English, French, English - Hearing Impaired, French - Hearing Impaired
Audio commentary - Six episodes
Behind the scenes footage
Roswell - The Complete First Season
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 920 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Most of us with even a passing interest in UFOs will have heard of the New Mexico town of Roswell. It has been the name synonymous with alien crash landing conspiracy theories and something of a Mecca for UFOlogists and alien hunters the world over. It was there in 1947 that we (us Earthlings) received irrefutable proof that we are not alone in the universe. Or so some folks believe.
Not all the freaks were alien.
When the spacecraft supposedly crashed in 1947, the FBI were undoubtedly pretty quickly all over it, and in the decades that have passed there is only one thing for certain; few people really know what happened that night, and fewer still have anything even approaching convincing proof. If you believe some locals and a handful of ex-government employees, the Americans still have the crashed ship and, supposedly, the occupants in jars of paraffin or something similar (I am sure it would be more technical than sticking their little green/silver/white bodies in jars like we do frogs and snakes), in a very secure place known as Area 51.
What do they really have? Who knows? But what we have is a television series based on the premise that it was all real, and that there were crash survivors and their descendants now walk silently among us. A creepy thought for some, great news for others. Let’s look at what sort of a job the cast and crew do on Roswell. The fact that it only lasted three seasons should tell you that it was either very average television, very expensive television (which I doubt), or they simply ran out of ideas (which is most likely as future season releases will prove or disprove). The show itself never really caught on as much as it deserved to when it was broadcast here, however that can be somewhat explained away by the television station’s inability to lock it into one time slot. Roswell is certainly not the first show to suffer that fate.
Roswell is a sci-fi teen drama – a sort of Close Encounters of the Dawson’s Creek Kind where 20-something actors play post adolescent high schoolers with great sensitivity and a maturity beyond their years. This, of course, means that there is endless unrequited love, plenty of emotive angst, lots of ‘will-they-won’t-they” and some lengthy introspection. I swear, at times you’ll want to just reach out and slap these people. They are mostly good-looking kids from middle-class families, intelligent and sensitive, and they carry on like they have all the world’s problems to solve. So why did I enjoy this series so much? Read on...
If you can thrust all the hormonal teenage sappiness to one side (even though it will have great appeal to teens), there is actually quite a bit here to like. As teenagers, most of us carried some sort of secret burden that we felt few others would understand and support, and that alone is one of the big pluses of Roswell. The three known ‘aliens’ carry an enormous burden they reluctantly share with a few ‘earthlings’. They are different and they do have certain abilities that set them apart, but they are as much human as alien and that creates a fine line of tension.
"If I use this finger, I can reach all those hard to get spots."
The other attraction to the series is the slow unravelling of the story behind the story. Who are these kids? How did they get here? Where did they come from? Are there the only three? It soon transpires there is at least one other. Why has nobody found them out?
Of course it is not that simple, and there have been times when their guard has been down and several alien hunters, the local sheriff and the FBI all know they are onto something, if they can only lay their hands on some concrete evidence. For now, the kids and their close and trusted friends manage to stay one step ahead, while slowly uncovering more and more of the mystery of their existence.
The 22 episodes spread over six discs start slowly, but soon draw you in. Each 42-minutes is self contained essentially, though the continuous thread of who and what they are manages to tie everything together from week to week. It doesn’t end on a true cliffhanger as such, but clearly points out the path the second season will/did take. If you can just get past the teenage soap opera that filters through most episodes, this is a decent series that deserved to fare better.
The series may have been broadcast as a full frame presentation, but widescreen enthusiasts have been catered for by way of a 16:9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio which means yes, something has been cropped, but it will have little impact, and widescreen is widescreen.
"No! I will not appear on The Jerry Springer Show just because I live in a trailer."
Everything is A1 here. Colours are rich, deep, solid and display no problems in terms of noise or bleeding. There is some mild and infrequent grain and almost nothing of note in the way of dirt, marks or specks. There is little in the way of compression problems other than some mild but regular edge enhancement, but there is little in the way of shimmer or aliasing.
Black levels are very good, solid, and have no noise issues, while shadow detail is also good. There is no layer change evident on any of the six discs, and just a minor jump or two lasting a fraction of a second each time as in Episode 20 when Tess jumps in the jeep, but there is no break in the audio stream and synchronisation remain on track.
Roswell has been given a bit of an audio makeover and is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Essentially though, most of the audio takes place in the front and centre speakers, though the rears are used very subtly for much of the time. Some of the more action-packed scenes call on the rears, and the subwoofer gets a decent workout, especially during many of the more tense moments when a deep rumbling score builds and envelops the listener. This is quite effective.
There are no glitches with volume or synchronisation or clarity, and while there is some obvious separation and panning, for much of the time, this is a subtle yet immersive audio experience.
Okay folks, not only are there 22 enjoyable episodes, there is also a little bundle of extras that make purchasing this set well worth your while. Kicking off with no less than six audio commentaries (that’s one per disc – and includes the pilot episode), they feature a variety of commentators both cast and crew, including director David Nutter, Shiri Appleby (Liz), Majandra Delfino (Maria), director Patrick Norris, and writer/producer, Jason Katims. They appear in various combinations and deliver commentaries that are varied and interesting, although the actors tend to get more caught up in watching the show and there are some pauses. But, on the whole, these are well balanced, informative and interesting commentaries.
A short deleted scene accompanies Disc One, featuring the characters of Liz and Maria after the infamous “shooting”.
There is also a retrospective look at the series in Area 51: Behind the Scenes of Roswell that takes us on a 30-minute journey through the show’s transformation from page to screen. It includes interviews with all the major cast and crew, involves a lot of the usual mutual back slapping, but is a genuine attempt to present a ‘thank you’ to the fans.
Also filmed in 2003 is Roswell High: The Making of Roswell that, at a little over ten minutes, presents the authors of the teen drama novel series Roswell High. They discuss writing the books, the transformation to the small screen and, of course, the fans.
The Actor Audition: Emilie de Ravin as “Tess” is a four-minute, low-quality look at the audition of the actress who landed the pivotal role of Tess.
Lastly, there is a Dolby Digital stereo music video of Save Yourself by Sense Field included.
Once you get into Roswell it is impossible not to get caught up in the drama, the mystery and the thrills, spills and near misses as the aliens are always just a whisper from exposure. Of course there are some serious credibility issues and it’s unlikely a handful of teenagers could outwit the FBI, local law enforcement and an entire town with a secret this big for as long as they do, but hey it’s a great little series and escapism on a purely fictitious level.