In this post we are sent spiralling into the 25th century to join a 1930s spaceman dragged into the 2400s via 1979.
In 1979 Buck Rogers blasted across our TV screens as media companies attempted to cash in on the buzz generated by Star Wars. For some this meant doing something newish (like Battlestar Galactica – a western in space in cinemas and then TV), but for others this was an opportunity to recycle existing movie heroes. In 1980, Flash Gordon hit the big screen, with accompanying theme song from Queen, in Flash Gordon (1980) directed by Mike Hodges, but the year before Buck Rogers was doing it on the small screen.
My first encounter with Buck Rogers was, however, not this TV series but rather the 1939 movie serial that had an episode played each day on holiday TV. The lead character of Buck was played by Larry (Buster) Crabbe, the Olympic swimmer who’d played Flash Gordon in two previous films. (I also grew up on the exploits of the ultimate space opera hero – Dan Dare).
Getting back to the late 70’s though, the new Buck Rogers cast Gil Gerard as the hero, and Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering (followers of the geeky web series, The Guild, will remember her playing a character based on herself in that). A scientist-politician, Dr. Elias Huer (played by Tim O’Connor), the AI Dr Theopolis, and the robot sidekick, Twiki, rounded out the main cast. (I must admit I was cheering for Twiki to get disintegrated each week, because he really annoyed me).
Many of the props on the show were recycled from Battlestar Galactica’s prop department, and the show made good use of recycling stock space combat scenes with special effects each week. It was a romp each week, though the most cringeworthy scene was probably Buck getting the 25th musician/DJ to play some disco so he could dance in public. Season 2 moved the setting from Earth to a deep space explorer and introduced Hawk – a strong, silent half-bird/half-man character.
In more recent times, I’ve picked up a few of the rebooted Buck Rogers comics that came out around and there was a video game and cool toys that you could collect and play with.
Just shoot me now. Even as a kid this was painful.