Friday, November 14, 2014

Geek TV: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century!

Concept: Based loosely on the classic comic strip, a 20th century American astronaut on a deep space mission becomes frozen in suspended animation for 500 years, waking up in a new world of high technology, fabulous space babes, and wisecracking robots. The first season was based in and around New Chicago as a base of operations, while the second season moved the action to a starship called the Searcher, whose mission was to seek out the lost "tribes" of humanity that had scattered into space.

Total Episodes: 37

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

Original Network: NBC


Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard): Ace pilot and man of action, Buck is the hero of the series, and a regular ladies' man. While it's clear that he's got a "thing" for Wilma Deering, this doesn't go very far in the show itself. This version of Buck is more of a man of action than he was portrayed in the comic strip, often going undercover. His unconventional 20th-century ideas often cause him to come into conflict with Wilma and others in this future time, but often these ideas also help him win the day.

Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray): High-ranking officer and starfighter pilot, one of the top officers of the Defense Directorate. She initially distrusts Buck, but eventually comes to terms with him and his ideas. 

Dr. Huer (Tim O'Connor): Head of the Defense Directorate, and possibly the entire planet. Brilliant scientist. Only appeared in the first season.

Dr. Theopolis (voice of Eric Server): A sentient computer in the shape of a disc, usually worn on Twiki. He could understand Twiki quite well, and would advise Buck in their adventures.

Twiki (played by Felix Silla, voiced by Mel Blanc in the first season, Bob Elyea in the second, ecept for the last six episodes when Blanc returned): Smart-aleck comic relief robot, or "ambiquad," Twiki may have been Buck's best friend, especially given how he started copying slang he learned from Buck. Most of the time, Twiki's dialogue would begin with "biddi-biddi-biddi" and then be followed with some slang term. 

Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley): The primary villain of the first season, she was the leader of an enemy alien race, usually accompanied by her chief henchman, Kane.

Kane (Henry Silva in the pilot film, Michael Ansara in the series): Strong and silent henchman.

Introduced in the second season were:

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

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

Dr. Godfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White): Elderly scientist, insatiably curious.

Crichton (voice of Jeff David): Snobby robot who can't believe that humans built him.

Geek Pedigree:

Series developer Glen Larson was, of course, the creator of Battlestar Galactica, among other shows. Directors on the show included Vincent McEveety (who'd directed one The Man From UNCLE, six episodes of Star Trek, the movies Million Dollar Duck and The Strongest Man in the World, the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie, single episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Future Cop, and two episodes of The Fantastic Journey before directing three episodes of Buck, followed by an episode of The Powers of Matthew Star), Jack Arnold (who'd directed It Came From Outer Space, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, This Island Earth, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and many other classic movies, plus episodes of Science Fiction Theater, 26 episodes of Gilligan's Island if you can believe that, 9 episodes of Mr. Terrific, and lots of others), Bernard McEveety (who'd previously directed two episodes of The Wild, Wild West, two episodes of Planet of the Apes, then doing his episode of Buck, as well as an episode of The Incredible Hulk the same year, then three episodes of Voyagers!, five of Knight Rider, and two each of Airwolf and Misfits of Science), Sigmund Neufeld Jr. (who'd previously directed three episodes of the 1975 The Invisible Man, two of Project UFO, three The Incredible Hulk, one Wonder Woman, then doing his four episodes of Buck, followed by two Galactica 1980, one Voyagers!, and one 1985 Twilight Zone), Larry Stewart (who was a video ranger in Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere, later directing three episodes of The Bionic Woman, two Incredible Hulk, one The Amazing Spider-Man, one Fantasy Island, then his four episodes of Buck), David G. Phinney (who had written the story for an episode of Battlestar Galactica, associate produced episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Battlestar Galactica, and Galactica 1980, directed three Buck epsiodes, later directing a Quantum Leap), and Daniel Haller (who'd previously directed The Dunwitch Horror, Monster of Terror, an episode of Night Gallery, three Battlestar Galactica episodes, then his two of Buck, later directing three Knight Rider epsiodes and two Airwolf episodes).

Writers on the show included Kathleen Barnes (who'd written episodes of Isis, Space Sentinels, The New Archie/Sabrina Hour, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle [1978], Wonder Woman, and Godzilla, and a single episode of Space Stars after her episode of Buck), Alan Brennert (who'd written four episodes of Wonder Woman, then his six of Buck, followed by episodes of Fantasy Island, The Twilight Zone [1985-1987], The Outer Limits [1995-2001], Stargate: Atlantis, and Star Trek: Enterprise), Craig Buck (who'd written two episodes of The Incredible Hulk, followed by a single Buck, and episodes of V), Chris Bunch (who'd written four episodes of The Incredible Hulk the same year he wrote two Buck episodes, later writing episodes of Defenders of the Earth and Werewolf), Anne Collins (who was executive story consultant or story editor for Wonder Woman, as well as story consultant on 10 episodes of Buck), Ester Mitchell (who had previously written nine episodes of Land of the Giants prior to her two Bucks), D.C. Fontana (best known for her work on 10 episodes of Star Trek, plus two Six Million Dollar Man episodes, an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, a Land of the Lost, a Fantastic Journey, two Logan's Run, and after her single episode of Buck, an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, five episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and episodes of War of the Worlds, The Legend of Prince Valiant, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Hypernauts, ReBoot, Earth: Final Conflict, The Silver Surfer, as well as writing for several Star Trek video games), John Gaynor (who'd written an episode of Wonder Woman, as well as associate produced 38 episodes of that series, before his single Buck), Norman Hudis (who'd written episodes of the Saint, The Wild Wild West, Secret Agent, and The Man From UNCLE, then his single Buck), Bruce Lansbury (who was a producer on The Wild Wild West and Mission Impossible, exec producer on The Fantastic Journey, supervising producer on Wonder Woman, and wrote 21 episodes of The Magician, then he wrote one Buck and was supervising producer on 20 episodes, followed by writing episodes of The Powers of Matthew Star and exec producing that show, the story and supervising producer for The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, as well as six episodes of the 1990-1991 Zorro, supervising producer on 21 episodes of Knight Rider, although he's probably best known for the non-geek Murder, She Wrote), Bob and Ester Mitchell (who'd previously written 12 episodes of Land of the Giants before his two Buck episodes), Dick Nelson (who'd written three Man From UNCLE episodes, eight Alias Smith and Jones, and episodes of The Amazing Spider-Man and Wonder Woman before his single Buck), Martin Pasko (yes the comic book writer, he later wrote for a number of tv shows, including Thundarr the Barbarian), Margaret Schneider (who'd written three episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man prior to her two Buck epsidoes), Paul Schneider (who'd written two episodes of Star Trek, an episode of the animated series, an episode of The Starlost, and three Six Million Dollar Man episodes prior to his two eps of Buck), Leslie Stevens (best known for the original The Outer Limits, he'd also directed four episodes of that show, as well as directing and producing episodes of the 1975 The Invisible Man, producing Gemini Man, supervising producer on an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and of course consulting producer on the 1995-2002 version of The Outer Limits).

The regular cast actors with prior geek cred included Felix Silla (Cousin Itt on the Addams Family, as well as guest appearanes in The Girl From UNCLE, The Monkees, playing a child gorilla in the original Planet of the Apes, the Polka Dotted Horse and others on H.R. Pufnstuf, Colonel Poom on Lidsville, guest roles on Bewitched, Night Gallery, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica, a Talosian in the Star Trek episode The Cage, an Ewok in The Return of the Jedi, and the Emperor Penguin in Batman Returns), Mel Blanc (whose voice roles are many and varied, best known for various Looney Tunes characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck), Tim Connor (who'd appeared in episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, played Kogen in Ssssss, guested on a Six Million Dollar Man, Tales of the Unexpected, The Man With The Power, Wonder Woman, and later guesting on Knight Rider and Star Trek: The Next Generation), Jay Garner (Doctor Robinson in Silent Night, Bloody Night), Wilfrid Hyde-White (who'd guested on a Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible, played Sire Anton on Battlestar Galactica), Dennis Haysbert (who guested in an Incredible Hulk, voiced the Imperius Leader in an episode of Galactica 1980, appeared in multiple roles on Buck), Pamela Hensley (was Mona in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, guested on a few episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, and was later Agent 36 in The Nude Bomb), Paul Clark (he was Casey Clark on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, as well as Lt. Lee Kelso in the Star Trek episode Where No Man Has Gone Before, guested on The Green Hornet, The Time Tunnel, The Invaders, Land of the Giants, Mission: Impossible, Get Smart, The Six Million Dollar Man, Logan's Run, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, then playing Lt. Devlin in four episodes of Buck), Alex Hyde-White (guested in Battlestar Galactica and can be seen in Captain America II: Death Too Soon, before playing several roles on Buck, later guesting on Voyagers!, playing young Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Reed Richards in the never officially released Fantastic Four from 1994, and a handful of other roles), Michael Ansara (guested in a few episodes of The Lone Ranger, was Charlie in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, guested in episodes of The Outer Limits, The Man From UNLCLE, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl From UNCLE, Bewitched, The Time Tunnel, Tarzan, played Kang in the Star Trek episode "The Day of the Dove," guested on Land of the Giants, I Dream of Jeannie, voiced the Ancient One in the TV-movie Dr. Strange, an later voiced Mr. Freeze for Batman: The Animated Series, and reprised his role of Kang for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager

Geek Guests:

Patty Maloney filled in as Twiki in a few episodes, but I just wrote about her in the last installment of Geek TV, so I can pass on reposting all that. Frank Gorshin guest-starred in two episodes, and will forever be remembered as the original Riddler on Batman (1966). BarBara Luna, who guested in two episodes, may be better remembered for playing Marlena in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror." Sid Haig likewise guested on two episodes, and I'll always remember him as Dragos on Jason of Star Command, although he's got a LOT of geek credentials! Jamie Lee Curtis guested in an episode, among her credits is Laurie Strode in the original Halloween. Peter Graves guested in an episode, of course you'll remember him as Jim Phelps in the original Mission: Impossible. Jay Robinson guested in a single episode, you'll recall him as the title character in Dr. Shrinker. Ray Walson guested in one episode, and of course you'll recall him as Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian. Robert Quarry guested in one episode, he'll be remembered as the title character in Count Yorga, Vampire and The Return of Count Yorga. Buster Crabbe played Brigadier Gordon in two episodes, he'll be recalled as the original actor to play Buck Rogers in the serials (as well as playing Flash Gordon and Tarzan). Roddy McDowall guested in a single episode, he'll be remembered as Cornelius and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes movies, as well as Galen in the TV series. Mark Lenard guested in an episode, you'll recall him as the first Romulan in Star Trek, as well as playing Spock's father, Sarek. Cesar Romero guested in an episode, and of course you know he played the Joker in Batman. Along with Cesar and Frank Gorshin, fellow Bat-Villain Julie Newmar also guested in an episode! Vic Perrin guested in an episode, you might recognize his voice as the Control Voice in The Outer Limits, or as Dr. Zin in Jonny Quest, but did you know he also voiced Cyclops in an episode of The Marvel Super-Heroes? He did a lot of other voice work as well, including on Star Trek, and was seen on-camera in the episode "Mirror, Mirror" as Tharn. Anne Lockhart, who'd played Sheba in Battlestar Galactica, also guested in an episode of Buck

DVD Release: Both seasons are available on DVD, and have been on Netflix.

Website: The best website I could find is, a Buck Rogers wikia.

Notes: I greatly enjoyed the first season of this show, and never missed an episode (probably mostly due to the presence of Erin Gray), although I missed most of the second season. I recall it was fun but cheesy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Essays on Comics Characters: Dr. Mid-Nite!

For some reason or another, Dr. Mid-Nite has long been one of my favorite comics characters.

I'm not entirely certain why. Perhaps part of it is his costume - it seems like a mix of Robin's costume with Captain America's boots dyed brown plus some other elements thrown in here and there. Or perhaps it's because he's likely the first "blind" superhero in comics. Or maybe it's none of those things.

I first encountered Dr. Mid-Nite in one of two places: It could've likely been reading the JSA chapter in All in Color for a Dime, or in a reprint in a DC Comics 100-Page Super-Spectacular (more than likely the latter -- I seem to recall getting a Batman one that had a Dr. Mid-Nite story in it).

His origin has elements of Two-Face and Batman in it: Dr. Charles McNider (gotta love that name, right?) was a surgeon who was operating on a witness due to testify in a criminal trial when a grenade is tossed into the operating room by said criminal. The resulting explosion left Dr. McNider blind, making him feel as though his days as a surgeon were over (this would be later echoed in Dr. Strange's origin story, naturally).  Dr. McNider was brooding in his home when an owl crashed in through the window, causing him to remove the bandages covering his eyes, and making him discover that he wasn't truly blind in the conventional sense, but rather that his vision has been "inverted," so that he sees perfectly well in darkness, but is blind in daylight. He decides to use this ability to fight crime, creating two tools: His blackout bombs, which appear to be smoke grenades, but couldn't really just be that, since he could see fine in them (let's face it, if you can see in darkness, that doesn't help you see in smoke), and also his goggles that filtered out light. With these two inventions, he really didn't have a disability at all, but at least it gives him credibility when it's time to protect his secret identity.

He adopts the owl as a pet, naming it "Hooty," and embarks on his crime-fighting career. In his civilian identity, he begins a new career as a mystery novelist, dictating his stories to Myra Mason, his love interest and former nurse, now acting as his secretary. He'd later join the Justice Society of America, and was revived with the other JSA members in the Silver Age for annual JLA/JSA team-ups.

He's had two successors to his title: The first was Dr. Beth Chapel, who suffered a similar accident and took on the identity of Dr. Midnight (eschewing the spelling of her mentor's identity). She was introduced in the pages of Infinity, Inc, and after that series ended, she was killed off during the big Eclipso crossover event. The current Dr. Mid-Nite (going back to the original spelling) is Dr. Pieter Cross, a Norwegian man, and in the JSA, his role had been as the team physician.

In animation, the original Dr. Mid-Nite has appeared in a handful of episodes of Justice League Unlimited, and also at least two episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Probably my favorite stories with Dr. Mid-Nite would be his appearances in Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron, and this may be pure nostalgia going on. Up to this point, the only Golden Age stories I'd been able to read were those reprinted in the afore-mentioned 100-Page Super Specs, as there weren't any Archives editions or the like. Oh, wait, there were those tabloid books, too, in the 1970s. I'd only read a few of the original Dr. Mid-Nite stories before A-SS (unfortunate abbreviation, that) began, although I'd read a few of the Justice League of America issues the Society members appeared in, too.

Anyway, Roy didn't use him too much in that book, focusing instead on some of the other characters (like Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Robotman, and so forth), but he was in there, and certainly portrayed better than he had fared in previous appearances. I recall reading one JLA story that was part of the JLA/JSA team-ups where Mid-Nite had invented some kind of bizarre gun that seemed to do whatever was needed at the time... as if the writer of that story figured that he needed some kind of boost in power level to really work. Fortunately, this gun was Mopee'ed out (a reference to Mopee, an extradimensional elf that claimed in an issue of The Flash that it was he who gave Barry Allen his superspeed powers... since that story has been ignored by everyone since then, Mopee is often used to refer to something mentioned in one comics story that later writers decided was best to forget ever happened).

According to Wikipedia, the current comics have a version of Beth Chapel being a member of the JSA, or rather, Justice Society Infinity, but since I haven't read any of those, I can't speak to them at all.

Obviously, there's something appealing about the idea of a character who appears to be handicapped, but instead of letting that handicap stop them, it actually works for them. In the 1960s, Stan Lee came up with Daredevil, a take on the basic Dr. Mid-Nite idea, although Stan did take it a step further and used radar sense rather than the ability to see in total darkness (to be honest, that power works a bit better in the visual medium of comics). McNider was probably the only DC character in the Golden Age to have any disability at all, if not the only superhero in that era with any disability.

Also, unlike the vast majority of other comics characters who use "Doctor" or "Dr." in their heroic identity, Dr. Mid-Nite was an actual doctor (the only other real doctors I know of who used the title were Dr. Strange... I'm not sure Doom ever officially got the degree himself... of course there's Doc Savage, who preceded all those guys).

You know, when you think about it, it's kind of odd that nobody ever thought of having Dr. Mid-Nite having a relationship with Phantom Lady... after all, they kind of work much the same schtick... I'd imagine that Mid-Nite could see perfectly fine in PL's "blacklight ray," much as her goggles would let her see in Mid-Nite's blackout bombs. Sure, Doc had a love interest in the comics, but there had to have been the temptation to at least have them work together (I may have to ask Roy Thomas about this sometime).

I think the basic concept would still work today, if the right writer was working on whichever book any Dr. Mid-Nite would appear in... but somehow, I seriously doubt that DC would ever bring back either McNider or use either of the other Mid-Nites in any book. These days, they seem rather focused on trying to be "kewl" instead of being, well, good! Fortunately, for their bottom line, there's always the Archives and Showcase Presents volumes that occasionally get my money (as well as others of my generation of comics fans).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monster Stuff!

First up in this installment of "Monster Stuff" is this still from Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which leads off this group because I left off the "b" at the beginning of the file name!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Well, It Seems I've Turned 52...

Fifty-two years old. That's how old I'll be when you read this (unless, of course, you're reading this in the archives long after the date this posted occurred, but I can't worry about that too much). As I tend to do this time of year, I think back on my life and where I've been and where I am, and what goals I've managed to reach by this age.

Work-wise, obviously I'm nowhere near what I'd hoped for by now. At the very least, I hoped that I'd be working somewhere that I felt like I was a vital part of the company, and valued both professionally and financially. I'd hoped that by this point I'd have a business of my own that was running successfully, whatever that business might have been (it could've been a comic shop, or a restaurant, or a book store, or even a publisher of comics, among other things). But as John Lennon wrote in "Beautiful Boy," "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

I certainly can't complain about other aspects of my life... I've got a great family, a wife and two kids who love me, and whom I love in return. Despite the what seem to be all too many times there's a disagreement between us, we are a family.

This blog is really one of the things I do just for me... it usually helps me unwind and relax, especially when I've had to go several days before doing any posts (yes, I tend to do multiple days' worth of posts at once).

Honestly, I can't really complain too much... people are still surprised when I tell them how old I am (they usually guess at least 10 years younger), and I'm still capable of doing all the things I enjoy doing.

Of course, I'm always hopeful that next year's birthday will see some differences to make life easier!