Monday, September 18, 2017

Buck Rogers Week 2017: Introductory Montage

Airing on NBC-TV as the Star Wars craze went into full swing, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 - 1981) updated the legendary Nowlan character (originally featured in Amazing Stories in 1928, and then in newspaper comic strips) for the disco decade. The series starred Gil Gerard as Buck, Erin Gray as Wilma Deering and Tim O'Connor as Doctor Huer, and ran for two seasons and over thirty episodes.

The introductory montage for the series was altered slightly for its second season to comport with cast changes, but many images remained the same as those featured below (culled from the series' first year).  

The Buck Rogers montage commences with a brand of information age or high-tech overload: a composition featuring three split-screens simultaneously. 

And like the opening montage of The Six Million Dollar Man (1973 -1978), the images chart a technological, space-age mishap, and the ramifications of that mishap on one human being.  In both cases, this human being impacted is a pilot/astronaut.

Specifically, as the narrator (William Conrad in season one) informs us, in the year 1987, America launched Ranger 3, the last of its "deep space probes."  The craft is piloted by William "Buck" Rogers.

The next series of images (still split-screen), showcase Buck's shuttle, Ranger 3, approaching some kind of anomaly or distortion in space which freezes his life support systems, and hurtles him into a wider which does not return him to Earth for 500 years.  The images of the distortion/phenomenon overtake the images of technological accomplishment.

The next images depart completely from the technological sheen of the earlier split screen compositions documenting mission failure.

Now, we see an unconscious Buck Rogers superimposed over a kind of mystical or cosmic vortex -- representing Time Itself -- as he sleeps for five hundred years in a fast-frozen state.  The time meter at the bottom of the screen -- heretofore steady at 1987 -- begins to tick rapidly, as Buck sleeps well into the distant future.

As Buck continues to sleep, we see him passing or descending through concentric "rings" of futuristic imagery, rings that represent images of his journey into a new time period.  I have always thought of these rings as being like those of a tree interior, charting a time-line or life.  Only in this case, the rings show not age, but a journey ahead.

Specifically, the imagery shows us a space ship (Ardala's yacht), a starfighter launch corridor, the post-Holocaust ruins of Chicago (called Anarchia), and finally, the metropolis of New Chicago.

In the next images, we get our title screen, as the time meter stops at the year 2491.

Below the title screen, we meet our cast members inside the concentric rings or circles, images which represent both Buck's journey through time and the shape, incidentally, of his computerized friend, Dr. Theopolis.

Finally a shot of our likable and charming hero, now fully ensconced in his new life in the 25th century.

You can see the montage in living color below, though it is from the second season of the series and features a different narrator.

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