Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Geek TV: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century!

buck_rogers_pic_986Concept: Captain William Anthony “Buck” Rogers, a NASA pilot leaves Earth on a space shuttle in the year 1987 and is accidentally frozen for 504 years and then revived. He joins up with the Earth Defense Directorate to protect his world from Princess Ardala's alien invaders and other threats. In the second season, the concept changed so that Buck and his friends were part of a crew of a spaceship seeing lost human colonies in space.


Total Episodes: 37

Original Air Dates: September 20, 1979 – April 16, 1981

Original Network: NBC

Geek Factor: 8

Characters:

Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard): A 20th Century man in the 25th Century. He doesn't always fit in with the current culture. He's an action kind of guy who doesn't like to sit on the sidelines and tell others what to do.

buck_wilmaColonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray): Soldier and pilot, often coming to the rescue of Buck, who had a romantic interest in her. Often depicted as the leader of the defense directorate's forces in the field.

Twiki (Felix Silla/Mel Blanc): A specialized type of robot called an “ambuquad,” Twiki is devoted to Buck and provides some comic relief. He doesn't often speak, but when he does, it's “Bidi-bidi-bidi” followed by a short phrase, often a 20th-century slang expression picked up from Buck. In the first season, Twiki is usually seen carrying Dr. Theopolis around.

Dr. Theopolis (Eric Server): A first-season character only, Dr. Theopolis was an intelligent computer assigned to help Buck assimilate to modern Earth. Part of the Computer Council, Theo was a liason between them and Dr. Huer. When Twiki would simply say “Bidi-bidi-bidi,” Theo would often be able to translate for Buck.

Dr. Elias Huer (Tim O'Connor): Head of the Defense Directorate – and possibly of the entire planet, based on suggestions made in the show itself.


buck_twikiPrincess Ardala (Pamela Hensley): Leader of the invading space force who was intent on taking over the Earth, as well as to steal Buck away!


Kane (Michael Ansara): Princess Ardala's henchman.

In the second season, Dr. Huer, Dr. Theopolis, and other characters were dropped as the series concept changed, and Buck, Wilma, and Twiki were part of a crew of the spaceship The Searcher, seeking lost “tribes” of humanity who had scattered across the galaxy. Added to the cast were:

Admiral Efram Asimov (Jay Garner): Commander of the Searcher and a descendant of Isaac Asimov.

Hawk (Thom Christopher): An alien who is the last of a race of bird people.

Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfried Hyde-White): An elderly scientist with insatiable curiosity.

Crichton (voice of Jeff David): A robot built by Goodfellow who can't believe humans built him.

Geek Guest-Stars:

The Internet Movie Database seems to be woefully short on complete guest-stars on the show, but fortunately Wikipedia picked up the slack!

Buster Crabbe guest-starred in two episodes of the show as Commander Gordon – of course, he was the first to play both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the serials, and also played Tarzan! Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and Julie Newmar all guest-starred in different episodes, and of course are best known for playing the Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman in the 1966 Batman.

Roddy McDowell, who also played a Batman villain, although probably better known for playing Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes movies, and Galen in the POTA tv series, also guested in an episode.

Paul Carr, who played Lt. Devlin in four episodes at least, is probably more recognizable as Lt. Lee Kelso in the Star Trek second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” He also appeared in episodes of the Time Tunnel, The Green Hornet, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, Land of the Giants, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart. He also appeared in a number of other genre TV shows in the 1970s. 80s, and 90s.

Patty Maloney filled in for Felix Silla as Twiki a time or two, as well as playing Tina in another episode. She may be best known for playing the alien Honk in Far Out Space Nuts, but since then, she has appeared both on-screen in a few genre roles as well as providing voices for some animated shows.

Sid Haig also guested in an episode, and as noted before, he's appeared in a lot of genre TV shows and movies, but to me, he'll always be Dragos, arch enemy of Jason of Star Command. Markie Post guested in a two-part episode, and that same year she also guested in an episode of The Incredible Hulk, although she's much better known for her later role as Christine Sullivan on Night Court.

Vic Perrin guested in two episodes, and he'd earlier had parts in The Adventures of Superman, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits (for which he was the Control Voice, and also played other on-camera roles), One Million Years B.C., Space Ghost, Jonny Quest (the voice of Dr. Zin and others), Birdman, Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (the voice of Hawkman and others), Star Trek (mostly doing voices, such as Nomad, Metron and a Keeper, but also on-screen as Tharn in Mirror, Mirror), The Fantastic Four (1967, he was the Silver Surfer's voice), The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, and many, many other roles on-screen and off. He passed away in 1987, a year after reprising his role as Dr. Zin in a 1986 revival of Jonny Quest.

Geek Pedigree:


Producer and creator of this incarnation Glen Larson has had a long career in television, producing and executive producing shows such as Alias Smith and Jones, Battlestar Galactica, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, and other shows. After Buck, he also exec produced or produced Galactica 1980, Manimal, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, and many other shows. He was listed as consulting producer for the revival of Battlestar Galactica and the spin-off Caprica.

Leslie Stevens is credited with developing and also wrote a few episodes of the show, but he's better known for being executive producer on The Outer Limits, also writing a few of those episodes. He also wrote episodes of The Invisible Man (1975-1976), Gemini Man, and other shows. He was consulting producer on the 1996-1998 Outer Limits series.

Alan Brennert was a writer and story editor for the series, but had previously written episodes of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. He was also a consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise, wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone (1985-1989), The Outer Limits (1995-2001), and other shows.
buck_ardala
Felix Silla the man most often in the Twiki costume, was Cousin Itt in The Addams Family, and also guested on The Girl From UNCLE, The Monkees, played various characters on H.R. Pufnstuf, played a child gorilla in the original Planet of the Apes, Col. Poom in Lidsville, and had many other parts in genre movies and TV shows. He later was an Ewok in Return of the Jedi, Dink in Spaceballs, and played an emperor penguin in Batman Returns.

Mel Blanc, the voice of Twiki, really shouldn't need any introduction, but he was the voice of most of the original Looney Tunes characters, did many, many voices for Hanna-Barbera, and did lots of other roles as well. Just his career in the golden age of radio would be too long to list here!


William Conrad, who was the opening narrator on the show, was also the narrator on Rocky and His Friends, The Bullwinkle Show, and other Jay Ward programs. He was also the narrator on Tales of the Unexpected (1977). He later provided the voice of The Lone Ranger in the 1980 Filmation series. To most people, he'll either always be Cannon or one of the leads on Jake and the Fatman, not that either of those are of the genre I typically mention here! But way before all this TV, he was on radio, as the original voice of Matt Dillion on Gunsmoke, and could even be heard on the radio version of Buck Rogers! He passed away in 1994.

Before his role on Buck Rogers, Jeff David had appeared in episodes of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman, but he also did voice work on Jana of the Jungle and was the voice of Captain Carl Majors in Godzilla (1978-1979). He also did voice work in the 1981 Spider-Man animated series.

Before being cast as Princess Ardalla, Pamela Hensley played Princess Mona in the movie Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, was Mackie in Rollerball, appeared in three episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, and afterwards was in the Get Smart movie The Nude Bomb.

Michael Ansara had previously appeared in episodes of The Lone Ranger, had a part in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, guested on an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Outer Limits, The Man From UNCLE, The Girl From UNCLE, Bewitched, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, Tarzan, Land of the Giants, and other shows, but may be best known to geeks as playing Kang in the Star Trek episode “The Day of the Dove.” He reprised his role of Kang in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Flashback” as well as in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath,” and was the voice of Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze on Batman: The Animated Series as well as the movie Sub-Zero.

buck-rogers-in-the-25th-century-dvd-set-DVD Release: Complete series set as well as season one set.

Website: http://www.inthe25thcentury.com/ is the official website for licensing all versions of Buck. http://www.buck-rogers.com/ seems to be a fan site. Neither site seems to have all that much about the show on it, although at least the second one has scans of articles about the show available for PDF download.

Notes: I was a big fan of this show in the first season – or at least a big fan of Erin Gray, anyway! By the time the second season started, however, I had lost interest in the show, and don't believe I ever watched a single episode of it.

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