Thursday, August 25, 2011

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

With my history of science fiction show marathoning and my penchant for cheesy storytelling from before my time, do you really think I could have possibly passed this one by?

No way. As soon as I saw that Netflix had this entire show, I threw it into my queue and let the amazingness commence.

If you are unfamiliar, the show follows Buck Rogers, an American astronaut who goes out on a mission for one of NASA’s last deep space projects in 1984. His capsule gets flung into this crazy orbit which freezes his life support and keeps him in stasis until he returns to Earth in the 25th Century. There he meets Wilma Dearing, pilot and leader of the Earth’s defense squadrons, Dr. Theopolis, a sentient portable computer responsible for much of the Earth’s scientific work, and Theo’s ambuquad Twiki, a smartass robot with unusual fortitude and loyalty. Together, they defend the Earth from the cunning conquerors, the Draconians, rescue damsels in distress, and save the day throughout the galaxy. Later, on a mission to discover the fates of the lost Earth colonies, these heroes are joined by Hawk, the last of the ancient race of hawk men, Dr. Goodfellow, an old scientist, and Chrichton, a very proud and slightly delusional robot.

I love this stuff. It goes right to the happy centers of my brain. Lessons in tolerance and equality disguised with bad make-up and spandex? Hilariously choreographed martial arts and bad reaction shots to laser weapons? Roller discos? Buck Rogers is a flood of those things and I swam through it grinning like a madman. It is feel–good-TV with stories from a time when storytellers believed in the good ol’ American hero and everything he stood for.

There were times, of course, when the lessons were heavy handed and there was a stretch of time when Twiki has a radically different voice that threw me off, but I still enjoyed every episode.

One thing that I really had fun with was Buck and Wilma’s relationship. The male lead and female lead almost always fall in love and get together, right? Well, with these two, I spent the whole series trying to figure out how they fit. At the start of the show, it certainly looked like they would hook up. The kind, chivalrous Buck Rogers had made the stony Colonel Dearing discover that she had a heart and Captain Buck Rogers, as dashing and charming as he is (which, of course, results in an endless stream of admirers), never fell for the other damsels’ charms because he knew he had Wilma waiting for him.

But they never really made any moves further than that. Buck flirted with pretty girls sometimes, but he always went back to Wilma with a laugh and one of those special between-two-close-people smiles. Wilma wasn’t ever really interested in other men, except for one or two blokes she was with in the past, but she didn’t ever really claim Buck as hers either. In fact, she was perfectly fine with, and sometimes encouraged, Buck’s interactions with his multitudes of beautiful women who inevitably fell in love with him. She only ever displayed jealousy or disapproved at all when Buck had to play along with the Draconian Princess Ardala’s flirt-and-conquer games. Buck and Wilma even acknowledge their budding romantic feelings to each other during one episode, but they never really kiss or acknowledge a courting relationship of any kind. And yet, when on board The Searcher, it looked to me like they shared quarters for a bit (I could be mistaken there) and make the kinds of jokes that long term couples make.

Anyway, I found that fascinating and I like seeing that kind of relationship in the leads. It’s something that I wish more shows would adapt now. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it in a show from the 1970s.

Also, I wasn’t expecting so many shared smoldering glances between Hawk and Buck.

Apparently, all shows I watch have some kind of queertastic subtext. Seriously, I don’t think Buck gave that many roguish grins to the combination of all the ladies he met. And there was a drop in damsels in distress falling in love with Buck after Hawk came into the picture…

It makes one wonder….

Or I’m just projecting my queerness all over the place.

The point is that I had a blast with this series and I fully intend to watch it again sometime in the future.

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