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Monday, July 10, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: The Palace of Mirrors

Within the Palace of Mirrors there were splendid chambers and halls for every purpose and sort, each more magnificent and sumptuous than the next, for all the surviving wealth and all the surviving glory of Earth were represented here. And even so, within the Palace of Mirrors, there was none to compare even remotely, in dazzling magnificence, with the Grand Ballroom.

In the novelization of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (originally credited to the pen name Addison E Steele), Science Fiction and Mystery writer Richard A Lupoff goes on to describe this most heralded and prestigious chamber, set in the most heralded and prestigious building, and in the most heralded and prestigious area of New Chicago, or the Inner City. The ceiling in this regal chamber gives one the impression of a glowing jewel through which colors, spectrums, and intensities of light vary, and never cease to delight the eye. The walls are mirrored, and the floors likewise reflective. 

The effect of being in the room was thus one of being wholly surrounded by, bathed in, permeated, and all but absorbed by a supernatural solution of pure light and tone.

Richard A Lupoff spends several pages explaining how the Grand Ballroom is hung with regal banners and displays. Trumpets sound. Prestigious government personnel of all sorts, both from Earth and Draconia, enter amid much pomp and circumstance. I have no idea how much of this rich description was included in the screenplay written by Glen A Larson and Leslie Stevens, and how much was invented by Richard A Lupoff. In any case, Lupoff paints a picture of a grand affair of state, in which the Earth government pulls out all the stops, and only invites the most important people, to attend this ceremony intended to cement relations between Earth and the Draconian Empire. 

Obviously, a 1970s production crew was never going to pull all this off on a TV budget. I doubt even the movie studios of the time could have reproduced Lupoff's description faithfully. All of which goes to show that, when it comes to exciting our imaginations, books wield far superior power to movies and TV shows. Or at least they did, before computer generated digital effects were available. 

Here's what the TV production pulled off in 1978.

In a way, Richard A Lupoff's novelization serves as journey through time just as startling as Buck's. For Lupoff's novelization of the screenplay written by Glen A Larson and Leslie Stevens could not have been filmed in all its glory when he wrote it back in 1977. But forty years later, in 2017, with the aid of modern techniques (including computer-generated special effects), and with the backing of a powerful movie studio, a new film version of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" could be made that would faithfully reproduce the words Lupoff originally put to paper with a plunking, ringing, clickety-clack typewriter. It'd be nice if someone in Hollywood would do that, don't you think?

Dragon Dave

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