Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Formative Kink Epic Fail: “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”

A hero lost out of time in a future world of uniformed women, space amazons, and hot alien queens? I should have been there for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century from the very first moment...

Not exactly “Devil’s Planet,” is it?

Unfortunately, that was pretty much representative of this show’s kink charge—or lack thereof. And like Sam on Bewitched, the female lead, Erin Gray’s Col. Wilma Deering, was so relentlessly wholesome, she was actually named after your grandmother. Then again, if I had picked up on that Pride Flag armband back when I was a kid... still probably wouldn’t have made any difference, because I wouldn’t have known what it was then anyway. But even the guest stars had an almost absurdly future-girl-next-door quality. I had a real crush on Markie Post back in the Night Court days, for instance, but here?

This was like watching an adult version of my best friend’s kid sister. Or seeing a failed attempt at making “disco wholesome” (or maybe “roller disco wholesome”) a fetish. Even caught up in the rages of puberty, I would have felt guilty having a single vanilla sexual—let alone kinky—thought about her. I mean, this show even managed to make Julie Newmar unappealing.

Granted, Pamela Hensley’s recurring villainess Princess Ardala made some effort to inject an actual “femme fatale” boost into the proceedings.

Unlike on Gerry Anderson’s UFO, however, the costume designers here did not serve this character (or kink) well. Not unless the Hollywood-CIA complex’s mind-control rays were somehow targeting her perm and, ah, other assets.

In the end, only Nancy DeCarl’s Sherese, a two-episode guest star, came the closest to delivering an actual kink charge to my adolescence. If only because somehow, shockingly, the producers actually allowed her to wear a semi-Dommely leather outfit rather than bright spandex or future showgirl kitsch, even if the outfit did have so many giant eyelets (really, they were like gauges in a hipster’s earlobes) and dangly fringes that she would have looked more at home on the stage of the Grand Ole Space Opry rather than plotting to kill a city with Frank Gorshin. Still, I remember her well, and she was the Domme of My Young DreamsTM for about three-and-a-half weeks or so.

Even including those two episodes with Sherese, however, this show was hard for me to watch even as a teenager with puberty rooting for it. Too serious when it need to be goofy, too goofy when it needed to be serious, and with actual episode titles like “Vegas in Space” and, I kid you not, “Space Vampire,” Buck Rogers was the first television sci-fi I did not watch religiously. And even when I did, and Princess Ardala managed to spark the beginnings of a kinky mindset in me, I always remembered that her wicked obsession was this guy:

Yes, the biggest problem—and formative kink blocker—of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was Buck Rogers himself. Gil Gerard was like Roger Moore to William Shatner’s Sean Connery, at least for television sci-fi heroes. In fact, the whole character felt like a unholy cross between James T. Kirk and Engelbert Humperdinck. I mean, Gil Gerard even sang the Rupert Holmes semi-hit “Answering Machine” on the old Mike Douglas Show! (Seriously. He did. I remember watching it with my grandmother, who fortunately was not named Wilma.)

How could anyone fall for this guy, I wondered even then, let alone actually risk galactic warfare just to possess him as her hu-manly boy-toy? Even for a space empress with alien ways of thinking, it was just too much suspension of disbelief for me, even at that young an age. And to this day, I have yet to figure it out.

Or forgive this show for squandering so many formative kink opportunities...

[Addendum here.]

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