Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is an American motion picture produced by Universal Studios and released in 1979, and is also the title of a television series based upon the film that was aired by NBC for two seasons between 1979 and 1981.
The film and series were based upon the Buck Rogers character that had been featured in comic strips and novellas since the 1920s.
The series showed a more positive picture of future Earth. The Inner City was renamed New Chicago, and it was established that human civilization had spread once again across the planet, and also to the stars. After the movie pilot, little reference to barren wastelands was made; in several episodes Buck ventures beyond the dome of New Chicago with no hazards encountered. As opposed to the isolationist planet seen in the film, Earth is shown to be the center of an interstellar human-dominated government, sometimes called "the Federation", other times "the Alliance", with its capital at New Chicago. During the first season, references were also made to other "new" Earth cities such as New Detroit, New Manhattan, New Phoenix, and New Tulsa. A "City-on-the-Sea" was also mentioned as being the former New Orleans.
Not much can be said with certainty about the nature of the Earth's government. It is plausible, but speculative, to assume that the 'Federation' refers to the city-states of Earth such as New Chicago, New Detroit, etc, and is thus the formal government of the planet Earth, and that the Alliance is Earth plus it's off-world possessions, colonies, etc. Some support for this idea might be found in the episode "Planet of the Slave Girls", in which we see that a world is governed by a 'governor' answerable to the Terran state, it's not clear that the natives/settlers of the planet have any direct input into their governance, but whether this is typical or a special case is also not clear. Kaleel's world might be a conquered planet, or a territorial possession of some sort, and not typical of the Terran demesne.
Likewise, little can be said of the organization of the government of Terra. It is canonically known that it is divided into various 'directorates', the Food and Defense Directorates, at least, are mentioned by name. How the directorates operate and how they relate to each other is not clear. A 'computer council' is mentioned occasionally, but humans such as Dr. Huer also clearly have significant powers.
One speculation, based on the use of the title 'doctor' for so many appareantly political positions, is that the title 'doctor' has come to make reference to political power rather than academic achievement. Again, this is purely speculative.)
Most of the protagonistic characters we encounter are either part of the Defense Directorate, such as Wilma Deering, or otherwise associated with it, such as 'freelance' personnel such as Buck Rogers. Most Defense Directorate personnel seem to regard Buck as being at least an 'honorary' captain, in reference to his pre-War American military rank, but it is usually said that his membership in Earth's defense forces is unofficial. Nevertheless, Buck often flies with the fight squadrons, and assists in their training.
It is not clear whether Dr. Huer is head of the Defense Directorate specifically, of if he is the overall leader of all the directorates, the hints seem to trend toward the later (or perhaps the head of the Defense Directorate is also the head of the other directorates constitutionally, which could be the case). Dr. Huer does appear to be the voice of Earth's 'foreign policy', it is almost invariably Dr. Huer who meets, greets, and otherwise deals with representatives of other sovereign powers, and who sometimes 'faces them down' in hostile situations. Huer also has been seen in military uniform (at formal occasions), thus indicating that he is a member of the military (past or present).
Travel between the stars was accomplished with the use of stargates; these devices were only shown as a diamond-shaped quartet of brilliant lights that shimmered when a vessel was making transit. Some people appear to find the transit from stargate to stargate physically unpleasant, Buck Rogers is portrayed as disliking them on at least once occasion.
To portray futuristic-looking buildings on Earth, the show used stock shots of the remaining national pavilions of Expo 67, particularly the French and British pavilions as well as shots of the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Juanin Clay, who played Marla Landers in the first season episode "Vegas in Space", was originally cast as Wilma for the television series before Erin Gray decided to return. In the first season Buck had a different girlfriend every week. Producers demanded that Wilma have blond hair. Repeated dye jobs were needed to lighten Erin Gray's brunette locks to an appropriately bright yellow. During the final episodes of the first season, Gray was allowed to return to her natural hair color, and Wilma was dark-haired thereafter. A relationship between Rogers and Wilma was hinted at, but rarely expanded upon. His best-known enemy during the first season was Princess Ardala of Draconia, played by Pamela Hensley, whose desire was to conquer and possess both Earth and Buck Rogers.
Although popular with viewers, the first season failed to receive much critical acclaim; it was seen as being too light-hearted and comic bookish. One vocal critic of the series was Gerard himself. He pushed for more serious storytelling and conflicted with the producers over the show's tone. "He was a smart-ass," Gerard said of Buck. "Dr Huer is trying to tell him about an assignment and all Buck is doing is making one wisecrack after another."
The opening title sequence included stock footage from the Apollo 4 and Apollo 6 launches.
The series had an overall budget of $800,000 per hour of air time, according to Starlog #32.
Questo serial aveva enormi possibilit?. Tra i suoi creatori poteva vantare Glen A. Larson (che aveva gi? creato ?Galactica?), e il personaggio vantava una longevit? enorme: protagonista di un racconto del 1928, poi di una serie a fumetti nel 1929, quindi una serie radiofonica nel 1932 e un film a puntate nel 1939 (interpretato dal Buster Crabbe di ?Flash Gordon?). E nel 1950 c?era stata una prima serie televisiva, peraltro non memorabile.Il soggetto ? ampiamente noto: William ?Buck? Rogers, ex pilota della I guerra mondiale, rimane intrappolato in una caverna e subisce l?effetto di un gas radioattivo che lo pone in stato di animazione sospesa per 500 anni. Si risveglia nel XXV secolo e riesce, anche in quell?epoca futura, a tornare a fare il pilota in una guerra che lo contrappone a Killer Kane, un imperatore mongolo che vuole conquistare la Terra insieme alla sua alleata Ardala. A combattere a fianco di Buck il geniale Dr. Huer e la bella Wilma Deering (la storia, si badi bene, ? anteriore ai fumetti di Flash Gordon).
Nel 1979 Glen A. Larson ottenne i diritti sul personaggio e pens? bene di renderlo pi? ?attuale?...
Era il pieno boom delle discoteche e della disco-music, per cui le ambientazioni e i costumi ne presero ispirazione a piene mani.
Secondariamente, il femminismo era una realt?, o quanto meno era molto pi? avanzato rispetto al 1928: Wilma (Erin Gray) quindi divenne un colonnello, anche se di fatto continu? a dover essere salvata da Buck (Gil Gerard) come il perso- naggio originale. Il femminismo influenz? anche le figure dei ?cattivi?: la principes- sa Ardala (Pamela Hensley) divenne la ?cattiva? principale, mentre Killer Kane (Henry Silva) da imperatore divenne semplicemente uno dei suoi scagnozzi...
Il personaggio di Buck Rogers sub? un ulteriore cambiamento rispetto all?originale. In origine era il tipo del ?duro malinconico?, un uomo che si trovava costretto a vivere in un?epoca che non era la sua e che aveva perso ogni riferimento, quindi fondamentalmente solo.Invece, il Buck Rogers degli anni ?80 era in primo luogo un personaggio scanzonato, e le storie (gi? poco consistenti di per se stesse...) sconfinavano spesso nella commedia.
Il primo episodio apparve al cinema (e giunse anche in Italia con il titolo ?Capitan Rogers nel XXV secolo?) ed ebbe un discreto successo. Purtroppo Glen A. Larson non si occup? molto della serie, e gli episodi che seguirono furono tutto sommato divertenti ma nulla di memorabile. Gil Gerard si trov? in contrasto con gli sceneggiatori, che abbandonarono il progetto.
Il risultato fu che la seconda serie fu ai limiti del ridicolo. Buck e Wilma vennero trasferiti sull?astronave ?Searcher? alla ricerca di colonie umane perdute, scimmiottando terribilmente ?Galactica?.
Al cast venne aggiunto il personaggio
dell?alieno Hawk, il cui aspetto cercava di ricordare gli uccelli (piume al posto dei capelli...) e il cui carattere poteva ricordare vagamente il sig. Spock di ?Star Trek?. Altri personaggi nuovi furono il Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White), anziano scienziato con un caratteristico pullover (sic), e Krichton, un antipatico robot che fatalmente rub? la scena a Twiki.
Ci fu persino il personaggio dell?ammiraglio Asimov (Jay Gardner), che nella finzione era proprio un discendente del famoso scrittore di fantascienza Isaac (sic). I cattivi originali (pur apparsi nella prima serie) scomparvero. Inutile dire che l?audience croll?, e la serie fin? miseramente.
Tuttavia in Italia entrambe le serie vennero trasmesse dalle TV private, che grazie al cielo a quei tempi non erano ossessionate dall?audience permettendoci di vedere un po? di tutto, sia pure nel bene e nel male.