Base on the classic serials of the 1930s, Captain Buck Rogers is accidentally put in suspended animation during a 1987 space launch. He wakes up 500 years later to find Earth under attack from the Draconians. Earths Terrans suspect he may be an enemy spy
With his eyes on the Star Wars prize, producer Glen A Larson had already devised the pulp sci-fi adventure Battlestar Galactica, but didn’t rest there, re-inventing the classic space ace Buck Rogers as created by author Philip Francis Nowlan and first personified by Buster Crabbe in the late ‘30s. In modernising the idea of this time-travelling astronaut well out-of-his-water in a far-flung future Earth, he kept strictly to the Lucas formula: dogfights galore, a screwy semi-aristocratic social structure and bleeping, comedy robots. It was also, akin to Galactica, the launching pad for a mildly successful television series.
Larson, with his rented director Daniel Haller, does retain something of the flavour of the ‘30s or, better, the ‘50s – the bad guys, the Draconians, are pseudo-Mongols, stand-ins for the yellow peril of Communist China, and the film has daft dance sequences and social restraints, making the film feel absurdly old-fashioned. Elsewhere it is simply a cheap Star Wars knock-off. The smug Gil Gerard, painfully sucking in his gut for the skin-tight white future-suit, dashes about, a plank with a haircut, hoping to echo the swagger of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and missing by light-years. The wobbly, copper-plated midget droid Twiki is fun for about three scenes then just irritates. And the sets and space action are just restricted by its lack of budget, something that could have emboldened a more comic –book knowingness, but the creators are playing even the comedy dead straight.
The only redeeming facet in the whole sappy adventure, is Erin Gray’s schoolboy fantasy Wilma Deering, a tough, gorgeous space pilot. But even here the script is too coy and childish to allow sex appeal to reach the stars.
Star Wars it wasn't and still isn't...camp 70's space stuff but the TV series spin-off is a fond memory for 30-somethings throughout the Western World.