In the year 1987, NASA launches it’s final manned mission. Captain Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) is sent into space but, while he’s orbiting the Earth, he and his spacecraft fall victim to a strange space anomaly which leaves him in suspended animation. On Earth, Buck Rogers is believed to be lost. 500 years pass. Buck’s ship continues to orbit the Earth while, down below, mankind nearly destroys itself in a nuclear war. Eventually, Earth is reduced to radioactive rubble and what remains of human civilization lives in the city of New Chicago. (Old Chicago, meanwhile, has been taken over by mutants.)
Finally, in the 25th century, Buck and his ship are discovered by Draconia, a spaceship that belongs to the intergalactic Draconian Empire. Buck is brought out of suspended animation and meets the beautiful Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensely) and her second-in-command, an Earthling named Kane (Henry Silva). Ardala would obviously like to make Buck her prince but, after being in suspended animation for 500 years, Buck just wants to return to Earth. The Draconians allow Buck to return home.
Upon landing in New Chicago, Buck discovers that the world is much different now. Everyone wears skintight uniforms and a little robot named Twiki (voice by Mel Blanc) is the only person willing to be Buck’s friend. Commander Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) is in charge of defending what’s left of human civilization and she’s immediately suspicious of Buck and his story. When it turns out that Ardala and Kane implanted Buck with a tracking device, Deering want to execute him. Can Buck prove his loyalty and also thwart Ardala and Kane’s plot to conquer humanity?
Buck Rogers In The 25th Century was originally a pilot for a Glen Larson-produced televisions series. (Larson was also responsible for the original Battlestar Galactica, another sci-fi show whose pilot was given a theatrical release.) Hoping to appeal to the same audiences who made Star Wars a monster hit, Universal spent a little extra money to upgrade the special effects, added a few suggestive scenes to prevent the pilot from getting the dreaded G-rating, and then released it in theaters a few months before the TV show premiered. That was a good idea because the movie did become a minor hit and the TV series went on to run for two seasons.
As the movie itself, it never feels like anything more than an extended episode of a television series. Gil Gerard is bland in the lead role and most serious sci-fi fans will probably lose interest as soon as the child-friendly robot shows up. Buck Rogers may have been made to capitalize on the success of Star Wars but it doesn’t have any of the attention to detail or the careful world-building that went into George Lucas’s original space opera. On the plus side, though, the Dads who took their kids to matinee showings of this film were probably happy to see Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley prominently featured in the film and Henry Silva is a great villain as always. As with a lot of the sci-fi films that were released in the immediate wake of Star Wars, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century does have a definite camp appeal. It’s bad but some people will enjoy it on a nostalgic level.
Probably the most memorable thing about Buck Rogers In the 25th Century was its James Bond-inspired title sequence. Here it is, in all of its glory: