May 23, 2007

Gratuitous Buck Blogging

With “Ardala Returns”, the “Buck Rogers” writers returned to a familiar formula – hot women and space battles. Then, inexplicably, the producers decide to air what can only be described as two episodic “speedbumps” heading into the beginning of the February sweeps period – “Twiki Is Missing” & “Olympiad”.

Ep. 1.18 “Twiki is missing” (1/31/80)

I’m not going to spend too much time on these sub-par episodes. Suffice to say that despite the title of this one, Twiki never really is “missing”. He’s just kidnapped by the ruler of a mining colony named Kurt Belzak who’s run into labor problems. It seems ambuquads are ideal for that kind of dangerous work - plus they don't go on strike or take smoking breaks. But Belzak wants Twiki in particular because Buck's influence and Jedi training have made him special. So the plan is to create a workforce full of Twikis. Of course, replicating him means having to take him apart.

You think Buck is going to stand for that? Not when his little buddy is in trouble. Belzak has at his disposal three chicks called the “Omniguard” who together can use their telekinetic powers to work his will. The girls, led by Stella, overpower Buck and steal Twiki after he refuses a generous purchase price. Unlike the other two, however, Stella doesn't want to be bad. Belzak has threatened to kill her son if she doesn't comply. Buck persuades Stella to become the weak link in the Omniguard chain and he escapes with Twiki.

"Omniguard powers...ACTIVATE!"

Pretty lame story, huh? Well, at least there’s always Wilma, right?

Forget it.

Wilma spends the whole time in her ship pulling a giant space iceberg with a tractor beam. What are the writers thinking here? I mean how about a sweet catfight between the lovely Colonel and one of the Omiguard chicks? Or better yet how about two on one or three on one. Missed opportunity, gentlemen. Missed opportunity.

Episode Rating: Pass (No catsuits, no catfights, no nuthin')

Well, at least the episode that followed was topical:

Ep. 1.19 “Olympiad” (2/7/80)

This is one of those episodes where – as a kid – you don’t question the obvious plot holes like the fact that everybody in the galaxy looks human, speaks English and uses the metric system.

It seems that the Olympic games are just so darn popular that they’ve gone intergalactic. They still even do it every four years. And 2492 just happens to be one of those years. Ironic how some traditions manage to withstand a thermonuclear holocaust, eh? And what better marketing move by the Olympic Committee than to invite a guy from the 20th Century to kick off the games?

The story is basically Romeo and Juliet meet the Cold War, updated on an interplanetary scale. Two athletes from different worlds are star-crossed lovers who only get to see each other when they meet at the games. Talk about a drought. The athletes, Jorex and Lara, both want to defect so they can be together. The Directorate is prepared to offer them asylum on Earth. The problem is that the powers that be from Jorex’s planet, Lozeria, have installed something called a disharmonizor in his head. If activated, the device can basically scramble his brains. It acts as a pretty handy deterrent against Jorex’s desire to defect.

Umm, Lara? What say you let me take the controls and you can play with my joystick?

Like the Soviets of the 1980’s, the Lozerians take these games pretty seriously and refuse to suffer the embarrassment of losing one of their star athletes.

Lara’s event is the astrosled, which is basically a spaceship that's supposed to fly through a track made of force fields in space. In order to make the disharmonizer in Jorex’s head useless, Buck flies the astrosled with Jorex and Lara through the Stargate – which puts them out of range of the activation device.

OK, why use the astrosled instead of Buck’s ship? Because it’s easier for them to leave the planet undetected that way. See? They do come up with plausible explanations sometimes. Of course, you can ask why doesn’t Lara just pilot the astrosled being as she’s the expert? Umm. OK, you got me there. But then, how else can you have Buck save the day?

The one interesting footnote to this episode is that it was aired about a week before the actual 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY. And you would think that one of NBC’s drivers behind the plot would be to cross-promote their coverage of the Olympics. But actually it was ABC who did the coverage that year. NBC had the summer games and they got skunked when Jimmah Carter pulled the US out from participation because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Which, as we all now, really showed the Russians what they were dealing with.

I’m not sure which was lamer, that brilliant move on Carter’s part or this episode in general.

Episode Rating: Pass (Not as boring as coverage of the real Olympics, but pretty close)

Next up: Sheba from the old "Battlestar Galactica" makes an appearance in “A Dream Of Jennifer”.

The first post in this series can be found here.

Posted by Gary at May 23, 2007 12:00 PM | TrackBack