Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ep 108 Return of the Fighting 69th, October 25, 1979

Director: Philip Leacock
Writer(s): David Bennett Carren
Guest Star(s):
Major Noah Cooper .... Peter Graves
Roxanne Trent .... Elizabeth Allen
Commander Corliss .... Robert Quarry
Sgt. "Big Red" MacMurthy .... Woody Strode
Corporal M.K. Schultz .... Eddie Firestone
Lt. Harriet Twain .... K.T. Stevens
Eli Twain (Harriet's Husband) .... Dan Sturkie
Cadet Westlake .... Robert Hardy
Cadet Clayton .... Duncan McKenzie
Alicia .... Katherine Wiberg
War Technician .... Clifford Turknett
Full list of Cast and Crew
Is it just me, or is the title of the show a bit crooked? The title calls the 69th the Fighting 69th, but they never did call themselves that, least not at any point in the show.
Wilma Deering, Buck, Clayton, and Westlake are perusing an old stolen freighter called Lisa's Dream. It is attempting to make its way to Necrosis IV, inside an asteroid belt. Lisa's Dream was scheduled to be flown into deep space and destroyed. Unfortunately, the security for the Directorate Hanger was designed to protect the contents of freighter, not the ship itself, allowing Corliss and three other solders to steal the ship. The Starfighter Squadron has almost over taken Lisa's Dream when four Scorpion fighters come out of the asteroids and attack. Two Scorpions are destroyed and Clayton and Westlake (two cadets) enter the asteroid belt to follow the freighter. Unfortunately they disobey Wilma's order to fall back and are killed by crashing into an asteroid. Wilma and Buck head back to Earth in defeat.

On Necrosis IV, Alicia is sitting in front of a vanity, looking into her Memory Globe, thinking about her parents. She was taken from Earth five years ago and has been a slave for Roxanne Trent since. Roxanne appears to find pleasure in torturing Alicia and just being mean. Roxanne shows her dislike for Alicia by stating that if the market for Terran servants wasn't so depressed, she would sell Alicia in an instant. Commander Corliss and his crew land Lisa's Dream and its stolen cargo on Necrosis IV where he is greeted by Roxanne. Eager for revenge, Roxanne inquires when they will be ready to attack Wilma Deering and all the people of Earth. Corliss assures her that in it will be as soon as the stolen missile containers are loaded with the nerve gas, which should take about three days. Now, the nerve gas already were in containers, so I am curious why they would have to be transferred to different missile containers? Lisa's Dream's cargo consisted of 20th century weapons found in an arsenal, in Washington D.C.

Three years ago, Wilma Deering attempted to arrest Roxanne Trent and Corliss for smuggling weapon's to hostile colonies. They resisted and Colonel Deering was forced to fire on their ship. Their Cargo exploded. In an attempt to seal off the cabin, Corliss fell into the cargo hold and became a human torch.  Roxanne pulled Corliss out, and tried to put him out with her hands. A decision that cost her right arm. Because of their injuries from the fire, they have been bent on taking revenge against Wilma, and all of Earth. The two had taken refuge on Necrosis IV and have been  gunrunners ever since. The Directorate is aware of their location and activities however, the asteroid belt surrounding their base is just too dangerous to enter.

Huer orders Wilma to recruit Noah Cooper to help the Starfighters navigate the Necrosis Asteroid belt. It would seem that Noah is an expert when it comes to this particular Asteroid Belt and his experience would be invaluable in flying through them safely. He must have flown it dozen's of times over otherwise how else would he know the belt so well? So, Buck and Wilma go to the local bar, where they expect to find the retired major. Wilma says hello to Plato, the Bartender(?). The bar set looks just like the one used in The Plot to Kill a City, when Buck confronted Argus for the first time. Wilma becomes worried that Buck when she is unable to locate Noah. She was expecting Noah to be at the bar by 1800 hours (6:00pm), as he spends a lot of time there. Sure enough, Mr. Mission Impossible himself (Jim Phelps), enters the scene and hugs Wilma like a daughter. The warm greeting between two old friends soon changes
as Noah's bitterness about being retired comes up. Red, a member of the 69th, comes out from a back room and propositions Noah to join him in a came of 10&11 (Blackjack). Noah agrees and leaves Wilma with another guilt trip. Wilma chases after Noah, and enters a dark room where Red and three other members of the 69th Earth Space Marine Squadron are hiding to surprise Noah for his Birthday. Among the Squadron, is their Mascot, Lucky the dog. The 69th was retired after they failed their physical exam. Their Silver Eagles where taken and Wilma was the unfortunate one who had to do it.

Noah wanting to prove to the Directorate that he is still useful agrees to to help Wilma. As long as the entire 69th Squadron helps and when it's all over, they will get their Silver Eagles back and be reinstated to active duty. Noah's plan is to convert Seymour Class Cargo Sleds into Star Belly bombers, the ship the Squadron used when they attacked the base years ago. They will need 12 hours to equip the sleds with tail gun turrets and another 12 to train, at which point they would be ready to attack in two days. This is the first time the Sled is referenced as a Seymour Class Cargo Sled. Noah picks up, what I can only assume is the actual FX model of the sled. Holding it in his hand, we get a nice close up of the miniature's detail and its size. Probably the best onscreen reference. Wilma reminds them that they are all almost at the Mandatory Retirement Age (85), and refuses Noah's terms and conditions. She feels that they are too old for such a mission. Buck makes the statement about ageism, and it looks like it may be an episode how the elderly are still useful and should not be discriminated against just because of their age. A task that only Buck Rogers can do.

Coincidentally, back on Necrosis IV, Corliss says that they should be ready to attack Earth in 48 hours (exactly two days). Roxanne states she has a spy in the Directorate who is trying to find out how much Dr. Huer knows about their plans. Corliss doesn't seem to care one way or the other about how much Dr. Huer know regarding their plans. He is confident that he is well protected by his pulsar batteries and the asteroids. A very similar situation we have seen before in The Plot to Kill a City. I would have thought that after catching Hartsteen, the Directorates security would have increased. But it would seem that they still have spy in their midst's. A female spy this time, who informs Corliss about the bomb raid Huer is planning in the next two days. Who this spy is, we never find out. She appears to disappear after the raid.

The Fighting 69th had nine training runs, and Big Red was unable to hit a single target. Noah didn't do much better. They seem to be a bit rusty after a year of retirement. Wilma complains that they are using outdated techniques. Cargo Sleds that are 20 years old, 30 year old bombs, and 85 year old pilots. Buck suggests that she is so afraid that Noah is going to get hurt, it's clouding her judgement that the 69th is more than capable to handle the job. I cannot see how failing their physical exam, and a 100% failure 9 times in a row is considered "clouded judgement". The writers seem to have changed tactics in this scene. They are no longer perusing the ageism angle, but that Wilma's personal feelings for loosing a family friend is the reason she is hesitant to give the 69th a chance.

Roxanne Trent is just a cruel woman. She just walks over to Alicia, who was getting something to drink for Corliss, and just takes her Memory Globe. Using her bionic hand, crushes the globe, forcing Alicia to watch. It was probably all Alicia had of her family and now it's gone. Alicia, who appears to be mute, looks away in pain. Roxanne just gloats over the fact she hurt Alicia's feelings. Alicia looks up towards the ceiling, as if she is longing for Buck to come and rescue her. A true Cinderella story.

Wilma and Buck join the 69th in only three sleds. Buck and Wilma in one, Noah, Eli and Harriet in another, and Red and M.K. in the other. Noah guides them through the asteroid field with ease. Corliss sends out three Scorpion Fighters to intercept their approach. Noah orders the Sleds into a tight "T" formation (how three ships form a "T"?). The first three Scorpions are quickly destroyed. Four more appear to join the battle. Wilma and Buck begin to loose control of their ship, and are overtaken by the new arrivals. The Scorpion Pilots instruct Buck and Wilma to proceed to Vector 9-4KV Coordinate "C". The radio is not on a secure channel and Noah and Red hear Buck and Wilma being captured. Fearing Buck and Wilma to be now lost,
Noah and the rest of the 69th proceed with the plans to bomb Necrosis IV. Or do they? Theo reminds Dr. Huer, that Earth's leaders must survive at all costs. While gas would have no affect on Earths computers there are men and women that need to be saved. Huer informs maintenance to ready the Omega Complex. A building that will protect a select group of people from death in such an event as this. Dr. Huer and Theo have the responsibility to choose who will be saved by being allowed into the Omega Complex.

Wilma and Buck are brought in to Roxanne and Corliss. Roxanne holds out her hand and for some strange reason Wilma accepts it. Why does she think that the gesture to shake hands was a sincere one? I mean, common. All Roxanne wants to do is crush Deerings hand with her Bionic arm. When Buck takes her hand, he endures any kind of crushing and kisses her hand as a sign of respect. Buck notices Alicia and some how is able to discern that she is a deaf mute and starts to "talk" to Alicia via American Sign Language. I don't know what they are saying, but it appears that Buck asked Alicia who she was. She spells A-L-I-C-I-A, then asks who Buck is. Buck then spells out B-U-C-K. Buck then asks where she is from. Alicia responds
"Earth. I was taken four [five?] years ago." Roxanne puts a stop to their talking, and sends Alicia away. Lighting a torch that Alicia gave to Roxanne, she threatens to burn both Buck and Wilma, so they would know what it was like to be burned. Wilma, who's hands where left unbound, goes in for the attack. Buck takes on the two guards while Roxanne and Wilma cat fight. At this very moment, Noah and the Fighting 69th are detected approaching the base. With only four Scorpion fighters left, Corliss commands that they sent to destroy the Sleds. Buck and Wilma are unable to escape this time.

Buck and Wilma are in a holding cell, their fate looking pretty bleak. I can feel a little tear swelling up as a piano starts to play the Buck Rogers Theme song in a slow, and intimate way. Buck tries to cheer  Wilma up encouraging her that they will get out of their situation. Then kicks that happy thought out from under her calling her gullible with a play on phrase "if you buy that, I've got a nice corner lot for you in Anarchia". Wilma asks Buck about his knowlege of American Sign Language (or Hand-Talking). She is curious how Buck learned it, as it is only taught to children who are born deaf (so, just to the children and not their parents too?). Then Wilma contradicts herself, saying that there is no reason for anyone to learn it since deafness is usually cured in with electronic surgery during childhood. Why this wasn't done for Alicia, we are not told. While they are chatting, Alicia walks into the prison and signs to Buck that she wants to help. "Hold correct Attention. Stand near doors". Buck understands and asks Wilma to distract the guards. Que the sexy music. Wilma walks seductively up to the guards and begins to flirt with
them. "You've got the most beautiful blue eyes" "When do you get off duty" "You three have a date tonight?". Buck helps pimp Wilma out "She likes you". This is really the only moment in the show where I feel a bit uncomfortable. The implication that this scene gives that women will use sex as a tool to get men to do what they want, and men will do just about anything (even let a prisoner out) if they believe there is a chance they might get some T&A. It would be nice if TV didn't portray men as dumb insects being attracted to a bug light. Zapp! Well, Alicia helps Buck and Wilma escape and they take the guards cloths to blend in better. Another sexual innuendo as Wilma commands that the guards strip. Were it the writers intention to give the audience the impression that Wilma, a woman, enjoyed the idea of seeing three nude men on a more personal level other than the fact they need their uniforms?

A Scorpion Pilot radio's in to the Necrosis base that the 69th has just killed Tryon and the two other pilots, leaving himself to defend the base. The Pilot sees Noah's ship has been damaged and heads for him. M.K. spots the incoming Scorpion at 155 degrees. Harriet her rear mounted turret and destroys the last Scorpion. Red makes the first run on the base. They are still unsure if their bombs are operational, and they have to avoid the pulsar batteries that protect the base by flying under them. Alicia, Wilma, and Buck try to sneak past Roxanne and Corliss, but Roxanne tries to enlist their help, thinking they where guards. Buck yells for them to run, but they are all quickly caught again. Luckily Red's bomb hits the base at this very moment, sending cinder-blocks down on top of our hero's and the bad guys. Corliss takes a direct hit of a huge ceiling block, but gets up apparently unharmed. Buck see's a machine gun just laying there (Corliss thinks that it is a signaling device) and
fires it into the ground, and at the back wall as a warning for them to stay back. The attack run outside has a striking resemblance to the attack run of the rebels did against the Death Star... I wonder if...Back to our heros, Buck Wilma and Alicia are able to escape on their captured sled just before Noah, Eli, and Harriet drop their bomb, for their second run, destroying the entire base, killing possibly hundreds of people. The explosion is described as like to a 50 megaton bomb. Everyone celebrates!

Oh no. The celebration of the destruction of Necrosis IV is cut short when  no one seems to have any radio contact with Noah, Harriet and Eli. Arriving back on Earth alive and the excitement of Dr. Huer of their success, doesn't seem to take the gloom out of the survivors. Twiki brings out a small case that contains the 69ths Silver Eagles that will reinstate them to full active duty. The P.A. interrupts with an announcement that a ship is coming in on 2101. A 69th squadron sled to be exact. Noah comes over the speakers and puts everyone's fears away. He is alive! Oh, Harriet and Eli are alive too. I mean, they were important people too, right? Buck decided to throw everyone a party in his room, while he went to the Directorate Registry and located Alicia's parents and to set up surgery for her so she can hear. Everyone is happy and Alicia is reunited with her parent. Who needs a Memory Globe now?

Character Facts learned in this episode
Noah Cooper: Major, and in charge of the Earth Space Marine Squadron. Flew with Deering's father. Flight instructor. "Failed" his annual physical fitness test last year, as a forced retirement. Had his Silver Eagles taken from him

Wilma Deering: First flight instructor was Noah Cooper. Father flew in the Earth Space Marine Squadron. Nickname "Dizzy Deering" or Dizzy "D" for short because as a child she ran around, getting into everything making Noah and her father "Dizzy".

Buck Rogers: A friend taught him sign language. She taught handicapped children, and Buck joined them sometimes on field-trips.
References to the 20th Century that the 25th does't get: Clam up
Deaths: 19 + countless number of men and women on Necrosis IV
Miniatures: (4) Scorpion, (3) Sled, (4) Starfighter, (1) Lisa's Dream Frieghter

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