geekery

SF Obscure: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

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Today we venture into the way-back machine for a show likely only those solidly in middle age and older  remember. It was the heyday of the first entry into the original Star Wars and anything with a robot and a spaceship was thrown together and milked for all it was worth. A lot of the props and stock footage from the original Battlestar Galactica are reused so it has that look to it. The other influence, seriously, was disco. The producers wanted to imitate the style, fashion, and ‘sex appeal’ of the disco era. I’ll give you a moment to stop giggling.

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(hairy chests and not-quite-so chiseled abs were perfectly ok in yesteryear)

The original Buck Rogers was a comic strip from 1928; later a radio show in the 1930’s to 1940’s; and an early TV serial in the 1950’s. The television version discussed today began as a  made for TV movie which later got theatrical film release in 1979.  From this ‘pilot’ sprang the series.

Brief summary: Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers (Gil Gerard) is a NASA astronaut in the 1980’s who gets frozen during a life support malfunction and reawakened in the year 2491. The Earth was rebuilt, kind of, after a nuclear war in 1987, so Buck Rogers must face the new century. He is recruited by the Earth Defense Directorate and sent on various covert missions. He has a robot named Twiki. He has a friend/romantic interest, Colonel Wilma Derring (Erin Grey) who is a star fighter pilot. Part of the first season is a fight against Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) who wants to conquer earth and make Buck her consort ’cause he’s so manly and whatnot.

Season two, changes around quite a bit. Buck Rogers is now a member of a crew on a ship called Searcher meant to be more Star Trek-ish. Wilma Deering’s role is reduced-it was thought that she needed to be ‘softened’. Instead of the fighter pilot Deering, it’s mostly ‘tennis skirt wearing sit at the computer’ Deering. Buck also gets a side kick alien character-a avian humanoid called Hawk.

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Hawk is not as cool as this Hawk, whom of course went on to be in a truly good SF series. But I digress.

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Anyhow, there are all sorts of standard, camp adventures. Amazon women in one episode; another about people made of gold; another about evil satyrs; and one about a mind control hair metal band taking over humanity. (that’s what it looked like to me)

Buck Rogers is not innovative SF. It has lessons about racism, war, religion etc but they are pretty heavy handed and obvious. There were many times in which I abandoned an episode midway because it was just too silly.  Still, it’s family fun.

So, Smart Girls Readers, do you think the upcoming Star Wars movies will issue in an era of SF TV?

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12 thoughts on “SF Obscure: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

  1. Oh geez, Buck Rogers. 😀

    Yeah, my household is rather familiar with this ‘un. We’re all well old enough to remember it, and we may sorta kinda have the DVD set. My housemate is more partial to it than I am, though I gotta admit, I rather liked it sometimes myself even though when it came to Glen Larson shows, my heart still belongs to the original Battlestar Galactica.

    My household is in unilateral agreement, though, that the only solution to Twiki is a baseball bat. Or possibly fire. Or possibly a baseball bat ON FIRE.

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  2. Yes, I watched this 80s mish-mash. It was hysterical even back then. The one thing I remember is that over the course of the series poor declared hunk Gil Gerard gained weight. I suppose to punish him the makers of the show reused to sew him bigger jumpsuits. So the hunk became a chunk in shiny, unforgiving fabric. Also, call me weird but Hawk was strangely attractive. Remember the episodes revolving around him acquiring a mate? He and his “chick” even had a NEST as a home. a BIG FRIGGIN’ NEST. Wow. Avian love.

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    • I remember watching this as a kid and Hawk and Wilma battled for my favorite character. Looking back, Twiki was probably kill-it-with-fire bad, but my child-self loved the idea of a tinfoil person my size on the show, so that was probably a very calculated move.

      If you’ve watched any of the season 2 episodes of The Guild, Erin Gray guest stars and This Right Here is the source of her storyline (also, she seems super-sweet as a slightly-confuzzled, but a good sport, accidental geek-goddess).

      Also, love the pic of Gil Gerard workin’ the dadbod. Dadbod is the new black, I hear. ;D

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  3. I cannot decide just how geeky I should feel here. So many of the “obscure” shows you discuss in this column I own copies of, including this one. I was a huge Gil Gerard fan (I like a hairy chest and something to hold onto *sigh*) and Erin Grey fan. I am also a huge fan of the campy sf story-lines. So, just how geeky does that make me? Love this stuff. As for your question – “do you think the upcoming Star Wars movies will issue in an era of SF TV?” Hard to say. But I am not counting on it. TV has gotten so . . . well, let me just say I don’t watch TV these days. I watch my old movies/shows or Netflix. So much more entertaining in my opinion, not to mention no commercials. 😉

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