Phase II’s James Cawley Bringing Buck Rogers To The Web

It looks like James Cawley, the man behind the most popular independent Star Trek production Star Trek Phase II, is going to be taking on another sci-fi classic. Today Cawley Entertainment announced it has secured the rights to create a web series based on the classic comic Buck Rogers. TrekMovie has the exclusive first details.


Buck Rogers in the 25th Century returns in the 21st

James Cawley and his Cawley Entertainment Company plan to do with Buck Rogers, what he has done for Star Trek, and bring it to the web with a regular series of new episodes. However, this time it will not be another ‘fan film,’ but a fully licensed show made with professionals, both in front of, and behind the camera. The plan as of now is to start Internet streaming advertising-supported episodes of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in the Fall of 2010.

The character of Buck Rogers, a World War I pilot who frozen in suspended animation to be awoken 500 years in the future, was first created back in 1928 by Philip Francis Nowlan in a novella in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories. The character was then serialized in a comic strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D., which ran from 1929-1967.

Buck Rogers – first popularized as a comic strip starting in 1929

Buck’s adventures were also seen in film serials starring Buster Crabbe in 1939, and heard in a radio show in the 40s and 50s. Most people today probably remember the character from the TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, starring Gil Gerard and Erin Grey. The NBC series, which ran from 1979-1981, re-imagined Buck as a NASA Astronaut. More recently it has been announced that Buck Rogers is headed back to comic strips and there is currently a feature film in development being written by Frank Miller.

Buck Rogers on Film in 1939 and TV in 1979

The Buck Rogers property has been owned by the Dille Syndication Company since John F. Dille purchased the character for the comic strip in 1929. In 2008 Cawley approached Flint Dille with the idea of bringing Buck to the web in a new series that would go back to the roots of the character from the ‘Generation One’ comics, and a deal was soon struck. Dille will join Cawley as an executive producer and consultant for the web series, and he will be instrumental in keeping true to the Buck Rogers mythos.

Starting with the pilot, which is currently being written, this new Buck Rogers web series will tell the origin story as laid out in the comics, showing how Lucas ‘Buck’ Rogers was propelled from World War I, into a future Earth in the 25th Century. The plan is to use what Cawley calls a ‘retro-contemporary’ look to the show, harkening back to the old style comics, but also using modern techniques, including CGI.  Cawley explains:

We will be using the technology we have today, to present The Original version of The First Sci-Fi Hero ever!  Previous filmed incarnations never really captured the original Buck from the comic strips, which is what we aim to do.

So all the classic elements of Buck Rogers will be there, from the Rocket packs and ‘atomic disruptor pistol’ to the fight between the Earth Defense Directorate and evil villains such as Killer Kane and Princess Ardala. Buck will be joined by his familiar team including Dr. Heuer, his girl friend Wilma Deering and Wilma’s brother Buddy Deering. And Cawley has already cast his Buck, who will be played by Bobby Rice, who has been seen as Peter Kirk in Phase II. Rice, 25, is a trained actor who has appeared in some independent films and also as a regular in the vampire show The Lair, on the HERE channel.

Promo image of Rice as Buck Rogers for the new web series coming in 2010
(click to enlarge)

Rice, who will continue to play Peter Kirk in future Phase II episodes, tells TrekMovie that his Buck will be a "more serious" character than Peter and he does not plan on playing it for camp. The actor is already preparing, saying:

I am super-excited to be Buck Rogers. I am flattered and I have been doing research, like the fun campy show from the 80s and I watched all the Buster Crabbe serials. I feel privileged and excited

Cawley has yet to cast the rest of the show, but says he does not expect any other cross-overs from Phase II, including the actor who plays James Kirk, joking "you can tell people I am not casting myself." Cawley expects the cast to be trained and professional actors plus some well-known genre cameos that Phase II has used well in the past. However, much of the team behind the scenes at Phase II (many of whom are industry professionals) will be involved in the new production, including Star Trek vets like Jon Povill and David Gerrold.

Cawley Entertainment hope to put out twenty 40-minute Buck Rogers episodes a year, starting in the Fall of 2010. Production will be done using some of the same facilities used for Phase II in Ticonderoga, NY, as well as a new studio with new sets. Cawley expects there to also be a lot of location shooting. The show will be streaming online, along with paid advertising, which is a biggest difference from Star Trek Phase II. As long as productions like Phase II were not for profit, CBS (the owner of the Star Trek), has kept a bit of a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ attitude towards the whole thing. Over dinner one evening, Cawley and his team got to thinking about how they take the production team and facilities they had, and put them to professional use. After a casual mention of the idea of doing something with Buck Rogers, the team soon took the notion seriously and not long after, a deal had been struck with Dille.  

This new licensed Buck Rogers web series is going to become a big part of Cawley’s life, as well as the life of many of his Phase II vets. However, he feels it will not actually cut into the production of the Trek fan series, which also plans to put out a number of episodes over the next two years. In fact Cawley believes that Buck Rogers will benefit his Trek show, saying "It wont do anything but help it, because it puts people here more frequently."

The next Trek production from Cawley Entertainment will be Part 2 of "Blood and Fire," which should hit the web around March. TrekMovie will be keeping track of both the Trek and Buck productions coming out of Ticonderoga over the next couple of years, so stay tune for updates.

For more on Star Trek Phase II visit the official site.

And for more on this new Buck Rogers In The 25th Century web series, visit

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Congratulations, James! This looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of the retro-future and pulp genre conventions, so I’m sure I’ll have a blast watching them.


hmmm….is the world ready for an all-new take on the original Buck Rogers?

…. and Rice just reminds me TOO MUCH of the “young” Flash Gordon. :)

That’s just entirely cool.

wow this is going to be so good ( i hope) i will be watching it

…and when did it become Lucas Rogers – it was Anthony Rogers in the original story. (The TV Series it was “William Anthony Rogers” :)

When i was in high school,I had a crush on Erin Gray (Wilma) in the campy series in the 79-80 series, wow those spandex outfit she wore. I met her 2 years ago at Comicon and I must say she still LQQKS beautiful after almost 28 years after the show was on TV. Very friendly and overall nice person. I saw Buck (Gil Gerrard) last year on some TV movie and almost didnt recognize him because but has really put on some weight. But I am sure he is a cool guy as well

It would be cool if Crawley would put them in his series as a camio or something, but who knows.

Good luck to Phase II,on their next project, they do great work.

A very creative way of getting funding for the PII equipments.

So what happened to him doing the Wild Wild West?

OK. this looks like BIG fun!

James! Do Marcus Welby! You’d make a great Kiley.

What, no Twiki?


I gotta say, the Gil Gerard show was a guilty pleasure. I’ve enjoyed it again recently by renting it.

This sounds really cool! I just hope they remember to keep it fun and light, with lots of action and witty dialogue.

The last thing we want is another dull and ponderous Flash Gordon.

how funny that James is wanting to do this.

I was just thinking about the show a lot myself the past day or two (and wanting to rent the show from Netflix–which I’m hooked on now at the moment)

congrats James on doing such a great job on Phase II…I’m sure Buck Rogers is in great hands now.

Will Kyp Lennon do the music?

John Carrigan should play ming!

im there all the way!

bring back quincy james!

Ming aka Ming The Merciless was the main villain in Flash Gordon and not Buck Rogers.

Good luck JC and hopefully it won’t clash with the version Frank Miller is doing. If that ever gets made that is. But we’ll see.


Congrats James! I look forward to this new version of Buck Rogers, and hope this works. I remeber watching all the original serials with my father when I was a kid.


Is it just me or does that second poster look awfully reminiscent of Star Wars?

Awesome news indeed.

niles crane, of the 25th and a half century!

That’s cool news. Glad they’re staying true to the original idea of this character. I just want to know….how does Cawley have all this time to do things like this? Maybe I need to quit my job so I can do my projects. I don’t know how I’d make a living but…………

That kid is supposed to carry a licensed series? I hope he gets some acting lessons before he steps into the center stage, his work on New Voyages was fine for a fan film but hardly proffessional caliber.

Having said that, I like the idea of a modern “retro” art deco style Buck series, that could make for some very cool visuals.

Erin Gray plus spandex = heaven

Congratulations Mr. Cawley. I wish you extreme success. How about a Star Trek/Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon crossover episode?

I stare at the new logo and I just can’t help but think of Daffy Duck in “Duck Dodgers.”

Any chance of making it look a little more sci-fi looking, or what’s the angle or theme to the series? Are you planning something a little campy and parody-like?

Looking forward to any of Cawley’s work. He’s got passion, that’s for sure. I find myself nearly accepting New Voyages/Phase II as canon when I watch his shows.

biddee biddee biddee…
…time to get down and get funky, Buck.

Love the Gil Gerard poster… with the faux six pack. Even during the run of the show, he had the full kegger.

This could be fun. It would be nice to see Mr. Cawley be able to actually make a buck, make changes, etc.. It will be interesting.

And I’ll add my two cents (Since you didn’t ask…) — I think Buck Rogers works best with an absolute minimum of contemporary cultural references. (Hence, my opening joke.) It’s a cool idea… everyman takes a huge leap forward and lands in deep doo doo. Please, there’s no need for Buck to teach future-men about rap, or twitter, or speed dating. Just tell us cool stories about characters we care about.


No Twiki? No dude dressed like a bird? And if Buck isn’t “Gettin’ Down” at a 25th Century Disco party, then this is clearly a canon violation. Therefore, James Cawley raped my childhood!


Looks like a great project! Congrats!

I am certainly looking forward to this- far more than a version all in Black and White with splashes of the color red for Buck’s tie. Excellent!

Which original though… I’d love to see Armageddon 2419’s version of Buck Rogers… the US has been conquered by the Asian “Han” people, and we’re in the midst of a second War of Independence to kick the Chinese out.

Turns out Nowlan’s original vision of American conquered by “the yellow race” made 80 years ago wasn’t far from one version of the future as the Chinese have the US literally pwned when it comes to finances.

With JC having such a small independent production studio, he could actually make the original cyberpunk character come to life without concerns that a major studio would have in making the Chinese the villains.

Congratulations James and company!

Three words: Erin Grey appearance!! :)

This is fantastic stuff, folks…

And my insider sources tell me it is only the TIP of the iceberg!

This will be a fantastic production… top quality in writing, acting, directing, effects, music, sets, costumes, props… the works!

Bobby Rice is a SPECTACULAR choice to play Buck! Not only a great guy, but a FANTASTIC actor too!
A whole new group of fans will be drawn to this guy, who is already garnering a huge fanbase for his work on The Lair, Hidden Frontier, and Phase 2.

Taking Buck back to where he belongs… like it was back in the comics!
Heck, I loved the old TV series with Erin Grey (I loved HER too) and Gil Gerard… but taking Buck back to the way he was originally portrayed is something no one else has tried before, and it’ll be great!

So excited for this, I can’t tell ya!

Regarding the birdman in the 79/80 series, I liked it better B4 he arrived, so w/o the birdman, it’s fine with me. But from what I can tell, Crawley is going create his own take on the show. I do remember watching the black and white version many years ago on TV, and I am sure Crawley can do better.

Friday BSG is back, finally. Maybe Crawley will reimagine BSG, doubt it though, RDM did as good a job as could be done. And as I always said.

Battlestar Galactica is the best Sci Fi show on TV.

Turns out Nowlan’s original vision of American conquered by “the yellow race” made 80 years ago wasn’t far from one version of the future as the Chinese have the US literally pwned when it comes to finances.

a) AdmrR is Chinese, so my bets are covered.

b) If anyone thinks he/she/it isn’t owned in this life, they’re delusional.

c) It’s only a webshow. Relax.

Cool idea. And probably a good way to help fund more of Phase II.

I admit, I was a big fan of the early eighties incarnation of Buck Rogers…mind you we were pretty starved for TV sci-fi back then. I’ll always have a soft spot for the show, as cheesey as it was.

Would absolutely love to see Gil Gerard or Erin Gray in cameos. After all, Buster Crabbe appeared in one of the eighties shows, it seems only right.

E GAD he should’ve made a Captain Proton series!!!!!!!!


#33 Eh? “one version of the future”: I’m talking about Armageddon 2419 A.D., the original Anthony Rogers novella… he wrote it in the 1920’s. Maybe take a look at it, k? It would be decried today as racist, I’m rather sure; and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s banned in China. Funny how when the serial strips changed the baddies from “Han” to “Mongols”, since the Han/Mongol racial divide is literally a ‘great wall’!

Anyhoo… relax thyself… I’m talking about the original material, where Wilma’s a young girl based in Pennsylvania leading the rebels in their goal of retaking Nu Yok from the Asian Han invaders. I’m just wondering if all their gear will be made from ultron! Invisible shields, armor, weapons and things like that.

True Dat –

The show jumped the shark when they all jumped on the Searcher, complete with the Glen A. Larson hangar bay.


Regarding the birdman in the 79/80 series, I liked it better B4 he arrived, so w/o the birdman, it’s fine with me. But from what I can tell, Crawley is going create his own take on the show. I do remember watching the black and white version many years ago on TV, and I am sure Crawley can do better.

I was excited when I first saw this: clearly James Cawley understands the benefits of capturing the look and essence of what makes something work. And I’ve long wanted see a retro-future pulp sci-fi series based on a property like Buck Rogers! Wow!

But then I saw his lead actor. I’m sure Bobby Rice is a nice guy, and may be a fine actor … but he looks like my 15 year-old son’s best friend, not an action hero. Still, I suppose he’s not out of step with the times. In an age when diminutive, baby-faced actors like Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Keanu Reeves can be (and have been for a number of years) taken seriously as action heroes, I should know I’m beaten — a relic, a dinosaur.

Still, I long for the kind of rugged leading men who headlined movies and TV shows in the pre-youth-obsessed past.

Don’t mind me. I’ll go away now and console myself with a DVD of “Combat!” or “The Rockford Files” or “Star Trek.” :-)

In the end though … all best wishes to James and crew on a successful “Buck Rogers” show. I mean that sincerely.

Scott B. out.

#35… Captain Poorton (sic) don’t pay the bills. Buck($) Rogers will. Advertising-supported is a good thing– I bet they don’t pay in Home Depot cards!

James & Crew… Best of luck, break a leg, and most of all: don’t be shy with the teaser pix and videos!

though…if you *were* to do a Captain Proton show, I’d be watching!

Scott B,

Who would have EVER seen Matt Damon as an action star… but watch the Bourne movies and tell me he didn’t pull it off!

Bobby is an amazing actor, and HE WILL pull it off as well!

If you put too many “Irons in the fire” Soon you won’t be able to get much of anything done. Good luck anyhow.

I’ll be interested to see what happens with this. My gut instinct is that 20 eps a year is way too ambitious, and that they’ll all end up crappy. Cut back to 10 or 12 and the FX will improve, and the actors will have time to get the performances right. If this isn’t going to be played for camp value, you need that time.

Also–get Michael Ansara to do a cameo as Emperor Draco. :)

I have an agreement for 20 episodes, that does not mean they are all coming out in a year. This project is going to be a ride, and it is one I am looking forward to.

@6 Yes, Gil Gerard porked up to 350 lbs, but youtube has some video about his getting gastric bypass and losing all that excess weight.


Mr. Gerard gained weight, and has subsequently lost it.

From those of us who have done the same, please refrain from terms like “porked out”.

I had dinner with Ms. Grey last year, and she told me all about Gil’s amazing weight loss, and how teriffic he looks right now.

Three cheers for a Michael Ansara appearance – although I don’t know if he’s still acting.

This is really exciting. We’ve seen what JC can do on half a shoestring – I can’t wait to see what he can do with an actual budget!

Daoud — I’m just stirrin’ the pot. No worries.
But, it is handy to be married to a China gal. Beijing would only ban a comic or series if they thought it went against obeying the party line. I could be wrong, but the folks I’ve met don’t seem to give enough creedance to Americans to care what we call them. It’s not racism. They just don’t see Americans as ‘all that,’ nor do they seem to have that brand of sensitivity. Plus, they have some pretty hilarious names for Westerners.

Great, I’m glad Cawley is doing this since he always has all this extra time on his hands. Oh wait…

Expect 2 episodes a year for Phase II now.

First, congratulations and good luck to Mr. Cawley and Co.!

(Although I agree that Bobby Rice looks too young for the part, but anyhoo…)

I think we’re going to start seeing more of this – independent productions gearing up for the web with known properties. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new “Flash Gordon” or “Dick Tracy” might be on the way… My own Comet Tales will first be offered on the web in the tradition of the 1930s serial. I think the Internet is the perfect match of modern technology for Old Style movie serial storytelling!

And as for Erin Grey… who can forget “Off think. Off think!”