The year is 1987 and NASA launches the last of America's deep space probes. In a freak mishap Ranger 3 and its pilot Captain William 'Buck' Rogers are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems and returns Buck Rogers to Earth 500 years later.
Although Buck briefly became part of Saturday morning TV from 1950 to 1951, it was in March of 1979 that he was truely revived for television audiences. Universial Pictures frist released the Buck Rogers Motion Picture which was quickly followed by an NBC television series which featured the same cast. The series lasted two seasons from 1979 to 1981 with a total of 31 episodes.
The new series centered around the character of Captain William Anthony "Buck" Rogers, played by Gil Gerard, a US Air Force pilot who commands Ranger 3, a space shuttle that is launched in 1987. Due to a freak combination of gases, Captain Rogers is frozen in space for 500 years and is revived in the 25th century. There, Captain Rogers learns that the Earth has been united following a devastating nuclear war in the late 20th century and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Forces.
The series followed Rogers as he tried to fit (not always successfully) into 25th Century culture, while helping Earth Defense foil assorted evil plots to destroy the planet. (In many respects, the new Rogers had more similarities with James Bond or Col. Steve Austin than Nowlan's original character.) Rogers is aided in his adventures by his friend and semi-romantic interest, Colonel Wilma Deering, played by Erin Gray, and his comic sidekick robot, Twiki, played by the voice of Mel Blanc (who had previously voiced Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers in spoofs of the early Buck Rogers and other science fiction serials).
Twiki, a pint-sized robot, tended to express himself with the dispeptic ejaculation "biddi-biddi-biddi." followed by a 20th Century cliche or catchphrase he picked up from Buck (although he already knew quite a few by the time he first met Buck). Dr Theopolis ("city of God"), another chatty robot who consisted of only an illuminated face, was housed in a large medallion worn by Twiki and was considered one of the planet's scientific leaders. During the first season, Rogers and Deering took their orders from Dr. Elias Huer (Tim O'Connor), the de facto leader of Earth.
Buck Rogers' best-known nemesis during the first season was the sexy Princess Ardala of Draconia, played by Pamela Hensley, whose insatiable desire was to conquer and possess both the Earth and Captain Rogers.
Production of the second season was delayed by several months due to an actors' strike. When production resumed in the fall of 1980, the format of the series was changed with Buck, Wilma and Twiki joining the crew of an earth spaceship in search of lost pockets of humanity (borrowing themes from the earlier Battlestar Galactica). The character of Dr. Huer was eliminated. With a concurrent move towards more serious stories, the series lost much of its appeal and it was soon cancelled.