TV - Buck Rogers in the 25th Century


Steve Taylor-Bryant revisits a cult TV favourite, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century ...

"The year is 1987, and N.A.S.A. 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 five-hundred years later."

The enigmatic genius that is Glen A. Larson hit late 1970's television like a lightning bolt and redesigned the way we watched popular story telling in the visual format. Quincy M.E allowed for all future police serials to include a medical examiner in their shows with great success, B.J and the Bear and The Fall Guy reinvented the hero in small screen format, the idea of new technology took hold and led to Knight Rider and as we approached the vibrant 1980's Tom Selleck's moustache was unleashed on an unsuspecting audience in the guise of Magnum P.I. It was the mission however to replicate George Lucas' success with Star Wars and have space based serials that led to first the launching of Battlestar Galactica and then Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Buck Rogers was a comic character created in 1928 but Larson's vision saw a radical change and a new, more modern take on the astronaut. The new show centred on Captain William Anthony 'Buck' Rogers who flew ships for N.A.S.A. Buck launches in a ship called Ranger 3 in 1987, still actually 8 years in the future when the show first aired, but due to a malfunction affecting his life-support, Buck is cryogenically frozen for 500 some years and is found drifting through space circa 2491. After being defrosted his rescuers explain that Earth as he knows it was destroyed during a nuclear war not long after his mission in space had begun and that civilisation was rebuilt and was now protected by the Earth Defence Directorate.

Buck, now more James Bond in space than the original comic character had intended, tried his best to fit in to life during the 25th Century, often failing hilariously, and took on missions for the EDD using his skills as a pilot and intelligence as an astronaut. Buck was assisted by his love interest Colonel Wilma Deering, a robot that spouts strange noises (Biddi Biddi Biddi) called Twiki, and Doctor Theopolis, a sentient computer. The EDD had villains, mainly the dastardly but beautiful Princess Ardala, who wanted to control the planet and keep Buck as her plaything. The second season was delayed by strike action and when it returned Buck was now on a mission ship, the Searcher, rather than in New Chicago on Earth and had new adversaries and team mates. The Searcher was commanded by a descendant of Isaac Asimov, Admiral Effram.

The show was fun. Gil Gerard (E.A.R.T.H. Force) played Buck as a good looking mixture of Han Solo, Flash Gordon and The Six-Billion Dollar Man and the leading ladies, whilst incredibly attractive in their own right, seemed to swoon at Buck's every move. Wilma, played by Erin Gray (Baywatch) was a little too obsessed with Buck and the chemistry between the two often spilled into the realms of creepy, as did the attention Buck received from the Princess (Pam Hensley - Rollerball). Add in the famous talent of Mel Blanc (every cartoon character EVER) as the voice of Twiki and the fun mixed with the space element making for a sometimes cheesy, always enjoyable show.

Image - Amazon