Beedee beedee beedee, gosh, Buck!
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century used to be a BBC Saturday teatime institution (so far as I can remember, anyway!). It's certainly one of my very clear childhood memories and may well be partly responsible for my love of sci-fi today. It had that sort of "not taking itself too seriously" feel that Stargate has today. Sure, you can spot the flaws in effects (and acting!) compared with today's shows, but hey, considering when it was made...! At the time of writing, by pure coincidence, it's airing on Bravo in the UK...
The basic principle of the show is that Buck Rogers is a former NASA astronaut whose shuttle goes on a little detour. The result is that he ends up back at Earth a little behind schedule having been turned into a human lollipop for the best part of 500 years. Unlikely? Perhaps. But this is pulp sci-fi at its best/worst!
Having been rather cautiously brought to 25th century Earth by Colonel Wilma Deering (left - schwing!), Buck (right) proceeds to stick out like a sore thumb.
However, his idiosyncracies turn out to be a valuable resource for 25th century Earth which has, due to many hardships, lost a good degree of its reliance on human ingenuity and soul, trusting instead in its technology.
Speaking of which, here we have Twiki and Dr Theopolis, two examples of that technology. Twiki is a short, wisecracking android who becomes Buck's buddy. Dr Theopolis is a member of the computer council, who (along with human administrators) effectively run 25th century Earth. Dr Theopolis becomes Buck's advocate and advisor, along with his human associate Dr Huer.
At my age when I first saw the show, the acting wasn't really an issue. I loved the whizz bang special effects, and, of course, the spaceships. The ship that Wilma flies, and that Buck also adopts, is very simply called a Starfighter; it was one of my favourite Corgi toys of the early eighties. It could go interatmospheric and travelled between systems using Stargates(!)
Enemies tended to use Hatchet fighters, perhaps because they were cheap, or perhaps because it was cheap to use stock footage! Generally not too much trouble for Starfighters, once Buck has persuaded the Starfighter pilots to go manual...
One nice thing about this series - it didn't forget its roots. I wouldn't have recognized him at the time, but the series features the re-appearance of the original Buck Rogers from the old black and white serials which I do actually vaguely remember. Perhaps a very early example of a follow-up series acknowledging its roots, like Star Trek The Next Generation actively involving characters from its past?
Of course, history has repeated itself with another Glen A Larson show - this time it's the new show that's nodding its head to the Glen A Larson original with Battlestar Galactica involving the original Apollo. And so the wheel turns...
Links: Buck Rogers site a far more comprehensive than this offering!
Last updated 14 December 2013