Buck Rogers in
the 25th Century

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is very loosely based on the popular action hero that appeared in the serials of the thirties

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

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Some television shows are so camp that they remain favorites over the years. They are corny, often with on the cheap productions but they where above all else, fun to watch.

One such show from the late seventies is Buck in the 25th Century. As we entered the Reagan era, we needed a diversion, something to take our minds off of current events and Buck fit the bill perfectly. Very loosely based on the popular action hero that appeared in the serials of the thirties, Buck was a hero in every sense of the word and back then what we needed was a hero. Buck (Gil Gerard) was a man of honor and resourcefulness that always did the right thing. Now it seems that television and films concentrate on the flawed hero, all too human, often confused by morality. With this series it was like a return to the old time westerns where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. While watching everything was clear, you knew immediately who to cheer for.

As with all clear cut television faire the basic plot was summed up with the series opening line, In 1987 NASA launched a space shuttle with William Buck Rogers on board for a five month tour of the solar system. Knocked off course Buck Rogers is in suspended animation for five hundred years. There is no complexity here, its simple, the future needs men like we breed in our era. Some other characters made it from those early serials, for example there is Kane (Henry Silva) who is determined to conquer the earth with the help of his beautiful but deadly second in command Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley). Naturally, Buck sides with the earth forces to save the day, week after week Buck Rogers saved the day. On the side of Earth we have the typical kooky group of regulars. There is Col. Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), Doctor Huer (Tim O’Connor) and the artificial intelligence of the genius Dr. Theopolis, carried around in a blinking disc by the little robot sidekick Twiki.

There is something to be said about the futuristic world created by the producers and writers of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. For one thing, although food is in the form of discs, lip glossy technology appears to have flourished, every female role has lips that glisten as the shoot at each other with their laser guns. There also seems to be some sort of inter galactic law that every female outfit was to be revealing and/or form fitting. Well, this was the end of the seventies when Buck Rogers in the 25th Century first began its run and in showing us the future it really reflected a lot about our own times. Many of the props where left over from Battlestar Galatica, why waste perfectly good ray guns? Since this is a campy series all is forgiven since it is part of the fun here.

In a very real fashion Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is almost two series. The first season had Buck Rogers based on earth fighting the forces of evil where ever his help was sought. In the second season the studio revamped the format and placed Buck Rogers, Wilma and Twiki on the space ship Searcher to look for the lost tribes of earth. It seems that more than just sets and props where borrowed from Galatica. Huer and the voice of Theopolis where gone, replaced by a bird man named Hawk (Thom Christopher) who was searching for his race, and the doddering Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White). Although the venue changed what remained was the basic qualities of the characters, they fought for good. There is something to be said about simplicity, television is often derided for being mindless fodder but as Buck Rogers was catapulted to the future, those of us watching where taken back to a simpler time of entertainment when you could kick back and just enjoy.

This was a great cast for this type of show. Gil Gerard has the rugged good looks and build to be believable as Buck Rogers. He has an innate sense of humor and comes across as never taking things too seriously. He knows the genre he is in and plays it to the hilt. It does seem that ‘real men’ are extinct in the future so its fortunate that a man like this was frozen in the twentieth century to save the day. As the series continued Buck Rogers origins became less of an issue as he assimilated to his new environment. Erin Gray is an actress that has worked almost constantly over the years. Here she was in her prime as Col. Deering. Gray played her as a modern woman, strong, resourceful and able to handle most situations on her own. This was the woman of the late seventies, able to balance looking good with kicking but!

Universal has continued to provide box sets of these shows that we all remember and loved to watch. Unlike most other studios that concentrate on the big budget flicks Universal brings some of these guilty pleasures to our home video collections. While there are no great video and audio the shows stands as fun. While we are on it the video is for the most part clear with only the occasional fleck to mar it. Considering the age and that Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was not an Emmy winning show they did pretty good here. The same goes for the audio. The remixed Dolby two channel stereo delivers the dialogue and laser blasts with a clean sound.

There are no extras provided but what you do get is all the episodes from the entire Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. This includes the original two hour pilot and all the two part episodes, presented as one long episode. Instead of splitting this series up into two season sets Universal gives us the whole Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series, no waiting for another release date to complete the collection. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is not just for the die hard fans, with a little bit of an open mind even younger audiences will be able to get into this campy classic. It’ well worth the investment for no other reason than the same one we had back then, turn off the news, forget the world problems and just sit back and enjoy.

Movie Review of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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