BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY
The Complete Epic Series
Review by Ed Nguyen
Stars: Gil Gerard, Erin
Gray, Tim O'Connor, Eric Server, Mel Blanc, Felix Silla, Pamela Hensley, Thom
Christopher, Jay Garner, Wilfrid Hyde-White
Directors: Sigmund Neufeld, Larry Stewart, Vincent McEveety, David Phinney, Philip Leacock, Daniel Haller, Jack Arnold, et al.
Audio: English 2.0 mono
Video: Color, full-frame 1.33:1
Features: Trailers, plot synopses
Length: 1799 minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2004
“Beedee beedee beedee!”
Episodes *** ˝
Science-fiction has been an often-ridiculed and maligned genre. On the big screen, aside from the occasional Stanley Kubrick epic, the genre was dismissed for decades as adolescent fanfare beneath serious or intellectual consideration. The release of Star Wars in 1977 changed everything. While the film was still basically a work of pop culture, its overwhelming popularity propelled science fiction into the spotlight.
Suddenly film and television producers everywhere were beginning to see the money-making potential of the genre. Soon enough, aliens and ray guns became the vogue, and the science fiction began to appear regularly on film and television. There were visionary achievements (Alien, Blade Runner) and a few missteps (Battle Beneath the Stars, The Black Hole). There were films which later re-surfaced as television pilots (Battlestar Galactica). Even the superhero sub-genre got a kick-start with such television shows as Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and The Incredible Hulk.
In spring 1979, following this trend, the film Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was released theatrically. This space adventure re-introduced new generations of receptive fans to the long-standing pulp fiction space jockey. Not too long thereafter, the television network NBC purchased the rights to a television series based on this futuristic hero. By the fall of the same year, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century would be re-edited for broadcast on television as the pilot for a new show of the same name.
The NBC show was not the first incarnation of Buck Rogers on television, however. A live-action half-hour show ran briefly on television in the early 1950’s. In 1939, Buster Crabbe popularized the hero in a twelve-part movie serial. And before that, Buck Rogers was the star of several 1920's comic strips and Amazing Stories novellas.
As for the premise for the return of this new Buck Rogers? Well, so goes the show's opening narration, the year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America's deep space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger-3 and its pilot, Captain William Buck Rogers, are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems and returns Buck Rogers to Earth...500 years later!
This Buck Rogers may be an interstellar Rip Van Winkle, but he remains the prototypical modern-day space hero - a cocky, optimistic barrel-chested flyboy armed with an bottomless quiver of 20th-century quips to amaze or confuse his new 25th-century friends. Buck uses equal portions brawns and brains to solve the myriad challenges thrown his way. When muscles and wisecracks fail to impress, however, Buck always his luscious sidekicks and handy ray guns to fall back upon!
Tops among his new friends is Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), a 25th-century Emma Peel. There may be an endless procession of lovely ladies to help Buck Rogers in his adventures, but ultimately Wilma is his jumpsuit-clad Rock of Gilbratar, ever resourceful and unfailingly dependable in a laser fight, too!
Buck Rogers has other friends in the Defense Directorate, the Terran organization responsible for ensuring the safety of Earth and its merchant space vessels. The wise Dr. Huer (Tim O'Connor) is leader of the Defense Directorate. Also on hand to provide counsel is Dr. Theopolis (Eric Server), an artificial intelligence carried about on the neck of the lovable little ambu-quad robot, Twiki (Felix Silla with voice by Mel Blanc!).
Many of Buck Rogers' early adventures occurred around New Chicago, a haven against the post-apocalyptic barren wastelands beyond. But as Buck grew accustomed to life in the future, his adventures began to reach into the outer reaches of space and beyond. Accordingly, the fun and campy style of the early episodes eventually evolved into a more serious tone, with later episodes exploring social issues.
Ultimately, though, while Buck Rogers always received solid ratings, the high costs of producing the show forced NBC to cancel it after only two seasons. Read on below for synopses for these adventures of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century! They may be old but they remain as entertaining as ever!
"I'm freezing my ball bearings off!"
This is the original theatrical release that was later re-edited into a pilot for the television show that premiered in September, 1979.
The film opens with an admittedly cringe-inducing titles sequence stylized after the famous James Bond film opening sequences (but rendered as though by Sesame Street). Never fear, things get better. As the action begins, Buck Rogers and his space shuttle are retrieved from deep space by a Draconian battle cruiser supposedly on a peace mission to Earth. Yeah, right!
The devious Draconians waste no opportunity to bug Buck's shuttle before releasing it for Earth's patrol ships to discover. If the Terrans bring Buck's ship through their global defensive grids, the Draconians may learn of a secret corridor through the protective force fields. Such knowledge would be highly useful for an invasion of the Earth!
Earth in the 25th-century is a cautious, post-apocalyptic one. Fledgling new cities dot the landscape, and Buck is brought to one, the Inner City of New Chicago, built upon the remnants of an old metropolis. Unfortunately for Buck, his incredible tales of alien abduction and time travel meet with ridicule or disbelief. As far as the Defense Directorate's Colonel Deering and Dr. Theopolis are concerned, Buck Rogers is a Draconian spy. Only the Directorate's top leader, Dr. Huer, has some faith in the old NASA pilot. Soon enough, when the treacherous Draconian prepare for attack, the 500-year-old astronaut is given a chance to prove his worth by sabotaging the Draconian plot.
Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) makes her first appearance in this episode as a power-crazy dominatrix intent of conquering Earth (and seducing Buck Rogers, too). Best of all is Princess Ardala's propensity to wear itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow, golden-mesh bikinis!
2) Planet of the Slave Girls
"Earth in the 25th century is better than no Earth at all."
This episode introduces the regular opening credits for the show (thank the stars!). As the episode opens, somebody has been poisoning Earth's food supplies and targeting members of Earth's Defense Directorate. With pilots dropping like flies, Earth finds itself without the available forces to repel a potential invasion or attack.
The source of the poison is traced back to the planet Vistula, a seemingly docile agricultural planet. Vistula is home to moah-ha-ha mad Kaleel (vitriol-spewing, scenery-chewing Jack Palance), a slave-trader living among the sand nomads. Kaleel fancies himself as an emperor-god of the dunes, and his grand aspirations include the conquest of Earth.
This double-length episode has a bit of everything - space combat, sabotage, assassination attempts, a few fisticuffs, a cliffhanger crash landing with Buck's survival in question, and even an anti-slavery theme. And with Kaleel's huge fleet of invasion ships, the stage is set for an epic space battle finale as well! In short, Planet of the Slave Girls is a special effects extravaganza!
On the lighter side, Buck Rogers tries to assimilate into his new society by teaching his new colleagues a thing or two about old Earth, such as football and judo.
As a special treat, this episode features an ultra-special cameo by none other than Buster Crabbe, the original Buck Rogers himself. Roddy McDowell also guest-stars as the foppish and clueless governor of Vistula.
3) Vegas in Space
"The idea of traveling to an orbiting city of moral depravity obvious agrees with you, Buck."
Arms dealer Armat has made a deal with Earth's Defense Directorate - rescue his beloved Falina, and in return he will supply crucial schematic information to help the Directorate defeat the space pirates pestering Earth's shipping lanes of late.
Word has it that Falina is being held by the greedy kingpin Velosi on his gambling mecca of Sinaloa. Time for Buck Rogers to come to the rescue, with the help of the lovely Major Marla Landers (Juanin Clay)!
This episode guest-stars Cesar Romero as Amos Armat and the lovely Ana Alicia as Falina.
BONUS TRIVIA: Juanin Clay was once an original choice to replace Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering for the television series.
4) The Plot to Kill a City
"Played for a fool...TWICE...in one day!"
In this two-part episode, New Chicago is threatened by the Legion of Death, an evil gang of interstellar assassins. The Legion plans deadly retribution for the death of one of its members. Buck and Wilma must somehow infiltrate the gang to put an end to this murderous plot.
That, however, is easier said than done, considering the gang's super-powered members. Frank Gorshin (The Riddler of TV's Batman fame) is Seton Kellogg, evil genius and leader of the Legion. His henchman Varek is a mutant who walks through walls. Other members include the portent telekinetic Jolon Quince (John Quade), the empathic Sherese (Nancy DeCarl), and Markos, an martial arts master who feels no pain.
Buck Rogers impersonates Rafael Argus, a ruthless killer newly recruited into the Legion, while Wilma uses her feminine wiles to extract information from Quince.
Buck gains some allies along the way - Joella (a young Markie Post before the sitcom Night Court) and Barney Smith (James Sloyan), a petty crook who helps him break out of prison. But does a saboteur already linger in the midst of the Defense Directorate? And how far can these new "friends" be trusted in this deadly struggle to stop the Legion before New Chicago is destroyed by an antimatter explosion?
5) Return of the Fighting 69th
"Within three days, all the people on Earth will die!"
This episode opens with a fatal battle in an asteroid belt surrounding Necrosis IV. Somewhere within the asteroids is the home base of the hideously-scarred smuggler Corliss, who has stolen a freighter of deadly biochemicals left over from the 20th-century. Corliss intends to use these deadly gases on Earth's atmosphere! Five hundred years in the future, and Earth is still plagued by the threat of biowarfare! Who better to deal with a centuries-old threat than a centuries-old hero like Captain Buck Rogers?
On hand to assist is Wilma Deering's old flight instructor, Major Noah Cooper (Peter Graves from TV's Mission: Impossible), called out of retirement along with the rest of the old Fighting 69th. Who needs young hotshots when there are plenty of seasoned vets around to save the day?
6) Unchained Woman
"Rescuing you is getting to be a full-time occupation!"
Moving on to Disc Two, we come to the story of Jen Burton, a young woman who may possess incriminating knowledge about the elusive space pirate Pantera. Unfortunately, she has been imprisoned on the Zetan desert prison world of Moon Three. Earth's Defense Directorate wants what Burton knows and sends Buck Rogers to infiltrate the prison and to rescue Burton.
However, thanks to a spy, Pantera learns of the plan and races for the prison world himself to finish off Buck. Even worse, a seemingly unstoppable android pursues the escapees Buck and Jen and means to terminate the man from the past. The conclusion of this episode, with the life of a young woman at stake, is a tense showdown between Pantera, Buck, and a determined android!
Jamie Lee Curtis guest-stars as damsel in distress Jen Burton.
7) Planet of the Amazon Women
"You look like something the cat dragged in, then dragged right out again."
And yet another planet populated by lovely women! This time around, Buck Rogers rescues a Zantian ship in distress only to be subsequently zapped, kidnapped, and placed on auction as a boy-toy for some lucky Zantian woman. What a really...horrible fate? Perhaps someone from Earth's Defense Directorate should really rescue Buck Rogers from a looming lifetime of sexual servitude pleasuring a desirable young woman, right?
Meanwhile, Earth needs vital supplies from the planet Madrea but is mired in a nasty trade dispute with the Ruathans, who claim sovereignty over Madrea. Is there a connection between the secretive Zantian society and the ruthless Ruathans with their unfair trade embargo?
Ann Dusenberry guest stars as Ariela, daughter of Zantian Prime Minister Dyne (Anne Jeffreys).
8) Cosmic Whiz Kid
"Don't give me any of that Dr. Doom jive!"
Buck Rogers isn't the only 20th-century fogie around the galaxy. Hieronymus Fox, child president of planet Geneisa, is 493 years old himself, but who's counting?
But now, Fox has been kidnapped by the evil Roderick Zale (Ray Walston) for ransom. Since one good kidnapping deserves another, Lieutenant Dia Cyrton, Hieronymus' sexy bodyguard (Melody Rogers), kidnaps Buck Rogers to help her rescue the President. Meanwhile, Wilma Deering undertakes a covert operation herself to rescue President Fox, trapped on the crime world of Aldebaran, the Barbary Coast of space.
Zale has a few aces up his sleeves to thwart all these would-be rescuers. His manor is loaded with booby-traps. In Zale's employ is also a super-powered assassin who would like nothing better than to make mincemeat out of poor old Buck. Hey, Buck's already defeated the whole Legion of Death gang, so what's one more super-powered baddie?
Gary Coleman (from NBC's Diff'rent Strokes) guest-stars as whiz kid Hieronymus Fox, a role he reprises in the upcoming episode A Blast for Buck.
9) Escape from Wedded Bliss
"Talk about shotgun weddings."
Princess Ardala returns! Her wardrobe still consists of steel bikinis, and she still wants Buck Rogers, only this time, she demands nothing less than Buck's complete devotion as her husband! Hmm, to be the undisputed ruler of the galaxy and married to a sex-crazed, bikini-garbed, interplanetary princess! There must be a catch somewhere. Oh yes - if Buck refuses, Ardala threatens to blow up Earth with her latest Doomsday weapon. Ah, the sacrifices one man must make for the greater good of all humanity!
10) Cruise Ship to the Stars
"I turn into someone terrible, don't I? Someone cruel?"
After the attempted abduction of beauty queen Miss Cosmos aboard the pleasure luxury liner Lyran Queen, Dr. Huer "volunteers" Buck Rogers to serve as a bodyguard. Hey, who wouldn't want to guard the body of the most genetically perfect woman in the quadrant? After the recent close encounter with Princess Ardala, this job should be a piece of cake for Buck, right?
Alas, the would-be kidnapper is sweet amnesiac Alison, unaware that in moments of anger she transforms into the cruel, super-powered Sabrina, essentially a futuristic She-Hulk! How will Buck defeat Sabrina without harming Alison?
This episode boasts a super-sized cast of lovely women (including a "female" ambu-quad counterpart for Twiki, too)! Kimberly Beck guest-stars as Alison, while Trisha Noble is Sabrina, her evil alter-ego. There is also tragic irony in the casting of ill-fated Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten as beauty queen Miss Cosmos.
11) Space Vampire
"You were attacked by corpses?"
The undead will walk, even in space! Have such creatures descended upon the unsuspecting inhabitants of Space Station Theta? After a mysterious unmanned ship, the I.S. Demeter, crashes into the spaceport, strange deaths being to occur. Wilma, trapped on the station, soon becomes the target of the mysterious haunting force, a mythical bloodsucking Vorvon, which intends to transform the entire station into an army of the walking dead. Can anyone stop the Vorvon, or will Wilma be condemned to an existence as a space succubus?
The episode has clearly been influenced by Bram Stoker's Dracula. Similarities include the ill-fated ship Dementer, the creature origins (the Rumaine star system versus Romania), and a Vorvon hunter named Will Helson (a counterpart to Stoker's own vampire hunter van Helsing).
12) Happy Birthday, Buck
"You're never more nostalgic than for the things you once knew and have no more."
Another episode, another super-powered villain! This time, Buck Rogers is up against a greedy psychic, Dr. Delora Bayliss (blaxploitation star Tamara Dobson), and Cornel Traeger, an angry man with a meta-transmutation Midas touch and a vendetta against Dr. Huer.
Not exactly a tranquil way for Buck to celebrate his upcoming 534th birthday, is it? Buck has to rescue Huer's assistant Raylyn (Morgan Brittany) from Traeger's evil clutches, stick it to the bad doctor Bayliss, and still rush back just in time for Dr. Huer's surprise birthday party. All in a day's work!
13) A Blast for Buck
"Killed by a yo-yo, what a way to go!"
Was there an eminent writers' strike or something? Or maybe the show's budget dried up? This fun but throwaway episode is basically a "best-of" recap of scenes from previous episodes. The general gist is a race against time to solve an ominous alien limerick by recovering helpful subconscious memories from everyone's minds, even Twiki's. This episode probably served as a mid-season introduction to the show for new viewers (and is best viewed before the Happy Birthday, Buck episode).
As for that limerick? Here it is: "The man out of old Earth's past has the key to the next and the last. But you won't solve this riddle till the end is the middle, and terran sands disappear with a blast."
14) Ardala Returns
"Captain Buck Rogers, meet Captain Buck Rogers."
The lovely and seductive Princess Ardala just can't stay away, can she? She's ruthless, arrogant, and power-hungry. And she's still bonkers for Buck. One almost pities her because she will never get her man....or, can she?
This time, Ardala has a new diabolical scheme. If she can't have the real Buck Rogers, then she will kidnap him instead, steal his memories, and use them create her own more compliant Buck clone! But why settle for just one Buck Rogers when an army will do? It's a clone war in the making, with the survival of Earth in the balance!
This episode opens Disc Three.
15) Twiki is Missing
"Hey, I'm private property! You're trespassing!"
Well, if Buck Rogers can be cloned, then how about Twiki? Kurt Belzak, the megalomaniac leader of an asteroid mining colony, has grand plans for our favorite little ambu-quad. Twiki is to be dissected and analyzed, and his circuitry will provide a blueprint for the mass production of a small army of cheap Twiki laborers.
Belzak sends his sinister Omni-Guard, a trio of psychokinetic, super-powered lady mercenaries, to acquire the reluctant robot. Nothing Buck can't handle, right? Belzak, however, is a sore loser - if he can't have Twiki, he will kidnap Buck Rogers instead and then get Twiki once Buck is out of the way!
There are bigger worries, however. A titanic spaceberg is on an imminent collision course with Earth, and only Buck Rogers has the means to stop it (assuming he can escape from Belzak's clutches, first).
"Don't fight over me. I can't stand violence."
At the 2492 Olympics, Astrosled champion Lara Tizian (cutie Judith Chapman) wishes to defect. Buck Rogers has been invited to participate in the opening ceremonies as a guest of honor. Afterwards, Lara approaches him discreetly with her plea for assistance. How can a chivalrous, interplanetary hero like Buck Rogers possibly refuse to come to the aid of a lovely damsel in distress?
17) A Dream of Jennifer
"It would be nice to think that one could still recapture one's lost dreams, wouldn't it?"
Despite our hopes and dreams, we may never go home. Life moves ever onward, and fleeting glances of past remembrances are all we may cherish over the cycles of change. Death grabs hold, and those we may know or love eventually vanish. Be thankful that such departings are often slow and gradual, for how might the soul of a man be marked if all he has ever known is torn away suddenly in the blink of a pulsar?
Once upon a time, Buck Rogers dearly loved a 20th-century woman named Jennifer. Now, improbable though it may seem, she has reappeared, a glimmer in the crowds, a silhouette passing over the stars. Does true destiny still exist? Does the magic of dream still linger?
Buck Rogers must know. He embarks upon a voyage to City-on-the-Sea, festive paradise of lovers and dreamers. Here he must search for his love long lost, perhaps to retrace one aspect of his distant past, perhaps to write the closing chapter of this strange volume of life, perhaps to recapture faith in his own role yet to be played out in Earth's future.
This very poignant episode has a more serious and downbeat tone than prior Buck Rogers episodes. Battlestar Galactica alum Anne Lockhart guest stars as the mythical Jennifer/Leila.
18) Space Rockers
"That's not music to my ears!"
Apparently, the nay-sayers from the 1960's were right all along - rock'n'roll music does indeed carry subliminal messages about evil and devil worship and malevolent what-nots. Just ask Lars Mangros (Jerry Orbach), a 25th-century maniac of Music World who uses rock music's subliminal messages to mold the malleable minds of the galaxy's youth to his own will for utter chaos and destruction. Oh the humanity!
The more things change, the more they stay the same! It's up to Buck Rogers to save the galaxy from mind-warping technoboogie.
19) Buck's Duel to the Death
"This galaxy's ain't big enough for the two of us, bub!"
The people of planet Katar have long been terrorized by the Trebor, an invincible warrior residing in his mountaintop fortress. He has killed the best of their warriors for sport and kidnapped their women to add to his ever-growing harem. Beware the wrath of this super-powered Khan!
When the Prime Minister's daughter Maya is kidnapped, the Katarian high council decides that enough is enough. Maya's only hope lies in the myth of the Roshon, a 500-year-old man who will save the people from the Trebor.
Oh wait! There is such a man, and his name is Buck Rogers! A Katarian deputy minister travels to Earth to recruit the aid of the legendary hero, who naturally accepts the challenge. Who better to inspire the Katarian people to finally stand up against their oppressive dictator than a legendary hero? Now, the Trebor awaits Buck Rogers in a shocking duel to the death to determine the fate of an entire planet!
20) Flight of the War Witch
"I will make you my personal slave, and you will wish you had died."
In this two-part season finale, Pamela Hensley returns for the last time as Princess Ardala. Her modus operandi remains the same - break another truce, humiliate Dr. Huer's Defense Directorate, seduce Buck Rogers, and destroy the Earth (in no particular order).
But this time, Ardala is the least of Buck's problems. As if being thrust 500 years out of his time weren't bad enough, Buck Rogers soon finds himself passing though a dangerous space warp into an alternate universe. Here, Buck is recruited by the peaceful planet Pendar to help resist the massive Zaad forces of the cruel witch Zarina. And oddly enough, Buck finds an unlikely ally in Princess Ardala herself!
The star-studded cast includes guest appearances by Vera and Kelley Miles as mother Tora and daughter Chandar, Sam Jaffe as the Keeper, Donald Petrie as Kodus, Sid Haig as Zarina's henchman Spirot, and a deliciously diabolical Julie Newmar (Catwoman of TV's Batman show) as the War Witch Zarina.
Observe the opening and closing credits carefully. They differ significantly from those seen in previous episodes and incorporate footage from the TV pilot, special effects footage intended for the second season, and also the original theme song, complete with lyrics, as heard in the theatrical film. This episode also sports some distinctly new special effects of its own, including spectacular space sequences.
1) Time of the Hawk
"I shall kill them all, all humans who cross my path! And I shall keep killing them until they have killed me!"
Following a writers' strike that adversely affected television programming during 1980, Buck Rogers took a nearly one-year hiatus. When the show eventually returned in January 1981, it had been transformed into something entirely new and different. Gone were the confines of the Earth and its Defense Directorate. Gone was the continual threat of Princess Ardala and her Draconian plots.
Now, Buck Rogers would be a show of space exploration, much along the lines of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Buck and Wilma have joined the crew of the starship Searcher in an interstellar quest to locate the lost tribes of Earth, survivors who scattered to the stars after the nuclear Holocaust that nearly destroyed Earth centuries ago.
There are new cast members. A snobby, giraffe-necked robot named Crichton serves as a walking, talking archival library of facts and galactic history. Crichton's creator is the ever-inquisitive and chatty Doctor Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White, best known as Colonel Hugh Pickering from My Fair Lady), who serves as the expedition's scientific leader. Admiral Asimov (Jay Garner) commands the Searcher.
Fans of the show will notice some other subtle changes. The opening credit sequence has been revamped with slightly different voice-over narration and new screen clips. Buck has grown out his hair, and, judging by his vaguely enhanced girth, has grown accustomed to 25th-century cuisine. Wilma is no longer a blonde but a brunette with a preference for cute little sailor skirts over her regular jumpsuits. Dr. Huer, Dr. Theopolis, and the Defense Directorate are no longer part of the show. Twiki's presence in the series has been reduced to essentially a cameo appearance per episode, and he has also been supplanted by Crichton as the show's chief robot. More disturbingly, Twiki's distinctive beedee beedee beedee voice has been altered, temporarily replaced with a whinier, girlish one. The key change, however, is that the overall tone of the show has been darkened. Episodes now will tend to be more mature, focusing on social or contemporary issues (like Star Trek) and steering the show towards more drama and fewer space combats.
As Time of the Hawk opens, Searcher has commenced its journey of exploration. Quickly, Searcher encounters a derelict spaceship, whose lone survivor rambles incoherently of a ghostly bird-man attacker and his distinctive bird-of-prey fighter craft. The assailant is the vengeful Hawk, bent on a vendetta against all humans after the murder of his family by humans. He lurks about the planet Throm of the Argus system, and so there must Buck Rogers go to apprehend the enigmatic Hawk.
Unfortunately, the people of Throm are reluctant, whether through fear or suspicion, to discuss Hawk or his possible whereabouts. Nonetheless, the determined Buck eventually finds Hawk's hideout, and what ensues is an epic dogfight between two highly skilled pilots, neither willing to back down.
This excellent double-length season premiere introduces Thom Christopher as the great Hawk, last of a race of bird people who once co-habited Earth with humans. Barbara Luna guest stars as Hawk's wife Koori.
This episode opens Disc Four and also introduces science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Three Robotic Laws into the series.
2) Journey to Oasis
"Start walking across that wasteland? What are you talking about?"
This is the sixth and final two-part episode of the series.
Hawk has joined the crew of the Searcher although he has not entirely resolved his distrust of humans. Even so, he does begin to view the crew of Searcher, particularly Buck Rogers, as friends worthy of trust and respect. And like the Terrans, he wishes to discover if more of his people still survive somewhere out in the vast expanse of space.
For now, Hawk and Buck Rogers, along with Wilma and Dr. Goodfellow, must escort the Zykarian Ambassador Duvoe to the city of Oasis on planet R-4 for important peace talks. Their mission is a crucial one that may help to advert war between the mysterious Zykarians and the Earthlings. However, when a sudden ion storm renders their shuttle inoperative, Buck and Hawk crash-land the craft in the middle of a vast desert. Now, the band of survivors must weather tremendous heat, radiation storms, savage mutant stalkers, riddles from a blue leprechaun Odee-X, taunts of an invisible light-saber duelist, and even a cave full of deadly traps in order to reach Oasis in time.
The odds are against them. Even now, above in space, angry Zykarian warships, suspicious of sabotage or abduction, have begun to encircle the peaceful exploration ship Searcher in anticipation of opening fire.
Mark Lenard (Sarek of Star Trek fame) guest stars as Duvoe.
3) The Guardians
"Only someone like yourself, of past and present time, can serve as bearer of the symbol."
While surveying a planet, Buck and Hawk, lured by the wailing winds of death, stumble across the funeral pyre of a dying man. This withered keeper, his body cold, his grasp upon life tenuous, beseeches that Buck may honor his final request. Buck is to be the Chosen One, and upon him is bestowed the sacred task of delivering a mysterious green box to the dying man's successor. But where is such a man, and how will Buck locate him?
The box's contents are to be left in darkness, its mysteries protected with grave intent, for to touch the box is to invite dangerous illusions of days past or nightmares of things yet to come.
Barbara Luna returns in a cameo as Hawk's wife Koori. A young Dennis Haysbert (from TV's 24) guest stars in the first of several recurring appearances as ship's helmsman.
4) Mark of the Saurian
"At least your sense of humor is healthy."
People who go trampling about strange planets without protective respirators are bound to catch unusual viruses sooner or later. And so this episode finds Buck Rogers confined to sick bay with fever and general malaise. It's bad timing, considering that Saurian agents, hoping to instigate a galactic war, have infiltrated the crew of the Searcher. Fortunately, one side effect of Buck's ailment is that it has imbued him with the ability to see through the reptilian disguises. Now if only Buck can convince Searcher's crew that he's not just simply delirious from fever!
This episode may have inspired the miniseries V, another NBC sci-fi extravaganza about a secret alien invasion.
5) The Golden Man
"I'm getting awfully tired of being beaten up."
The starship Searcher collides with an asteroid soon after retrieving an escape pod from an asteroid field. The pod contains just one survivor, Velis, a golden boy who upon awakening begs for assistance in rescuing his companion, Relcos, trapped on the nearby penal colony, Iris-7. Meanwhile, an impending magnetic storm threatens to destroy Searcher if it cannot be repaired in time. So, the crew of Searcher face a moral dilemma - save the ship or save Relcos? Or, is there a way to perform both duties?
The criminals of Iris-7, meanwhile, are in a uproar over their mysterious golden man and his Midas touch. These criminals will not relinquish Relcos without a fight, and when Buck and Velis are captured in a rescue attempt, it is up to Hawk to rescue everyone!
Anthony James, who previously appeared as a member of the Legion of Death, guest-stars as Mr. Graf, leader of the penal colony.
6) The Crystals
“That...thing! Some kind of...monster!”
The Searcher is running out of power, and a mining camp has been set up on the supposedly uninhabited volcanic planet of Phibocetes to retrieve Therbidian energy crystals.
But soon after Buck discovers a mysterious, amnesiac girl on Phibocetes, the camp begins to face terrorizing raids by a destructive mummy-like creature. The undead walk! What does this mummy want? Blood of the Earthmen? The same Therbidian crystals the Searcher's crew seeks? Or, does it want the terrified amnesiac girl herself?
On a side note, three cheers for the return of Mel Blanc as the voice of Twiki! Happily, the ambu-quad has reverted back to his usual wise-cracking best. No explanation is offered for the recent five-episode interlude of high squeakiness, but no matter.
7) The Satyr
"You grieve for the satyr who brutalized you?"
The colony on Arkadis has been virtually wiped out by a plague that has changed its men into beasts of chaos. Only two survivors remain, the widow Syra and her son Delph, but they too are tormented by the cruel satyr Pangor and his demonic mount.
One day, Buck and Twiki fly by on a routine surveillance trip. Shortly upon landing, they are spotted by the vicious Pangor and attacked. In the ensuing fight, Buck is bitten and learns thereafter from Syra the true nature of the plague. Surely enough, Buck soon begins to feel its lycanthropic effect as well, slowing transform into a satyr himself. Is there any cure for this curse, or does the buck finally stop here for Buck?
Twiki has his most screen time of the season in The Satyr, which opens Disc Five.
"Off-think! Off-think! Off-think!"
A septet of mischievous telekinetic dwarves is rescued from a derelict spaceship loaded with solar bombs. While their ship is being towed away, the Zeerdonian dwarves are given freedom to explore the Searcher. They quickly raise havoc throughout the ship - zapping nearby asteroids for target practice, short-circuiting ship functions, inadvertently setting Searcher on a collision course with a star, and generally being extremely comic nuisances. And having never seen a woman before, the dwarves are most particularly keen to explore what lies under Wilma Deering's snow-white exterior suit!
The Zeerdonians' telekinetic abilities, finally, are put to more productive use when they help to repair Crichton, accidentally injured in one of their many mishaps.
This delightfully amusing episode is a fan favorite that harkens back to the fun and carefree style of the Season One episodes.
9) The Hand of Goral
"The name of that planet doesn't exactly fill me with confidence."
In this tense episode, Buck, Hawk, and Wilma explore yet another quiet, out-of-the-way planet that time has forgotten. The world has long been abandoned by the Goral civilization which once inhabited it. Now only crumpling ruins remain on what is essentially a ghost planet, which Searcher's ship archives reveal to have a disquieting name - Vor-deeth, the Planet of Death.
When a sole survivor, Reardon, is discovered and brought aboard Searcher, strange transformations begin to affect the ship's crew. Soon, hallucinations or suspicions plague the crew, likes nightmares coming true. Has the Planet of Death somehow extended its dreadful influence over the crew? Will the Searcher's crew suffer the same fate of the vanished Goral?
10) Testimony of a Traitor
"I'm the arch villain of the millennium."
Searcher is recalled back to Earth when a recently unearthed 20th-century videocassette seems to suggest that Buck Rogers was partly responsible for the nuclear holocaust that nearly destroyed Earth centuries ago. It is a ludicrous accusation, naturally, but Buck must somehow prove his innocence if he wishes to avoid a mandatory death sentence!
11) The Dorian Secret
"Sometimes, talking about your problems just makes them worse."
Buck and Hawk pick up a mysterious woman while evacuating survivors from the volcanic eruptions on Avernus. While aboard Searcher, they soon learn from Dorian security officers that the woman is Asteria (Devon Ericson), a dangerous murderess.
The Dorians demand the immediate surrender of the fugitive. Legal niceties do not interest them, either, and they will hold Searcher under siege until Asteria is handed over. But is Asteria truly a fugitive from the law, a political refugee, a Dorian agent, or something else altogether? The crew of Searcher must work quickly to resolve this crisis before the panicked Avernus refugees themselves decide to take matters into their own hands! It's The Ox-Box Incident, 25th-century style!
Alas, The Dorian Secret, airing in April 1981, would be the final episode of Buck Rogers. A well-traveled quote is offered in its closing minutes - "learn from the past and look to the future." In the context of the episode, the quote concludes the series on a somber but thought-provoking note. One wonders how the show might have continued to mature had it lingered for a few more seasons.
The show may be gone, but the character lives on in memory and literature. Perhaps someday, especially with the advances in special effects in the intervening years since The Dorian Secret, Buck Rogers may yet return again, bigger and better than ever, to protect the innocent from the forces of interstellar evil, no matter in what corner of the galaxy they may dwell!
Video ** ˝
Buck Rogers is a 1970's television show and looks it. The picture quality is scratchy, somewhat grainy with regular debris marks and a few long vertical scratches intermittently. The matté paintings used as establishing shots remain as obvious now as they were in the original broadcast. Safety wires are visible, and Buck's stunt doubles don't really look much like Gil Gerard. Special effects shots are re-used regularly, although the show does otherwise boast fairly strong production values for the time, with numerous sets and locales.
All in all, the episodes are still quite watchable and don't look any worse than they would as syndicated re-runs on broadcast television.
Buck Rogers benefits from that infectiously catchy Glen A. Larson theme music, although much of the remaining disco-jazzy, synthesizer-heavy music is oh-so 70's! Audio is strictly monaural but this is to be expected given the show's television origins.
This five-disc box set contains the entire series run of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Each disc is actually a flipper disc with up to four episodes per side. The episodes are approximately 49 minutes long, pre-credit teasers included. Each episode is also accompanied by brief plot synopses and original air dates; this information is repeated in truncated form on the package insert included with this set.
The first disc also contains trailers for The Chronicles of Roddick, the Quantum Leap TV series, and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series is a blast from the past and a absolute trip for anyone who grew up on all those cool TV shows from the late 1970's.