Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
"Vegas in Space"
Written By: Anne Collins
Directed by: Sigmund Neufeld, Jr.
Scene 01: We open with a shot of a Starfighter flying into view. Aboard is Captain Rogers. He fires at a Hatchet, but misses and complains about the computer controls, again. He wants to switch to manual, but Wilma says not to as he has one coming in from the side and the computer can dodge faster than his reflexes.
There are actually three coming in and targeting him. He takes out one, but complains that 1 out of 14 is ridiculous. Wilma warns he has one on his tail and he tries to take quick evasive action. Wilma warns him to evade or fire, but Buck takes a direct hit!
Commentary: Buck Rogers had many continuity issues that were noticeable as a child, but our even worse now. One of these is how often somebody tells someone to fire at something behind them, even though we've NEVER seen a Starfighter capable of shooting behind itself. Never Ever. The second is the inconsistency between the computer control and the human control. Despite Buck constantly wanting to switch to 'manual', when a pilot is still in computer control, they seem to be able to make maneuvers all on their own as much as they want... so...? What's the difference? It seems to be a "It's In The Script" thing that has no actual consistent affect one way or the other.
Wilma reports in to command that Buck has sustained a direct hit and that with him dead, the entire squadron was taken out in a bit over 2 minutes. Obviously, Buck is very frustrated, but very much alive and this was just some sort of simulation. The improved combat computer is still just as useless against the Hatchets as it was in the pilot episodes/movie even with the upgrades.
Buck and Wilma argue over the results of the test. Apparently the Draconians have improved their Hatchet fighters so that they're both faster and more manueverable than they've ever been before. Buck believes that the pilots will do better if they switch to manual just before firing, while letting the computer handle targeting, but Wilma insists that her pilots simply cannot do that sort of precision work in combat situations.
Buck insists it's all a matter of training the reflexes and she sighs that she'll think about it. As they head back, Buck asks if Wilma has any plans for that evening. She tells him that she doesn't and he responds with a smirky, "Too bad, I do".
Commentary: That made me smile, because Gil is this side of smarmy, so his snark works rather than being insufferable.
Scene 02: We switch to New Chicago, where we meet a girl coming into her apartment. She's carrying a briefcase and looks at a display screen which reports that she has two messages waiting (And the white text on blue background looks like she should be asking for her messages in the form of a question).
She makes herself more comfortable. The second message is apparently from her boss and he tells her to listen very carefully. He then gives her a warning that she could be in danger.
The warning has arrived too late, as POV-CAM is stalking up behind her unnoticed. She senses someone behind her and spins around, only to scream as the POV-CAM rushes up into her face.
Scene 03: We next meet Major Marla Landers coming into Dr. Huer's office. He has a notorious visitor waiting to meet her. Mr. Armat, alleged businessman but actual criminal mastermind, is there to request the aid of the Defense Directorate in assisting the woman we saw being stalked. She is an innocent employee of his that has nothing to do with his more shady dealings. Unfortunately, one of his equally reprehensible competitors has taken the young lady to a system called Sinaloa ... the Vegas In Space (Hah!) where his own people can't reach her.
Apparently, this young woman saw some data involving a code that she wasn't supposed to. She didn't realize what she had seen, reported an error and then went right on working but Velosi's people somehow realized what was reported, though they couldn't actually retrieve the code itself. For reasons unknown, Armat has taken such an interest in this digital programmer that he is willing to turn himself and all records pertaining to his criminal empire over to the authorities, if they'll retrieve Falina before she's harmed.
Shockingly, Doctor Huer refuses. He opines that Velosi will use whatever information he receives to cripple Armat's operation, which is rather appealing. This outrages the criminal, but Huer is suspicious that this one murder would even register on his conscience.
Commentary: I like O'Connor's acting here opposite Romero. But, Clay's reaction-shots are bouncing between adequate and awful. I'm glad we kept Deering (Erin wasn't sure if she wanted to be in the series, so there were basically episodes in the beginning that were testing the waters for a replacement).
As Armat is storming out, Landers stops him with a suggestion that his connections may be valuable in determining why the Hatchet's are so impervious to the Starfighters' computer controls. Huer agrees that would make risking Directorate personnel in a rescue operation much more acceptable.
Scene 04: Colonel Deering drops by Buck's place in order to recruit his help in accompanying Major Landers on her mission to Sinaloa. At first Buck refuses, but the combination of spending time with Landers and to play Blackjack again proves too much for him and he agrees to go.
Commentary: Gil and Erin always did such a nice job of playing off of one another in the comedic moments and they do so here, too.
Scene 05: Buck and Marla talk for a bit in the hanger deck, before Dr. Theo arrives with some specially designed gadgets to help them pull of their mission.
Commentary: Of course, they're 007-lite objects that would be picked up by any security screening worth half a grain of salt. And, they're not even clever gadgets, like Q's creations.
Scene 06: On Sinaloa, everyone plays a future-twist on modern gambling games. We focus our attention on Tangie, a 'companion' who is in a bit of trouble with her boss - the aforementioned Velosi. Tandy's future seems to be in a bit of doubt. But at least she looks great in a mirror-dress!
It appears that Tangie is trying to earn enough to buy her way out of Sinaloa, but her clients have been issue complaints about her lack of hospitality, which doesn't sit well with dead-eyed Richard Lynch.
Velosi's security chief stops by just long enough to let him know that Falina has arrived.
Scene 07: Aboard a Starfighter, Marla gets Buck caught up on the three major players: Velosi, Falina and one Carl Morphus. Carl is an information extraction expert who is also rumored to be on his way to Sinaloa.
Scene 08: In her room on the city/artificial planetoid that Velosi calls home, he drops in on Falina just to stare at her. She has a meltdown during his Dracula impersonation, which one can only assume was his purpose.
Her terrorization gives him joy.
Scene 09: At the entrance gate of the gambling city, Marla and Buck arrive. Buck's first move when he arrives is to stick the mini explosives around the gate area should they be needed later for their exit. An alarm goes off, and it looks like he may have been detected... but it's a false scare.
Buck meets up with Marla and tells her that they're all set to start the mission proper.
They separate to wander the casino and see if they can pick up on any information, or meet Velosi. Buck is more interested, on the surface, of the beautiful women -- one in particular who has the coloring of a light shaded Andorian and long blonde hair. Marla reminds him of the alien cultures in the place though, by mentioning she doesn't think he'll like him.
*Extremely minor humor*
Scene 10: With Velosi, he's speaking to Falina, letting her know that Morphus is on his way and then she won't have to wait any longer. This scene was apparently just to let her know that she is doomed, because he's a bastard.
Scene 11: On the casino floor, Tangie is looking for her next mark and settles on Buck.
Scene 12: Across from Buck, who is a card counter and the computer uses cycles of 52, just like a deck of cards, Marla Landers complains that he's winning too much and is obviously cheating. The 10-11 computer informs her that there is no way for him to be cheating as all numbers are selected randomly and no computers or calculators are allowed on Sinaloa.
She and Buck trade barbs, in an effort to garner attention to them to draw out Velosi.
Marla then goes to the bar where she complains about Buck's apparent winning streak. There, she happens to meet Velosi himself, where she makes a scene about Buck in order to draw her quarry's eye. This works as he asks for her ID, and then keeps it so she has no choice but to have a drink with him... just as she wants.
Scene 13: Back at the 10-11 table, Buck tells Tangie a story about a trip to Las Vegas he'd taken, which of course she doesn't really get. But, her job is to listen and smile. His remembrances however, reminds him that the friend he went to Vegas with would have been killed sometime during the Apocolypse and he goes into a quiet funk.
Unfortunately, Buck's sudden turn to morose makes Tangie share her own tale of woe. She has been wanting to leave Sinaloa, but Velosi has her in virtual sex slavery -- though, she doesn't put it that bluntly.
Tangie initimates to Buck that with his winnings, he could easily 'purchase' her contract from Velosi and she'd be grateful... so grateful....
But, he disappoints her by cashing in his chips and turning her down. Buck promises to see Tangie again and wanders away, with Velosi's security man following him.
Commentary: I'd like to give a kudo to Pamela Shoop here for her portrayal of Tangie. Though, the script is clunky ... for someone afraid of what Velosi will do next, she sure is free with calling him a monster and begging some stranger to take her away from him... but it is nicely acted.
Scene 13: At the bar, Landers tries to talk her way out of Velosi's company so she can meet up with Buck. However, Velosi isn't used to being turned down and insists that she's coming back to his room. He isn't buying that she is all that she seems, using that criminal instinct of his. With little choice, she shares coquettish looks with him but does as he says.
Commentary: I also like Marla Landers more here, as she keeps a cool head. She tries to get away from Velosi, but when this proves difficult, she plays along. But, you can see something in her eyes that lets you know she's thinking ahead. Juanin Clay's acting here is much less awkward as someone undercover, than it was during her meeting with Huer in uniform.
Scene 14: Buck comes to his room and slips inside, having noted that he's being followed. Security Chief draws his blaster and slips in before Buck's door closes.
Commentary: Which is really a WTF moment in the script. He was supposed to be keeping an eye on him for signs of cheating... NOT pulling his gun, breaking into rooms and threatening patrons. He doesn't have any idea that Buck isn't just a good Blackjack player at this point, so what the hell is he doing?!
Naturally, Buck is ready for him and there is fistfight galore around the oddly spacious, but minimally accented room (all living spaces in the 25th Century are huge, but empty).
Decorating in the 25th Century also favors hollow plastic tubes that are stacked and ready for people to be thrown into them. Buck makes quick work of Security Dude with his favored judo-kick moves.
Scene 15: Coming back in from a commercial break, we find the goon hogtied on the floor. Buck shares that his winning was because he uses his brain, which people of the 25th Century seemed to have stopped doing a long time ago. He admits to cheating and further admits that it was done just to draw in a thug like him.
Buck pulls out some pills secreted behind his belt buckle and tells him that he's going to share what he knows about Falina Redding's presence on Sinaloa. Buck convinces Security Chief to take the pill willingly, so he doesn't have to use any unpleasant methods to force him.
Commentary: I gross myself out by immediately thinking anal insertion... really, what the hell is wrong with me? I'm very pleased that we don't go there.
Scene 16: In Velosi's room, Agent Landers is in a difficult position. It is quite apparent that Velosi has lovin' on his mind, and as master of Sinaloa, he isn't accustomed to being turned down.
Scene 17: In Buck's room, Security Guy is feeling no pain. He giggles on while giving Buck the answers to his questions about where Falina may be.
Scene 18: In Velosi's room, he and Landers are sharing a rather awkward and uncomfortable dance... really uncomfortable.
Commentary: I'll give this scene a point for Clay's reluctance in this scene, since it is in character. But Lynch looks equally uncomfortable, and he shouldn't. Velosi should be riding high on his arrogance and sense of complete control. In fact, considering his personality to this point, it seems highly unlikely that he would be stretching out where this is going via slow swaying with about a foot between them.
So, not only is the scene uncomfortable because the actors are clearly uncomfortable dancing in front of the camera for it, but it is also blocked in a child-friendly, rated G way, which doesn't work for the ruthless, violent character of Velosi.
He gets a call, informing him that Morphus has arrived. Landers uses this as her reason to leave before she has to resort to putting out or kicking his ass and blowing her cover. He allows her to go, but tells her that he'll be at her room in 5, where they'll be continuing their evening. This is obviously not a suggestion.
As she leaves, Morphus arrives and they pass one another with her looking at him a little too intently, for being an experienced agent, drawing plenty of attention to herself.
Commentary: Also, I am aware of Morphus' name being a play on Morpheus and his whole schtick being putting people in a deep sleep to extract information... I just don't find it to be clever, is all.
We stay with Velosi as he meets Morphus and describes what he needs from him. He makes it clear to Morphus that he has a free hand, as Falina isn't going to be allowed to live once the data is extracted.
Scene 19: In the halls, Landers rapidly makes her way to her room, where Buck joins her. For some reason, he's changed back into his uniform, which in no way be less conspicuous than his civilian wear.
Commentary: I want to say that the uniforms are supposed to be damage resistant or something, that is supposed to be providing some benefit regular clothes don't. I may be getting that from one of the books, though, and not from the TV Show. I don't think we see any particular reason why the Directorate runs around in tight, bright uniforms. But, in any case, this is just a stupid script moment. Trying to sneak around to where Falina is, while kitted out in a uniform is ... well, I used stupid already, but it's the best word.
Anyway, Landers shares that Morphus has arrived, so Falina's time is dwindling. Buck has to tell her about the secured location in which only a few keys exist, one of which isn't owned by the guy who followed him (and apparently Marla recognized that Buck was being followed, too --- clever scripting, or just lazy ... I have to lean toward the latter).
Landers tells Buck that all isn't lost, as Velosi's key may just be theirs....
Scene 20: Velosi arrives at Lander's room as promised (threatened?) to find her in a new outfit and waiting. Her uniform... accessorized with a blaster.
But Velosi doesn't travel anywhere without an escort, and his bodyguard comes in through a back door into the room with his own blaster drawn. This was anticipated and Buck is ready for him, knocking the gun from his hand and taken him into custody.
Scene 21: Buck & Marla trap Velosi and his goon in the room, by shooting out the electronic locks after relieving honcho of his key. (Being a G-rated show, there will be no blasting them, and apparently for the moment, these guns can't stun ... this seems to come and go depending on what the script needs.)
Alas, Tangie was passing by when Buck pulled this off and she takes this as per opportunity to force the Directorate to save her along with Falina. Marla, having heard Tangie threatening to turn them in to security, threatens her from behind with a stunning (see, it stuns - it doesn't - it does, but they don't use it for whatever reason). Buck, instead tells them that Tangie can go with them and turns over his gun to her. He then dashes off with Velosi's key to get Falina, leaving Marla to prep their ship and escort the hospitality woman.
Scene 22: In the prisoner room, Morphus is readying his powerful drugs to begin extracting the code that Falina accidentally saw, but doesn't consciously remember.
In the meantime, Buck conspicously runs around in the open with his blaster drawn and uniform on.
While Morphus continues to sloooowwwwwllly prepare the first injection and Falina hyperventilates her way through an attack of heaving cleavage.
Commentary: Ana Alicia handles her part well, and has terrified down pat, but her character simply isn't given anything to do. Her defiance is unconvincing, but she still has this likable quality that makes me wish her part of giving something meaty to do. She's too much of the MacGuffin for the amount of time onscreen she takes, alas.
Buck is walking along a pipe above them, and drops down juuuuust before the injection. There is a brief fight with the two goons guarding over the process, but one of them is able to hit a red alert button before behind knocked unconcious.
Falina is unstrapped and Buck and her make a run for it.
Commentary: And, what the hell was that Gil?! What was with the hoarsed growl-speak when telling Falina you needed to get out of there? Not only was the line unnecessary, but the way it was delivered was really weird.
Scene 23: Buck and Falina make it to the main casino exit, but guards are there due to the red alert. Their checking all IDs for anyone exiting the city.
The portal guards make her and Buck (well, with that flashy white uniform and all), and Buck pulls out the detonator box to set off the camo-explosives placed earlier.
(Horrible post voiceover insertions) The mini-explosives comes with lots of smoke to obscure vision and with the chaos of the crowds, Buck is able to get Falina past the exit point.
Falina is able to save Buck this time, by rifle butting a guard in the head, so that was cool.
Scene 24: They're chased to the launching bay. Tangie and Landers were able to make it with little problem and they're able to launch.
Alas, they haven't made it out of the system before four of the new super-Hatchets are on their tale. Buck realizes that the new fighters must be coming from Velosi to the Draconian raiders. Marla Landers is understandably worried, as she knows how crappy their combat computers do against the new fighters.
Commentary: Although, for being an agent, she sure does sound panicked in front of the civilians.
Buck is able to use that 20th Century dogfighting style to take out three of them, but the last one is up to Marla and her manual firing skills. She's filled with self-doubt, but of course, does so brilliantly when it's needed.
Commentary: Yeah, that was cliche. But worse? The whole battle lasted from first shot to last explosion: 48 seconds. What the hell was the point of introducing super-Hatchets if this was how easily they were going to combat them?? That sucked.
Scene 26: Back in Huer's office, Falina comes face to face with her employer and benefactor, Mr Armat. With her safe, he turns himself in as promised.
Obviously, Falina doesn't understand what made her so special, when he has been a human trafficker and murderer to who knows how many. We find out the twist that Falina is actually Armat's daughter. He'd left her mother at her request when she was an infant in order to protect her from his criminal empire.
Commentary: Gee, thanks for dropping that on me, Dad. Drop dead, Scumbag.
She's obviously taken aback by this new information (and, thank you!, we don't get a teary reunion... instead she leaves in shock and disgust).
Scene 27: In the hallway, returning to his room, he meets up with Wilma who asks after his case. She brings up his being 9700 credits richer and they banter about how he had didn't enjoy himself at all....
The Good: Gil Gerard remains entirely charming, and later he sells the 'man out of time' realizing again that he's lost everyone he used to know.
Doctor Huer refusing to rescue an innocent without getting a lot in return was pretty surprising for this show, but entirely appropriate. That was a nice touch.
The model work remains fun with the space city, the Starfighter and the Hatchet Fighters.
The Bad: Lynch's Velosi doesn't really have the charisma needed for this role. He's far too low-key and unexpressive. It causes Velosi to seem dull, more than menacing.
Juanin Clay's acting in the beginning, during her interaction with Huer and Armat is stilted and awkward.
The whole improved-Hatchet and the ensuing space battle at the end was entirely wasted and pointless. Considering that a large portion of the enjoyment of Buck was the space battles, this was really unacceptable.
Other Thoughts: While the plot itself was fine, the pacing wavered between okay and kinda slow. There were moments of good acting, but then these were followed with dullness. The story itself is fine, but the Vegas In Space setting didn't have the elaborate sets needed to suggest a bustling gambling and entertainment establishment. This show's set dressing is a problem throughout, as huge empty white rooms are common and everything has the feeling of people living and working in largely empty warehouses (or sets) rather than actual living spaces.
The Score: The episode is good, if a bit slow, elevated by some likable performances. Lynch and Romero are miscast, however and Lynch in particular underacts. There is also the common issue of talking up how dangerous all of the villains are, only for their ruthlessness on screen to be restrained by the G-rating show. That does undercut the seriousness and excitement of several scenes:
3.25 out of 5