I love when writers show their love of other genre series in their scripts. However, I take issue with it when they ignore the work of the show they are writing for. I get it: the writers are into the same thing I’m into, and that’s really cool, but shouldn’t their main concern be Buck Rogers while writing for it?
So here’s the deal: there’s an alien race who want to use Buck in a plot because, somehow in a galaxy full of people, Buck is the one who can pull this off. I can’t tell you how absurd this idea is and week after week it stands out more. If you try to put that into context, it’s like having a computer problem and saying Steve Jobs and Bill Gates just won’t cut it; we need Galileo. But let’s just look past that. These aliens want Buck’s help so much that they raid his apartment, notice the picture of a woman on his shelf and decide to recreate her using molecular surgery. He’ll follow her, fall for her and then be at their mercy. As ideas go, pretty lame! But it’s not even the lame idea that bothers me. What bothers me is The Plot to Kill A City.
Let me rewind: I said it’s nice that the writers are genre fans because over the loudspeaker at the airport, we hear that Captain Christopher Pike needs to report to Veteran Affairs. As we all know, Pike is the captain of the Enterprise before Jim Kirk. Kudos to the writers for catching my attention. They also mention a call waiting for the Silver Surfer himself, Norrin Radd (although I had to look that name up because I was desperately trying to remember it from Star Trek. I knew I knew it, but I was in the wrong series!) Also, there’s a reference to the movie Jaws and Twiki even paraphrases it at the end with “Just when you thought it was safe in the 25th century…” And let’s not ignore the title; a riff on I Dream of Jeannie. So yeah, great job showing me you know the other shows, but if molecular surgery is available and is easily reversible, why didn’t Huer suggest it to Buck in the far superior episode The Plot to Kill A City? That would have impressed me a lot more. (If not for the fact that Total Recall came out years later, I’d think they were referring to that when the main villain says Leila has a transponder installed and he taps her nose!)
Barring that, I’d call this another dud. Leila dies in the end; it’s the only possible outcome unless she were going to become a regular. When she dies, she says “all I ever wanted was to be like your Jennifer”. Really? Because not an hour ago, you lured Buck into this whole fiasco for money. Sounds like “ever” is a bit uncertain there. The thing is, I realize that compared to modern television series, this episode serves as a character piece. We’re given a bit of history on Buck’s life: we see his room mate and his girlfriend before the events that sent him into the 25th century. He even promised her that this mission would be the last. Maybe at the time, this episode would have worked well, but it doesn’t hold up well because television scripts have come a long way. Definitely a product of its time, you might say.
And it’s not the only product of its time on display. All series long I’ve noticed this but it stands out more on this episode: the fonts. When we look at the various signs all over the Earth Directorate and even at their airport, there’s this silly idea that fonts should have been a mix of caps and lower case but it’s so out of place as to look embarrassing. I realize a war took place between our time and the 25th Century, but did that mean we forgot when to use caps and when to use lowercase?
I’ll grant you that the characters are still fun but I can see where the now-outdated 26 episode season just couldn’t be sustained. Twiki still manages to have some great lines, Huer is a man you can’t help but like (sympathizing with Buck since he lost his wife too), and Buck is still the king of charisma on this show. I still just wish Wilma fared better. She is always just a background player. Maybe things will change before the season ends, but I doubt it. ML
This was an excellent episode for dramatizing how Buck can finally let go of a special person from his past. Gil Gerard’s performance is quite heartfelt and Anne Lockhart does justice for the role of Jennifer/Leila. It’s good to know that this show, despite its obvious escapisms, can have something very important to say about finding closure and moving on, which Buck’s journey in his new time naturally symbolizes. Dennis Haysbert played a security guard which is interesting, as with many famous actors today who originally made themselves known for small roles for TV shows. Twiki’s closing quote after giving Buck a video copy of Jaws: “Just when you thought it was safe in the 25th Century.” and making Buck laugh is timeless. Thank you, ML, for your review.
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To me the only regret I have about Anne Lockhart doing this episode is that she should have been appearing as Sheba in the second season of “Battlestar Galactica” that wasn’t that same season! (“Galactica 1980” does not count).
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