Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is an American science fiction series that ran from 1979 to 1981. The feature-length Pilot Movie was released theatrically several months before the series itself aired, inspired by the success of Star Wars two years earlier. The film and series were based upon the Buck Rogers character created by Philip Francis Nowlan that had been featured in comic strips and novellas since the 1920s, and on the CBS and Mutual radio networks, airing several times each week from 1932 to 1947.

    The series starred Gil Gerard as Captain William "Buck" Rogers, a US Air Force pilot who commands "Ranger 3", a space shuttle-like ship that is launched in 1987. Because of a freak combination of gases, he is frozen in space for 504 years and is revived in the 25th century. There, he learns that the Earth was united following a devastating nuclear war in 1988, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Forces, headquartered in New Chicago. The latest threat to Earth comes from the spaceborne armies of the planet Draconia, who are planning an invasion. Aiding him are Col. Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), a Starfighter pilot, and Dr. Elias Huer, head of Earth Defense Forces, and a former star pilot himself.

    Tropes used in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century include:
    • Action Girl: Wilma Deering.
    • After the End: The series proper takes place after a nuclear war in 1988.
    • Alternate Universe: "Flight Of the War Witch".
    • Always Save the Girl: Subverted in an episode where the Evil Alien Computer put Buck through having to choose between Wilma Deering and Hawk (an alien from a Proud Warrior Race of birdmen). He chose Hawk because he guessed that Wilma was really a double put in by the Evil Alien Computer because the real Wilma Deering wouldn't have been such a wuss.
    • Ancient Astronauts: Part of Hawk's backstory; his race lived on Earth in the distant past until humans drove them into space.
    • Artificial Intelligence: The Computer Council, although the only member we got to see regularly was Dr. Theopolis. Also Twiki and Crichton.
    • Ascended Fanboy: Tim O'Connor as Dr. Huer.
    • Badass Grandpa: all members of the titular squadron in "Return of the Fighting 69th".
    • Banana In the Tailpipe: Buck's master plan to foil Ardala's surprise attack on Earth in the pilot movie -- load missiles into the exhaust pipes of the Draconian fighter ships. A few seconds after takeoff... BOOM!
    • Beware the Superman: A regular plot in the first season.
    • Bilingual Dialogue: Twiki communicates in beedees as well as in English. Buck can eventually understand them, although initially he needs Dr. Theopolis to translate.
    • Boxed Crook: After capturing Hawk in the second season premiere, he's effectively left in the custody of Buck and the crew of the Searcher. Hawk agrees to cooperate in the hope that they might find other Lost Colonies of his people.
    • By the Eyes of the Blind: The Vorvon in the episode "Space Vampire" could only be seen by its intended victim.
    • Canon Discontinuity: A viewer who missed the opening episode could easily go the whole series without realizing there was a radioactive wasteland full of savages waiting just outside New Chicago. And that's just as well, perhaps.
    • Captain Ersatz: Dr. Theopolis & Twiki for C-3P0 and R2-D2.
    • Catch Phrase: Beedeebeedeebeedee.
    • Clip Show: The episode "A Blast For Buck".
    • Clothing Damage / Carpet of Virility: Gil Girard's hirsute chest is displayed on more than one occasion.
    • Cold Sleep, Cold Future
    • Cool Ship: Hawk's bird-shaped spaceship.
    • Cool Starship: The Searcher from the second season.
    • Coy Girlish Flirt Pose: Wilma.
    • Crystal Spires and Togas: The city of Oasis.
    • Daddy's Little Villain: Princess Ardala of Draconia is at least as evil as her father Emperor Drako.
    • Death by Origin Story: Hawk's girlfriend Kourie. She shows up again in a hallucination in a later episode.
    • Defrosting Ice Queen: Wilma Deering.
    • Domed Hometown: New Chicago.
    • The Dragon: Tiger Man (his name is a Shout-Out to the Martian Tiger Men of the original comic). Later replaced by Panther Man.
    • The Empire: The Draconian Empire.
    • Enemy Mine: Buck and Hawk, at the beginning of the second season. Hawk then joins the heroes.
    • Evil Diva: In "Space Rockers", the music of the band Andromeda is used by their producer to drive the youth of the galaxy to riot in a bid for power.
    • Explosive Leash
    • Exty Years From Now: Averted. Buck stays frozen for a non-round 504 years.
    • Fakeout Escape: In "Flight of the War Witch", Buck, Princess Ardala and a Pendaran captive use this to get out of their cell. Buck and the captive use a Ceiling Cling to hide, while Princess Ardala simply hides under the bed.
    • Fan Service: Erin Gray in spandex jumpsuits and miniskirts. Pamela Hensley in even less.
      • And the opening credits to the theatrical version of the pilot episode.
    • Femme Fatale: Princess Ardala.
    • Fighter Launching Sequence
    • Fire-Forged Friends: Hawk and Buck.
    • Fish Out of Temporal Water
    • Food Pills: Notably in "Planet of the Slave Girls".
    • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: The theme tune had lyrics that were sung by Kip Lennon during the opening credits of the original Pilot Movie.
    • The Future
    • Future Imperfect: There were few records of the 20th century, so 25th century historians confused a hairdryer with an "early model hand laser".
      • In "Return of the Fighting 69th", a 20th-century belt-fed machine gun is mistaken by the bad guys for an "ancient communications device". They are suitably surprised when a captured Buck demonstrates its proper use during his escape.

    Buck: Get the message?

    • Future Music: Complete with an entire episode devoted to the idea.
    • Future Spandex: In the first season, Colonel Deering and Buck sometimes wore spandex jumpsuits.
    • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Buck saves a rookie pilot from being jumped by pirates, the pilot's instructor chimes in:

    Major Danton: Recon One, I appreciate your concern, but I'd appreciate it all the more if next time you'd refrain from interfering in a Directorate training mission!
    Buck: What? If you call that "interfering", there's something wrong with your Funk & Wagnalls!

    (Which is also a Shout-Out to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.)
    • Girl of the Week: To the point where they did a Lampshade Hanging of it halfway through first season.
    • Hammer and Sickle Removed For Your Protection: In "Testimony of a Traitor" it was revealed that just before Buck left Earth, there was a conspiracy of high-ranking American officers to launch a first strike against "The Other Side".
    • Harmless Freezing: For 500 years...
    • Heavyworlder: A one-shot character by the name of Toman, who used his heightened strength to become a hitman. Another heavy worlder in an earlier episode had telekinetic powers.
    • Heel Realization: Poor Ardala, in "Flight of the War Witch".
    • Hollywood Law: In "Testimony of a traitor" Buck is brought up on charges of supposedly being part of a rogue conspiracy to make an atomic first strike. Except the charge given was "treason". The proper charge is "war crimes." Buck is never accused of being traitorous to Terra which did not exist politically at the time. And Terra in turn has no jurisdiction by which to charge for treason against the United States.
    • Human Popsicle: Buck himself.
    • Insufferable Genius: Crichton, who substituted for Dr. Theopolis as Robotic Smart Guy in the second season.
    • Ironic Echo Cut: When Buck is on trial and Dr. Theopolis is defending him.

    Dr. Theopolis: We haven't a thing to worry about.
    Judge: Captain Rogers, the council finds you guilty.

    • Lady Land: The planet Xantia, as seen in "Planet of the Amazon Women".
    • The Lancer: Hawk from the second season.
    • Last of His Kind: Hawk, the last survivor of a Lost Colony of hawk-people.
    • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": both in the original pilot movie and in a later episode about space rockers.
    • Lizard Folk: The Saurians.
    • Mechanical Lifeforms: Earth's Computer Council (Dr. Theopolis and his colleagues) are descendants of AI that reached the point of building and programming themselves; they're treated as citizens, and viewed as the saviors of humanity after the nuclear apocalypse.
    • Memory Gambit: In one episode, Buck finds himself on trial for causing World War III. In fact, he had allowed himself to be brainwashed in order to infiltrate a conspiracy in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent World War III.
    • New Neo City: New Chicago.
    • New Old Flame: Mark Lenard's character to Wilma in "Journey To Oasis".
    • Nice Hat: Princess Ardala's horned headress in the pilot is only the first of a long line of fancy crowns and headresses - which no male viewer ever notices.
    • No New Fashions in the Future: Buck's civilian clothes wouldn't look out of place in the late 1970's. The other characters wear clothing that at least looks futuristic (albeit Zeerusted).
    • Notable Original Music: Composer Johnny Harris composed the memorably funky music for the band Andromeda in the episode "Space Rockers". The song was actually released as "Odyssey (Pt. 1)" and became an underground hit. Most recently, it showed up in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, during the "Car Bounce Challenge" mission[1].
      • And you can find it on one of the series' two soundtrack albums.
    • Old School Dogfighting: Pretty much used in every episode. With the same stock footage almost every time.
    • Opening Narration: "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."
    • Petting Zoo People: Hawk (and Kourie).
    • Pilot Movie
    • Pleasure Planet: The episode "Vegas in Space".
    • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Hawk in the second season.
    • Really 700 Years Old: Buck Rogers was born in the 1960s, and is doing his thing in the 2400s.
      • In "Return of the Fighting 69th", Buck notes that the members of the squadron don't look any older than 60 when Wilma informs him that they've all reached the mandatory retirement age... of 85.
    • Retool:
    • Retool: The second season, which tried to Follow The Lead of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.
      • To a lesser extent, the first season is retooled from the pilot movie, where Earth was a scaredy cat backwater burg compared to the rest of the galaxy with roaming gangs of mutants in the barren regions between cities, and where New Chicago is the only point of civilization. The TV series retooled this to feature numerous cities on Earth, and with the planet being part of an interstellar community.
    • Robot Buddy: Twiki, one of the Trope Codifiers.
    • Robot Me: "Ardala Returns".
    • Slept Through the Apocalypse
    • Space Elves: In Journey to Oasis ODX (loosely justified as a genetic experiment gone bad) is a blue-skinned space gnome.
    • Space Fighter: Using rejected models from Battlestar Galactica.
    • Space Opera
    • Space Pirates
    • Spared by the Adaptation: Ardala's bodyguard, Tigerman, was killed in the pilot movie; the TV series version of the story let him live to reappear in future episodes.
    • Stripperific: Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala wore very, very little.
      • And did it oh so well!
    • "Three Laws"-Compliant: Twiki and other Earth-made robots are explicitly "Three Laws"-Compliant - Twiki even quotes the First Law in the second season episode Shgoratchx and a few moments later states all three of them after having his brain inserted in Crichton's body.
    • Trapped in Another World: In the two part episode "Flight of the War Witch", the Pendarans trap Buck, Dr. Huer, Wilma and Princess Ardala's entire flagship in their universe to help them defeat her.
    • Trapped in the Past: A temporal inversion. Buck comes from the past.
    • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: At least during the opening scenes of the pilot, made in 1979, depicting the near-future year of 1987.
    • Ultraterrestrials: Hawk's race evolved from birds and left Earth eons ago.
    • The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: The Ur Example in all incarnations. Even though his education and skills are 500+ years out of date, Buck has absolutely no problem adapting to 25th-century life and exploiting technology to his advantage, and Dr. Huer has no problem sending him on sensitive missions as a result. Buck using 20th century knowledge to solve 25th century problems is the theme of almost every episode. Among the highlights:
      • 20th-century weaponry (including the nerve gas the bad guys have stolen).
      • Sign language (almost unknown in the 25th century) to communicate with a mute servant girl who proves critical to the plot.
      • Electricity (an obsolete technology in the 25th century).
      • Gambling ability (card-counting in a computer-driven casino).
      • Adapting American football plays for use by the Earth Defense Directorate's pilots in squadron maneuvers.
      • Buck is also apparently the only pilot employed by Earth who is not completely dependent upon his ship's targeting computer because of his 20th-century dog-fighting skills.
    • Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The end credits to the pilot feature the theme song's lyrics.
      • And the theatrical version of the pilot features Fan Service images of a swimsuit-clad Pamela Hensley, Erin Gray and an uncredited model. The TV version just uses a standard starfield. The theatrical opening credits also feature the vocal version of the theme song (which is titled "Suspension").
    • Unperson: In the TV series, part of Dr. Huer's argument in favor of Buck becoming a special agent is that, at least at the beginning of the series, he had no legal identity.
    • The Vamp: Princess Ardala.
    • Verbal Tic: Twiki adds "Beedee beedee beedee" to the beginning or end of most sentences, except for the episodes in the second season where Mel Blanc is not doing his voice.
    • Villainesses Want Heroes: Princess Ardala to Buck Rogers, sometimes.
      • Although the only time she makes a really HARD play for him is when she needs a 'suitable' mate to keep her throne. She doesn't get Buck, of course, and it's unclear if she keeps her throne or not.
    • Wagon Train to the Stars
    • Weird Science
    • We've Got Company: "Stop breathing, we've got company!"
    • Yellow Peril: The "Hat" of the Draconians, complete with swarthy Mooks and kabuto Samurai helmets.
    • Zeerust
    1. (Rhythm Games with lowrider cars)