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Sunday, January 23, 2011

From Beyond Television: Buck Rogers In the 25th Century--Space Vampire



Season 1 episode 14 (aired January 3rd, 1980)

Directed by Larry Stewart


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.



Snipes said...

Buck Rogers is great. I hate how they changed Dr. Theopolis's voice though it was great in the first two part episode, then the remainder of the season they made the voice a lot duller. Wish the show had run longer.

Glenn, kenixfan said...

The DVD set has been marked down to $10 at Walmart now.

I loved the first season of the show mainly because of the guest star babes: Markie Post, Dorothy Stratten, Judy Landers, Pamela Hensley...

R.A.M.'67 said...

How Buck Rogers made such an abrupt turnaround in format the second season (though Hawk was cool) was utterly ridiculous! The first season was much better, as illustrated by this dandy episode you've picked out, venoms5!

Did you see the one Discovery Health documentary where it showed Gil Gerard working through a weight problem?

I also remember Christopher Stone and Dee Wallace Stone in the '89-'91 revival of Lassie; he was a good enough actor in it, but his pencil-thin mustache made him look like a crook!

Will Errickson said...

I remember this episode well! And my goodness, wasn't Erin Gray one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the small screen? Nice pix of her in vampiric bliss...

venoms5 said...

@ MVP: I wouldn't doubt if this one didn't get a new version somewhere down the road, too.

@ Glenn: The women were hot and their outfits made them even hotter, Glenn! The opening credits to the pilot/theatrical version shows a fair amount of lovely ladies, too.

@ Fang: Apparently, a lot of backstage politics turned the ship around so to speak. Season two is vastly different as you said. As you also mentioned, Hawk was my favorite part of season two and he could have gotten a spin off of his own. Thom Christopher also played an alien in Roger Corman's SPACE RAIDERS (1983). No, I haven't seen the Discovery Health doc. Gerard had a problem with doing believable action scenes, too.

@ Will: Oh, yes, I had a huge crush on her as a kid when this show was on TV in the early 80s. I will likely end up with more images of her on future episode write ups, lol. Oh, and Princess Ardala is incredibly hot as well.

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