• Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 24th, 2020.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Felix Silla, Henry Silva, Pamela Hensley, Thom Christopher
    Year: 1979-1981
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    Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection – Series Review:

    Captain William “Buck” Rogers (Gil Gerard), the pilot of NASA’s Ranger 3, wakes up some five hundred years after he finds himself in a space accident back in 1987, only to learn that the Earth he left in the past is now recovering for a massive nuclear war. Through a series of wonky circumstances, he finds himself stuck in 2491 where he soon teams up with super-hot Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), joining forces to bring the crew of the Starship Searcher to the forefront of their efforts to right wrongs and do away with bad guys who would try to take over the planet.

    Buck is a true fish out of water, as any record of his existence was wiped out in the nuclear war that he… basically slept through. With a such a large gap in between the time he was cryogenically frozen to the time that he was found by the Searcher crew and woken up, there’s obviously a pretty big adjustment period facing Buck, but he makes the best of it and soon proves to be quiet an asset in the cockpit, using his abilities as a fighter pilot to oftentimes come in quite handy when it’s time to save the day.

    Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, which ran on NBC from 1979 until 1981, lasted two seasons and was developed for television by Glen A. Larson, the same man who gave us Battlestar Galactica a few years earlier. It’s a fun show, with much of the success resting on the shoulders of its leading man, Gil Gerard, who handles the action and drama in the show as well as he does the frequent doses of comedy that are littered throughout much of the material. Aside from Gerard and the lovely Ms. Gray, the show also a few other noteworthy recurring characters like Twiki (a small robot played by Felix Silla and voiced mainly by Mel Blanc!), the sinister Princess Ardala (played by Pamela Hensley) who wants to make Buck her love slave, the novel alien Hawk (Thom Christopher), the Searcher's commander Admiral Efram Asimov and Dr. Elias Huer (Tim O'Connor) but Gerard and Gray are more frequently not the focus of each episode.

    Featuring plenty of costumes both garish and otherwise and not afraid to pull from the series’ comic book roots, the show puts entertainment value front and center, not always concerning itself with realism or seriousness, at least to start with. For the most part, if the show is fairly formulaic at least the formula works. Unfortunately when the show was cancelled in 1981, it happened rather suddenly, in part due to a strike in Hollywood at the time. This means that the saga of Buck Rogers is never really brought to a proper close, the final episode just concludes its own storyline and that’s it. Still, the show remains a near artifact of its time, even it borrows from better remembered sci-fi properties like Star Wars, Star Trek and, yes, Battlestar Galactica. The show was frequently panned by critics when it was first broadcast, but even if it’s easy to notice when the show doesn’t quite live up to its potential, but there’s plenty of entertainment value to be had here if you don’t need to take it all so seriously.

    SEASON ONE:

    DISC ONE: Awakening (Pilot) / Planet Of The Slave Girls / Vegas In Space

    DISC TWO: The Plot To Kill A City Part 1 / The Plot To Kill A City Part 2 / Return Of The Fighting 69th / Unchained Woman / Planet Of The Amazon Women

    DISC THREE: Cosmic Whiz Kid / Escape From Wedded Bliss / Cruise Ship To The Stars / Space Vampire / Happy Birthday, Buck

    DISC FOUR: A Blast For Buck / Ardola Returns / Twiki Is Missing / Olympiad / A Dream Of Jennifer

    DISC FIVE: Space Rockers / Buck’s Dual To The Death / Fight Of The War Witch Part 1 / Fight Of The War Witch Part 2

    SEASON TWO:

    DISC ONE: Time Of The Hawk / Journey To Oasis / The Guardians

    DISC TWO: Mark Of The Saurian / The Golden Man / The Crystals / The Satyr / Shgoratchx!

    DISC THREE: The Hand Of The Goral / Testimony Of A Traitor / The Dorian Secret

    Guest stars? You got’em! Henry Silva shows up in the first episodes as Kane alongside lovely Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala. Episode two sees Jack Palance play Kaleel and Roddy McDowell as Governor Toban Saroyan but so too does it see original Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serial star Buster Crabbe as Brigadier Gordon. As the series moves on, look for guest spots from Cesar Romero, Richard Lynch, Frank Gorhsin, Markie Post, Robert Quarry, Woody Strode, Robert Hardy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gary Coleman, Brett Halsey, Dorothy Stratten, John P. Ryan, Mary Woronov, Jerry Orbach, Richard Moll, William Smith, Vera Miles, Sid Haig, Julie Newmar, Amanda Wyss and plenty of others appear on camera adding to the fun.

    There’s a tonal shift in the second season that takes things in a more serious direction. The production values stay pretty solid in these episodes but unfortunately the ‘fun factor’ that made the first season such a kick to watch is dialed down considerably. This doesn’t mean the episodes aren’t worth seeing – they are – but that they move away from some of intentional humor of the earlier material. Still, if the series doesn’t end as strongly as it starts, there’s still plenty of charm from the cast, some good tension in the scripts and direction and the genuinely cool and creative design work that pulls us in early on to geek out over.

    Production values, by the standards of genre television of the era at least, stay pretty solid throughout. The music always sounds appropriately epic in each and every episode and the cinematography is always really strong. Every episode of the show features bold and interesting use of color, and the special effects are pretty decent when, again, compared to other genre shows from the same period.

    Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection: – Blu-ray Review:

    All of this content is presented on a selection of nine 50GB discs, with each and every episode given AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfers in their 1.33.1 fullframe original broadcast aspect ratio. Generally speaking, the episodes look really nice. There is what looks to be some minor digital noise reduction applied here and there, but it isn’t a constant issue and for the most part, detail looks pretty strong. Colors are reproduced beautifully, looking very lifelike without ever appearing oversaturated, and skin tones look nice as well, as do black levels. There are no problems with any noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement and, overall, this provides a pretty substantial upgrade over what we’ve seen in the past.

    The only audio option for the content in this set is a series of English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. No problems to note here, the audio is clean and nicely balanced, exhibiting no issues with any hiss or any distortion. The sound effects have good punch behind them and the score, the instantly recognizable theme song in particular, has really strong depth to it.

    The first extra to talk about is the inclusion of the theatrical version, presented here on its own separate disc in high definition for the first time. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer frames the feature at 2.40.1 widescreen with 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 audio and it’s a very nice presentation. The DNR that was seen here and there on the series versions’ isn’t noticeable here, it looks very film-like and natural in appearance. It’s interesting to see the content, which is basically just a widescreen version of the pilot, framed this way as it really does lend the material more epic look.

    Extras for the theatrical version include new audio commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson over the theatrical film. They offer up a nice history of the material, talking about how they each came to know the series on their own in their younger days and providing lots of details about the history of the feature. They also point out some of the wonkier aspects of the material and offer up thoughts on everything from the cast to the wardrobe to the lighting and back again. The theatrical version also gets a few other extras in the form of a trailer for the feature, a ten-minute theatrical preview and a few radio spots.

    As to the extras for the series itself, we get new audio commentaries for eleven episodes by Film/TV Historian Patrick Jankiewicz, the author of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: A TV Companion. Awakening, Slave Girls, Vegas In Space, Unchained Woman, Space Vampire, Twiki Is Missing, A Dream Of Jennifer, Space Rockers, Flight Of The War Witch Part 1, Flight Of The War Witch Part 2 and, last but not least, Time Of The Hawk all gets Jankiewicz’s input, and it’s clear from the start that the guy knows his stuff. We get all sorts of insight into the history of the series and those who made it, history on the character of Buck Rogers, details on the contributions of the different cast and crew members, thoughts on the scripts, sets, score and effects and loads more.

    In addition to that, one disc three of season two, we get a new interview with Co-Star Erin Gray that runs for nineteen-minutes. She talks about how she got into acting after working as a model for a while, the importance landing the role of Wilma Deering on the series, getting along with Gerard, what it was like on set, different memories from the different shoots, her thoughts on the series' opening credits and lots of other fun bits and pieces.

    This disc also includes a new interview with actor Thom Christopher that lasts ten-minutes and which sees him looking back at the series where he played Hawk talking about how he got into acting, some of the interesting shifts that his career took over the years, landing the part on the show, getting along with the cast and crew and more.

    Rounding out the extras are a nine-minute special theatrical preview, a theatrical trailer, two radio spots for the theatrical version, menus and chapter selection options.

    Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection – The Final Word:

    Kino’s Blu-ray release of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection is really solid. The presentation, which not quite reference quality, is very good overall and we get a strong selection of extra features as well. As to the series itself? The first season is an absolute blast, seventies/early eighties televised sci-fi at its best. The second season falls off a bit, but still has definitely got its moments and overall this whole set is just a whole lot of fun to dig into. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Complete Collection Blu-ray screen caps!


















































    Comments 3 Comments
    1. cinemacide's Avatar
      cinemacide -
      Back then I hated 3rd grade so much because I hated my teacher. My mom help me get through the week by calling Thursday night, Buck Rogers night. Years later I met Erin Grey at Fanexpo while she chaperoned John Carpenter while signing autographs. She’s still pretty hot btw
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      ^^ "Buck Rogers night" . That is awesome
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I already had the DVD set (which is one the coolest packages sitting on my shelf) but I still found this worth the upgrade. The improved PQ/AQ was noticeable which surprised me. The commentary track on the film had a lot of interesting information in it as well.