Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Series Bible

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Promo Image

* Please Note:
The author of this site does not own the rights to any of the shows he would love to see remade.  The bibles and scripts are all works of fandom, and labours of love.

The first draft of this series bible was started mid-September, 2019.

Series Bible – First Draft

An Overview of the Series

Gone are the campy story-lines and blatant sexism of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and gone are the re-purposed special effects and bland but sometimes beautifully stylistic sets.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, in the 21st Century, is an entirely new beast.

This remake idea borrows mostly from the Glen A. Larson production that ran from 1979 to 1981, while being mindful of the characters 91 year history (as of 2019).  Campy as the Larson series was, that show could have become something special – particularly given it’s wonderful pilot.

Buck Rogers, as a 21st Century property, will employ socially relevant story lines, feature quality special effects, exciting and believable characters, and immersive, sometimes even haunting cinematography.  The series will detour slightly from most current modern science fiction, in that it will be entirely family friendly while still commenting on issues of relevance – but in a way that will educate children while informing or challenging adult viewers.  There will be nothing childish about the show.

Rather than posit a dystopian future, the series will focus on hope.  Earth, at the start of the series, will indeed be under threat (in keeping with Buck Rogers tradition), but the humans of the 25th Century have faced a lot of adversity as they have endured the consequences of mistakes made by previous generations, and they are not easily subdued. They have not fractured apart into warring countries or city-states, and have pulled together as a united world to ensure the future of humanity.

Earth is not a utopia in the 25th Century.  Humanity survives by living in a series of Arks, which are domed cities on land, and ‘sphere cities’ that float in the Thermosphere of the planet or are partially or fully submerged in the ocean, where cities once were that have now been reclaimed by the sea after decades of climate change.

When the audience first arrives on our future Earth alongside Buck, they are greeted by a technologically advanced group of people, but a group of people who are coming back from the brink of extinction.

The series will tell these stories across a collection of narrative arcs: The Overall Series’ ArcMulti-episode Arcs, and Main Character Arcs. In addition to the Arcs, is the series’ overall theme, which is the environment. More on the theme later.

The Overall Series Arc is three-fold, and each are relatively simple and obvious if you know the Buck Rogers story:
1. The Draconian Empire’s relentless push to conquer or destroy Earth and her allies.
2. Earth’s ongoing journey to protect their environment and their people.
3. The evolution of an Alliance of worlds that will stand against Draconia.

The Episodic Arcs will serve a few purposes, most notably to advance the narrative in a bigger way, to flesh out the lives of our secondary characters, and to comment on issues of relevance to those of us still stuck in the 21st Century.  Examples of issues stories are:
* The plight of refugees.
* The issue of hunger in far flung corners of the Earth.
* Racism (Specism/Xenophobia).
* Artificial Intelligence and its impact on humanity.
* Climate Change impacts, and the continuous fallout from environmental instability.
* Emergent technologies.
* Social isolation and loneliness, and so on.

The Main Character Arcs are, it is hoped, what will make an audience stick with the show, as well as attract new viewers.

Main Character Arcs will not be resolved across three or four episodes or even a season.  Most will last the intended duration of the series, with some only finding resolution in the very final episode.

The Main Character Arcs are loosely planned to allow writers some flexibility and include:
1. Buck Rogers coming to terms with being displaced in time, and the loss of his wife and family as he slowly falls in love with someone new.
2. Wilma Deering’s journey from warrior to politician, to possible eventual leader of an Alliance spanning multiple star systems.
3. Princess Ardala’s journey from spoiled brat to grown woman coming into her own power.  She will spend a good chunk of the series wanting to either own or destroy Buck Rogers, but her arc will have her eventually surrendering everything for him.
4. Doctor Elana Huer’s journey toward reconciliation with her partner after the loss of their children.
5. Hawk’s work to inspire an Alliance of worlds that his people can be a part of, as a way of saving them from the relentless expansion of the Draconian Empire.

There are other characters in the series, but Buck, Wilma, Elana, Hawk and Ardala are the stars.  It is their points of view we are most interested in, though secondary characters like Kane, Regent Draco and others will definitely capture the imagination of viewers.

This series bible is being written with a five-year story arc in mind, with each season consisting of 12 episodes for a total of 60 episodes.

While the series is aimed at all age groups, hard issues will not be ignored, and simple solutions will not be the norm.  The show wants to inspire conversations in families, at school, at the work place, and online.  Our heroes are heroic, but they’re also human (for the most part).  Things won’t come easily, and unfortunately tragedy will touch each of their lives. Our stories are, in essence, morality tales about love, sacrifice, compromise, and resilience.

At it’s core, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is about coming to terms with change, and it is about opposing bullies.  All that can be said, in this instance, is that change builds character and resilience, and the bullies had better beware.

Doctor Huer, Buck and Wilma

Getting it Right

J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick’s re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, and later, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby’s development of the James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) novels into a television series called The Expanse, redefined modern science fiction on the small screen.  Each pushed the threshold of what had been done, and further evolved the story-telling process and the science fiction genre in general.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century doesn’t want to be any of those shows, but it does want to be a part of further evolving the genre.

While we don’t want to be Babylon 5Battlestar Galactica, or The Expanse, we are definitely inspired by all of them.  Those three series are our touchstones.  Straczynski’s sweeping narrative, Moore and Eick’s insistence on realism and bold story-telling, and Fergus and Ostby’s incredible ability to pivot between different points of view in a single episode without losing the narrative, are all brilliant.  Any writer would be insane not to stand (and hopefully balance) on the shoulders of these giants and aspire to the examples they set.

That’s not to say that the work being done on Star Trek: Discovery or Doctor Who, or that the work done on Stargate, The 4400WestworldThe 100 or any other scifi series has been bad, because it hasn’t.  It’s been outstanding.  Our show and what we want to achieve with it fits more into the mold of Straczynski, Moore, Eick, Fergus and Ostby’s styles.

Like both Battlestar Galactica and The Expanse, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is naturalistic science fiction (a term I believe was coined by Ronald D. Moore), but naturalistic science fiction that has a healthy respect for some of the more fantastical elements of the genre.

Story-Telling in the 25th Century

Theme: As indicated above, the overall theme of the series is the environment and humanity’s impact on it. Recent research (2014) released by the World Wildlife Fund and the preeminent Zoological Society of London, has found that we have lost half of the animal population on Earth.

Half. Because of the way we choose to live.

Humanity has become an invasive species, destroying our world’s ecosystem rather than safe-guarding it as we should, and as Indigenous cultures around the planet continue to encourage us to do.

According to a recent Living Planet Report, our ecological footprint, as a species, is disastrous. We are clearing forests at a rate faster than they can regrow, we are catching fish faster than the ocean can restock them, and we are pumping water from rivers faster than rainfall can replenish them. If only that was all we were doing, because that’s bad enough, but there’s more. I encourage you to read the report.

This information, and more below in our description of 25th Century life that focuses on Climate Change, is why, if it were ever made with this theme, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century would be one of the most relevant and important series on any streaming platform anywhere. It’s ability to inspire change or at the very least bring awareness to the issues, if executed properly, would be phenomenal.

The beauty of television is in its long story-telling format. It can take a cause or an issue, and unpack it in a really meaningful and compelling way.

That is what this version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century will do, with the theme of environmental protection underscoring the entire series’ narrative.

Visual Style: The series’ visual style will be cinematic.  With the advent of 4K and streaming mega-series, there is no other choice.

We want to take it a step further though, taking our cue from the remade Lost in Space which produced some absolutely gorgeous, expansive setup shots and jaw-dropping panoramas in its first season.

The visual style is based around the clever use of light, and making sure everything is as naturalistic and realistically coloured as possible.  Shadow will be used to great effect, as will light and the way it plays on various materials, but we won’t ever get carried away – and while everyone seems to love a lens flare these days, our show will avoid them like we would a plague of zombies.

While there is no denying how beautiful the original Blade Runner was with it’s incredibly effective use of shadow and light, our use of shadow and light won’t be that persistent, though it may at times be that dramatic.  Likewise, no matter how much we love The Matrix, we will avoid their habit of enhancing the colour green, while washing out other colours.  This ‘wash out’ effect, now widely used in a lot of genre productions, is not to be used except where it may help to convey the “alien-ness” of a new world.

The show wants gorgeous set up shots and panoramic vistas.  Though Earth has been through an environmental catastrophe, and humanity has faced down an Extinction Level Event, there is beauty in nature reclaiming land, and in the impressive Ark Cities that dot the planet.

Finally, camera use will be a mix.  We want expansive shots that convey majesty and wonder, but we also want gritty, intimate shots where those are appropriate.  Hand-held cameras will be used, as will cranes and anything else we think will enhance the look of the story.

Cinematic and Directorial Style: The two key words are breathtaking and inspiring.  Visually exciting would be a close third – but without the crazy.  Star Trek: Discovery, as an example of a new science fiction series, is beautiful, but some of the camera moves are quite disorienting.  Rotating cameras can be effective, but in Buck Rogers, such shots should only be used during heavy action sequences.

An example of the visual style Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is looking for, is the work of Claudio Miranda.  Claudio was cinematographer on Oblivion, Life of Pi, and Tron: Legacy, among other films.  Using natural colour and expansive vistas, he creates beautiful visual landscapes that are incredible.

Editing: Modern science fiction shows sometimes have a habit of stuffing a story too full of action.  In any battle scene that is unavoidable, but it’s entirely avoidable in other areas.  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century aims to be a character drama that gives the characters time to breath, but it is also an action piece that will feature incredible space battles and hectic, frantic land based shoot outs.

In most cases, the show will avoid quick cuts and a frenetic pace because these things can sometimes overwhelm the narrative and the audience.  Where it can, the show will employ The West Wing walk and talk style, or continuous shots that avoid things like two-shot close-ups that can be visually boring.

Scientific Accuracy:  Where possible, Buck Rogers will be scientifically accurate.  Because Earth has been affected by Climate Change, every effort will be made to get that science right, and to effectively visualise a world that has been affected by rising sea levels and an almost constant barrage of destructive storms and devastating drought.

Likewise, when in space, our ships will not make any sound.  Space will be silent, with only music to convey the action and wonder.

In this, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century will take its cue from the Battlestar Galactica remake.  Any sound produced will come from inside a vessel and because of that, most exterior shots will be seen from cockpits and windows.  For example, the sound of an engine will only be heard as a background thrum in the cockpit of an Earth Directorate Star Fighter (aka Thunder Fighter), or a louder sound if a scene is taking place in the engine room of a capital ship.  Likewise the sound of weapons fire will come from the ships.  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is not Star Wars or Star Trek.  I’m particularly fond of the dull thwop sound you can hear in Battlestar Galactica whenever a Viper fires its weapons.  If it doesn’t get us into trouble, we’ll attempt to do something similar.

In keeping with scientific accuracy and our topic of space going vessels, our ships won’t be able to turn with any ease, but like in The Expanse and the 21st Century Battlestar Galactica, the ships will have to use small jets to turn, and larger vessels will need to either reorient to slow themselves down or will require forward mounted engines to slow their momentum.

Language: It’s always a little jarring – unnecessarily jarring, when a science fiction show set in the future uses contemporary 21st Century language. That’s not to say shows set in the future should be overly stylistic in their language, but they should be mindful of the fact language changes as time goes by.

Because Buck Rogers is from the first half of the 21st Century, we can use contemporary language for his character, but that will not “infect” and change the language of those native to the 25th Century – as we sometimes saw in Larson’s production.

None of this suggests writers create a made-up language, writers are instead invited to think about how humans might speak as we are collectively bringing humanity back from the brink of extinction. Will our language be full of metaphor?  Will it be overly formal?  Will it be more militaristic?  Will it be brief and focused without elaboration?

Care should be taken to be relatable without our characters sounding like they’re all from the 21st Century.

Humour: I’ve debated this one back and fourth for two days and have come down on the side of humour – which had not been my intention.

The Larson series was funny.  Sometimes it tried too hard to be funny, but the charm of Buck Rogers was in his charismatic personality and self-deprecating humour as well as his humerous observations of life in the 25th Century.

We can’t take that away from the character, though it will be toned down.  Unlike Gil Gerards Buck, this one won’t get over losing the life he knew quickly.  He won’t get all angsty about it, but he will be haunted.  Humour will be his coping mechanism.

Besides Buck, the other character that can be mined for humourous moments is Princess Ardala.  She’s not a comic foil, but she’s an extravagant, energetic, at times over the top humanoid.  It’s okay if, when together, she and Buck become almost farcical.  While the series isn’t intended to be dark, it’s subject matter is heavy, and a farcical scene (that makes sense) in an episode or two will be a welcome thing.  Buck and Ardala are deeply attracted to each other on a variety of levels, but they also want to kill each other at least 50% of the time.

Other than in those characters, humour in the series will be minimal and appropriate.  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is not a comedy, so we just have to choose our moments carefully.

Music: The music for the series will be mostly orchestral, in the vein of Stargate: Universe and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, but with a character like Buck Rogers, we have a logical and appropriate way to weave contemporary music into the narrative of an episode.

It’s not a device we’ll abuse, but it can happen.

For example, say Buck is in his apartment, kicking back, listening to some music from the 20th and 21st Centuries.  Nine Inch Nails‘ “The Great Destroyer” from their Year Zero album, is playing on his headphones or over a speaker in his room.  Intercut with Buck chilling out to music are Draconian assassins slipping into his apartment complex and taking people out.  Buck gets some kind of warning and heads out into the fray.  It would be completely acceptable to continue that song over the action.

If we’re going to do things like that in an episode, songs need to be chosen where the music can enhance the action, and the lyrics need to be relevant to the situation and character.

The reason I chose Nine Inch Nails‘ “Great Destroyer” as an example is because it gets a bit musically chaotic at the end and a bunch of laser beams blowing chunks out of buildings will work with that nicely.  Also, when it comes to the Draconians, Buck will be the Great Destroyer.  The lyrics make sense.

To be honest, if I could get this series made and get Trent Reznor to score the whole thing, I’d let him use his music in every moment of every episode if he wanted to!

But other than that musical fan-boy moment, hopefully you get the picture.  Orchestral music, check.  Use of contemporary music, check – but only if appropriate and we should not over use the device.

Princess Ardala

Character: Glen A. Larson’s Buck Rogers utilised stereotypes, which was a product of that show’s time.  The bad guys were larger than life and sometimes the good guys were too.  Every time the hero smiled, you expected to see a glint of bright light shining off their teeth, and every time the bad guy turned around you expected a mustache that was being eagerly twirled.

In this version of the show, the heroes of Buck Rogers are just people.  They’re not cybernetically enhanced, they’re not superheroes with incredible gifts, they’re not stand up comics, and they’re not psychic.  They are men, women, trans people, non-binary individuals who are all very, very human.  Fallible.  A little broken.  Loving.  Sometimes not so much so.

The villains?  Well, they’re the same and they most definitely do not think of themselves as villains.

The central “bad guy” for this version of Buck Rogers is the Regent, Draco, leader of the Draconian Empire.  Draco is both a title and a name, with whomever rules the Draconian Empire – regardless of gender – assuming that honourific.

Draco does horrible things, but every action he takes is out of fear.  His motivation is based in that horrible emotion that often motivates and limits each of us.

No one in the 21st Century version of Buck Rogers is a stereotype, and stereotypes should be avoided by anyone writing for the show.  Our characters are complex, multi-layered individuals and the audience should sympathise with every single one of them.  We want them to hate Draco, but in quiet moments to sit and wonder “would I do that, if I were in his position?”  We want them to cheer for Buck, Wilma, Hawk and Huer, and even Ardala, but we also want them to yell at our heroes for some of the less than stellar decisions they make.

Storylines: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is a drama with impressive action scenes.  The fact it takes place 402 years in the future (as of 2019) is beside the point.

The audience needs to be able to identify with our characters, and needs to be able to relate to the subject matter being dealt with in an episode.  We want this ‘world’ that we’re creating to be as real as possible, so that our audience suspends disbelief and genuinely feel like they’re in the 25th Century when watching the show.

We don’t want to jar them out, so no technobabble, no guy in a suit pretending to be the alien of the week, and absolutely no reset buttons.

As detailed elsewhere, stories will have arcs, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be the odd stand alone episode.  The only rule with a stand alone episode is that it must grow our characters.  While it might not push the big series wide arc along, it should add something to our characters.

If we can keep our characters relatable, we’re half way to winning an audience that will stick with us for the long run.

Dos and Don’ts:  Aliens do exist in this version of Buck Rogers, most notably Hawk’s species.

In total, there are six known surviving space-faring civilisations in the Milky Way galaxy – Terrans (humans), the Draconians, the Taves (Hawk’s people were known as the Tengata Manu in Larson’s series, so we’ve taken the “T” from that and used the Latin word for birds, which is Aves – his species’ name is pronounced “Tah-Vay”), the Entari (pronouonced “En-Tah-Ree”), the Pei (pronounced “Pay”), and the Sestet (pronounced “Ses-Tet”).  Writers can focus storylines on any of these, in particular the Entari and the Pei who are in the middle of diplomatic overtures with Earth at the time of the pilot episode.

Writers cannot, however, develop time travel stories or alien of the week stories (which includes strange energy clouds, god like entities and so on), and are not encouraged to create additional species.

Parallel universes can be used, so can flashback episodes or scenes that show Buck’s life prior to him crash-landing on Europa (a moon of Jupiter) and waking up in the 25th Century, but the flashback device should be used sparingly.

So too should dream sequences.  Let’s do our best to avoid those!

Revisiting Old Episodes:  We will borrow heavily from “Awakening” Part One, and “Awakening” Part Two in the pilot of this version of Buck Rogers.

There’s also nothing (other than copyright issues) stopping us from looking at old episodes of the show and adapting them for our story.  While there were a LOT of clunkers in the first and second seasons of the 70/80s version of Buck Rogers, there were some real gems too.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Cityscape

Going Deep, or…
Welcome to the 25th Century

Earth in the 25th Century
The history of Buck Rogers, throughout the last nine-decades, has seen the character survive nuclear holocausts and cave-ins (complete with radioactive gas), as a device to propel him into the future.

Each device used has been based around “what’s terrifying humanity right now?”

Back in the 1930s, it was radiation.  In the 1970s, when Glen A. Larson first started developing his idea for a Buck Rogers remake, it was the threat of nuclear war.

We’re still afraid of both, but are they top of the list though?

Probably not.  Granted, China, North Korea, parts of the Middle East, Russia and the United States have all gotten a little cranky this decade, but our fear of a nuclear holocaust rises and falls with the changing news cycle.

Climate Change, however, is the most polarising and enduring issue to date this century.

The Washington Post, in mid-September 2019, published an article that, in summary, shared how frightened American young people are of Climate Change.  They’re not alone.  The Guardian in my own country of Australia put up an in-depth article in early-September 2019 stating that polls and research show that more and more Australians are fearful of Climate Change.

The United Nations released a major scientific report in May 2019 that was terrifying.  The report clearly shows that human activity has impacted both the abundance and diversity of animals and plants and that the knock-on effect is a shortage of freshwater and climate instability – among other things.  Around the same time, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to declare a Climate Emergency.

Despite the protestations of wishful thinking and incredibly ignorant politicians around the globe, who care more about money than the future of our species, the science is clear.  You actually can’t argue with it without making stuff up.  Climate Change is real.  It is the number one threat facing our planet and our entire species (and every other species on Earth).

The United Nations calls Climate Change the defining issue of our time, and states we need to act now.

This version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is, more than anything, a tale about what happens if we don’t.

As a human being, I hope we act now.  As a writer I pray the future I’m dreaming up for Buck Rogers never comes true.  As someone who was born in the 1970s and who has for many years worked closely with a number of governments, I doubt we will.  Many of our politicians, regardless of country, would seem to lack the courage to act, and many businesses seem more concerned with ‘profit now’ instead of what their activities might be a part of doing to future generations.  If there were any justice in the world, our governments would be declared invalid and complicit in the deaths of entire species and of children yet to be born, through their inaction.

Our show postulates that worst case scenario of action taken too late.

The history of this fictional reality shows that the governments of the 21st Century did not get their act together until 2050, and as a result, Climate Change devastated our world and was responsible for the deaths of billions of people over the course of a couple of hundred years, as well as the widespread extinction of numerous animals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, insects and plants.

Our polar icecaps melted, our oceans and rivers rose and burst their banks.  Temperatures soared and droughts swept through multiple countries.  Tsunamis destroyed entire cities, as did hurricanes and tornadoes.  Massive electrical storms wiped out entire energy grids and laid waste to infrastructure.

The world Buck Rogers finds himself in is one where his generation failed to act in time.

Earth, in the year 2421, when our series is set, is an endlessly haunting landscape of lost grandeur. Cities lie buried under massive mounds of dirt, sand and overgrown forests, and entire coastlines are unrecognisable.  Inland lakes have joined with oceans to literally reshape continents.

There is beauty in this, but for someone like Buck who saw first hand the thriving metropolises that now rest buried by generations of debris, it is shocking.

However, not all is lost.  Humanity survived, and slowly, through great hardship, started to thrive – but very carefully so.

Title Sequence Screen Shot

The human population holds steady at 1.5 billion people, and is carefully controlled through a two-child per family law.

Human beings live in a series of Ark Cities, four in the former United States, two in South America, two in Canada, four in Australia, ten across Europe, four in Russia, eight across Asia, four in the United Kingdom and Ireland, ten across Africa, and four in the Middle East.

Some of the Ark Cities are domed cities on Earth, while others are sphere cities submerged beneath the ocean or floating in geosynchronous orbit in the Earth’s Thermosphere.

Each Ark City has a diverse population of humans, and samples of every surviving animal, reptile, fish, amphibian, insect and plant that could be saved during the various environmental disasters that hit the Earth from 2050 onwards.  Where that wasn’t possible, specialised Arks were built to contain some of the largest species – like whales, elephants and squid.