Watching Buck Rogers In The 25th Century

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Cyanide Muffin, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. Cyanide Muffin

    Cyanide Muffin All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    And I haven't watched this series since 2005, when I first snagged a set of the full series. It kind of filled the time for me back then as I was in hospital for a long stay.

    I don't quite know how to describe this show, it somewhat sways from almost good scifi, to campy nonsense, and then back again. It's kind of watchable so it's not wholly bad. Just for me I find it hard to put into many words how the show makes me feel sometimes. I'm currently doing a rewatch of this.

    I do love their reuse of props and shots, for instance no matter where a ship takes off from they always use the same launch sequence down the triangle shaped tube. Doesn't matter if a ship is in a rectangular hangar..

    One observation I find is how, and how should I put this Earth lacks in brains. Sometimes I feel like rooting for the bad guys in this show. I just wish they had made the show a little more serious and given it a healthy injection of actual drama. The camp tends to wear thin fast.
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice ATARI CX5200 Premium Member

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    I had very mixed feelings about the show. I thought it was all over the map. They were so trying to make Buck a 25th Century Burt Reynolds at times. Wilma was great when they weren't undermining her. Good characters in the 1st season if underused. The 2nd season was a freaking disaster, trying to turn the show into the bastard child of Star Trek and Galactica. Hawk was the only redeeming thing about that season and they never quite knew what to do with him.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
  3. Cyanide Muffin

    Cyanide Muffin All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member

    I have to agree with all of that. I've barely started on season 1 but trying to watch it with fresh eyes and no direct thoughts despite watching it already one time. Hawk was the only good thing about season 2. I'm glad it ended there though because it was a freaking mess.
     
  4. Spectre Of The Fun

    Spectre Of The Fun Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I still like it but I was 8 when it originally aired. Like many kids my age I couldn't get enough Star Wars/Star Trek at the time and Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica fed that appetite. Likeable good guys and good girls, lasers and spaceship action, juicy villians, silly fistfights, pretty girls and camp.

    Yeah you could almost root for the villains. Richard Lynch, William Smith, Jack Palance and Jerry Orbach are particularly sleazy and menacing. Love Ray Walston and Albert Popwell trying to kidnap Gary Coleman. Julie 'War Witch' Newmar puts Princess Ardala in her place.

    Always liked Jessie Lawrence Ferguson and he has a small speaking part in 'A Dream of Jennifer.' Was later disappointed of course that he didn't get a better Trek role than *'Code of Honor' (should have been a Starship Captain or something).

    Always laugh at the service androids especially the hapless one Buck steals a jeep from in 'Cosmic Whiz Kid'. I also crack up when Buck approaches a woman at the bar from behind and when she turns around she has an ugly alien face fit for the Star Wars cantina.

    *Don't hate it as much as most because of Jessie Lawrence Feguson, sets, costumes and camp.
     
  5. Spectre Of The Fun

    Spectre Of The Fun Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Yeah he was good enough that I wouldn't have cared if he strolled onto a Season One TNG episode along with Donald Moffat's Rem from the TV Logan's Run.

    No doubt season 2 failed. At the time I was at least happy it wasn't as bad as Galatica 1980. My favorite episode after 'Time of the Hawk' is the one where only Buck can see the lizard men. That and 'Testimony of a Traitor'.

    To explain Wilma being so much weaker in Season 2 I had to head cannon that Dr. Huer got assassinated along with innocent bystanders. Wilma (unfairly) blamed herself for not thwarting the plot and had to slowly rebuild her confidence. Of course that was always going to be hard with the writers subjecting her to humiliating telekinetic dwarf rape.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
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  6. Cyanide Muffin

    Cyanide Muffin All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member


    I have never seen that episode ... Should I watch it?
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I reviewed the series on my blog last year:

    https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/tag/buck-rogers-in-the-25th-century/

    In short: The two seasons were pretty much completely different shows from different creative teams, despite having a few actors and character names in common. Season 1 was decently made and benefited from having SF/comics writer Alan Brennert as story editor for the first 2/3 of the season, but it was hampered by showrunner Bruce Lansbury's belief that TV audiences couldn't handle real science fiction or thought-provoking ideas, so that the show needed to be kept "basic" -- i.e. do the same kind of plots you'd see on any contemporary action show, just dressed up with some superficial futuristic bits. So we got the casino episode, the terrorist-plot episode, the old WWII pilots coming out of retirement episode, the cruise ship episode, the prison break episode, the Olympics episode (a direct tie-in to NBC's Olympics coverage that year), the rock concert episode, etc. So there were virtually no episodes with any real SF ideas or challenging themes or social commentary, just superficial adventure fluff that was entertaining but didn't have anything to say. Although the show did make a subtle statement by being unusually progressive for its day in portraying female characters as strong and equal, sexy but rarely objectified or helpless. And it was pretty good at showing ethnic diversity in its guest and extra casts, though not in the lead cast.

    Season 2, from Gunsmoke's former showrunner John Mantley, started out trying to be much more ambitious, to tell SF stories that had more substance and social commentary. "Time of the Hawk" was the series's finest installment, essentially a Gunsmoke episode in space but still a powerful dramatic piece with the kind of social commentary that season 1 had avoided. Unfortunately, network suits at the time still had no faith in the intelligence of the viewing audience, so the season quickly got dumbed down to a far lower level than season 1, yet with none of the charm and humor that made season 1 watchable, and with far more misogyny and marginalization of women. It did improve a bit toward the end, though, with the series finale "The Dorian Secret" being the second-best episode of the whole thing. Basically season 2 is a steep inverted bell curve -- the first and last episodes are terrific, the couple adjacent to those are flawed but interesting, and the ones in the middle are terrible.
     
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  8. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Which is terrible, a lame knockoff of a James Bond title sequence, quite badly sung by the brother of the Lennon Sisters. The star of our film, folks, just sleeping on the floor on top of his name. And if it's his dream in his long frozen sleep, as the sequence implies, how are Wilma and Ardala there before he's even met them?
     
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  10. Zeta

    Zeta Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    You haven’t fully experienced Buck Rogers in the 25th Century until you’ve seen the trippy, slinky, groovy opening from the 1979 theatrical release of the pilot.



    Is it weird that I kinda like the song and lyrics??
     
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  11. Gary Mitchell

    Gary Mitchell Admiral Admiral

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    I've had a couple of re-watches over the years and I get to the episode with the golden dorks and I stop. I'll have to skip it this time and the one with the little people.
    I can't believe what they did to Twiki's voice at the beginning of the second season. If I were Buck I would have found a roll of duct tape.
     
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  12. Cyanide Muffin

    Cyanide Muffin All hail Doctor 13 Premium Member


    The DVDs have this version of the intro for the pilot episode and they edited it together as a single episode. The song doesn't quite fit but I like it. I could picture that song fitting John Crichton in Farscape.
     
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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's weird... my response to Zeta's post about the movie title sequence is showing up before it instead of after. Time warp!

    The version on the DVD is the theatrical release of the pilot, which cut out several major sequences -- some of which were mainly to set up the series to follow, but some of which were important to establish plot and character, so the theatrical version is even shallower and less coherent than the TV version. For some reason, the DVD set relegates the original TV cut of "Awakening" to a bonus feature on the last disc of season 2, which makes the first season harder to follow because the theatrical cut excludes some important setup scenes. (The Blu-Rays do it the other way around, with the theatrical cut being the bonus feature.)

    And the TV version was originally aired as a single 2-hour movie, and later cut into two hourlong episodes for syndicated reruns. The original plan was to do the show as a miniseries of three 2-hour movies, but after seeing the first, they decided to release it theatrically, and somewhere along the way they decided to drop the other two movies and do it as a weekly hourlong show instead.
     
  14. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Commodore Commodore

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    Hope you've had a good recovery since then! (The hospital stay, I've not read onward yet to see if you like or dislike the show...)

    Seconded.

    The theatrical movie was typical 70s dystopia, which somehow is more entertaining than today's dystopia and Rogers wasn't my favorite show as a kid either.

    The TV show hid some double entendres amazingly well, as well as high camp. Double entendre on the use of the word "high" as well...

    And yet they are watchable, for the most part. It's bizarre how they gel together. Except for the roller skating with disco rope lights and where did they hide the 6V lantern battery needed to light them up bright enough?!

    Ditto. As a kid, even I could tell they were launching ships from areas that made no sense. "Oh, the desert ground now launches like out of a Draconian ship? Uh, okay." Sometimes I thought they randomly mixed things up but maybe they really were that low on budget., and for the time the effects made WERE expensive and extremely high quality for mere television.

    In theory, it's interesting. Over time and generations, knowledge can and sometimes does expire due to outdated or obsolete functionality, there's no need nor time to learn whatever. Even in my day when they said to use calculators to save time, the basic how-to still helps in other areas... sadly, most grandparents who rail on the fast food cashiers omit that when screeching the kids don't know how to count. But I digress; at the same time, the show did go so overboard with the "humans are so stupid they need a computer to tell them every last function", to the point of disbelief being un-suspended. Granted, the one roving computer being anti-human towards Wilma had some funny moments but I could tell even Erin Gray was struggling to put up with levels of idiotic camp that were deemed more obscene than some of those silly futuristic outfits (or lack thereof). and never mind the computers got it wrong in the movie when claiming Buck was a Draconian. Late 70s - camp, disco, and Studio 54 where someone generally goes in disease free, but not always on the way out.
     
  15. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Commodore Commodore

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    To be fair, the golden bowlcuts episode - along with the two-part featuring headless horseman Mark Lenard - were by far the WORST. The Shgoratchjozxyqk episode was fairly embarrassing as well. The others were either great or had much potential.

    I wish I knew why he wasn't brought back, his replacement voice was terrible. They did get Mel back but there wasn't even an explanation for the voice change, making me understand more why the occasional nod to the audience isn't a bad thing. Then again, many times when nods are made they're not done well so maybe it's for the best.

    Chrichton is still the best moving computer on TV, ever. But he's not self-aware since he doesn't realize he's incapable of lifting and moving things like all those "inferior" humans, hehe...

    But they still dropped Hawk's background the moment "The Time of the Hawk" ended. "The Dorian Secret" had proved season 2 had gotten its new vision together as well, but by then it was too late.
     
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  16. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk MSGT USAF 1947-1972 Premium Member

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    That inspired a running gag among my friends in the form of the phrase "Whip me. Beat me. Make me see green lizards!"
     
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  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The Mark Lenard 2-parter had a really good subplot with the military tension between Lenard's people and the admiral on the Searcher. But the stuff on the planet was Lost in Space-level silliness.


    I suspect maybe new showrunner John Mantley felt that since Twiki was designed to look like a young boy (basically a robotic version of Boxey from Battlestar Galactica, with the same bowl cut), he should sound childlike too. As for explaining the change, Mantley wanted to do a transitional episode explaining the overall change in status quo (though I don't know if Twiki's voice would've been addressed), but the network shot it down.


    They touched on it in "The Guardian," but that was about it. The problem was that he wasn't originally meant to stay on past the opening episode, so the subsequent scripts didn't have much for him to do. It's a shame -- Hawk could've been one of the great SFTV characters if he'd lived up to this potential.
     
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  18. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    I like the first season, it's a lot of fun and it seems to me they're in on the joke that it's a campy show. I mean, I don't think titles like "Planet of the Slave Girls", "Space Vampire", "Cruise Ship to the Stars", "Space Rockers" and so on happen otherwise.

    I've really come to hate the second season. There is this veneer of dull respectability that comes at the expense of what was unique about the show. Worst of all, Wilma goes from an ace pilot with agency that owns her sexuality to a glorified flight attendant, bleech.

    It seem odd to me with all the 80s throwbacks on TV and the cinema that there is such an aversion to the old cheesy shows among many but what can you do.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The show's staff hated those titles, which were forced on them by the network. Bruce Lansbury wanted to echo his previous show The Wild Wild West, where every title was in the form "The Night of the ____," and have every Buck Rogers title have the form "Flight of/to/from ____." But the network assumed the target audience was either too young or too dumb to understand such fancy titles, so they changed them to the corny titles we got. The only episode where Lansbury got to use his desired title format was the season 1 finale, "Flight of the War Witch." (Lansbury wrote that episode under a pseudonym, which is surprising, because it's the one episode of the season that really goes for an all-out sci-fi premise -- travel to another universe -- even though he was the one who usually insisted on avoiding science fiction plots in favor of "basic," conventional action-show plots.)


    I don't know that I'd call it either dull or respectable. Certainly it took itself far too seriously even when it was doing incredibly stupid plots. But it was such a mess that it could hardly be called dull, and it was too cheesy to be respectable. "Time of the Hawk" and "The Dorian Secret" are both respectable, and excellent, but they're the only high points.


    Yes. In season 1, she's the leader of Earth's entire military. In season 2, she's a subordinate officer on a single starship and her role isn't even clearly defined. (She's called "one of our executive officers" in "Mark of the Saurian," but she never really acts like it.)

    Incidentally, as I mention in my blog reviews, it's startling how similar the show within the movie Galaxy Quest is to Buck season 2. Both aired around 1980, and both feature a two-fisted leading man played by a spotlight-hogging actor (Buck/Taggart), his alien best friend who's the last survivor of a warrior race and has a skullcap-based makeup (Hawk/Lazarus), and a leading lady who has no clear shipboard role besides eye candy (Wilma/Tawny). And boy genius Laredo is reminiscent of Gary Coleman's Hieronymous Fox character from season 1. Everybody notices GQ's riffs on Star Trek, but if it wasn't deliberately emulating Buck as well, then it's an incredible coincidence.
     
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  20. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    I don't remember "The Dorian Secret" off hand but I thought Hawk was super cool when I first watched as a pre-teen. Thom Christopher did a great job with what could've been an awful character, he somehow even made a feather wig work. Interesting thoughts on Galaxy Quest there.
     
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