Buck Rogers: Happy Birthday, Buck

buck rogersIt’s a bit depressing coming off Space Vampire to get such a mundane story.  In reality, none of these episodes have tread new ground, but they are all varying degrees of fun with old plot lines.  However, this episode is just a standard revenge story.  Cornell Traeger was sent on a routine exploration mission when he crashed and was imprisoned underground for 15 years.  Now he wants revenge on Dr. Huer, the man responsible for sending him on the mission.  Yawn.

The problem is that this ends up being a real talky episode with Traeger spending a lot of time talking to Delora, a psychologist who can extract thoughts from the subconscious.  He needs her to extract data from the mind of a courier who knows Huer’s schedule.  Did I mention, yawn?  He clearly hails from the same race as Jack Palance’s character in Planet of the Slave Girls; his hand glows and if he touches someone he can turn them to silicone.  Oh, the sarcasm is just bursting to get out!

Perhaps the best part of the conflict is how they resolve it.  Buck stuns our villain who then falls on his own hand, turning himself to silicone.  I assume the rest of his life he’d kept a glove on otherwise sleeping, showering and even going to the toilet were big risks for this guy.   I mean, the guy was a train wreck anyway.  He walks around with Geordi LaForge glasses on because he was imprisoned underground for 15 years.  Meaning, when Buck accidentally knocks them off, he is nearly blinded by the bright light.  But just because he was imprisoned underground didn’t automatically mean there were no lights, did it?

That about covers the plot, but there are a lot of things that need addressing.  First let’s talk world building: Huer is said to have been promoted in the 15 years since Traeger was last on earth which makes sense in a cohesive world.  Also, when Wilma is putting together a list of Buck’s friends, she lists a number of names, presumably from previous episodes – all female.  The only one I could swear by was Miss Cosmos, but the fact that the series keeps track of the names is impressive.  (I say again, compare that to Space: 1999.)  There’s also some new tech: masks that can be coded to look like anyone; clearly it affects body shape and height too.  There are psi-couriers for transporting top secret data without being able to be intercepted.  And psychologists offices are basically rooms where people sit around with hair dryers above their heads and they all talk about what’s bothering them.  “What do you think that means?”

Yet, the real meat of the story comes from the title, and it makes up depressingly little of the episode.  It’s Jan 7th and in two days, it’s Buck’s birthday; he’ll be 534 years old.  The episode opens with him hanging a picture of a log cabin in a winter setting.  Wilma and Huer come to visit and he unloads on them about the quality of life in New Chicago.  Everything is so controlled that there is no change and it’s breaking his heart.  This opened more potential for drama than the rest of the silly story combined.  There’s a question to be asked about what the future will hold for us.  The night I watched this, I had seen an Irish movie called The Banshees of Inisherin which took place in 1923.  I wondered what people 100 years from now would think of movies about our time – would they think we were so primitive, sitting around watching movies on big flat screens attached to walls and munching on popped kernels of corn?  Imagine that now 5 times over.  If Christopher Columbus turned up now, I don’t think he’d be the hero of a series.  It’s almost pompous to think that Buck, a man from our time, could ever be the hero of a series that takes place 500 years after our time.

Let’s not end on a heavy note.  The comedy and the cast again save this from being a total waste.  My favorite line is when a security guard says he must have dropped his “delocking disc”, Buck says “Oh, you mean a key!”  But I also had to laugh at Dr. Huer who seems intent on helping Buck meet all the beautiful ladies.  Sure, he’s really just trying to setup a surprise party at Buck’s apartment but the way it comes off is like he’s asking Buck to go off with the latest beauty to grace the show (Morgan Brittany).  We all need a friend like Huer.  At least, while some things change, it’s good to know the true friends can be found in any era of history.  ML

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1 Response to Buck Rogers: Happy Birthday, Buck

  1. scifimike70 says:

    I remember being quite haunted by this episode when I first saw it. Especially the scene where Trager turns a reception computer (her very nice female voice) into silicone which I found very disturbing. In the most obvious way, Trager’s death was a classic example of poetic justice. But naturally enough we feel sympathy for him after all he had been through which broke him into vindictive madness. Delora Baylis was also interesting as a villainess who can exploit the mind through her given technology that she is trusted with. As a message of how careful we must be regarding unethically driven doctors, it was even more creepy than Trager’s powers. Peter Mac Lean and Tamara Dobson play the roles very well and Morgan Brittany especially shines in her very beautiful portrayal of Raylyn.

    One of Buck’s closing quotes, “There’s an old saying: It’s the thought that counts. And it’s still true.” is reassuring for this future that Buck for good reason had issues with. But, thanks to his birthday resolution, he was really starting to appreciate his most worthy purpose. A very good episode for that much and probably my favorite. Thank you, ML, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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