Buck Rogers #19: Space Rockers

"I assumed you weren't a professional entertainer, Captain. I've already arranged for some writers."

WHAT'S UP, BUCK?: A space rock band is being used to cause riots all over the galaxy.

REVIEW: Surely the most disco episode ever, apparently the last to be shot as outgoing producer Bruce Lansbury was going out the door, and which he allegedly tried to sabotage by putting a young, new director (with only a short made in film school to his name) on it. Guy Magar has nothing to be ashamed of though; it didn't work. By which I mean Space Rockers is as good an example of sci-fi camp as any in the first season. It's certainly the first time I've laughed during William Conrad's preview intro.

So Andromeda is the future's answer to the Beatles, but on a galactic scale, but there's a problem. Even though the music is twinkly synths and the band members cheery family hour glitter kids, a subset of fans are dressing up as fascist leatherboys out of A Clockwork Orange and recently, the the last 10 minute of broadcast shows (as with Olympiad, Buck Rogers predicted we would eventually stay at home to watch sporting events and concerts - 2021 IS the 25th Century), kids have been rioting and committing various crimes as if possessed. So a wholesome rope dance suddenly turns into a bit of a brawl and some joy riding in Buck's fighter (because Earth has absolutely no security, Dr. Huer should do something about that). It's a mystery, but not a big one. Our heroes are in fact very very very slow to put two and two together, even Theo, even after they've found out villainous manager Lars Mangros published papers on behavior modification through electronic signals. See? YOU even know what's up and you haven't just watched the episode.

Buck goes undercover on Music World, a military space station turned music hub, as a celebrity MC, but he's almost immediately rumbled because he doesn't close the door when secretly communicating with Earth. (The station has MASSIVE garbage disposal doors and tunnels EVERYWHERE, so their security's not much better.) After his roving gangs fail to do the job, Mangros throws his breathy moll Joanna at him, who he is quick to refuse (Drink!) and who is young enough to be turned into a killer by disco music. She'll need a ride home after this. The most Buck gets hurt, really, is when Mangros says he might be an actor, but not an entertainer. It's almost like a parting shot from Lansbury who had gotten sick of prima donna Gil Gerard.

If the episode has a saving grace, it's the band. The actors are having fun, the music isn't unpleasant (if quite thin), the sci-fi instruments are neat... There's a LOT of it, no doubt TOO MUCH, but I wasn't bored by it, which is saying something. As people, they have a positive message (which Mangros has excised over time), and because he's taken them this far, they trust him implicitly. When his schemes come out, they owe it to him to talk it out. I like their sense of honor. Of course, that's when he shows his hand and replaces them with a pre-taped show. So they help Buck escape with sonics, and hijack the concert because the show must go on. I had to double-check to see if the female member wasn't Shirley Jones because she had a similar look and energy.

Quick note about the "kids" in this story... No matter the dialog, not many Andromeda fans are younger than their late 20s, and several are much, much older (cribbed from the stunt team). Eventually, Buck gets Andromeda's good will and they destroy Mangros's  machine and prevent him from holding the galaxy to ransom.

SPACE DISCO: The so-called rock'n'roll of Andromeda is very disco indeed, and in fact the song "Odyssey" was released as a dance single on the Sunshine Sound Disco label in 1980 (PROOF! PROOF!). The look of the band, the club scene, the rope dancing (now tube dancing), lighting and sound all disco era. When the band replays an old tape, they jam it into a slot like an 8-track. Every shirt Buck wears has a plunging V-neck so he can show off his hairy chest.

STAR GAZING: Jerry Orbach (Lars Mangros) was a big Broadway star then, but would achieve true TV fame by starring in hundreds of episodes of Law & Order. His henchman Yarat is played by a pre-Night Court Richard Moll. Judy Landers (Joanna) is a a recognizable face from the era and had recurring characters in The Love Boat, B.J. and the Bear and Vega$, and for a later generation, The Huggabug Club which she developed and starred in with her just as recognizable sister Audrey. Of the musical group, it's notable that Leonard Lightfoot (Cirius) was in Silver Spoons with Erin Gray.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE: "Odyssey" actually made its way into the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack(!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's goofy and camp and that's what makes it watchable.


Anonymous said...

Yes, as soon as I heard the song at the beginning of the episode, I went "Hey, that's the song CJ dances to on the beach in GTA San Andreas!"

I was laughing my ass off that some of the "kids" look like they're my age (and I'm pushing 50), and seeing Richard Moll with hair was a bit weird. I get the feeling Jerry Orbach wasn't too impressed with this part; he seemed to just be going through the motions at times.

Mike W.


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