Thanks to Netflix and their streaming through the Xbox 360 feature, I’ve been watching the complete series of Buck Rogers. The show is awesome… -ly bad. The concept is there, but they threw in all this weird alien and spy stuff that detracts from all that the show could be. I don’t blame them for making the show the way they did. It ran from 1979 to 1981.
But it gets me to thinking… if I were to be in charge of production and make that show now, what would I do?
The first thing I’d do is take a cue from Battlestar Galactica in that a science fiction show can be serious. I’d craft the tale like this: Buck Rogers is an astronaut, and while the first manned mission to Mars is being prepped, other scientists have been working on solutions for deeper space travel. The field of cryonics has advanced and while tests have proven it can work on Earth and even in orbit, the final human test is that of prolonged space suspension. Buck’s turn in the rotation has come up and his mission is to take a craft into space, park it in an orbit around the moon, and then seal himself in the cryonics chamber. After one year, Buck is to be remotely revived and make his way home.
While Buck’s tale is the foreground story, in the background elements of global problems are evident. Global warming, overpopulation and starvation. The Mars mission is becoming more important as initial studies of water and other elements found on the planet make it possible to terraform it, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Buck’s launch happens and he makes his way to moon orbit. Shortly before settling in the ship suffers a mechanical malfunction and begins losing its oxygen. It is decided that Buck needs to seal himself in the cryo-chamber to save his life and that another craft will be sent to recover him as soon as possible.
500 years later, Buck’s craft, long since off its lunar orbit, is discovered by a salvage crew working the “Earth Junk Ring”, a collection of satellites, crafts and other objects left to hang in orbit around the planet. Reawakened on Earth, Buck discovers that after he was frozen a few small wars broke out, mostly over the need for food, and that his rescue mission was lost in the shuffle of taking more resources to the Mars missions. Eventually, years later, a private organization did send up a shuttle to look for him and didn’t find him in lunar orbit. (Buck learns from his own computer readouts that another failure caused one of his attitude jets to fire, altering his course and sending him tumbling through space.) Eventually, after ecologic and economic disasters and more small wars, large wars broke out. Everything collapsed. More than a hundred years later when countries began to reform out of the rubble, many of them turned to computers and logical models for decision making. Birthing schedules based on workforce needs and food supplies, etc. The human race are not slaves to the machines, but they are cared for and controlled by them.
At the time of Buck’s awakening, Earth, or at least the city state he has found himself in, is finally seeing constructive advancement into retaking the damaged parts of the world, the wastelands created by chemical and nuclear warfare, and looking at moving into space again, mainly in an effort to reconnect with the lost Mars colonies.
The crux of the series would be Buck learning about and from the mistakes of the past, while the people around him learn about all the things they lost and the control they’ve given up to the computers. The world is full of people who have only known logic and survival, and Buck is from a world where many people never thought about survival.
I wouldn’t want to have this series run very long. In fact, a couple or three twelve episode seasons would probably do just fine (or even be too much) to breath life back into humanity, settle differences, and reconnect with the “Martians”. You could even end the series with Buck, who has finally come to terms with his 500 year shunt through time but still feeling like this isn’t his world, captaining the first deep space exploration cryo shuttle headed for a distant star.
Anyway… those are my thoughts on the subject… but what do I know?