Next year “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” turns 45! It amazes me that today there still hasn’t been a remake or a reboot or whatever! Because everything gets rebooted these days in some form, a movie, a miniseries or a series. It had been 15-20 years since I last saw Buck Rogers, and only the first season, the 2nd season I hadn’t seen since I watched it back in the early 80’s or something. Perhaps I watched an episode here and there on some rerun but that also has been at least 35-40 years ago. So basically I was kinda looking forward to see season two again. I’d purchased the Blu-ray set two or three years ago and until a few months ago, I hadn’t seen it yet on my Blu-ray copy. But I thought it was time to start it again.
Of course I knew upfront Buck Rogers wasn’t a high quality piece of television, it is a bit campy, stories aren’t always that strong, weird characters, Twiki saying: Bidibidibidi and in season two another android, Crichton (yes really) with an attitude. Still, it was fun to rewatch the first season, see familiar faces like Buck (Gil Gerard), Twiki (Mel Blanc, voice; Felix Silla, actor), Wilma (Erin Gray) of course, Dr. Huer (Tim O’Connor), Dr. Theopolis (Eric Server) and don’t forget Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and also Kane, played by Michael Ansara. I really enjoyed most of the first season, again it’s not high quality stuff, but most of the time it is fun! What I also did not remember that, especially in the first season, a lot pretty, scarcely dressed ladies come by! I don’t mean one or two but most of the time two or three ladies per episode. Nowadays this definitely would be frowned upon and that is probably an understatement!
Earlier I asked myself the question, if I should choose between Buck Rogers and the original Battlestar Galactica, the choice wouldn’t be hard: Battlestar Galactica. Not that this show wasn’t campy because it was, but still it was more SCI-FI to me than Buck Rogers. It had better stories, more interesting characters, more depth. Buck Rogers was a bit lighter, created by the same person who also created Battlestar Galactica. You hear the same sounds when a shot is fired or when a spaceship launches or destroys another spaceship. It reminded me of Battlestar Galactica constantly because of the obvious fact that is was created by the same man and perhaps same creative team also. What is nice about Buck Rogers (like Battlestar), you see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of actors you will recognize from others shows. Either actors who just begun their career or actors who were in the last period of their acting careers. To name a few: Mark Lenard (Star Trek); Anne Lockhart (Battlestar Galactica); Gary Coleman (Different Strokes); Anthony James (Gunsmoke); Peter Graves (Mission Impossible); Richard Lynch (Lots of movies/Series); Amanda Wyss (Lots of things); Judy Landers (The Love Boat), Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies) and many, many more.
I really do like the premise of Buck Rogers, a man frozen in time for 500 years and then to wake up in a totally different world 500 years later on earth. The Farscape intro does remind me a bit of Buck Rogers, not that John Crichton has been frozen in time but the intro itself reminds me of Buck. In regard of the season one episodes, just checked, there isn’t an episode which I find fantastic or (almost) perfect, I come no higher than a 7.5 out of 10. Quite a few episodes get a 7.5 from me, not sure if it is because of the quality, the beautiful women (😊) or perhaps just nostalgia! From memory, as young boy, there is one episode which frightened me a lot: Space Vampire! When I rewatched it for the first time again back 15-20 years ago, it made me laugh. Still it is an enjoyable episode, one of the better ones in my opinion, a heavy Wilma Deering episode which is always good! The pilot episode is also a decent, entertaining episode, “Awakening” and as I said, it is not all bad! The episodes which are (way) below par are: “Blast for Buck”, basically a clip show, awful, thought Stargate SG-1 invented those things but apparently they exist for a lot longer! “Space Rockers” is also a bland episode where the youth is getting violent when they hear music of the band Andromeda. I thought “Happy Birthday” was also an pretty uneventful episode where Buck is longing for his past and Dr. Huer gets threatened. In the episode “I Dream of Jennifer”, we see for the first time (and last time, in season one) a vulnerable Buck. In this episode he sees a woman from his past, whom he loved.
Well season two has only 13 episodes and is totally different from the first season! Buck & Wilma are no longer on earth, they are stationed on a space ship called “The Searcher” which is tasked to find former colonies earth has lost contact with. This of course reminds us a lot like the premise of Battlestar Galactica and I have to admit, I theory, I do like the concept, being on a space ship, travelling through the stars, looking for lost tribes. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the only change. Without any explanation, the Dr. Huer character is gone, as also Dr. Theopolis. No explanation, nothing about where they are, what they are doing now. Also Twiki suddenly has another voice, not so much fun as Mel Blanc’s, a bit more childish voice. When I went looking for the reason for this change I found that the actor Mel Blanc was ill and wasn’t able to do the show. However, Mel Blanc returned to the show with episode 8. There also were a bunch of new characters, the most obvious one is the character Hawk, played by Tom Christopher. Although he had a very important part in the first two episodes, I felt that in the rest the season he mostly was little more than a recurring character. The feistiness he shows in the first episodes, we never see again. Jay Garner plays Admiral Efram Asimov who is Buck and Wilma’s superior and he is also in charge of the space ship the Searcher. Dr. Goodfellow, played by Wilfrid Hyde-White is the head scientist who created Crichton (Jeff David), a robot who does not believe he has been created by a man, by Dr. Goodfellow. He cannot comprehend that a species so primitive was able to create him.
I hadn’t seen the 2nd season in so long and to be honest, I am disappointed by it! It does not come close to the first season in terms of fun and entertainment. I really miss the character Dr. Huer, which I really thought was essential, he was Buck’s and Wilma’s superior, a non-military man who he really was humorous at times. The awkwardness when Buck made a 20th century dinner, or when he used words the doctor didn’t understand or how he almost panicked when a plant Buck gave him, had died. There was a fun chemistry between these 5 characters Dr. Huer, Buck, Wilma, Twiki and Dr. Theopolis. This chemistry was gone with season two and what’s more, the character Wilma Deering was downsized quite a bit. Not so much in screentime perhaps, but she regularly became the Lt. Uhura on the Searcher, sitting at the console. Buck mostly went on adventures with Hawk instead of Wilma, which didn’t mean that Hawk’s character evolved much, he was there, not much more. Princess Ardala and Kane also do not return in season two. These characters were recurring in season one but did not get any screentime in season two.
There a few episodes which are just above average, like the season-opener “Time of the Hawk”, where we meet Hawk for the first time. Also Buck gives a damned good speech on behalf of Hawk. Another episode which just comes above the other episodes is “The Mark of a Saurian”, where the Searcher has been infiltrated by Saurians. Because Buck has a different physiology, because he is from the past, he is the only one who can see who they really are. The Series finale, “The Dorian Secret” is okay too. Buck saves a girl who is on the run from Dorians, they have a heavy secret. The worst episode definitely is “Shgoratchx!”. It is just dreadful, annoying, I don’t want to say anything more about it! “The Golden Man” was also one of the weakest episodes of the season, where Buck Rogers and crew come across a life pod. Inside is a young golden-skinned boy, Vellus, who displays the unusual ability to alter the nature of metals.
Buck Rogers is certainly not a perfect TV show, far from it. But certainly the first season is entertaining, has some fun episodes, not so serious in tone as season two but the quality just high enough for it to be enjoyable and sure, you notice the weaker episodes, the weaker plots, the obvious stuntman playing the more dangerous scenes for Gil Gerard, but it still is entertaining. I found it more difficult to keep focused with season two, as I said, I liked the new premise in itself, but the execution was, in my humble opinion, flawed. Why break-up these 5 characters, why not place them on the Searcher, why did they felt they needed to add the Hawk character? Questions on which I most likely never will get an answer and that’s okay. Even with all my complaining I am glad I have watched & finished the Buck Rogers rewatch and I am quite sure that this wasn’t my last rewatch, although it will take some time before I take the TV show from my shelf again!