Welcome back, Geeks and Geekettes! It’s WEIRD WEST WEEK at the Geekin’ blog!
Today on Weird West Week we’ll be focusing on Weird Western themed TV Shows, including a few cartoons. (Cartoons! Yesssss!)
This tv show ranks up there with ThunderCats, SilverHawks, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionnaires, and other great classic 80s cartoons. Set in the distant future on a planet called New Texas… Well, I’ll let the BraveStarr theme song speak for itself.
With his partner, Thirty-Thirty – a “techno horse”, last of the Equestroids and armed with his gun “Sara-Jane”, BraveStarr kept New Texas safe from the outlaw Tex-Hex and his gang. As with most 80s cartoons, BraveStarr could get a little hokey at times, but they always ended with a message of morality, much like He-Man did. This cartoon had a huge impact on me as a small child, and I’m happy to share it with my children today.
Here’s the extended version of the Galaxy Rangers’ theme.
The show is set in the future, some time after the year 2086, when two aliens from the planets Andor and Kirwin travel to Earth to search for allies against the expansionist Crown Empire led by the Queen of the Crown. In return for the help; the two aliens gave mankind construction plans for a hyperdrive device. After this key event in human history, interstellar travel flourished and a huge number of colonies emerged in distant star-systems. Alongside the growth of human activities in space, criminal activities also grew, and the new colonies required defense against various threats, including the Crown Empire. A group known as “BETA” (Bureau for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs) was founded to cope with these tasks, with a “Ranger” division being a part of it. The Galaxy Rangers are Zachary Foxx, Shane “Goose” Gooseman, Niko, and Walter “Doc” Hartford.
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo-Mesa
The Quickdraw McGraw Show
Where the Weird Western TV really shines is in it’s live-action shows. Following are a list of some of the best and most influential Weird Western genre shows; some set in the Wild West itself, and some set in the distant, and sometimes not-too distant, future. Whatever the place setting, these TV shows embody what it is to be a Wild Weird Western.
In the year 2104 the Earth colony Fort Hope on the distant planet Avalon struggles to survive. A small force of police/marines called the “Space Rangers Corps” are the first, last and only line of defense for the colonists against crime and the perils of interstellar exploration. The series concentrates on Captain John Boon and his team of Rangers aboard Ranger Slingship #377.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., often referred to as just Brisco or Brisco County, is an American Western/science fiction television series created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse. It ran for 27 episodes on the Fox network starting in the 1993–94 season. Set in the American West of 1893, the series follows its title character, a Harvard-educated lawyer-turned-bounty hunter hired by a group of wealthy industrialists to track and capture outlaw John Bly and his gang. Bruce Campbell plays Brisco, who is joined by a colorful group of supporting characters, including Julius Carry as fellow bounty hunter Lord Bowler and Christian Clemenson as stick-in-the-mud lawyer Socrates Poole.
Firefly follows a rag-tag crew aboard a small cargo-ship in the wake of a galactic version of the Civil War. The Captain and First Mate, Mal and Zoe, fought on the losing side. Wash pilots the ship and is married to Zoe while Kaylee works as the ships engineer when she’s not fawning all over Simon, who’s the ships doctor and brother to River. The siblings are fugitives running from the Alliance (winning side of that Civil War I mentioned). The show never delves too deep into why the authorities want River, but it’s clear they’ve done something to her mind and Simon will do whatever it takes to keep his sister from being captured again. Throw in mercenary Jayne Cobb, man-of-the-cloth Sheppard Book, and lovely ‘Companion’ (and potential love interest to the Captain) Inara Serra and you have the crew of Serenity, a firefly-class spaceship that takes any job that pays – legal or not. If you haven’t seen this show, I suggest you get to it. Fair warning, due to Fox Network’s mismanagement of the show (IMNSHO), Firefly only got one season. However, it did get a follow up movie, talked more about another day…
Wild Wild West
Developed at a time when the television western was losing ground to the spy genre, this show was conceived by its creator, Michael Garrison, as “James Bond on horseback.” Set during the administration of President Ulysses Grant, the series followed Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) as they solved crimes, protected the President, and foiled the plans of megalomaniacal villains to take over all or part of the United States.
The show also featured a number of fantasy elements, such as the technologically advanced devices used by the agents and their adversaries. The combination of the Victorian era time-frame and the use of Verne-esque style technology have inspired some to give the show credit for the origins of the steam punk subculture. These elements were accentuated even more in the 1999 movie adaptation.
Despite high ratings, the series was cancelled near the end of its fourth season as a concession to Congress over television violence.
Ernest Pratt, a gambling, womanizing, cowardly, hard-drinking writer has created a dashing literary hero, Nicodemus Legend, the main character in a series of wildly imaginative dime novels set in the untamed West. Because Pratt writes the novels in the first person and has posed as Legend for their cover art, many readers believe that Pratt is Nicodemus Legend.
In the pilot episode, when Pratt learns that Nicodemus Legend has been impersonated and a warrant issued for his arrest, he travels to the scene of the incident to clear the name of his protagonist.
Pratt meets up with the impersonator, a great admirer of his tales, the eccentric European scientist Janos Bartok – a Nikola Tesla analogue who had been Thomas Edison’s research partner – and his brilliant assistant Huitzilopochtli Ramos, who has taken every single course Harvard University had to offer. Bartok “borrowed” the Legend persona in order to help the townspeople of Sheridan, Colorado.
They enlist the reluctant Pratt to their cause, and show him how their scientific expertise and outlandish inventions (frequently based on ideas from Pratt’s books) can bolster the impression that Pratt really is Nicodemus Legend. Bartok says:
Your celebrity has the power to give our enemies pause. My science can increase that reputation. And together, we will create the real Legend.
Suffering from writer’s block, under pressure from his publishers, and inspired, in spite of himself, at the thought of doing real good, Pratt reluctantly agrees to assume the persona of his literary creation and to live as the image he created of an adventurous and heroic man. Together, they adventure throughout the West solving mysteries, capturing wrong-doers, and making scientific discoveries.
Set in the year 2046, Earth has been radically transformed, causing changes in topography, the extinction of plant and animal species, and the emergence of new species. The series follows Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted Irathient daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), who have put down roots in Defiance, a city-state community where humans and several extraterrestrial races, collectively known as Votans, coexist over the ruins of St. Louis.
Do you have a favorite Weird West series not listed here? Be sure to speak up and leave us a comment either here, or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/geekinpodcast or twitter @Geekin_Podcast, and let us know what your favorite Weird West TV show is!