Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles

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Details At A Glance

Category Science Fiction Dolby Digital Trailer - City
Photo Gallery
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1999
Running Time 96:43 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (63:02)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Audu Paden
Adelaide Productions, Inc.
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Starring Elizabeth Daily
David DeLuise
Bill Fagerbakke
Nicholas Guest
Jamie Hanes
Case Soft Brackley
RPI $36.95 Music Wayne Boon
Jim Latham
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    So, with some wariness, I sit down to take a look at another television series that has been made as a spin-off from a Paul Verhoeven film, in this case a spin-off from Starship Troopers. The fact that Verhoeven himself served as an executive producer on this series made me less wary, but one of the numerous criticisms of this series is that it is little more than a video game with all the interaction stripped out. The lack of continuity with the original film does not help matters much, although this is somewhat lessened by the fact that the episodes on this disc are set sometime between Rico's graduation from boot camp and the invasion of Klendathu. This, however, brings up another sore point for the series: the story told in Starship Troopers is so complete in both its aims and its details that any details shared by the Roughnecks television series is going to be completely pointless. You just can't make a children's animated television series out of a very adult-oriented, violence-laden rebuke of clandestine totalitarianism.

    Others have stated that this television series is more faithful to the novel upon which the original film was based, but you'll have to excuse me if I don't see this as necessarily being a good thing. It's not that Robert Heinlein's work is bad in and of itself (although I have never really thought much of it, to be honest), but the film has more to make it a unique piece of creative work. I'd rather watch a well-orchestrated political satire that is loosely based on a novel of the same name than a derivative carbon copy which trades upon the reputations of other creative works and then hides behind a claim of faithfulness. I'm obviously in a minority here, however, since I have yet to find any critiques of the series that coincide with my feelings about it. Most of the critics don't bother to go as deep as dissecting the story in this series, merely resorting to praising the animation techniques that went into creating it (which are, to be honest, quite impressive in spite of their flaws).

    The story begins with the insectoid aliens setting up a colony on Pluto, which is a blatant contradiction of the way in which the humans were presented as making the first aggressive act (itself a stab at the media's glossing over of America's clandestine aggression in Iran before the overthrow of the Shah). In any case, we are introduced to Private Isabelle "Dizzy" Flores (Elizabeth Daily), Lieutenant Carmen Ibanez (Tish Hicks), Private Johnny Rico (Rino Romano), and Private Carl Jenkins (Rider Strong) in a sequence of events that also detail hostility on the part of the infantry towards those with psychic abilities. Never mind the fact that, in the film, Carl was whisked away immediately to serve in military intelligence, or the fact that Carmen was never a Lieutenant until the end of the film (well after the time this series is set in). Among the new faces we are introduced to is Private Robert Higgins (Alexander Polinsky), a war correspondent who films most of the action on a portable camera and provides the narration.

    Normally, this is where I would list the episodes that are presented on the disc, but the five episodes that make up this story have been blended together in order to present a more film-like feel. While I can appreciate the effort to present the complete story, I would have preferred the option to watch each episode separately, if only to judge how much of an effect the breaks have. In any case, if you are looking for an adjunct to Starship Troopers, then this television series may fit the bill, assuming you're willing to overlook what I call the Paul Verhoeven rule - "if it claims to follow on from a film by him and it isn't rated at least MA, it's not the genuine article".

Transfer Quality


    As I've vaguely referenced in my plot summary, this television series was digitally animated using what was then considered to be advanced hardware. As a result, the source material used to create this DVD was in pristine condition, and it shows in the resulting transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and in spite of the recent vintage of the content, it appears that it was created with this aspect ratio in mind.

    The transfer is razor-sharp from start to finish, with one significant exception: the high-speed movements of the insectoids tend to be quite blurry, but watching the programme in frame-by-frame mode leads me to believe that this was a deliberate effect. The image is quite dark most of the time, with excellent shadow detail, and plenty of subtle gradations between the focal points of each shot and the darker edges. There is no low-level noise in the transfer, although some sections of the programme look a little grainy, possibly due to the compositing of the animations during production.

    The colours are mostly muted and drab, unlike the vivid saturation of the film, and the darkness of the animations serve to make the colour scheme appear even more dull and lifeless. This is definitely an artistic choice, however, as the occasional splash of bright green insectoid blood and raging red fires were realistically bright and vivid. There were no problems with colour bleeding, oversaturation, undersaturation, or composite artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, what with the pristine state of the source material and the bitrate usually being over seven megabits a second. Film-to-video artefacts are a little more problematic, however, due to the abundance of sharp fine lines in the image, which shimmer ever-so-slightly whenever the camera is in motion. Standout examples of aliasing can be found at 4:39, 6:23, 8:25, and 25:24, which were quite mild by any standards other than those set in this transfer. In nine out of ten cases, the aliasing was so minor that it could easily go unnoticed by the more casual viewer, but it was frequently present. I have little doubt, however, that this picture would look absolutely perfect on a progressive display. There were no film artefacts found in the transfer.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place at 63:02. This is just after a vehicle in use by the Roughnecks goes into what appears to be a cave, and it is probably the best place the layer change could have been put. It is very brief and not at all disruptive to the flow of the film.


    There are two soundtracks included on this DVD, both of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 448 kilobits per second. The first soundtrack, which is also the default, is the original English dialogue, and the other is a German dub. I listened to the English soundtrack, while briefly comparing some passages in the German dub.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, without any limits being imposed by the actors. This comes as little surprise, given that the actors were chosen only for their voice talents, which are quite obvious in spite of the hammy dialogue they are often called upon to recite. There were no discernible problems with audio sync at any time, either.

    The music in this collection of episodes is credited to Wayne Boon and Jim Latham, and basically is a more contemporary version of the militaristic themes that accompanied the film. The score adds to the video game feel of the series, sounding quite a lot like the music that was included in the original Command And Conquer, especially the hilarious Fight, Win, Prevail theme. Comparisons between the score music in this series and that provided by Basil Poledouris for the film are going to be inevitable. In my view, the score provided for this series fits the mood of the story extremely well, but it is nowhere near as exceptional as the score found in the film.

    The surround channels were aggressively used to support the sounds of flying insectoids, the growls of ground-based insectoids, winds, the music, and other such ambient sounds. The use of the higher bitrate also helps to create an immersive soundtrack that drew this viewer into the film and kept him locked into the adventures unfolding on the screen. It would have been nice to see what a full-bitrate DTS soundtrack would have done for this programme, because the only complaint I have to make about this soundtrack is that the rears are a little too quiet compared to the fronts.

    The subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the music, gunfire, grenades, and nuclear explosions. Like the surrounds, the subwoofer was aggressively utilized to provide a floor for the soundtrack which also served to draw the viewer into the experience of the film.


    Given that this disc is dual-layered, the lack of extras on this disc constitutes a serious under-utilisation of space.


Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    While we're on the subject of extras, Columbia Tristar, I have to repeat how tired I am getting of this trailer. Dolby are now notorious for making trailers that are overly long, overly loud, and ultimately not very interesting to look at, so it is not doing the viewer or your reputation any favours by including the same selection from their stable of trailers on hundreds of different discs. Please select a different trailer for inclusion, adjust the volume on the current trailer so that it is more coincidental with that of the feature, or [preferably] leave the things off.

Photo Gallery

    Not so much a photo gallery as a collection of concept sketches, this collection is presented without any annotation, making its value rather limited at best.


    As far as we can really tell, there are no specific censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    Information on the Region 1 version of this disc is hard to find, but various online retailers describe it as being similarly bereft of extras. The Region 1 version also carries Region Coding Enhancement, so unless your desire to test whether your player can get around this programming is that great, the local version of the disc will be perfectly sufficient.


    Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles is a television series that was obviously well-intentioned, but it is crippled by the need to appeal to television audiences. Only determined completists who feel the need to see exactly what happened to their favourite character at other points in Heinlein's story really need apply.

    The video transfer is excellent, denied reference status only by a minor problem with aliasing.

    The audio quality is excellent, providing an excellent demonstration of what a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack should sound like.

    The extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
April 26, 2001 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer