Buck Rogers: Buck’s Duel to the Death

buck rogersThe last few episodes had lame titles and equally lame stories.  I had high hopes that I’d learned the secret with this series and that this episode would be epic.  In fairness, it’s not bad, it’s just a few miles south of “epic”.  Still, it was a nice return to form for a show that had, for so many weeks, kept me thoroughly entertained despite not being that high in quality.

This time, Buck has to fight the Trebor, a dude who is building a harem of the best looking women in the galaxy and conducting gladiatorial battles between himself and other fighters. Thing is, he’s spent time on the planet Volton which, if you can’t guess by the name, allowed him to implant himself with electricity generating hands which he uses to electrocute his enemies.  This guy is bad news which actually would have been a better name than “The Trebor” which he actually calls himself.  Poor oaf.  So Buck gets a mission right out of Star Trek.  You know the ones: “Spock, go rebuild the transporter.  I’m going to seduce a woman.”  The premise is a bit less impressive than that.  At least Kirk knew his strengths and Spock’s for that matter.  Buck is brought into this because of a legend that says the 500 year old man will beat The Trebor.  Give me a break!

I say “give me a break” but then the episode is actually pretty fun.  The problem is the same one I’ve commented on last week: there’s very little difference between this and any of the other 1980’s TV shows with the formulaic nature.  The other thing that we should address is how much stronger and sturdier humans have become in my lifetime.  This episode aired in 1980 and people could be brought down with a gentle karate chop to the belly and neck.  Must be the hormones in the milk these days because holy cow can we take a beating!  And it’s not just the adults!  Watch Stranger Things and tell me any adult from 1980 could have saved the day. It really makes you realize how fake Stranger Things is!  (I jest; I loved it!  But it would have been really funny to watch if the people had the same glass jaws that they have in Buck Rogers!)  

The show continues doing clever things though and I have to give it points for that.  Wilma doesn’t know what an egg is which reminds us early on that these guys live in a very different world to ours.  Later, we discover humans haven’t used electricity in a long time.  One wonders how things are powered, but that adds to the story.  This time, it makes sense that Buck actually can be useful.  It goes back to another complaint I’ve had: if we take this series and reverse it – look at it through our modern lens – it would be like finding Ponce De Leon frozen in ice and needing him to do things we couldn’t.  However, this episode offers context.  If we lost the ability to travel the world  by plane or high speed cruise ships or what have you, someone like De Leon might be the right man for the job.  For the first time all season, it hits a logical high note. 

On top of that, we get a number of high notes with the dialogue.  Wilma, trying to learn about the Trebor, goes to see an antiques dealer who hands her a “early model hand laser” that he hasn’t figured out yet.  The viewer realizes it’s a hair dryer, but that’s clever.  Things from our world have lost context.  Some of the paintings used for the planet are really impressive too.  Alas, the space battles are closer to the 1940’s scifi than the 1977 Star Wars movie and that’s a shame.  It’s a visual letdown, but at least we have the planets to look at.

As I’ve said before, this is a tough series to criticize too heavily because the characters are really great but we’ve seen a slight drop in that over the last few episodes.  This one, however, scores a home run at the end.  I was surprised that the episode had 5 minutes left when the story ended and I was all set to do something else when Twiki comes in the room dressed as a cowboy and threatens Buck.  The banter between the two is outstanding and Mel Blanc really has sold me completely on Twiki.  I suspect this isn’t a show that will get many people watching but I’ll do something atypical: I’ll share the dialogue here.

Twiki: This galaxy ain’t big enough for the two of us, bub.
Buck: Maybe we can make a deal. You take the horses, the girl, and I’ll be out of the galaxy before sundown.
Twiki: Some deal.
Buck: All right, you take the money and horses.
Twiki: You’re getting warmer.
Buck: You want the money, the horses *and* the girl?
Twiki: You’ve got it.
Buck: No way my friend. I’d rather die with my boots on.
Twiki: Well, uh, okay. You keep the horses.

I don’t know if I can honestly say this show has a lot to offer on the science fiction front, but it definitely has charisma that does hold up even 50 years on.   ML

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1 Response to Buck Rogers: Buck’s Duel to the Death

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Fakeness in even the most popular sci-fi shows for their times may indeed be easier to realize when comparing how it’s done now to how it was done decades ago. Such acceptances may continue and for the sake of escapism from today’s harsh realities, they may certainly serve their purpose. But in the consequential curiosity of what our real universe will be like when we’re finally able to explore it, the lines between fact and fiction undoubtedly won’t be so easily blurred.

    Thank you, ML, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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