Case Number 07289


Sony // 1990 // 970 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // July 27th, 2005

The Charge

What happens in the bush stays in the bush.

Opening Statement

Columbia Tristar brings the third and final season of Tour of Duty to DVD and provides a true conclusion to the series.

Facts of the Case

Tour of Duty -- Season Three follows the soldiers of Bravo Company as they shift from regular army duties to a new role as Special Forces unit Team Viking. This role allows for a variety of missions and introduces several new characters, including a new commanding officer (Carl Weathers, Predator), a hippie medic (John Dye, The Perfect Weapon), and Lee Majors (The Fall Guy) as the world's oldest grunt.

The Evidence

Tour of Duty was a weekly staple for me when it aired from 1987-1990 on CBS. As a teenager with an interest in military history and combat, a network show set in Viet Nam was "Must See TV." Years before the visceral experience of Band of Brothers would reach the air, Tour of Duty filled a niche on night-time television that had been unoccupied for many years.

After a dull second season, which mostly occurred in an urban environment and dealt with a lot of political issues, Season Three marked a return to action for the Tour of Duty franchise. The group's transformation to a special forces team allowed for plenty of fireworks, and the introduction of the new characters helped to liven up the dynamic of the cast. Over the course of the season, the show addressed such issues as drug addiction amongst U.S. soldiers, race relations in the service, and civilian massacres, making it probably the grimmest of the three seasons.

Season Three also manages to close out the run of Tour of Duty by providing a conclusion for several of the characters. Instead of just leaving the viewer hanging, Season Three traces the paths various cast members take when they return to the U.S. after their tours, and the difficulties they face re-integrating back into society. For the most part this is well handled, and does a nice job of bringing the series to a realistic and satisfying conclusion.

The acting in Tour of Duty has always varied in quality, so the additions of Carl Weathers, John Dye, and Lee Majors give this season a much-needed boost in the personnel department. Weathers' role as Col. Carl Brewster is especially good; he manages to make his character three-dimensional and complicated even with limited screen time. It's also worth noting the continued effort of Terrence Knox (Trip Wire) as Sgt. Zeke Anderson. Knox has long been the anchor of the show, and his performance as a compassionate veteran nicely counters the cigar-chomping, "Sgt. Rock" stereotype. Given a chance in Season Three to expand his range, Knox again sets the bar high for the rest of the cast.

Columbia Tristar has put forth a decent effort for Tour of Duty -- Season Three. The five-disc set includes all 21 episodes in the season, for a total of 970 minutes. The fold-out packaging is well-designed and includes a nice insert listing the titles and plots of all the episodes.

The fullframe presentation is what you would expect for a network show that aired in the late 1980s. The quality varies greatly; there is a fair amount of grain throughout the DVD, mostly in outdoor scenes, but at other times the footage is quite sharp and very watchable. Brightness and color levels are good, however, with little bleeding or blurring that often accompanies a 15-year old series. Overall, the video is decent and doesn't distract too heavily from the viewing experience.

Tour of Duty -- Season Three is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. It is well-mixed and both the dialogue and music are clear and sharp. It must be noted that, as with the previous DVD sets for the show, much of the original 1960s-era music could not be obtained. As a substitute, a rock-based muzak score has been added. There is nothing wrong with the new tracks, per se, but those expecting a duplication of the broadcast experience will be disappointed.

Columbia Tristar really drops the ball on the extras for Tour of Duty -- Season Three. No cast interviews, no cut scenes, no nothing. Instead, we get trailers for assorted combat-related films like Tears of the Sun and Black Hawk Down. After three full seasons, couldn't Columbia Tristar have found something to throw into this set for the benefit of longtime fans?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As with the two previous seasons of Tour of Duty, there are limitations that prevent the series from being as good as its potential. The limited budget provided by a network show continues to be a handicap; recycled combat footage is often used, sets are limited in scale, and special effects tend to be used sparingly. These short-cuts force the scale of the Viet Nam war onto a much smaller palette for the viewer; considering that at its height the US had almost 1.2 million troops deployed, the viewer's impression of the conflict is very limited.

Another limitation is the relatively tame nature of the show's violence. Much of the blood, carnage, and bad language that viewers have come to expect in a war-based series are simply not present. Recent efforts such as the aforementioned Band of Brothers, and films like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line have changed the way the public sees war and its consequences. The public now expects more than a soldier clutching his side and falling over when shot in action. Because of this new expectation, the tame nature of the violence in Tour of Duty often rings false, and limits the series' impact on the viewer.

Long-time fans will also recognize the continuing Star Trek "away-team" syndrome at play: if the main characters and a couple of anonymous actors get into something dangerous, the no-namers will get it every time.

Closing Statement

Tour of Duty fans can add this third season to their collection without much concern. Although the lack of extras is lamentable, it doesn't distract from the positive qualities of this set.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Columbia Tristar is seized by the MPs and ordered to stand trial in a military court for not providing adequate special features.

Review content copyright © 2005 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 70
Audio: 70
Extras: 15
Acting: 75
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 970 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Trailers

* IMDb

* Unofficial Tour of Duty page