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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

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