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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents

Highlander: Season Five (1996-1997)

"I'm so tired of killing...and deciding who to kill."- Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul)

Stars: Adrian Paul, Stan Kirsch, Jim Byrnes, Elizabeth Gracen, Peter Wingfield, Tracy Scoggins
Other Stars: Gerard Plunkett, Bruce Young, Erin McCormack, Nicholas Lea, Marcia Strassman, Sandra Bernhard, Kathy Evison, Roger R. Cross, Ron Perlman, Jan Triska, Valentine Pelka, Richard Ridings, Marcus Testory, Frank Middlemass, Roger Daltrey, Anthony DeLongis, Tracy Keating, Peter Hudson
Director: Dennis Berry, Gérard Hameline, Peter Ellis, Rafal Zielinski, James Bruce, Richard Martin, Adrian Paul, Charles Wilkinson, Paolo Barzman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, brief nudity, sensuality, drug use, language in extras)
Run Time: 14h:38m:10s
Release Date: 2004-08-10
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Although Highlander was still the subject of a highly devoted fan base, by its fifth season the concept was starting to wear a little thin. Indeed, the series would only survive one half of another season after this one. But even so, the fifth season contains more than its share of classic episodes, though the end was already in sight.

As usual, title Immortal Duncan MacLeon (Adrian Paul) is fighting off evil, typically in the form of other Immortals determined to take his head and go through the Quickening whereby they would take on his powers and spirit. Aided by fellow Immortals Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch), Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) and Methos (Peter Wingfield), as well as the Watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes), Duncan must face his own guilt and deal with an ever-darkening situation foretold by prophet Cassandra (Tracy Scoggins of Babylon 5). Meanwhile, we finally learn a bit more of 5000-year-old Methos' surprising backstory.

This season contains some of the best episodes of the entire series, with numerous memorable moments. Manhunt features the return of Carl Robinson (Bruce Young), now a successful baseball player who is caught in the act of a decapitation; for a change the police are actually interested in the headless bodies piling up around the Immortals and the series examines the sacrifice of identity made necessary by such circumstances. Little Tin God posits an Immortal who surrounds himself with disciples that believe him to be God, while the script considers whether other messiahs might just have been Immortals. The Valkyrie has an unusual flashback, putting MacLeod smack in the middle of the plot to assassinate Hitler, while his compatriot continues to carry on her plans of assassination. The two part episode, Comes a Horseman and Revelation 6:8 provides background into the real Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and really signals the beginning of the end of the series.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses examines the repercussions of the Dark Quickening in the episode Something Wicked, from season four. At the same time, various character threads from other episodes in the fourth season reach fruition here, with the themes of judgment and Duncan's weariness at killing taking the forefront. The Modern Prometheus provides a radical revisionist tale of the writing of Frankenstein, with a Quickening as an inspiration. The final episode of the season, Archangel leads directly into the Ahriman storyline that opens the final season, and here forms something of a cliffhanger with its shocking and notorious ending (which is, unfortunately, blatantly spoiled on the packaging, so if you haven't seen the episode, try not to read the case).

Less successful outings include Haunted, which does feature a rather darker side to Richie, as does The End of Innocence. While the interstitial comedy episodes are usually entertaining, the all-flashback Stone of Scone gets a bit ridiculous at times. The same fate befalls Dramatic License, as MacLeod's life become the subject of a series of romance novels (courtesy of Sandra Bernhard). Although Duende, with its mix of flamenco dancing and Spanish swordfighting is a fan favorite, I found it rather dull and lacking in a compelling storyline. But none of the episodes in this season are really poor, just not quite up to the normal standards.

The producers in Season 5 are already casting about desperately for a character who could support a spinoff (fully a third of Season 6 is devoted to this search). But there's still no cigar here, even though one of the candidates is Erin McCormack of Will & Grace. As would become clear shortly, the series requires a personality as powerful as that projected by Adrian Paul, who despite some shortcomings in the first two seasons, is quite at home with his character here. Still certainly a must for fans of the series, some of whom are still in denial about the concluding cliffhanger. The set contains all 18 episodes (in their European broadcast order), down from the usual 22. The cuts are the four-minutes longer European versions.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks acceptably good for television, though the transfer is at times a little bit dark. Detail is fairly good, though there's substantial grain throughout. Shadow detail is quite lacking. The source material is generally flawless, as appropriate for recent material such as this.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both Dolby Surround and 5.1 tracks are provided, though in both the dialogue is firmly anchored in the center. The Quickenings surprisingly don't pack much of a bass oomph as one would expect. The music sounds fine, however, and all tracks are quite clean and undistorted.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 144 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captioning only)
Cast and Crew Filmographies
11 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
20 Featurette(s)
8 Feature/Episode commentaries by directors Peter Ellis and Richard Martin; actors Stan Krisch, Adrian Paul, Anthony DeLongis, Jim Byrnes; crew Don Paonessa, Gillian Horvath, Donna Lettow
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
9 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery, production drawings and documents, storyboards
  2. Alternate cuts of two episodes
  3. Behind-the-scenes footage
  4. Blooper reel
  5. Complete scripts
Extras Review: Six of the 18 episodes contain full-length commentaries from cast and crew, which can be taken either as full audio commentaries, or a condensed video commentary running 14 to 20 minutes in length. The editing on the condensed versions is pretty well done and seldom is anything significant left off. The participants are plainly running out of things to talk about, and enthusiasm levels are detectably lower than on previous volumes, so the content level is fairly thin. There are also some odd choices, such as Jim Byrnes to comment on Archangel, when he's barely in it; this seems like an episode that Stan Kirsch would much more appropriately be able to comment upon. Every episode includes a featurette with cast and crew discussions that pretty much duplicate the commentaries anyway. Almost every episode includes behind-the-scenes footage, and many have deleted or extended scenes attached to them in the extras. Some of these add an interesting facet to the program, while with others it's plain why they were cut. Finally, there's a Watcher's Chronicles for every episode, with additonal backstory for the characters and information regarding their swords.

While this is a nine-disc set, only six discs are devoted to the show proper, leaving three discs (two DVDs and one CD-ROM) to fill with extra material. The two-part episode is presented in alternate cuts, each about ten minutes longer than what aired even in Europe. These contain additional (and cheesy) flashbacks and eliminate many of the ambiguities behind Methos' actions, so the final episodes are stronger, but this is still interesting to see. Both episodes feature commentary pointing out the changes and surprisingly enough mocking the program. By far the most entertaining extras in the set.

The cavalcade of extras continues:a still gallery with over five dozen photos, thirty production drawings, filmographies of many of the cast and crew, production documents, a 10-question trivia game, a lengthy blooper reel, over 100 storyboards and a complete set of scripts are here for those who really want to get immersed in season five. Two featurettes on the duels and romances of Duncan MacLeod are just assembled clips, without comment, and are quite dispensable. Over an hour is dedicated to the first Highlander convention, held in 1998. This is for hardcore fans only, though the comparison to Trekkies is unavoidable. More interesting is a 39m documentary consisting primarily of interviews with Peter Wingfield on his career and the character of Methos. The packaging is the annoying form of digipak in which the discs overlap, making removal of the even-numbered discs an adventure. The sheer volume of the extras gets a solid A, but sadly the quality merits about a C+.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

A very strong season, with many excellent episodes and little in the way of clunkers. The transfer is acceptable, but the extras this time emphasize quantity over quality.

Mark Zimmer 2004-09-01