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Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles - Tophet Campaign

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


The third in the series of five story ‘arcs’ that I’ve reviewed to date, Roughnecks: The Tophet Campaign is perhaps the grittiest of the three (for want of a better word). Here we finally have our first Earthie casualty of the Bug War in Carl Jenkins, the squad psychic. This is no secret; the next disc in the series, The Tesca Campaign deals with many of the issues raised by his mental decay after the fairly graphic events on Tophet.

Again we endure the agonies of war with the Roughnecks, a diehard band of the Starship Troopers we recognise from the book and the movie of the same name. Not Starship Troopers 2, however – that’s a completely different kettle of metal. Favourites in ‘Dizzy’ Flores, her unrequited love Johnny Rico and his former love Captain Ibanez all return in this middle disc of the three currently on offer from this 26 part TV cable series. Tophet features episodes 11 through 15 and directly follow episodes 06 to 10 in The Hydora Campaign and precede episodes 16 to 20 in The Tesca Campaign, as noted.

Quality is exactly the same as those previous discs, but I’ll come to that in due course. For now, here comes the episode listing:

  • Episode 11: On landing upon Tophet, the Roughnecks discover an indigenous race who are allied with the bugs.
  • Episode 12: When Razak and Higgins become stranded, the Roughnecks head in to rescue them before a SICOM airstrike kills them both.
  • Episode 13: The Roughnecks trial a new robotic Roughneck, the Cybernetic Humanoid Assault System, which must learn the value of human life and what it truly means to be a soldier.
  • Episode 14: The psychic Jenkins and Sergeant Brutto get captured and must resolve their differences to survive. Meanwhile the rest of the team are captured and must both escape and rescue Brutto and Jenkins.
  • Episode 15: The Roughnecks discover that the enemy ‘Skinnies’ are actually bug slaves and they set about freeing them, although Private Jenkins, the Roughnecks’ psychic, is disabled by the psychic battle with the chief Brain Bug.

"Live forever, apes!"

It’s safe to say that this is aimed squarely at the boys’ market here, although there are a few titbits thrown in for the adult CG animation junkies. Paul Verhoeven, the original director of the film Starship Troopers (among others like Robocop), is executive producer on this series and his influence, albeit minor perhaps, is felt occasionally. Obvious homage to Robocop fills Episode 13 with the clanking and movement of the Robotic Roughneck. This one is a little more obvious, but there are others scattered about the lurid landscapes of a faraway planet for those wishing to dig deeper.


The quality of the video presentation is just fine for this sort of thing. Made for TV there’s strangely but a 4:3 ratio, given that the show is so recent and cutting edge. Colours are great, the image is razor sharp and there isn’t any real trouble with aliasing though the opportunities abound. The animation is where this show both shines and falls down though, paradoxically. It shines in the regard that this is a 26 episode series of complete computer animation, which equates to about eight or nine hours of animation. This is well beyond anything attempted before, particularly with the attention to detail and such in the characters, props and scenery. It falls down though in its haste. Nine hours of animation is never going to be executed at a leisurely pace, and the cracks show through frequently to even the amateur eye. Still, the little guys won’t give a toss.


I love the fact that this gets a nice today Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix while the image gets a 4:3. That’s kinda paradoxical too. It sounds super though, with plenty of nice surround activity keeping the satellites busy. This occurs mostly during the frequent battle scenes, though the music gets piped in too. The subwoofer also has a bit to do, particularly in the louder moments of explosive gunplay. Dialogue is slightly wooden, though this is more than mirrored by the limited lip synching in the character animation. And by limited, I mean it is actually well done – it’s just too well done. Too detailed for soldiers in the field by far. It’s all easily understood however, if just a little unrealistic (did I just say ‘unrealistic’ in regard to soldiers who fight giant bugs on a faraway planet? Tsk).

The music is getting rather stockish by this third disc (actually the second in the current ‘release arc’) as the music mostly reuses acceptable or appropriate pre-recorded riffs rather than a singular score for each. This too sounds good and is generally fitting for the action or otherwise.


Another swag that does add certain bonus value to this fairly budget series. There are two audio commentaries, one techie the other producery. The techie one is fairly boring with endless streams of specialists ducking in and out while they discuss how this bit was made etc. That doesn’t get tired after an hour…

The second commentary is the winner here with producer Audu Paden and friends who escort us through at a ripping pace discussing everything from character rehearsals to animation technique to scripting and post-production. He speaks well and while there is again a stream of others flitting in and out, Paden holds it together well.

A photo gallery (why they call it that is beyond me) containing around 76 model sheets, photos and schematics for various items follows and this is a nice look at the rougher behind the scenes artwork fans don’t get to see in the polished finished show. It’s also interesting for those folks who don’t realise CG animation first must be hand-drawn. It isn’t just created and animated.

Nine filmographies for various cast and crew follow and these are the same as we saw on the Hydora disc if you’re buying the set. There’s also a final trailer yet again for the Tesca release which follows this disc, sequentially.

There’s a little bit less than on the other two discs, but a good smattering of stuff anyway.


If you’re into the whole Starship Troopers thing, this’ll get you going alright. While toned down a little for kids and souped up with plenty of clichéd schoolboy tough lines (much like Arnie used to fill his films with) this is still strangely compelling watching. And that surprises me because I find the animation a bit gluggy for my liking. Whether that means the story is good (doubtful) or the action is (also doubtful), I think it just harks back to our boyhoods. Back when it was fun to taunt bugs and pull wings off flies and stuff and then dress up like army men and shoot each other in our neighbour’s yard. Or something like that.

If you have any little fellas running around your place, they’ll certainly dig on his and there’s every chance Dad might just find himself getting into it too.

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      And I quote...
    "More bug-killing madness, though (finally) there are casualties… "
    - Jules Faber
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