Ranger 3, a manned deep space probe launched by NASA in 1987, plunges off-course after a meteor collision. A malfunction of the life support system preserves the ship’s sole occupant, pilot William “Buck” Rogers, in suspended animation. NASA never hears from Ranger 3 again, and the human race all but destroys itself in Rogers’ absence.
Ranger 3 is recovered by the flagship of the Draconian race in the Earth year 2491. When revived by Princess Ardala and her henchman Kane, Buck is interrogated. The Draconians claim to be on a mission of peace, but Buck wasn’t born yesterday – he was born five centuries ago, and he can tell when something’s afoot. Buck is turned loose – with a homing device planted aboard his ship, unknown to him – and makes his way back to Earth, where he is stunned to learn how long it has been since he last set foot on his home world. But even there, Buck is suspected of being a spy by everyone except Dr. Theopolis, a computerized brain who serves on the Computer Council that governs Earth. Buck also earns the trust of Twiki, a chatty, servile robot. When Colonel Deering and Dr. Huer discover the Draconian homing device, Buck is put on trial. Despite the valiant defense offered by Dr. Theopolis, Buck is found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
Colonel Deering offers Buck one last chance to prove his word by taking him along on a mission to escort the Draconian flagship to Earth in peace. The peace is cut short by what appears to be a pirate attack – and with the marauders’ unpredictable flying, only Buck’s headstrong, old-fashioned air combat training saves the Earth pilots – and, so it seems, the Draconian flagship. Princess Ardala is welcomed to Earth in an elaborate celebration. Dazzled by her beauty, and knowing that it is now well within the power of the Draconians to conquer Earth, Buck must make a choice – run away with the winning side (and the beautiful princess), or fight a hopeless battle to save a world he no longer knows?
written by Glen A. Larson & Leslie Stevens
directed by Daniel Haller
music by Stu Phillips
Cast: Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers), Pamela Hensley (Princess Ardala), Erin Gray (Wilma Deering), Henry Silva (Kane), Tim O’Connor (Doctor Huer), Joseph Wiseman (Draco), Dick Butler (Tigerman), Felix Silla (Twiki), Caroline Smith (Young woman), John Dewey-Carter (Supervisor), Kevin Coates (Pilot), David Cadiente (Comtel officer), Gil Serna (Technician), Larry Duran (Guard #1), Kenny Endoso (Guard #2), Eric Lawrence (Officer), H.B. Haggerty (Tigerman #2), Colleen Kelly (Wrather), Steve Jones (Pilot #2), David Buchanan (Pilot #3), Burt Marshall (Wingman), Eric Server (voice of Dr. Theopolis), Mel Blanc (voice of Twiki), William Conrad (Narrator/Draconian computer voice)
Notes: This pilot movie is frequently referred to as Arrival, though that title never appears on screen.
LogBook entry by Earl Green