Count Yorga, Vampire) and his partner/lover Roxanne Trent (Elizabeth Allen), which is hidden the heart of a nigh-impenetrable asteroid field. These veterans - the titular "Fighting 69th," are led by Noah Cooper (Mission: Impossible's Peter Graves), Wilma's old flight instructor and family friend.
are capable of love - if only for each other.
Buck Rogers, in its first season, really excelled at. Aside from the late, great Peter Graves and B-movie heavy Quarry, we get the legendary Woody Strode as one of the 69th's pilots. This guy's film career goes all the way back to 1939 and he's worked with directors like John Ford and Stanley Kubrick. He isn't given a lot to do in the episode except look imposing, but it's just so cool to see him in a space suit.
I also have to mention the 69th's mascot, a mutt named "Lucky." In an article that story editor Alan Brennert wrote for Starlog magazine back in 1980, he discussed this episode at some length. Apparently the writers were getting a bit punchy and were extremely amused with how loaded this particular script was with "schmaltz" - a deaf-mute slave girl rescued and reunited with her family by Buck, the whole Wilma-Cooper soap opera etc. - and started joking about how all the episode needed now was a puppy. The story goes that they then received a phone call from the network demanding that they find a place in the episode for a dog. It turns out that the pooch had been rescued by and showcased in The National Enquirer, and the network figured that if they gave the canine a role on the show, they'd get tons of publicity in the tabloid. At first, the writers were convinced it was a joke, but no - the dog was written into the script.
There's also a surprisingly grim and effective scene between Dr. Huer and Dr. Theopolis when they believe that the mission has failed and Buck & Wilma are dead. Their discussion about their options is bleak and somewhat frightening. Apparently there's an "Omega complex" somewhere underground that can hold a limited number of people (specifically, Earth's leadership), and it falls to Huer and Theopolis to choose who will be permitted to survive. Considering that one of the participants in the scene is a plastic prop with flashing lights, it's a remarkably effective and moving sequence.
So - solid military mission-adventure plot, interesting villains and charismatic guest stars, lots of outer space action, some emotion and Buck Rogers with a machine gun. In my book, that adds up to a hell of a great hour of TV space opera, and I never tire of rewatching it.
Next on "Favorite Episodes" - Space: 1999's "War Games."