Reboots of the Future: Buck Rogers For the 21st Century

For many fans of science fiction and fantasy, reboot fatigue is painful fact of life. To treat this affliction, many feel like sending a collective message to the powers that be to stop making reboots and instead create brand NEW TV shows and movies in our favorite genres.

However, this might not be a healthy outlook, because no matter what we do, reboots will continue to happen. So instead of getting upset, the best reboot-fatigue serum will contain little bit of the virus itself. If reboots are going to exist, they should at the very least be good. As fans, we all  have some solid ideas as to what makes a good reboot and what makes a bad reboot.  And whether we call them reboots, remakes, or re-imaginings, every Monday we’ll talk about one defunct series or concept and super-charge it with some possible directions for a revival. Then, we’ll leave it open to you!

First up: Buck Rogers In the 25th Century, with a 21st Century sensibility.

Since the release of Philip Francis Nowlan’s 1928 novel Armageddon 2419 A.D. Anthony “Buck” Rogers has been finding various ways of falling asleep Rip Van Winkle-style and waking up in the 25th century. Whether he existed in comic strip format, radio serial, movie serial, or his (triumphant?) rebirth in the 1979 TV show, the big premise of Buck Rogers has remained relatively the same. He’s a man from a contemporary era, who eventually wakes up in a future world and becomes an unexpected hero. The basic conceit of Buck Rogers is effective because all the science fiction world-building stuff automatically has an audience/reader surrogate because Buck is essentially one of us. If you think about a contemporary every-person being plucked from their surroundings and thrust into a futuristic setting, this trick works almost every single time. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Sleeper, Farscape, The Last Starfighter, et al. Why not do it again in classic style?

The best new Buck we could hope for would be Vin Diesel. Diesel excels at playing a fish-out-of-water character. He does it in both Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. And despite how terrible people claim it is, he does it in xXx, which is actually one of the most entertaining Bond-esque spy movies in the past two decades. (Notice I said “entertaining” not “best.”)

If you’ve seen the tea cup scene in Chronicles of Riddick, then you know that Vin Diesel has this weird/dry humor that is more sophisticated than Arnold, but not as slick as Harrison Ford. He’s not all dumb muscle like The Rock, but he somehow exudes an endearing sweetness. In short, there’s a reason why Vin Diesel is a movie star. The role of Buck Rogers, would, in my opinion, be his magnum opus. Vin would get to be an amazing action star and do some awesome space age stunt stuff. But, he’d also get to play to his strengths: big action star, weird/dry humor, and a strange sweetness. Buck Rogers is also a romantic/sexy hero but not one who is obessed with sex. Ture, Buck Rogers needs be charming, but the character is so inherently goofy that you need an actor who could really own that. It’s difficult these days to be both badass and sort of fun at the same time, but Vin Diesel can. Make no mistake, a new Buck Rogers shouldn’t be a Vin Diesel vehicle , but rather Vin Diesel should be a vehicle for Buck Rogers.

Last year it was reported that Paul W.S. Anderson was directing a 3-D big screen version of Buck, but it appears his work on the 3-D Three Musketeers might have gotten in the way. Would Paul W.S. Anderson be the worst person to make a new Buck? Probably not, though I suppose I’d prefer someone else. I think whoever is behind it should co-produce it with Vin in a similar way in which he collaborates with David Twohy on the Riddick movies. I’m not saying I necessarily want Vin Diesel to write the Buck Rogers movie with David Twohy, beacuse I’m not actually in favor of the movie being like the Riddick movies. Instead, I think J. Michael Straczynski might be someone they could consider for basic story ideas. (His contributions to the Thor story were certainly welcome!)

As for a director for this brave new Diesel-fueled Buck Rogers, I guess I’d have to go with a new kid on the block and say Duncan Jones. He’s won me over with Moon and Source Code. Buck Rogers could allow him to go REALLY big. And if we’re lucky, maybe Duncan’s dad might get involved with the soundtrack. When the 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century enjoyed a brief theatrical release, that version contained at theme-song with lyrics. I’m sure we deserve better.

Action science fiction movies always seem to be the focus of the majority of science fiction cinema, and because of his comic strip roots, Buck Rogers is certainly an action hero. Whereas turing Star Trek into an action movie is midly blasphemous, making a high-octane action flick out of Buck Rogers would actually be an appropriate and respectful interpreation. I don’t think Philip Francis Nowlan woudln’t be offended by Vin in a contemporary action-packed Buck flick. And I don’t thik Glen A. Larson or Gil Gerard would be either. The only question now, is: do they include Twiki?

What do you think, readers? New Buck Rogers? Don’t think Vin could do it? Who else?


Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com. He thinks if Twiki the robot is involved in a Buck Rogers reboot that the voice role should go to Miranda July.

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