|Believer probe design by Bob McCall|
|Glen A. Larson|
But Larson wasn’t originally supposed to produce Buck Rogers.
In fact, according to various reports in Starlog and other magazines between 1977 and '79, when Universal and NBC first proposed a new Buck Rogers series in the late 1970s, they had a very different kind of futuristic adventure show in mind.
Originally, the NBC Buck Rogers show was going to be much more in the Star Trek vein, with more serious science fiction adventures and strongly character-driven stories. The show would take place almost exclusively in outer space, with 20th century Buck in command of the 25th Century Earth starship Constitution.
|Various U.S.S. Constitution starship designs by Bob McCall|
Several scripts, with such intriguing titles as "The Guns of Babylon" and "Kill The Constitution," by sci-fi TV veterans D.C. Fontana (Star Trek, Logan's Run) and Dick Morgan (who had written for the 50s show Space Patrol, as well as Land of the Lost) were commissioned and written… but never filmed.
Acclaimed space artist Bob McCall, who had contributed concept and advertising art for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Disney's The Black Hole, was hired to design the spaceships for the series, but his designs went unused. Some of his sketches did show up in an issue of Starlog, though (which is where I snagged the scans accompanying this post), and they exhibit a decidedly different aesthetic from the spacecraft seen on Larson’s version of the show.
|More Believer probe ship/shuttle designs by Bob McCall|
It’s too bad. As much as I enjoy the comic book tone of first season of Buck Rogers, a more serious, Trek-like version of the concept, with scripts by experienced science fiction writers, might have made a very memorable – and possibly more successful - series. I sure would have liked to have seen it.
Note: This article is based on a segment from my first - and thus far, only - Space: 1970 Podcast, newly expanded and illustrated for this blog post.