Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Buck Rogers 1.7: “Plot to Kill a City, Part 2”

Airdate: 10/18/79

With his cover blown, Buck frantically tries on a new alias – the emergency identity that the Directorate set up for him, but Kellogg somehow knows that one’s a fraud too. Do you smell a rat? As it happens, there’s a spy afoot, and both Huer and Deering intend to deal with him, New Chicago style. Meanwhile, Buck needs to stop the Legion of Death from sabotaging an anti-matter reactor and destroying a huge chunk of earth – it happened before to the home planet of Varek, one of the Kellogg’s boys, and that’s precisely why he turns around and defies his boss’s orders, fighting for the good guys at the end. It looks pretty hopeless, especially when the Legion holds one of the reactor’s engineer’s family hostage to get access to the facility, but not to worry: Buck and Wilma blast away the baddies and save New Chicago from total annihilation.

Part 2 being slightly better than part 1, the episode squeaks by as a moderate success. Some touching emotional notes here, particularly from Varek’s maskless confessional in which he relays how the earth must not suffer the same destruction of his own planet, where children “must look at their own disfigured faces every day.” Spunky Markie Post continues to charm as Buck’s quasi-love interest (maybe in one of these episodes he’ll have a real love interest), and Kellogg wonds up being a bit more Darth Vadery in his general menace. But no need for this to have been a two-parter; too much of it drags or is simply unnecessary.

And there’s one thing that I’ve noticed about the series thus far. Because it appears that much of the outer-space fighter plane shots are stock footage r recycled shots simply inserted into the action, the viewer gets a feeling of spatial disorientation. The spaceships are never clearly identified, and we get attacks and explosions without really understanding who got whom (Kellogg’s anticlimactic death scene is a perfect example of this). Clearly, the producers are mimicking the final attack scene in Star Wars, but there, George Lucas was very careful with  his match-of-action editing to make it clear who and where everybody is. Wars’ dogfights were works of art; Buck’s are just video games.

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