12 January 2005 | Blueghost
I paid money to see this...
...but I don't regret it. Not too much, anyway. Yes, it's true. When the pilot episode was given a theatrical release I went and paid good money to watch it.
I wasn't too thrilled at the production values, but I still enjoyed it as a stand alone film. I'd seen the B&W Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials rerun on a couple of UHF stations, and figured I'd see an upgraded reprise of Buster Crabbe's role.
What the audience got was essentially a made for TV movie that would lead to a pretty fun series. I think the other commentators have got it right; the first season of this show was just good fun. A guy tuned in to see Gerard and Gray save Earth from sundry space-vixens and other off world baddies. The most notorious being Princess Ardala, played by the very talented and alluring Pamela Hensley. With the help of Dr. Heur, Theopolis and Twiki, Buck and Wilma thwarted the villains of the 25th century.
If the viewer tuned in to see some high brow brain-candy moral wrapped in science jargon, then he had the wrong show. Late 1970's Buck Rogers was about adventure, the perils and dazzling technology of the 25th century, lusty and dangerous space-babes, all pitted against a 20th century man's mettle and his equally gallant comrades.
But that was the first season. The second season took a page out of Roddenberry's play book, and transformed into this cheap "Star Trek" knockoff, complete with a Spock-like character in the form of a man sporting a feathered wig, played by Thom Christopher. Buck was no longer bumping flirtatious intrigues with scantly clad space-babes with his daring-do, and Wilma's hard-nosed gut-driven "I am 25th Century Woman, hear me roar!" character was taken down a notch... that and she rarely wore her very appealing spandex uniform :)
In short, first season = Good: Second season = bleh.
I'm not sure what went wrong. The fist season teetered on the high-kamp abyss, but Gil Gerard and Erin Gray had a kind of relaxed and realistic chemistry that helped bring the viewer into their world. The stories were out of Hollywood Formula 101, but they were fun, thrilling, and enjoyable. The action sequences, the alluring fashions of the 25th century, the concept of a man from our time roaming the far future, scantly clad space-vixens, it all adds up to a fun show, if somewhat far fetched... then again plausibility wasn't what Buck Rogers was all about.
This show could've really gone the distance with its original formula, and should have. Why the show changed for the second season is beyond me, because it didn't need to. Part of the attraction of Buck Rogers wasn't the "science" in this science-fiction show, but Buck and Wilma's daring-do. Whoever thought otherwise, and tried to turn Buck into a more "serious" sci-fi venue, was dead wrong, and, as someone else said, quite thoroughly torpedoed the show by fixing it until it was broke.
I'm not a big Glen Larson fan. "Manimal" and "Automan" come to mind, but if I had one wish, with regards to a TV show, it would be to go back in time and see to it that Larson continued producing "Buck Rogers" as he envisioned it for the first season. Heck, maybe I could save Dorothy Lee Stratten for another guest appearance on the show. But alas we're only left with the legacy of the first and second season of this very adventurous TV series.
Well, Larson's helped relaunch BSG, and is now doing a "Knight Rider" revival... maybe he can give Buck Rogers another shot as well, only this time, if he does, let's hope he'll stick to his guns.
Until then; so long, Buck.