Thursday, March 3, 2022

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Plague

"The Night of the Plague"
Written by  Ed Adamson (story) & Frank L. Moss (teleplay)
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Synopsis: West and Gordon must protect the royal family of Karovnia who have traveled to the U.S., fleeing an assassination attempt in their homeland. They are pursued by Count Balkovitch who seeks an icon he needs to possess in order to usurp the throne.

Jim: The stagecoach comeuppance at the start kicks off this episode with a bit of humor, and lets us know what we need to know about the character of Averi Trent. We can already tell it's going to be a different type of story with the way West is dressed.

With its spoiled governor's daughter and plague-related ticking clock, this has a very 60's television vibe, but I appreciate the touches humor. There are times when the tone even reminds me of the Coen Brothers' movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou, mostly due to William Bryant's stage actor patter and his slight resemblance to George Clooney in that role.

f I have any qualms with this episode, it's that the whole plague plot point seems completely unnecessary. Outside of spurring Gordon to find West (something he could have done anyway) the plague angle doesn't present any real motivation or tension. It does give us an anticlimactic ending by providing a reason for the bandits to surrender. I almost wonder if it was tacked on during a rewrite? 

Trey: Kesler, author of Wild Wild West: The Series, doesn't like this episode much. I think she's a bit unduly harsh, but I would agree it could really have been an episode of a lot of Western shows, minus the plague angle--and even potentially including that.

As you point out, though, they don't leverage the plague for increased tension. They teased "West is going to get sick!" but then resolves it so quickly. I wonder if rather than that being tacked on, it was actually a bigger point in the initial story, but it got slimmed down in favor of a lighter tone and cute interplay between Wood and Conrad?

I also wonder about Conrad's wardrobe change, here. Was it merely that he is supposed to be "undercover?" If so, why does he wear different outfits so rarely. I wonder as the 70s were looming if they were thinking about moving out of the so very mid-60s tight blue suit in favor of something grittier, and this was like a test run?

Jim: Another Conrad related note: it seems like he still does a lot of his own stunts here. I was under the impression he stopped after his skull injury in Season 3 ("TNOT Fugitives") that he had stopped that.

Trey: I thought the same thing. It certainly looks like him doing a number of those things. And their are a number of impressive for TV stunts here. The episode follows the trend of S4 of having more action.

This episodes most famous guest star is Lana Wood as Averi Trent. She's not as famous as her sister Natelie, true, but she is in The Searchers and was a Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever.

Jim: You're burying the lead! She was also in the second Reb Brown Captain America TV movie!

Trey: And here I didn't even know there was a second one!

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