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Featured reviews below are the return of Buck Rogers on video and a frontier-breaking Doctor Who book.

Also reviewed in this issue: the final six episodes of Crusade • almost as many (OK, the last five) episodes of Highlander: The Raven • the long-delayed coda to Buffy's Season Three, Earshot • and the first trio of Stargate SG-1's Season Three

Plus the latest books or videos from or about:
Doctor Who • Star Trek • The Simpsons • Mortal Kombat

BUCK ROGERS in the 25th Century
Volume 1 (1:2) AWAKENING 8

The future is Buck

Rejoice, for the most amusing Sci-Fi series of them all hits the shops. If you watch shows for high production values, strong characterization and intelligent plotting look elsewhere. However, If you like your Space Operas to be fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek and tightly-trousered then this is for you.

Gil Gerard is Buck Rogers. Well, he was...

You can say what you want about Glen A Larson, but he doesn’t waste any time. No establishing first half hour in the 20th Century or such nonsense – it’s all sorted in the opening credits. Buck’s 500 years in the future, full stop. In this very enjoyable pilot we’re introduced to galactic space hussy Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley), who’s into navel exposure and says cool Pinky and the Brain stuff like “Conserve your strength. I need your help. Tomorrow I conquer Earth.” Buck is drugged and pointed in the direction of Earth with a homing device in his ‘space probe’.

Now back on Earth, we meet the series regulars. Tough space-totty Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), who has the sexiest walk in tv history and initially thinks Buck is a spy, plus the nice Dr Huer, dependable phallic-shapped droid Twiki and wall-clock super-computer Doctor Theopolis.

The remaining plot isn’t the most complex or multi-layered. They think Buck’s a traitor, he proves he isn’t by blowing-up Ardala’s HQ in James Bond-like fashion. But it’s the wonderfully bargain-basement décor (the landing bay is a large empty set with tons of atmospheric lightbulbs on the ceiling), Buck’s double entre-laced dialogue and the stubborn refusal to take any moment seriously that makes this so much fun. When Wilma finally cracks and snogs Buck in Episode Two, he cheekily glances at his watch.

Universal Video
Cert PG
UK Price: £9.99 – out now
Reviewed by Jason Caro, who also dispenses wise words on Battlestar Galactica in this issue
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The other humour highlights are numerous. From the startling realization that computer Dr Theo is actually gay (he pays way too many compliments to Buck; sample: “Well now, what an attractive man you are Captain Buck Rogers”), to Buck livening-up an official function by getting the DJ to play space-funk and boogieing-on-down like your Dad at a wedding.

Voyager and Babylon 5 fans take note. The future can be fun too.


How to eat your greens and not grow up big and strong
Peter Anghelides' Frontier Worlds. Now that's an original title...

Since the Doctor exited BBC television saying “We’ve got work to do”, he and his friends have increasingly seen their travels less as thrilling adventures, more as a dangerous day job. In Frontier Worlds the Doctor, Fitz and Compassion actually take up employment, in an Avengers-style infiltration of two rival galactic bioengineering corporations on the planet Drebnar. One of them has developed a revolutionary new product that seems to reverse the ageing process, with unpredictable consequences. The source is the Raab, one of a race of giant vegetal aliens that engulf whole worlds with their dangerously rapid growth.

With echoes of the tv serials The Caves of Androzani and The Seeds of Doom this is – like Anghelides’ previous book, Kursaal – traditional Doctor Who, somewhat incongruously placed within a radical story arc. Unusually it also adds depth and style to the usual formulas, with a generally high standard of writing and certain passages – such as a blinding ‘Doctor versus villain’ dialogue scene – an absolute joy to read. Anghelides’s take on Fitz is perhaps the best of the range so far and easily the novel’s best asset, with large chunks of the novel written from his viewpoint.

Nor is the novel’s arc context entirely a liability. Recent events and the reason for Compassion’s presence seem uncannily like background detail, and Anghelides partly defuses our inevitable feeling of disorientation by having Fitz express it quite forcefully. As a side effect, Compassion becomes much more the unnerving presence she was undoubtedly meant to be. Nevertheless, there are plot details the size of France – like the fact that the Fitz we’re getting to know and like actually isn’t Fitz at all – that are simply irritating, no matter how skilfully acknowledged they are.

Written by Peter Anghelides
Reviewed by John Binns
BBC Books
Price: £5.99 UK
Out: 1 November 1999
ISBN: 0 563 55589 0
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Those readers who are whole-heartedly enjoying the Arc, I suppose, can add a point or two to the above score – but then, they are exactly the people who would probably prefer a complex post-structuralist treatise to a simple well-told adventure. This could mean that Anghelides has discovered a way to have the best of both worlds, or that he simply can’t win. Either way, you can’t blame the man for trying.

© Visual Imagination Ltd 1999. Not for reproduction
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