Tour of Duty Season 2

Monday, 21 May 2012 16:35

Tour of Duty - Season 2 comes to UK DVDThe second season of Tour of Duty charts the continuing trials and tribulations of Bravo Company in the Vietnam War. It is 1968 and the guys have been relocated to a base near Saigon. Three new regular characters are introduced to keep things fresh: eager journalist Alex Devlin (Kim Delaney – Army Wives, NYPD Blue), psychiatrist Dr Jennifer Seymour (Betsy Brantley – “The Princess Bride”, “Dark Angel”) and hotshot chopper pilot Lieutenant John McKay (Dan Gauthier – “Teen Witch”, Supernatural).

The tone of the series has evolved since year one. The new setting means that the soldiers often venture into Saigon, providing some new scenery alongside the usual the base and jungle locations. The inclusion of the two female characters provides the men with an opportunity to open up and discuss their troubles, and introduces the possibility of romance which helps provide some contrast to the testosterone-drenched conflict. The egotistical Lt McKay also stirs things up with his relatively glamorous role and digs.

As the war drags on with no end in sight, public support plummets and paranoia sets in both at home and in the field. Trust is hard to come by, morale is degrading, and anger and frustration lead the troops to turn on each other. Perception of the war is important to the top brass and the troops on the ground, and although the men are initially suspicious of Alex’s motives, her close proximity to the action means she can potentially report on events from their perspective – even if it puts her life in danger.

Now that the soldiers have been involved in the controversial conflict for at least a year, the series focuses on how their attitudes to life and the war are changing. Some of the men re-enlist because the pay is fair, they do not know how to do anything else and want to remain with their military buddies; others are pressured or tricked into carrying on by crafty enrolment staff; some are dumped by their sweethearts and cannot face returning home.

Then there are the psychopaths who keep fighting because they love killing and are good at it, as depicted in an episode entitled ‘Sleeping Dogs’. Michael Madsen guest-stars as a disturbed sniper who is solely focused on upping his kill ratio, to the detriment of everything and everyone else.

Stories this season deal with tough topics such as homophobia, shellshock (which can either send a soldier cowering into a corner or charging mindlessly into battle with all guns blazing), pregnancy amongst Vietnamese prostitutes and whether the American fathers can face up to their responsibilities, substance abuse for either numbing the mental pain or as a temporary means of escape, and the savage treatment of civilians.

As in the first season, the producers and writers do not pull any punches and they cover these areas with intelligence and an even hand.

If I had a criticism of this DVD box set, it would grudgingly be that the look and feel of these episodes does not match the first season. Whereas that was shot in lush Hawaii, the second and third seasons were filmed in Los Angeles, which is unfortunately a less convincing stand-in for Vietnam.

A nagging sense of artificiality hangs in the air, though the acting and writing are strong enough to overcome it. I also believe that one of the episode synopses relates to a completely different show, but as the summaries are quite detailed and give away major spoilers I would not recommend viewers read them until after watching each episode!

Each disc in the set features four episodes this time around rather than five, and the picture quality is definitely a less fuzzy and murky as a result. It is a little ironic given the less picturesque location work but never mind!

DVD extras contained within this five-disc box set include:

  • All 16 Uncut Original Episodes
  • Brand New Making of Documentary “The Story of Tour of Duty” Part 2 (30 mins) featuring Cast and Crew
  • Character Biographies
  • Original Cast Biographies
  • Original Crew Biographies
  • Galleries including Action Stills, Behind The Scenes Stills and Publicity Stills
  • Episode Synopses
  • Glossary of Tour of Duty Military Terms

Tour of Duty – The Complete Second Season (1989) is out now, courtesy of Fabulous Films. The five-disc box set has a running time of 800 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £49.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Monday, 23 July 2012 10:43

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