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Monday, May 29, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: For the Love of Jennifer

In the last post, I posed the question: in the movie version of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," why would Buck refuse to accompany Wilma and her rescue party back to New Chicago? Remember, he's seen the ruins of old Chicago. He's found his family's grave. It must be obvious to him by now that everyone he knew and loved was gone. As he's just been attacked, why should he remain?

Remember, in the original screenplay, upon which Richard A Lupoff (writing as Addison E Steele) based his novelization, Buck is grateful for her timely rescue, and willingly accompanies her back to New Chicago.

One possible answer is simple bravado, but that doesn't feel right to me. Buck usually did things for logical reasons. He didn't usually refuse to act in his best interests, or the interests of others, when one's personal safety, or one's existence, was threatened. 

Late in the first season, Buck and Twiki see a woman in a shopping mall in New Chicago. She looks familiar to Buck, like a ghost from his past. Eventually he tracks her down. She is the spitting image of Jennifer, a woman he loved in 20th Century Earth. Nor was she just a fling. He had planned on marrying her when he returned from his deep space mission. Only his ship experienced a freak accident, and he returned 500 years later. Of course, she's not the woman he loved back in the 20th Century, but as he discovers, she is someone he might possibly learn to love, given the right circumstances.

Does it make sense that Buck would refuse to accompany Wilma back to New Chicago, even at the potential cost of his life, to find Jennifer's grave? That's the only answer that makes sense to me. I'd like to think there's a better reason behind the script writers decision to change Buck's response to Wilma's rescue than simple bravado. 

What do you think?

Dragon Dave

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Search or Defiance

In the film version of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Buck is not exiled to the devastated lands outside. Instead, after his discussion with Wilma Deering, he voluntarily leaves New Chicago to search the ruins of Old Chicago. He is accompanied in his quest by Dr. Theopolis, the A.I. Overlord (although they are never called that in the film), and the drone Twiki. In a cemetery, Buck discovers a grave listing the names of his immediate family members. Then he and his new friends are attacked by a pack of savage humans who live in the ruins of the once great city.

Earlier in the film, Buck had declared his intentions to venture unaccompanied, wherever he wished, in order to learn more about his past. Colonel Wilma Deering threatened to shoot him, but then decided to let him go. Now, in the film, she and a party of soldiers arrive to save him. No explanation is given for how they discovered he had left the Inner City, or why they chose to follow him. 

In addition to this reordering of events (in the book, he is exiled after the trial; in the film, he ventures out before the hidden transmitter is found on his ship), there is another crucial difference. In Richard A Lupoff's novelization (credited to the pen name of Addison E. Steele), Buck Rogers is grateful for Wilma's timely rescue, and willingly accompanies her back to New Chicago. In the film, he defiantly states that he's not through searching for answers. When Wilma insists they return, he declares for a second time that she will have to shoot him to stop him for continuing his quest. This time, she refuses to back down, and has one of her soldiers shoot him. (Only after they return, in the film, do Dr. Huer and Wilma learn of the hidden transmitter, which necessitates Buck's trial).

The ordering of events in Lupoff's novelization, based on an earlier version of the script, makes sense. Buck's venturing out of the highly defended Inner City, in the film, can be explained away, as can Wilma discovering his decision and sending out a search party. (A sad consequence of this reversal is we lose Dr. Huer's heroic fight to save Buck in the film). But what about Buck's defiance when he and his electronic friends have just been rescued from certain death? How can we understand Buck's insistence upon remaining in Old Chicago, now that he knows his family has died, and the world he loved really has been destroyed? Is it simple defiance, a willing rejection of the truth? Or is he still searching for something? And if so, what?

It's a question that has vexed me, so I thought I would share it with you. (Hey, I'm considerate like that).

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Dr. Huer's Strength

In Richard A. Lupoff's novelization of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (written under the pen name of Addison E. Steele), it falls on Dr. Huer to petition the Council to reverse or suspend their decision. One can only imagine what is going on in Dr. Huer's mind as he steps into that august chamber. Up until now, he has believed that Earth needs the treaty with the Draconian Empire. Now he is about to argue that the Council should reverse its judgment of a capital crime, and allow him, Wilma, and Buck to endanger the treaty with the Draconian Empire. 

As you can imagine, Prosecutor Apol is against him. The very fabric of our society," Council Apol lectures Dr. Huer, "is threatened when a ruling of the Council is reversed, or even suspended."

"If by some horrible error of judgment the Draconians are admitted to Earth, and they come to us not as friends but as traitors and enemies in our very midst, then all will be lost," Doctor Huer argues. Then we will suffer an absolute defeat!"

Despite Apol's opposition, the Council votes to suspend Buck's sentence and proceed with Doctor Huer's plan. When Wilma congratulates Doctor Huer, he urges her to quickly gather as many people as she can. They must go heavily armed, and they must find him quickly. If the scavengers and other rabble find him first, all their efforts on Buck's part will have been in vain.  

One can only imagine what was going on in Doctor Huer's mind when he decided to side with Wilma and appeal to the Computer Council. The Council banished Doctor Theopolis for daring to defend Buck, and quickly elevated another of their own to replace him. Where did he get his inner strength to challenge the Council, his earlier faith in the Draconians, and perhaps his future in New Chicago, to save the life of another person?

Humanity has lost nearly all of its heritage, and gradually been weaned back into a semblance of maturity by the Computer Council. But not all of its history, culture, and beliefs have been lost. Take for example, this curious artifact placed prominently on Doctor Huer's desk. 

Perhaps that ancient tome, not mentioned in Richard A. Lupoff's novelization, holds a clue as to the source of Doctor Huer's strength.

Dragon Dave 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: For the Love of Buck

In Richard A. Lupoff's novelization of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," the Computer Council of New Chicago has ruled in favor of Prosecutor Apol. For his acts of espionage and treason against the state, Captain William Buck Rogers, along with his representative Doctor Theopolis, are banished to the devastated lands outside. 

Doctor Huer, the sage of the Inner Cities, and Colonel Wilma Deering quietly leave the chamber, while the other Human spectators shake hands and slap each other on the back to celebrate the verdict. 

Later, Doctor Huer is still rueing the verdict when Colonel Deering bursts into his office. "Doctor, I need your help desperately!"

"What is it?" Huer asks, startled. 

"It's Buck Rogers." Wilma was nearly in tears. "We must get him back, Dr. Huer. We must!"

Initially, when Doctor Huer and Doctor Theopolis chose to believe Buck's story, Wilma refused to accept their assessment. She claimed he might possibly endanger Earth's treaty with the Draconian Empire. But now she begs Doctor Huer to petition the Computer Council. If the Council will allow Buck to return, she could fly him out to Princess Ardala's flagship, and use his allegations, based only on supposition and logic, as an excuse to search the ship for weapons. 

It's a strange argument for her to make. There's no logical reason why Dr. Huer should agree. All the facts, as they know them, suggest that Buck Rogers is guilty of espionage. Furthermore, Wilma's plan will endanger the treaty with Draconia, and therefore Earth's future. Nonetheless, Dr. Huer agrees to help her save Buck. 

Logically, you have to wonder why "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" continues to be popular. People still love watching this old 1970s TV series. It's not because the show offered gripping drama. It's not because the shows were smart in a scientific sense. But it offered one quality that is difficult to manufacture, one that so many fail to find. Simply put, the show had charm.

At the heart of the series was Buck, an All-American Hero displaced in time. He was an underdog in the sense that he had lost everything and everyone that he ever cared about. Yet he quickly chose to settle in New Chicago, and was always willing to help everyone he found in need, whether they came from Earth or some other planet. That's why all the good people, and even most of the antiheroes he met in the series, usually befriended Buck by the end of their adventures together. And that's why, even after knowing Buck for so little time, Wilma and Dr. Huer would risk their lives, and the future of Earth, to save him.

As Dr. Theopolis, the Computer Council member who was exiled from New Chicago for steadfastly defending him, told Wilma, "He's a wwwwuuuunnnderful man." Now that's the kind of person you will risk everything for.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Doctor Theopolis' Sacrifice

She lowered the laser, dumbly returned it to its holster, and stood watching the scene before her. She saw guards rushing from remote entrances of the hanger toward the man she had shot. 

In the novelization of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century", written by Richard A. Lupoff (under his pen name of Addison E. Steele), Buck declared his intention to leave New Chicago and see the surrounding devastation. It seemed the only way for him to connect to the Earth he had left behind. But Wilma Deering, the dedicated military officer, could not let him leave. After all, the authorities were still verifying his story about being from the 20th Century, and awakening aboard Princess Ardala's Draconian flagship. So when Buck tells her that she'll have to shoot him to make him stay, Wilma represses her feelings and shoots him. 

When the investigators discover a hidden transmitter aboard Buck's ship, she feels vindicated in shooting him. He must be an agent of the space pirates that are cutting off Earth's food supplies. That transmitter would have relayed the safe route through Earth's defensive shield to whoever sent him. This is a capital crime against the state, far more heinous than eating and drinking more than one's allotted portions of food and drink. Buck has just handed Earth's enemies the means of directly attacking the planet! The Computer council quickly convenes a hearing. Despite the most persuasive arguments of Dr. Theopolis, the Artificial Intelligence overlords of New Chicago agree with A.I. prosecutor Apol: Buck Rogers must indeed be a spy.

While summing up his defense arguments, Dr. Theopolis had told the Computer Council, "If you find Buck Rogers guilty, then you must find me guilty as well. I cannot continue to serve a society that doubts the core of my being." So when the Council rules against Buck, he and Twiki choose exile with Buck over further life in the Inner City.

In the ruins of old Chicago, destroyed shortly after he left Earth, Buck tries to connect with the Earth he left behind. But when night falls, the outcasts in this devastated land pursue them. Dr. Theopolis tells Buck that he's not the target: the scavengers are really after himself and Twiki. Despite the technological wonders they represent, Theo and Twiki's only value to the outcasts is the food and supplies that their computer components and rare materials will provide.

Buck is just another Human outcast now. 

It's hard to imagine one of the computer overlords voluntarily leaving the Inner City, knowing the certainty of his fate outside. It's equally hard to imagine the other computer overlords allowing Dr. Theopolis to leave. In the subsequent TV series, the emphasis shifted away from the A.I. rulers of New Chicago, and we rarely saw Dr. Theopolis. It would have been interesting to learn more about the Computer Overlords, not only how they interacted with each other, but also how they served, and occasionally even risked their continued existence, for the Humans under their care.

Dragon Dave