Buck Rogers #16: Twiki is Missing

"Some may like hanging loose, but not this quad."

WHAT'S UP, BUCK?: A mining mogul will do anything to get his hands on Twiki. Meanwhile, a spaceberg is headed for Earth (so... a comet?!).

REVIEW: While the plot of Twiki Is Missing (the titles are getting away from pulp, which is not doing them any favors) is often unconvincing, at least it rewards with eye candy. I don't just mean the psychokinetic trio of lady enforcers known as the Omniguard, but the bubbling acid pit Buck is almost thrown into, and a lot of outer space stuff that more than rehashes footage we've seen before. The camera is quite mobile while approaching the mining asteroid, Twiki ejects into space (is that a toy version?), and of course there's the spaceberg (you read that right) heading for Earth, passing by a swirling anomaly, and so on. It's too bad it couldn't actually break up a little when it's shot (just the explosion overlay), but my guess is they were already straining the budget. Similarly, the mining station's flight hangar is exactly the one we routinely see on Earth; you gotta cut where you can.

The problem is the villain. Belzack (a future spelling for Balzac, so I uncharitably called him Ballsack in my notes) is a union busting mining mogul, desperate because he can't make his deadlines. He's corrupt, but we can understand why he's doing it. Then he turns to theft (on the slim theory that Twiki has been enhanced by Buck to have imagination and resourcefulness - maybe such drones could do much of the work instead of humans if he could replicate him) even though Buck is more than happy to offer his agents a chance to take detailed reproductions of his circuits. Then it's kidnapping and ransoming (of Buck, to get Twiki). And then it's attempted murder. Even for a man who has workers (including his enforcers) only there because their loved ones are essentially hostages, the slippery slide into more and more overt crimes is cartoonish at best. And the actor goes over the top with it too.

I'm not too keen on Stella's sob story either. There's a vague class system on her world that got her husband killed for marrying a mutant, and their son should meet the same fate, but only Ballsack is keeping it from happening... and yet Earth can repatriate the kid at any time... It's a tortured bit of exposition that feels like the writer didn't fill in the cultural details. Generic SF and that's it. It's never quite clear what Ballsack's role is in the society - he acts like a businessman, but can be "overturned" by rebelling workers, so he's more like  a head of state, but is just never referenced as such. Otherwise, Stella is likeable enough (give or take her defeatist attitude), and can obviously turned by Buck. No thought is given to the other girls or why they're there - they don't get any lines - but since the bad guy is deposed at the end, I suppose it's happy endings all around.

This is a bit of a Buck/Twiki two-hander that mostly proves to me that Twiki really shouldn't be thrown into action scenes. Buck will NEVER escape at the speed his sidekick can shuffle, or having to carry the ambuquad  in his arms. Dr. Huer is too busy with the spaceberg crisis to really get involved in the A-plot, and Wilma is stuck escorting the hunk of frozen oxygen for the entire episode. It's kind of intriguing that Earth uses spacebergs to terraform the planet after the cataclysm, but one wonders how they put it on course in the first place, when they can't adjust its trajectory when it's pulled off-course by gravitic phenomena. Thankfully, the mine's explosive "blazium" telegraphs a solution early. To his credit, you can see Buck already thinking of the 'berg when blazium is explained to him.

SPACE DISCO: The Omniguard may be cousins to Charlie's Angels. When they're about to do their thing, they look like they're going to dance. The spaceberg plot could be riffing on 1979's SF flop, Meteor, starring Sean Connery and Natalie Wood.

Eddie Benton (Stella) changed her name to Anne-Marte Martin in time to become a regular on Sledge Hammer! She would later marry Michael Chrichton, with whom she would co-write the film Twister. Jurassic Park (the novel) is dedicated to her. John P. Ryan (Belzack) had been in It's Alive! and Futureworld (speaking of Chichton).

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE: The square gold coins Stella offers Buck as payment for Twiki are colonial cubits from Galactica 1980! The Omniguard have to do a "mind meld" for their powers to work. Call Mr. Spock, he's gonna want to get his lawyer on this.

Visually interesting, but in need of a more convincing villain/plot.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Sledge Hammer, that's where I've seen her! I knew she looked familiar. Yeah, it's a little sad that Twiki can be rendered useless (well, more useless) by a short flight of stairs. And you're right about the guy playing Belzack being over the top at times; he must've done Shakespeare at some point, cause he really chews up the scenery when he gets going.

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

Which is not good Shakespeare, according to Hamlet's admonishments to the Players.


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