Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another look at: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

After Battlestar Galactica's 1st voyage ended in cancellation, Universal & producer Glen Larsen went back and brought back a sci-fi legend.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century anchored NBC's Thursday night lineup for 2 seasons, and during season 1, ABC, skittish, moved Mork & Mindy to Sundays to avoid a head-to-head clash that might've finished Mork a little bit sooner. Then again, we'll never know how this really would've developed.

Capt. William "Buck" Rogers (Gil Gerard) had spent 500 years in suspended animation before being revived in the latter part of the 25th century. During the first season, there were the familiar elements, including nemesis Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and Kane (Henry Silva), and, of course, Wilma Deering, who would eventually fall to Buck's charms. They tried to create tension between Buck & Ardala along the lines of Batman & Catwoman, but it just didn't click. Speaking of Batman, Frank Gorshin guest-starred in a 2-part episode that recalled his dramatic turn on Star Trek several years earlier. It's just too bad that there are no clips of this story available on YouTube.

Season 2 brought changes. Buck & Wilma, along with Buck's robot sidekick, Twiki (Felix Silla, ex-The Addams Family; voice by the inestimable Mel Blanc for most of the series) had moved aboard the Searcher, as they went for a Star Trek style vibe. Dr. Huer (Tim O'Connor, ex-Peyton Place) had left, and some new faces emerged, including Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfred Hyde-White), and Admiral Asimov (Jay Garner), named after the legendary author, Isaac Asimov. Also, the intro, narrated by William Conrad (Cannon) in season 1, was now being read by long-time QM announcer Hank Simms, as you'll hear shortly. Unfortunately, those changes spelled out "jumping the shark", as the series was cancelled after 2 seasons.

Here's the season 2 open:

Having been acquainted with the original serials, I was interested in this show. Teenage boys were tuning in for Wilma (Erin Gray), for obvious reasons. It's just too bad that these kids didn't know how to fill out a Nielsen rating book.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

Who knew the future would be all about Disco and Farrah hair?

I remember this show rather fondly - although I hated the second season and no explanations on screen for the changes.

I'd like to think a Buck Rodgers revival could work - but it might be more fun to mind the current world at large.

hobbyfan said...

The only explanation I can think of to explain the changes in season 2 was that Buck & Wilma were reassigned off camera, but in truth, Universal changed show-runners, as John Mantley (ex-Gunsmoke) took over. New vision hurt the show long-term.