Then & Now: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

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Geoff Harris

In 1984 while piloting Ranger 2, the last of Earth’s deep space probes, Captain William “Buck” Rogers encounters a strange anomaly which freezes his life support system, throwing him into a state of suspended animation, and puts the ship on a much wider orbit. He stays frozen and returns to Earth 500 years later. An Earth which recovered from nuclear holocaust and now faces invasion from the Draconian Empire, an imperial dynasty that spans multiple star systems. Buck is revived and begins the process of assimilating to this strange new world. The consummate “fish out of water”, he is an anachronism and a misplaced misfit in a world of near-perfect order and robotic efficacy.  However, it is a combination of those qualities and his military training which spurs the Earth Defense Force to enlist Buck into helping against the would-be conquerors.

Then

First came the movie. Star Wars still ringing in my ears and here was another epic with action and suspense and more stimuli than my developing brain could handle. When the movie birthed the show I almost lost my shit. Buck’s adventures every week! I couldn’t have a SW show so I settled. Keep in mind I also had Dr. Who and Star Trek on the brain so I was in full geek mode. Conversation fodder for days at school. I didn’t care how cheesy the show looked or how inane the plots were. I will admit the second season did leave me a bit wanting and sad that it ended so suddenly. (Although Battlestar Galactica dropped the mike at only one season. We don’t talk about Galactica 1980. No sir. No we do not.) I had a bit of a crush on Erin Grey, who later turns up on Silver Spoons marking the only reason I watched that piece of crap show. Who didn’t dream of being a larger than life hero?

Now

When you get older you start to notice things more clearly. Maybe it’s a survival thing. Or you just outgrow the things of the past. Regardless, I watch reruns now and wonder if I deserved to be in Special Ed classes. It’s a really terrible show. The acting is either forced or exaggerated. The special effects, cutting edge for the time, were laughable, and the insistent use (or reuse) of stock footage was highly noticeable. Guest spots by Gary Coleman did little to elevate this show out of its mediocrity. And…putting this on Front Street, Twiki the robot’s head, shaped to resemble a “page boy” haircut, looked like a penis. Once you see it you can’t un-see it. Not to mention they changed his voice in season two from Mel Blanc’s gruff old man to an annoying cheerful muppet shriek. I wonder whose genius idea it was to move from defending the Earth to exploring space. I’m not saying it was a bad choice, just one that got diluted into cotton candy horse shit. The show had so much promise. Yes, I’m sure there are websites out there that can fill me in on the why and what of the show’s decline. I don’t care. It’ll be retconned anyway if they ever reboot the damn thing.

If they do….Hawk. Just saying.

I don’t hate the show. I just can’t watch it sober. It’s so mind-numbing and poorly written. Yet, it still holds a place of honor in my great hall of geek. Not everything will have that new car smell of modern-day entertainment. Maybe a reboot would work. In today’s climate, a show about fitting in against all odds and maintaining a sense of one’s individuality would go far. Albeit the Powers-that-Be would darken the show up a bit and probably mix in some sappy PC message here and there. The contrast could work but only if it’s on Netflix or some other non-network medium. I don’t want to have to sleep for 500 years before somebody cracks the code on why network television is a wasteland these days. Channels are becoming the domed cities of the show. So does that make Hulu the Draconians? Booty-Booty-Booty.

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