The Big Buck Rogers Rewatch: Unchained Woman!

“Unchained Woman”

Directed by Dick Lowry
Written by Bill Taylor, (characters created by) Robert C. Dille
Season 1, Episode 9 (Episode 7 in original run)
Original Air Date: November 1, 1979

Sizzle Reel

It appears that preview videos have been restricted or removed from YouTube in my absence.

Captain Bulk Grinface is talking to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in what appears to be the least imposing prison set ever constructed (see, when your guest stars eat all the drywall and lead paint…sorry, I’ll shut up about it now)..  He interrupts her to tell her to get down, and not in the funky way.  He pulls her down as we cut to an explosion in the desert!  In out next shot, Buck and Wanda Gerswitz wander down a sand dune and then pause to smile at each other before setting out across the desert where Linda Drysdale is caught by a subterranean tentacle puppet!

A murderous robot kills a townie on his way through the Universal backlot usually reserved for Mexican towns in western flicks.  You know he’s a robot because he has an open hatch in his belly revealing a bunch of circuits and wires.  I’m surprised Jim Cameron wasn’t sued for aping this plot, too.  The murderbot explodes through a wall like the Kool Aid Man in ninja garb, screaming at the poor, terrified people inside.

A shuttle pilot asks another ship to identify itself.  It’s a starfighter that introduces itself by firing on the shuttle.  Wilma Deering, copiloting the starfighter tells an off-screen lieutenant to break off an attack as Buck looks on with that expression that suggests he’d rather be looking at a rack of freshly-baked muffins.

Two dudes talk about a “she” that’s arriving in a tone that suggests she’s not there for funsies.  The one sinister dude says they will have to kill her.

Driving home the point, Wilma Deering tells someone off-camera that “they” are here to kill her, not rescue her.

Somewhere else, Buck emerges from a smoking hole, probably the writer’s room.  He helps this “she” out of the hole, too.  Sinister dude laments that the one person who managed to break out of this Space Stalag 13 was his once side-chick Kimberly Hammond. 

Elsewhere, “she” is really sorry for using a hangover ray on Buck, who falls to the ground like some tequila lightweight. 

Assemble All Pilots on the Flight Deck

This week’s stellar guests:

The OG Scream Queen is here!

Malary Pantera:   Michael DeLano
Sergio (Sergioooooo) Sanwiler:   Bert Rosario
Majel:   Tara Buckman
Hugo:   Walter Hunter
Ted Warwick:   Robert Cornthwaite
Gymon:   Daniel Ades

Go for Launch!

Has it really been two years since my last Rewatch?  It sure has and I was burned out trying to figure out these episodes as an adult viewer.  Yes, I know this ain’t Shakespeare and our main cast isn’t from Stratford-upon-Avon.  But, MAN those episodes were painful.  There isn’t enough budget in the Sets Department to make up for all the scene chewing happening with these guest stars.  Nevertheless, I shall continue because this episode is different.  It has women in prison!  A terminator robot!  A prison break!  And I assume other stuff.  Here we go!

Somewhere in space, a transport shuttle is delivering a convict to a prison planet.  The pilot informs “Prison Approach” that he’s coming in for a landing but is attacked by Earth’s Defense Directorate and told to prepare for boarding.  After a few wide pew-pew shots across its bow, the shuttle pilot relents and lets Wilma, Buck, and Lieutenant Somebody onboard without calling it in to Prison Command.  See, this is a prison ship of a sovereign planetary system and our heroes are way out of their jurisdiction.  Nevertheless, the shuttle pilot ignores this act of war and just lets it all happen.  There is no ship’s log or recorder and Approach Command apparently can’t see what’s happening.

The lieutenant in the group reveals that the shuttle pilot is an android by putting it to sleep and reprogramming its memory to forget this act of space piracy and the fact that his skinny Hispanic prisoner is now a middle-aged former college fullback with a Starfleet medallion around his neck.

Yes, Buck is taking the place of the prisoner and the exposition sets the stage. The medallion is Buck’s only means of escape.  No, Wilma can’t help him.  Yes, it is dangerous.   No one has left their Dollar Store Rura Penthe alive, it seems.  Buck responds to this with his usual smug grin, telling Wilma to do his laundry while he’s gone.  Wilma resists the urge to sniff the bundle on her way back to her starfighter.

Back on Earth, Dr. Huer is communicating with Wilma on the interstellar radio.  Wilma reports that Buck was successfully transplanted for the real prisoner, which makes Dr. Huer bubble up with joy.  Standing beside him, Twiki and Dr. Theopolis ponder their latest murder spree in Old Chicago and go on with their daily routine.

As Wilma completes her report, Dr. Huer is visited by Ambassador Ted Warwick, an old friend who has failed to secure extradition of Laurie Strode from the prison planet.  It seems she could have vital information about who is bringing sinister fuckery to the Earth’s shipping lanes.  Space Pirates!  When Huer reveals that they sent Captain Brick Sausageneck to break her out of prison anyway, the Ambassador is shocked, warning that the owners of the planet may not like having their prison blown up.  But Huer acts like he’s thought this through.  Besides, he says, it’s not “the girl” who did anything wrong.  She just took the fall for her boyfriend, Pantera.  Patera is dead, or not.  Who knows because it’s not important right now.

Given the Ambassador’s reluctance to go along with the plan, Dr. Theopolis calculates the best way to eliminate him and dispose of his body.  He silently transmits the data to Twiki’s database for possible action later.

On Zeta Minor, They Do It Right!

On Planet Prison, Buck is crossing the wasteland standing on the top of a modified dune buggy like the bad-ass he is.  Our robot transport officer has an excess of personality, reminding Buck that if you break the law, you go directly to jail without collecting $200 and must roll three consecutive doubles to earn your next meal.  The entrance to this prison is an elevator into the underground prison.

Many of the effects and assets used in this episode were dusted off from the Battlestar Galactica warehouse.  The shuttle, prison transport and even some of the costumes were recycled for this episode. Another Fun Fact, the script refers to the prison transport as “ILM-4” allegedly a reference to effects house Industrial Light and Magic. 

The pilot (the late Universal TV character actor Jim B. Smith) sings the praises of the prison on Zeta Minor, telling Buck he is headed 200 meters down into a prison carved out of bedrock. “Yes, on Zeta Minor, they do it right!”

Buck suggests they should put that on a bumper sticker.  Maybe t-shirts in a gift shop?  Maybe a gift shop!  Yeah, increase tourism to the Prison Zoo!

Welcome to Moon 3!

A very polite guard (designated #5 by his uniform) dressed in Arctic Ninja attire welcomes Buck and asks him to step into the anal probe machine.  Buck complies and takes in his surroundings.  It looks like every other damned computer room on the show with unlabeled blinking lights and monochrome CRT monitors. 

While Guard #5 is polite, another guard comes in hot with the attitude, shoving Buck around and barking orders.  Buck dubs him “Hugo” for some reason.  Hugo has no number because he’s the #1 robogoon on Zeta Minor.  Buck’s cuffs are replaced with a simple Rave bracelet that entitles him to two free drinks and access to the mosh pit at midnight.  Also, it will notify Hugo if Buck does anything wrong. 

In the decontamination chamber, Hugo recommends a long, hard cleaning with the humming green lights.  Gil Gerard executes a wonderful performance as a man in desperate need of a potty as #5 amps up the saturation on the green lights and we cut away to…

Pantera, Is That You?

Establishing Shot: A look at a lifeless North America.

Holy shit, is that really Earth?  There’s no green at all.  I know this is post-war Earth but there’s not a god-damned tree anywhere.  Surely these future humans would have done SOME terraforming and reclamation, right?  That’s just some seriously brown shit down there.

Ambassador Ted sneaks across the Defense Directorate’s flight deck because he’s a NARC!  He’s there to meet Pantera in secret, so he does what every stealthy diplomat does: he shouts into the shadows and calls him out by name!

Instead of an olive-skinned good with thick black hair, he meets a pale blonde lady with Farrah hair and the strut of a femme fatale.  Ted is pissed because he ordered Pantera to meet with him so Pantera reveals himself and tells Ted to back the whole way off his ass because – he’s Pantera and does what he wants.  He’s a Cowboy from Hell and not afraid to put on a Vulgar Display of Power to show he’s Far Beyond Driven. 

Ambassador Ted tells Pantera the plan to break Jamie Lee Curtis out of prison.  Since Ted is on the take, Pantera has no problem convincing him that the best course of action is to just murder everyone involved.  Ted is torn, but knows it’s either him or her and he likes his gray ambassador robes too much to give them up for Rura Penthe reds.

No explanation is given why they didn’t kill Jamie Lee in the first place given her special knowledge but…here we are again with Buck rescuing an innocent person with special information who has been targeted for murder.  Did the writer’s room just role plot dice to come up with these ideas?

The lady with the big hair is Majel (allegedly a nod to Star Trek actor and Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett) and she looks like her face is peeking out from a massive hay bale.  It is a lion’s mane with a lot going on that, like her, has nothing to do with the plot.  I’m not sure what her purpose is in the scene, but she’s gonna fight her way through that hair and act, dammit.  Why Cannonball Run’s Tara Buckman didn’t get an Emmy nod for her brilliant delivery of the line “Bye bye” at the end of this scene just shows the criminal ignorance of award show judges.

Back in prison, Buck is done being forcibly decontaminated and Hugo waves his magic hand to scan his body.  #5 detects “contraband” which is the Starfleet necklace Buck brought in – the one thing that can get him out of prison. Oh no!  Hugo rips it off his neck along with a fistful of chest hair.  When Buck protests, Hugo takes him by the neck and tosses the contraband aside.  This couldn’t be part of the plan, could it?

Nah.  That’s too easy.

Anyway, Hugo strongarms Buck into the next room and chuckles in the way of the cardboard villain.  He’s been thrown into an improv theater during spatial-awareness practice.  Buck, who has been established to have the testosterone of a frat boy, does not immediately zoom in on Jamie Lee Curtis laying out on a couch looking bored but also incredibly hot. She looks so hot it is like casting made sure to bring in only actors who made her look even hotter by comparison.  Buck is counting down, which makes me wonder how it is possible he can also walk and scan the room at the same time. 

He finally notices his target and goes in for the rescue.

We quickly cut away to the guard station where Buck’s Starfleet necklace is starting to smoke, but neither #5 nor Hugo seem to notice this despite being less than ten feet away.

Back in improv class, Buck gives it his best shot but Jamie Lee has heard it all before. She is genuinely creeped out and puts on a sweatshirt to cover herself as Buck explains that he really is there to rescue her and – oh by the way, when did prisons start putting boys and girls together in jail?  This line of questioning goes nowhere and Buck is forced to pull Jamie Lee to the floor as BOOM goes the Starfleet Dynamite.

Let’s stop here for a second.

The shuttle captain told Buck that his prison was 200 meters below the surface in a space carved out of bedrock. 

The explosion we see not only blows the doors off the security office, but reduces the surface entrance to fucking atoms.  In other words, the explosion was able to not only reach up 200 meters, but obliterate what I can only imagine is the first fortified line of defense against the very thing that just happened.

I also love the fact that Buck gave zero fucks about the safety of the rest of the improv troupe.  He just lets the explosive choose who lives and who dies.

When the bomb goes off they aren’t turned to SAG-AFTRA-eligible fairy dust. The door (just feet from the blast) must have been made of vibranium-adamantium because it just fell out of  its frame, allowing the inmates to scramble for the exits.

The robot guards, their computers, and all the other props in the guard room were damaged, not destroyed.  #5 is stuck under debris and badly damaged, but he orders the improv class back to the day room to practice mirroring techniques.

Buck grabs Jamie Lee by the arm and draws her to a plot-convenient exit route while the rest of the cast rush to collect their per diem and get the hell out of the show.

It Will Never Ever Stop Until You Are Dead!

Buck and Jamie Lee make it up 200 meters of elevator shaft to the smoldering desert surface.  A few other extras scramble up and off in random directions as Jamie Lee apologizes for doubting Captain Brute Dumbkoff’s genius plan to just blow shit up.

Buck explains he’s there to get her back to Earth so she can narc on her boyfriend Pantera, a plan Jamie Lee is not too keen on, but what choice does she have given they traded a comfortable theater experience for a hostile desert and lives as escaped fugitives?  They set off for their rendezvous with Wilma across the desert.  A black Pontiac drives by in the distance, a red light beaming back and forth across its hood.

Hugo the Guard has also survived the explosion and, despite being banged up worse than a sex worker on fleet week, scans the horizon for escaped convicts.  He sees a bunch of them to the east fleeing over rocks and over the horizon.  He looks to the west and sees…the same group of escapees on the same bunch of rocks. Looking ahead with his robot magnifier eyes, he sees Buck and Jamie Lee strolling through the flatlands, chatting away like pals on a hike to Burning Man. 

I believe Hugo was programmed to serve as a sexual sadist in his off-time because his reaction to spotting Buck and Jamie Lee makes him positively aroused in a dark and sinister way.  He immediately sets out after them, kicking foam rocks out of his path and marching through the desert with the resolve of a man who is not leaving CostCo without a refund on that defective rocking chair.  Hugo doesn’t just want to capture Buck. He clearly wants some Buck Beef and Cheese for dinner.

Ambassador Ted Is Most Peculiar, Twiki

Ambassador Ted returns to Dr. Huer’s office in time to learn that Colonel Wilma has detected a “seismic activity” on the prison planet near the actual prison.  Well, no shit.  Buck set off a virtual dirty bomb that blew the top off the place.  Shields are up and communications are down, so Wilma is going to set her starfighter down in a nearby town to wait for Buck and Jamie Lee to show up. 

Dr. Huer is elated to know the operation is going as planned and invites Ted to dinner.  Ted accepts and the two old friends wander off to talk about the good old days of nuclear war, pestilence, and mutant gangs in the City No One Speaks of Any More (Old Chicago. Remember that from the pilot? The writers don’t.)

But Dr. Theopolis is not convinced that Ambassador Ted is a fair dealer in these proceedings.  He discusses his suspicions with Twiki, suggesting they corner the ambassador in a dark room and burn the skin between his toes until he talks.  Twiki, being the reasonable psychotic killer, suggests a more subtle approach.  He wants to go straight to assassinating Ted with a poison that would make his death look like a heart attack.  In truth, Twiki is tired of digging graves for his dinner plate-looking master and just wants to think these things through more thoroughly.  Work Smarter, Twiki thinks, not Harder. Theopolis has his doubts, but agrees to look further into Ted’s past in the Records Room before taking further action.

We’re Villains! Time and Space Mean Nothing to Us!

Somehow, Pantera and Pantene Girl made it to the prison planet before Wilma could set down.  I think she was near the planet when they made the intial prisoner switcheroo, but she sure was a lot closer than the bad guys who were on Earth like ten minutes ago. 

The show trots out another middle-aged heavy in a leather coat and khaki pants as is a Buck Rogers tradition.  This one (played by Daniel Ades) is called Gymon – the usual crater-faced baddie who does little in the way of acting, leading with resting goon face.  He is being paid to hunt down and abduct Wilma when she finally figures out how to land her starfighter.  For some reason, the plan is to keep her out of the way…of the rendezvous.  Maybe our villains were short on cash and could afford to have Gymon just kill her? 

Pantera is too busy painting his lead miniatures at a table to talk to the riff-raff, so Majel gets to say a few lines to get the goon on his way.  Our villains smile at each other over their foolproof and cunning plan. Acting!

Back in the desert, dramatic music tries to conceal the fact that we’re following Hugo on a 20 second long uncut walk across desert sand kicking more foam rocks.

Ahead of them, Buck and Jamie Lee stop for a breather.  Note that Jamie Lee is carrying a walking stick now as it will become important later. Jamie Lee says she won’t let Buck take her in and starts off into the desert before Buck points out that civilization is in a completely different direction.  They set out together.

But Hugo is on the hunt.  He’s made it to the top of an outcrop and scans the horizon.  His telescopic view is entirely the wrong angle when he spots Buck and Jamie Lee off in the distance. 

The POV shot is at eye level.  That’s okay. It costs money to set up a camera at the top of a hill just to provide continuity.

Also, Hugo is such a boss he has his own intense theme music. It’s the best of the show with echoes of the fight theme from Star Trek.

“Don’t Make Me Use This. When You Wake Up, You’ll Be Very Uncomfortable

Wilma has had time to land and change into her mission-casual red catsuit. Gymon’s description of Wilma was just “look for the dirty-blonde sewn into her shiny pants.”  He confronts her on the street and orders her to follow him to the Service Plaza for an oil change and fluid refills.  When Wilma points out all the people around them as potential witnesses, she is saddened to know that nobody wants a piece of this action as they go about their business, whatever that is.

Gymon’s position is that he doesn’t want to shoot Wilma because it would just make it harder on him to finish his job.  He also suggests that if he does have to stun Wilma, she’ll wake up feeling… not so fresh.  It’s a thinly veiled rape reference, but enough to motivate Wilma to comply. 

This Wilma is not exactly an empowered woman of agency and it doesn’t get much better for the rest of the episode, I’m afraid.

“Sand Squid,” She Screamed Expositionally

Back in the sandy wilderness, Buck decides it is time to antagonize Jamie Lee with some relationship advice.  Pantera was never going to spring her from jail and was using her to take the fall for his crimes.  As you’d expect, Jamie Lee is in denial and still loves the big, dumb pirate lug.  But before the conversation can take on any purpose, a SAND SQUID tentacle slithers up Jamie Lee’s leg and tries to drag her into the sand (FOUR YEAR BEFORE THE SARLAAC, MR. LUCAS!  WE WILL SEE YOU IN COURT!)

Unable to pull Jamie Lee free of the beast, Buck uses Jamie Lee’s Walking Stick of Convenience (+3 versus Sand Squids) to stab the sand until the monster relents. 

Everything is rainbows and rosewater until HUGO appears and decides that Date Night with Buck has begun!  After a few blows are exchanged, Buck and Jamie Lee manage an old college trip-trap to hurl Hugo into the Sand Squid’s lair where he is strangled by several large tentacles and dragged under the sand, presumably to his doom.  Our heroes slip away from the horrible scene.

After the commercial break, our heroes take another breather atop a dune and Buck uses the opportunity to tell Jamie Lee she should smile more. 

Jesus Christ.

Surprisingly, she does not beat him to death.  In fact, they seem to bond over this remark.

Elegant. Painful. And Leaves Nothing Behind But the Great Smell of Brut

Dr. Theopolis and Twiki are on the case, looking into the pattern of the pirates’ attack on shipping.  It is confirmed that Ambassador Ted was overseeing the areas where the pirates struck supply ships, likely being the source of Pantera’s intelligence. It’s a tenuous correlation, but we – the audience – already know Ted is a bad hombre, so we can just go with it. It ain’t Law & Order we’re watching.

Theopolis is convinced that Ted must die in the most violent and painful way possible, suggesting they lure Ted into the Mutant Mines of Old Detroit where his body would be boiled alive and made into soup broth for the Motown Gods, but only the BASE of the soup as a traitor like Ted does not deserve to be the centerpiece of any dish derived from his flesh.  Alternatively, Theopolis suggests they could convert him into a fine mist to be bottled and sold to the aristocrats of Aural Offal 3 as a perfume.

Twiki suggests, humbly, that they gather more evidence by hacking into Ted’s social media accounts to see where he’s been checking in during the pirate attacks.  He also suggests that it means Doctor Huer’s dating pool will be reduced by one old diplomat, but “life is tough,” he admits and plans are set in motion to exact revenge of some kind on the treacherous ambassador. 

Panic at the Rendezvous!

Wilma is an hour late to the rendezvous and our heroes are dog tired from their adventure in the desert.  They stand out against the pale sandstone walls of the village in their bright red jammies but make no attempt to conceal themselves.

“Wilma was supposed to meet us here an hour ago.”

“Well, she’s LATE.”

“Uh, that’s the definition of not being here on time, jackass. Keep up, willya?”

(When you’re out-thunk by Captain Hunk Meatslinger, you’re stone-cold trippin’.)

Because the townies are starting to stare at them in their bright red prison clothes, Buck decides to “mug” a drunk couple for theirs.  This is done off-camera so we don’t see the brutal beat-down and preserve our hero’s moral integrity.

Meanwhile, Wilma is back to her old tricks as Damsel in Distress, cuffed to a chair in a workshop with Gymon.  By appealing to Gymon’s greed, she convinces him that she has more to offer than the 1000 credits he was paid to keep her locked up.  By that, she means some valuable contraband authorities have been hunting.  She alone knows where it is making Gymon so excited he drops his accent for a moment to demand she take him to it.

Wilma is freed long enough to do her one cool karate move and takes Gymon’s gun.  She interrogates him by appealing to his greater desire to keep breathing.  Wilma uncovers the location of Gymon’s contractors.

Time for Buck to Whack the Weasel!

The 25th century’s version of Jim Rockford’s pal Angel Martin (and the store brand version of Stuart Margolin) is here at the local tavern to present us with the sniveling grifter character our plot so desperately needs at the 29-minute mark.  He is having a drink with some lady when he spots the prison bracelets worn by Buck and Jamie Lee.  Sure, they are wearing the clothes they took from a drunk couple now naked, bound, and on their own in a dangerous town, but no one – least this weasel of a character – can mistake the red Rave Party bracelet of the prison.

He introduces himself to our heroes at the bar.  He is SERGIO (whispers, Sergiooooooo) who offers to remove the cuffs in exchange for a few shiny, melted drinks coasters stuffed into the stolen purse.  As he’s removing the bracelets, Buck asks about a lady who just showed up in town – as if that’s enough of a description without referring to her fashion choices – but Sergio (Sergiooooooooooo) knows her but puts that intel behind a pay wall.  If Buck was willing to roll an innocent drunk couple for their clothes, you’d think he would just take the little bastard out back and beat the information out of him, right?  Nope.  Buck pays the walking derp with what looks like a withered plum but gets no information.  Wah-wahhhh. He didn’t actually see anyone matching Wilma’s description and wanders off to narc on them to the bad guys.

Yes, somehow Sergio (Sergiooooooo) knows where the baddies are hanging out and goes to them, barely avoiding two to the chest from Majel’s blaster.  He offers information assuming he is in a position to bargain with murderers.  Sergio is a fucking idiot.   ( a fucking idioooooooot.)

We interrupt this exchange for two brief cutaways. 

The first is about Hugo. He outlives the Sand Squid and rises to continue his pursuit of the fugitives.  Naturally.

The second is a hilarious, but subtle music choice for a quick scene of Wilma Deering walking across the plaza looking for the villain.  She struts up the cobblestone path with her signature hip sway, but the musical instrument of choice is a Latin guiro which sounds like someone strumming the teeth of a comb. In this scene, the guiro makes it sound like Wilma’s pants are creaking as she walks.  The scene lasts about fifteen seconds, but it makes me giggle every time I see it. And I’ve watched it a few times. For this recap.


Back to the Weasel and Wilma

Instead of beating the weasel for his information, the villains actually pay Sergio and he slinks off with the coins jingling in his hands.

Pantera decides that knowing the prisoners, specifically Jamie Lee, are in town makes things easier.  He hands Majel Megahair a mood ring and tells her to go give it to Jamie Lee and she’ll know what to do with it.  A few shared glances later, she actually leaves the room to do the thing.  Acting!

We see Wilma lurking around a corner and she’s about to do something when some dude shows up to meet with Pantera, so she hides again.  Aaand scene.

Outside, Majel McBouffant manages to slip the mood ring to Jamie Lee and slip away without Buck noticing.  What everyone notices is the big open shirt and Buck’s massive chest carpet. Jesus, it’s like a weighted blanket hanging from his collarbone. 

With that out of the way, Pantera tells his visitor that he doesn’t care about physics so he better get his ship ready to fare space in an hour!  He’s a pirate! He doesn’t care about safety!  With the dude gone, Wilma AGAIN slips out of her hidey-hole just in time to eavesdrop on a call between Pantera and Abbassador Ted where Pantera reveals everything Wilma needs to know about the plot up to that point.  She springs into action!

What a Twist!  Jamie Lee Defects!

For such a drab backdrop, the extras in this old western town in space sure do dress bright and fancy.  Just sayin’. Someone in the costume department got a deal on rayon and mylar. Either that or they raided the unused “citizen extra” closet from the old Battlestar Galactica collection.

When Jamie Lee gets Buck into the same walkway Wilma just used to creak her way to her next scene, she uses the mood ring to knock our hero out cold and run away. 

Meanwhile, Hugo takes his frustration out on more rocks, plants, and even entire palm trees as he continues his march toward justice! Buck will be his; oh yes…Buck will be Hugo’s forever and ever.

Back from commercial break, Wilma reunites with Buck, using a hypospray (where was she hiding it when she was tied up?) to wake him up.  They work out the plot so they are on the same page, realize that Jamie Lee is walking into a deathtrap, and start the third act strong with a plan to rescue her, defeat Pantera, and do whatever else it takes to get the hell off that shithole of a planet.

All that improv training really pays of in this scene where Jamie Lee finally squares off against Pantera.  Basically, she enters Pantera’s room, gets an icy hug and realizes, “Oh shit. The guy who makes a living as a pirate used me!”

To which Pantera replies, “Duh. So what?”

Putting a talented actress like Jamie Lee Curtis against someone with no charisma or chemistry really spotlights the kind of skill that sets the good apart from the merely competent.  The dialogue in his scene is so bad at conveying the betrayal in a couple that allegedly had a long, strong love affair, that it feels like Jamie Lee is acting against an actual robot.  She brings real emotion and power to the performance that it almost makes up for the awful script. Pantera goes through the scene like Jamie Lee’s lines are actual deviations from the script. He struggles to keep on task to ignore his revelation of betrayal and get to his escape ship, never mind that it is now obvious he plans to kill her.  This is not a scene for a speech about love and loyalty, yet Jamie Lee pulls it off, though it looks like she’s performing it to the script supervisor instead of an actor.

Majel gets Jamie Lee in an arm lock and leads her away with Pantera, presumably to her doom.

A Bag of Quicklime, A Deep Hole, and Coffee Grounds to Hide the Smell of Decay

Back on Earth, Dr. Huer joins Theopolis and Twiki in the Records Room.  Theopolis gets Huer talking about his old friend Ambassador Ted.  They were very close a long time ago, but Huer is doubting that magical spark that kept their love alive all these years.  It just isn’t there anymore, he laments.  And something else is going on that Dr. Huer, who received his degree from an online college run by Pakleds, cannot figure it out.

Frustrated over having to lead the dumb to the obvious, Theopolis reveals his findings, which suddenly does not surprise Huer.  Together, the three of them conspire how to rid the Earth of this traitor once and for all.  Twiki pulls up the schematics for an ancient Earth tool called a “backhoe”.

The End of Poor Sergio (Sergioooooo)

Back at the bar, Wilma and Buck have not been able to locate Jamie Lee or Pantera.  They do, however, spot Sergio at the bar and Buck decides that it is time for an overdue beat-down. 

Sergio evacuates in his pants before Buck threatens the information out of him.  Once free of Buck’s chest hair, Sergio returns to his spot at the bar as our heroes head to the launch bay where Pantera is preparing to depart. 

Later, the woman he is hitting on takes him home and gives him space syphilis. He dies weeks later in a hospital with venereal worms digging through his flesh. 

But…the Killer Robot?! Where is He?

Oh, there’s Hugo again. He sees the town in the distance and continues walking.

Back on Earth, The Noose Tightens

Theopolis and Huer lay their trap for Ambassador Ted.  Security is alerted to find and detain Ted, but deliver him to Huer for action.  Theopolis notes that never has springing a man-trap been “more delicious.”

Finally, Some ACTION!

Pantera is badgering Gymon for letting Wilma escape, though if I were a goon like Gymon, I would have beat feet from the planet rather than wait around for the boss to performance manage me with a blaster.  Pantera turns his attention to Jamie Lee, gleefully telling her that she’s destined for a walk out an air lock.

Just then OUR HEROES burst with a frontal assault and make quick work of Pantera and the goon. 

Just then, Big Hair Lady appears from the shadows with her gun, causing enough confusion to allow the bad guys to turn the tables.  OH NO! 

Hugo hulks out and screams through the village, drawn to the signal on Buck’s Rave Bracelet!  He Kool-Aids through the wall (just like the promo) and menaces everyone inside.  He howls and bellows, knocking Pantera to the ground on his way to consummating his relationship with Buck after all that walking.

Three blasters aren’t enough to drop Hugo, so instead of firing three blasters AGAIN, Buck literally tosses away his gun to take the robot on hand-to-hand.  BRILLIANT!

The ladies step out of the way to let Captain Grunt McKirklite have his final battle with the ninja terminator.  Buck can’t harm him with karate, so he throws cardboard boxes at him.  Hugo lurches forward, chasing all the good guys (and Hair Lady) into a corner!  OH NOES!

Buck realizes (actually, is told by smarter people than him) that it’s the bracelet that keeps Hugo after him, so he simply wacks it against a table to remove it (what???) and clamps it on Pantera’s wrist while Princess Big Hair watches and does nothing.  Hugo switches targets and gives chase as a limping Pantera flees his inevitable dooooom.

Hugo catches up to Pantera and damn near hip-checks the man into oblivion. It’s an impressive and hard hit that I’m sure left some marks on the actor.

But Big Hair Majel demands Buck save Pantera’s life.  Everybody gets together in the streets, concentrates their blaster fire on Hugo’s control center and bring him down for good. 

For all her loyalty, though Pantera revives long enough to reject Majel for giving upo her gun to the heroes.  Whatta guy, as Twiki would say.

Ted’s Dead, Baby. Ted’s Dead.

In New Chicago, Huer confronts Ambassador Ted as he tries to escape Earth.  Ted is armed, but Huer tries to reason with him to surrender.  The game is up.  Pantera is in custody and the empire is falling down around Ted.  Handing his gun over, Ted begins to walk away.  Huer cannot bring himself to arrest Ted and lets him go. 

As Ted enters a shuttlecraft, intending to fly off into exile.  He is met by the robot shuttle pilot from the beginning of the episode.  He’s been reprogrammed by Dr. Theopolis to deliver him to a planet dubbed “Satan’s Asshole” in the Omega Quadrant where he is to be offered to the Vorvon King as a living chair, surgically altered over the six month journey to fill his belly with stuffing and remaking his bones into a throne for the Prince of Darkness.  As the shuttlebay doors close on Ted forever, Twiki can be heard giggling in the distance, Dr. Theopolis blinking his dark red eyes in triumph over another stupid fleshbag.  He is beginning to love this secret life and pleased that Twiki seems to enjoy it as well.

All’s Well That Ends with Buck Sharing the Back Seat with A New Side Chick

Wilma flies everyone who isn’t in jail home. Jamie Lee has kept her Rave Bracelet as a souvenir but Buck is skeptical of her motives.  Why?  I have no idea.  He just seems to doubt that Jamie Lee wants to hold on to it for sentimental reasons.  Of course, this is just a set up for them (and us) to wonder if the robot they massacred in the streets might come back all Jason Vorhees style and track them down again.

Nahhhhh, they say as the scene shifts to the stinger where Hugo starts to slowly reboot. 

Mission Debrief

This was a bit of a slog because the story is cobbled together with the usual ingredients.  There’s the one-dimensional villain who only emotes when he’s doing or saying something evil.  There’s the damsel in distress with information vital to someone.  There’s the middle aged goons with crater-pocked faces wearing pleather jackets to symbolize that they are EVIL.  There’s an evil woman in conflict over her loyalty to the bad guy.  And the plot involves fists, blasters, and karate throws.

Jamie Lee Curtis shines and I refer to her rather than her character because there IS no character.  It is Jamie Lee Curtis filling in the gulf of nothing that is this “Jen Burton”.

Ambassador Ted is there so Huer has something to do and even then, Huer does nothing but let him walk away with his crimes. 

The Terminator plot is a few years earlier than Jim Cameron’s film about a relentless killer robot.  All those scenes led to a Robot ex Machina final fight that was spoiled in the Sizzle Reel. 

And I cannot get past the dumb escape plan.  There’s no plan, just a high explosive that somehow evades detection, appearing as just a harmless necklace until it booms with the power of an army MOAB.  Everyone in that prison should have become one with the dirt and debris of their own tombs, Buck included.  What a dumb “plan”.

Cookin’ with Buck!

Fortunately for everyone involved, Buck did not subject anyone to 20th century cuisine this week.

Hip-Hugger Report

As discussed, Wilma spends most of this adventure in a red two-piece uniform with the usual oxygen-deprivation pants.  The script has her doing the usual eye-candy stuff like walking and crouching while providing explanation for the less-savvy viewers and exposition for the other characters.

Play Back That Last Communication, Please?

Buck: Hey, by the way, when did the penal system go co-ed?
Jen Burton: What?
Buck: Well you know, boys and girls together.
Jen Burton: How else would you do it?
Buck: Men in one place, women in another.
Jen Burton: You know the problems that would cause?

Next Time on…

Buck is abducted and held on a planet of women who objectify him and compete for ownership of his unique hunkiness.  Will Buck enjoy life as a kept man? Not if Wilma Deering has anything to say about it!


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