Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Firebrand"

I can see the wheels turning in the writers room about comig up with ideas for ‘The Night of the Firebrand.”

“How about a story about some revolutionary attempting to take over Mexico?” oe writer says.

“We have done that seven times already,” replies executive producer Henry Sharp.

“Okay,” the same writers says, “but how about shaking things up then. The revolutionary wants to kill President Benito Juarez.”

“We have done that four out of the seven.” Sharp reminds him.

“How about if the revolutionary has built up a militia of cutthroats to do his dirty work?” another writer interjects.

“Be funny,” Sharp retorts.

A third writer has a flash. ’Say, how about the revolutionary discovers a way to control people’s minds?”

“Shut up1!" everyone I the room says in unison.

“Go over to Gunsmoke with that stuff. They are running out of ideas over there at this point, anyway.” says Sharp. “We need to shake things up a bit.

“I’ve got it!” the first writer shouts.

“Well don’t give it to anyone else,’ the other writers quip.

“No, seriously. Let’s have the revolutionary plot to take over Canada. We’ve never done that before.”

“And ever will again, but I guess it’s worth a sht. Let’s do it!” orders Sharp.

With that, ‘The Night of the Firebrand” became a thrilling adventure to save all the moose in the Great White North from being taken over by Trapper John, MD sporting a terribly fake Irish accent. No wonder Canada was so often spared by this show’s villainous schemes.

Pernell Roberts, fresh off a long stint portraying Adam Cartwright on Bonanza, plays Sean O’Reilly, a revolutionary who has stolen a wagonload of arms and dynamite from American Ft. Hood with plans to overthrow the Canadian government. He has attracted the attention of Sheila O’Shugnassy, the young daughter of a prominent Congressman. Jim and Artie are to recover the wagon and rescue Sheila.

The episode takes a lighthearted tone with two running gags. In the first, Jim and Artie keep recovering the wagon, but perpetually lose it to O’Reilly along the trip from British Columbia to New York. In the second, they keep knocking Sheila out comically by a pressure point on her neck in in order to keep her quiet. Amid all the coon skin hats, fake Irish and French-Canadian accents, and the constant threat of even more stereotypical Indians, that is about the only toe the episode could honesty take.

The exciting climax is the episode’s saving race. Artie takes the wagon into New York while Jim stays behind with dozens of sticks of dynamite to delay the wagon’s pursuers. It is a particularly imaginative and explosive way of ending the revolution before it even begins. It blowed up good. Blowed up real good.

“The Night of the Firebrand” is a fun episode that can definitely not be taken too seriously. I am curious way Roberts would take a one time role in another western so soon after leaving the popular Bonanza, particularly if he was interested in avoiding being typecast. He makesa fairly good villain, all things considered.

Speaking of Roberts, he, like Harold Gould from yesterday’s episode, passed away earlier this year.

The episode has another fine pedigree. Sheila is a played by Lana Wood, the younger sister of Natalie Wood. Lana is still active as an actress, but she will probably always be most famous for playing Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. She may be most notorious for publishing a memoir a few years after Natalie’s death that was a little too frank about her famous sister. Lana has found herself estranged from much of her family because of it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment