BATTLE STATIONS, FANTASY & FUNNY BUSINESS presents
BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY
Season 1 episode 14 (aired January 3rd, 1980)
Directed by Larry Stewart
SPACE VAMPIRE ***1/2
Buck and Wilma are on their way to Genesia for vacation after dropping Twiki off at Theta Station for repairs. Before they can leave, the I-S Demeter crashes into Theta Station. Finding the entire crew dead from mysterious circumstances, Buck and Wilma learn that a vampiric creature called the Vorvon sustains its existence by sucking the very souls from its victims. The creature now sets its sights on Wilma and Buck must protect her from joining the growing legion of undead.
Of all the campy episodes of this two season sci fi saga, SPACE VAMPIRE is one of the most fondly remembered and the single most horror oriented episode of the series. The script squeezes in established vampire lore such as a farmer named Helson (like Helsing?) who became a bounty hunter and has pursued the Vorvon for years only to lose his soul when the I-S Demeter log tapes reveal him to have been killed by an invisible force. There's also a futuristic object that serves the same function as the cross in Euro bloodsucker lore.
The Vorvon design itself was inspired by the make up Max Schreck wore in the 1922 creep-fest, NOSFERATU. Instead of biting its victims on the neck, the Vorvon places two of its elongated fingers to a man or woman's throat and sucks away their soul turning them into the undead. Christopher Stone plays Commander Royko who had a previous relationship with Wilma Deering. There's a last minute script attempt at suspense where Royko, denying any existence of a space traveling soul sucker, believes Buck has foul intentions on Wilma. This is quickly done away with once the Vorvon makes his last appearance taking the now "vampirized" Wilma with him with Buck in hot pursuit to stop the monster before it reaches the stargate.
Fans will remember Christopher Stone from THE HOWLING (1981), which he appeared in alongside his then wife, Dee Wallace Stone. Nicholas Hormann played the Vorvon and he also had a supporting role in the funny product placement science fiction comedy, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN (1981) from director Joel Schumacher. Larry Stewart, the director of this episode, was partial to fantasy as he directed a number of other BUCK ROGERS episodes (including a couple of Princess Ardala shows) and also some other 70s sci fi shows such as THE BIONIC WOMAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK and THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN.
SPACE VAMPIRE was also one of a handful of episodes released to VHS tape back when that format was still viable. This is usually the episode people talk about when the show is mentioned among nostalgic television fans. The bulk of the first season shows had a decent amount of effects footage and space battles, but this one opts for more spooky atmosphere. Gil Gerard's hilarious attempt at doing fight scenes are fleeting here, but not nearly as funny as in other episodes where he does the same kick over and over again. SPACE VAMPIRE is an extremely fun program and one of the best this campy series has to offer.
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