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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