Buck Rogers #5: The Plot to Kill a City, Part 2

"It's the least I can do for a fellow survivor."

WHAT'S UP, BUCK?: The Legion of Death make their move on New Chicago.

REVIEW: This is where it all falls apart. Oh, starts off well enough. Buck is rumbled, but he had a SECOND secret identity to fall back on (clever), though that's gonna get rumbled as well. Sadly, it means mastermind Kellogg gets taken in more than once (at least three times by the first few minutes of the episode). Buck also uses a lot of smoke bombs (always the same polarized oil and water effect, not too convincing) and he and Markie--I mean Joella, push suitcase-bearing robots around to make people topple. The action is a little iffy. Joella has slim motivation to stick with Buck (she's having fun), but together they take Barney's newly-bought ship. Meanwhile, Dr. Huer and Wilma find the Legion's psy on Earth. So far so good, though said spy should do less gloating and more talking once he gets thrown into a cell... in a city that's about to be blown up.

A lot of screen time is given to the villains "convincing" an engineer to let them into a power plant, then doing so. The man has kids. The child-filled park scene spells out the stakes for both him and New Chicago as a whole, but also telegraphs Varek's turn very clearly - he's already let Buck escape and there's no way he's gonna let children burn. The power plant infiltration basically has the engineer say "you'll never get through THIS safety measure" and then one of the Legion's powers making short work of it. Over and over. Seems Marcos and Argus we're really necessary. Of note are the security/maintenance androids, which I guess make sense as the plant is "automated" (something Buck continues to view as an Achilles' heel), and Twiki can't be the only robot around. Different machines have different functions, and thus, outward appearances. And yes, as antimatter containment is compromised, Varek does turn on his "master", and both he and the engineer get shot. But not killed! They'll wake up when Buck and friends arrive and be on hand to help prevent the explosion. What kind of "assassins" are these guys that their blasters aren't set to kill?! Because of the anti-matter particles floating around, Varek is the only one can pull a Star Trek II, hopefully phasing through any dangerous particle. He succeeds and only then gets zapped by antimatter, but no wait, he survives, albeit wounded. The implication is that he's brought back to his planet (by Buck, who relates to him as someone who's "world" was also lost) to die, but that's not really explicit. Anyway, the whole Varek thing was so obvious, there's really very little tension to be had.

It's an okay if bloodless climax, but it's not over until the Legion is brought to justice. So they tack on a dogfight between the bad guys and Terran forces. There's a cool bit where Quince uses his telekinesis to push Buck's fighter in space, but as soon as that's done, woof. Some enemy fighters explode - we don't know which ones - a Terran extra is told to "tow" what's left back to Earth (again, who?), and only later are we told Sherese is on the lam. They never show the deaths or escapes so it's all very abrupt and anticlimactic. Just awful. Part of the flying sequences are on Earth with a blue sky, but the makers should know better than to just use a dead blue screen as background. Doesn't look like sky at all. So the spaceship stuff is a real sore spot here.

And what about Joella? Well, once she's off the "mudball", she's really surplus to requirements, so Buck leaves her with pervy Twiki for a tour of New Chicago (the same New Chicago that's about to be destroyed), and she turns up at the tail end of an epilogue in which Buck makes Wilma and Huer drink homemade wine - they've never heard of wine, even if half of all locations on this show are bars and night clubs - understanding Twiki's computer-speak and laughing at his gross jokes. In the final analysis, she seems to prefer Twiki to Buck (so finish your drink) and there's one of those fake freeze frame, forced laughs that's frequent in this era of television. Ugh.

STAR GAZING: See Part 1. The spaceport voice that makes DC Comics references is Super Friends' own Wonder Woman, Shannon Farnon.

At the spaceport, lean in to hear a public announcement about an arrival from Thanagar. The Silver Age Hawkman does owe something to Buck Rogers. As does Adam Strange, and another announcement calls for him specifically! According to writer Alan Brennert (a likely suspect for the inclusion of these DC Comics Easter Eggs), the character of Barney was based on a space pirate from the original comic strip.

Does not fulfill the promise of Part 1 and steadily gets worse until the dreadful tag at the end. I can't entirely blame Brennert because a lot of it comes down to limp action sequences.


Anonymous said...

I didn't mind this one too much; I loved the "Adam Strange from Alpha Centauri" and Thanagar references, but you're right about the confusion in the final dogfight. At first I thought they forgot about one of the bad guys, but from what I could tell (by rewatching that sequence) Quince and Kellogg must've been in the ships that got blown up and Sherese got away (as was mentioned later). Maybe they didn't want to show a woman getting vapourized ... no equal opportunity back then.

Mike W.


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