Monday, March 10, 2014

Buck Rogers 2.9: “The Satyr”

Airdate: 3/12/81

Buck heads to another Earth-like planet (how convenient!) to investigate a lost colony of humans – what he finds is a boy and his mother, who seems to be continuosly threatened by a fierce ogre-like satyr (half-man, half goat), who won’t go away until he gets his everlovin’ food and wine. Buck can’t figure out why she won’t leave, until the revelation that her own husband, the original founder of the colony, was infected with a virus and turned into one of the mean satyrs that are currently threatening her now. It’s the same virus that appears to be infecting… Buck! And now the race is on for him to help mother and son get safe and sound to another planet – before he turns whole-hog satyr and winds up joining the others in all-you-can-eat and drink debauchery. Fortunately the Searcher finds and rescues him, and gives him the shave he so desperately needs.

Wild episode weirdly vacillates between buffononish, cheap camp and, believe it or not, genuine terror as the satyrs wreak their havoc and Buck eerily starts to become one of them. Credit good makeup and effective growly sound effects for creating this effect, and give Anne E. Curry her due, while you’re at it, for imbuing her victim role with an appealing mix of vulnerability and compassion. A well crafted storyline here as well – with a bit of a tragic ending relating to the accidental but bound-to-happen death of the husband-turned-satyr. But he had a good, teary redemption scene before he met his maker, at least.

Just a brief observation regarding the continued flirting between Buck and Wilma: it’s too bad the plots never did anything with their relationship. I guess it’s not in the nature of a sci-fi series to do anything serialized or dealing with – gasp! – relationships, but some kind of romance, whether ill-fated or not, would’ve been good for the ratings. Alas, never meant to be, so the couple sadly went the way of Diana Prince and Steve Trevor.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Buck Rogers 2.8: “The Crystals”

Airdate: 3/5/81

Buck, Hawk and Wilma go exploring on a weird, earth-like planet with the intention of harvesting valuable red crystals that can be used as a power supply for the Searcher. Problem: an ostensibly inanimate mummy-like creature starts messing around with their shuttle – and later stealing their crystals. And then there’s a beautiful, white toga-wearing girl with no name or memory, but having a particular fondness for Buck. He and Wilma try to tap into her memory for more information, but they discover, along with Chrichton and his research, that the girl is part of species on an evolutionary track to transform into those beastly mummies. When she finds out, she’s horrified, but it turns out Chrichton was looking at his info backwards. That mummy is now a human – and the girl (whom Buck named Laura) is happy with her newfound companion.

Genuinely strange episode has a loopy plot and some pretty cheap-looking production values, starting with the “mummy monster,” which looks more like Swamp Thing than anything else. And who came up with the “reverse-evolution” idea that seems to threaten our maiden in distress? Silly, goofy stuff, barely redeemed by a early performance by Amanda Wyss as the girl. It’s sort of a throwback to the first season’s cavalcade of beauties. 

First episode to (finally) bring back Mel Blanc as the voice of Twikki. Evidently, there was a hue and a cry when Season 2 began without him. Unfortunately, they waited too long, and any Twikki fans by now had jumped ship.

Buck Rogers 2.7: “The Golden Man”

Airdate: 2/19/81

The Searcher gets collides with and gets stuck in a huge asteroid; concurrently, they harbor a floating life pod and its passenger: a golden skinned boy looking for help in rescuing his also golden companion from a nearby planet. Buck obliges, but his work is cut out for him when the planet turns out to be a fierce penal colony. It doesn’t take long for the golden man’s captors to realize he has powers of molecularly altering any kind of metal – it just might help escape their planetary prison – but Buck and the boy succeed in freeing the golden man and getting both mutants back to their ship, where they use the man’s powers to lighten its weight and dislodge themselves from the nasty rock.

Clever, intriguing story has some nice surprises (especially the “twist” ending), once you get past the cheesy gold makeup and doofy wigs sported by the golden pair. (It also doesn’t help that the penal colony looks a heckofa lot like the Universal studios backlot). You will probably recognize prolific juvenile star David Hollander as the boy, or if you don’t the voice will give it away. Of course he is probably best remembered as the “little boy with coffee” in Airplane! Sorry, Erin Gray fans, not much Wilma here as she stays on the Searcher along with the others.

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