- Continued from Part 1 of Review -
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Starring: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Tim O'Connor, Pamela Hensley, Henry Silva
Season 1, Episode 1 & 2
Scene 18: In the cemetery, Buck frantically looks - in the dark - for the grave markers of his former family members. The mutant gang chase after him with spears, but he's far too obsessed with finding traces of his family to worry about his coming gruesome death because he's wandering around in a wasteland without any armament.
Buck manages to find his parents' grave marker, somehow. Dr. Theo warns that they can't stay there, as their being followed by the irradiated gang.
He notes, instead, his parents' stone has no dates. Dr. Theo reports that the end came so quickly, that only a relative few were buried at all. Whole families were placed in graves together, if they were that lucky. Dates stopped being important at the end, so many of them simply weren't marked with that information.
There is a brief moment of bereavement, but there simply isn't time for this as Buck and Twiki need to make a run for it to escape the mutant marauders.
They quickly find themselves surrounded, forcing Buck to break out his faux-fu to defend them. Despite Buck's superior hand-to-hand combat skills, the trio is forced to retreat deeper into the cemetery. It isn't long before they find their escape cut off, however.
Buck readies to defend them with a branch, while the mutants have spears and axes on their side.
Just when things are looking very poor for our heroes, a humvee type vehicle comes out of the darkness with blasters blazing, driving off the attackers.
Commentary: I like this vehicle and the laser blasts. They were generous with them and the exploding flash devices, so good job. We'll see as the series progresses that there is less and less money for these effects, so it is really nice here to see the money spent.
Scene 19: Wilma is aboard the future!humvee and is pissed that she's had to come out looking for him. He trades barbs with her, completely ungrateful that he was probably just saved from being hacked to death. She orders him aboard the armored vehicle, but he stubbornly refuses, telling her he hasn't finished looking around.
She let him get away in the hanger when he tried to walked away from her, but not this time. She orders him shot and a lieutenant blasts him.
Scene 20: Later, Wilma comes into Dr. Huer's office where he shows her a report of some kind. Whatever it says, it seems to show that Buck is, in fact, working as a contact for the pirates against Earth interests. Dr. Theo refuses to believe it, despite the evidence to the contrary.
Commentary: What I want to point out here, is how nicely the set is decorated. Not just the futuristic!aesthetic, but the knick knacks, a copy of the bible, the light fixtures... etc. The reason I point this out, is that later, we'll see the sets getting more and more bare until there are barely rooms with anything in them at all. Here, it still looks like there are people living and working in these places, despite an overreliance on antisceptic white as a decorating choice.
There is some discussion about Buck and the pirates. We find out that the mapping device snuck aboard Buck's ship has been discovered. Dr. Theo points out though that he is convinced that Buck has been aboard the Princess' ship, as he reported. His descriptions were too precise to be anything but the truth. He further points out that the pirates and the Empire are the bitterest of enemies, when Wilma suggests that perhaps the pirates were able to board the Draconia and provide him the information. This is dismissed.
Commentary: What isn't suggested though, is Buck being a pirate, anyway. His having been aboard the Draconia in no way suggests that Buck wasn't still a pirate plant of some sort against both the Empire and Earth in order to undermine the coming alliance. Dr. Theo's reasoning in no way suggests Buck's innocence, and being a logical computer, I see no reason why Theo should be on Buck's side here.
Scene 21: At that moment, aboard said Draconia, Kane is reporting to Ardala that Buck was led through the Earth's shielding as expected. He reports that the transmitter was discovered, leading Ardala to be concerned. Kane pays this no mind. She suggests that the Earthers will be suspicious of the Draconian, but Kane believes that the Terrans will assume that Buck is working with the pirates, not them. When she wonders about his tales about being aboard their ship, Kane dismisses this as something the humans won't believe.
Now, earlier, we heard a line of dialog from Ardala stating that Kane came from Earth. There is no details provided about how and why he became a member of the Draconian Empire, nor how he gained such a position of prominence, but his viewpoint of the psychology of current humans carry much weight with the Princess.
Scene 22: Back on Earth, Buck has been confined again. He has found out that he is to be tried as a pirate collaborator and spy. Dr. Theo tries to assure him that he will be defending him personally and he should not worry.
Scene 23: In a jump-edit, we skip past the trial to closing arguments before the computer council. Following these, Buck is found guilty of treason toward the human race and is sentenced to immediate death, despite Dr. Theo's claims that his own sensors tell him that Buck is "a good man".
Rogers catches Deering's glance in the gallery, and though she looks on board with this finding, we can suspect that she'll have a change of heart.
Scene 24: Back in another cell, which is completely empty except for one cheap looking chair, Buck stews. Wilma has visited him and is standing against one of the lighted cubed walls that make up their rooms.
Deering isn't quite ready yet to call Buck's story BS. She has decided that she'll escort Buck up to the Draconia to verify at least the part of his story involving their finding and reviving him. At the same time, she can look around a bit and see if there is any evidence that the Draconia is not unarmed, as she is supposed to be for this diplomatic meeting.
At first Buck resists her offer, annoying her. But he points out that he isn't sure that she's offering to terminate his termination, or if she's just postponing it long enough to use him. She implies that his sentence will be commuted, if he cooperates, without outright saying so.
Commentary: One wonders if she even has the authority to make this offer at all. With the computer council being in charge and all (although, we'll see in future that Buck, Huer, and Deering sure do have a lot of autonomy for a society run by artificial intelligence). One also wonders if Deering could even make the offer of taking him out of confinement without the council's approval.
Scene 25: On the way to the Draconia, we learn that StarFighter pilots don't so much pilot as caretake. Buck is told by Wilma that if the pirates hit them, allow the computer to take care of maneuvering, as it is superior to any attempts he might make. As Wilma's onboard tracking system picks up the Draconia, one of the nameless background pilots reports he can see it visually.
Deering expresses shock, as at their range, the ship must be huge... unusual for a diplomatic vessel.
Scene 26: Aboard the Draconia, Kane has reported to Ardala about the Terran vessels wishing to come aboard as an envoy. This intrigues both, as it is against protocol for Earth's defense vessels to intercept a visiting vessel this far out from their planet. She tells Kane to prepare to have a "pirate attack" waiting for them, but to otherwise issuing them a welcome.
Scene 27: Deering's team is welcomed aboard the Draconia. On board ship, Deering tries to lead Ardala into admitting that she has met Buck before, but she protests this.
Buck corrects the Princess, kissing her hand and telling her he never forgets a knuckle. He offers to describe her inner chambers as proof that he has already been aboard the flagship.
Kane is quick to step in, demanding an explanation for their odd visit from Deering. She claims that they are there as a special escort, due to the high pirate activity in the sector they're passing through. She about to explain about Captain Rogers' claims, when the Draconia comes under "attack" by the puny Hatchet Fighter squad. Deering's team goes into action to protect the visitor, even as Kane sneers about her less than effective 'protection'.
As there are impressive explosions going on around the outer hull of the Draconia, Deering's fighters launch.
Commentary: Interesting factoid - in the future, no one knows how to run. They all do this weird, and slow, half-jog instead. Even when they're supposed to be hustling to respond to an attack.
The Hatchet Fighters continue to buzz about the Draconia. We note that several shots of the 'pirates' actually aren't hitting anything and are flying off into empty space. Deering's squadron engages the 'pirate vessels'.
During the battle, Rogers' tries to offer dogfight advice over the comm, pissing off Deering. She tells him that the combat computers are already way ahead of him. Whether this is true or not, he really isn't much help anyway, because he's using 20th century slang like "12 O'clock" that doesn't mean anything to his 25th Century compatriots. Buck notices that the combat computers are doing a really sucky job and Deering's ships are being destroyed around them.
Well, with Deering's forces being whittled away to near nothing, Buck says to hell with that and switches to manual. With his 20th Century dogfighting skills, he is able to start dishing out heavy losses to the pirates, while Deering is still stuck on her combat computer to make decisions for her. Post battle, Wilma admits thanks to Buck, but she and he are the only survivors. She orders them returned to Earth (and I'll note, it seems rude not to contact the Draconia to check on their condition).
Scene 28: Upon landing, Dr. Theo reports to Deering that the Princess Ardala is requesting an audience with Buck. She feels that he single-handedly saved their unarmed ship from destruction at the hands of the pirates. Deering takes exception to this (even though it is perfectly true).
Commentary: I'll note too, that for "pirate raiders", they don't ever actually seem interested in pirating. You'd think that Ardala would have them do some raiding just for show once in a while, but the Hatchet ships only ever seem to destroy everything in their path. In fact, their high explosive lasers (yeah, that's one of those things you have to look past - for some reason the lasers cause explosions, even when they're "hitting" empty space) don't seem even close to designed to inflict damage rather than destruction so there is something left to raid.
Scene 29: Back aboard Ardala's ship, she excitedly tells Kane that tomorrow she'll conqueor Earth, which he corrects to "they'll". They launch aboard the royal yacht for her fake-conference with the heavily armed flagship closing.
Ardala is welcomed at the 25th Century's version of a glitzy ball and makes an empty speech to open the 'trade conference'. She assures Earth that Draconia, the ship, is filled with the latest of Draconian technology from her father, the King Draco.
Buck wonders why he was invited, considering he's technically still a prisoner with a story no one believes. Dr. Theo tells him about Ardala's wish to thank him personally for his assistance. He complains of a headache and Twiki is sent for a relaxant.
Scene 30: A bit later, with the official speeches out of the way, the party begins. All of the women are dressed in 'renaissance faire' gowns, while all of the men are in mildly military dress. Electronica tones are played, and everyone dances with the giant silver balls in regimented-step dance, like something out of the middle ages.
Buck looks on this with amusement, his grin widening as he notes the Princess gaze seemingly drawn to him. In the meanwhile, Dr. Theo and Twiki return with Buck's medication, warning him that they are very powerful and he shouldn't take more than one. He slips the container under his sash and gazes speculatively at Ardala. He requests Twiki retrieve a red rose for him as well, much to Dr. Theopolus' puzzlement.
Commentary: I have to say that Gil Gerard looks pretty dashing here, too. I do like the costuming for this series.
Scene 31: As Buck surveys the dancing, Wilma comes up and chats. Buck tries briefly to warn her that she should be on her guard against the Draconians, but 25th Century Earth no longer remembers "Beware Greeks bearing gifts" or the story of the Trojan Horse. He tells her to forget it and that he just came from a more paranoid time period, before he excuses himself to greet the Princess.
Twiki arrives with the red rose, and Dr. Theo offers that no one else is giving the Princess flowers as they greet her in turn. Buck isn't to be dissuaded by this.
When he comes before Ardala, she and he banter about the privateers. He invites her to dance, which Kane tries to stop, but Ardala will not be dissuaded, either. Buck escorts her out onto the floor, to Kane's scowl. The Princess' less than entirely puppet-master interest in Buck is obvious and he is not pleased.
Scene 32: Buck smirkingly warns the Princess that he isn't up on the latest dance moves. She tells him that if he has another preference, it is her party. He, unfortunately, uses the term, "groovy" ... and requests a more funky beat from the electronic organist (Of The Future!), which will lead to funky dancing, that no one else has ever been exposed to.
Commentary: And yes, it is just as painfully cheesy as you can imagine a future-y disco might be. Watching Buck 'get down' was a bit embarrassing in the way back when, now it is downright painful to mine eyes. Ardala continues to look fabulous, however, and Buck and Wilma both look dashing in their costumes, so I'll suffer through this part.
For you... all of my pain is all for you guys. I haven't even gotten to Twiki's boing-boing step 'odious komedy relief' moment which assaults both eyes and ears... but let us not dwell on this, for I'd like to get out of this party as quickly as possible.
Okay, so funky dancing, trying to get Ardala to loosen up and go with the new beat. Everyone making 'watermelon, watermelon' noises and looking like Rogers might be clinically insane. Wilma looking somewhat jealous of Buck and Ardala's seeming attraction to one another and proclaiming the near-body dancing 'disgusting'.
As Ardala and Buck sway in each other's faces, they exchange dialog about the Earthers believing Buck is a spy and not trusting of his tale of being frozen for 500 years. The Princess asks whether they think he's one of hers and he responds they're unsure. She offers that he could be, if he wished to join her ship. He pretends to mull this over seriously.
Scene 33: While Buck and Ardala continue drawing curious and repulsed stares by their antics (no, not mine... I'm talking about the dignitaries), Kane *cough* slyly *cough* tries to draw strategic information out of Huer about New Chicago's communications center. Doctor Huer may be many things, but fool is not one of them. He reminds Kane, respectfully, that such information would be restricted. Kane offers that he misses Earth and may relocate permanently once the trade negotiations and treaty are resolved.
Kane breaks away from conversation with Huer to spy on what the Princess is up to. His very stern glare suggests that her writhing on the dance floor has him feeling quite pissed at her spectacle. He marches himself down to the floor to interrupt her.
Commentary: Buck and Ardala continue dancing and dancing and dancing... this is a long-ass party scene until my initial horror has waned and I just want the electronic 'rock' to stop already. I therefore am solidly with Kane in ending this display.
Kane is rather nasty to the Princess, reminding her very bluntly that her father expects her to focus on matters of the realm, not partying. He reminds her also that if she cannot do so, the King has 29 other daughters who can take her place.
Commentary: I like this touch, though I think Silva really overacts it. But the idea that Ardala is constantly in a fight for positioning among her sisters for her father's favor is well-introduced here. It may be the character, or just Pamela, I'm not sure, but I always find myself really liking Ardala and wishing for her to throw off the yoke of her father and Kane and to be redeemed. It doesn't quite happen, and unfortunately her tale is aborted in S2, when the entire structure of the show underwent a radical change. I really missed Ms. Hensley in S2 of the show.
Ardala regretfully bids farewell for the moment to Buck. She mentions that she must attend to duties of state and that her launch leaves at midnight, so they'll have no further chance to speak. He informs her that he will meet her at midnight at her ship, something which she doesn't object to.
Scene 34: As Buck goes to leave the party as well, he walks by Col. Deering sitting pensively in a corner. She calls him by his rank and last name, officiously. As Buck attempts to make his getaway to prepare for his secret rendevous with the Princess later, Wilma blathers on about how she may have misjudged his being a spy. She lays quite the kiss upon him, as he keeps checking his watch.
Wilma suggests they go off 'someplace', but he's obviously uncomfortable with the sudden romantic interest by her and begs off, citing his need to take things much more slowly as he adjusts to this new time. She looks slightly put out.
Commentary: Frankly, I hate this scene. I'm hoping that Wilma is playing him, rather than suddenly getting weak in the knees (I honesty can't recall if anything comes of this, although I do remember they never actually have a romance). If there is one thing that I hated about the show, it was the extremely heavy handed way that every woman seemed to be turned into a mewling kitten in the presence of Buck. Now, Gil is an attractive man - especially if chest hair does it for you - but the show runners seem so intent on hitting you with a hammer until you find him to be a sex-god, that it becomes an embarrassment. The nadir of this will be the later episode where Buck is enslaved, spending a lot of time shirtless and gaining an astronomical bid... the highest in the history of ever, of course.
Scene 35: Cut to Ardala's yacht leaving Earth for the Draconia. Aboard, in the Princess' private rooms, is Buck. As he serves whatever the 25th Century version is of wine, we see that Twiki has somehow been snuck aboard ship as well. He and Dr. Theo are hiding in the future!version of a refrigerator where Twiki complains he is "freezing [his] ballbearings off" comedically ... *cough*.
We get some hint that they've been ordered to tail 'Captain Rogers', so they were probably given this mission by Wilma rather than Buck.
Commentary: Of course, despite their both being electronic beings, they communicate verbally. And, of course, neither one of them is very quiet, even though they're all of three feet from Ardala. Just as naturally, she doesn't hear a thing... I guess she's just too engrossed in the man-power of Buck's testosterone aura. Oh, god, and the "comedy musical cue" is god-awful. Twiki isn't that funny, Show, and trying to provoke that response with your whimsical musical notes isn't going to make me bust out laughing. Please stop trying to force the issue. Either I'll find his lines amusing, or I won't.
Scene 36: On Earth, Huer complains to Deering that they've lost Buck's location and he's obviously concerned. Wilma speaks to herself after he walks away, angrily calling Buck a spy and guessing he is with the pirates or Ardala (it isn't clear here - she should mean the pirates, but one gets the sense that she's still jealous of Ardala and has convinced herself that he's snuck away with her ... except in that case, his being a spy or not would be irrelevant to her being miffed).
Scene 37: Cut back to the Draconia. The Princess has escorted Buck to her bedchamber and orders her bodyguard, Tigerman, out of the suite. She practically orders Buck to fix them a drink, being used to being imperious that way. He takes the opportunity to slip that headache sedative into her drink, so he'll be free to look for evidence that the pirate vessels are Draconian in origin and are spirited aboard her vessel.
As the two make themselves more comfortable, Ardala confesses that she didn't bring Buck there entirely for a romantic interlude. She has larger goals. Believing him to be different than the 25th Century wimps around him, she expresses her belief that he can be the one to unseat her brute of a father and help her take over as Queen.
They get in a position to start the sexing, as Ardala continues to discuss her larger scheme. However as they get into a passionate embrace, the sedative finally takes effect and Princess Ardala swoons and passes out.
Scene 38: Up in the bridge, Kane looks down on the globe. Over the loud speaker, a voice orders attack squadrons to prepare for the assault on Earth. Kane expresses his contempt for his people below, sleeping soundly, as their doom is at hand.
Scene 39: In the meantime, Twiki and Theo are making their way around the vessel, trying to trace where Buck has gotten as pilots in armor march-step by their hiding place.
Scene 40: With Ardala in a drug stupor, Rogers tries to sneak out of her rooms, to find Tigerman slumped against the wall, apparently sleeping on his feet. This doesn't last long when Buck reaches for the blaster worn on his hip.
Although Buck is knocked to the floor, he has managed to grab the blaster anyway and fires at Tigerman. The bodyguard is... uh... paralyzed? Anyway, it some sort of stun that allows him to be frozen in place, standing up with his arms reaching out in a "Hulk Smash" way. Buck shrugs, puts him in a fireman's carry and drops in into the bed beside the drugged out Ardala.
Commentary: Alas, once again this is treated with "komedic music" that is horrible. And, it isn't even a funny moment, unless seeing Tigerman get stuck in place is supposed to strike our funnybone. I don't know why this was treated with a "isn't this funny" way, but the musical sting sounds like something that would be on a Saturday morning cartoon.
Scene 41: Buck sneaks his way through the Draconia's strangely empty hallways, while Kane stalks the corridors as well, stalking (and yes, his walk is definitely a stalk) either to the flight deck or the Princess' chambers to inform her of their imminent operations (but why he doesn't remain in the command chair on the bridge is something I can't explain).
Buck finds his way to the flight deck, where he sees one of the 'pirate vessels' being fueled for launch and realizes he was right all along to be suspicious of Ardala and the Draconians.
Commentary: The show really excelled in production when it came to the full size mock-ups of both the Terran StarFighters and the Draconian/Pirate Hatchet Fighters. They both look really good (a trait also shared by the earlier Larson produced "Battlestar Galactica" and their Colonial Fighters mock-ups).
Buck sneaks downstairs onto the main launch floor. There he spots a likely target and hides behind a wall, whistling. When a soldier comes to find the source of the sound, he is quickly knocked unconscious and his uniform taken by Buck.
- Continued in final Part 3 post -