1 9 7 9 – 1 9 8 1 (USA)
37 x 60 minute episodes
The year is 1987 (the future!) and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes.
In a freak mishap Ranger 3 and its pilot Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers (Gil Gerard) are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems and returns him to Earth 504 years later . . .
Rogers awakens from deep sleep in 2491 to find Earth in the aftermath of a late 20th Century nuclear holocaust, now trying to fight off attacks from the Draconians – led by beautiful but evil Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and her henchman, Kane (originally Henry Silva and then Michael Ansara).
Because of his piloting skills, Rogers becomes a valuable member of the Earth Defense Directorate, which is headed by Dr Elias Huer (Tim O’Connor).
Buck also finds himself a part of a fighter squadron headed by very sexy pilot babe Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray).
Among his other compatriots are Twiki, a likeable robot (pictured at left and voiced by Mel Blanc) who becomes Buck’s pal, and Dr Theopolis (voiced by Eric Server), a mechanical brain who is part of Earth’s Computer Council – usually seen as a disc around Twiki’s neck.
In the second season, Buck, Wilma, and Twiki join the crew of a starship named Searcher and the show becomes a kind of second-rate Star Trek rip-off.
The ship, commanded by Admiral Asimov (geddit?), is on a mission to locate the lost tribes of Earth, humans who fled their home after the nuclear holocaust.
Aboard the Searcher are also scientist Dr Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and Crichton, a snobbish robot (voiced by Jeff David) built by Dr Goodfellow and Twiki.
The humans are later joined by Hawk (Thom Christopher) – a half-man, half-bird from the planet Throm – whose people were hunted almost to extinction by a band of murderous humans.
Producer Glen A. Larson capitalised on the thirst for fast-paced, effects-laden sci-fi following the success of Star Wars (1977). In quick succession, he launched Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century into orbit, even reusing props from the former in the latter.
The source for Buck Rogers was a character who had debuted in pulp adventure stories in 1928 and adapted for comic strips, radio and a serial starring Flash Gordon‘s Buster Crabbe.
Originally intended as a series of TV movies, Larson’s Buck Rogers first took flight on the big screen as a film that earned $21 million at the box office. NBC duly commissioned the TV series.
Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers
Colonel Wilma Deering
Dr Elias Huer
Voice of Twiki
Mel Blanc (1)
Bob Elyea (2)
Eric Server (voice)
Henry Silva (1)
Michael Ansara (2)
Jeff David (voice)