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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Eating & Drinking in the 25th Century

In the movie "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Colonel Wilma Deering escorts Buck throughout New Chicago. Surrounded by the fabulous architecture of the future, she tells him a little about the apocalypse that nearly destroyed the Earth. Eventually, they end up in a restaurant, or at least a seating area where people might gather and enjoy drinks. But we don't see them eating or drinking in the movie.

In fact, eating and drinking seem to be activities largely confined to the past. People in New Chicago, also called the Inner City, seem to largely get by on food disks. These food disks are produced by food grown off-planet. Recently, pirates have attacked food shipments. Thus, Earth hopes to forge a treaty with the Draconian Empire to police space shipping lanes.

In the novelization written by Richard Lupoff (writing as Addison E Steele), Wilma leads him to a table in the mall. When a waiter appears, she orders two glasses of Vinol, a synthetic wine. "Okay," Buck replies. "Then let's make it two or three. I'd like to get nice and drunk." 

"We're a culture of moderation," Wilma responds. "Everything is carefully balanced. If somebody ruins a serving of food, or greedily consumes two when he's only entitled to one, then somebody else goes without a meal that day. What you would call immoderation, just a petty foible in your world--is a crime in mine. And criminals are invited to leave the Inner City." 

So in the original conception of the story, New Chicago appears far less a utopia than in the film. Life there is hand-to-mouth, and drunkenness and overeating is a crime. Sin against society too much, and you get exiled into the radiation-ruined wasteland. 

In the subsequent TV series, Buck continually tries to breathe a little life into a largely sterile society. One way he does this is by attempting to grow and making his own food and wine. Doctor Huer and Wilma view this as an eccentric quirk to be accommodated and politely overlooked. Had the characters and stories stuck more closely to the original screenplay (upon which Lupoff based his novelization), perhaps these leaders of New Chicago would have applauded his efforts, or even hailed them as a hope for making Earth truly self-sustaining.

But then, who wants to watch "Buck Rogers: Hydroponics and Wine-Making in the 25th Century?"

Dragon Dave

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