Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
"Return of the Fighting 69th"
Writers: David Carren & Robert C. Dille
DIR: Philip Leacock
Blurb: Before Buck's arrival in the 25th Century, Wilma had been hot on the trail of two interstellar gunrunners. Now, the gunrunners are back with a stolen freighter full of chemical weapons, and Wilma and Buck must persuade the retired members of the 69th defense squadron to stop the criminals before the contaminate Earth's atmosphere.
Scene 01: We open on a ship closing in on an asteroid field (presumably in Earth's solar system).
It is being chased by a fleet of Starfighters, and Wilma is ordering them to decelerate. The freighter you see, in case you skipped the blurb, is stolen property.
With Wilma is Buck (unsurprisingly, but I did think at first that this would be a flashback) and two cadets. Buck changes over to a private command channel and tells Wilma he isn't confortable with taking a pair of trainees into a real pursuit situation, especially since they have a habit of not understanding his jargon. Wilma tells him that they're the closest units and if the freighter gets into the belt, they'll lose 'em.
Scene 02: However, they've stumbled across a pirate base hidden in the asteroid field because enemy fighters are scrambled (of the same design as the cultists in "Planet of the Slave Girls") against them. One of the trainees panics as he's hit, but his shields take the blow and Buck destroys the pirate.
Commentary: Owie to the... uh... "acting" of the trainee.
The second trainee gets 'deer in headlights' look as he's fired upon, but Wilma saves him. She tells him to watch for rear attacks, next time. Our two greenhorns rush into the asteroid field after the freighter... it ends about as well as could be expected. There is brief angst.
Scene 03: The freighter, meantime, approaches Necrosis 4 -- one of the asteroids.
Scene 04: Within the base, we see a younger girl sitting before her mirror. She's petting a crystal ball that turns out to be a holographic image generator with a movie of her (let's assume) lost parents.
An older woman comes in, and Alicia (our girl in need of rescuing) quickly vacates the seat for her. The older woman complains about her mind always being somewhere else.
The woman treats her as a servant and has her brush her hair. She (extremely obviously) keeps one of her hands tucked out of sight in her robes (even though the preview for the episode that runs just before the actual episode starts completely blew that she has a fake, cyborg hand of death).
So, little-mute-girl is brushing when we see old lady's cyborg-hand on-a-budget. I'm sure we should be shocked... but it looks ridiculous, so we're not; although there may be a touch of mirth.
Old Lady and her bargain-basement cyborg hand drops a jar of face cream while trying to unscrew the cap. She looks forlornly at her hand-glove of cyborgness. With a glance at mute girl, she suddenly accuses her of smiling at her misfortune and we can tell she has a real complex. She grabs mute girl by her wrist with bionic-hand and threatens to inflict pain on the servant girl for thinking her hideous because of her hand-o'-well,crap. Before she can snap mute girl's wrist, she gets a call from anonymous henchwoman #11 letting her know about Commander Corliss ... her partner in crime, and the pilot of the stolen freighter.
Commentary: By the way, Henchwoman #11 overacts her line like this is her Oscar moment. How can you overact one line over a speaker?! And, also - when Old Lady, whose name is Roxanne Trent comes sweeping into her command center, all of the extras are men. Huh. Finally, also-also, I had to rag a bit on the fake cyborg-hand, but Ms. Allen's theatrical performance of the severe-issues Trent is fun in a 70's era 'boo-hiss villain' way.
Scene 05: Roxanne greets Corliss with passionate kissing. We see that Commander Corliss is horribly burned scarred and has a bionic eye and some sort of throat implant.
Commentary: Okay, I can give props to the makeup design for Corliss and his eyepiece (which actually looks like it may have inspired the Borg's later holographic eye piece). But the "throat implant" is just a piece of prop glued to the underside of his chin. They really should have scrapped that, as it makes no difference to anything and is especially bad whenever the actor gives us a profile view. Also, the eyepiece comes with a side-helmet... it's a bit iffy. But his effects are better than the cut-rate cyborg hand.
They have an information dump in which we learn that they plan revenge on Deering for her squad's actions three years ago that resulted in their injuries. We also find out... no, wait - we already knew this... that Security Directorate's internal security sucks. This apparently stretches into their hangar bays where they protect contents, but not an entire ship from being stolen out from under them.
Commentary: I'm sorry, did you say something about a planetary energy shield whose path through it is extremely exact and only available to command and the Star Fighters? I didn't think so. We're moving on, people, please try to keep up with our plot conveniences.
With the sight of the nerve gas canisters and the villain's emoting their diabolical plans all over the room, Alicia gives a consternated, horrified look. Probably due to the thought that a dozen canisters of nerve gas can wipe out all life on Earth, and yet security was so poorly carried out.
Scene 06: Back in New Chicago, Buck is yelling at Wilma about the cadets' deaths over a freighter, ignoring that Wilma ordered them not to fly into the asteroid field and they brought their deaths on themselves. It had nothing to do with the pirates' weapons.
Huer steps in to brief Wilma and Buck about the freighter's contents. It has been scheduled to fly into deep space and destroyed in order to eliminate the ancient weaponry found in an armory during a sweep of the destroyed ruins of Washington, DC.
Huer and Wilma bring Buck up to speed on the threats against Wilma by Corliss and Trent. A mission is put together to destroy the asteroid base and the nerve gas before the gunrunners have a chance to use it. Buck is concerned about their ability to penetrate the belt.
Huer orders Deering to approach Noah Cooper, retired pilot who also happens to be an expert on the asteroid field to act as a guide despite her protests. We sense a story behind Cooper's retirement.
Commentary: Also, how exactly does a guide for an asteroid field work? Aren't those rocks' orbits constantly being disrupted, smashing into each other to create new hazards, and generally not something that is stable that you'd have any sort of current mapping of? Which also leads to my wondering about the gunrunners' base being located on the surface of such an asteroid in the midst of such a dense belt of other asteroids. Wouldn't a stable orientation, gravity field, and collisions be a constant and ongoing problem?
Scene 07: With Wilma departed, Huer fills Buck in on the backstory of the Fighting 69th. They got old. Cooper was a dear friend of Deering's pilot father. She forced his squad's retirement over Huer's and Cooper's insistence that they weren't ready for pasture yet. Noah took this particularly hard because he had been Deering's flight instructor as well, and considered her practically a member of the family.
He sends Buck to 'buck' up (HEHEH. Quiet you! That was funny) Wilma's spirits and help her face Cooper. Oh... and it turns out that the whole squad had failed their annual physicals, which is why she forced their retirements, so she wasn't just "You're old, get out".
Scene 08: Buck and Wilma visit a local tavern that Cooper has taken to hanging out in since his forced retirement.
Commentary: Wow, stack up those cliches, by all means.
For being through such a sucky situation, Noah is more than happy to see her. He shares embarrassing "when she was a kid tales" before showing that he isn't quite over the whole grounding thing by making a pointed comment.
They're interrupted by "Red" calling out to Noah to get to their regular card game of 10-11, which is a nice call back to "Vegas in Space", in which Buck played the game.
Scene 09: Wilma follows him to a back room, trying to get him to listen to her about this grave mission ('Grave' cause of Peter Graves guesting... heh-heh... oh c'mon, that was okay).
In the backroom, a surprise cake had been setup by the other surviving members of the old squad. They're at 5 members. Blah-blah.
Buck feels an immediate bond with the old timers due to their shared military histories and the way time has sort of betrayed all of them. Wilma takes the opportunity to try to entice them back into action against Corliss and Trent. Cooper is assy about it, as you'd expect. Somehow, I think he'll come around before the climax.
Buck makes an inspirational speech about their duty to Earth (uh, it wasn't actually -- and no one chose to mention they need to stop a gas attack). He's suddenly onboard, on the condition that the whole squad be brought out of retirement with him. Grabbing a highly convenient model of a 'sled bomber' (also a retired class of ship), he instantly devises a plan of attack based on an apparently failed attack on the complex in the past.
Commentary: I know. You're expecting a snarky comment about retrying a failed attack -- but I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going the opposite way and praising this line of story development. How many times have we seen a basically excellent plan be tried, run into a variable that wasn't known that causes the failure, and then have the entire plan scrapped as if it was just fundamentally flawed, even though it could be successful with a little tweaking and a retry? At least the script here has Noah obviously having thought through what had gone wrong in the past attack during his retirement and coming up with a plan to compensate for it. I like that far more than the reverse situation.
Cooper, of course, has demands of his own. He insists that following the mission, the squadron will get their pilot's wings back and be unretired (at least until the mandatory age, which they're all close to anyway). And, he wants the entire squadron to actually be involved in the attack on the gunrunners' base.
Commentary: We do need to discuss a scripting flaw here, because with just a bit of notice to the dialog, it is unraveling the script's POV. Wait, I know what you're thinking: "A scripting problem in Buck Rogers?! Surely, you jest, sir!"
The problem here is that Buck's and Cooper's dialog has been designed to teach Wilma Deering an Aesop about ageism. Obviously, the old folks are going to be critical to the ultimate success of the mission, they'll get their 'silver wings' back and Wilma will learn a valuable lesson about old people still having value.
Except. The Aesop gets completely broken by what has come before. There has been nothing about these pilots being cashiered out of the service completely. They were grounded. They 'lost their wings' and couldn't go on combat missions anymore. AND - THERE WAS JUST CAUSE. Deering didn't ground them because she thought they were too old; They had failed their physical exams disqualifying them from combat piloting. That is all there is to it. Cooper himself, it is intimated, was grounded for failing his peripheral vision exam. Now, they did prove there is nothing wrong with that by his tossing his hat and it hanging on a hook -- but this is a close quarters. We don't know the exact nature of the failing during his examination, but failing that peripheral vision test was a damned good reason to think he shouldn't be out there flying squadron missions against enemy targets!
And Wilma Deering would have been completely to blame if she had ignored the medical exams tests and their inability to keep up resulted in a mission failure along with their, or worse, their junior pilots' deaths because of their various age related infirmities that caused them to fail their exam. Wilma WAS in the right... and more... she was almost certainly compelled by regulations not to allow this team to continue flying defense missions after they all failed their physicals.
But the script is trying hard now to make it seem like Wilma was in the wrong, and has Buck imply that he agrees with the 'old timers' due to that horrible ageism thing. Um, no.
I continue to be confused about how such very clear scripting and story development issues can just not be caught. I mean this is the basic parable of the story, that we're talking about here -- but it can't function as that 'lesson' because the writers didn't want to make Wilma a 'villain' in the piece. So, instead they've tried to set her up as simply misguided in her views... except... she had just cause for grounding them, because they failed to show that they were physically capable of protecting themselves and their fellow pilots in combat situations! I WOULDN'T WANT THEM FLYING IN MY MISSION!
Wilma awesomely declines, citing Corliss' piloting skills and that doing anymore than acting as a guide would only get Cooper and his team slaughtered.
Scene 10: Back at the base, Trent is a little champing-at-the-bit about getting the gas attack carried out. Corliss assures her that they're loading as fast as they can. Trent mentions their spies on Earth trying to figure out how much the Directorate has put together, but Corliss tells her not to worry. He's certain that there is no way they can be stopped from destroying Earth.
Alicia is waiting for her 'lady' to need something, so she's getting a complete earful (under circumstances that actually make sense, rather than a similar situation clumsily handled in such cases as Hannah, the housekeeper in "She Wolf of London"). Trent notices her reaction to Earth's impending fate however, and robo-grabs her by the wrist again. This time she and Corliss gang up on the mute girl verbally by mocking her concern for her lost home planet. Trent is particularly a bitch by telling Alicia her remaining family surely must be dead by now, anyway.
Commentary: Which actually leads to something else that sort of bothers me about the writing in Buck. It tends to be inconsistent about just how bad things are on Earth vs. how recovered things are in the cities. This is a case in point. Alicia's parents cannot be that old, judging by her age. Trent's comments sounds like the life expectancy of humans on Earth was drastically reduced, despite their recovering in the cities - in keeping with the post-Apocalyptic world that these cities have been built in. However, just a little earlier during the discussion of ageism against the retired pilots, it is revealed that they're in their early to mid-80s and Buck is shocked by how young they actually look. This implies that miracle health care is allowing humanity to remain relatively healthy at least into this age.
I suppose it is possible though, that the pilot's are getting special health benefits that the general population is being denied. It's also possible that some cities have much better conditions than other, more struggling communities. But, this point seems to be generally un-clear so that they can trot out whatever convenience they need for that weeks' script. Honestly, I do enjoy this show... mostly, there are two episodes I can think of immediately that I dislike, but the scripting cannot stand up to even cursory thought.
Trent points out that even they aren't, they will soon be. Alicia snatches her hand back with death glares (and unfortunately, she won't end up with a weapon to shoot Trent, which is what should happen -- even if it's just a blaster on stun). Trent pissily goes to smack her with her cyber-hand, but fortunately misses as she punches right through a crate. This allows her more angsting over her "deformity".
Scene 11: Back at New Chicago, the retired pilots have returned from a test run of Coopers' plan (they're operating on Buck gesturing that he'd talk Wilma out of leaving them out). They weren't able to hit a single target, in test conditions.
Commentary: Which, please see the broken Aesop commentary above. This had two writers, and I'm forced to conclude that they weren't communicating clearly between them on what the central question was in relation to Wilma's grounding of these pilots. You can't make it seem like Wilma grounded them too soon before they should have been, and then have repeated scenes also that point out that they aren't qualified to go into battle. Not unless you're going to argue that they can still be of value in other ways that Deering didn't consider when she had them grounded... but this particular argument is never addressed. It seems just as likely that when these coots lost their pilot certs, that they left because being combat pilots was all they knew.
Buck refuses to see that they aren't up to combat. On the other hand, Buck is used to having to save entire squadrons with his 20th Century flying style. Wilma points out everything that is a detriment to this mission's success, but Buck assures her that Noah's basic plan is sound (I'm sorry -- did you point out that his plans aren't the issue, it's the pilots being selected to carry it out? Hmmmph. I've thought that I was clear about not giving any scripts even a cursory glance! I have an exception, because I'm reviewing.).
I HATE Buck's next line. HATE IT.
Wilma is rightly pointing out that Cooper is going to get them all killed because his pilot's aren't up to battle conditions, anymore. And Buck Rogers - gggrrrrrrr - has the GALL to accuse her of allowing her personal attachments to Noah to cloud HER judgement!?!
Excuse Me?! Were you NOT a part of the disastrous non-combat, multiple training runs that just occurred minutes ago? Let me refresh the memory: 100% failure rate to eliminate the target.
Commentary: Which leads back to the scripting problem that plagued this series. The stories are good, the actors are good, the characters are great... but the scripts keep missing the obvious marks! It can be so frustrating, because the contradictions and logic-flaws are right there. It's not like you have to think about it for awhile to suddenly reach the "hey, wait a minute" stage (tvtropes calls this 'fridge logic') ... I mean, the holes are practically sucking you into them.
Scene 12: Aboard the pirate base, Corliss tells Trent that their spies have uncovered the bombing plan against them, which he treats with contempt. Trent joins him in laughing off any danger of success against them. Meanwhile, Alicia is standing at the food table waiting for orders and uses the time to pull out her crystal ball of parental memories -- knowing how volatile her en-slaver is.
Commentary: I'm also failing to see how she has kept this hidden, or why Trent hasn't already taken or even destroyed it, considering her temperament.
Trent orders Alicia to fill Corliss' empty glass, but she's off in la-la land. This draws her slavers' attention, of course. Trent snatches it from her, making it clear she had managed to hide it for the past years. Oh, Alicia... this is what happens when you get complacent about working for a violent, vindictive hag.
The memory globe is quickly crushed to shards in the bionic hand.
Commentary: I do like Katherine Wiberg's performance, but this scene is particularly strong for her as the traumatized Alicia. You can kind of see her devastated, but you can also see she's been considering her revenge for a while now. She's just waiting for her opportunity -- which makes it even more dissatisfying when she doesn't get to stun the old coot.
Scene 13: Back in New Chicago - Buck's in the hangar again, checking final status with a tech when he sees the 69th come in. Huer is greeting them (on a red carpet no less) and wishing them success.
Commentary: Uh. Can this please be a dream sequence of Buck's, where they get vaporised and he realizes Wilma was right? An alternate plan is put in place, since it's now too late to train replacements in Cooper's plan of attack, and they succeed in saving Earth without getting sappy by having these old, and unqualified, bomber pilots suddenly succeed under combat conditions when they couldn't get through a single successful test run? Can we have that, please?
No. The answer is no.
Buck and Huer talk about Wilma Deering, who hasn't joined them on this suicide run. Theo expresses surprise. And then she makes her immediate appearance... wow, quick turnaround.
Wilma admits that Buck was right.
Commentary: Erin does a good job of crying on queue with worry. But I give a repeated and loud "FUCK YOU" to the script for making Buck somehow right in this, when he is so very clearly wrong-headed. And, it makes me angry that his own feelings of identification with the 'old timers' clouding his judgement on this mission is never brought up. At all.
Say what you have to Erin, but just know: WILMA WAS IN THE RIGHT.
There is a repulsive hugs-n-smiles scene. Blah, let's move on.
Scene 14: The gang head out on their bombing run. (Minor humor among the old gang - it's not important)
Scene 15: Wilma thanks Buck for setting her straight about her concerns for Noah.
Commentary: And here is where Buck could have admitted his own need to prove that just because times have moved faster than you, doesn't mean you need to feel worthless. It would have been poignant and given us more of the bond that Wilma and Buck have built between them since the pilot. Instead, he smirks, they laugh, we move on.
WILMA WAS IN THE RIGHT
Scene 16: After Wilma nauseates me, Noah reports that they're coming to the hard part (y'know, that part that they weren't able to successfully carry out even once in practice).
The strike team begin making their way through the asteroid field.
Scene 17: At the gunrunner base, Corliss is monitoring the approach of Earth's ships. The fighter squadron is put into place "on the off chance" that they get through the asteroid run.
Scene 18: They make it through (and Peter Graves as Noah Cooper sounds so much like his captain in AIRPLANE! that I actually involuntarily chuckled). Their alarms start going off as the enemy fighters come into their sensor range (which is remarkably similar to their visual range -- what happened to those sensors that were able to scan right through the Star Gates into the space beyond... now ships are right on top of you).
The sled bombers come under fire.
Scene 19: At the base, Corliss and Trent hear the report of the sled bombers firing in a rear arc (which is apparently unheard of). At least Corliss is shown to think 3-dimensionally in his tactics.
Trent realizes that with the old, outdated bombers they may actually be able to penetrate as far as the base itself below their pulse cannon blasts as they were designed more for attacks by Star Fighter craft (except that makes no sense really -- if the bombers can come in under the fire, surely the Star Fighters could). Alicia is standing by, looking hopeful (apparently not realizing that if they bomb her, she's probably dead).
Scene 20: Back in the dogfight, the 69th is winning, but then Cooper sees reinforcements arriving. He orders a temporary tactical withdrawal to the asteroids. Unfortunately, Wilma and Buck come under heavy, sustained fire and Wilma reports that they're losing control of the ship. Together, they're just able to avoid an unscheduled landing with a large asteroid. The control systems self-recover, but Buck reports sluggish behavior.
Before they can return to Noah's position to join the other two ships, the enemy fighters get them outnumbered dead to rights. They're ordered to surrender.
Commentary: I'll admit that my first impulse was to deride this development, but then I realized that Corliss probably would want a bomber intact if he could get it in order to study the new modifications and devise a countermeasure. Also, once taken into custody, they would leave Wilma alive for a worse fate and I can buy them leaving Rogers alive in order to use him to get to her.
Scene 21: Back with Noah's team, there are questions on what to do. Cooper announces them lost.
Scene 22: Back in Huer's office, Dr. Theopolous has been summoned. Huer reports that he's just received the report of Cooper's team's status. Huer reports the capture of Buck and Wilma, but that Cooper is ready to proceed with the bombing anyway.
Theopolous guesses that Huer's hopes of success have been reduced with the loss of Buck and Wilma piloting and that he wishes to explore options should the 69th ultimately fail.
(Huh? Oh, you think that should have already been planned for when they couldn't perform a practice session successfully? I think we've discussed your trying to think about the script while watching, haven't we? It really can come to no good.)
Huer points out that Corliss will be sending in their fighters separately and that there is a good chance that one of them would make it through. He orders the Omega Complex ready to save at least a small section of Earth's human population and wishes to consult Theopolous on which populations will live and which will be left to die.
Commentary: I really love this development for two reasons: One is the continued development of Dr. Huer as a rather ruthless and logical leader, despite his tendency to sound grandfatherly while discussing the most serious topics. Two is that this sort of dark edge calls back to what we've seen of Earth in the establishing shots and especially in the pilot, when Buck leaves the city to find his parents' graves. I really enjoy it when the show remembers and makes mention of the fact that humanity has been through hell, and despite the centuries in between, they really are still in a more brutal age and not in a Star Trek-like idealized future. When you have the blinding spandex, the pristine empty and brightly lit rooms, the scenes in New Chicago that are always clean and sterile, and the clothing that is always cotton-candy technicolored, this razor edge in the story always comes as a bit of a welcome surprise.
Twiki, upon hearing this discussion, does the robot version of storming off while exchanging dialog with Dr. Theo. The disc-computer face shares with Doctor Huer that he's upset that the two of them are assuming that Buck won't be coming back.
Commentary: More of this sort of Twiki-ness, please... less of the cartoon musical cue and the non-witty one-liners.
Scene 23: We rejoin our Fighting 69th with Lt. Twain warning Noah that they're running low on fuel and out of time to launch the attack. Cooper isn't ready to kill Wilma (and Buck) on the asteroid, despite the dire threat (not very space marine of him).
Twain points out what will be happening if they fail to choose attacking over worrying about Deering and Rogers and the rest of his squad are ready to proceed (as they should).
Scene 24: On the asteroid base, Corliss' tracking have lost the other two bombers and he correctly deduces they must be drifting in orbit among the asteroid belt. The captured Rogers and Deering are brought into the control room. Our two gunrunners greet Wilma, who is shocked at seeing their injuries as this is the first she has seen, but quickly recovers and points out they were smuggling weaponry to hostile colonies.
Roxanne Trent then greets Rogers by shaking hands with him. She starts to put the bionic-squeeze on him, but he 'disarms' her (heh-heh) by lifting her robotic hand up in order to kiss it in a courtly gesture. Corliss next threatens Buck with setting him on fire so that he can experience the intense pain that he's been through.
Wilma interrupts to point out that if Trent and Corliss had chosen to surrender to custody, they would have been properly medically treated. Roxanne isn't impressed with that choice, considering it would have meant being in detention forever. But, she promises Wilma that she's going to wish that they had surrendered. She orders Alicia to get her the torch.
Deering tries to bargain with the pair to release Buck and call off the attack against Earth, now that they have her... which naturally doesn't go anywhere. In the meantime, Buck is able to communicate with Alicia via old-fashioned sign language, which has somehow survived the centuries. Well, this lasts for a short bit, but then Trent notices and is pissed.
She grabs the torch from Alicia. She's sent out of the room. Buck's hands are tied in order to silence this talking junk and Wilma's feet are bound. Trent threatens Buck's face with her spewing fire of doom....
Scene 25: We've returned from a commercial break to Corliss sharing with Deering how he got so burned. Roxanne was finally able to pull him to safety and get him extinguished, but it cost her the hand. They have a re-enactment in mind with Buck being lit up and Wilma having to put it out with her hands. Deering tries another "you can do whatever you want to me, but let him go" plea, which fails, as one might expect.
Well, Buck and Wilma choose to fight back instead of just standing there for this outrage. Buck, as you'll recall from previous reviews, prefers karate kicking over fistfighting anyway. Deering grabs at Cyborg-Old-Lady and the torch, while Buck starts his kick-attacks on the random minions.
Commentary: The use of fire in these seens are pretty impressive. That torch is obviously not CGI, and the danger isn't kept 5 feet away from the actors and stunt people so it does actually have a feeling of threat.
As Wilma is uselessly hitting at the blocking robo-hand, and Rogers is kicking a losing battle, the sensor monitoring dude reports that the sled bombers are approaching for their attack to Corliss. By the time that Corliss hears about how they can't launch the squadron ships because they've got the nerve gas needed for Earth, the situation with the prisoners has been resolved. Wilma and Buck are back in custody and are ordered taken away for later.
Alicia has snuck back into the room to watch was is going on, and I think we can see how Rogers and Deering are going to get free.
Scene 26: With the 69th, we've jumped back in time a bit to watch Noah struggle with the decision to bomb the base with Wilma aboard. He comes to the decision we've just heard about. The squadron begins their attack vector.
Scene 27: At the base, our heroes have been placed in a cell. There are three guards posted, as well. One of these guards stares at Rogers and he flirts, but to no avail (okay, he actually sarcastically smiles at him -- you say to-MAA-to and I say to-mah-to).
He rejoins Wilma at the back of their shared cell. She does the expected "sorry, I got you into this" routine.
Commentary: As per usual, when they have quiet scenes together, Gil and Erin are completely charming with one another. But, I want to mention this scene in particular because under them is the Buck Rogers theme music, re-arranged for a single piano and some strings. It's playing quietly and is was very nicely done and really enhances the cliched scene between them as Wilma is regretful and Buck is optimistic about their situation to 'buck up' (HEH-HEHEH... oh, please, you at least smiled at that one) her spirits.
I do like scenes when these two actors are able to take a 'breather' moment outside of a comic-moment, because both of them have a natural chemistry that can overcome the sometimes trite and expected dialog. Kudos to both of them as actors.
Wilma discusses Buck's knowing sign language, which she recognizes, but it is rarely used because most deafness can be treated with "electronic surgery" in the current era. She then points out that Alicia is in the doorway at the far end of the room, unnoticed. She signs to Buck that she needs them to distract the guards and stay close to the entrance to the cell to be ready when the field fails.
Deering starts up her cliche 'flirt with guards' ruse. It doesn't look like she's having much affect on our primary guard, because he presumably has more than two brain cells operating. But, the other two guards are certainly willing to entertain her flirtations. Wilma tries to arrange a playdate with all three which I'm choosing to believe they're just playing along with because they're bored, rather than stupid. After all, there isn't any reason for them to believe that a prison break is afoot under the circumstances.
Behind them, Alicia picks up a "heavy" piece of random beam lying around.
Commentary: I really think Buck isn't needed for this scene. I'll assume he's just there so they don't wonder what he's up to and stay focused on Wilma, because he's acting like her 'wing man' at a singles bar. I always find that concept kind of sleezy (and it's worse here, because my first thought was that he was acting like her oily pimp - but I'm choosing to reject that out of hand as not even occurring to him).
Alicia is able to smash a panel, 'natch, and in the ensuing confusion grab the shield key. Our heroes are freed, allowing a quick fight and successful escape. The guards are summarily locked up themselves.
Wilma then orders them all to strip for their uniforms.
Scene 28: In the control room, the last of the available fighters that haven't been loaded for the Earth attack reports that they've been decimated. He reports one of the sleds has been damaged and he's attempting to finish it off.
Scene 29: It turns out the damaged craft is Cooper's, and he's now coming under sustained fire. Twain is able to take him out.
Commentary: Actually, Harriet Twain is one hell of a shot. She's shown hitting multiple craft and destroying two of them outright on screen.
Noah, after more hesitation, gives the go ahead for Red and Twain to start their first bombing run while he checks the condition of his ship.
Scene 30: On the base, their position is being tracked and the pulsar batteries are ordered charged. Trent orders one of the gas-carrying fighters to have the missiles unloaded and prepared for an immediate launch.
Commentary: And, can I just say how amazing I always find it that anonymous henchman of the villain, never just takes off in the fighter themselves! They always are willing to hang around the base to be captured or killed while their employers make a run for safety. I really didn't expect mercenaries to be that loyal and devoted. I feel much better about becoming a mass murdering warlord of my own asteroid base as soon as a shuttle that can get beyond orbit is finally developed.
In the meantime, Buck, Wilma and Alicia managed to fit into their form fitting uniforms (cough). They've slipped into the control room, unnoticed. Buck has Wilma and Alicia make their way to their sled and ready it for takeoff.
Commentary: Unfortunately, Buck chooses to say this aloud, instead of whispering it to Wilma and signing it to Alicia so it's clumsy.
They get caught however, when Trent intercepts them, thinking that their anonymous crew #3 and 5. Buck yells for them to run, while he rushes for cover with his blaster. They're quickly captured however. Buck, stupidly, rushes out into the open and demands their release... while allowing Corliss to pull his own blaster. He gets shot in the blaster, leaving him disarmed (With a nice flash-bang included... except for then clearly seeing the wires that set off the pyrotechnic affect strapped to Gil's hand and forearm... we couldn't get an edit to remove them first?).
For some reason, the three of them aren't immediately executed by blaster fire.
Scene 31: In the meantime, Red and I believe Schultz close in on the base, avoiding the pulsar cannons. I-believe-Schultz drops/launches a bomb. Red says an apology to Wilma.
Scene 32: Aboard the base, it is rocked by an explosion and pieces of ceiling cave in (but not roof, as there isn't a decompression).
Commentary: We have a bit of special effects fail here. First, the falling debris is a nice touch, but their "cement blocks" which seems weird. But also, clearly Corliss gets hit on the back of the neck by a block with shatters. This can be spun as his being protected by his bionic helmet thingie that is part of his eye apparatus. But, he's getting up from the floor, and he doesn't even notice that he just got beamed by one of these "heavy blocks". The other stuntmen/guards also take quite the beating, but don't seem to particularly notice. I suppose we can spin this as some sort of lightweight future building material... but their 'cement block' look is still really weird for them coming from directly above their heads (i.e., it isn't the walls caving in on them, judging by the angle of the material raining down).
This allows Rogers to grab up a heavy machine gun and get them a clear path to the shuttle bays.
Scene 33: Aboard Red's vessel, he complains that possibly-Schultz missed. (He didn't. He hit what the targeting scanners had on their screen as far as I can tell.) He radios Cooper's vessel to report that the first run didn't take out the base. They start their first run at it.
Scene 34: In the asteroid control room, Corliss complains that Rogers has them trapped and Bionic-Fist starts banging at the security door.
Scene 35: Back to Noah's ship: Blah, pointless.
Scene 36: Aboard the base, Wilma, Alicia and Buck have made it to their bomber and are readying for lift off. I-believe-Eli-Twain,Harriet's-brother drops their first bomb, just after Buck successfully launches.
Scene 37: In the control room, the bionic hand didn't do much against the door. Random henchmen are trying to ramrod it. Monitor-Guy reports incoming and there are panicked looks at the roof of the complex.
Scene 38: Big Explosion Ensues. Cheering all around, including by the alive Wilma... well, except by those in the big explosion; they're pretty quiet about the whole thing.
Wilma is all smiles as she radios Cooper that he has an apology coming his way. There isn't a response.
Scene 39: Back in New Chicago, Huer congratulates everyone on a job well done. They're unexpectedly glum. Huer asks after Cooper and the Twain-twins. They didn't make it out of the explosion of the base.
Theo and Twiki arrive with a case, which Cooper had requested be delivered to the hangar upon their return. It is the 'silver eagles' they earned back. Huer presents them to the surviving members of the 69th. He reports they're being returned to flight status.
But, then... (dammit)... they get an announcement that a flight is approaching landing. It's Cooper and the Twain-twins, of course.
Commentary: Ohhhhh... darn. The preceding scene was so strong and the bittersweet ending to the episode would have been SO AFFECTING. But, now they've gone and ruined it by returning to form. Damn, what a wasted opportunity this was.
Cheer, cheer, blah.
Scene 40: Later, we join the Squad at the celebratory party. [We get to see old people in tighty-whity spandex... feast your eyes and enjoy.]
Wilma tells Huer that she's updated the physical exams to allow pilots without peripheral vision to continue serving [that should end well], because as we know: Wilma was wrong.
Twiki asks Wilma to dance, which she declines so he can exclaim "Oh, nuts!" which nobody knows what that means. Before he can get painful, Cooper comes over to ask after Buck being absent from his own party.
Commentary: WAIT, WHAT? Buck's party? Huh. Explanation, please?
Huer reports that he believes Buck is at the registry office on a personal errand. Buck happens to come in then, bringing in tow, Alicia's missing parents. Buck has also been busy arranging for the current surgeries to restore Alicia's hearing.
Commentary: Oh. Uh. Hmm. It could be considered politically incorrect to suggest that a deaf person should automatically have surgery scheduled for deafness and for a while there all of the dramas with deaf characters were wrestling with the controversy on whether the deaf culture was under assault due to cochlear implant surgery. I'm not deaf and don't know anyone personally who is (though I have had work contacts that were), so I don't feel qualified to address this presumption of Buck's here. I'll just say that in the 25th Century, it's just the norm for the surgery to be performed and move on. Presumably, if Alicia felt strongly against getting her hearing restored, she could refuse.
Smiles all around. But, we haven't gotten our closing joke yet, so Wilma asks Buck to dance and when he says sure, she tells Twiki she just found him a dance partner... LOL (no).
Commentary: And yes... *sigh*, I'm a pervert... I can't help but have my eye drawn to Gil's ass. Why are the 25th Century's clothing all so tight?!
The Good: Gil and Erin continue being so darned good together. O'Connor also continues to deliver as Doctor Huer. Even Twiki wasn't obnoxious, which made him fun rather than his usual komedy-painful.
The special effects, for the most part, were well handled still. Naturally, the enemy vessels were reuses of footage - but there wasn't the gawd-awful continuity problems that have cropped up in the past with ships changing sizes and types from shot to shot.
All of the actors for the Fighting 69th Squadron handle their roles well.
In fact, I liked all of the guest stars (note 'guest stars'... not the bit players, who either weren't all that noticeable or were painful).
I really had fun with the plot of this one despite my sometimes harsh commentary...
The Bad: ...but those plot holes! Some of those are so severe, especially...
I HATED Wilma having to learn a lesson on ageism, when she had completely valid reasons for grounding the 69th Squadron. And, I hated the mention that standards were going to be loosened, when fighter pilots NEED peripheral vision to help them survive out there and not run into their flightmates everytime they're flying in tandem. SHE WAS RIGHT.
Other Thoughts: So, I have to deduct a bit heavily for all of the plot hole mentioned, alas. But, I also want to mention the disappointment of the sappy ending, too. They really were doing an excellent job of surprising us with the bittersweet ending, and it should have been left to stand.
There are also the issues with the apparently conflicting views of the two writers when it came to the entire backstory of Wilma's actions in grounding the 69th. They really needed to hash this out while they were writing, because they failed in presenting a balanced view of the issue while simultaneously presenting completely valid reasons for Wilma's decision, so she wouldn't look like the 'bad guy' in all of this. It doesn't work because of the way it was scripted.
This is the way that I like Twiki... he's got a few cute lines, but he's not saddled with the clown-persona and he didn't have that hideously irritating musical cue following him around.
I also really liked the curves toward darker themes presented throughout the episode, but they were wasted opportunities that were quickly moved on from and ignored, which was unfortunate. The story could have been much richer if there had been more of that.
The Score: So, I really enjoyed this one and wanted to give it high marks, but the scripting really disappointed me greatly. I can let things like the sappy ending go and such, but the handling of Wilma just bugged the crap outta me and the plot holes were much too front and center to overlook. Disappointing from a writing POV, but a fun episode nonetheless:
3.25 outta 5
(For just typical Buck fun, though, 3.75 outta 5)
Oh, yeah... spoilers. Also, next review will be for an X-Files episode.