As a kid, two of my favourite television series were Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers. Lots of scenes from those series have stuck with me, like the one from the Galactica episode ‘Greetings from Earth’, where Starbuck got shown around a deserted, ghostly city. I loved it – I guess I had a fascination for anything post-apocalyptic even then. This city was filled with derelict buildings, but also some that were vast, stark, white, and very futuristic-looking:
A few years later, watching Buck Rogers, I saw exactly those same white buildings again, representing the city of 25th century Earth where Buck was staying. “Well, bugger me with a fishfork” I thought, or some non-English kiddy version of that phrase. And completely forgot about it.
Completely? Well, obviously not, and years later it didn’t take long to find out the where & why. The images were shot at the site of the former Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada. The buildings that are the most prominent in the shows are the British, the US and the French/Québec pavilions.
The French and Québec pavilions (One of the few survivors from Expo 67. It now houses one of the largest casinos in the world.)
United States pavilion
After a very successful Expo, the buildings were partly used for a summer exhibition called Man and his World. But decay set in, pavilions fell to ruin. In other words: it all started to look very post-apocalyptic. It’s funny that the site that in a way celebrated the advancement of mankind, in a decade became the setting of it crumbling to pieces. It was Robert Altman who first – and very extensively – used this location for exactly those qualities, in his (in my eyes deservedly) little seen future ice-age film Quintet from 1979.
Even though Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers were broadcast on different channels, they both sprang from the same mind: producer Glen A. Larson. He undoubtedly wanted to hook into the Star Wars Zeitgeist where anything sci-fi was popular with the kids. For budgetary reasons more than once the same shots were used in different shows. (Even the spaceship used in Galactica’s ‘Greetings from Earth’ was repainted and re-used as Buck Rogers’ Ranger 3.) In the case of Buck Rogers the crumbling buildings from ‘Greetings from Earth’ were cut out, leaving the few shots of the white British and French/Québec pavilions, which still looked quite good and could function as a futuristic city.