I get it: this show is based on a pulp serial from “back in the day” but did they have to embrace the history so well by coming up with such cheesy names? Planet of the Amazon Women features none of the tropes one might expect. Sure, there’s a planet run primarily by women and they abduct men and sell them but it’s hardly Amazonian, and the expected attire is just “70’s sexy” at best. But that goes for Buck too, who comes to a planet wearing his regular flight gear but is forced to put on a shirt that has a V neck so deep, it reaches down to his navel. Where’d he get that? Ah, the Amazon Women that weren’t Amazonian must have had plenty from their previously captured men. (Or… they ordered from Amazon???? See what I did there?)
So Buck is flying back to base from some mission when he encounters a distress signal. Two lovely ladies wearing 70’s Sexy attire (as space pilots do) are in need of rescue and, “oh by the way, can you tow us home? We’ll thank you with implied benefits.” So of course, Buck does and is captured. There’s a bidding war for him during an auction but the winning bidder, Ariela, is the daughter of the Prime Minister of the planet. She doesn’t believe in slave trade and, “oh, by the way, please help us get all of our men back who went to fight a war.” Buck has a plan. There are trade negotiations going on between Earth and the rival planet who just happens to have all the men from the Amazon Women planet. You see it too, right? It’s one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Space Pilots. Think Win/Win/Win.
So Buck does the Buck thing, wins the day and Erin Grey, who comes to the planet to rescue him is just there basically so she can get paid for appearing in the episode because she really did very little else. End of the day, it’s a good episode, enjoyable if totally cheesy in the way late 70’s scifi had to be. That’s a pretty basic summary, but so what, it works and it was enjoyable, surprisingly. So what more can I say about the epsiode?
Well there is a guy on the planet, Cassius Thorn, and he’s played by Jay Robinson. I don’t fault you for not knowing the name; I didn’t either, but the second I saw his face, I saw Ambassador Petri from the Star Trek episode Elaan of Troyius. This dude must have been one smart cookie, taking roles that put him around 60s and 70’s sexily attired women all the time. He’s hardly a villain. But then even the heroes in this are hardly heroes. At one point, Buck convinces his fellow prisoners to overthrow the guards because it’s 6 to 2 (3 if you count Thorn). Not only do the good guys epically fail to win the fight, but it’s over so fast that I blinked and missed it. It was like Buck suddenly didn’t know how to fight, let alone the other 5 men on his team. Buck takes a pistol whip to the back of the head that looked spectacularly gentle.
One thing that was boring me earlier in the series that’s really starting to change my opinion is Twiki. Voiced by Mel Blanc – yep, that Mel Blanc! – I was originally surprised by how much I disliked the voice, but the more I hear of it, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s all about the time Twiki is spending with Buck. It’s like he found a breath of fresh air and even as a droid, he likes to hang out with this man, which means he’s picking up the lingo. So he ends up saying many things that no one understands and the comedy element is working very well. At one point, Huer realizes how precarious things are getting and Twiki brings him some alcohol. Dr. Huer slugs it back in one much to Twiki’s amazement. Moments later, Twiki has refilled the glass. Maybe not comedy gold, but definitely enjoyable. Let’s call it comedy silver….
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the story is the commentary when Ariela helps overthrow her mother. She has this to say: “She honestly thought she was doing the right thing.” That’s actually a very important concept for a show about heroes and villains. Barring those silly mustache-twirlers, most of history’s real life “bad guys” really did think they were doing the right thing for one reason or another. Maybe it was to keep a nation pure or whole, or just to help architects build an eyesore, but whatever their motivations, the bad guys rarely do bad things for the sake of being bad. Those are what we call “serial killers”, amongst other things. While this has been a lightweight episode, it does have that idea firmly planted within its format. I wonder how many people pick up on it. Realizing what makes a villain work well is a good idea for any writer.
So overall, this episode wasn’t one I’d use to recommend the series, but it was an enjoyable scifi romp with some characters I’m coming to really enjoy watching. I’d like to see Wilma get more screen time with Buck because I think there really is chemistry there, but as long as we can maintain the fun and frivolity, at least it won’t stagnate. The science part of the fiction isn’t as strong as last year’s visit to Space: 1999 but the characters are infinitely more likable. ML
From my own faint recollections of this episode, it’s not one I’d recommend to start with either. As far as the science in sci-fi was concerned at the time of Buck Rogers, it could come down to whether or not such a show is about the science or the adventure. Star Trek was science, even if it was often the science of social issues. Star Wars was adventure. So which was more predominating for Buck Rogers? As I fairly remember, the show had some interesting things to say when Buck for the hero would come to the aid of some unfortunates. He would just be the good guy trying to do what feels right, but not necessarily needing to scientifically explain everything as opposed to Dr. Who or Fox Mulder. That kind of hero can have his or her place for an audience who may need a break from a scientifically overwhelming sci-fi universe. So Buck Rogers had its place on TV for fans, even if the most realistic episodes would still be essential in one form or another. And yes, it was certainly an interesting change from Space: 1999. Thank you, ML.
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