Every single Saturday, early evening time, when there really wasn’t much sci-fi on British TV, nerds like me were glued to the enormous CRT televisions that took up half of the living room. The only other way to get a sci-fi fix was to slide some bad B-movie rented from the local video store into an equally as enormous top-loading, lever-operated VCR. Eighties nostalgia, you just can’t beat it.
The cat was inside, dinner just had to simmer now and silence was insisted upon…as the opening narrative began…
The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William “Buck” Rogers, are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems, and returns Buck Rogers to Earth… 500 years later…
For anyone whose age currently starts with a “4” this was our Star Trek and just as that series had inspired the generation before us, so this one electrified the imagination of children across the country.
So many experiences came as a result of this show. I fell in love with Colonel Wilma Deering, I was utterly terrified when I saw the Space Vampire and I so badly wanted an Earth Defense Directorate Starfighter instead of my Raleigh Grifter.
Following the success of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, Glen A. Larson developed Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for television. Props, costumes, effects shots and sets from Battlestar Galactica, which was still in production at the time, were recycled for the series. The series ran for two seasons in America from 1979 to 1981. ITV began showing Buck Rogers on 30th August 1980. It was in the same Saturday timeslot that the BBC began screening season 18 of Doctor Who with Tom Baker.
Due to Buck Rogers’ popularity, Doctor Who’s ratings fell from a series high of 16.1 million to a low of 3.7 million – the lowest ratings in the programme’s history. This prompted the BBC to move Doctor Who to a weekday evening slot. The BBC began airing repeats of Buck Rogers on BBC Two in 1989 and again in 1995-96.
It starred Gil Gerard as Buck Rogers and Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering with Tim O’Connor, Pamela Hensley and Mel Blanc as the voice of Twiki making up the team in season one.
Now all 33 episodes, across both seasons, are now fully restored in hi-definition and will be available soon. This HD version has been available in Australia a while back and a SD collection was released in Germany, for some reason, but it’s the first time this has been available in Europe.
Virtually every episode of season one has a cult status, from the afore mentioned “Space Vampire” (S1, Ep12) to “Planet of the Slave Girls” (S1, Ep2) to…er, “Planet of the Amazon Women” (S1, Ep8) to Jamie Lee Curtis’ appearance in “Unchained Woman” (S1, Ep7) to Gary Coleman basically playing Arnold Jackson in “Cosmic Whiz Kid” (S1, Ep9).
It had the attitude of Star Trek (1966) and the exotic style of Flash Gordon (1980). However, the second season wasn’t quite as much of a cult hit. Yes indeed, remember that second season when our intergalactic idols where aboard the research vessel Searcher? That was when Erin Gray went back to her natural brunette hair colour, the character Hawk (a token Mr Spock equivalent) was introduced and Wilfrid Hyde-White and the incredibly annoying robot Crichton.
The series was revamped for the second season to give it a more serious tone, a move largely pushed by Gil Gerard. Despite the series achieving moderately good ratings during the first season, Gerard was displeased with its light, tongue-in-cheek tone, and frequently clashed with producers over content.
Regardless, this is a welcome trip down Amnesia Lane and will remind us all how old we really are.
Release Date: April 2nd 2018
Release Type: Blu-Ray
Running Time: 1896 mins