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Monday, July 17, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Embracing Tyranny

In Richard A Lupoff's novelization Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (originally credited to pen name Addison E Steele), after Princess Ardala appears in the Palace of Mirrors, a live holographic projection of her father, Draco the Conqueror, is transmitted from his palace on his home planet via Ardala's flagship. The crowd of Earth dignitaries gasp and cringe at this gross and menacing figure. Then they politely applaud the power and authority he represents.

As Emperor Draco addresses the crowd, Princess Ardala's top military officer Kane whispers, "There are two things your father enjoys most: spellbinding a crowd and conquering a new world. This is a rare opportunity for him--to do both at once."

While Draco promises eternal peace through this pact, the Earthers see it as nothing more than a mutually beneficial exchange. Lupoff compares Draco to such historical figures as Henry the Eighth and Genghis Khan. It is true that both figures, in their own way, would have been seen by some as liberators. It is also true that many of their subjects would have welcomed such a strong leader to reorganize their society and form a stable government. However, Henry the Eighth and Genghis Khan are mostly remembered for the incredible levels of bloodshed and destruction involved in consolidating their power. 

As an outsider, Buck suspects that Draco will lull Earth with promises of peace, only to use his greater access to the world to sweep aside the existing power structure of Earth and rule it as a subject planet. It's interesting how, in Lupoff's description, the Earthers' initially cringe at Draco. But as their off-world food supply is threatened, the people disregard their first impression, and welcome him for his promise to protect their food shipments.

In the TV film "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Draco does not address the Earth dignitaries in the Palace of Mirrors. We only see him at the end. Then he appears as a holographic projection on Princess Ardala's flagship to rant at Kane and Ardala for deciding to attack Earth before the rest of the fleet arrives. It's a one-hundred-and-eighty degree difference between the jowly, obese emperor and the diminutive, wizened ruler. Perhaps the filmmakers rethought, and subsequently recast Draco in this manner to suggest that he often conquered worlds more through subterfuge, and a threat of force, rather than through an actual ability to conquer and maintain power.  

Dragon Dave

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