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DVD Review

DVD cover

Buck Rogers
In the 25th Century
The Complete Series


Starring: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Pamela Hensley, Tim O'Connor, Felix Silla and Mel Blanc
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 24 June 2019

In 1987, Captain Buck Rogers commands the Ranger 1 spacecraft. Following an accident with the environmental controls Buck is frozen, only to be revived in 2491 to discover a world slowly rebuilding itself from a nuclear war…

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Series (37 eps x 60 mins approx.) collects together all of the episodes of the science fiction television show developed by Glen A. Larson and Leslie Stevens. The show ran between 1979 and 1981.

Larson had a previous success with Alias Smith and Jones (1971 - 1973) and, of course, Battlestar Galactica (1978 - 1979) and would go on to create and produce many more shows with science fiction elements. The story was based on the original comic by Philip Francis Nowlan who created the character in the nineteen twenties.

The show is deliberately both lightweight and camp. The tone had more in common with the nineteen thirties Flash Gordon serials than it did with a lot of contemporary shows. That is not to say that there were no other shows with camp elements. In Britain there was a golden age of science fiction television with shows like Blake's 7 (1978 – 1981), itself more than a little camp and Space 1999 (1975 - 1977). This trend towards producing camp science fiction even extended to the big screen with the release of Flash Gordon (1980).

The tone and lightness of the show garnered more than a few critics, including Gerard, who wished that the series would take itself more seriously. He was so displeased with the final result that he nearly did not return for the second season. Unfortunately, the second season turned out to be generally worse than the first.

Buck was played by Gil Gerard and would become the defining role of his career. His ship is intercepted, and he is revived to discover an Earth which is controlled by the Earth Defence Directorate. For most of the episodes the only major members of the Directorate that are seen are Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), Dr. Elias Huer (Tim O'Connor), Dr. Theopolis (Voiced by Howard F. Flynn) who was a plate sized super computer who was carried by the diminutive robot Twiki (body by Felix Silla, voice by Mel Blanc).

Deering is suspicious of Buck as his ship has already been intercepted by Earth's main enemy, the Draconian’s. Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley), with the aid of her second in command, Kane (Henry Silva) spends most of the first season trying to get past Earth's defence shield, while at the same time harassing shipping under the guise of being space pirates.

The whole of the two seasons have been released on DVD, spread across eleven discs. Season one takes up the first seven discs, containing all twenty-four episodes. Disc seven contains a feature length version of 'Flight of the War Witch' (1 hr, 33 min, 05 sec) the theatrically released version of the pilot two-parter (1 hr, 28 min, 28 sec). This was released prior to the commission of the television show to gauge audience reaction. As such, there were changes made between the film and the transmitted pilot.

Season two’s thirteen episode are contained on four DVD discs. Following the mixed reaction to the first season, the second was radically changed. Gone was the concentration on Earth, as Buck and friends take off into deep space in the spaceship, Searcher. Their mission is to rediscover the lost tribes of man, a plot device lifted from Larson’s other show, Battlestar Galactica. Obviously, the producers hoped to emulate the success of Star Trek (1966 - 1969). Added to the crew are Dr Goodfellow, a befuddled academic (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and Hawk (Thom Christopher) a last survivor of a humanoid bird race. They even changed Twiki’s voice for the worse, if that were at all possible. Hawk turned out to be a good addition to the show and added some weight which should have come from Buck. The only bonus for the second season is the two-parter of 'Time of the Hawk'.

The show did have a lot going for it, if you’re happy to watch it as a light piece of nonsense. The production values were good with acceptable special effects for the time. Design was good in both sets and ships and the cast were pretty good, given the iffy scripts they were provided with.

The first season is undoubtedly the stronger, but in the end, it’s a child of its time.


Charles Packer

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