That Man on Beta

Richard A. Lupoff
That Man on Beta Cover

That Man on Beta


This book is the novelization of an unproduced teleplay for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the TV series that aired on NBC from 1979 to 1981. Buck impulsively sets off across the post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of his descendants -- his "sprouts," as he puts it, rather than his roots. This quest is full of rash, foolish decisions and silly nonsense. Along the way, Buck meets such grotesqueries as a band of gypsies who speak exclusively in CB lingo and a guru who lives under Mount Rushmore. At one point, Wilma Deering, who has followed Buck (she thinks he's having a clandestine affair with a robot), detects "the unmistakable odor of sheep." She lives in a sterile, domed city in the 25th century -- how does she know what sheep smell like, let alone find their odor "unmistakable"? I'm sure I've smelled more sheep than she has, and I wouldn't be able to get more specific than "some kind of animal."

The book picks up in the second half, when Princess Ardala and the Draconians kidnap Buck with the intention of using him as a one-man stud farm. It seems that Buck's 500-year-old body still contains essential antibodies that were bred out of humanity during the centuries that he slept in suspended animation. The story now switches from picaresque to bedroom farce, and it finally captures the spirit of playful cheesiness I remember from the TV series. Why Buck isn't glad to dump Wilma and run off with Ardala, I'll never know. She seems to be a lot more fun. The second half of the book is much more entertaining than the first.

If you feel any nostalgia for the TV show, you might try this book; otherwise, don't bother. It's awfully silly stuff, written in a pulpy prose style that's sometimes charming and sometimes clumsy.