8 times Buck Rogers in the 25th Century ripped off Star Trek and Star Wars in the best ways
Space music, space court and space vampires – oh my!
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century came out at a time when science-fiction had gone mainstream. Two years before the show's premiere, Star Wars had shattered box office records and changed the cinema landscape forever. Star Trek was gaining popularity through reruns and would release a feature film three months after Buck Rogers debuted in 1979.
Thus, it's no surprise that both of these renowned sci-fi franchises had a profound influence on the series. Some things are general inspirations while others are almost direct parallels. In its first season, Buck Rogers had more of a traditional space-adventure feel like Star Wars. The show retooled in season two, taking more of a Star Trek direction, with Buck serving aboard a ship called Searcher. Of course, both Star Wars and Star Trek owed a huge debut to the character Buck Rogers, a pulp action hero who was introduced in 1928 and featured in radio programs, film series and comic strips for decades.
Here are eight things from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century that, in one way or another, had already been done years earlier in Star Trek or Star Wars.
1. A rockin’ space band
In the cantina scene, Star Wars has bug-eyed aliens who play futuristic (or ancient?) jazz. Buck Rogers has space rock 'n' roll! A guitarist plays an instrument with no strings, a percussionist taps glass cylinders, a keyboardist waves his hands above a multicolored light-up table and they’re all wearing strings of Christmas lights! The music was actually quite sinister in the episode "Space Rockers" because it was used to send a hypnotic signal that turned the young audience into a destructive mob. Things getting smashed at a rock concert? Not sure how they came up with that idea…
2. A robotic duo
Two of the most recognizable robots on the planet are C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars. But they aren't the only mechanical duo who play off each other for comic relief. In Buck Rogers, Twiki, voiced by the incomparable Mel Blanc, is always ready with a good one-liner and is much more like a traditional robot. Dr. Theopolis is a small, round and extremely advanced computer that Twiki frequently carries around his neck. Twiki's appearance is clearly inspired by C-3PO, especially the gold, female version of Twiki, Tina, who appears in one episode. (Though to give credit where it's due, they both are heavily inspired by the "false Maria" in 1927's Metropolis.)
3. A serious sidekick
Spock from Star Trek is a trusted confidant of Captain Kirk. His dedication to logic makes him more likely to be the butt of a joke than to make one himself. Hawk from Buck Rogers shares many of the same traits. A serious, second-in-command with non-human heritage. They also have the same eyebrows, though Hawk’s are made of feathers. If pronounced in certain regional dialects, their names even rhyme!
4. A pale, brainy alien adversary
Who remembers the Talosians from Star Trek? They are extremely intelligent beings seen in "The Menagerie: Part 2" which used footage from the original, unaired pilot. They have very pale skin and bulbous, veiny heads. That description also fits something from Buck Rogers – a space vampire! The vampire has a few unique features, though, like elongated ears and a magnificent unibrow.
5. A kid beyond his years
While both Star Trek and Buck Rogers feature boys with special skills, it's far from a direct rip off because the similarities end there. In the Star Trek episode "Charlie X," Kirk and the crew deal with a teenager who must learn to control his extraordinary powers. In the Buck Rogers episode "Cosmic Whiz Kid," Gary Coleman plays a young genius who is almost 500 years old because he figured out a way to cryogenically freeze himself back in the 20th century.
6. Giant spaceships overhead
One of the most iconic opening scenes in cinema history is the opening of the original Star Wars as a giant Star Destroyer enters from the top of the frame as if it's right above the audience's head. Buck Rogers replicates this shot in the beginning of the pilot episode except with the giant, villainous ship going the opposite direction — coming towards the camera!
7. Space court
Both Buck Rogers and James T. Kirk stand trial in certain episodes. Kirk is court martialed for the death of an Enterprise crewmember, while Buck must face judgement for his ties to the nuclear war that nearly destroyed Earth in 1987. Even though Buck is back on his home planet for the trial, it's still supposed to be centuries in the future. The carpet, normal office chair and tacky gold tablecloths tell a different story.
8. Vasquez Rocks
In the Sierra Pelona Mountains just north of Los Angeles, strange rock formations jut out at interesting angles. It is an area known as Vasquez Rocks. If you've seen any type of western or science fiction entertainment in the past half-century, chances are you’ve seen Vasquez Rocks. They are instantly recognizable to anyone who's seen the 1994 live-action Flintstones movie. The geological formations have also been used in countless music videos and commercials. The rocks portray many different planets in multiple Star Trek episodes and, of course, they also appear in Buck Rogers.