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Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as TV movies

lapis molari

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As a kid, the weekly adventures of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were a thrill to watch!

The stories are great, when they're not too cheesy.
The visuals are great, when they're not re-used too often.
Buck is great, when the other characters aren't dumbed-down too much to make Buck look smarter.
Wilma, Twiki and even Doctor Huer are enjoyable supporting characters.
Princess Ardala is great. Period.
The many notable guest stars help lift the show to a higher level.
The disco dancing. And the outfits. No other sci-fi show was so into their dancing.
The second season is rather forgettable, but even here we find a few moments worth keeping.

To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi: Buck Rogers is a great show, from a certain point of view.

Madman Entertainment released the series on blu-ray in 2016.
- Picture quality is workable for an HD edit, imperfect but leagues ahead of the DVDs. Sadly no widescreen.
- Audio isn't ideal but there is a voice-less track for all episodes, so with tinkering (and time) the vocals could be separated to make editing more flexible.

Kino Lorber released the series on blu-ray in 2020. See my review comparing the two blu-ray sets on page 13 of this thread.

Will anyone take up the challenge to distill several TV movies from this flawed gem? Update: I'm making a set of TV movies. This thread will cover them all:
1) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - Extended Edition
2) Planet of the Slave Girls: Slavery & Sorcery
3) The Plot to Kill a City: Spies in Space
4) Flight of the War Witch: Buck Saves the Multiverse
5) Time of the Hawk: You Are Not Alone
6) Journey to Oasis: Ignorance breeds Suspicion
7) Bonus 'disc' will include 9 single-length episodes: Twiki is now only voiced by Mel Blanc! Space-ship continuity errors are fixed. Other continuity details are added. Also English subtitles (srt files) and poster art for all remaining episodes.

71GW5w7QEaL._SL1200_.jpg
 

TM2YC

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Thread moved to workprints at the request of the editors. Dammit, one look at that poster ^ and the theme tune is stuck in my head.
 

lapis molari

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No one responded to my challenge of fanediting Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, so I made a start myself. :D

When Buck Rogers was released in 1979, there were two versions of the pilot: one theatrical release (who does that anymore, to release the pilot of a TV show in the cinema?) and one TV release. The latter was cut into two parts and extended to fit the TV-series timing. On the bluray release, the TV version has superior visuals because of its 1080p HD master. The audio also sounds cleaner, less muffled than the theatrical version. The theatrical version is merely upscaled from PAL. It has 4% PAL speed-up.

This edit is a workprint. It merges the two versions of Buck Rogers' first adventure into the longest possible version.
Visual cuts are finished. I have done no color correction, so most transitions between the two sources are visible (dark scenes blend nicely, bright ones don't).
Audio cuts have clean dialog, but background sounds have not been smoothed out for all cuts. And the slightly muffled sound from the PAL version has not been manipulated to match the HD master. So transitions between the two sources are audible.
I have no plans at this time to perfect those transitions. Therefore I will not submit this edit to the database. For my personal enjoyment of Buck's first adventure, I don't mind the transitions. It's enjoyable to watch for true fans, but not ready for any casual viewer.

So, this post is intended for fans of Gil Gerard's interpretation of Buck Rogers. If you've imagined in your mind how the two versions would merge into one longer story, PM me. If you have only a casual interest in the disco-1980s version of Buck Rogers, and you're still reading this post, PM me too. If enough people are interested, I'll complete this workprint into a finished edit at a later point.
If you're not sure, watch the clip below. If your first reaction is "Oh, yeah!", join the party. If it's "WTF?", then these shiny tight pants are not for you. Password: fanedit.org

Original runtime: 97 minutes (TV version), 85 minutes (theatrical version)
Edited runtime: 102 minutes

Video: 1080p (1440x1080 MKV, uncompressed from the blu-ray)
Audio: AC3 2.0 (448kbps, converted from the LPCM two-channel mono)
Filesize: 13.5GB
Subtitles: Yes, English (not hard-coded).

The theatrical version contains 5 minutes of material not used in the TV version:
+ The different Conrad opening narration.
+ The “sexy” opening credits.
+ Buck has a longer talk with Wilma before going to the irradiated old city.
+ Buck calls Wilma “ballsy”.
+ When Wilma comes after Buck in old Chicago,  she has her soldier stun Buck. She says “Captain, you got away once, but not this time. Lieutenant?” and he shoots Buck. The words “time. Lieutenant?” and the moment the soldier points the gun and pulls the trigger, are included in this theatrical version but (erroneously) cut in the TV version.
+ Kane talks with Huer at the dance party.
+ Wilma kisses Buck [different version].
+ Twiki says that he’s "freezing his ball-bearings off".
+ Buck comments that the Draconian uniforms aren't Gucci.
+ Buck kicks Tiger-Man in the balls near the end of the film. The TV version cut the actual kick: it shows Tiger-Man facing off with Buck then suddenly howling in pain.
+ Kane’s communication with Emperor Draco. The scene was cut from the TV version, Draco was not seen at all in the series.
+ Wilma gushes to Buck after the final battle.

The TV version contains 15 minutes not used in the theatrical version:
- The interior of Buck's apartment.
- Buck has two talks with Theo about what happened in the past 500 years. After the second one, he goes to sleep.
- The first part of Buck's walk into the irradiated area of old Chicago.
- Dr Huer pleads with the computer council to stay Buck's verdict.
- Princess Ardala and Kane are seen scheming a bit more.
- Wilma kisses Buck [different version]. The two versions have been merged, losing one line of text.
- After the final battle, Princess Ardala and Kane are seen bickering a bit more.
- Buck makes his apartment "homey".
- The films ends with Dr Huer offering Buck a job.

The bluray lacks subtitles, those were edited from the old DVDs.
 

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BionicBob lead me to this topic and very interesting!   I have an old fanedit of a similar thing, and cannot remember who made it or where I even got it.  but it took the two versions and did a similar thing.   However the source for the movie was DVD, and the TV version was from a TV recording that had a watermark station logo in the upper corner.   Was still nice to see.

Being a child of the era, and fan of such things, I have played ideas in my head about editing the other 2 part episodes into movie versions and try to take down some of the campy factor.  Buck is definitely a product of the era, but it is also a really fun ride!   I loved the style and approach of the original movie.  It was fun, but didn't go completely campy.   I wish when it went to series they tried to stay a little closer to the movie as a model.   Instead they just went way out there.   Would have loved to see more about Anarchia, but that was just dropped.   

I unfortunately do not have the HD source material to even start an edit.   And one thing on my list is wanting to get a bluray player so I can at least rip digital versions to work with from my discs.  

Also... on the Buck subject, while the 2nd season went a whole different direction, the opening 2 part episode would make a nice movie.   And the closer of season 1, "Flight of the War Witch".    Hmmmm... darnit you got my imagination working.   And would love to work on some Battlestar edits of the HD prints, but again have to get the stuff to be able to convert to digital files.   :)
 

bionicbob

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I think if I were to tackle BUCK ROGERS, I would embrace the high cheese and disco era factors, and take a Guardians of the Galaxy style approach by adding lots of awesome tunes and cutting/pacing scenes accordingly.   :D
 

lapis molari

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OMG! Buck dancing to the Bee Gees, tighten the overall pacing, more focus on the humor. I'd pay to see that Buck Rogers in a cinema. :D 

To do that well, and not have it devolve into the ridiculous, would be a tour-de-force though. With the available material, I'd guess we could distill two or maybe three such movies out of the entire first season.
 

bionicbob

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lapis molari said:
OMG! Buck dancing to the Bee Gees, tighten the overall pacing, more focus on the humor. I'd pay to see that Buck Rogers in a cinema. :D 

To do that well, and not have it devolve into the ridiculous, would be a tour-de-force though. With the available material, I'd guess we could distill two or maybe three such movies out of the entire first season.

Yeah, I would probably just focus on the two-parters featuring the jaw dropping gorgeous Pamela Hensley, since there is no continuity or season arc to worry about... :D :p  

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCo4v7bGYbc[/video]

A question about the Blu Ray release.... are all the episodes in High Definition?  I read the two parter War Witch is not.  Also, being a Region Free release, are there any play back issues?  I have often thought about buying it but have been hesitant because it is not an official North American release.
 

lapis molari

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@"bionicbob" , yes all is in HD.
War Witch is the only other two-parter that had a cinema release. The TV 2-part version is proper HD, the cinema version is up-rezzed PAL. There are a few minor differences between the two versions.
No playback issues for me (I copied the blurays to my NAS and play them from there).
 

bionicbob

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Watched.

man o man, the blu ray picture quality is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

As a workprint/rough cut, I really enjoyed it.  It definitely made the story richer.  I didn't notice too many audio issues.

Thank you very much for sharing.  :)
 

lapis molari

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bionicbob said:
Watched.

man o man, the blu ray picture quality is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

As a workprint/rough cut, I really enjoyed it.  It definitely made the story richer.  I didn't notice too many audio issues.

Thank you very much for sharing.  :)

Thanks for the kind words @"bionicbob" !

For your entertainment, from the episode Cruise Ship to the Stars, password: fanedit.org
 

bionicbob

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^ LOL!  Cue the porno music! :p

What is most striking to me is the significant tonal shift from Pilot to Series.

The pilot movie plays much straighter by comparison, it has a slighter darker undercurrent that adult viewers can appreciate.  But the first season series jettisons the darker narrative threads for over the top camp and children fare sci-fi.  I am not saying it isn't a fun show to watch, cause it is, but it lacks any true emotional weight or lasting narrative impact.

My theory this has to do with the fact, that even though Glen Larson retained Executive Producer credit for the entire series, he only ever actually wrote/produced the pilot and was never involved in the series proper.

It is similar story with KNIGHT RIDER, Larson again wrote and produced the pilot movie which was fantastic, and then handed all creative reigns for the series to a different showrunner team, and the show instantly became pre-teen safe fantasy fare.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sometime I wonder what such would have been like if had retained their initial tone and narrative introduced in their pilots?
 

lapis molari

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For a solid review of every Buck Rogers episode, read Chris Bennett's very long 2018 blog:
https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/tag/buck-rogers-in-the-25th-century/page/2/

For a different but equally thorough review, read Patrick Kenney's 2013 blog:
http://buckrogersguide.blogspot.com/2013/07/ep-101-awakening-part-1-september-20.html


They point out the repeated change of writers as (part) reason for the different feel of both the pilot versus the series, and the shift within season 1.
For example, throughout the pilot and series, Wilma alternates between a strong capable officer and a sexy woman in need of Buck's help. Over the course of the series the balance slips more to that of eye candy (given form in her terrible diner-waitress uniform of season 2).
 

Zarius

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bionicbob said:
It is similar story with KNIGHT RIDER, Larson again wrote and produced the pilot movie which was fantastic, and then handed all creative reigns for the series to a different showrunner team, and the show instantly became pre-teen safe fantasy fare.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sometime I wonder what such would have been like if had retained their initial tone and narrative introduced in their pilots?

Knight Rider was damn good under Ben Foster's reign as showrunner, and it wasn't afraid to go dark at times despite the all ages limit, just look at KITT vs KARR where KARR almost kills his driver's girlfriend through suffocation and stops a man's pacemaker, or the not-quite-but-was-for-all-intents and purposes-series finale "Scent of Roses", where Micheal gets married to Stevie only for her to be shot dead right after
 

bionicbob

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Oh I agree, Knight Rider was a fun show.  And there is nothing wrong with All Ages Television.  I actually believe we can use more of that today.   But at the time Knight Rider premiered, I was almost 13, and while I loved the pilot, the main series immediately felt "too kiddy" to me... I was craving something a bit more edgier at the time I think?   Maybe that is why I always gravitated more to the slightly more adult shows like Hawaii Five-0, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, Magnum PI, the Equalizer, Stingray or even Street Hawk?

And those are all good examples of "darker" story moments, and I remember enjoying them immensely.   But they are more the exception than the rule.   I wish the show had more stories like those.

But I have a deep fondness for Knight Rider.  I own the series on dvd and have fun rewatching it from time to time.  But it was never "My Show", if you know what I mean.  :)
 

lapis molari

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Ever since Bionicbob's suggestion to improve Buck Rogers in the musical style of Guardians of the Galaxy, I've been playing a lot of late 1970s music. I couldn't get it out of my head! So here's the playlist that I ended up with. And of course a cover to go with it. :D

@"bionicbob" , This one is for you!

Buck%20Rogers%20Songs%20-%20cover.jpg


Buck%20Rogers%20Songs%20-%20backcover.jpg
 

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So much Future... Buck... and DISCO all in glorious imagery!!!   Fantastic!
 

lapis molari

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Thanks, @"dkerin" . Part of me wants to edit all the dance scenes together into one long Buck Rogers music video. No plot, just "getting down". :p

With groovy thanks to @"theryaney" , you can now listen to this homage to Buck Rogers on Spotify:
Buck himself would have been amazed at the convenience! :cool:
(Here, the Suspension Song is not the original but still wacky enough to set the mood.)
 

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In the series I always wondered if Buck single handed returned disco to the future.   Because in the pilot movie his request for music and "gettin' down" on the dance floor was completely alien to them.    But then in the series, there were roller-disco performers for Ardala, Space Rockers, dancing on cruise ships among the stars... it was everywhere!!!

Of course the real reason being that consistency from movie to episodes was not really a priority for them.   But my scifi brain likes to connect everything with a logical explanation, so of course Buck Rogers alone returned rock to the future.
 

lapis molari

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Flight of the War Witch is merged (at 1h33m). :)

Nothing major, the difference between the theatrical and TV releases are minor for this adventure. Besides a few additions and omissions, only one scene has really different versions; the one-to-one talk between Buck and villain Zarina.


Awakening is now on v2, with two changes.

I re-cut the merged scene of Wilma kissing Buck, losing a few lines to make her stronger and less of a fawning school-girl. She's no longer "so mixed up" instead focusing on having "been trained for leadership".

I've inserted part of Buck's dream from s2e3 The Guardians. I know that was never in the pilot. But this makes it better. Really! I always felt that Buck's grief over his parents missed an emotional set-up for the viewer. Now he dreams of his mom right before going into Anarchia where he searches for her grave. The point-counterpoint works very nicely. I trimmed the dream, so it doesn't play disproportionately long (it adds two minutes to the run-time). Added benefit is that after watching this, you still get new bits when watching the Guardians episode so it won't feel like a copy-paste.


Next up is going to be the misleadingly named Planet of the Slave Girls.

There was no theatrical release, so there's nothing to merge. But this flawed gem actually has more room for improvement! The most obvious are fixing continuity errors of wrong spaceships which can be swapped out for correct ships taken from later episodes, and inserting the shot of Jennifer's photo from s1e18 A Dream of Jennifer when Wilma holds that photo.

The buddy-flick energy between Buck and Not-Tom-Jones is an enjoyable addition to Buck's many female co-stars and the only one until Hawk in season 2 (Dr Huer is wonderful, but not Buck's buddy).

The score by Johnny Harris is hypnotic! Knowing which composers did different episodes, he's my favorite composer for Buck Rogers. While Guardians o/t Galaxy style music is a grin-inducing idea, I don't think I'll mess with the soundtrack. If anything I may play up the original score in places.
 
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