Friday, August 9, 2019

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century S1 E5: Vegas In Space

"We were still under the Charlie's Angels influence. I can't remember if it came from the network or the studio, but there was definitely pressure to get lots of women in strange, semi-revealing costumes."
-Anne Collins, Starlog Magazine #231 (p.71)-

"Biddy biddy biddy, what a guy."
-Twiki (voice of Mel Blanc)-

We've all heard of Pigs In Space, a recurring sketch on The Muppet Show (1976-1981), and maybe this is a poor analogy, but Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979-1981) sometimes plays like Babes In Space or Babes In The 25th Century. The female quotient feels even more amplified for Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, Season One, Episode 5, Vegas In Space (produced before S1, E3/4 Planet Of The Slave Girls but airing after that installment). And there is no shortage of the kind of skin that seems often absent in today's science fiction. There are legs, arms and cleavage galore in every few minutes of the latest installment. Personally, happy as a pig in shit with an entry like this now and again, but like pigs this episode would unlikely never fly today. Some of the science fiction from the 1960s and 1970s were particularly pleasant on the eyes. This is no exception.

Awakening (S1 E1-2) introduced us to two stunning females that would grace the world of Buck Rogers in Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley.

Vegas In Space continues what promises to be Buck as a kind of Captain James T. Kirk on steroids for 1979. Gil Gerard is indeed surrounded by them as the titular hero in white spandex Buck Rogers.

Actresses for the installment here include Juanin Clay (The Legend Of The Lone Ranger, War Games; take note as Clay was originally cast to play Wilma Deering before Erin Gray decided to take the role), Pamela Susan Shoop (Halloween II, Galactica 1980, The Incredible Hulk) and Ana Alicia (Halloween II, Falcon Crest, Romero, Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980). The list of TV credits for the aforementioned ladies is long.

Cesar Romero (The Joker in the original Batman TV series) makes an appearance too.

Vegas In Space is nothing overly substantial but there is a kind of aw shucks likeability and charm about the episode. Gerard also continues to settle into the character nicely as a kind of common sense, street smart American hero less interested in leaning on 25th Century technology and falling back on good old fashion American ingenuity, know how and elbow grease.

Writer John Kenneth Muir accurately dubs Buck, a symbol of "American exceptionalism in space" (John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Cult Movies And Classic TV).

The general concept for Buck Rogers and company is a rescue mission with 25th Century Buck unabashedly infusing his hero with a good deal of humor making the series, despite its shortcomings, wholly accessible fun. There was a good degree of formula to the series as much as there was for The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) or The Love Boat (1977-1986). Hey formulas work. And it worked well as a crime series in future space, but not unlike the expensive Battlestar Galactica by Glen A. Larson as well, the series was as ephemeral as Space:1999 (1975-1977), landing itself with a mere two year run.

The escape from the Vegas-like city in space is meant to be a manual thriller as Buck uses his wits to outfly a new brand of fighter called the hatchet fighter, but they aren't that impressive or fast and it is less than thrilling to watch. Biddy Biddy Biddy not exciting Buck.

This was often a problem for the series. Battlestar Galactica's effects may not have excelled by today's standards, but the space battles almost seem superior by comparison to the shortchanged mess of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (despite attempts at recycling some of the effects work from Battlestar Galactica). These were simply not memorable sequences and are often the least effective aspects of the series. It was definitely about the characters.

Irwin Allen was notorious for recycling material in his series. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had to take their own liberties as well. Larson does it here borrowing from Battlestar Galactica, but Buck Rogers In The 25th Century may be the greatest casualty of such an application and given Allen's wholesale reuse that's saying something. But what Buck Rogers lacks it more than makes up for in its casting and story fun. The characters and enthusiasm of the show often save the day.

It illustrates how this portion of the series, outer space itself, was less than important in comparison to the story of life in the 25th Century. Fortunately, the bulk of the series is all the better for the character missions and interactions. They are far better and above and beyond the space dogfights. These issues were remedied for fans of these two Larson productions for Ronald D. Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica whereby some of the most dynamic screen action in science fiction was created to complement the respective character studies.

As for the writing, not unlike Jonathan Harris on Allen's Lost In Space, Gil Gerard was often inserting his own dialogue throughout the series. Like Dr. Zachary Smith before him the character of Buck Rogers shines as a result of his concern for the role.

You won't feel lucky watching Vegas In Space, but with this cast of stunning women any red blooded male might wish he was, so better luck next time. Great eye candy for a visit forward in time with this step back in time to old school science fiction adventure done fairly well with an eye toward fun over perfection.

Director: Sigmund Neufeld Jr..
Writer: Anne Collins (Wonder Woman).

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