Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1981) – The Hand of the Goral, and Testimony of a Traitor

Francis Moss pens The Hand of the Goral, which first aired on 26 March, 1981. Buck (Gil Gerard) who still looks a little rough around the edges, but not so bad as the last episode, Hawk (Thom Christopher), and Wilma (Erin Gray) arrive on a far distant world known commonly as the Planet of Death.

And things get really weird, really quick.

As they investigate, they rescue a crashlanded pilot who upon arrival on The Searcher with Wilma causes some strange events to occur, while Hawk and Buck are shocked to discover that the crashed ship and makeshift camp have all disappeared after the pilot leaves the surface.

Returning to the Searcher nothing and no one seems to behave as they should, and Buck can’t trust anything he sees or encounters. Is this even his ship? It feels a bit like the Mirror Universe as featured in Star Trek.

In fact, it’s not, the actual Searcher is being held in a snare beam emanating from the planet, and the duplicate and everything else Buck deals with in this episode seem to be some kind of test.

At the heart of it all is the Hand of the Goral (John Fujioka), who seems to be using this opportunity to study humanity.

Unfortunately, the storytelling nature of the second season, not to mention the entire series itself doesn’t do anything to make this episode anything more than forgettable rather than engaging. Everything seems to be winding down and none of the stories, performances, or characters are given the attention they are truly due.

Testimony of a Traitor would have been a great way to end the series, or at least season two, perhaps with a cliffhanger instead of wrapping everything up in a standalone story.

Written by Stephen McPherson and having an original airdate of 9 April, 1981, the episode sees the Searcher being summoned back to Earth. Shortly after doing so, Buck is arrested for war crimes by Commissioner Bergstrom (Ramon Bieri).

It seems some evidence has come to light that suggests that Buck may have been involved in the events that would eventually lead to the nuclear armageddon that was World War III, which Buck happily missed by being lost in space.

Returning to Earth the series misses the chance to bring Huer (Tim O’Connor) back, which is unfortunate, as he would have made a good character witness, and it would have tied the seasons together a bit more strongly.

Happily, with the aide of Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and his memory probe, Buck is available, eventually, to prove his innocence.

This is a surprisingly strong episode, considering it’s in the abysmal second season, and would have been a great season or series finale. Instead, everything gets wrapped up nicely before the story’s end, and Buck and the gang head on their way to their final episode.

And I will take a look at that winner next time…

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