Thursday, January 9, 2014

Buck Rogers 1.8: “Return of the Fighting 69th”

Airdate: 10/25/79

What’s so important about recovering a stolen America freighter, Buck wants to know, especially after two cadets died in the failed attempt. The thieves are actually gunrunners, threatening the earth with nerve gas as a vendetta against being nearly burned alive by a attack by Wilma Deering, long before Buck entered the picture. Also pissed at Wilma: the elder members of the Fighting 69th, led by Noah Cooper (Peter Graves), whom she grounded when they failed their physicals due to old age. Noah and his gang accept the offer to fly into an asteroid belt and thwart the villainous plot, which Buck and Wilma conduct ground operations that includes the rescue of an orphaned girl now suffering under the captivity of evil Roxanne Trent, whose severed hand is replaced with a powerful metal claw. With mission accomplished, the 69th is reinstated to active duty, the girl reunited with her parents.

So-so heart-warmer is abetted by he presence of always-reliable Peter Graves, who at this point is only a few months away from his career-changing role in Airplane! (and comedy, as well as airplane disaster films, would never be the same again). Villains here are more campy than creepy, and the story of the mute girl is never given the dramatic weight is deserves. It would be awhile before we get another geriatric space adventure – that would be Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys – let’s hope we don’t have as long to wait for someone else to tap into this underexplored genre!

Are we so immature these days that we could never title a serious episode with the number "69" in it?

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