Reviews selected from TV Zone #131

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10)
• Find the pink-and-yellow sauce of our humour with Roobarb & Custard
Thunderbirds are go again in the latest home entertainment format
• Three are surprisingly good company in the latest Doctor Who novel
• and Farscape's first season gets an illustrated companion

Contender Video Out Now
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Reviewed by
Ian Atkins
Da-lana-daw! Da-lana-daw! Da-lana-nat-nar-naar!

Roobarb & CustardAs an adult you watch this harmonica-themed, Richard Briers-narrated, bouncy-animated work of lunacy and wonder what on Earth children could get from it except possibly a migraine. Eight episodes (a running time of nearly 40 minutes) makes this is a regrettably short dalliance with the past, though you can see how producer Bob Godfrey laid the foundations for subsequent work of genius Henry’s Cat.

The episodes – again suffering from five-minute brevity – have a poetic aspect to the language, enhanced by Briers’ enthusiastic voices and a background jazz score which only lacks Cleo Laine’s distinctive warbling.

Its real strength draws parallels with the best situation comedies, through having a loser hero in Roobarb the dog who doesn’t know he’s a loser, and yet who you still cheer in his futile battles against the voices of unreasonable reason (ie sneering cat Custard, and the twittering bird chorus). Those who think the 26 years since this series débuted will have seen Roobarb crumble are going to be disappointed.

Carlton Video Out Now
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Reviewed by
Mike Fillis
“Parker, is it any good?” “Yes, M’lady”

Thunderbirds on DVDBefore VCRs, I recorded Thunderbirds off the tv onto audio tape and listened to their fabulous adventures ad infinitum. I know the sound of every episode intimately, the timbre of each voice, the volume and frequency of every rocket thrust and explosion and, most importantly, every note of Barry Gray’s music.

But the fear that Carlton’s digitally restored, stereo DVD releases of Thunderbirds might have destroyed the authentic original sound has been allayed. Handled by caring technicians, the remixed Dolby Digital soundtracks of each episode have been accomplished with admirable restraint. The temptation to compete with modern cinematic soundscapes has been avoided, the aural experience one of enhancement rather than replacement.

All the 1965 sounds and music cues remain intact but some have been lightly embellished for greater impact on modern sound systems. Conversations in ancient temples possess a delicate surrounding echo; atomic-powered jets now fly left to right and then to the rear speakers; the Thunderbirds in flight now sport an extra turbine effect and all the explosions crackle with a real sense of danger. Even Gray’s sublime mono score has been given a slight stereophonic flange to pep it up a bit, and all for the good. Thunderbirds, it must be said, has never sounded better.

Or looked better, for that matter. New prints have been struck from the negatives. They’re not perfect – there are still some emulsion scratches and speckling – but the colouring and definition is superior to any prior commercial release or broadcast. And with four cracking episodes per DVD, Carlton has furnished us with one of Britain’s best loved series for an unbeatable price. Two discs are released every month and the first is a must for the tour de force pilot episode, Trapped in the Sky, alone.

You could hold out for the November box set with its extra disc, The Brains Behind Thunderbirds but if you wanted a documentary, forget it. It’s just Brains, the inventor of the marvellous machines presenting lots of clips. A must for completists and enthusiastic youngsters only. Grown-ups, however, can buy the discs individually. Make sure that you do.

selected from TV Zone #131
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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