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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Roughnecks—Starship Troopers Chronicles: The Zephyr Campaign (1999)

"You take your allies where you find them!"
- Cpl. Gossard (Bill Fagerbakke)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 18, 2003

Stars: Rino Romano, Elizabeth Daily, Bill Fagerbakke, Nicholas Guest
Other Stars: Alexander Polinsky, Rider Strong
Director: Vince Edwards, Michael Chang, Andre Clavel, Sam Lu

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG for (pervasive sci-fi action violence)
Run Time: 01h:47m:19s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 043396014817
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+A- B+

DVD Review

A year ago or so, the Roughnecks CG animation came to DVD pleasing numerous cult fans of the show as well as opening up the series to whole new set of viewers. Mysteriously, though, the original set of 6 DVDs was short five episodes. Known to most as the "Ice Asteroid" episodes (now entitled The Zephyr Campaign), it is only now that these missing shows are finally making their way into people's video collections and, thankfully, completing the entire run of the original series. On this disc, which continues the overall story of the Starship Troopers' battle against the deadly Klendathu aliens, Johnny Rico and the "Roughnecks" platoon he's part of find themselves marooned on a frozen asteroid with no help in sight.

Initially on a mission to locate a natural toxin that helps kill Klendathu bugs, the Roughnecks wind up inadvertently making their situation worse when they accidentally unleash small, "fire-flies" into the environment. The bugs stowed away underneath the skin of Zander, and when they emerged they were just an annoyance. On the asteroid, however, they grow into huge threats to their security. While attempting to solve the problems of getting off the asteroid, the Roughnecks are faced with confusing data; the asteroid they're on seems to be unstable and constantly changing its internal structure. With a limited time frame, the crew has to figure out how to get help from the "Zephyr" (a nearby military spacecraft) as well as conserve ammo and manpower. In addition to this, Zander is now showing mysterious signs of shock and mental collapse, all of which eventually become the core of future episodes beyond these ones.

The setting here is clever and well written. It allows the characters some time away from the rest of the Earth Military in a situation that not only confuses them, but removes virtually every avenue of escape. The desperation leads to some interesting plot developments and it cements the relationships incredibly well, adding depth to future episodes. Of course, familiarity with all the previous episodes is pretty much a "must," but seeing the Zephyr Campaign reinserted into the rest of show now completes a very important gap, arguably one that sets the entire stage for the rest of the series. Although the subplot about the bug-killing toxin isn't really exploited to its true potential, there's so much other material going on here that the writers obviously had their hands full trying to make this story anything but a boring retread of past themes.

Although the Roughnecks crew is stranded on an asteroid, there's no shortage of action, danger, or the usual tension. It's solid Roughnecks all the way through, and now provides some much-needed (partial) closure to the saga of this unfinished space opera. Will there ever be a conclusion to the whole series? Who knows.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is a bit weaker than on previous Roughnecks discs, with pretty obvious compression artifacts and such visible in many places on many occasions. However, in the commentary for the episodes, there is some discussion of technical problems experienced during the creation of these episodes that made some of the renders have texture problems and other video errors. So, in fairness, the transfer itself cannot be blamed for all the problems. Just be aware of some fuzziness and softness in a few of the earlier episodes. Otherwise, there are no other major issues.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 soundtrack uses each speaker to set a distinct mood with both music and the powerful use of sound effects, especially in the chaotic action sequences. All the elements are used well in a combined effort to really make things explosive. The clarity of the 5.1 mix also means dialogue is cleaner along with all the other, more subtle elements of the audio.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer Audu Paden and numerous members of the original crew.
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Conceptual Art Gallery
  2. Original Story Treatment Transcript
Extras Review: Like previous Roughnecks releases, there is an audio commentary presented throughout the entire disc. This time, though, the personnel involved changes quite often and all sorts of faces pop-up through the proceedings. While producer Audu Paden plays the usual interviewer and presenter, the guests include director Michael Chang, writer Steve Cuden, voice actor Nicholas Guest, and several other members of the technical crew coming and going. It's an excellent, non-stop commentary filled to the brim with all sorts of anecdotes and insider knowledge about how the show was made, what was cut, how the writing proceeded, how the animation was done, etc. It's the kind of commentary you rarely see even on feature films, but for a 4-year-old animated series that was cancelled prematurely made by a studio that now no longer exists, it's a whopping gift to the fans to have everyone together discussing so much with each other. Fans of the show will be pleased.
There's a gallery of conceptual artwork that also features a few renderings, and a photo gallery that includes some pics of the Roughnecks creative team doing the commentary. Another treat for fans is a xeroxed copy of the original story treatment document written up as the overall design document for the show and probably used to woo funding and other producers to the project. It's a whopping 76-pages, but worth looking at for a look at the embryonic beginnings of the series. Things are finished with a promotional trailer for the series on DVD (sadly no original television promos) and the usual presentation and basic menus.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Zephyr Campaign fills the gap in the previous Roughnecks releases and now allows fans and newcomers to enjoy this incredibly well made, entertaining continuation of the Starship Troopers saga, despite having little to no connection to the original Heinlein novel. While the final 3-episodes designed to conclude the show were never made due to the cancellation, it's still a worthy experience to watch the entire show from beginning to end.


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