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  Buck Rogers In the 25th Century

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> Description 
In 1979, Buck Rogers was revived and updated for a prime-time television series for NBC Television. The pilot film was initially shown in cinemas in the spring, and good box-office returns led NBC to commission a full series, which started in September 1979 with a modified version of the pilot film. This omitted the death of one character (in order to allow him to return in the series), and added footage in order to help launch the series. The production also made obvious use of recycled props and costumes from Battlestar Galactica. For example, the control sticks used in the starfighters in this series were the same as those used in Battlestar Galactica's Viper craft. The Earth starfighters were Ralph McQuarrie's original vision of the Colonial Vipers.

The new series centered on the character of Captain William Anthony "Buck" Rogers, played by Gil Gerard, a US Air Force pilot who commands Ranger 3, a space shuttle that is launched in 1987. Due to a freak combination of gases, Captain Rogers is frozen in space for 500 years and is revived in the 25th century. There, Captain Rogers learns that the Earth was united following a devastating nuclear war in the late 20th century, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Forces.

The series followed Rogers as he tried to fit (not always successfully) into 25th-century culture. As traceable personal records are nonexistent for him, he is uniquely positioned, due to his considerable pilot and combat skills and personal ingenuity, to help Earth Defense foil assorted evil plots to destroy Earth. In many respects, the new Rogers had more similarities with James Bond or Col. Steve Austin than Nowlan's original character. Rogers is aided in his adventures by his friend and semi-romantic interest, Colonel Wilma Deering, played by Erin Gray, and his comic sidekick robot, Twiki, played by the voice of Mel Blanc, who had previously voiced Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers in spoofs of the early Buck Rogers and other science fiction serials).

Twiki, a very small robot, tended to express himself with the dyspeptic ejaculation "biddi-biddi-biddi" followed by a 20th-century cliché or catchphrase he'd picked up from Buck, or one he already knew from before he met Buck. Dr. Theopolis, another robot, who consisted of only an illuminated face, was housed in a large medallion usually worn by Twiki, and was considered one of the planet's scientific leaders. During the first season, Rogers and Deering took their orders from Dr. Elias Huer, played by Tim O'Connor, the head of the Defense Directorate. Some episodes also depicted Huer as the leader of the entire planet.

There were subtle but significant shifts in setting between the pilot and the series. The pilot film depicted human civilization as insular and restricted to a few domed cities, its capital referred to as the Inner City. Travel beyond the Inner City was hazardous, as the rest of the planet was said to be a wasteland inhabited by violent mutants. The series painted a more positive picture of future Earth. The Inner City was renamed New Chicago, and it was established that human civilization had not only spread once again across the planet, but also to the stars. Little reference to barren wastelands was made; in several episodes Buck ventures beyond the dome of New Chicago with no hazards encountered. As opposed to the isolationist planet seen in the film, Earth is shown to be the center of an interstellar human-dominated government, sometimes called "the Federation", other times "the Alliance", with its capital at New Chicago.

Buck Rogers' best-known nemesis during the first season was the sexy Princess Ardala of Draconia, played by Pamela Hensley, whose insatiable desire was to conquer and possess both the Earth and Rogers.

Although popular with viewers, the first season failed to receive much critical acclaim; it was seen as being too light-hearted and comic book-like for their tastes. One vocal critic of the series was Gil Gerard himself, and the star of the series pushed for more serious storytelling for the show's second year.

Production of the second season was delayed by several months due to an actors' strike. When production resumed in the fall of 1980, the format of the series was changed with Buck, Wilma and Twiki joining the crew of an earth spaceship called the Searcher which, true to its name, was in search of the lost "tribes" of humanity (borrowing themes from the earlier Battlestar Galactica). The characters of Dr. Huer, Dr. Theopolis, and recurring villain/love interest Princess Ardala were eliminated and replaced by the commander of Searcher, Admiral Efrem Asimov, who was said to be a descendent of the famous science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, Hawk, a half-man, half-bird character who somewhat resembles Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Dr. Goodfellow, an eternally curious scientist, and Crichton, a prissy know-it-all robot who Twiki considers his son. Mel Blanc also left the series at the start of the season and another actor began to perform Twiki's voice, much to the dismay of viewers, only to return for the final half of the season.

Gerard was successful in scaling back the humor in the second season in favor of more serious episodes, with a few notable exceptions. Buck and Wilma became more serious characters taking part in plotlines that might have been holdovers from Battlestar: Galactica. One element of the first season that was dropped was giving Buck a different girlfriend every week; although most romantic activity occurred off-screen, the second season firmly established the relationship between Buck and Wilma that had started in the pilot movie but was only hinted at, and at times outright ignored, in the first season.

Viewers did not respond well to this change of pace, and with the corresponding ratings drop, the series was cancelled at the end of the strike-abbreviated season, though the ratings were still considered strong by comparison to other series.

The two seasons are so different in tone that Buck Rogers fans tend to consider the two seasons to be two entirely different series. The second season is often spoken about with scorn in science fiction Internet newsgroups and forums, but the recent DVD release has led to a reappraisal.

The show ran for 32 episodes (including a number of two-hour specials) that aired from 1979 to 1981 and was later shown in reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel. A North American DVD set of the complete series was released on November 16, 2004.

According to Erin Gray, who played Lt. Col. Wilma Deering in the series, Wilma became a major role model for young girls despite her sexy costumes and somewhat flighty demeanor in some episodes. She still receives letters from women who entered the military or other fields in part because of the inspiration of Wilma Deering.

Gray also said that she never actually met Eric Server, the actor who provided the voice of Dr. Theopolis, until many years after the series ended when she found herself sitting next to him on an airplane.

Show Description Credit: Wikipedia
 
> Airing History & Information 
Last Airing Apr 16, 1981
Premiere September 20, 1979
Episodes 32
Network NBC
Format/Time Color / 60 Minutes
Country United States
Upcoming Airs Not currently airing
 
> Cast 
Jay Gardner....   Admiral Efrem Asimov (1981)
Gil Gerard....   Buck Rogers
Tim O'Connor....   Dr. Elias Huer (1979-1980)
Wilfred Hyde-White....   Dr. Goodfellow (1981)
Thom Christopher....   Hawk (1981)
Felix Silla....   Twiki
Erin Gray....   Wilma Deering

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> DVD Releases & Reviews
The Complete Epic Series (Universal Home Video)
(November 16, 2004) Buy It (USA) (Canada)
 


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