Posts Tagged ‘Gil Gerard’

BR25C: Return of the Fighting 69th

June 3, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 3, 2013

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

“Return of the Fighting 69th” — Season 1, Episode 8

Originally aired ———————————


Our story begins with four starfighters pursuing a stolen freighter. Buck Rogers, Col. Wilma Deering and two trainees are in the hunt, but when enemy fighters engage, the freighter escapes into the Necrosis asteroid belt. Against orders, the cadets fly after it, but they are destroyed almost immediately, presumably by asteroids.

Back in Dr. Elias Huer’s office, an upset Rogers demands to know what was so important that two badly underprepared pilots were exposed to danger and death. Huer has a chilling answer: The ship was loaded with nerve gas and other ancient weapons that had been slated for destruction. Based on the freighter’s destination, those instruments of death are in the hands of gunrunners Korless and Trent, who are undoubtedly determined to use them against Earth.

A pre-emptive strike against the Necrosis asteroid base is imperative, Huer declares, and Noah Cooper — a retired pilot intimately familiar with the deadly Necrosis asteroid belt — must lead it. Deering balks, but Huer orders her to attempt to recruit Cooper.

It emerges that Cooper and his surviving squadron mates from the Fighting 69th were mentors and pseudo-family to a young Deering, whom they affectionately refer to as Dizzy D because of her antics in the pilots’ ready room. But recently, the colonel disqualified all the squadron’s members from flight duty because they flunked their physicals. Read the rest of this entry »

BR25C: The Plot to Kill a City

May 28, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 28, 2013 

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

“The Plot to Kill a City” — Season 1, Episodes 6 and 7

Originally aired Oct. 11 and 18, 1979


Our hero enters a bar and finds Rafael Argus, a notorious assassin. A scuffle ensues that ends with Buck Rogers seemingly knocking Argus unconscious. Dr. Elias Huer scans Argus’ mind. Afterward, Huer tells Rogers and Col. Wilma Deering that Argus is about to be inducted into an organization called the Legion of Death. (It is also referred to at least once as the League of Interstellar Mercenaries.)

As the trio leaves Huer’s office, a bomb explodes, knocking down Twiki and Dr. Theopolis. Both are unharmed, but Rogers is disturbed. It turns out that this is part of a string of bombings that the league (or legion) has undertaken in order to avenge Earth’s having killed a legion (or league) member. Rogers agrees to take part in an effort to defang the Legion of Death.

Since Argus operates in the shadows, Huer says, no one in the legion about to welcome him into its ranks has a clear-cut idea of what he looks like. Thus Rogers shall assume his identity. Deering will also go undercover in a backup effort to discover how the legion intends to take its revenge on Earth. Huer briefs the pair on legion members: strategist Kellogg, psychokinetic Quince, token female Cherise and tough guy Markos.

Rogers dons Argus’ S&M outfit and heads to Argus’ ship. A very somber Huer outfits Rogers with special capsules that unleash a few seconds of darkness. After they say farewell, the protagonist enters the spaceship, which is controlled by a sassy female-voiced computer.

En route to the stargate, three police starfighters intercept Argus’ ship. Rogers unsuccessfully attempts to evade them but is taken into custody. He is, evidently without any questioning, placed into a holding cell with a rogue named Barney. After perhaps two minutes of confinement, they are able to escape (the entire prison — which on-screen evidence indicates has a staff of just two!!!) using a classic Star Trek-style diversion and a darkness capsule. Earth-system policemen are made to seem fairly incompetent in this sequence, despite their ability to apprehend Argus-cum-Rogers. Read the rest of this entry »

BR25C: Vegas in Space

May 20, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 20, 2013

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Vegas in Space — Season 1, Episode 5


The episode opens with Buck Rogers and Col. Wilma Deering unsuccessfully battling “hatchet fighters,” which confound the starfighters’ automatic targeting systems. Rogers’ vessel sustains a direct hit, but this turns out to be only a training exercise.

The Earth squadron having been supposedly demolished by what are described as the remarkably speedy and maneuverable hatchet fighters, a discouraged Deering orders all ships to return to base. En route, Rogers tries to persuade the colonel that the Terran pilots can destroy their enemies if the computer initiates targeting but humans actually pull the trigger. Deering is skeptical, saying that the Earthlings are unable to do so.

In New Chicago, a young woman named Felina returns home and reviews her video messages. (Rather charmingly and quaintly, these appear to have been recorded on some kind of linear tape device — there’s a tell-tale squeal when Felina hits the rewind button.) The second of two messages is an urgent warning from the woman’s boss, who tells her to leave her apartment immediately because she is in danger. Just after a perplexed Felina finishes watching the message, she is surprised by something off-screen that has been stalking her since she arrived home. Read the rest of this entry »

BR25C: Planet of the Slave Girls (two-parter)

February 18, 2013

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Planet of the Slave Girls

Season 1, Episodes 3 and 4


As the episode opens, Buck Rogers and Col. Wilma Deering are approaching Earth after a scouting and/or training flight that has evidently lasted some days. A scanner on their starfighter, which Rogers is piloting, calls their attention to an Earth Directorate starfighter that is being attacked by two pirate ships. Rogers successfully engages the pirates, thereby sparing the life of Cadet Regus Saroyan, who has fallen out of formation from a training flight led by Major Duke Danton.

Danton is annoyed both that Saroyan fell behind and that Rogers intervened. Rogers is annoyed that Danton is annoyed, and they spar verbally. Deering comes on the channel to say that Rogers’ actions were fully warranted. (“Wilma!” Danton exclaims when Earth’s top military officer first joins the radio exchange. “I mean, Col. Deering.” “Right on both counts,” she replies.)

After the starfighters land, Saroyan collapses and is sent to a health clinic. Rogers and Danton exchange more heated words. Deering asks Danton to have Rogers as a guest lecturer on 20th century battle tactics; when Danton balks, she orders him to follow through.

Deering then checks on Saroyan, who is among a huge number of starfighter pilots who have fallen ill while she and Rogers have been away. Deering and Dr. Huer visit Dr. Mallory; he and a computer named Carl are researching the illness. They’ve discovered that the disease stems from contaminated food discs, all of which were manufactured on the agricultural planet Vistula.

Rogers’ turn as a guest lecturer for Danton is a fiasco. The major, obviously irked by his guest, goads his class to laugh as Rogers discusses battle strategies in terms of the ancient game of football. The class devolves into Rogers and Danton tackling each other.

Vistula turns out to be home to a very charismatic and belligerent rabble-rouser named Kaleel. He tells his followers that soon they will go into battle and take their revenge on the Earthlings who have enslaved them. Kaleel has the ability to make his hands glow red and kill a person with the barest touch; he demonstrates this ability on a man whose wife calls him out as being skeptical of the leader. The adoring crowd chants Kaleel’s name.

Read the rest of this entry »

Boyish charm isn’t enough to thrust ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’ to greatness

January 31, 2013

In the late 1970s, there appeared a genius who made many exciting science fiction adventures. His initials were GL, and his name, of course, was — Glen Larson?!

Larson is hardly as famous or successful as filmmaker cum Disney sellout George Lucas, creator of the iconic Star Wars saga. But Larson had some high-flying space opera of his own. In a short span of time in the late nineteen-seventies, Larson produced both the cheesy second-tier Star Wars knockoff Battlestar Galactica (which was revived to critical and popular success a decade ago) as well as an incarnation of 1928 pulp scifi hero Buck Rogers.

The 90-minute pilot for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which also received a theatrical release, debuted in 1979. It kicked off a two-year, 37-episode run (per, yes, the Internet Movie Database) that lingered in reruns and memory for a while. Then Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987 and it, along with wholly new science fiction franchises such as Stargate and Independence Day, started to push BRit25thC — as no one, to the best of my knowledge, actually calls it — into obscurity.

Recently while browsing through videos at my favorite second-hand entertainment store, I discovered a pristine-seeming box set of the entire Buck Rogers series, priced at just $10. After some hemming and hawing, I carried it to the checkout counter with my selections.

I recently watched the extended pilot episode/theatrical movie, and… Well, I suppose it’s fitting that Buck Rogers in the 25th Century remains a distant memory for most.

From concept to execution, Buck Rogers is a thoroughly middlebrow operation. Some stuff is done well, but very little could be called great. (One exception would be the very cool design of the Terran starfighters flown by the good guys.) There are some jarringly bad notes, such as the embarrassing title sequence with a close-lidded Rogers languidly embracing scantily clad space babes and the hokey spaceman adventure song that accompanies. (Imagine a song in the style of the Muppets classic “The Rainbow Connection,” only about the original Battlestar Galactica and sung by a third-rate John Denver imitator, and you begin to get a sense of how bad the song is.)

Sadly, there’s never enough of the well-done stuff to make this adventure soar, alas. And there was never quite enough of the jarringly bad stuff to motivate any mildly friendly BR25C (as no one to my knowledge dubs it) to turn off the film and do something else — which isn’t to say that I didn’t contemplate doing so…  Read the rest of this entry »

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