Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV Poster Image
Campy space series is retro fun, with a bit of innuendo.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Concepts like justice and respect for life are discussed openly and often. The "good" guys and "bad" guys are clearly, if simplistically, defined.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Buck Rogers is on the side of law and order, but he's a wisecracking hero who isn't always noble. Villains are stereotypical and we seldom contemplate why they are so evil. Women are featured in positions of importance; while other women are nothing more than decorative objects in spangled space bikinis. When people of color are shown onscreen (rare), they are servants, villains, or lower-level workers.

Violence

Many space battles and spy capers. Warfare is most frequently waged between faceless troops; those shot by laser guns fall down on the ground and don't move again. Seldom is there any sense of real menace or danger.

Sex

Female characters are generally given very scanty or skintight costumes. Male characters are generally dressed modestly. There are many double entendres that kids likely will not catch, but Buck and Colonel Deering become romantically involved and there are kisses and references to dating.

Language

Only the mildest of epithets: "Come on, you turkeys, get off your duffs!"

Consumerism

A series of novels and comic books were made based on this series; viewers may want to find and read them. As recently as 2011, toy figures based on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were marketed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink onscreen and say things like "Whew, I really need a drink!"

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is a family-friendly, if campy science fiction show made from 1979 to 1981. Like many of the shows from this era, Buck Rogers depicts female characters -- whether central or background -- in scanty and/or revealing costumes, while male characters wear modest clothing. Viewers should also expect to hear mild double entendres and see kissing, flirting, and dating. There is some drinking onscreen, as well as joking references to alcohol and drugs. There are many fistfights, sci-fi gun battles, and conflicts onscreen between faceless members of warring armies. When combatants "die" they just fall down on the ground and don't move. Sensitive topics such as racism, nuclear war, ecological disasters, and religion are discussed on the show.

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What's the story?

In BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) was just another astronaut going on a routine mission. But a freak accident cryogenically froze his body and sent his ship into an orbit that returned him to Earth 500 years later. He finds his old planet in rough shape. After humanity was almost wiped out a few centuries ago by a devastating nuclear war, a few humans managed to survive and thrive by trading with other planets, despite frequent interplanetary hostilities. Now with the help of Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) and some friendly robots, Rogers has to learn how to get along in the 25th century. This involves wearing a tight uniform, spitting out a series of smart-aleck one-liners, fending off the advances of horny space-chicks, and foiling various nefarious plots to control Earth.

Is it any good?

Hoo boy, will kids ever get a laugh out of the futuristic-spacewear-by-way-of-Studio-54 costumes to be found in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, not to mention the hilarious "futuristic" gadgets. Sure, you can make a clipboard look like a future clipboard by using Plexiglass and gluing on a remote control! And naturally, everyone in the future will have feathered 1970s hair, metallic tunics, and satin hotpants. Hey, if you and Buck Rogers want to get along, you're going to have to either enjoy the campiness or suspend your disbelief.

If you can manage either, there's a lot to love about Buck Rogers. Lead robot Twiki (usually voiced by Mel Blanc) is unnerving to look at, but beloved by kids thanks to his "Bee-dee bee-dee" stuttering. Gerard is a likeable hero in the Han Solo mode, it's cool to see Erin Gray as a powerful military officer, and some of the episodes, written by the same minds behind the original Battlestar Galactica, offer interesting takes on topics like war and religion. Kids will love Twiki and the space paraphernalia, but given the cheapness of vintage productions there's a lot more talking about action than actual action. This may be a tough sell to kids; pitch it honestly as the small-screen's answer to Star Wars and they may give it a try. Buck Rogers makes for kitschy, but surprisingly fun whole-family viewing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Buck Rogers in the 25th Century reflects the era it was made in, while trying to look and feel futuristic. Do the hairstyles and clothing styles look futuristic to you? What about the attitudes towards men and women? What about the show's politics?

  • Watch a few modern space-themed shows such as Battlestar Galactica or Defiance. How is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century like these shows? Is it more realistic or less? More violent or less? More fun to watch or less?

  • Why is the exploration of space and interacting with alien cultures such an enduring staple of science fiction? What do alien races on TV or at the movies teach us about ourselves?

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