"The year is 1987 and NASA launches the last of America's Deep Space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William 'Buck' Rogers, are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems and returns Buck Rogers to Earth
...500 years later..."

Enjoyable Hokum, Until Things Got Serious...

What do you do when you served as Executive Producer to one of the decade's most expensive failures, and you have all these leftover props, costumes, sets, and special effects film footage lying around? If you're Glen Larson, and the failed series was "Battlestar Galactica", you consider producing another Science Fiction-themed series, less pretentious and more 'audience-friendly', that can utilize all the surplus...

...and in a very real sense, that's how "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" came to television, in 1979. Based, originally, on a 1928 short story, 'Buck Rogers' achieved his greatest fame in comic strips, radio, and a movie serial in the 1930s, but by 1979, the character had been 'retired' for 28 years, and Larson knew he could 'update' the story without arousing much controversy. The 'new' Buck was an astronaut piloting the last of Earth's 'Deep Space' probes, Ranger 3, in 1987(!), which was thrown off-course by a cosmic disturbance, and damaged, entering a centuries-long looping orbit back to Earth, and releasing a mix of gases that placed Rogers into suspended animation for 500 years. Revived by the evil Draconian Empire, Rogers soon is returned to an Earth in ruins after a nuclear holocaust, where he gradually earns the government's trust, and becomes a civilian 'troubleshooter', using his 20th century wiles to save Mankind, again and again.

Gerard with the 'Buck Rogers' of the legendary 1930s movie serial, Buster Crabbe

Casting was essential for the series to succeed, and Larson made an inspired choice in Gil Gerard, 36, as the lead. Ruggedly handsome, Gerard combined maturity with a boyish charm, and an ability to make even the most risqu� remark seem unoffensive (and the series pilot, released theatrically, had a LOT of risqu� remarks!)

As Colonel Wilma Deering, Commander of Earth's Defense Force, Erin Gray, 29, was a bit wooden, but gloriously beautiful, with an undercurrent of sexuality behind her efficient facade; Tim O'Connor, 52, as wise Dr. Huer, provided kind stability and statesman-like wisdom to the mix, and a goofy little robot, "Twiki", played by Felix Silla, 42, and voiced by the unforgettable Mel Blanc, 71, gave the kids something to enjoy (although he would utter an occasional risqu� or ethnic aside, as well).

Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Pamela Hensley Vincent, Felix ('Twiki') Silla and Michael Ansara

The first season of "Buck Rogers", while certainly not 'Classic TV', offered an entertaining mix of adventure and comedy, with stories that intentionally avoided the 'heaviness' that plagued "Galactica". Rogers would face a variety of galactic terrorists, dictators, and mad scientists, fend off advances by a variety of scantily-clad women, while maintaining a "Will they or Won't they?" relationship with Deering.

Among the high points were guest appearances by 'Playmate of the Year'/actress Dorothy Stratton, shortly before her tragic death; young Jamie Lee Curtis (who would later portray Stratton in a TV-movie); 'Mae West'-channeling Pamela Hensley, as the evil but delectably vampy Drackonian Princess Ardala, wearing huge headpieces (and little else); Henry Silva (followed by Michael Ansara) as Kane, Ardala's Earth-born, ambitious advisor; and, in a wonderful, sentimental cameo, screen legend Buster Crabbe, who'd starred as both "Buck Rogers" and "Flash Gordon" in the classic 1930s serials, as 'Brigadier Gordon'.

My Caricature of Season One of "Buck Rogers"

While ratings were mediocre, at best, the series was renewed for a second season...with a VERY ill-advised decision, to scrap the Earth-centered, 'lighthearted' storyline with a starship-based, 'serious' adventure, as Buck, Wilma, and Twiki joined in a "Battlestar Galactica"-like search for 'lost' tribes of humans who'd fled Earth at the time of the nuclear holocaust. Why was the entire concept changed so abruptly, and disastrously? The reason I've been told was that Gerard, a devout Christian, did not like the sexual undercurrent prevalent in many episodes of the first season, preferring stories that would be more uplifting and family-friendly, and that he forced his 'vision' on a less-than-enthusiastic Glen Larson.

Whether or not this was true, Season Two lacked all the swashbuckling fun of Season One, and despite classic SciFi references (the starship 'Searcher' commander, portrayed by Jay Garner, was named "Admiral Asimov"), the addition of beloved character actor, Wilfred Hyde-White (as a kindly, if a bit absent-minded scientist with a prissy robot assistant), and the introduction of a bird-like, stoic alien, 'Hawk' (Thom Christopher), in an attempt to attract the "Spock/Star Trek" crowd, the episodes were frequently dull and uninspired, and the ratings plummeted. When NBC canceled the series, just 13 episodes into Season Two, no one was truly surprised.

While Gerard's post-"Buck Rogers" career was a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows (culminating in a successful surgical procedure, in 2006, to reduce his weight and weight-related health problems), Erin Gray fared far better, enjoying a long, very successful run on the NBC sitcom, "Silver Spoons", and, more recently, promoting a 'New Age' health philosophy. Both actors, as well as Tim O'Connor, are popular Science Fiction Convention guests, as the series has achieved 'cult' status, and for a generation of '80s kids, they ARE Buck, Wilma, and Dr. Huer...


"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" will never be held in the kind of esteem "Star Trek", "Farscape", or "Babylon 5" enjoy, but, as a opportunity to see how Network Television presented Science Fiction in the "Disco Decade", the series has earned it's own piece of immortality!

I've created a somewhat tongue-in-cheek synopsis of "Buck Rogers" in an animated gif, and if you'd like to check it out, click HERE! (The file is 582 Kb, so if you have a Dial-Up connection, it may take a while to load!)

Much of the material (especially the photos) used on this site came from these websites; if you love Gil and Erin, please check them out!

The "Buck Rogers" Theme Song...

"Far beyond the world I've known,
Far beyond my time
What am I, who am I, what will I be?
Where am I going, and what will I see?
Searching my mind for some truth to reveal
What parts are fantasy, what memories real?

Long before this life of mine,
Long before this time
What was there, who cared to make it begin?
Is it forever, or will it all end?
Searching my past for things that I've seen
Is it my life, or something I've dreamed?

Far beyond this world I've known,
Far beyond my time
What kind of world am I going to find?
Will it be real, or just all in my mind?
What am I, who am I, what will I be?
Where am I going, and what will I see?"

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