Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Tim O'Connor: On Buck Rogers In The 25th Century

"Buck Rogers is so less heavy than something like Galactica. While Galactica was essentially a good show, it always took itself so deadly serious and there was little sense of humor. Buck, I believe, has the quality of humor and it makes it so much easier and enjoyable for the audience to digest. The sense of fun makes the show like a light, refreshing drink."

-Tim O'Connor, Starlog Magazine #38 (p.35)-

What's wrong with serious? I would disagree as both series were fun Larson productions with Dirk Benedict as Starbuck running interference with humor to lighten the heavier science fiction aspects of the Battlestar Galactica series.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century S1 E3-4: Planet Of The Slave Girls

"If you call that interfering there's something wrong with your Funk and Wagnalls."
-Buck Rogers (referencing Star Trek's prime directive)-

"Our story was inspired by events in Iran at the time. We thought of the Shah of Iran running a country that supplied America with a necessity. I was a little shocked they called it Planet Of The Slave Girls... it was really a planet of slaves, rather than slave girls."
-Aubrey Solomon, Starlog Magazine #231 (p.70)-

"I can't believe we called it that! I didn't want my name on it."
-Anne Collins (pen name Corey Applebaum), Starlog Magazine #231 (p.70)-

The cast of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979-1981) was impeccably charming and based on opening entry Awakening, the team appeared to be getting the drama and comedic timing right with the serious overtones of Buck's situation not devolving into the camp. After all, it's a fine line.

Farscape's (1999-2003) writers took the concept and its lead John Crichton, played by Ben Browder, into the wildly outlandish, colorful and ever so alien and really pushed the envelope of the absurdity of Crichton's reality. That series seemed to go for broke and pulled it off almost effortlessly. Farscape owes a bit of debt to a series like Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. The latter was indeed bringing the concept of fun and adventure to science fiction in that manner at the end of the 1970s.

Once upon a time five hundred years away a man named Buck Rogers, played wonderfully by Gil Gerard, was laying down a similar approach to the absurdity of circumstance. The plight that befell Buck Rogers was generating a wonderfully likable adventure series sans the Jim Henson puppet shop but with no lack of imagination in play for its own excursion into alien places.

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, Season One, Episode 3 and 4, Planet Of The Slave Girls certainly suggests a series heading into the wilds of space. Two decades later and Farscape would launch its own fair share of wildly sexy and creative titles too.

Notable in the episode apart from a few sexy slave girls, is that the late Buster Crabbe (an Olympic gold medal winner for swimming) appears in the entry, the very actor who brought Flash Gordon to life in 1936 and then Buck Rogers in 1939 for television. Crabbe, in his role, declares to buck he's been doing this sort of thing since "before you were born" Wink Wink.

Add to the festivities guest star Jack Palance (City Slickers and more), Don Marshall (Land Of The Giants) and Roddy McDowell (Planet Of The Apes and more) and you have the ingredients for must see TV. This is classic sci-fi at its finest with plenty of scenery chewing from a host of performances. And of course the slave girls of which there really aren't many. Of course who needs slave girls when you have the one and only Erin Gray in a sleek and sexy cat suit.

Truth be told about the entry there are a few slave girls, but there are also slave boys and both are referred to as nomads. It's not as if these are sex slave girls, which somehow that title seems to suggest at least as filtered by my sometimes tiny, dirty little mind. Although, that's not exactly true either as one girl offers herself as a sex slave to Buck for the evening. So you see maybe there is something to this slave girl thing and of course my mind.

Planet Of The Slave Girls was a two part pilot entry in the world of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century and it has an energy and enthusiasm that rivals Awakening with a whole new set of villains. There's a good deal of homage in Buck Rogers including a sequence similar to the Tuscan Raiders in Star Wars. There's also not so much homage as theft of some old Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) footage. Buck also has all of the elements that were appealing about that aforementioned series. A touch of Flash Gordon including the use of Buster Crabbe for good measure is thrown in too.

I've often heard critics at the time deride Battlestar Galactica as too serious while they fawned over the lighter touch of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, but both are worthy science fiction series.

While it's a bit drawn out as a two-parter, there is such a fun and loose vibe to the adventure that it tends to move along at a nice clip. Even the crowd-pleasing attempt at a space dogfight is decent thanks to the writing here.

This series continues to find its voice and remain a solid entertainment along the way.

As sci-fi adventure series go for the small screen Buck Rogers In The 25th Century was incredibly thrilling stuff in its day.

Once again, this Blu-Ray issue of the series is the best option out there for viewing it all over again.

Writer: Corey Applebaum (pen name for Anne Collins)/ Steve Greenberg/ Aubrey Solomon.
Director: Michael Caffey.