Buck Rogers #8: Planet of the Amazon Women

"Move around. Show 'em the merchandise."

WHAT'S UP, BUCK?: Buck is lured to a planet of women in desperate need of men.

REVIEW: Man, these titles... It's interesting to note that famous Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana co-wrote this story under a pseudonym because the "planet of women looking for virile men" is one Trek did several times. There was "The Lorelei Signal" on the animated series (for which she was story editor), "Angel One" on TNG, and "Favorite Son" on Voyager. Guess what. None of them are good, and Planet of the Amazon Women doesn't boost the average. It does feature a more grounded reason for the lack and therefore need of men. A war emptied Zantia of men (all killed or taken) which were essentially in charge of the military. If anyone knew, the planet would be easy pickings for a would-be invader, so they let their few men front for the planetary defenses (or is that guy repeating himself because he's been pre-taped?), don't let anyone land, and lure potent men like Buck to be slaves and mates for the highest bidder. (As a policy - and this is specifically said to be policy - it's ridiculous that only the rich could buy baby-daddies for their exclusive use when there's a planet to be repopulated.) In grand Buck Rogers tradition, he's gonna end up on the auction block, shirt ripped open, and get a record price (20,000 credits).

He's been bought by the Prime Minister for her rebellious daughter Ariela, who only wants to get off world so she can blab about the situation to the universe and stop these barbaric practices. So maybe Buck isn't what the policy-maker should be giving out. The woman who lost out to the PM jealously tracks Buck down to Ariela's estate and overhears the treasonous plans, and of course sells them out (this is a stock complication across all episodes to date), but too late. They make their escape just as Wilma Deering shows up to save Buck, at which point the PM trusts her to blow Buck and Ariela out of the sky if need be, on not much evidence. But it seems Wilma IS willing to do it because she thinks it could provoke a war. She's also able to speak to Buck's plans because Ariela's friend told her everything, except she didn't. The PM's guards barged in before any dialog was exchanged. Damn messy.

Because here's the thing. Buck got into this thing flying through a sector where a disputed planet lies. Madrea is a world that mines a crucial element for Terran forces called barbarite, but that the aggressive Ruathans claim is in their space. Negotiations are being held on Earth by our own Dr. Theopolis and the Ruathans' own flashing computer, DeBronin. He's just like Theo except the plastic bits and lights are a bit different, and he's quite ready to go to war in a huff. Now, I thought humanity turned the keys over to the machines because we couldn't be trusted not to make war. Ruathans are obviously humans with the same technology, but their computers are war-like. It's weird. Anyway, the plan is to board this piece of junk's ship while it's flying home and hijack negotiations (at no point informing Wilma or Huer of what he's really doing), giving up Madrea in exchange for the release of Zantia's POWs. We've already seen that barbarite is bountiful on Zantia and to them useless (not that Buck has enough information to actually make that argument), so the ending has been rather obviously telegraphed. But so long as Buck says nothing, a false tension is maintained. From our perspective, Wilma threatens to destroy Buck's fighter, he backs down, then they board the negotiator's ship anyway, and she lets him have a go. What?! In the end, not only do Zantia's boys come home, but a lot of Madrean miners emigrate there because Madrea sucks. Calling for a baby boom within the year.

There's one good joke in the episode. When Wilma says Buck is making her dinner, Dr. Huer is very very serious when he says "I'm sorry" and shakes his head as he walks away. She doesn't know what she's in for, and yeah, I don't think someone raised on food pills or whatever should be served entrails on a date. The back half of that joke lands with a thud, unless the kids watching really knew was sweetbread was. Of course, Wilma makes grilled cheese references in an attempt to seem badass, but just proves she doesn't know what grilled cheese is. Nor does the person threatened! So it's "You know what grilled cheese is?" "No, not even from context, I remain unafraid." "Well imagine there's a fire and you're the bread." "Not the cheese?" So clunky. But it's still better than the feud between Twiki and the guy who gets to carry DeBronin around, which seems a set-up for a terrible pun about Twiki "tweaking" him. Ugh. Even the private joke the designer had about making ships and buildings rather phallic in this episode is better than that.

SPACE DISCO: The sun necklace Buck wants to give Wilma is very Age of Aquarius. It's a fake-out, but Buck at least accepts an invitation to a threesome.

STAR GAZING: Zantia's Prime Minister is played by Anne Jeffreys, who has the distinction of playing Tess Trueheart in the old Dick Tracy films; later in life, she would become a soap queen. Jay Robinson (auctioneer Cassius) was Ambassador Petri in Star Trek's "Elaan of Troyius" and had played Caligula in a couple of movies in the 50s (was his Roman-sounding name chosen specifically?). Ron Gans, who voiced DeBronin, was also the voice of Drag Strip in The Transformers, and of Armus from STTNG's "Skin of Evil" (he killed Tasha Yar!).

The spaceport matte shot is a reuse from The Plot to Kill a City, including geography that's not at all in keeping with the rest of Zantia. Boo. Ship nomenclature in Sector 3 is a lot like that of the Colonies on Galactica. The Morning Star vs. the Rising Star, for example. Aurora featured on both shows. Of course, this is all in the future - these ship names only occur in the modern series.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I can't believe how bad the writing is on this one.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's almost like a bunch of scenes were cut, causing continuity errors ... or maybe they were working off an earlier script and forgot to adjust. I thought the ambassador's voice sounded familiar ... I should have recognized it as Armus.

Mike W.


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