“In the year 1987, NASA launched the last of America’s deep space probes. Aboard this compact starship, a lone astronaut, Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers, was to experience cosmic forces beyond all comprehension. In a freak mishap, his life-support systems were frozen by temperatures beyond imagination. Ranger 3 was blown out of its planned trajectory into an orbit one thousand times more vast, an orbit which was to return Buck Rogers to Earth five hundred years later…”
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a feature of my growing-up. Along with Battlestar Galactica (the slightly kitschy 1978 original, not the update) and other various series that piggy-backed on the phenomenal success of Star Wars, these are perhaps the reason I’m such a sci-fi nerd and general Benny clone.
Buck Rogers has a far deeper pedigree than solely the 1979 TV serial, but I didn’t find out about that until later. It’s probably about due for a reboot, in fact. But for at least a couple of years of my childhood, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was required weekly viewing to me.
It helped that it had one of the most pleasingly swooshy space fighters there’s probably ever been, and as the six- or seven-year-old I was, even the cute robot Twiki was charming rather than annoying.
Earth Defense Directorate Thunderfighter
In the post-nuclear war rebuilt Earth of Buck Rogers, the familiar nations have been subsumed into the Earth Defense Directorate, who manage reawaken the cryogenically-frozen Captain and determine to make use of him as an agent due to his skills as a pilot, his general resourcefulness and his unique trait that he is unrecorded in any of the various databases of the surviving human population.
Buck’s obviously Space Shuttle-derived Ranger 3 is not seen again after the opening credits; it’s unarmed, and presumably too primitive. The starfighter of choice is the Earth Defense Directorate fighter, sometimes called the “Thunderfighter”.
As a kid, I remember I had a diecast metal one produced by the Corgi company who usually made toy cars. The Corgi version had a flat metal fin connecting the front prongs, because apparently even in the 1970s you could take somebody’s eye out with that. The fin is actually how I remember the fighter, and it had the added advantage that it looked cool in its own right. In a triumph of imagination over visual evidence, my six-year-old brain even edited the fin into the TV version.
I’m not sure what brought Buck Rogers back into my mind. I think I was trawling the depths of my brain for something to build that wasn’t a SHIP and wasn’t Classic Space or Blacktron, and this is what I came up with. One of the only two ships from that series I can even remember.
At an overall length probably shorter than an F-22 Raptor, the Thunderfighter and its contemporary the classic Galactica Colonial Viper are among the smallest film or TV space fighters, dwarfed by the X-Wing from Star Wars, the Starfury from Babylon 5 and even Star Trek‘s obscure Peregrine. Apparently in the Buck Rogers future, miniaturisation is a highly developed science and fuel tankage isn’t an issue.
Like my Corgi model, and I believe like the ones on TV, my LEGO Thunderfighter’s wings can deploy for atmospheric flight and fold in for space combat. What this achieves in a vacuum I’m not sure, but it’s a cool feature and the fact that I managed to actually build a function like that is something I’m rather proud of. Three cheers for the Technic-incompetent…
My version of the Earth Defense Directorate’s primary spacecraft is a little thicker in the back hull than the sleek, flattened TV version, but getting it down to TV sleekness with as few studs showing as I’ve got left is beyond my current capacity if I’m going to keep that functionality.
Also, the cockpit canopy is traditionally hinged rather than sliding forwards like I remember the “real” ones doing, but the Thunderfighter’s cockpit was fairly heavily framed and my Snowspeeder windshield was the closest thing I have to that look.
I’ve used a Star Wars helmet (from one of the Rebel Alliance or Resistance battle packs I believe) on the pilot, as even though it’s partly brown it’s still the closest match I can find to the open-faced widows-peaked white helmets they wore.
It occurs to me that a Buck Rogers-themed creation might make a good Ideas set, so I might even take the step of submitting this one.
What do you think?