Danger Gal Friday: Col. Wilma Deering
In the past week or so, the subject of Buck Rogers has come up several times and I keep reiterating that I’d love to see a “re-imaging” of Buck Rogers similar to what’s been done for Battlestar Galactica.
Today SFSignal linked to my robots Thursday Thirteen because of the Twiki reference. They also posted a You Tube video about the 1979 Buck Rogers TV series, which just got me all nostalgic for the kitchiness of the show. I confess that as a kid growing up in the 70s I had a crush on Gil Gerard and wanted to be Col. Wilma Deering. So I’ve postponed my original plans for today’s profile and instead am going to profile Col. Wilma Deering as this week’s Danger Gal.
As I said, my experience with Buck Rogers is the 1979 TV series, but the story goes back to 1928 as two novellas that appeared in Amazing Stories. Deering’s Wikipedia entry describes qualities about her character retained in the TV series as portrayed by actress Erin Gray, qualities that definitely fit a Danger Gal:
She is a sometimes romantic interest for Buck, always a loyal defender of Earth, and an attractive and smart woman. She is generally depicted as having a spunky attitude and a penchant for getting herself into trouble. As with other science fiction heroines from the pulp sf genre and others, she has sometimes been depicted as a damsel in distress but mostly as an assertive adventurer in her own right.
While part of Deering’s raison d’etre was as a romantic interest for Rogers, her character was painted with a much broader brush. In the TV series, Deering was always portrayed as very competent and because of Rogers being a “fish out of water” character often much more in control of situations than Rogers himself was. Gray’s attractiveness appealed in a “girl next door” fashion: pretty but not so groomed that the average girl watching the show would be intimidated. So, Deering was smart, competent, had achieved professional success as a colonel and was attractive in a real beauty kind of way, but a more important quality is that all the other characters took her seriously. She carried a gun on her hip, her uniform was as body conscious as Rogers’ was, something that cannot be said of Star Trek even in its more recent incarnations. The Wikipedia entry notes that:
Often, it was Wilma that came to the rescue of Buck, as opposed to the other way round. Erin Gray has commented that her role as Colonel Deering was an inspiration for many women who watched the program, particularly with regard to careers in the military.
I didn’t even mind those shiny spandex costumes Gray wore, mostly because Gerard had to wear similar outfits, so it was equal exploitation. And of course, Twiki. What’s not to love? So, what if he did sort of resemble a certain part of the male anatomy? I actually think his helmet resembled Darth Vader’s, which always made me laugh.