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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

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