The Future, Long Ago: “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” Turns 40

“In the year 1987, at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA launched the last of America’s deep space probes. The payload, perched on the nose cone of the massive rocket, was a one-man exploration vessel – Ranger 3. Aboard this compact starship, a lone astronaut – Captain William “Buck” Rogers – was to experience cosmic forces beyond all comprehension. An awesome brush with death: in the blink of an eye, his life support systems were frozen by temperatures beyond imagination. Ranger 3 was blown out of its planned trajectory into an orbit a thousand times more vast, an orbit which was to return the ship full circle to his point of origin – its mother Earth – not in five months, but in 500 years.”

Biddi biddi! 40 years ago today, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century premiered on NBC. Led by great performances by Gil Gerard and Erin Gray, the cheesy/wonderful sci-fi series based on Philip Francis Nowlan’s swashbuckling spaceman ran for two seasons. Following the success of a pilot film that successfully played in theaters in March of 1979, Universal Studios went on to make 37 episodes of the series. Although due to budgetary concerns, sagging ratings and a second-season revamp that altered the premise of the show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century went off the air before its time. And what a shame that was, because the series — created by 1970s TV visionary Glen Larson — had all the thrills of the classic Buck Rogers serials mixed with a fun and sexy sensibility of the era. By no means was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century a great show, but it was always entertaining and never, ever dull.

To celebrate this TV milestone, we wanted to share some video ephemera that celebrates the show. We think you’ll agree that these clips capture the spirit of what made Buck Rogers in the 25th Century so unforgettable!

• Here’s a TV spot promoting the theatrical release of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century telefilm.

• Above is the amazingly ’70s opening for the pilot film, featuring the classic theme tune, “Suspension” by Kipp Lennon. The series’ episodes jettisoned the vocals, which is a damn shame as they are epic.

• While starring on Buck Rogers, Erin Gray made the above ad for the 1980 Ford Thunderbird.

• Here’s a fun ad for the syndication run of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

• The above video presents an in-depth look at the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century pinball game.

• Siskel and Ebert review the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century film. They hated it. They are wrong.

• Since Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was released to a post-Star Wars world, it was a merchandising bonanza. Here you see a commercial for Mego’s fondly remembered action figures based on the program.

• In 1980 the cast of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century recorded a public service announcement for the Leukemia Society of America.

• If you were fortunate enough to have lived in or visited Scotland in the early 1980s, you might have had the opportunity to visit the Buck Rogers Burger Station, a restaurant that transported diners to the 25th century. Honestly, this place looks so unbelievable that we think we are going to wrap this article up so that we can invent time travel to go back there. Wow.

What are your memories of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? Let us know in the comments!