Synchronicity is a weird thing. My sister happened to get my post about the end of the year, which opened with me asking where time goes, only to immediately get another email opening with the exact same question. The day I watched this episode, I had been playing a video game, Gotham Knights, and had found an audio clip of Bruce Wayne’s where he says, “it’s New Year’s Eve… no, I guess it’s actually New Year’s Day….” Oddly, I played that and found it on… New Years Day. Then I went to my living room to watch Buck Rogers and the next episode was this one, A Blast for Buck. Well… as I said, synchronicity is a strange thing indeed.
The problem with this episode is that it takes place in December, but just one episode ago, it was about to be Buck’s birthday – January 7th. So either they had a really boing year or these two episodes are shown out of order because the big “Blast” referred to in the title is a New Year’s Eve Blast. That’s a shame for a show that was clearly more continuity heavy than most shows of this era. In fact, this episode is all about continuity. Apparently created to save money due to going over budget, the functions much the way Star Trek: The Next Generation used the season two finale, Shades of Grey. It’s a clip-episode, showing loads of scenes of what came before. And here’s how…
A mysterious probe appears with a riddle that sounds distinctly ominous about a blast coming for Earth and targeted at the “man out of old Earth’s past”. Buck has to determine who it might have come from, so he hooks up to a mind probe (no, not that mind probe…) that can show us images of what he’s thinking about. It starts with his mind drifting to all the lovely ladies he’s met through the series so far, before becoming more serious, doing a name check on all the villains; enemies who might hold a grudge. This serves as an almost comedic “where are they now” rundown to see who could possibly have sent this mysterious touch-activated limerick!
I realized watching these clips just how much fun I’ve had with this series so far. We get a complete run down of all the baddies from Vegas in Space, Zeta Minor (not the one from Doctor Who) in Unchained Woman. We then get the young Cosmic Whiz Kid episode followed by the Planet of the Amazon Women, Return of the Fighting 69th, and Planet of the Slave Girls where Jack Palance’s Kaleel is said to just be a harmless lunatic wandering the desert. We then see flashbacks from The Plot to Kill a City with Kellogg and his cronies before going over to the Cruise Ship to the Stars. The last is Buck considering the potential enemy to be Ardala and we have images from Escape from Wedded Bliss. Buck clearly doesn’t want to consider her to be the baddie of the episode…
Each clip reminded me of things I really enjoyed and it’s truly a testament to the cast that this show has been as entertaining as it’s been because our UK contemporary, Space: 1999, didn’t feature a cast nearly as enjoyable. I can’t see a clip-episode being nearly as much fun as this, and I found a smile on my face repeatedly, especially with the repeat of the scene where Buster Crabbe appears, reminding me of the love the writers had in handing the torch over to Gil Gerard. Although I’ve said this before, I truly think Space: 1999 had better science fiction, but the cast just prevented it from reaching the heights it could have. I think had this series taken a page out of the technical specs of that series, this would still be on people’s viewing lists. Alas, it’s not that meaningful, but it sure is fun! Even when the “villain” of this episode is revealed, it made me smile because, it’s not a villain at all. It ends up being Gary Coleman sending Buck a New Year’s Eve holiday present for him to share with Wilma, Huer, and Twikki. It’s a perfect episode to watch on New Years Day and would only have been improved slightly had I watched it one day earlier. But synchronicity and all that…
Of note, there was one marvelously funny line that I gather I wasn’t alone in catching based on what I was reading about this one. While Buck is trying to figure out which of his many former enemies might have sent the riddle, he says Kellogg “wouldn’t waste time with riddles.” I had to laugh, because Kellogg is played with delectable villainy by the great Frank Gorshin… also known as The Riddler on Batman. Somehow, I expect that was a deliberate nod to Gorshin’s past on the cult classic even by the early 80s. All we needed was a reference to him not being so black and white about things and it would have been perfect!
Overall, this is a silly episode but one that brought a smile to my face on the perfect day of the year. Although this article goes live months after my viewing, I still wish all of you a Happy New Year, whether you are reading this in 2023 or the 25th century. ML
Clip episodes seem to be a peculiarly American thing. When I started to notice them I was baffled that such a bizarre way of short-changing the viewers would even happen once, let alone across multiple different shows. It has always seemed like such a way of cheating the audience to me, and I always switch them off and move straight onto the next one. I’m not watching an episode just for some linking narrative device. If they can’t afford to make all the episodes, make one less. The practice has started creeping in over here, with documentary shows such as Dragon’s Den and panel shows such as Would I Lie to You?, but I still can’t recall a British drama series with a clips episode. It’s such a weird thing to do. I think Friends used to have one every year. Complete waste of time. Maybe they were the precursor to people watching endless clips on youtube instead of sitting through whole episodes of things.
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Clip episodes may be easier on the show’s budget. But they can say a lot about how an SF show like Buck Rogers particularly stands out for its time. Thank you, ML, for your review.
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Happy to write it, old friend. And Rog, you’d be surprised how much fun this episode was, despite the clip nature of it. ML
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