Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: Season One

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: Season OneA while back, Intrada gave a remastered version of the original 1979 Buck Rogers soundtrack LP its first official compact disc release (following at least a decade of the same material – probably transferred from vinyl – being bootlegged relentlessly). Intrada also released several CDs’ worth of Buck Rogers composer Stu Phillips’ wealth of work on another Glen A. Larson-produced science fiction series from roughly the same period, Battlestar Galactica. The thought never occurred to me that anyone would go through the trouble of arranging a similar release from post-pilot Buck Rogers. And yet here it sits, three magical CDs of disco-era sci-fi soundtrack goodness, featuring music not just from Phillips, but from such composers as Les Baxter, Richard La Salle, and Johnny Harris.

The first thing that comes to mind in listening is that the “disco era” description is apt on multiple levels. Just as the series itself was an attempt to cash in on Star Wars mania, the music features both straightfoward symphonic power as well as disco-fied passages that seem to split the difference between John Williams and Meco. This is a common feature among all of the composers featured; in fact, for a show which featured the work of this many composers, the first season of Buck Rogers had a surprisingly cohesive musical sound, judging by the music presented here.

Not all of the first season is covered across the three CDs, with the emphasis on episodes early in the season and one late-season standout whose plot centered around a space rock group. Music is presented from the episodes Unchained Woman, Return Of The Fighting 69th, and the two-part The Plot To Kill A City, while a later first season episode, Space Rockers, features both score and source music. Various opening and closing title music, as well as the very brief rendition of the theme used as a commercial break bumper, is included, along with a few Stu Phillips source music cues used in Plot To Kill A City and the series premiere. Even the renditions of the closing titles with a vocal are included; needless to say, if you’re a fan of the theme music, this set has you covered.

The early runaway favorite – I’ll even fess up to jumping straight to disc three for this – is Space Rockers, an episode which revolved around Law & Order’s Jerry Orbach and Night Court’s Richard Moll hatching a scheme to play a subliminal mind control signal into live concerts by space rock group Andromeda. Andromeda’s concerts were represented by existing Johnny Harris disco tracks (namely the ridiculously catchy disco-with-synth-gasm that is “Odyssey”, here titled “Andromeda”), with slightly punched-up synth overdubs (because that sounds more spacey… am I right, ’70s?). Harris’ other scores have the same wobbly synth overlays in places, and it’s his tracks that I find myself gravitating toward when I go back to listen to the collection again.

Phillips’ score from the Plot To Kill A City two-parter and Les Baxter’s Vegas In Space are the middle ground between symphonic and rock/disco influences, while Richard La Salle’s Unchained Woman score comes down solidly on the “orchestral” side of the fence without even so much as a wink and a nudge toward the disco influences on the rest of the collection.

Ultimately, this is Johnny Harris’ gig. Not only did his sound pick up the ball from Phillips’ grandiose pilot score and run in a more fun direction with it, but Harris was also responsible for the various arrangements and bumper-length “cutdowns” of the Phillips/Larson main theme for the series. Much like Fred Steiner didn’t coin the Star Trek theme but ended up musically defining the series itself, Harris takes over here, and the show wound up being ridiculously fun for his efforts – even the music wasn’t taking the whole thing deadly seriously, and it was okay to have fun watching.

3 out of 4For those who demand more straightfoward orchestral grandeur, however, Intrada promises a similar collection of music from the truncated second season in 2014, which will be a true treat – much like Harris defined the first season, rising star Bruce Broughton owned the sound of the show’s troubled second year, with spectacular results. In the meantime, this set of season one scores is something I never thought would be available to us, and it puts a great big seven-year-old grin on my face to listen to it all again. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for us teevee space travelers of a certain age, old enough to remember that Gary Coleman was the president of a whole planet, it’s a nostalgia trip into the “guilty pleasure” archives.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title [Version 2] (1:14)
  2. Planet Of The Slave Girls – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Mysterious Illness (5:42)
  4. Love And Energy (2:57)
  5. Uncivilized Nomads (6:35)
  6. Food Conspiracy (2:47)
  7. Power Leech (2:40)
  8. Desert Trek (6:01)
  9. Surprises (2:33)
  10. Hot Escape (3:55)
  11. Space Battle (4:34)
  12. The Plot To Kill A City – music by Stu Phillips

  13. Argus (1:21)
  14. A Big One (2:05)
  15. All Systems Engaged (1:24)
  16. Direct Hit (2:57)
  17. Mind Games (2:23)
  18. Joella (1:35)
  19. Wilma Chase (2:13)
  20. Uncontrolled Reactions (1:19)
  21. Reversal Of Fortune (1:02)
  22. Last Time (3:06)
  23. Interrogation (2:16)
  24. A Touch Of Death (2:46)
  25. Do Your Job (2:27)
  26. Chain Reaction (1:57)
  27. Attempted Escape (1:06)
  28. End Credits [Long] (0:51)
    Disc Two

  1. Main Title [Version 1] (1:14)
  2. Return Of The Fighting 69th – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Escape From The Asteroids (2:02)
  4. Alicia (2:32)
  5. Ungrounded (6:03)
  6. Memory Globe (1:58)
  7. Watch For Falling Rocks (3:01)
  8. Handy Work (1:27)
  9. Play Acting (1:21)
  10. I’m Sorry (2:30)
  11. Bombing Run (1:57)
  12. Ancient Signaling Device (0:50)
  13. Bombs Away (0:50)
  14. Silver Eagles (1:12)
  15. Vegas In Space – music by Les Baxter

  16. Falina’s Abduction (2:40)
  17. Tangie’s World (2:16)
  18. Welcome To Sinaloa (4:42)
  19. Not Your Type (0:48)
  20. Tangie And Buck (6:57)
  21. One Or Two Ways (0:47)
  22. Velosi’s Pad (2:10)
  23. Kill Her (2:31)
  24. Buck To The Rescue (1:43)
  25. Goodbye Sinaloa (1:52)
  26. Aradala Returns – music by Johnny Harris

  27. Draconian Plot (4:06)
  28. Reaction Times (4:38)
  29. The Switch (3:25)
  30. Ardala And The Boys (2:08)
  31. Objective: New Phoenix (2:51)
  32. Ping Pong (2:25)
  33. End Credits [Long Vocal Version] (0:51)
    Disc Three

  1. Bumper (0:08)
  2. Space Rockers – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Andromeda (5:45)
  4. It’s In The Music (4:08)
  5. Let’s Do It (1:53)
  6. Unchained Woman – music by Richard La Salle

  7. Prison Approach (2:07)
  8. Hit The Deck (4:31)
  9. Escape Into The Desert (2:42)
  10. Desert Pursuit (2:52)
  11. Hungry Sand Squid (0:39)
  12. Well-Fed Sand Squid (2:07)
  13. Sand Swirl (2:20)
  14. Snooping Around (3:31)
  15. Buck To The Rescue… Again (5:18)
  16. End Credits (0:31)
  17. Source music by Stu Phillips

  18. Jelly Belly (From “Awakening”) (1:28)
  19. Source One (From “Plot To Kill A City”) (1:31)
  20. Source Two (From “Plot To Kill A City”) (1:40)
  21. End Credits [Vocal Version] (0:31)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2013
Disc one total running time: 69:45
Disc two total running time: 74:00
Disc three total running time: 43:55

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