“Planet of the Slave Girls”
Directed by Michael Caffey
Written by Cory Applebaum & Steve Greenberg
Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4
Original Air Date: September 27, 1979 (Originally aired as a 2-hour movie, syndicated as a 2-part episode.)
When last we saw our heroes, Wilma Deering was in the clutches of Kaleel’s sinister forces along with Ryna, a slave girl trying to put an end to an evil cult on Planet Vistula and to stop an invasion of Earth.
Meanwhile, Buck Rogers has found the source of the poison that has incapacitated Earth’s defense forces and he must get it back to Earth so a cure can be found.
Along the way, we’ve dealt with serious issues like slavery and Buck’s ass-hair but we are not on a “Planet of the Slave Girls” so much as the “Planet of the Extras from Paramus Community Theater’s Production of Jesus Christ Superstar“.
And Now…Part 2
Buck returns to his quarters to find Ryma gone. Soon after, he finds Wilma is missing from her quarters. Major Duke shows up and Captain Buck starts giving him orders, showing him the toxic bubble wrap. The sample has to make it back to Earth ASAP so a cure can be found. This is why the script included Major Fields, right? She’s going to fly home while Buck and Duke track down Wilma, who is missing.
Wilma wakes up on the slave shuttle next to Ryma, who cheers her up by saying there’s no escape from Kaleel’s dungeons and she is going to die. Wilma, thankful no one bothered to strip her of anything that might be a communications device or weapon, activated the “Tele-MET-tree” device that will allow Buck to track her location.
AMAZING TWENTY-FIFTH CENTURY TECHNOLOGY!
The shuttle launches at dawn looking like Princess Ardala’s shuttle from the pilot episode, it departs the matte painting of New Chicago, then changes into the Battlestar Galactica shuttle flying over a desert in other shots and an Earth shuttle in still others. It’s a slow journey, which gives the plot time to catch up with other things of importance like…
Major Fields is ready for launch. She’s going to rocket back to Earth while Buck and Duke take a starfighter to track Wilma. Duke is impressed that a device on Buck’s wrist is able to track someone else’s location. It must be like football; the Great Holocaust erased all memory and technology associated with GPS or tracking satellites.
Both starfighters launch at the same time.
Time for a Pop Quiz for the Bad Guys
You see two starfighters launch from Vistula’s space port.
- You know Buck Rogers was at the warehouse where your poison was used to infect Food Disks that have stricken people on Earth.
- Buck Rogers is still at-large and in possession of
- 1) evidence of your tampering and
- 2) a possible way to cure the illness.
- Given that there are two starfighters in the air, one is headed to space and the other toward your secret lair, do you:
A) Use your “Power Leech” on the starfighter heading into space to avoid exposing your plot to the larger force on Earth and blow up the other ship as it approaches your hideout, or…
B) Use your “Power Leech” on the approaching starfighter and let the departing one escape?
If you are a military tactical genius, you would say “A”, right? Well, the one on Kaleel’s payroll is a professional clownshoe. He lets Major Fields escape and uses his Infinite Implausibility Drive to crash Buck and Duke in the middle of the desert, about 15 klicks from their base. That’s that, no recon to confirm the kill – just “BLOOP” they are off the scope and, therefore, D-E-D dead.
One Does Not Simply WALK into Kaleel’s Mountain
The starfighter crashes, but Duke manages to bring it in without major injuries. The ship is lost, but Buck and Duke can make their way on foot toward the big mountain in the distance. Now, these two former rivals are stuck in a survival situation and need each other to survive. The desert is sweltering. There are mutants out in the nooks and crannies. They have to wear body condoms to avoid heatstroke. It’s a rough time.
Meanwhile, Wilma and Ryma are being manhandled by two over-enthusiastic leather pony boys as they are marched to Kaleel’s office/running track. Wilma manages to judo-flip one of them and escape while Ryma is re-captured.
A guard runs about twenty feet, looks down one corridor and another but decides not to poke his head inside the little alcove directly in front of him. Guess where Wilma was hiding? She’s still wearing her handcuffs, but she is, otherwise, free.
Meanwhile, Buck-bo Baggins and Samwise Douche-y are crossing Mordor toward Mount Doom and it doesn’t go well at first. Duke doesn’t like grilled animal meat and Buck doesn’t like the idea of being poisoned by food wafers. Before they can finish bitching, they are attacked by Sandpeople with smoke bombs.
A fight ensues which leaves our heroes victorious over the fleeing mutants, plus one smoke bomb (I’m sure that’s just a coincidence), and – most importantly – Bro Bonding.
Ryma comes before Kaleel, who tries to gaslight her but Ryma’s having none of his shit. He even draws the glowing hands trick and Ryma tells him to apply them to his own ass. Struck with performance anxiety (no man likes being mocked while getting his mojo on, ladies), his hands go limp and he decides to give her a fate worse than Death Touch:
Take her to… The Shit Sauna!
Ryma is dragged by leather pony boys to a chamber with no practical purpose. It’s a sauna full of shit. They remove her cuffs and throw her inside where she begins to sweat out her toxins on a tiny ledge, alone and sad.
In a strange twist of fate, Wilma – still wearing her own cuffs and sneaking through the complex – has managed to trade her uniform for a more inconspicuous local ensemble consistent with the theme of “slave girl.” Exactly HOW she changed clothes while cuffed is probably only answered in creepy fan-fiction, so we’ll just ignore this and move on.
Wilma makes her way to Kaleel’s Office/Habitrail and uses the communications center to try and raise Earth. Of course, everyone was waiting in the cupboard to jump out and surprise her (I guess they had to slip Kaleel some Valium to prevent him from power walking in circles and flapping his cape). They take Wilma prisoner.
Fun Fact: The 25th century has abandoned the QWERTY keyboard for one in alphabetical order, left-right/top-down. While the letters are in English, whatever Wilma types on it is clearly not.
Twiki and Theo Resurrect the Dead
While we were led to believe that CARL was beyond repair, Dr. Theopolis and Twiki are able to reboot him with some Radio Shack parts. Dr. Mallory is thrilled that his old. bitchy pal is back and that there’s a chance the sample Major Fields provided may provide an antidote for the poison. Hurrah!
What about the Governor? And Regis? Who? What?
On Vistula, no one cares that we haven’t checked in on the Soroyans, even though there was an unremarkable scene between the elder and junior Soroyan that amounted to Regis imploring his father to stop being such a fucking selfish dumbass. As neither character has any bearing on the outcome of the show, it is really a wasted scene and I only mention it here to be complete in my recap.
Buck and Duke make it to the foot of Mount Stupid and discover a wing of space ships being prepared for launch. This, they surmise, is an invasion fleet. The new Bro-Buds hatch a plan where Buck will stay and find Wilma and do the general local heroics while Duke will steal a ship and race home to raise all the fighters they can to destroy the armada on the ground.
Inside the mountain, there’s more Talky-talk about the plot to invade Earth.
MEIN GOTT! General Pornstache detects someone absconding with one of their fighters! Oh noes! But not to worry, they have that cool – if totally impractical – POWER LEECH!
But NO! The writers have invented a way to elude the leech called “Trans-light speed” which Duke engages…activates…accelerates to…whatever, before the General can turn the dial up all the way. Duke is in space even before Kaleel can gasp dramatically.
Somehow they deduce that 1) There were two people who survived the starfighter crash, 2) one of them was Buck Rogers, 3) Buck didn’t just steal their spaceship to go get help.
Clearly, your honor, Buck Rogers must be coming to get Wilma. But how?
Stella Warden, clearly the brightest of a dim batch of baddies, realizes that no one searched the prisoners and there is a really nice device on Wilma’s wrist. She even surmises that the device is a Tele-MET-tree transmitter, MP3 player, step-counter, and calorie-counter with several social media apps that Wilma has been using to Yelp! her experience on Vistula to the folks back home.
**Great views, good eats, BOO for slavery. #sorrynotsorry
Stella decides to steal the device and wear it so Buck will come to her, thinking she’s Wilma. Waitaminute.
The devices worn by Buck and Wilma are supposedly identical, right? So, why can’t Stella use Wilma’s device to track Buck’s Tele-MET-tree, send out the leather pony boys, and dust him? Hmm.
Buck infiltrates the base only to discover that Warden has tricked him. He fights, flees, but runs into an invisible clothesline, taking a nasty-looking whiplash fall to the hard floor. Ouch.
Wait, were Peter Graves and his Fightin’ 69th Unavailable?
Meanwhile, Duke is on approach to Earth, but he is already yelling at Dr. Huer to assemble ever last available pilot for an attack on Vistula. They have to take out the armada there or it is Game Over. Huer is reluctant, but he promises to discuss the issue with Dr. Theopolis. Theopolis is pretty clear that they have no choice but send every able-bodied pilot after Vistula. There’s no reason to alert Soroyan or try to get his local forces on their side because Kaleel owns everything, I guess.
Another reason to keep this assclown around when it’s over, right?
When Duke arrives, we discover there are only seven pilots able to fly. Fields, obviously, four extras in flight suits, and “Brigadier Gordon” – Duke’s old flight instructor. He’s also known as Buster Crabbe, a former Buck Rogers actor who was also known for playing Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Billy the Kid, Billy Carson, and who remains a legend of movie serials as far back as the 1930s. The final pilot is Theopolis, who has reprogrammed himself to follow Duke’s orders. While this seems stupid as hell, Twiki’s reflexes are allegedly equal to that of a trained pilot while Theopolis was one of the Fancy Dinner Plates that designed the starfighters. So, We’ve got our Magnificent Seven defending Earth!
It is here we learn why Twiki is a 20th century pop culture catchphrase machine. Since the pilot, one of Buck’s hobbies has been programming Twiki with movie and TV quotes, focusing on innuendo and double-entendre. While in the heat of battle it results in Twiki saying things like “GERONIMO!” and “EAT LEAD, SUCKER” it also explains why he called out Princess Ardala with “What a BODY!” and will catcall women throughout the rest of season one.
Fun Fact: The show knows how to direct background action. In this scene, not only do we see Gordon instructing his ground crew just behind Huer but we also see a female officer flirt with a worker on the ground as she walks through the shot, both oblivious of the serious nature of shit going down around them. Well done.
Buck Beefcake Meets Kaleel the Discount David Koresh
Buck is brought to Kaleel’s Office/Man Cave for further monologuing and threats. Wilma reports she is uninjured. Kaleel reports that Ryma was put to death. Buck barely holds back his urge to tear the cape off Kaleel’s neck.
Kaleel engages in some light interrogation about the escaped fighter. Buck says that the – quite sensible – plan was for Duke to get word to Earth and prepare for invasion with a powerful defense.
Maybe they’d figure out what’s wrong with their awesome global defense shield? You remember, the one that prevented the Draconians from just bitch-slamming Earth into submission in the pilot? Did I mention that already? I feel like I have.
Kaleel eats about a cubic foot of set when he barks back that Buck is LYING! He correctly, though inexplicably, deduced that Earth will send a small flight of pilots to destroy their ships on the ground. The logic behind this would have to assume that Duke believes Kaleel and Galen too stupid to launch immediately after seeing one of their fighters stolen. While brilliant in acknowledging their own limitations, it reveals that Galen should have launched the armada right away and not waited for the villain to monologue to the hero.
Buck points out that these leather pony boys are hardly cunning space pilots. Kaleel agrees, revealing that they only need one skilled pilot to lead the rest to victory. He points to the goofy-looking guy in the corner.
Wilma recognizes the not-so-brilliant military genius in the bright red military costume. “Galen,” she gasps, as if that’s supposed to mean something. Galen was a brilliant Earth commander who left Earth to work for “the highest bidder.”
For some reason, the answer to this was to just assume he was dead. I guess that’s a great emotional way to deal with treason, but as far as preventing this particular shit-show, maybe Earth should have hunted him down or something? It’s just me, I guess.
But it doesn’t matter. They’ve been sloppy this whole time and still come out brighter than everyone else, so Kaleel orders Buck and Wilma into the Shit Sauna before ordering the armada to launch immediately. Meanwhile, he’ll address his people in the hall again to try and build back his red-palm mojo.
Kaleel’s speech is as epic as it is batshit. Never before in the history of television of film has an actor climaxed to the word PREVAIL. Twice. That Palance wasn’t nominated for both and Emmy and Adult Film Awards for this performance is one of the greatest miscarriages of artistic recognition since the industry’s shunning of Don Knotts’ haunting ride of a carousel horse in the opening of Three’s Company.
It is interesting to note that, while Kaleel is inspiring his cast of random followers to “take flight” and invade the Earth, they aren’t the ones scrambling for the fighters. A legion of dumb, but able-bodied leather pony boys are the ones heading for space. And these are the guys already primed to lay out some violence for Kaleel. What this amounts to is Kaleel needing spiritual Viagra for his one cool power to work. He needs a bunch of stupid people to listen to his angry, crazy rants and love him so he can menage his red-hand surrogate for an erection.
Tales from the Shit Sauna
Buck and Wilma find Ryma near death (sorta) in the shit sauna. Buck looks for a possible escape route. The place has pipes running through it and vent holes high up on the walls. If only they had, say, a means of propulsion and a discarded helmet, Buck might cobble together an insane way to leap onto the pipes and access one of the big access holes.
Fortunately for the plot, our bumbling villains AGAIN fail to check their prisoners for weapons or anything that might be helpful. Buck has his “25th century cherry bomb” swiped from the desert mutants. It even has a timer which allows him to put it under a discarded space helmet and – BANG! – Buck is splattered into a wet, red mess.
Actually, he’s gently lifted to the hearty pipe that allows him to escape through a hole in the wall. Ryma is pretty lucid for someone stuck in a sauna for the past half-day without water or a bathroom break. She comes to pretty quick when Buck makes it to his escape route.
Red Dogging the Quarterback’s Sack, or Something
Duke is commanding his motley squadron through a stargate to Vistula, which I guess has no air/space defense of its own to aid Earth, and everyone realizes immediately that there are one hundred ships already headed for Earth.
On Vistula, Buck returns to the shit sauna with a rope he found in a nearby storage room. He hoists Ryma and Wilma up into the hole and they escape. They rush into the desert where, fortunately for the plot, there are two ships remaining on the ground.
Ryma says she will stay to alert the rebels to Kaleel’s weakness and strike now that the leather pony boys are off-world.
Wilma and Buck head down to take out the pilots and steal the space ships in an attempt to turn the tide against the baddies.
Does anyone else wonder why these last two ships are grounded? They are so far behind the rest. We saw all the pilots marching together to their ships, so…
Were they busy elsewhere? Were they the two goons Buck knocked out before his capture? Were they just on break? Or maybe there were problems with the ships. Maybe Buck and Wilma were taking two ships grounded for a fuel leak or canopies that didn’t seal in a vacuum? Maybe their star drives were out of alignment and the crews were still working on it. My point is that if you have a squadron scrambled and two fighters are just hanging out on the ground, something’s probably very wrong.
Buck and Wilma not only catch up, but the tactical displays show they overtake Galen’s attack force and head for the Earth force. Their fighters are able to tune to the Earth’s radio (?) frequency to talk to Duke. Duke is unconvinced he’s talking to people who call themselves Buck and Wilma so he asks Buck a question that reveals the two of them had a long, detailed conversation in the desert about 20th century American football.
“Who’s ‘The Juice’?”
Oh, come on, Duke. I told you all about him back in the desert. He was a running back for USC, won the Heisman Trophy, played for Buffalo and San Francisco, slashed his wife’s throat one night and stabbed her boyfriend to death…you told me to stop sharing the details with you, okay? Let’s smoke this zombie squadron, okay?
Convinced, Duke orders Buck’s butt into formation. Wilma asks if he is referring to her butt as well. Her butt included, they join up as the forced prepare to engage. Again, Buck is calling the plays and the football lecture comes in handy because the only person who matters is Galen who is controlling the pilots. If they can isolate him, Buck will blow him up real good and the rest of the group (well, as many as survive) will give up and go home.
On Vistula, Kaleel sits back to watch his future unfold. He and Stella are confident that this will be a slaughter and Huer will bow before them as gods. Even when Buck and Wilma announce they’ve joined the fight, they remain cocky that the so-far incompetent Galen will win the day.
Buck tells the squadron that the only person with any skill in this fight is the asshole at the back. If Duke and his seven fighters can disrupt the armada and drill a hole back to that one ship, Buck will end the fight by “sacking the quarterback” – Galen.
Duke, now Buck’s loyal dudebro, backs this play and orders everyone to scatter the armada as Buck drives down the middle and engages Galen directly. This turns out to be a great play as Earth’s fighters go apeshit on the Vistulan fighters, wiping them out in impressive numbers as Galen slowly loses control until he is face to face with Buck Rogers.
Seeing this, Kaleel quietly orders Stella to prepare their escape shuttle. She does so reluctantly.
On Vistula, Ryma sneaks through the complex to find a convenient coven of rebels gathered to discuss the agenda for next month’s meeting. Ryna pleads her case to a portly man with a lot of naked chest on display. Somehow he agrees that NOW is the time to strike. So with patriarchal approval, the movement is launched!
In space, Galen’s battle with Buck ends badly for him and the singed strands of his pornstash float through the cosmos as the lonely monument to his failure.
With the leather pony boys in retreat, the Earth forces take the fight planetside to end this bullshit once and for all.
The Fall of Great Kaleel
Ryma’s uprising leads to people beating fuck-all out of the few remaining leather pony boys and running amok inside Slave Mountain. Compounding this with the fact that Galen is space dust and the armada scattered to the far stars, things are not working out well for Kaleel and Stella.
While Ryma is the real heroine of this journey, we have to manufacture a confrontation between Jack and Gil to make this show work. Buck and Wilma arrive to make their way through the crowds. Kaleel and Stella are confronted on all sides by disappointed extras. Kaleel inflates his cape to show dominance but they aren’t afraid.
Buck challenges Kaleel and a Clash of Egos ensues. Kaleel still has some residual red hand juice to use and, at first, it spooks the natives. But Ryma says it’s all a sham and if you’re pissed at him, Kaleel’s magic is impotent.
“You are a dead man, Rogers,” Kaleel gasps as his hands sputter and fade.
Stella and Kaleel are led away by the mob, probably to a good ole-fashioned hanging.
Governor Soroyan: Slave Trader, Incompetent Assclown
Look, I get that it’s Roddy McDowall we’re talking about here. But at the end of the day, this guy wasn’t a clever man duped by cunning forces. He engaged in the buying and selling of human beings and allowed a lot of stupid people to undermine his operation and nearly led to the conquering of Earth by some pretty stupid people.
The script tries to treat Soroyan as the King of Vistula, but labels him a Governor appointed by Earth’s Directorate. He tries to resign. But everyone agrees that he should continue on as Governor.
With the help of Regis and Ryma, Earth’s leadership believes this dipshit can rule Vistula without further incident now that Kaleel is…dead? In custody? A martyr?
A man who thinks enslaving people is okay? He’s reformed, but does that mean he’s all about human rights or just onto a personal ideal of “separate but equal”?
But if Regis has a happy reunion with him and Ryma is okay with it, all is well, right?
Huer declares the whole episode resolved so Buck, Wilma, and Duke head out to an epic manage a troi we’ll never see.
Ahh, the 25th century.