Buck Rogers -
Wilma Deering -
Dr Goodfellow -
Admiral Asmiov -
OTHER SPACE ADVENTURES
Buck Rogers returns for his second season of space antics, but things have changed. Quite a bit. He now serves on starship called Searacher that is setting out to explore the galaxy looking for the lost tribes of Earth. Wilma's on the ship as well, though she's swapped the tight trousers for revealing short skirts. Twiki is still there, but he's got a new voice and is pretty much written out by half way through the season anyway. New arrivals are Hawk, a birdman with a tragic history, a dotty old professor and his supercilious robot and an admiral descende from Isaac Asimov.
That's a lot of changes, but none of them seem to be for the better. Part of the point of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY is that it was just harmless, silly and occasionally charming fun for the younger members of the audience. This second season attempts to turn it into a more mature, new version of STAR TREK. This is mainly acheived by taking out the humour and using old ideas and plots that would have seemed hackneyed even in Captain Kirk's days.
Gil Gerard loses a lot of his affability thanks to this change of attitude and doesn't seem to know how to handle it. Erin Grey is left with little to do. Thom Christopher manages to come out of things with some grace intact, but poor Wilfred Hyde-White just seems terminally bamboozled, no doubt wondering what the hell he is doing this sort of tosh for at his time of life.
The season is short and proves to be Buck's last and we can't say that we are in any way sad to see it go.Top
Following the slaughter of his family group, one of the last remaining members of a race descended from birds goes on a rampage against humans. Newly stationed on the exploration ship Searcher, Buck Rogers is sent to bring the Hawk in at any costs, but when the Hawk's wife is injured the cost is considered too high.
The opening story of season two is a two part story that introduces a whole new cast of characters and a new situation for Buck and Wilma.
For no readily apparent reason, Buck and Wilma are suddenly on a starship whose purpose isn't explained until right at the end of the second episode. The crew is a bunch of misfits including the newly revoiced Twiki, a robot called Crichton who knows everything, but is even more irritating than Twiki and a dotty old professor. Presiding over all of these is an admiral whose presence seems to be solely to give Buck someone to advise all the time. How did this man get to be an admiral when every decision he makes he has to be persuaded out of?
And then there's Hawk, a man who is nothing more than a ball of fury and with good reason. He is a suitable challenge for the surprisingly humourless Buck and in their final duel are so equally matched that they nearly kill each other. As it is, only Buck's impassioned plea gets Hawk off the death penalty and he immediately signs up to join the Searcher's mission to search for the lost tribes of Earth (erm, that sounds somewhat familiar to us).
All these changes come with an edgier direction that tones down the joie de vivre and attempts to go more real. Considering that what humour is displayed is hopelessly awful that's possibly a good thing, but it is not what the show was designed to be and it leaves a strange sense of split personality behind.Written by Norman Hudis
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Buck, Wilma and Hawk are assigned to take an ambassador to a critical peace conference in order to stall an impending war. The ambassador is an old flame of Wilma's, but is keeping a secret from her. When their shuttle crash lands on the planet, they are forced to wander through a wilderness of strange mutated creatures, facing perils and traps along the way.
The second two-part story in a row proves to be a total nonsense. For starters, why would anyone establish a city in the middle of a wasteland known to be full of jettisoned genetic experiments in the first place? How did an invisible cage magically come to be in place and why would an invisible enemy fight with a highly visible light sword?
It helps that the ambassador is played by Mark Lenard (Sarek from STAR TREK and Urko from PLANET OF THE APES) who can do this sort of thing in his sleep, but it doesn't help that he is so much older than Erin Grey and thus their previous relationship seems somewhat unlikely and a little sleazy.
Once again, the humour is muted and the emphasis appears to be on the action and adventure, neither of which are really up to the job.Written by Robert Mitchell and Esther Mitchell
Directed by Daniel Haller
Buck and Hawk survey a remote and barren planet only to find a dying man who has been apparently waiting for Buck for 500 years. The man entrusts Buck with a jade box, but the box has the power to show people their futures and to take over the ship. The admiral sees his crew starving to death and Wilma sees herself blinded. Can these events be avoided?
The new shape of the show is confirmed in this, the first normal length story that is heavy on the dramatics and light on the fun. A blinded Wilma, a dying crew, a ship out of control and a shepherd falling into a fiery pit are some of the highlights. It's a long way removed from the bright and breezy days of the first season.
Unfortunately, neither the writing nor the performers are strong enough to carry this or to convince in their new roles. It really is a
Directed by Jack Arnold
Buck is suffering from a disease to which his 20th century body is not immune and so he is the only person on board the ship who realises that the ambassadorial team that has come aboard is made up of the aggressive lizard race of Saurians with devices that make them appear human. Their target is the human defensive outpost that is key to the security of the galaxy, but with nobody believing Buck can he stop their devious plot.
The saurian makeup in this episode is pretty terrible, so it's soemthing of a relief that it doesn't get on screen very much at all. Instead, Buck sees an aura around the aliens. With things going wrong all over the ship it is ridiculous that it takes anyone so long to realise that Buck's 'hallucinations' are nothing of the kind and, considering that they do think that he is dangerously unstable, it is ridiculous that he is constantly allowed to roam around the ship with no restraint whatsoever.
This is a poor story that never convinces for a second and isn't fun enough to get by on entertainment value alone.Written by Francis Moss
Directed by Barry Crane
In the middle of an asteroid field, the Searcher encounters a lifepod containing a child with golden colouring and the ability to change the inherent structure of materials. The Searcher gets lodged on an asteroid and it is up to Buck to rescue another golden man from a nearby penal colony in the hope that he can free the Searcher before the deadly magnetic storm that is approaching gets too intense.
This is another sub STAR TREK episode in which Buck and Hawk run around a film lot pretending to be a pre-industrial civilisation created on a penal colony. It doesn't convince for one second and the clunky dialogue that the cast are lumbered with doesn't help matters at all. The plot itself is a bunch of running and escaping. At no point do the inmates of the penal colony seem to have mastered the idea of guarding prisoners.
The science of the story is also horribly illiterate as everyone goes on about making the ship lighter. It's in space, so it doesn't matter how heavy it is. It's all about the inertia, not the weight.Written by Calvin Clements & Steven McPherson
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Whilst searching for crystals that are needed in the Searcher's engines on a volcanic island, Buck's team discover a beautiful woman with no memory and a hideous beast that seems to have an unhealthy interest in her.
So the Searcher's engines need crystals to function does it? The stealing from STAR TREK continues, and gets more blatant with each passing episode, it seems. Since it is so obvious that the girl and the monster are linked, it is absurd that it takes Buck and the rest so long to figure it out, even after blood tests show that her blood and the creature's are exactly the same. What do they need, a road map? Apparently they do, but Crichton is on hand to provide it.
What the story doesn't borrow from STAR TREK, it borrows from FORBIDDEN PLANET.Written by Robert Mitchell & Esther Mitchell
Directed by Philip Leacock
Whilst an asteroid field is being mapped, Buck goes in search of a colony that hasn't been heard from in six years. He finds two survivors, a woman and her son, who are being terrorised by a Satyr. Things look bleak when Buck is bitten by the beast and starts to change into one himself.
A slightly more original story is welcome to the show, but the special effects and makeup are so laughably poor that everything is undermined from the start. The shuttle landing on the planet makes the spaceship effects from the first season seem positively masterful.
The satyr has an energy whip, but Buck has a blaster and yet still manages to lose the initial fight, though he does make up for it later by drowning the beast in a surprisingly graphic moment. The fact that the beast isn't dead doesn't matter - don't try this at home kids.
The true nature of the satyr is obvious from early on and it is annoying that Buck lets the woman get away with her 'I don't want to talk about it' responses when the answers could save all their lives. And what is it with the Earth authorities that they don't check up on a colony when they don't hear from them for years? The Searcher was in the area, but would rather map an asteroid field than check out the lost colonists.Written by Paul Schneider and Margaret Schneider
Directed by Victor French
Searcher picks up a derelict that is drifting in the space lanes, making a danger of itself. When it is found to be full of unstable solar bombs it is clearly more dangerous, but when the crew turn out to be a group of mischeivous little people who can't keep their hands to themselves things get about as dangerous as they can be.
BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY finds its sense of humour again as the group of little people set about causing havoc on the ship with their inquisitiveness. The crew of the Searcher, however, also lose their competence completely. It takes half the episode for them to lock the little guys up and then they don't bother to post a guard for heaven's sake. The aliens also state that they can fix anything by just thinking about it, but the crew then risk Twiki and Crichton in a complicated operation to save the ship from crashing into a star instead of using the talents of their guests to think it straight.
It is, however, great to have Mel Blanc back as the voice of Twiki since the replacement to this point was even more annoying than the original.Written by William Keys
Directed by Vincent McEveety.
Buck, Hawk and Wilma are surveying a dead planet when they encounter a crashed ship and its lone survivor. Wilma takes him back to the Searcher whilst Buck and Hawk investigate some ruins. Upon their return, however, Buck and Hawk find that the people aboard the ship have changed. Wilma is now a dependent, weak woman, the admiral is a tyrant, the professor a mad scientist.
Alternative universes or plots that change the personalities of the main players are quite often fun as they manage to give us a different view of the character and give the actors a chance to try something new. Unfortunately, the changed people in this story are so negative that there is no chance to enjoy the difference.
The explanation for the changes, when it is discovered, proves to be somewhat banal, neatly fitting in with the rest of the episode.Written by Francis Moss
Directed by David G Phinney
Video evidence unearthed from the ruins of the holocaust on Earth shows that Buck Rogers was one of the main conspirators in a plot to bring about that terrible event. Buck remembers nothing about the events in question, but the evidence seems incontrovertible. Memory scans only seem to confirm Buckís guilt, at least until he has a vision of Mount Rushmore.
Clearly Buck Rogers could not have caused the Holocaust that wiped out most of life on Earth, but it is daring of the show to suggest it as a starting point. It then goes piling on the evidence that he really did do this thing when we all know that he couldnít have and so we just wait for the exonerating evidence to come out to explain it all.
This story hangs together better than a lot of the others in this second season, but it does suffer lapses in logic such as the fact that all Buckís memories would surely be seen through his own eyes rather than some outside camera surely? It also beggars belief that the Presidentís bunker beneath Mount Rushmore has been discovered only a few weeks earlier, just in time to jog Buckís memory and save the day.Written by Stephen McPherson
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Evacuating survivors of a natural disaster from a space station to a new colony, Buck allows a young woman aboard even though she is being chased by what he believes to be security personal. She is a Dorian, a race of people who live behind masks and she is accused of murder. A Dorian ship turns up and starts to alternatively bake and freeze the Searcher, demanding that the girl be handed over to them.
Do you hand over a single person, potentially a murderer, to a certain death penalty in order to save the lives of a bunch of innocent hostages? Thatís the dilemma and the answer for the crew of the Searcher is a simple one, but when it comes to the civilians aboard, including prospective parents, it becomes an altogether greyer matter.
Itís an old and oft-used story and there isnít really anything new to say here, but at least it does mess with the usual lines between right and wrong that are normally drawn in absolutes. Of course itís obvious what the right and wrong thing to do are, but then the consequences have to be taken into account. Would you risk your unborn childís life for that of an accused murderer?
More interesting (and thrown away in the last few seconds of the episode when it ought to have been the main theme) was the revelation of the Doriansí secret. Itís a great one and does raise a number of questions that we would rather have seen explored than this stale story being rehashed.
The torture subjected to the ship is also poorly portrayed since the high temperatures cause Buck to remove his jacket and the cold temperatures force him to do the zip up. Is that it? If thatís the extent of it then nobody would be debating the rights and wrongs of handing over the Dorian suspect.Written by Stephen McPherson
Directed by Jack Arnold
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