When a programme opens with the voiceover “The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of its deep space probes” it’s hard not to treat this like a period piece, but 1987 was eight whole years away when this was made.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century came from Glen A Larson, who was a TV Science Fiction powerhouse in the 70s, producing this, Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, as well as those two underrated classics Automan and Manimal.
Buck Rogers was an update of the classic Buster Crabbe 30s serial, which in turn came from the comic strip created by Philip Nowlan and Dick Calkins.
“For 500 years Buck Rogers has been miraculously preserved, frozen by temperatures beyond imagination.” Well they might be beyond your imagination, Mr Larson, but I think Lord Kelvin has a better imagination than you do.
Henry Silva’s Killer Kane appears to have had all his dialogue redubbed. But then so does a lot of the dialogue.
Buck wants to find out more about the holocaust that almost destroyed the Earth after he left, so he leaves the city with Twiki and the computer Dr Theopolis. They visit the ravaged city. We see lots of creepy figures running around watching them. These figures start banging on pipes and walls, making a lot of noise.
Twiki thinks we're being watched.
It's just his imagination.
I’m not entirely sure quite why Buck should think they’re not being watched with all the banging and clattering going on. It’s almost as if the director hadn’t bothered to read the script, and thought it would be dramatic to put in all the banging.
“My gold circuits and parts bring a lot of money on the black market. As for Twiki, well, I’d hate to tell you the use they’ll put him to.”
Whilst being pursued by the horribly mutated creatures still living in the ruined city, Buck find a cemetery and starts looking at gravestones. After check a handful of gravestones he finds his parents’ grave. This is 500 years later. Following a holocaust of some form. In a city the size of Chicago. Maybe his parents had pre-bought a plot.
The Earth society appears to be governed by intelligent computers. They don’t seem to mind.
Only in the naïve 70s could this happen, where the full malevolence of any computer system was yet to be discovered. We know better now.
There’s some lovely model work on this show. Maybe nothing to match Battlestar Galactica’s Vipers, but still classic model ships.
This is the Draconian starship. All pointy and detailed in that classic 70s model shop way.
The costumes, too, are typical of the era. Sadly, that’s not a positive recommendation.
I know she’s a Princess, but that’s just stupid.
Naturally, there’s a big space dogfight, and naturally, Buck’s seat-of-the-pants combat techniques save the day when Wilma Deering’s flight computers totally fail to deal with the pirates. Who would have seen that coming.
Dr Huer addresses the citizens of Earth:
At this profound moment in our history, we see hovering in the skies above us and alien vessel. A military spacecraft, a ship of war. This war machine comes to us, stripped of all weaponry, completely unarmed, a shining symbol of peace, lasting peace and great goodwill between the people of Earth and the Draconian realm.
Didn’t he watch Battlestar Galactica? This is how that whole mess started. It’s almost as if they’ve only got one story. And they\re called Draconians for goodness sake. They have to be evil.
Princess Ardala has changed again. This is what she thinks is appropriate for a diplomatic meeting. Perhaps they learned about Earth culture by looking at the only media that survived the holocaust: Showgirls and Jamiroquai videos.
Then the horror really starts. They start folk dancing to some kickin’ modern choons.
These people deserve to die.
It gets worse. Buck asks Ardala to dance, then asks the musician if he knows any Rock music. “You know, just let yourself go” he says, as if this is any help at all in articulating a long lost musical style. Luckily the 25th century Vince Clarke gives it a good go, and starts playing a funky disco beat, rather than loosening his waistband and tucking in to a doner kebab. Buck and Ardala start disco dancing. I swear at one point, if the camera had panned down slightly, we’d have seen Ardala’s handbag at her feet as she dances like a bored fifteen year old.
Naturally, Ardala is revealed as the enemy, Buck saves the day, and all is well. Until the end credits. Which have words.
It’s worse than the Enterprise theme song, if such a thing were possible.
After the show, there’s a trailer for another ‘star studded’ adaptation, this time it’s The Little Match Girl. Starring Roger Daltrey and Twiggy. It looks great.
Who produced this? The team responsible for the Crackerjack musical numbers?
This is the way the tape ends.