Friday, March 22, 2013

From Beyond Television: The Wildest Episodes of The Wild, Wild West Season 1

This compilation is literally what the title means -- the wildest episodes from seasons 1-4 of this immensely creative and innovative television series. It's not a 'Best Of', although some episodes seen throughout this quartet could be deemed among the best. Season One was quite dark and sinister at times with some of its subject matter. It's arguably the most adult of the entire run, containing some truly creepy episodes with a unique horror element to some of them. Granted, all but a few of the season one programs had some sort of James Bond gadget or wacky scripting device; these listed here were frequently pushing the envelope for anachronistic and phantasmagorical spectacle (the series would get really crazy in season 2). 11 of the 28 season one episodes are on this list. An article about the entire series can be found HERE.


6th episode shot; aired October 1st, 1965

James West is assigned to foil an attempt by Dr. Loveless in obtaining a formula for a special type of explosive from a former colleague named Professor Nielsen. West fails, and the professor is killed by a pea-sized bomb. Loveless then plans to kill 5,000 Californians unless the formula is handed over to him. 

This was the world's introduction to the crazed, super intelligent villain, Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless. Played by Michael Dunn, the adorable midget madman became hugely popular with viewers. There are four Loveless episodes in season one, four in season two, and one a piece between seasons three and four. Sadly, declining health resulted in Dunn's dwindling participation in succeeding seasons. All the Loveless shows are wild, but this one, outside of being one of the best shows, is notable for being the first to display his kooky genius. You'll also see him tossing big burly men around during a wrestling session!

Gadgets include a weapons-laden carriage (Hal Needham is the guy jettisoned out of the coach) Artemus builds for West. Richard Kiel plays Loveless's thuggish henchman, Voltaire (he played the role three times). He also participated in the horror themed season three show, 'The Night of the Simian Terror'. The duplicitous Miss Piecemeal (Sigrid Valdis aka Patricia Crane; Bob Crane's wife) returned later in season one for 'The Night of the Torture Chamber' episode.


9th episode shot; aired October 29th, 1965

During a scientific conference at the French Embassy, a consignment of Franconium -- a radioactive substance that causes anything exposed to it to glow -- is stolen by an "old woman" and a giant man. With the enemies of France having their sights on the substance, Jim and Arty must try to retrieve it before it's smuggled out of the country.

Irving J. Moore's first WWW episode has a great carnival sequence (one of numerous other carney/circus style plot contrivances throughout the series) that features a cameo by the Metaluna Mutant (the head, anyways) from THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955). There's a plethora of traps and weird devices such as Artemus's early version of an artificial lung that will hold up to five minutes worth of oxygen. Of course, this apparatus comes in handy when Jim is trapped inside an enclosed metal box with lethal gas pumped in. The series occasionally had a lumbering, imposing thug for Jim and Arty to contend with; in this case, it's a mute giant with Iron legs and feet.


11th episode shot; aired November 19th, 1965 

Dr. Loveless's second appearance sees him kidnapping Jim West to his underground laboratory. He plans to turn his deformed assistant Janus into an exact double of the secret services most trusted agent in an effort to get back his atomic formula for making devastating explosives. Of course, once this plan is enacted, the real West will no longer be useful.

This is a fun episode featuring little in the way of gadgets, but with Loveless onscreen, there's never a dull moment. Dunn is in Mad Doctor mode for this one; a role he undertook a few times in an effort to realize his diabolical plans. This time his Frankensteinian skills are put to use as a plastic surgeon; turning a deformed subordinate into a doppelganger of James West. Voltaire (Richard Kiel) also returns as his brutish assistant. Both Wests' end up battling each other and only a woman's kiss can determine who the real one is. A similar contrivance befell Mr. Spock in the season three ST episode, 'Whom Gods Destroy' only there was no kissing involved.


14th episode shot; aired December 10th, 1965 

This episode is a ton of fun, and its major reason for being on this list is in the hilarious plan of the main villain, Professor Horatio Bolt (Alfred Ryder). He intends to absorb millions from the State Treasury to finance the most expensive, and extensive art collection in the world! Insane, I know, but Ryder is hilarious as Bolt. The governor is kidnapped and replaced with a lookalike. When Jim and Arty are sent to investigate, Bolt plans to kill them using various traps set in his house.

Highlights include Artemus (Ross Martin) donning one of his best disguises as a French art critic who informs Bolt that his entire collection is made up of forgeries! Another has our heroes trapped inside a wine press. This was one of a handful of episodes that would seem to have influenced Italian westerns. Stunts and fights are plentiful and exciting as usual. This was Fred Frieberger's last producer credit on WWW. The series went through a slew of producers and they lost a good one in Frieberger who later went on to produce episodes of STAR TREK -- a series that occasionally borrowed, or resembled WWW.


16th episode shot; aired January 1st, 1966

Having rebuilt his body with metal limbs and pieces, Torres seeks revenge against seven former members of his Civil War regiment that he believes are responsible for the bodily destruction he suffered during an explosion. One of the men is Ulysses S. Grant, now the President of the United States.

This was the very first WWW episode I remember seeing as a kid. The sight of a skulking man with metal plates built into his body -- some of which are exposed on the outside -- made an impression on me. It's a basic revenge episode with hypnotism and a presidential assassination plot thrown in for good measure. There's a definite air of horror about it. There's some choice stunts and action, too -- a staple of the series. These include Jim shooting the villain in the head peeling his skin away revealing the metal underneath; and the assassination attempt on the president -- one rocket is set to fire at president Grant and another targeted at a bound Jim West.

There's one plot hole here -- after Jim and Arty manage to escape from Torres's clutches, they end up at a dead end and are gassed into unconsciousness. In the next scene, Jim is captured again, yet Arty is free and next seen disguised as the president. It's presumed Artemus has gotten away, yet it's not mentioned, nor does Torres show any concern that Artemus has escaped.


19th episode shot; aired January 28th, 1966 

For this episode, Jim and Arty are assigned to protect a Middle Eastern ruler targeted for assassination. The agents discover a plot by an upper class club of assassins that want the Emir's life. Noting Jim's amazing skills in action, the club tries to make him an honorary member, or kill him trying.

This is a fast paced episode with lots of action, intrigue, and a lot of characters engaging in near constant subterfuge. Yvonne Craig (Batgirl on the 60s BATMAN show) plays the gorgeous hit girl who ends up as Jim's love interest. Richard Jaeckel has a supporting role as another member of the killers club. This episode is a bit more violent than normal -- there's a glass container death device rigged with poisons; an early version of The Flying Guillotine via a head lopping tambourine; and a great stunt-filled, upstairs-downstairs fight between Jim and around ten assassins.


20th episode shot; aired February 18th, 1966 

Jim West and Artemus Gordon must collect $5,000,000 from three of the wealthiest men in California to help keep the state from falling into bankruptcy. However, Dr. Loveless intervenes by delivering explosive toys to the three unlucky, rich recipients.The tiny madman's scheme this time is to steal each of the 5 million in donations, plunge the state into chaos, and take it over as sole ruler of California.

The first segment of this show has a bit of A CHRISTMAS CAROL feel about it. The use of innocent toys as a means for destruction is a novel, if brutal idea. Loveless even secretly runs a toy shop where he builds his elaborate, and deadly toy soldiers and train sets. This was Dr. Loveless's third television appearance, and Voltaire's last appearance. Interestingly, Voltaire is showcased with a more child-like persona and also gets more dialog than his previous two episodes.


21st episode shot; aired February 25th, 1966

Zachariah Skull (Lloyd Bochner), thought to be dead after jumping from a prison train, seeks revenge on the Supreme Court Justices who sentenced him to death by using lethal marionette's as his instruments of retribution. Jim is captured by Skull, who resides deep beneath the Earth inside a dark, cavernous facility.

To call this episode bizarre is an understatement. It's arguably the most macabre season one show what with its creepy, deformed puppets and PHANTOM OF THE OPERAish finale. The story and setting is beyond wild, not to mention about as outlandish a concept as you can get. The photography is exceptional. Not only one of series favorite Irving J. Moore's best, but one of the best shows of the entire run. Fans will recognize Lloyd Bochner as the man attempting to decipher what 'To Serve Man' truly means from that classic TZ episode.


24th episode shot; aired March 25th, 1966

Jim West's former professor, Dr. Robey, dies in a gruesome fashion by Spontaneous Combustion. After attempts to remove him from the case, Jim discovers a string of violent deaths of prominent scientists all linked to a creepy satanist named Asmodeus (played by Don Rickles!) and the beautiful, young wife of Senator Waterford.

This episode is in the running for wackiest season one show and easily on par with the above 'Puppeteers' show. Put up against season two, it'd have some serious competition. 'Druid's Blood' is possibly the craziest season one WEST, period. There's some cool stunts and traps (including a pit of poisonous snakes) and the finale revealing the true main villain, an evil scientist who uses the disembodied brains of the dead scientists for his experiments!


26th episode shot; aired April 8th, 1966 

Serbia's irreplaceable Kara Diamond is inexplicably stolen by an invisible force while in federal custody. Jim gets blamed for involvement in the theft and ultimately discovers who the true thief is -- a young scientist who has created a serum that enables a person to move faster than the eye can see! 

Ken Kolb wrote this sci-fi west tale about a diamond elixir capable of allowing those who drink it to move so fast, everyone around them appears motionless. Jim and Arty are either suspects, or on the run throughout this episode, and features one of many scenes during the course of the series where Jim leaps through a window. If you're a STAR TREK fan, this plot device will sound familiar to you. It was a feature of the season three episode, 'Wink of an Eye'.


27th episode shot; aired April 15th, 1966

The subject of drugs are the main focus in this ghastly, if darkly humorous episode. Dr. Loveless is at it again, this time determined to both torture, and take out his nemesis, James West. Loveless sneaks a powerful powder into his shaving water which, upon contact with the skin, results in Jim hallucinating. The evil midget's plan this time is to destroy humanity with this drug transferring it around the world via a flock of geese.

This was the fourth Dr. Loveless episode; and the most violent and downbeat of the ten featuring the diminutive madman over the course of the series. Loveless was always evil, but here, he's especially diabolical. There a few blackly humorous moments with Loveless and the hefty Kitten Twitty in between Jim's Twilight Zone style hallucinations (where he kills Artemus, for instance). However, the highlight of the show is a very disturbing sequence where the mad Doctor proves his potions potency by using it to turn his entire staff into raving maniacs! While 20 people scream and pound the walls killing each other in another room, both Loveless and his frequent companion, Antoinette sing 'Lullaby and Goodnight'

Phoebe Dorin was the real life singing partner to Michael Dunn. She played Antoinette in a total of six episodes spanning the first two seasons. This was Richard Donner's second of three WEST programs -- the others being season one's 'The Night of the Bars of Hell' and season two's 'The Night of the Returning Dead'.

This season by season list of the Wildest WILD, WILD WEST episodes continues with SEASON TWO...
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