May 02, 2007

Gratuitous Buck Blogging

After a two-week helping of really bad episodes in “Happy Birthday, Buck” and “A Blast For Buck”, the series returns to a favorite guest star with:

Ep. 1.17 “Ardala Returns” (1/24/80)

Twice before, the Draconians have acted on their designs to conquer the Earth. Both times, they were thwarted (almost single-handedly) by Buck Rogers. Despite these setbacks, their ruler Draco is determined to kick it up a notch.

The Draconian Hatchet Fighters, which the Terrans first come into contact with in the pilot, “Awakening”, have been modified to a new level of deadly accuracy. The problem is they’re so good that none of the Draconian pilots can control them and end up getting killed. Upset at his losses (the ships not the pilots), he orders his daughter Ardala (who’s had so much luck against Earth in the past) to capture their best pilot so that Kane can transfer his skills to robots (or Zygots) that can fly the ships instead.

"I'm thinking of a name the rhymes with 'luck'."

Any guesses as to who this pilot would be? Hmmm? Anybody?

Right. It seems that most pilots rely heavily on computers to pilot their ships. Buck, however, likes to go on instinct – something that requires a full understanding of his prior experiences.

Using a phony 20th-century like decoy ship, Buck and Twiki are captured by the Draconians and Kane uses something called a “nueral duplicator” to download all of Buck’s memories. When he wakens, Ardala explains their plan (something you probably shouldn’t do to the one person who has shown he can defeat you) and introduces him to the Zygots. These mechanical creations are designed to look exactly like Buck. Why? Well, Ardala has some additional plans for the Zygots. If she can’t have Buck, that she’s willing to settle for a copy.

To test how good these Zygots are they send one to Earth to impersonate Buck. While it looks and sounds just like him, the personality just isn’t there. It’s not long before this Zygot, standing in Dr. Huer’s office like a grinning idiot, raises suspicion. Dr. Theopolis senses some kind of timing device in the room and they figure out pretty quickly that the faux-Buck is about to explode. Luckily the get out of the room just in time.

Now that this pointless exercise was out of the way, it was time to implement the real plan: have the three remaining Zygots pilot their Hatchet Fighters and destroy the city of New Phoenix. Just what exactly is so strategic about New Phoenix is never really explained. It was probably a huge population center, which many Terrans flocked to because even though it's hot year round, it's just a “dry heat”. Well, unbeknownst to the residents, Ardala is planning on cranking up that heat.

Buck Zygots.jpg
"Let's see. Eeeny, Meany, Miney, Mo..."

Shortly after the Zygots are activated, Ardala decides to take them for a spin. Unfortunately she finds each of them fairly one-dimensional and lacking any real personality. One is always depressed, another is a pushover with no spark and the other just likes to crack jokes. The Princess is not happy.

While many fans of the show found this to be the weakest Ardala episode, a case can be made that she at last showed some vulnerability. There is one scene in particular where she expresses sadness (rather than anger) to Buck that he does not love her. “Do you really think me so ugly?” she asks him. Buck is quite tender with her at this point, explaining that he’s just not that into her (using much more diplomatic words, of course).

She sends Buck away and turns to her mirror. Putting on her tiara, she says “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and – doggone it – people like me.” Um, actually that was Al Franken. Sorry. But her resolve is now strengthened and she orders the Zygots to pummel New Phoenix.

But of course, Buck escapes in one of the Hatchet Fighters and pursues them. The Zygots are good. But there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. And our Capt. Rogers blows them out of the sky. Game over.

Fans would get to see Ardala one last time in the series finale but interestingly this would be the final appearance of Tiger Man. He’ll be replaced later on. We can only assume that he’s released into some Draconian wildlife refuge and put out to stud.

Episode Rating: Decent (Hey, anything with Pamela Hensley is decent).

Next up: Biddi-biddi-biddi…uh, oh. “Twiki Is Missing”.

The first post in this series can be found here.

Posted by Gary at May 2, 2007 12:00 PM | TrackBack