Buck Rogers #15: Ardala Returns

"What COULD she be doing with three Buck Rogers for an hour and a half?!"

WHAT'S UP, BUCK?: Ardala uses robot Buck Rogers duplicates to attack Earth.

REVIEW: Ardala's back so expect an uptick in my interest/appreciation. This time she'll do it, she'll destroy New Chicago and New Phoenix and no one's gonna stop her. If only Kane's new hatchet fighters can be made to work. Or maybe they're too good, because no Draconian pilot can handle them right and they keep exploding themselves. Basically, he's designed a craft that can only be piloted by someone like Buck Rogers. So they're gonna make life-like androids ("Zygots") and program them with Buck's mind and muscle memory and then have a squadron of Bucks loyal to the Empire. Hey, buy the premise, buy the bit.

For Ardala, this is an excuse to lure Buck in and kidnap him, and maybe give him another chance. And if that doesn't work, maybe one or more of those androids can keep her company. For a while there, the Draconians seem pretty smart and competent (give or take not being able to fly their own ships). They allow Huer to contact Buck through Twiki's circuits, release the prototype robot Buck so he can carry a nuke into the heart of New Chicago, and give Buck some trouble escaping (with a nice fight there, in the middle, that actually gave Draconian warriors some chutzpah if not particular ability). Some of that comes a the cost of Wilma in particular being quite dense, because the Buck-bot is really silly and off, but I guess we might justify it with her thinking this is how Buck processes grief over Twiki's reported demise (if only!). At least she figures it out before he blows up the city and disintegrates the walking bomb on the spot (good thing that doesn't set off the nuke). She's a bit less justified in firing on a Buck in the climax, as the show neglects to give us a reason for her choice of two fighters. A lucky guess? They might have mentioned the flight pattern was more erratic (Buck had made his reflexes sluggish with an electric shock during the recording procedure). Oh well.

But the real heart of this episode is Ardala's unrequited feelings for Buck. One thing that's made absolutely clear here is that she doesn't see herself as a villain. She's a product of her upbringing, her culture, and Draconia's needs and attitudes, so she can't see how her and Buck's differences are so "irreconcilable". Pamela Hensley is poignant when she asks him why he can't love her, and he's rather kind in his refusal, but stung, she sends him away. She'll always have that quick temper. Because Buck made his duplicated "drunk", they act rather strange when brought to her chambers - one is depressed, another just talks about planes, and even the lovey-dovey one is odd. She knows this isn't real; it's not what she wants. Calling the real Buck only gets a harsh response, which leads to the best Ardala scene, bar none. Crying in front of the mirror, putting her compensatory crown on to bolster her resolve... she's so great.

The joke of the episode is the "ping pool" table which could only have been the result of the most insane game of whispers. It's silly (Buck should really know the ball won't bounce when handling it), but thematically consistent, and imperfect duplicate of a 20th-Century thing that just doesn't work right. Geddit? Buck compounds the silliness at the end by getting trounced by Dr. Huer (he's a natural apparently) and then making like he's a malfunctioning android. Buck, that's dangerous my man, what with Wilma's itchy trigger finger.

SPACE DISCO: Disco princess Ardala basically sets herself up for a foursome!


Originally, the script called for the derelict spacecraft to have 20th-Century foods in it that would lure Buck in instead of (or in addition to?) the sleeping astronaut. However, after TV Guide made fun of Gil Gerard looking like "a stuffed sausage" in his uniform, the star who had been struggling with weight issues, put the kibosh on any reference to food in future episodes. One imagines it also killed the proposed title, "Buck Times Three". Up to this point, many of the fish out of water scenes had been about Buck cooking for his friends, so that's undoubtedly gone.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's not perfect by any means (is this the third episode in a row to have a mind probe as a central plot element?), but it's a great one for Ardala.


Anonymous said...

"This time she'll do it ... she'll finally consummate her relationship with Buck." Or not. I was sure she'd get some action from at least one of the Zygots, but I guess there ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.

I actually did feel kinda sorry for Ardala in this one; lonely lies the head that wears the crown and all that. I don't know why Buck doesn't just throw her a pity fuck, but I guess he's just not feeling it. She wouldn't have to ask me twice :)

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

A recurring motif in the series is that for all the opportunities he's given, Buck never gets to actually DO it.


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