistence that they not use techno-speak often stops the conversation dead in its tracks. I think that he has misjudged his audience a little in this commentary. In fact, we do know what a 400Mhz processor is and could probably make an informed guess at some of the animation terms.

Photo Gallery

    A series of photo galleries consisting of Backgrounds (14), Bugs (4), Characters (19), Props (24), Structures (5), and Vehicles (10).

Filmographies.

    The identical list of actors and producers as could be found on the last disc is reproduced here.

Trailer (1:48)

    This is the same trailer that we saw on the previous two discs. Presented at 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced it starts with a propaganda type advert and then moves on to describing the Tesca Champaign. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

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

    The comparison remains the same as for the previous disc - the material is identical except for the Pluto Campaign trailer the we are missing. Despite this technical infringement, I am calling the comparison a draw.

Summary

    It is almost impossible not to draw a parallel between the first episode on this disc and the opening chapter of the novel Starship Troopers, both of which describe an engagement with the Skinnies. This chapter in the book is a great description of both how the mobile infantry operate and Johnny's uncomfortable experience with his first command - it is a brilliant piece of writing. While the episodes here are very good, indeed the best I have seen so far, they lack a little in comparison to this first chapter.

    The video transfer is good, although the animation varies somewhat.

    The audio is good for a daily show.

    The extras are good except for the repeats.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, July 02, 2004
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.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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