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Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles - Tesca Campaign

Columbia Pictures/Columbia Pictures . R4 . COLOR . 96 mins . PG . PAL


Well, it seemed inevitable and here we have the Starship Troopers thing in a different guise. What’s interesting to note is this doesn’t seem to have been taken from after the film, but instead of it. The characters all start out the same way and this is more like an alternate route of not what happened before or after the original film, but a slightly different vision of the novel by Robert Heinlein (spinning in a grave somewhere).

Johnny Rico and Isadore (Dizzy) Flores have joined the Mobile Infantry in fighting the Bug Menace on a faraway world. Here they work on a world in which the Bugs are slightly different to the threat we saw in the original film. And that’s basically it.

This film is made up of five story ‘arcs’, in which five episodes made for television are strung together sans commercial fades and credits. This story arc of The Tesca Campaign is actually episodes 16 through 20, so certain matters have occurred herein that we are left to catch up with ourselves. Naturally, being a series, there are the usual deliberate reminders or small yet necessary facts dropped in throughout.

Together, the episodes run simply like this (and each take roughly 19 or 20 minutes):

  • Episode 16: The previous enemy, the ‘Skinnys’ (who were prisoners under brain controlling bugs) have joined the Earthies to fight the bugs. However, this angers many of the Roughnecks.
  • Episode 17: Rico, the last Roughneck to accept the new Skinny platoon member T’Phia, is forced to work with him to save the rest of the group.
  • Episode 18: The Roughnecks discover a new kind of Bug and must have it eliminated before it gets free and destroys the Earthies.
  • Episode 19: Rico is hurt and, during his coma, Dizzy confesses her feelings for him.
  • Episode 20: With Rico still critically injured and a Bug invasion imminent, the platoon must decide whether to escape and leave Rico behind or fight to protect him.

The animation is fairly weak here but this undertaking is the biggest CG Animation attempt ever made (apparently) on a TV series. Being made to a tightening deadline, the animation, backgrounds and props must naturally be made very fast. Originally created as 40 20-minute episodes, Roughnecks is a progressive animation aimed squarely at boys (or the boys within). Personally I found too many animation shortcuts here that left me feeling less than satisfied, but I imagine younger fellas might just think this is awesome. Plenty of gung-ho Americana (thinly veiled as Earthiana) keeps the show running with more than a hint of traditional wartime themes. There’s green blood flying everywhere of course (green blood is perfectly alright to show exploding and oozing out of dying creatures) and plenty of fighting and insectoid action that will no doubt thrill the youngsters. For me though – while I eventually found this watchable – there are just too many hokey models and too much lazy animation.


Well, firstly this is only in 4:3 which is a surprise. For a show made so recently and so on the cutting edge, I would have expected a widescreen delivery. However, the picture quality is still fine and usually lit in precisely the manner the creators intended (of course). One trouble with this lighting and ‘invisible’ lighting (in CG animation you can cast lights that don’t appear on screen in the final render. The light itself does, but not the actual ‘spotlight’ casting it) is in the placement. The interiors of mouths are clearly lit which looks wholly unnatural, but of course is done so as to read the lip-synch (I’ll come to lip-synch in a minute). At times this makes the characters look like they’re standing under an ultra-violet with teeth glowing white in the darkness.

Flesh tones are okay eventually, but for a while they look pretty awful. Too much grey in the shading hues makes the skin appear ashen rather than shaded. Naturally shadow detail is perfect and blacks are true, along with the rest of the colour palette.


Happily we get Dolby Digital 5.1 surround here and this is used sporadically for the surround channels but spends most of the time covering the music. There are some cool underwater scenes early on that sound great, but a few opportunities have gone begging here. Dialogue is fairly easily understood but that lip synch is quite annoying. When humans learn to speak, we also learn how to start cutting corners in speech and still be understood. It’s a natural progressive skill and we apply it to most things we do without ever realising we do it. Here the characters, (let’s not forget they are mostly poorly educated to have ended up in the Mobile Infantry) all speak using the full range of elocutionary diction. Their mouths form every complex movement of the mouth to fully spit out their comments. In reality, this just doesn’t occur and good animators should know that. (If you want to see what I mean, stand in front of a mirror and speak a sentence very clearly and emphasising every syllable with full use of your mouth. Then do it again normally and you’ll see the difference I’m talking about).

On top of that the balances are out dramatically here with dialogue consistently dominated by the sound effects and music tracks. This is quite annoying as the action can stop and start at any time (and frequently does) so the remote volume control is never stilled. Music then is pretty cool and features the regular kind of thing you’d expect from a boy’s action series. There’s plenty of techno, military themes and actiony crescendoes to keep everyone jumping up and down. And the subwoofer ably supports throughout, thumping away to itself. Finally, there is some fun use of classic sound effects in ‘damaged fighter plane spiralling to earth’ and numerous familiar explosions and gunfire.


There are a few here, though some would have been better left off. The audio commentary by producer Audu Paden and Jeff Kilne is actually very interesting and they discuss many of the tricks behind the show and how they managed it on a budget. The two guys are a little bland, but at least they know what they’re talking about and have a genuine affection for it (although they seem to think it looks better than it actually does).

Filmmaker’s Photos is a pissweak six picture gallery of four blokes sitting around microphones. Nothing exciting in the least and pure disc filler.

Oddly, the photo gallery is actually an art gallery and holds around 80 original drawings and model sheets. In case you don’t know, even CG animated shows are drawn to begin with and planned out long before the CG modeling takes place. Some of these are in colour and look pretty cool.

Finally a couple of dud trailers that look more like TV spots or ancient video trailers. Both are 4:3 with the first being for Roughnecks 2: Starship Trooper Chronicles: The Tesca Campaign and the second being for the groundbreakingly awful Krull. Oddly, the Tesca one features the Propellerheads performing Spybreak (short one) made famous by The Matrix.

And not to be outdone, the Dolby ‘City’ trailer.


If some young fella you know unwrapped this one morning at the breakfast table I’m sure he’d be very excited. This is a fairly decent show for kids, but even the adult animation layman will be able to see the holes here. The stories are the same as one would expect from a war show, with themes of anti-racism, working together and shooting bugs on faraway planets being prominent. Not bad, but not all that good either.

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      And I quote...
    "Plenty of gung-ho Americana (thinly veiled as Earthiana) keeps the show running here… "
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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