harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Review: "The Plot to Kill a City" Part II, from Buck Rogers

Written by: Alan Brennert, Robert C. Dille
DIR: Dick Lowry

My Blurb: Last time we were with Buck, I picked apart the lazy scripting because it bothered me so. Most because it was so clumsy, but also because I like the plot and characters of this episode. We left off with this:

Scene 31: As Wilma is taking Marcos back to New Chicago, Joella and Buck are escorted back to Kellogg. In the room also, is Barney. He apologizes to Buck, but he's had a reversal of fortune at the port and needs some money. He informs Kellogg that he had met Argus two years earlier and ergo knows that Rogers isn't him.

Sherese looks self-satisfyingly smug....

Commentary: I have no idea what she's looking smug about, since he and Joella have been able to lie to her face all episode. I'm choosing to believe it's just pleasure at the idea that she'll be able to torture and kill somebody soon. I also like the idea that she's tickled pleased at Kellogg being duped, but why exactly that would be I don't know. Or... she's just naturally smug, since she seems to have an extremely limited facial expression range on which to draw indicating she only has access to a few emotions of her own, when she isn't busy empathing. And, I'm giving her backstory much more thought than the script ever attempted.

So... Buck is screwed and he's taking Joella down with him....

And so, we rejoin Buck as he's kinda screwed and Joella who is probably re-thinking her entire 'not admit he isn't Raphael Argus' plan:

Scene 01: Sherese is being smug, especially toward Joella. Buck, however, has another black light bomb to use and super-empath realizes too late what he's doing... like when she actually sees the device in his hand and about to be thrown down on the floor.

Scene 02: Buck and Joella make it to the hallway and run, but the bad guys are confused for long and are hot on their trail. Barney, in the meanwhile, uses the opportunity to pilfer some valuables from the room.

Scene 03: Buck and Joella run into a huge, empty and bright room where they stand out like a sore thumb. The bad guys move in.

Buck draw his weapon and Quince attempts another TK-yank on it, but Buck is able to hold onto it long enough to shoot him with a stun.

Kellogg and Sherese opt to ignore the fact they both have guns in their hand to continue the foot chase!

Scene 04: More running down a darkened corridor.

Buck pushes a cleaner-bot down the hallway at the bad guys. Despite it being wildly easy to run around, or to shoot and destroy, they choose to turn around and run away allowing Buck and Joella to break away from them.

Commentary: *sigh* professional killers of the future *sigh* / *groan* stupid script *groan* Oh, and Varek? Remember that thing where you can just phase right through it and continue the chase? No? Okay, never mind.

Buck decides that he and Joella will split up and meet up near the spaceport.

Scene 05: Buck enters a room... somewhere....

He thinks he's given the bad guys the slip, but Varek finally remembered his powers and has been wandering through walls to get ahead of him. He reaches out from the wall and grabs Buck.

Scene 06: Meanwhile, in space, Wilma has made it to the stargate.

Commentary: It is a special effect I continue to love, but I've already screen capped it, so won't again.

Wilma calls into Huer, letting him know she has Marcus in custody (who remains unconscious, but completely unrestrained in the co-pilot's chair). She also has to report that Buck didn't show up at the rendevous point and she had to leave him behind, his fate unknown.

Scene 07: Back on Aldeberon II, Buck has been recaptured and Sherese is holding a hypo-gun. She tells him that it contains a chemical that won't cause any permanent damage, but will cause an extreme amount of pain. She threatens to use it, if Buck doesn't reveal who he is working for.

Buck concocts a story on the spot about being a rival assassin who wanted to break into the big time by joining The Legion of Death.

Commentary: Sherese? Anything to say about this blatant lie? No? Okay.

Buck continues blithely with his spot-on-the-moment lying, implying that Argus was killed by him so he could assume his identity. Sherese doesn't really care and wants to simply kill him immediately. Kellogg holds off on this logical plan of action.

Instead, he chooses to try to verify Buck's new supposed identity by contacting his mole in the Earth Directorate to see if they can find evidence of Buck's new alter-ego. This would be shifty-smiler guy who caused the damage to the hanger in part I.

Kellogg tells everyone they should have an answer in 30 minutes....

Sherese continues to not sense Buck lying through his teeth and now realizing he's got 30 minutes before his newest ruse is uncovered.

Commentary: *sigh* super-empaths of the future *sigh*

Scene 08: Back on Earth, Marcos is awake and has been brought to Huer's office - unrestrained - and Huer is telling him he believes the assassin to be lying. He orders the two guards to take him to the lab for mind probing.

Commentary: Y'know, I didn't realize it as a kid, but Dr. Huer has a real dark streak. And the technology available in New Chicago is a bit appalling.

Marcos tells them that the probe won't due them any good, as in hours, they'll be blown to bits. Wilma points out that he'll be in the city if this happens. Oh, yeah... well....

Wilma and Huer speak about Buck's lack of communication, while Dr. Theopolous begins to review all information they have, looking to develop a theory as to the assassins plans.

Scene 09: Meanwhile, mole-guy has transmitted the answer to Buck's identity back to the Legion. But, the Directorate had his alter-identity set up, so that his cover story is in fact confirmed.

Commentary: YAY, SCRIPT! You did that quite well!

Sherese wants to kill him anyway (I like you, you psychopathic but unreliable empath). Kellogg orders mole-guy to stand by. (In real time... so it took 30 minutes to confirm Buck's cover story why exactly? Script, script, script... what am I going to do with you?)

They discuss Buck's fate, but Quince and Kellogg are sufficiently impressed with Buck's supposedly disposing of Argus to keep him aboard for their plans to eliminate New Chicago. Sherese is unhappy. Kellogg next orders mole-guy to make sure Huer suspects nothing of their plans before they leave for Earth. He's not happy at being asked to take such a risk, but Kellogg reminds him that is what he's being so handsomely paid for.

Commentary: Professional assassins of the future hire random guys at key targets to provide information? Stealthy.

Scene 10: In Huer's office, Wilma makes another inquiry about Buck. Huer informs her about Buck's alternate identity and that an inquiry was just made about him, showing that he is most likely still alive and working the mission.

But, Defense Directorate internal security is... lax... and there is a microphone placed hideously obviously on the underside of his desk transmitting his words to mole-guy. Wilma wants to return to help out Buck, but Huer denies the request. The Mole makes an interstellar phone call.

Scene 11: Kellogg is, as you might imagine, not pleased to have been played for a fool twice by Buck.

Scene 12: In the spaceport, Barney is confronted by Joella on his turning she and Buck into the Legion for the money. He invites her to join him in getting off planet with the starfighter he's now acquired with his recent good fortune. She doesn't look very tempted.

Commentary: Presumably, this was to set up Joella to tell Buck where to grab a convenient ship that is armed with weapons AND matches stock footage shots. However... a starfighter... really? Just hanging around for sale... fully armed... in a public spaceport? Really?

Barney leaves and Joella spots Kellogg and Varek on their way to intercept Buck, Sherese and Quince with Rogers' actual identity.

Commentary: Why he would do this in a public area, instead of waiting for Buck to board Quince's ship where he'd have no room to run and they'd have the privacy to kill him is something that only a professional assassin of the future could grasp. He, and a pair of script writers who didn't spend a lot of time exploring the logical fallacies of their plot.

So, being far more clever than I, Kellogg reveals Buck's identity. Being far more subtle and practicing her blending-in skills, Sherese immediately pulls a blaster in full view of everyone passing by. Since no one raises an alarm, I can only assume this is an extremely jaded populace of people.

Before she can blast him, Quince states she can have what is left. He uses his TK to pin Buck to a nearby wall. Joella is there though, to push a baggage cart into the back of his legs.

Buck is able to push his way through Sherese, Kellogg and Varek and take off through the spaceport. There is another chase.

Scene 13: Buck makes it to the hanger, but gets himself trapped in a cargo container. Kellogg sends Varek in through the door to finish him off. Buck tries to blaster him, but Varek is pulling the phasing-move, rendering his weapon useless. Varek is able to grab Buck's blaster from his hand and turns it on him. But, he then points it over Buck's shoulder and shoots the wall.

Varek has switched sides!

He shows Buck his mutant face and explains that he knows first hand about the horrors of a devastated world. He tells Buck to find a way to stop them. Buck tells him he should do so with his powers, but Varek isn't ready to go that far. He feels the only place he has ever had a home is with Kellogg and he can't openly betray him and lose that.

Commentary: And, once more, I must give it up for Anthony James who really does deliver his dialog with real emotion. He is wonderful in his portrayal of Varek.

Varek reports that Buck has been vaporized. Our Legion of Doom leave to retrieve Quince (waylaid by falling down) and be on their way to Earth. We see that they have convenient pipes in cargo containers for Buck to have remained up out of sight.

Scene 14: In New Chicago, The Mole is packing a load of random office supplies to take with him on his retreat from the city. But, he's waiting too long to get out and Huer, Wilma, Twiki and Dr. Theo are there to confront him as he goes to make his exit.

Commentary: Yes, the three of them showed up without any guards... or weapons... to confront the saboteur and mole in their organization. And they all managed to survive before Buck's arrival how exactly?

Fortunately, Mole doesn't have a weapon either and makes a dash for the door. There are two guards, now, waiting in the corridor for him. The Mole denies any knowledge of Kellogg's plans but takes glee in mentioning that Buck's identity was discovered and he's a dead man... just like "all of you". He grins maniacally (apparently, like Marcos before him, the thought that he is now in New Chicago on the eve of its destruction wasn't the first thing on his mind).

Scene 15: Back in the spaceport, Buck is attempting to make a interstellar call to warn Huer and Wilma. SUDDENLY, security is very tight and Buck doesn't have two forms of identification to access the communications terminal.

Commentary: Uh-huh. You're right in realizing you can pull blasters in public and threaten to shoot people, but you may not make phone calls.

Joella has caught up with Buck. Buck mentions having to get to Earth, and Joella shares that she happens to know where to get a ship.

Scene 16: Our now-trio of bad guys arrive in orbit of Earth and Kellogg lays out the basics of how they'll gain access to the anti-matter plant that they'll detonate.

Scene 17: In the hanger of the soon-to-be-purloined starfighter, Buck expresses regret at stealing somebody else's ride. Joella points out the owner and Buck gives a "Thank You" skyward.

Commentary: That was a very cute moment, I have to say. And both Markie and Gil bring a smile to my face with their interaction and line delivery, here.

Buck and Joella confront Barney, where they make it clear they're taking his fighter.

Commentary: I notice the huge blaster that Buck is wearing on his hip... carry blasters around everywhere you go, but don't try to make an interstellar phone call....

Scene 16: On Earth, our plant engineer is playing with his son in the park. He tells the boy he's tired him out and sends him off to play with his sister and he goes off to retrieve a ball. There he is confronted by Quince and Sherese who know too much about him for comfort. They point out Kellogg and Varek watching his children intently.

Our engineer refuses their demand to get them into the plant, until the obvious is made obvious... his children's lives depend on his cooperation.

Scene 17: As the trio is confronting plant engineer, Varek is entertaining engineer's children with his phasing powers.

Scene 18: Engineer agrees, believing them to just be smugglers who want some equipment to sell on the black market. Sherese promises engineer that if he does his job for them, his family will be fine [well, y'know, until the critical explosion vaporizes them, but let's not quibble].

Scene 19: In the meantime, Varek watches Engineer's children playing on a jungle-gym and looking conflicted. He replays his conversation with Buck in his mind.

Scene 20: In outerspace, Buck and Joella come through the stargate.

Commentary: And, in a very nice callback to episodes past, Buck is still disoriented by passage through the gate.

Buck calls into Huer and tells him the target. Huer is sure the plant is impregnable [I guess, unlike the Security Directorate HQ -- perhaps they should have spoken to the anti-matter plant for security tips]. Buck shoots down Huer's confidence. Doctor Huer concedes and plans to lead a ground force to the plant. He hangs up with Buck.

Scene 21: Joella points out that Buck is taking her to a city that may be wiped out at any minute, but he points out he did tell her it might be dangerous.

Commentary: Markie and Gil have some good chemistry working between them in these bantering scenes and they really make their cutesy scenes work. Good show.

Scene 22: Kellogg, Quince and Sherese fly their ships into New Chicago.

Commentary: Hey, wait a minute! Where was Engineer at then, if they weren't already in the city? I thought that the environs of New Chicago were a vast ruined landscape. Does he shuttle in from a distant city everyday for work?


They have engineer with them.

Scene 23: Engineer is escorted to the entrance point of the plant. He tries once more to convince the "smugglers" that this is a foolish attempt, but Sherese's always-present blaster convinces him they're not interested in his opinion. Kellogg tells the others after they enter, the sensors will pick up 5 lifesigns rather than one and an alarm will be tripped. They'll need to be ready for the security bots.

Scene 24: Inside the plant, the expected security confront them. Kellogg has a device, however, that cuts off the Security Androids quoting the trespass laws at them with a disruption field.

Commentary: And in keeping with 25th Century design, I note that the corridors are wide enough for an army with ridiculously high ceilings.

Scene 25: In the New Chicago hanger bay, Wilma greets Buck and Joella. He passes her off to Twiki (who makes unfunny remarks, as is his habit) while Buck goes off with Wilma.

Scene 26: Back at the plant, Kellogg's group force Engineer closer to their goal. Their next security block is a "neutronium door" that isn't able to be blasted through. Engineer tells the trio they'll never get past it. Quince is able to use his telekinetics, with some effort, to unhinge the door from its hinges however and allow it to fall into the room beyond.

Just past this is a security field. Breaking the plane of the field will cause lasers to fire at whatever is disrupting the air density in the room. Kellogg orders Varek into the room to reach the control panel on the far wall. He's resistent, but gives in to Kellogg's repeated command.

Commentary: And, this is where we get a hint of the contempt Kellogg feels toward Varek, that Buck was complaining about in Part I and which I complained there was no evidence for. He comments on Varek's "grotesque body" in a snide tone. It's like peeking under the veneer of Kellogg and actually provides a trace of a hint that Varek may be verbally abused and treated like crap by Kellogg. Where was something like this in Part I, when Buck was making such a big deal about it??

So, Varek does the phasing trick. He's able to solidify and push the off button fast enough to not get lasered. Sherese continues to not sense any of the ambivalence surrounding Varek.

They reach the final security barrier. Another door with two buttons. One which will open it and the other that will cause a security breach and fill the room with poison gas. They ask Engineer which button to press to avoid the paralytic nerve gas and remind him that if they're taken into custody, their associate will kill his family. Sherese also adds that the supposed associate will do so despite his growing fondness for Engineer's wife....

There is a tense few moments as the Engineer makes up his mind. He tells them which is the safe button. Sherese is able to empathically sense Engineer, though and knows he's lying. Kellogg chooses the other button and they gain access.

Commentary: Yeah. A choice between two buttons to open the super secure power core... I mean has the 25th Century not discovered badge cards and numeric codes to enter? Oh, my lord, but that was a lame scene. I would like to give a mention to James McEachin as Engineer Selvin; he does a good job with his character for as little as the script actually gives him. Also, Frank Gorshin does delivery his dialog congratulating Engineer for being willing to risk his family that the nerve gas will take them out faster than they can alert their associate in a wonderful way. But, yeah, more script dumbness.

Scene 27: Meanwhile, Wilma, Buck and random pilot are speeding their way to the power plant. Wilma reports that an automated distress is being broadcast by the plant, but Huer's strike force is still 10 minutes out.

Commentary: AGH! More blue screen, where they didn't even try to insert a background into the background. It's solid blue!

Buck inquires about the plant personnel and we get a sort-of explanation for why Engineer would live a spaceship ride away from the plant. Wilma informs Buck that there aren't any actual people working at the plant, just a few technicians that keep things running. The actual day to day work force are the androids and the computers.

Scene 28: In the control room, Kellogg and gang look in on the reactor core. Kellogg starts playing with the controls and Engineer yells at him that he's going to erode the magnetic containment field that keeps the anti-matter from mixing and annihilating the matter in an uncontrolled and devastating explosion. Kellogg shares that he's been slightly misled about their aims.

Selvin attacks Kellogg in an attempt to get the containment fields locked down, but Quince uses his TK to restrain the Engineer.

Commentary: I note the size of this control room, where people are (one must assume) only very rarely actually present. It's frickin' huge (and largely empty, 'natch).

Well, Kellogg is now pissy that Selvin actually struck him, because apparently it comes as a shock that he might try to intervene in the trio's plans to obliterate the city in which he and his family lives (apparently, the park was in New Chicago). Kellogg decides he'll have to die (Uh. Were you going to let him go, before? I think not. Shut up, Kellogg).

He orders Varek to kill Engineer. Varek grows a set and refuses to dispose of Engineer, much to Kellogg's outrage. Furthermore, he warns Kellogg that he won't allow the Legion of Death to destroy the city, either. Well, with this mini-rebellion, all hell breaks loose (on a budget).

First, Quince's focus is broken so Engineer is let free from the wall he was pinned against. He goes on the offensive. Varek doublefists Quince to the back of the neck, rendering him briefly unconscious. Sherese pulls out her blaster and shoots Engineer in the stomach (but, of course, there won't be a flash bang blowing apart his abdomen... that only works on inanimate objects). She next turns her gun on Varek, but of course the mutant is able to phase rendering her weapon worthless. She fires through him into some computer panels which suffer shockingly little physical damage, since the flash-bangs have returned.

Varek grabs her and gives her a gentle toss against a control desk and she falls to the floor. Quince meanwhile is just recovering from his fall to the floor moments earlier. Varek moves in on Kellogg, but he has a device on his belt that sends out a pulse to a belt buckle on Varek. The phasing dude is stunned.

While the donnybrook was going on, Kellogg was able to complete whatever he was doing to cause a disruption in the magnetic field. He has Sherese blow out the computer desk station with her blaster.

(Uhm. There are three other stations in the room... are you telling me that only that one controls the magnetic field? Plus, y'know, it is only a workstation... the computers running everything are still there in the background working fine... does no one have a laptop on them, either?)

Red Alerts start going off. The trio head out to rendevous later when they're ready to take credit for the plant and New Chicago's destruction.

Scene 29: Huer and his men arrive to find the security/maintenance androids destroyed. He reports into Buck and Wilma who are closing in on the plant's location.

Wilma wonders if they've arrived in time to take them into custody, but Buck points out their retreating ships. Wilma and Buck head after the retreating assassins, while Huer and his whole two men head for the control room.

He finds Engineer just recovering from his shot... apparently Sherese only stunned him, which seems out of character for her. He reports the magnetic seals have been damaged. Varek comes around as well. Engineer reports that the controls have been destroyed (So, yes. There was exactly one control panel to keep the magentic seals in place. No silly and wasteful redundant systems here!).

Engineer reports that he'll have to go into the vacuum chamber to strengthen the fields manually. Huer points out that with the field eroding, there are probably stray atoms of anti-matter already leaking out. He'll be instantly disintegrated if he should come into contact with any of the material. Engineer reports no choice but to risk it.

Varek volunteers to take the risk.

Scene 30: Meanwhile, Buck, Wilma and anonymous pilot start dogfighting the retreating assassins. Buck fires and scores a direct hit on Quince, but somehow this creates an explosion off to the side of his vessel, instead of blowing him up (that would be reusing stock footage that is inappropriate and bad editing).

Scene 31: At the plant, Varek phases into the anti-matter room. He solifies and begins to make the manual adjustments needed to stop the imminent explosion.

Scene 32: In space (in a relatively neat scene, special effect wise), Quince takes TK-control of Rogers' ship and forces him to fire wide and fly off out of control.

Buck pleads with Wilma to distract Quince so he'll stop locking his controls. She does so by blowing him up. That works.

Anonymous Pilot gets a name, Lieutenant Murphy, when she manages to blow up Kellogg.

Commentary: Okay, it's always nice when the dayplayers aren't completely useless... but isn't it weird for her to be the one to destroy Kellogg's ship? He was the leader of the movement, shouldn't he have been taken out by Wilma or Buck, himself? I could see them having dayplayer take out Sherese, the inconsistent empath, but Kellogg?! His exit was completely anti-climactic on top of it, too... Quince got more of a send-off (of course, he did have the cool powers)!

Wilma asks Murphy to "tow what's left of our friends back to Earth" ... presumably Sherese, since Quince and Kellogg are clearly atomized and Sherese just sort of disappeared in the middle of the battle. I was hoping she'd been smart enough to escape, but apparently her ship was disabled off-screen.

Buck and Wilma head back down to Earth to get to the power plant.

Scene 33: Varek now has 60 seconds to stop the detonation. Wilma and Buck come in with 30 seconds to go.

Varek waits with his finger on the last switch for the dramatic effect until 3 seconds before the big bang. There is much grinning. Alas, as Varek leaves the power core (and forget about that whole vacuum chamber crap -- there is no way he was operating in a vacuum) he doesn't phase and gets hit by stray atoms of anti-matter. Oops.

But, it's okay! And, bullshit! It's okay bullshit!

Varek, despite being hit with stray atoms of anti-matter and clearly zapped out of existence, comes phasing through a far wall on the other end of the room (the hell?!) where he reveals he's just a bit cinged around the edges and his mask is damaged.

Commentary: Anthony James... I love you. Again, this man does a wonderful job by giving his Varek the shakes through his dialog scene to show the trauma that the anti-matter zap has had on him. He obviously gave serious thought to how to portray this character throughout and it shows. I think he was actually the best part of this episode.

Wilma tells him that they'll get him to the clinic and help him. He's surprised and grateful for this mercy.

Commentary: And, again, you could take this as being another hint of his crappy treatment of him by Kellogg that Buck ranted about when there was no evidence of such treatment in Part I.

Scene 34: Sometime later, Buck has Huer and Wilma in his apartment and is introducing them to wine.

OMG... continuity! Dr. Theo updates everyone on Sherese... SHE DID MAKE IT OUT! Which, y'know, means that Murphy was left to tow space dust, because Kellogg and Quince were clearly blown to itty-bits.

Wilma asks after Varek and Buck reports that he's asked to be taken back to his home planet. They're interrupted by a beeping at Buck's door. As soon as Buck goes to answer the door, Wilma and Huer turn to the same plant and dump their wine.

At the door is an entirely unnecessary return of Joella, still with Twiki (which means Twiki's Theme, the hideous cartoon que that follows him around). There is unnecessary humor where Joella can understand Twiki's biddi-biddi-biddi compu-speak and thinks he's a laugh riot. Whatever. Just end.

The Good: Anthony James does a very nice job, as he did in part I. He was definitely the best actor in the episode, including Gil and Erin.

The pacing was a lot better in this second half, especially once our bad guys actually reached the plant than in part I.

Quince's telekinetic powers and Varek's phasing abilities were well used.

The Bad: The scripting was so clumsy! Over and over again.

Sherese is a real problem as a character, simply because of her off-again, off-again, off-again, oh-wait-the-script-says-I-can-empath-now nature of her powers.

That ridiculous choice to have Varek survive... and the complete lack of time to think he was killed saving them for some sort of emotional impact.

Anytime they end with Twiki's lack-of-funny, there is a problem.

Marcos was also badly handled all the way around. All of his scenes could have been left out and it wouldn't have made any difference. His cool-sounding backstory involving his now being resistant to pain because of having his nerves surgically removed doesn't impact anything... at all. He doesn't even make an escape attempt from the no-name guards!

Other Thoughts: I'm not sure if I'm just fan-wanking, or if it was intentional, but I like that I can see hints of Varek's mistreatment by Kellogg that we should've seen in part I.

I also did like a lot of Nancy DeCarl's dialog delivery as Sherese, especially when she was being mean-spirited. It wasn't her fault that the script ill-used her.

Frank Gorshin was much more enjoyable in the second half of the story, as well, especially when he was interacting with Mr. McEachin.

The Scoring: I enjoy this two-parter, but man do I wish much more care had been taken with the scripting. This needed another rewrite or two to tighten things up and keep things making some sort of logical sense. But, this second part is a fun time:

3.50 out of 5


Tags: buck rogers s1 reviews

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